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.