Tag Archives: Blackpoint

Bimini to Big Majors Spot aka Pig Beach

On December 23, 2018, we left Bimini Sands Marina at 0530, in the dark. There was a full moon but we still needed a spotlight to get out of the narrow marina channel and then into the channel that is the exit to the Atlantic Ocean from North and South Bimini. Turning south, we were on deep ocean water for one hour before we got onto the shallow Bank. We arrived at Chub Cay at 1729, after 12 hours of motorsailing and in daylight. The last hour of the day we were in the Northwest Channel, which is deep ocean water. The seas were fairly flat most of the day.

The marina at Chub Cay is a favorite for large Sportfisher boats since it is a very short distance to deep water fishing. It is a beautiful marina but very expensive so we have never stayed there. The Chub Cay anchorage is close to the marina channel and usually we are waked numerous times in the evening and early morning as fishermen speed by to enter or leave the marina. This time it was very quiet with not a single Sportfisher or any boats in the marina channel the entire time we were there. Perhaps they were all home for the holidays.

The next morning at first light, 0635, we brought up the anchor and were on our way to Nassau. The entire day we were in deep ocean water but seas were only 1-2 feet becoming 3-4 later in the day so it was a rather comfortable sail. Calling on our VHF radio, we asked and were given permission to enter the harbor at 1130 and were at a fuel dock by 1204. After topping off both 80 gallon diesel fuel tanks, we went around the corner into a slip at Nassau Harbour Club. This was the last time we will stay at a marina until we return to Sunset Bay in Stuart in May. Holding is terrible in the Nassau harbor anchorages, there is a lot of current, and it is a dangerous city so we always stay at a marina. We like this particular marina because we can walk across the street to a strip mall with a Starbucks, a Fresh Market Grocery, a BTC office (Bahamas Telephone Company), Radio Shack and more. There are also marine supply stores a close walking distance down that street.  I gave up my addiction to Starbucks last summer but we decided to celebrate getting this far with Frappuccinos. We also picked up some fresh vegetables at the very very expensive grocery store. Most items cost double to triple what we would pay at a grocery store in Florida.
We have stayed at Nassau Harbour Club many times.  We have always paid about $1.50 a foot at this marina. Seas the Day is 42 feet long. They charge $8 for unlimited city water (not potable) and power is metered but reasonable. We like being able to wash the boat with a hose and lots of fresh water, especially since everything is usually encrusted with salt by this point. We decided to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve since we had shore power and could heat up our frozen leftovers from Thanksgiving in the microwave. We were also able to use  the convection oven, rather than our very unreliable propane oven, for cooking some side dishes.

We were in Nassau for one night and wanted to leave early in the morning for the motorsail across the Bank to the Exumas. A very strong storm was predicted on December 26 and we needed to be in a sheltered anchorage. The marina office was supposed to open at 0730 on Christmas Day and we were there to check out at that time but after waiting about 15 minutes with the door still locked, we taped an envelope on the office door with our meter reading and said they could use the credit card they copied the day before when we checked in. We preferred to pay with cash but didn’t want to wait any longer. I checked the credit card online the next day and was shocked to see a charge of $124.26.  We had paid $100 for an entire week at Bimini Sands (an unusual “special”) and rarely pay more than $1.50 a ft anywhere.  I received the receipt below by email. The VAT mentioned is the new 12% tax on just about everything. It went up from nothing to 6% several years ago and last year jumped to 12%. We paid $2.25 a ft for the marina slip plus VAT. Guess we aren’t staying there anymore.
Our intention when leaving Nassau was to cross to the northern Exumas and then sail as far south as we could get in daylight. However, after we left the harbor the wind started gusting over 25 kts and the waves built. We had to reef in the main and were still making 9 kts motorsailing. Usually we average around 7 kts. It was one of the  most uncomfortable sails we’ve ever had and it wasn’t even on the ocean. Before we leave an anchorage or marina I always put away any items that could fall and lock all the closet doors and kitchen cabinets and drawers, but this time things were flying around that had never moved in ten years. Of course Sailor was not happy with rocking and rolling so I was in bed with him while Mark was at the helm all day. We arrived at Norman’s Cay in the Exumas at 1305 and if the weather had been good we would have had over four more hours to continue farther south, but we had no interest in continuing and entered the anchorage close to the beach.  When the front came through the next day we had 40 kt wind with strong squalls and torrential rain. Unfortunately we quickly discovered there was a swell coming around a corner of the cay so we rocked from side to side most of the time we were there. We were at Norman’s Cay for five uncomfortable days.

On December 30, 2018, at 0745 we left Norman’s Cay and motorsailed to Big Majors Spot at Staniel Cay, known for the Pig Beach. We didn’t make our usual stops in the Exuma Land and Sea Park since it had taken us longer than expected to get this far but we will visit the Park in the Spring when we go to Eleuthera and Spanish Wells. Many cruisers no longer stop at Big Majors and Staniel Cay for a variety of reasons. First, each year more and more large yachts are in the anchorage with their toys: Seadoos, tenders with large fast motors,  water skis, water slides off their decks, and we even saw a motorized surfboard this year. Also there are many tour boats and float planes that bring tourists all day long from Nassau to see the swimming pigs. There are several resorts in the area and those visitors often come through the anchorage with fast small boats, which seem to be driven by people with no idea of the problems they cause the anchored boats when they race between us and come within a few feet of boats. We used to snorkel in Thunderball Grotto and loved it but now numerous tour boats are there at slack tides and the coral is almost dead rather than the showing their vibrant colors of a few years ago plus there are few fish in the Grotto. Just a few years ago we were surrounded by colorful fish while snorkeling inside the grotto.  In addition, if you want to get rid of a bag of garbage, two years ago when we were last here it cost $6.00. We didn’t even check this year. On most islands in the Exumas we pay a dollar or two to put la bag of garbage in bins. In Spanish Wells garbage can be put in cans on the streets for free. On all of the islands garbage is burned at dumps. There is rarely any chance to recycle although sometimes schools collect recyclables to raise money.

The three very small grocery stores located in houses in Staniel Cay are poorly stocked and very expensive. They get fresh supplies once a week which stay on the shelves about one day or less. Local residents place bulk orders from stores in Nassau and have them delivered to the public government dock when the supply boat arrives so they don’t depend on the local stores. On the positive side, there is a nice restaurant at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The fuel dock has diesel and gas. One huge draw is there is a heavily used airport at Staniel Cay with both commercial and private planes landing frequently. It’s a good place for guests to fly in and out and for cruisers to have parts or other supplies shipped in.  

We stopped at Big Majors for the beaches for Sailor. Blackpoint is five miles south and it has many advantages over Staniel Cay but not very good beaches near the anchorage for dogs. When we arrived at Big Majors, Sailor was anxious to get to the beach but he has learned to be patient because there is a lot to do after we anchor before we can leave the boat.
Here a few photos of Sailor enjoying on of the beaches at Big Majors. There are three on the anchorage side – Pig Beach, Pirate Beach and a third beach that we use.  Even though there are many boats here, we were alone on this beach for over an hour. We are anchored on the west side of Big Majors, and there are more beaches around the corner on the south side.

On January 2, we will motorsail five miles south to Blackpoint. We’ll stay there a day or two, then go further south to Cave Cay where we will hopefully leave the Bank through Galliot Cut and sail south on the Exuma Sound to Georgetown on Saturday. We expect to have lots of company on the Sound since many boats have been waiting for good weather to continue moving south either to Georgetown or further on to the Caribbean. 

 

Georgetown to Spanish Wells

After spending our longest time in Georgetown during six cruises in the Bahamas, we were ready to leave on April 2, 2017. We had been on a mooring ball in Hole 2 for four months and a few days, so it was time to start heading north. We like to leave one month at the end of the cruise to spend in Spanish Wells before sailing back to the States at the end of May.

The first leg of our sail north from Georgetown up the Exuma chain is on the deep water of the Exuma Sound, so  we have to watch the weather closely and usually we have to wait at least a few days for favorable weather. This year the trip on the Sound to Galliot Cut, which we crossed through to the shallow Bahama Bank, was calm. After filling the diesel tanks the day before and making one last trip to the Exuma Market, we left the Georgetown Harbor at 0730, traveling with True North. They travel a little faster than us, and stopped in Emerald Bay for fuel. We got ahead of them but we both ended up at the same time as we anchored next to Blackpoint at 1410.

We can always tell how calm the sea is by watching Sailor. He is perfectly happy sleeping at the helm if there is little movement, however as soon as we start to rock a little too much for him, Sailor goes to the salon steps leading down to a bed. He has finally become willing to stay on the bed alone, where he seems to feel safe. This makes me happy since I have spent many hours on that bed reading my Kindle while he sleeps. Notice in the picture below he doesn’t seem to get the idea that he is supposed to be on the towels. People who visit our boat often ask what we put away when we are sailing. It’s a catamaran. Unless the seas are rough, or we expect someone to wake us on the ICW or an inlet like Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale), we leave most things where they are, especially in the cockpit where none of the items seem to move even in rough weather. Incidentally, if any of my childhood friends from Duluth are reading this, notice the bowl of rocks between the shell arrangements. Those are the ones I picked up on our trip to Grand Marais last summer and I will always treasure them as a remembrance of the three days we spent together. 

When we entered Galliot Cut and got on the bank, where it is much calmer, Sailor suddenly thought it was going to be too rough for him so he went to his safe place. The cut can be very rough, especially if the wind and strong current are going different directions, but this time it was near slack tide and wasn’t bad. Sailor stayed on the bed until we approached the anchorage at Blackpoint. After four years of living on the boat, Sailor recognizes that when the engines slow down it often means we are stopping. If he sees land, he wants to be ready to get off the boat, which usually happens shortly after we drop the anchor.

After we anchored at Blackpoint, we went ashore, passing True North. Sailor recognized his friends Cathie and Tom also getting ready to go ashore.

Sailor looks very happy to be going ashore.

We spent one day in Blackpoint and had only one goal – to get a few loaves of Lorraine’s mother’s coconut bread. Hers is the best we have ever had, especially since she uses freshly grated coconut which of course she gets from palm trees on the island. Her bread is baked in the morning so on April 3, we went into town about noon and got two fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves. Sailor got a few beach runs that day and on April 4 we left at 0850 to head to Warderick Wells. Cathie and Tom stayed behind to do a few more things and we met up with them again in Warderick a few days later.

On the way south last November, we stopped at a number of cays to snorkel and give my son Peter a taste of the beautiful water of the Exumas. Sometimes we visit our favorite cays on our way north, especially if we were trying to beat weather to get to Georgetown quickly on our way south a few months earlier. This year we went directly from Blackpoint to Warderick Wells and spent some time there with friends. There were a few poker games on our boat since Carina, True North, and Riff Raff were there with us. Also, Mark had time to retrieve our sign from Boo Boo Hill and add some updates. The photo below is from when he went to get the sign to bring it back to the boat. It held up fine through Hurricane Matthew last fall. He added “17” and touched up the paint a bit. Our friends Jeff and Jane on Carina had put their sign next to ours earlier this year. It’s always fun to see how many boat names we recognize when we are on Boo Boo Hill. As you can see, many signs end up in a pile. You would think that in hurricane force wind all of these pieces of wood, located on a high hill, would blow away but oddly they don’t. The rules are that you can only use wood for your boat sign. Just like you can’t take anything away from the Land and Sea Park, you also can’t leave anything that is not natural. Our sign has stayed there since we first put it up in 2010 on our first trip to the Bahamas. Boo Boo Hill overlooks the north mooring field on one side and the Exuma Sound on the other.

The “plan” was to stay in Warderick Wells a few days and then across the Exuma Sound to Eleuthera. Those few days turned into eight days. The wind picked up, which meant the sea did too, and we waited until everything calmed down. It took eight days to do that. Meanwhile, the mooring balls filled up as more and more boats looked for shelter from the wind. I continued to do a water aerobics practice each day by myself in a small sheltered cove near the Emerald Rock mooring field. Sailor got plenty of time running and chasing his ball on that beach. Dogs cannot go off the beaches on the trails, but he would love to go chase the hutia (plump brown rabbit size rodent) that are found all over Warderick Wells. 

On April 5, we heard what sounded like a helicopter warming up. We had passed a mega yacht on mooring ball 1, reserved for large boats, when we entered the mooring field and noticed there was a helicopter on the upper deck. Sure enough, the helicopter was preparing to take off. It was a very windy day, but the pilot was obviously capable and soon the helicopter flew south. A few hours later it returned, perhaps with visitors who had flown on a plane into nearby Staniel Cay,  or perhaps the people on the yacht were just taking a tour over the nearby islands. Again, the expert pilot  dropped the helicopter on the deck.

We always try to stay in the north mooring field at Warderick Wells. The setting is extremely beautiful. This photo was taken from Boo Boo Hill and we are the catamaran on the far right side of the field.

While we love being at Warderick Wells, eight days was more than enough time there we were anxious to cross over to Governor’s Harbour the first day the weather on the Sound was moderately calm. Mooring balls in the Land and Sea Park for boats over 40 feet are $30 a night and we hadn’t planned on spending $240 in Warderick Wells. We left through the inlet at at the exit from the north mooring field  at 0823 on April 12 and arrived in Governor’s Harbour at 1615. We have been here many times, but only stayed one day and started north the next day at 0635, motorsailing off the coast of Eleuthera to Spanish Wells, arriving at 1250 on April 13. We left Governor’s Harbour under a beautiful sunrise with calm water, as can be seen from the fact that nothing in the salon had to be put away.

We were now at our final destination in the Bahamas, Spanish Wells, where for the past six years we have spent our last month before returning to Florida. 

(This blog entry was written in May, 2017, but somehow I forgot to upload it until today, November 12, 2018 as I started to write a new blog entry.)

 

Nassau to Blackpoint

Before I begin our first blog post from The Exumas, I want to mention that I do regularly add photos and brief descriptions of our travels on our Facebook page. The link to that is in the right column of the website. Also, when a new blog entry is posted, there is a notification on Facebook. Followers of the website receive an email message immediately after an entry is posted. There is a place to enter your email on the right also. I do not have access to your email address, but you will be sent each new blog entry.

We left Nassau on January 1, after staying up until midnight for the dueling New Years’ Eve fireworks in the harbor. I can’t comment on them because I was huddled on a bed with a shaking Sailor. Mark, Cathie, and Tom (Interlude) said they were very impressive. Our first stop in The Exumas was Norman’s Cay. Sailor and a Mark went ashore to a nice deserted beach. Sailor always knows he goes to a beach when we stop so he positions himself where he can see it until he hears the dinghy start to be lowered when he races to the cockpit to hop aboard.

imageThe next day we sailed to Warderick Wells, which is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  This is a “no take” area so the beaches and underwater life are left as they are. We stayed for three nights, waiting out some strong wind.  Luckily we got in the north mooring field which is very protected in all directions.  We barely felt the effects of the wind.  Mark walked up to Boo Boo Hill and found our sign which we first put there in 2010. He updated it with 2015 but forgot the camera, so here is a picture of it from last year. If we return again this year, he’ll use a drill bit to etch Sailor’s name and the new dates on the sign to replace the Magic Marker.

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We went to our first group sundowner in Warderick Wells.  Almost all of the cruisers on the mooring balls came with a variety of snacks and of course their own drinks.  Friends Nancy and Jim (Summer Breeze) happened to be on a ball so we got to visit with them, pictured in the foreground wearing a blue shirt and white blouse. Also, Steve and Susan (Peregrine) who were a few slips down from us at Sunset Bay were here.  We motored past their Lagoon 380 in our dinghy and thought someone came out to wave as Lagoon owners often do to each other, but she called out, “Is that Sailor?” Everyone remembers Sailor and then we realized who was on the boat. One nice thing about cruising is that you constantly run into old friends and make new ones.

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The north mooring field is definitely a “Kodak Moment.” We are hidden a bit on the curve, the fourth boat from the front. It’s hard to believe water can be this beautiful, but this is what we usually see in The Exumas, with the variations in color due to depth. The darkest blue on the left of the photo is the deep water of the Exuma Sound.

imageYesterday we left Warderick Wells and motorsailed to Blackpoint, about a four hour trip. Blackpoint is known for several things. The most notable is the US style laundamat.  However, prices are a bit different with $3.75 for a load of wash. Ida, who owns the laundry also sells baked goods, gives haircuts, provides free wifi, has a small store, and recently opened a “gaming room” aka online gambling, and a golf cart rental.  Quite the entrepreneur. In the photo, Cathie and Tom (Interlude) are folding their laundry. Only about half of the machines are shown here.

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Today we will leave Blackpoint and sail a few hours Cave Cay, and tomorrow we will exit the shallow water to the Exuma Sound through Cave Cay Cut.  We’ll be in deep water again for a half day sail to Georgetown.