The Bahamas -- 2/00



* (Denotes a link to a chart for the region being discussed)

Our Plan

We had completed the final month of re-fit and changes to "Outrageous Conduct" after our return to Ft. Lauderdale from Havana in January. Our next destination is the Turks & Caicos Islands where we are to take on guests in April.

We've decided to travel there through the Bahamas Islands as opposed to the north coast of Cuba anticipating more protection from late winter storms and the eastern Atlantic swells.

Following a two week vacation from the last voyage, only one crew member returned so at the last moment, we engaged a young man who presented himself to us just two days before our departure. And so we departed; I, an American; my friend and longtime shipmate, Chris, an Englishman; Shaun, the South African who made the trip to Havana with us and Young Chris (as we took to calling him), also an Englishman and new to the yacht.  
   

Our Newest Crew Member, "Young Chris"

Nassau

We left Ft. Lauderdale bound directly for Nassau on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. The journey, some 200+ miles took us just over 20 hours and was fairly uneventful. We were blessed with good weather and calm seas. The only events worth noting were the large number of cruise ships and freighters we encountered late at night as we passed through the Northwest Providence Channel, north of the Great Bahama Bank. * (Miami to Nassau)

Arriving outside the Nassau harbor we radioed into a marina there asking if there was a berth for us. The exchange with the Marina Manager was interesting, he requested we repeat the yacht name, "Outrageous Conduct". When we did as he asked he paused for a considerable time and responded he would have a berth if our name would not be reflective of our behavior. Laughing, we promised to be good and proceeded in to our designated spot.
* (Inside Nassau Harbor)

Now, Nassau and in fact The Bahamas as a whole has never appealed to me. Truth be told, I find Nassau proper, being all that is not the hotel / resort tourist zone to be just another commercialized dirty small city. I hold a special disdain for developed tourist strips no matter where found. Complete with traffic, franchise food and bars and more than it's share of crime, Nassau has little appeal but makes a convenient stopover for us as we are able to rest and refuel.

Highbourn Cay

Unfortunately for us, the weather turns and strong winds keep us for well over a week before we are finally able to continue on our way. On that happy day, we decide to head southeast across the shallow Yellow Bank, picking our way between coral heads to Highbourn Cay. *( Nassau to Highbourn Cay) We spend the night on anchor west of Highbourn *( Inside Highbourn Cay) and rose early to pass through a cut on the south end of the Island to enter the Exuma Sound. The cut is a bit tricky but once through we have a straight shot in protected waters to our next chosen anchorage at Little San Salvador Island.* (Highbourn Cay to Little San Salvador Island)

Little San Salvador Island

We arrive mid-afternoon in a protected cove of Little San Salvador called West Bay *( Inside Little San Salvador Island) to a most peculiar sight. West Bay is a beautiful setting, a fantastic pristine beach directly in front of us, shallow rocks and rocky shore to the left and a short iron shore cliff with a channel leading inland to the right. The waters are crystal blue and the island is well vegetated with palm trees blowing gently behind the shoreline. What stuck us as so odd was there were hundreds of beach chairs lined up in the white sand, water sports equipment such as water bikes, sail boards, Hobie Cats were ready and waiting for use. There were several small buildings, Pavilion style and rest rooms behind the beach and NOT A SOUL IN SIGHT!

We puzzled this all afternoon and evening and in fact put the jet ski and tender into the calm waters for a bit of relaxation for ourselves. A stroll on the beach confirmed what we saw from the yacht. All set up for a day's party on the beach but nobody home?

Still befuddled, we retired for the night only to awaken to the sound of hundreds of happy voices and looked to the island to see crowds of people frolicking in the water, laying in the sun and using the water equipment. Where had they all come from and so quickly? The answer came as we looked behind us and spied a Cruise Ship which apparently arrived in the night and disgorged it's passengers early in the morning. By 4:00 p.m. all were back on the ship and she weighed anchor leaving the island deserted again except for the crew of "Outrageous Conduct"!

  We enjoyed the setting so much we stayed another night before moving on to *( Little San Salvador Island to Cat Island) the protected west side Cat Island for the night *( Inside Cat Island). We also couldn't resist the bounty of lobsters nearby!

 

Rum Cay

From there we moved to Rum Cay, an attractive island south east with a shallow bay protected by a large fringing reef *( Cat Island to Rum Cay). Since the weather promised to turn foul over the next several days, we decided this would be a fine place to spend some time fishing, diving and exploring.

A trip to the island revealed two mains areas of interest, to the east was a small marina, tricky to enter and too small & shallow for us. There was a small bar, fuel facilities and the usual congregation of sailors. Directly north, mid-bay was a small settlement boasting a few scattered homes, a grocery of sorts and a bar where we found company in the locals and a more colorful group of ocean wanderers. It was here we chose to pass a few evenings chatting it up and made a friend of a local woman who baked us fresh bread each day.

       

The spear fishing and diving here was phenomenal! Having dove many times in the Bahamas and accustomed to sparse reefs and sloping drop-offs I was unprepared for the steep walls I encountered just past the southeast point of the island. Flush with unspoiled coral, massive schools of fish and frequent shark and turtle sightings, I dove this area every day, even in high seas and decided this unknown reef and wall system rivaled the best Grand Cayman's North Wall has to offer.

After a week, the winds finally set down and we were off again planning to stop in Abraham's Bay at Mayaguana Island some 150 miles further southeast. We set out in the late afternoon, planning to travel overnight and arrive in the daylight hours to allow us to pick our way past the fringing reef safely.

Mayaguana Island

When we arrived at Mayaguana Island, the winds had returned and the seas were rough once again *(Mayaguana Island). They ocean swells had moved around also such the island no longer offered the protection we sought and not wishing to risk being carried towards ashore in the event of a stronger storm, we reluctantly decided to carry on to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos another sixty miles along *(Rum Cay to Turks & Caicos).

Though tired, this meant only another six hours at sea and we stood a good chance of arriving in daylight, an absolute necessity because the entrance to the Marina at Provo entails a tricky approach once past the reef system and then proceeds though an extremely narrow and shallow channel before widening to the Marina Area.

Provo, Turks & Caicos

Though both Chris and I had been there before, upon sighting the channel markers to enter the bay we radioed the Marina and took advantage of their offer to send a pilot boat to guide us safely though the rocks and coral heads.

Our journey from Ft, Lauderdale, Florida to Turks & Caicos though the Bahamas took us just over three weeks during which time we covered 600 miles at sea, enjoyed beautiful sights, wonderful diving and discovered Bahamas offered more than we had thought.

While you can have the northern Bahamas with the Nassau and Freeport tourist destinations, I look forward to returning to the
Exuma Sound and Crooked Island Passage regions for a quieter and more enchanting experience.

Click on these links for Regional Charts  
   
* Miami to Nassau  
* Inside Nassau Harbor  
* Nassau to Highbourn Cay  
* Inside Highbourn Cay  
* Highbourn Cay to Little San Salvador Island  
* Inside Little San Salvador Island  
* Little San Salvador Island to Cat Island  
* Inside Cat Island  
* Cat Island to Rum Cay  
* Mayaguana Island  
* Rum Cay to Turks & Caicos  

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2001 John Petrak