This Eletter has links to the final photos from The Bahamas:
Family Islands ? Part II
A continuation of the last eletter, the Family Islands of the southeast Bahamas stand alone in the Atlantic Ocean; they have aragonite, stromatolite, and coral reefs near them, but no extensive bank surrounding them. The ocean plummets to over a thousand meters deep just a few miles from their shores, with a few exceptions.
This Eletter also has a surprise: the achievement of the quest adopted in the last Eletter ? the discovery of a living Lucayan descendant!
Noel turned out to be a significant event throughout these islands and flooding lingered for weeks. Primary roads may have been damp, but accessible, some white roads stayed a foot? or more under water for a couple months.
Cat Island is highly touted as the supporting the highest ground in The Bahamas. It is as hilly as Eleuthera or Crooked Island, and has some incredible vistas, but did not seem 'mountainous' with it's 200 foot hills.
The last of the islands we visited here are all alone in the ocean and anchoring is done with a bridle to minimize swells. Once on the hills, across the salt ponds, and in town, it is the same Bahamas we have found throughout the country.
We found people in the Family Islands to be generally more sincere and engaging, perhaps because of the cruiser being a less encountered entity and welcomed as a true visitor to their remote homes.
In addition to seeking out the older folks with their family and island history stories, I found it interesting (and easy) to engage the community leaders on the smaller islands = the businessmen that keep each island going in a good direction. Raymond Russell is all over San Salvador with his heavy equipment, shopping mall and grocery store. Mr. Russell is well-known in all the Family Islands as THE expert in roadway and runway construction, as he has decades of experience building the roadway infrastructure in The Bahamas.
I realized my quest for a living Lucayan when I met Isaiah Lightfoot, one of the kerosene lighthouse operators for the Dixon Hill lighthouse on San Salvador. Born on San Salvador, 'Lightfoot' served on the Bahamian Police Force prior to being wounded during a bank robbery in the 70's, when he transferred to the Port Authority. He has since traveled throughout the islands performing various duties, including Nassau Harbour Control and lighthouse keeper at all three of the kerosene lighthouses.
Lightfoot now lives on the island of his ancestors, and tells how they hid from white people for hundreds of years, until is was safe to have an open community. His great-great-grandfather was a Lucayan Indian! So some of the gentle and peace-loving people survived the onslaught and invasion of their homeland. Lightfoot intends on remaining atop Dixon Hill from now on [and why not? = WHAT A VIEW!].
The Turnquests in Exuma and other families on Rum, Mayaguana, Inagua and the Acklins Group have Lucayan blood in their veins. The Lucayans? survived the onslaught of the European invasion by obfuscating their existence - staying one step ahead of the conquistadors and pirates, living in caves and staying mostly in the interior of the larger islands. That's how Isaiah got his family name!
While riding our bikes to Lovely Bay, a quaint settlement in the northwest corner of Acklins Island, I noticed a sailboat heading north between Crooked & Acklins Islands -- which piqued my interest because the water depth there is measured in inches instead of feet. Inquiring in town, I was told [by 'Super K'] that it was "Dick's boat", as if everyone knew Dick Chase, a frequent visitor from New England that stayed with Auntie Maude in Pestel Beach. Already intrigued, we rode around to the other side of the bay to find out more . . .
A most unexpected and delightful afternoon was spent in Pestel Beach at Auntie Maude's "resort". The number of stories and interesting characters we encountered? were amazing considering this place is so small as to not be on any of my charts. Auntie Maude, now in her 80's, runs a beach-front motel with the help of her brother Leo on the very land upon which they were born and raised . . . with nineteen siblings . . in a one-room house built by her daddy over 100 years ago. This photo shows the remains of that house, shown to us by Dick Chase, in the house with us; and there's his boat, Lucille, in the background (named after his wife . . . get it = Ricky & Lucy!). Asked how they managed, Auntie Maude told us they never ate in the house; in fact, most of their daytime was spent outside growing food or getting it from the ocean (Dick maintains a couple acres of gardens here with all manner of veggies). Most nights they slept outdoors, also. To give us an idea of how much more primitive their life was from even the life on Windigo, she recalled the tragic story of the day she lost her father and eight brothers to a single accident at sea while fishing.
Dick sailed that little catamaran from Boston last February - a pretty amazing single-handed feat; made all the more amazing by the fact that in the first week of the previous August, he had NO boat. In five months time he designed and built Lucille and sailed it to Acklins Island - all by himself. Turns out that Dick is friends with Dave Calvert, a world-class sailor and part-time resident of The Bahamas. [see Atwood Harbour in 'The Trip' section]
Every island has their "special individuals": whether it be Mr. Rose, the philanthropist-businessman on Long Cay, Nathaniel Clement ?Piccolo Pete? Saunders, the oldest living resident and former mayor of Bimini, or Pastor Edward St.Fleur, the Haitian leader of FIVE churches on Eleuthera, each island presents varying problems that require solutions from unique individuals. Inagua has such a character in the person of Captain C. Stephen Fawkes, a former mayor of Matthew Town that thinks outside the traditional Bahamian box.
Capt. Fawkes is the dock supervisor for Morton Salt Bahamas and the island's Cruise Ship Agent, representing the government in the growing number of visits of tourists by sea. He has plans to build an international container port on Inagua, coordinating shipping activity for the entire region. And, as his wife retires from her lifelong nursing career in the near future, he sees a need to occupy their time with a destination resort the family will erect here = the first on the island. Quite ambitious and innovative, his ideas may well be forced into existence by his high energy and superior oratory skills.
Sailing between these islands could not be done on a calendar schedule, but only with a 'weather schedule'. The trips crossed sections of open ocean approaching 10,000 feet deep. Swells felt here are created as far away as Europe & Africa, and local wind conditions can whip up nasty chop in the unprotected seas. To traverse safely, with minimum discomfort and strain on gear and rigging, destinations must be chosen with the pattern of weather given first priority. [Weather details in Cruising Notes in Part I]
These 'Family' Islands are approaching the verge of development; only one has hosted projects which has caused an increase in population since the 1963 census. The remainder have initially lost a large number of people, and then a few have shown recent growth. Compare the following census numbers of these traditional communities based on fishing, basic subsistence farming, and one industrial town with the insane tourism results of the larger central and northern islands.
TOURISM ABOUNDS IN THE NORTHERN ISLANDS:
Abaco population from 1963 to 2000 increased from 6,490 to 13,170. Today's estimate is 18,000, nearly triple the original census (and may indeed miss many thousands of Haitian immigrant workers, some legal, some not).
Grand Bahama Island, including the city of Freeport, grew from 8,230 in 1963, to 46,994 in 2000. Today we find well over 50,000 residents, over six times the 1963 number. (Windigo has no where to anchor there, so we have skipped this landlubbers domain.)
New Providence & Nassau had 80,907 in 1963, growing to 210,832 in 2000. Today you will count well over? quarter-million people living there, soon to be quadruple the 1963 census. [Many thousands of illegal aliens dwell there undetected, whereas in the Family Islands, the crew of Windigo was recognized and known ahead if time in each new place, as we anchored!]
A SLOWER PACE IN THE FAMILY ISLANDS:
San Salvador, 2000 census = 900 (official numbers combined with Rum Cay.)
Saw a dramatic decrease in the late 20th century. Some fishing charters, community development by US and European investors,? and the Club Med provide an active airport and sound infrastructure base to tie a small population to the island. Just as many foreigner's homes as Bahamian-born residences.
Prior to undisputedly reaching Hispanola and Cuba, Christopher Columbus traveled among Bahamian Islands. For many reasons, the exact islands he visited remain in deliberation as to their identity. It is here that I will again state my conclusion concerning the "Columbus Debate", in more detail than I briefly mentioned in the first Eleuthera eletter.
Columbus was a paid explorer, and the information he gathered on his voyages was to be only for his boss, who happened to be the Queen of Spain. Also, because of his fear of alarming his mostly Spanish crew by revealing how far from Spain they really were, he maintained his log cryptically. As far as describing Haiti or Cuba, there is no doubt, but the sheer number of Bahamian islands and their similarities have confused the location of the initial landings.
The first island he landed at in the New World was named Guanahani by the inhabitants, unfortunately there are no substantial remains of the Lucayan culture to indicate where this was; it was believed the European invaders made them extinct in just a few decades. Columbus did what all Spanish explorers and conquistadors did, and renamed each island he visited; the four Bahamian islands were renamed by him to:
The conquistadors stripped the land of it's peoples and largely ignored it for the next hundred years. Then, in 1625, interest began stirring as to which islands he went to. By the early twentieth century, no less than nine island were serious contenders for the first landfall of Columbus, now a sought after tourist attraction. These islands were (and still are!):
East Caicos Island
Egg Island / Royal Island
Grand Turk Island
To put an end to the debate, in 1926 the Bahamian/British government renamed Watling Island "San Salvador". [John Watling was the pirate that had his "castle" on the island, and used as his base of operations in the 17th century.] End of discussion? Hardly. It seems that more analysis of the log revealed that although the descriptions 'could' be twisted to fit Watling Island, certain details were dead wrong. You see, when Columbus anchored his big boat offshore, he sent small boats in to scout the area. The first landfall had the small boats circumnavigating the entire island and retuning in seven hours. Impossible without a powerboat (in 1492?) at Watling Island, now incorrectly named San Salvador.
Details of vegetation; descriptions of cliffs, shallows, reefs and fish; recording of distances and directions; measuring of island's shorelines . . . all factors in his original log that cannot be disputed and do not fit the accepted theory of his route. So Samana Cay was brought forward, after first being suggested in 1880, and now has a majority of believers. But the only factor it really resolved was the smaller necessary size of the? island of the initial landing; the rest of the trip has to be twisted and distorted beyond my imagination (and I have a weird imagination!) to fit the log's description.
So to settle this thing in my mind, I simply sailed the places he was to have sailed and dinghied to the places the small boats were to have gone and walked the islands he was said to 'discover'. Comparing the places with the log [the 1987 translation of Columbus's Log of his first Voyage by Robert Fuson is a good one] making my own observations, I have to agree with the situation presented by Arne Molander, a fellow engineer and sailor that has studied the route of Columbus for 30 years. Mr. Molander has pegged Egg Island of North Eleuthera as the first landfall of Columbus. His log also contains a vivid description of the approach and passing of the Devil's Backbone and the rest of the roadstead between North Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Royal & Egg Island that can not match up with ANY of the other choices offered.
Mr. Molander has also effectively disputed alternative routes by using resources such as French charts from 1780 he personally discovered in the Library of Congress, satellite photos, modern charts and electronic measuring equipment. Check it out for yourself (Google & Google Earth?) and see if you don't enjoy entering the "Columbus Debate" and being one of the few who actually know where he sailed.
San Salvador [I call it this under protest ;-] is a great, big out island with lots to see and explore. A modern marina, a many settlements, developed "neighborhoods", ruins from loyalist, military and pirate presence, and monuments galore = Columbus monuments erected by Americans, Spaniards, Japanese(?) and one put up in 1891 by the Chicago Herald(??) on this unprotected, inaccessible east coast [which is obvisously NOT a good place for explorers to be landing as the weather is usually unkind], a Mexican Olympic Flame monument, and a Hornblowers monument(????) . . . hmmmm - countries OTHER than The Bahamas and the UK certainly have a thing for monuments here.
More impressive are the hilltop grave of pastor Chrysostomus? and the Dixon Hill Lighthouse, one of the three remaining original kerosene-powered lighthouses in the world and the second one we have visited. In fact, Karin & I assisted the operator by cranking up the weight for the rotating mechanism and pumping up the pressure to deliver fuel up to the torch.
The interior of the island is wetlands = lakes, salt ponds, creeks, and blue holes. There are houses and ruins of houses everywhere; this island has evidently gone through many stages of development from the taking of the native peoples, a base for piracy, attempts at agriculture and aquaculture, settlements of current native Bahamians, development by foreigners (mostly from New England), and tourism extraordinaire with the establishment of a Club Med right in Cockburn Town (which we invaded, of course), making the? capitol (pronounced COburn Town) quite active.
While in our last anchorage in Graham's Harbour amongst dozens of coral heads [you don't wanna run into these!], we were invited to the Bahamian Electrical Corporation's Christmas party, which happened to be 500' from the boat at the Regatta Park/Straw Market. Completely Bahamian, it featured free food, open bar, and loud DJ music; there was no reference to Christmas = the Bahamians use any excuse to party! Since we have been here, we have celebrated Regatta, opening day of lobster fishing, three different independence/emancipation days, Thanksgiving, pineapple harvest, snapper fishing, last-day-of-school & back-to-school, grand openings of established businesses, and several birthdays.
"Party-on Karin" ? - - "Party-on Kevin." = You can bet we were at the HARD ROCK CAFɠevery Monday!
Cat Island, 2000 census = 1,548
Has half of the 1963 number of 3,131 people.
The population is evenly spread down the single 53-mile road along the west coast of the island, with a loop to Port Howe in the southeast corner. It makes the island seem less populated than others, but has the same interesting Loyalist ruins as San Salvador, one marina/resort on the southwestern tip, three airstrips, picturesque sandy beaches, a couple larger settlements with a noticeable "downtown", and a few "Bahamas Heritage Site" locations including The Hermitage of Father Jerome, which we visited, of course, and took a redundant photo or two. His sturdy and pretty architecture is evident in this Catholic church. A more forceful approach is noted in the name of this church (Hit the Highway for God?).
Little San Salvador, Uninhabited
Owned by Holland-America Line-Westours, Inc. and used for their cruise ship patrons.
When the cruise ships are around, this place is the same as Clearwater = parasailing, horseback riding, jetskis, thousands of swimmers and sunbathers, and a multitude of small boats ferrying passengers from the giant cruise ships. When they leave, the place becomes the vacant paradise it was prior to its development.
We were ashore in the twilight to find a geocache (GCHBM4) and walk the pristine beach. Definitely worth the stop, but you wouldn't wanna live here.
----------------------------after Cat Island & Little San Salvador we actually stopped in
George Town, Exuma to pick up mail packages (and post Eletters!)
before continuing on to the remaining Bahamian Islands----------------------------
Conception Island, Uninhabited
A beautiful small island, one of the best places in the world to snorkel among the hundreds of coral reefs. We ventured out into the "Kiddie Park", the area where the Southampton Reef joins the north tip of the island. Very impressive giant coral heads scattered about. The water was a bit chilly after consecutive cold fronts, but we were able to swim for about an hour.
This next link will show a video that will take only a few seconds to download with a high-speed connection, but longer if your connection is slower.
This little video shows the typical activity around the reefs, with hundreds of creatures poking about; it also indicates the strength of the swells in this ocean reef.
"Real" divers and hearty snorkelers head up the reef a couple miles for the absolute best underwater experience. But seeing the park may be a 'no-take' zone, I waited until I could spear some supper for the big trips to the reefs. (Which is also the reason I released the beautiful Dorado I hooked just as we were entering the West Bay anchorage.)
Rum Cay [Act II], 2000 census = 100? (official numbers combined with San Salvador)
The population numbers experienced a sharp decrease in the 80's to ? the 1963 number. currently, about 60 people live in Port Nelson, and perhaps a couple dozen are in Sumner Point and scattered on the island. Developments may hold population steady as much of the desirable island is available and is fairly close to the end of the Exumas.
In keeping with the tradition of the shortest, easiest trips between islands, and to visit nearly every major anchorage in The Bahamas, we stopped at Rum Cay again, on our way down to Samana Cay.
We had not stayed in Flamingo Bay, on the NW corner the last time we were here, and this time we also anchored one night along the west coast above Sandy Point.
We ended up occupying ourselves for two weeks, until the weather permitted our continued travels. We made many new friends, and saw some cruisers again, including Dan & Shelly aboard Chinook. Dan was in one of my advanced sailing classes in Florida, and he caught up to us in George Town earlier. Now he and his wife (and everyone else) have past us by on their way south.
We had a huge bonfire and snorkeled in beautiful Flamingo Bay. We celebrated Delores' 76th birthday at Kay's Place; Delores is Kay's mother, she started the world-famous restaurant and bar in Port Nelson. EVERYONE [all 60 people] on the island attended the party, which offered free food and drinks! We ate grilled wahoo 'til the cows came home (and there are cows on Rum Cay!) and had cake & brownies left over to take back to the boat!
We found wireless access - out in the anchorage!- and made a few Skype calls.
We wanted the perfect sailing day to Samana and the proper winds for the few days following our arrival to afford good protection there in Columbus Bay. We kept ready at each new day in Rum Cay to make our break to Samana: but one day brought light headwinds, and another was rainy, and so on. The last chance before a long stretch of adverse wind and seas was Sunday night (to arrive at Samana in the morning light); but we couldn't leave early Sunday night as expected = t-storms and big [west] winds all night. We need to deal with adversity if is comes upon us, but we don't wish to go charging into it! So we rocked & rolled in Port Nelson all night, unprotected from the west . . .
Samana Cay, uninhabited - a few unsavory fisherman stay for weeks at a time
A little more than 20nm north of the Acklins Group.
. . . We got ourselves into a bit of a fiasco on this passage, wanting to sail from Rum Cay to Samana Cay:
So, at 0500hrs, we headed out to complete the 73nm trip. This meant that we had to average over 6 knots to make the entrance to Columbus Bay at Samana Cay in any light. The entrance is a winding path through a narrow opening in a continuous reef alongside ocean-deep water. Normally, one does these things with a high sun on a calm, cloudless day, at least the first time . . .
Our sailing day was mostly 15-20 knot NE wind, with an occasional foray into the land of high 20's. The swells were 2.5 meters, and the wind driven seas were 1.5 meters, so over half of the waves were 3 meters high with wind-driven curl at the tops. SOME of the others were smaller . . .
Although we made excellent time sailing, we had to run the engine the last hour to keep our speed over 7 knots, as the wind dwindled to only 11 knots and we HAD to have SOME light to get into Columbus Bay. The seas settled down to a nice 2-2.5 meter swell in the lee of Samana Cay . . .
So, we managed to arrive 5 minutes before sunset, under cloudy skies, with falling low tide & no prior familiarity with the area. Under full mainsail to tilt the seven-foot keel up slightly, we managed to zigzag past Propeller Cay, with the only foul occurring when I brushed the tip of a coral head just before the first starboard zig. The starboard-mounted depth sounder did not record the obstruction on the port side, so I pretended it didn't happen . . .
Although it all turned out fine [and Columbus Bay is a GREAT anchorage*], I DO NOT plan on repeating THAT trick again anytime during this life!
Atwood Harbour, nestled between the north tip of Acklins Island and Lady Slipper Cay.
Population details of Acklins Island in last eletter.
A very remote and well-protected small anchorage. I had visited the shore months ago when cycling Acklins Island; it was too out-of-the-way to anchor in during out tour of the Bight of Acklins, but now it was right on our route south. A great place to wait for weather to go down to Mayaguana, so we did (but not quite long enough).
We sat around a beach fire with Trish & Dave Calvert. His name might sound familiar to those of you following ocean sailing records; he's a national sailboard champ, Olympic sailor, and most recently the #2 man on Steve Fossett's 125' Playstation when it crossed the Atlantic in 4 days, 17 hours [26 knots!] and held that record for a while. They stopped on Acklins on their return to their Cat Island home from cruising in the Caribbean to visit and sail with Dick Chase, as his knowledge and experience in this area is second to none and is the perfect guide. (If you sail a shallow-draft catamaran!)
One day, we hiked around the entirety of Lady Slipper Cay to admire the expansive beaches, muddy flats, salt ponds, and wildlife. Another adventure was the search for a blue hole which proved to be to inaccessible without a machete (or Cutlass, as it is known in these parts), but we stumbled upon a huge cave. Karin is getting more accustomed to occasional spelunking, so we poked around the features inside. The roots from trees growing above that span the height of the cave to reach the moisture on the cave floor. And the dome-shaped ceiling structures that all Bahamian caves seem to have. But what is that in the hole? Actually, what are THOSE, because there were thousands of bats up there; and some did NOT appreciate the camera flash!
West Plana Cay, uninhabited
A little less than 20nm east of the Acklins Group.
Mayaguana, 2000 census = 262
Population has steadily decreased from 707 in 1963. a remote and traditional Bahamian Island that truly lives up to the "family Islands" name = everyone that's been here a while is family.
Mayaguana has it's own unique character, as do all Bahamian islands, which at first appears as a 'readiness' to develop. A single company spearheads the development with current projects being:
But after a bit of investigation, it seems that no less than three other companies had started this same initiative, only to fail. It also becomes apparent that the current company is having problems, too. The basic logistics of these islands make supplying such an effort with labor & materials difficult, and on Mayaguana the problem could be exasperated by a general resistance to development by many of the residents.
The current state of this project is stalled on the first point, with absolutely no progress at the present time on the latter three items. Even though there is an approaching government deadline for the runway issue, there was no activity there during our visit.
So Mayaguana is poised to expand into the tourist trade, and could do so to it's own benefit; but the peoples of the island are rightfully cautious of foreigner's intentions. In the next newsletter, I will present a summary of my observations of the effects of development on each of the islands.
The huge local event we attended while on Mayaguana was the MICAL Annual Spelling Bee. [MICAL = Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked, Acklins, Long Cay.] 20 students from the 5th to 8th grades participated in this event to determine which one will go on to Nassau and then to Washington DC for the National (International??) Spelling Bee. The crowd went wild when a local girl won, but all the kids were so well prepared and really put their heart and soul (not to mention there spelling minds!) into this emotional event.
Little Inagua, the largest uninhabited island in the Caribbean area
Great Inagua, 2000 census = 1,046
After a large decrease of residents in the 60's from it's 1963 number of 1,846, the population will remain near 1,000 as long as Morton Salt continues it's salting operations here.
A large island with only one settlement, it is obvious why it is developed = Morton Salt Bahamas has managed and guided this island since the middle 20th century [and Erickson Salt before that]. Every family on the island has members on the Morton payroll; although they still all live a Bahamian Out Island life eating conch, fish and lobster from the sea, their homes are perhaps a little bigger and nicer and the economic base of this island is firmly rooted in the salting operations.
While it appears to be fashioned after the "company towns" of the old west, one soon realizes that Inagua has been much better managed and is not prone to folding as the gold-mining or cattle-trading settlements in the early US. The conditions required to harvest salt from brine ponds is ideal on Great Inagua; but an unprecedented amount of rain in 2007 [the most in the last half-century] caused a slowing in operations. The open & honest policies of running the company (and town) allowed everyone to weather the reduced salt output for several months. By utilizing sound management techniques, full-time salt harvesting will commence later this month, and prosperity will return to normal. We toured the Morton facilities and were impressed by the sound environmental practices and simplicity of the salt harvesting procedures. (This is 100,000 tons of salt; normally, 700,000 tons of salt is piled here!]
Just an overview: Seawater is pumped into canals and directed to salt pans, where the wind and sun evaporate the water, leaving a layer of salt over a permanent "floor" of highly compressed salt. It had rained more in the last couple of years than any other similar period in the last 60 years. So much so, that the permanent salt floors were damaged and needed to be rebuilt.
[NOTE: Morton stocks the salt pans with brine shrimp, a favorite food of the tens of thousands of flamingoes living here (the largest flock in the western hemisphere). The shrimp give the flamingoes their distinctive pink color. Flamingo droppings add nutrients to the water, which in turn breeds an excess of algae, turning the water dark. This accelerates the evaporation process by absorbing additional energy from the sun, increasing salt production. The brine shrimp thrive on the algae-rich environment, and reproduce providing more food for the flamingoes. BALANCED ENVIRONMENT =? MORE PRODUCTION, a true win-win situation.]
'Harvesters' draw rakes through the layer of salt once the salt pan has been drained, and their conveyors deposit the salt into giant dump trucks that carry the salt to the facility where it is rinsed (with highly-concentrated brine) and stored in giant piles. Ships from around the world call on this port to buy salt for various uses.
Evidence of past land uses is evident in more than just old ruins; cotton still grows wild from 300 years ago when it was introduced as a cash crop.
Evidence of affluence and a touch of modernization not usually seen in these parts is the BaTelCo sign downtown which also announces local events.
Evidence of local pride is displayed at the local park with an artistic rendition of "Conchman" and a bit of nice landscaping. (Stevie Fawkes' sister, Jennifer, is the impetus of the beautification effort - she works tirelessly nurturing, improving and MAINTAINING landscaping all around town.)
Another interesting occurrence in Matthew Town is the check-in of the Haitian charcoal boats. As you may know, Haiti is the poorest country in the Caribbean and its government is currently in more turmoil than Washington D.C. (ha). Many people there struggle daily to survive, and illegal Haitian immigrants are a huge problem in Cuba, The Bahamas, the US, and elsewhere as some Haitians see fleeing their homeland as their only choice. Others work very, very hard at making ends meet, and some of these families trade in a most basic commodity = charcoal. Although there are few trees left in Haiti, there is little organization to protect and provide for the peoples, so they do what they can, including burning felled timber underground and bagging up the resulting charcoal for sale in The Bahamas and US. Charcoal production by hand must be tedious and hard work, but even more impressive is the skills and daring of the sailors that build and sail the 800-mile roundtrip to Nassau two or three times a month.
Bahamian rules demand a check-in by the cargo boats at the first available port, which is Matthew Town. Having no engines, these boats made mostly of 'found materials' must be positioned in the sea, gybed efficiently, and sailed into the tiny harbour, dropping the foresail, and then the main to reduce speed while maintaining enough headway to steer against whatever conditions prevail at the moment. Once in port, they are required to unload EVERYTHING from their holds, including personal items, so Bahamian officials can search for contraband. After lying out all they have (which ain't much!) they reload it into the boat and continue on to Nassau. All this for 100-150 bags of charcoal depending on the size of the boat.
The USCG and Royal Bahamian Defense Force have stations at the airport, with three Coast Guard helicopters to perform SAR activities and patrol the high seas for smugglers and illegal fishing activity. I befriended SrLt Freddy Brown, the commanding officer for the RBDF on Inagua. He is spending a short tour here, as he is a superlative career officer and currently serves the Defense Force by traveling about solving particular issues and maintaining the highest standards for the Bahamian Military effort. Check in with him if you visit before the end of May!
Ragged Islands & Jumentos Cays, 2000 census = 69
The number of people living on these very small and very remote islands has dwindled from 371 in 1963. as long as there is good fishing in the area (called "The Fishing Grounds"!), someone will always live here, but only very traditional and rugged individuals.
[Windigo did not sail to these islands because of very shallow water, limited protected anchorages, and my general inability to catch fish (the main reason to be there) ;-]
These islands are below the Tropic of Cancer, so joining the full variety of lizards and larger mammals are creatures and flora of the tropical desert. Desert cacti are not only present, but abundant, along with true desert dwellers such as the giant yucca. Thick, meaty vines now accompany the thinner, tenacious ones that make our hikes through the bush so wonderfully abusive.
Cattle, sheep, donkeys and goats left from abandoned ranches were seen on many islands and are said to be on every Family Island. [On Inagua it is said, "It's not a PARTY unless there's donkey being served!"]
Besides the numerous sightings of the Greater Flamingo in the Inaguas, other birds spotted living on the remaining out islands include:
Cuban Pewee, Red Legged Thrush, Bahama Yellowthroat, Burrowing Owl, Brown Booby, and of course, the ubiquitous Magnificent Frigatebird. Henry Nixon, the Inagua Park Warden, said these Bahamian ducks usually do not gather in such large numbers; and this was a good sign of their health.
Of particular note is the skipjack tuna I made friends with upon entering Man of War Bay at Great Inagua. He was a better companion than the cero I caught entering Abraham's Bay at Mayaguana, so we decided to get REAL close; you could say it is now a part of me. It actually wasn't as nice as the dorado I hooked entering Conception Island, but Conception is a national park and has some fishing restrictions, so I released the fish as not to antagonize any officials.
In 1939 he returned to his favorite place, Cat Island in The Bahamas, and built his "Hermitage" (stone-by-stone, by himself!) on the highest point in the country. From there he directed building projects for four other churches on Cat Island and five churches on Long Island, both Anglican and Catholic. After seeing many of his designs, I can see why Evans Cottman was inspired to build a masonry house on a the highest hill in Marsh Harbour.
His sturdy designs appreciated the force of the storms and featured thick-walled masonry buildings that are in pristine condition today after decades of pounding from hurricanes. The beauty of the structures come from an interesting blending of the simplicities of Romanesque, Celtic, and Greek Isle architecture.
Also of particular note: I was able to participate in several competitive volleyball games on Stocking Island across fro George Town. Many of you know that several years ago I was involved in a daily volleyball regimen; I have neglected to seek out high-level play since changing to a water-based lifestyle. These were the first games for me in the 21st century, and although the first couple were pretty rough, especially seeing I was thrust into doubles and triples in deep sand right off the bat. I did come around sufficiently to nail my backwards-reverse roundhouse serve, and exhibit a fair bit of floor defense. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to continue to exercise my corroded but usable v-ball persona.
Kevin will be writing his Bahamian summary in the next e-letter but I thought that this would be a good time to write mine.
Finally after 50 years of living in the United States, I was going to get a chance to visit another country. My emotions and thoughts were running wild with the anticipation of it all; would I get to see my family as often as I was use to? Would sailing in the ocean be safe? What kind of people live in the Bahamas and are they friendly? How would Kevin and I get a long without knowing anyone else and ALWAYS being together?? And how long would our money last?
WHEW! I sure was in need of an attitude adjustment if I was ever going to enjoy this adventure. Well needless to say it was way more enjoyable than I ever imagined. To answer all of those initial questions, I look back and think about the memories of the last year that helped make the Bahamas the wonder that it was to me.
Thank god for the visitors we had. Kevin's kids and grandkids were such a joy, I didn't want them to leave. A couple more weeks with those impressionable babies would have been a blast. Then showing Clift, a seasoned traveler, all the fun things that we did daily was great. I also had constant email contact with everyone. Once we discovered that we could make phone calls from our computer (using Skype) I even got to talk to Nick in Iraq a few times.
Windigo performed superbly and carried us back and forth across parts of the Atlantic ocean as if she were made just for that purpose. I worried about the boat "holding up" but this year proved that Windigo can handle a hell of a lot more than I can.
Pedigo (our dinghy) was a different story. It did get us to shore in even the worst of weather. But we did have some mechanical problems with the eight year old drive failing so Kevin jury-rigged it a couple times adding months to it's life. Finally it died completely and we resorted to using either pieces of found wood or a paddle to get us back to Windigo. A whole new drive system had to be built and now it works better than ever.? Now if WE could just remember to anchor it properly so it doesn't "escape" anymore. I won't go into the gory details but let's just say that I'm aggressively learning how to swim so I can catch Pedigo if it decides to drift out to sea again and a rule of thumb will be to always have my clothes on before I decide to jump in.
The people we met will be forever in my mind. They were so friendly that I actually had to remember to start my conversations with stuff like "good morning, what a beautiful day it is" instead of my usual "where is the closest laundry and grocery store?". One time I hadn't realized that I had been racing around George Town, doing some errands and a Bahamian women had seen me many times when she finally stopped me and said "slow down a bit because you are in the Bahamas and nothin's that important to be rushing around like your doing". I thanked her, felt a little embarrassed, then slowed my pace down (just a hair thou).
The children were very curious about us just as I was about them. The 9-11 years old girls always loved to follow me around and chit-chat. They had many, many questions but would freely talk about themselves also. They especially loved Kevin and I haven't figured out if it was because of his mustache (which they had probably never seen before) or the toys that he would pass out on the less populated islands.
When we had come to the last island in the Bahamas, Great Inagua, I told Kevin that I should have started this trip talking more to the women about how they felt about their life here as it is so different from the way I lived in the States. I would have to say that there wasn't the strong feminism issues here. The roles of the men and women were very traditional. Everyone seemed satisfied with their lot in life and I also found it amazing that many, many people had left their particular Island to seek a "better life" elsewhere but after 10+ years would return to the small settlement on their home island where they intended to stay the rest of their life - happy & content.
I must say that Kevin and I got along great after we figured out how we were going "to attack" these Islands.
He is a social butterfly whereas I like to just watch, listen and learn. We weren't ones to just stop for a day then move on. Kevin had goals of riding his bike on ALL the roads in the Bahama's (which he did riding 3501 miles total), physically locating all Batelco phone towers and keeping track of their exact locations (which he did with all 98 of them),? and he loved finding the most populated gazebo and talking with the locals about history & politics. Now my goals were a little like his except that I liked to walk all over the place (at least within a 5 mile radius), and located all public water spouts, grocery stores and libraries. So we had our different activities but sharing the stories at the end of the day was a treat.
We also had our nightly games of backgammon, cribbage and scrabble. We are still studying Spanish together and try to use it sometimes when talking to each other. Of course everyone knows how much we love to talk so we soon give us and start rambling in English again.? We study charts together, plan our next trip and are constantly discussing the weather.
We have become so comfortable with each other, making communication about everything imperative to keeping this relationship working and growing. This is the kind of life that you either make it or break it and there are many of both kinds out here in the cruising world.
As for the money situation...being that neither one of us is financially sound or even thought about it before leaving the country...well let's just say that now that we're done here...we will be going back to work...somewhere and probably sooner than later.
On our very first Island, Bimini, a woman told me that I would find every single island in the Bahamas to be different from any other one - and you know what? - she was right! I'm so glad that I overcame my fears to just enjoy the gift that I've been given and hope that this will continue for a long, long time.
San Salvador provided one of the most pleasant rides in all of The Bahamas. The main road is surprisingly good, and I circumnavigated the island on a near windless day with a bit of cloud cover. The scenery was awesome over both the ocean and the various bodies of inland water I passed.
I stopped and spoke with several people, including Joyce, a lighthouse operator, and "Cowboy" Anderson at the Dixon Hill Lighthouse. This is the second of three kerosene-powered lighthouses left operational in the world, all of them in The Bahamas. we visited and operated this one as we had experience from the Hope Town Lighthouse, pumping the kerosene up the tower and cranking up the weight that rotates the first-order fresnel lens assembly.
On a windy Sunday afternoon, Karin also decided on the spur-of-the-moment to cycle 'round the island, enticed by the good roads, varied scenery, and friendly inhabitants.
A note of caution if you ride the back roads east of Cockburn Town: you may end up on the airport runway, and this not being Eleuthera or Chub Cay, cycling on the runway is frowned upon (forbidden, actually) and you WILL be arrested if you cannot bullshit your way out of it. Fortunately, I have LOTS of bullshit . . .
I have preferred an early Sunday morning start for my longer rides here in The Bahamas; on Cat Island it was the Sunday before Christmas when I took off from Smiths Bay Harbour to the north tip of the island past Orange Creek. I needed to return by 2 p.m. as Cindy & Alfred Moss had promised to bring a Bahamian Christmas dinner to the boat for us.
The Sunday rides have always promised light traffic and a chance to see all walks of Bahamian life, from the church goers of several faiths to the dope-smokers on the beach, who are usually Rastafarian [and North Cat Island has more than its fair share of Rastafarians!].
An encounter with a dog almost made me miss my hot dinner, but Ellamae of Rolle's Taxi Service let me put my bike with the snapped fork in her trunk and gave me a ride the last ten miles to the boat.
Crashing aside, Cat Island provided another excellent cycling environment, with Karin coming with me on the 50-mile southern loop which included many miles of the unimproved 'white roads' she usually avoids.
I was able to cycle the north half of Great Exuma Island during our mail-stop in George Town, and log the position of six more BaTelCo towers. 94 completed, only four to go . . .
No cycling on Conception Island, Samana Cay, or Little Inagua (no roads!), and I already rode every road on Rum Cay [both of them . . .]; so the last two places I cycled were Mayaguana & Great Inagua, racking up over 100 miles on each.
We rode to the lighthouse on Inagua, which is only a mile south of town. It has an antique first-order fresnel lens and the same mechanism as the other two Bahamian kerosene treasures, but is temporarily burning a High Intensity Discharge lamp as the kerosene system is down for repair. Wilfred Wilson still gave us an interesting view from the top.
Here is a synopsis of the places to stay:
[The BLUE tracks are Windigo; RED tracks are Pedigo; and GREEN tracks are hiking or cycling]
French Bay, San Salvador N23?56.900' W074?32.229'
Approaching the Southwest Point [a.k.a. Sandy Point] of San Salvador in good overhead light in settled conditions, one may consider French Bay as an anchorage. It provides great beach access with close proximity to roads and Watling's Castle. The reefs afford minimal protection from any wind, but things settle out in prevailing? NE swells and easterly trade winds, and it is a great anchorage in very light winds in any case. Lots of coral to negotiate, but several sandy spots to set the hook.
Fernandez Bay, San Salvador N24?00.786' W074?31.675'
We were closer to the beach than we have been for a long, long time. The 200' Pedigo ride to the monument took three of four pedal strokes! There are quite a few coral heads and reefs scattered along the western coast of San Salvador, but many of them are in over 20 feet of water and cannot reach up to the boat. In between the coral patches is lots and lots of sand, so in good light it is easy to pick your way through right up to the beach by the monuments. We easily endured 25-to-30 knot wind here (on a bridle) while Olga made its transit to the south.
Cockburn Town [don't forget = say "COburn Town"], San Salvador N24?03.071' W074?32.124'
A coral-free area between the Government Basin and the cargo [dock opposite the BaTelCo tower] provides a good anchorage right up to the shore, although there is a random minor swell, and the BEC generation plant is right there with it's constant drone. (Actually, you will find one dark coral spot with about 10' of water covering it.)
A second San Salvador surprise (after the excellent road surface) was the free RO water on the quay in the Government Basin right next to this anchorage. Helen and Raymond Russell's store right on the waterfront street is very clean and well-stocked (and son-in-law Michael is a cut-up). A great one-night anchorage to get water & provisions; Fernandez Bay or Graham's Harbour are better long-term choices.
Graham's Harbour, San Salvador N24?07.367' W074?27.628'
Sneak into this large natural harbour (only under good lighting conditions) close under Green Cay above the reef protecting Barker's Point just as it says in the cruising guides. Head towards Hawk's Nest Cay and then down to the anchorage just off the pier in the southeast corner of the harbour. The Gerace Research Center (old US Navy base) is there along with the Bahamian Sailing Regatta Park (old US Navy dock) with a very nice playground (great swings & teeter totters!).
Great protection and access give this anchorage high marks. If you are interested in natural sciences, the Research Center always has several scientists studying all aspects of the island. From January to June, there are 100 to 200 students there also, but if you visit at a slow period, Tom (the director) might let you use their wireless i-net connection. [The satellite was not happy during my visit and the signal was unusable.]
Don't neglect to stand a diligent watch in the Crooked Island Passage;
?between Long Island & the Acklins Group past Rum Cay & Conception Island to San Salvador & Cat Island.
We had a typical crossing, encountering six vessels in our vicinity.
Hawk's Nest Point, Cat Island N24?09.405' W075?31.429'
After a brisk sail in 18-knot wind and 3-meter swells, the wind did not comply with the strength or direction changes suggested by the weather people, so we bypassed a possible anchorage under Dolphin Head in Springfield Bay and scooted around the Point to anchor 250' above the isthmus. The sand spit extending from the point provides an obstacle to entering the bight, and minimal protection afterward, but the swells were manageable with a bridle. Because of the necessity of leaving Graham's Harbour in good light, we barely anchored here in twilight and applied the bridle in moonlight.
The next day, however, the weather began veering ahead of schedule [who do I talk to about that?] and we were caught in water too shallow with swells too big. After releasing our bridle, Windigo rolled tremendously, and we had to drop our ground tackle with a float to escape the area. We fled to Old Bight for refuge, and returned later to retrieve our anchor gear.
Old Bight, Cat Island N24?13.874' W075?23.868'
This was an excellent anchorage and with just a little less draft than Windigo one could get VERY close to shore. A beach landing is there with an old road that runs to Old Bight, less than a mile away. Fuel and limited supplies are found here, along with access to the main road.
New Bight, Cat Island N24?17.064' W075?25.013'
This is the most used anchorage area along Cat Island and is great in normal southeast wind. It is NOT good in winds with a western component, which we had, so we moved along to the north.
The Hermitage is walking distance from the beach and the highlight of the island. A couple tiny stores and typical Bahamian entertainment are located here. The Regatta Village is along the beach just to the north and this appears to be one of the better sites for the event.
Fernandez Bay, Cat Island N24?19.113' W075?28.386'
It must be great to be tucked deep into this natural bay when the normal trade winds drift across the island from the southeast. It is a nasty and dangerous place when there is a western component in a strong wind. We were seeking shelter from the (too) slowly veering winds of a front that was not suppose to reach this far south, and the Fernandez Cays and many corals did not stop the large swells from inundating the bay.
Actually anchoring out near the Cays would be pleasant in calmer weather, but beware of the many, many coral heads and reefs in the area.
Smiths Bay Harbour, Cat Island N24?19.910' W075?28.564'
This is where we found relief from the unpredicted wind blowing 20-25 knots from the northwest, strong enough to delay Captain Granville from getting the mail boat away from the dock on schedule. Entry into the basin is straightforward, but it is quite small in there and room needs to be left for the mail boats (Friday & Saturday) and the agricultural ships for the packing house (anytime!). Anchoring with two anchors along the south edge of the dug-out part kept us out of the swells and the way of the big boats.
Cindy & Alfred's store is at the road here, and the airport is walking distance away and has regular flights to the States.
Half Moon Bay, Little San Salvador N24?34.787' W075?57.301'
As mentioned in the trip notes, this is a great place to anchor and really quiet after the big boats leave (about 1600hrs.). During the day, the wakes from the water toys overrule the swells, which become more noticeable at night. Staying in the northwest corner (N24?35.086' W075?57.760') during the day keeps you out of the way of the frolickers, but moving over next to the swim area at night minimizes the swell. Also, stay away from the cruise ships, especially when they are moving [duh].
During our mail stop in George Town, we were able to join the increasing number  of gathering boats in several of the anchorages including: Volleyball Beach, Monument Beach, San Dollar Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Hamburger Beach, Peace & Plenty Anchorage, Kidd's Cove, & Gaviot Bay. I am not including details of these spots, as figuring out the whole routine is part of the adventure staying in George Town! (Hint: just ask somebody on the morning radio net: ch.68 @ 0800.) ENJOY!
I will let you know that if the wireless i-net connection at Eddy's Edgewater is down (as it was over the holidays), a high-speed wireless connection emanates from the Exuma Department of Public Works building. I was able to use this fine connection to email, order supplies on the I-net, and call (Skype) Bahamas Welding & Fire in Nassau to arrange the delivery of a bottle of argon to complete my welding projects here. The workers there even came outside and offered me a chair! The Public Works building is on a road across from "Fish Fry", just north of town, up a short hill & to the right. It is a medium-length walk, but a very short bike ride!
West Bay, Conception Island? N23?50.863' W075?07.210'
Boats with less of a draft are able to move further north and stay close to the island providing more protection. But I would never want to be here in winds veering through the west! It was settled weather for our visit, but we still utilized a bridle to eliminate rolling. [In fact, starting at this harbour, we routinely rig two snubber lines of sufficient length to make a bridle every time we anchor.]
Sandy Point, Rum Cay? N23?39.555' W079?56.930'
It was a bit rough in Flamingo Bay upon our arrival to Rum Cay, so we hung out just north of Sandy Point on the western shore of the island.
Flamingo Bay, Rum Cay? N23?41.098' W074?55.572'
When the wind veered to the southeast, we went into Flamingo Bay and thoroughly enjoyed this remote anchorage. Access from the north or the west is easily accomplished in conditions with good visibility. Sure, there are A LOT of huge coral heads scattered across the southern portion of the bay, but the spaces between the heads are 15- to 20-feet deep, with a clear sand bottom = just sail between the heads! We could get quite close to shore even with our 7' draft.
Excellent protection in anything but strong west-to-north winds.
Port Nelson, Rum Cay? N23?38.822' W074?50.808' & N23?38.357' W075?50.467' & N23?38.235' W074?51.024'
We anchored in various spots, as close as one-third of a mile from the government dock, to nearly a mile from the marina; but we were able to receive the wireless i-net signal anywhere we swung. We enjoyed being close to town with the large government dock to tie the dinghy to.
Columbus Bay, Samana Cay? N23?03.991' W073?44.552' & N23?03.794' W073?44.743'
Excellent protection in this less used anchorage if you pay attention and move around to find the calm spots for the given wind. DO NOT try to enter at dusk as I did, or without good visibility; the entrance next to Propeller Cay has a bottom that is a bit tricky to read, but has enough depth to make navigating straightforward. If you have a deeper draft, entering on a high tide rising would be a good choice!
If you notice some fellows on the shore, let it be known they have a reputation to ask for "things". They ask for fresh water. They ask for cigarettes. They ask for passage. And then they ask for more. They are temporary residents, usually from Acklins or Crooked Island, and spend time on Samana Cay to fish or just lie low away from trouble they may have started back home. Act accordingly.
Atwood Harbour, Acklins Island? N22?43.239' W073?52.918'
A terrific harbour tucked between Lady Slipper Cay and Acklins Island with protection from all but wind from the north, which would cause nasty swells and make passage in or out untenable. Entry into Atwood is a straightforward north-south course and not at all tricky (but stay the course!) and anchor as far east as your draft allows.
Access to Acklins Island is convenient and Lovely Bay, a settlement that lives up to its name is a short bike ride away. Pestel Beach is north of the bay - be sure to visit Auntie Maude & brother Leo if you go there.
Lady Slipper Cay has a marvelous beach [for a bonfire & beach combing for interesting coral bits] and there's a creek that flows out of the south end of the harbour that opens up into a salt pond with lots of wildlife (sharks, birds, rays, etc.); sand bars; and beaches. Around to the northeast corner of the cay another creek empties into the ocean around a large rock. The current runs swift enough through this cut to drift dive and possibly find a couple lobsters.
West Plana Cay? N22?36.113' W073?37.490'
A stop-over anchorage to break up a trip to Mayaguana. Very convenient and safe place to anchor in normal trade winds with deep water right up to shore with minimal coral surprises. Our trip over here was double what we expected = twice the wind strength and wave height!
Mayaguana Island, Betsy Bay? N22?24.892' W073?08.366'
The closest anchorage on Mayaguana if approaching from the northeast. It is a spot well-protected from prevailing east winds and a delightful tiny Bahamian settlement, BUT the bottom conditions are completely craptastic. The deep water shallows in a cracked & ridged layer of rocky marl that has anchor-swallowing trenches and pits. Three bits of advice: (1) try to arrive in good light to find one of the few patches of sand to place you anchor on; (2) lie your anchor in water shallow enough to allow you to dive down and work with it if necessary; and (3) ALWAYS use a trip line here! A good note is that construction was in full swing on a boat ramp and landing at the south end of "town" that will provide excellent access to the main road.
Mayaguana Island, Abraham's Bay? N22?21.772' W072?59.677'
A huge, shallow bay with several spots to anchor. The coordinates above are for the northernmost useable deep-water anchorage which has the least amount of swell in the bay [we still used a bridle]. Others stayed east of us in shallower water that was subject to swells coming in through the astern cut in the reef. Still others stayed in the western end of the bay tucked up next to the reef to reduce fetch and swells; but we were nearly a mile-a-a-half from the town dock and it was a heck of a trip in unsettled weather - I can't imagine making the trek across the whole bay in anything but calm conditions.
The dinghy channel to the dock is VERY shallow at low water, marked with poles that moved and disappeared even during the two weeks we were there. Make sure you have good visibility and high water the first time you venture to the dock. With Pedigo, we were able to bypass some of the channel when the tide was high, but even Pedigo could not cross the sand dunes next to the path at low tide.
This is the first time water was available anywhere since Rum Cay, and the first free water available on our route since George Town. It is a stretch to think about carrying water without a bicycle, but you could walk with a cart from the spigot behind the BaTelCo building which is 2500' from the dock. This water tastes good, but has a bit of algae making it greenish. The city cistern has crystal-clear water and is around the corner (turn right at the gazebo) and only a little more than a half-mile from the dock. We treat and screen ALL the water we take into our tank; and our system has sediment, odor/taste, and cyst filtration at the tap. It was almost six weeks since we last filled our tank, with only a trickle of rain added to our stores - it is nice having a 130-gallon tank! [Audrey, who clued us in on the spelling bee, will give you a ride for water if you ask; she owns the store across the road from where she runs the BaTelCo office.]
Free, super-fast wireless i-net is available at the Baycaner Beach Resort, which also has a bar and is only a short 12-mile bike ride from Abraham's Bay. If you don't have a bike, you may pay for a connection at the BaTelCo building, but it's dry . . .
Little Inagua Island? N21?28.311' W073?03.992'
An uninhabited stop-over to break up the voyage to Great Inagua. We REALLY enjoyed the sail here as the wind carried us on a beam reach whilst all the other cruisers leaving Mayaguana bashed into wind and seas to get to the Turks & Caicos. We will go UP to the Turks & Caicos after going around Great Inagua Island on a day when we can sail comfortably. Unless it is an critical immediate emergency for you to go from Mayaguana to the Turks & Caicos, seriously consider taking the Little Inagua-Great Inagua-Turks & Caicos route. Besides avoiding nasty motorsailing, you will have the opportunity to see one of the best-kept-secrets and brightest gems of The Bahamas . . .
Man of War Bay, Great Inagua Island? N21?05.194' W073?38.822'
A large bay just north of the Morton Salt docks with lovely sections of beach with brand new bathrooms ashore and access to the main road. This is the closest easy anchorage to the geocache near the entrance of the Union Creek Reserve, and it is still FIVE miles away. The path is very sandy in places = we had to walk our 'road bikes' for several stretches, and mountain bikes would be more appropriate; but the scenery was worth the effort. Going south, the main road is only good enough to support the heavy equipment used by Morton Salt, expect a bumpy, sandy white road that causes normal cars & trucks to slow down.
?The bay is nicely protected from prevailing winds, which truly become the norm in these latitudes; cold fronts rarely penetrate this far south and east, so the east-southeast trade winds blow 10-20 knots nearly all the time. When a front causes the wind to veer out of the east, it usually moves quickly with little strength in any westerly component.
Matthew Town, Great Inagua Island? N20?56.926' W073?40.731'
One can snug up against the shore with a sandy bottom and no corals visible (just grassy marl patches) and experience great protection from wind and seas. In fact, Great Inagua is large enough to change the wind pattern just as the larger Caribbean islands. Although the trades continue to blow across the water offshore, on the western shore of the island the wind drops into single-digits at night and a bridle can negate any effects of swell. Only one day of the week anchored here was nasty = a front caused the wind to all but cease, but the distant squalls brought large and confused seas to shore, rocking poor Windigo vehemently. We simply applied good chafe protection to our two snubber lines and spent the day ashore. The night? wind created by the island steadied Windigo on its bridle, and all was well for sleeping. [The front stalled north of us and didn't bring strong veering winds, but the unsettled atmosphere still generated interesting weather.]
Free R.O. water is available at the sink in the large public building on the beach south of the government buildings (it has an adjacent stage on the street-side). Wireless i-net is strong in front of the main government building, but during business hours, it may be less obtrusive to sit around back on the bench under the tree.
If you need any advice at all concerning Matthews Town, call "Sierra-Foxtrot" on VHF ch.16? and speak with Capt. Fawkes (pronounced "Fox"). DO NOT under any circumstances show up at his house (the green & white one across from the Police Station) around lunchtime, or else you MUST buy him lunch to make up for the numerous times he fed me during our stay.? ;-]
Airport Anchorage, Great Inagua Island? N20?58.420' W073?40.806'
This spot is a mile-and-a-half north of town and away from the noisy power plant.
It offers the same protection and road access as the other anchorages, but this one affords a great view of the daily helicopter landings and takeoffs from the USCG base at the airport.
Lantern Head Reef, Great Inagua Island? N20?57.352' W073?16.046'
A 30-mile sail from Matthew Town, this is a great staging spot to continue up to the Caicos Bank. This, our very last anchorage in The Bahamas, is not detailed on any Explorer Chart, so by this juncture in your travels, you should have obtained the Wavey Line Charts: WL T1.1- TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS and? HISO17- HISPANOLA. The Wavey Line Bahamian chart sheet for the Bahamas is a superlative small-scale planning chart with lots of details; but Lantern Head is found on the reverse of the WL T1.1 chart (It is south of everything else on that chart, so it makes sense).
The reef provides an extraordinary amount of protection, and is quite remote and beautiful. We intended it only as a staging point to get to the Caicos Bank, but with the wind first too strong (30 knots) and then the wrong direction (on the nose!), we made a week of it!
Well, that's it for The Bahamas ? "Windigo has left the building". And a good thing too, our visa expired months ago! (We paced ourselves through the Exumas to get to George Town on a certain date to ask for an extension, but it was refused in a peculiar way = the officer said he could not officially stamp our visa for a later date, but we had "some time" to finish our sightseeing, provisioning, and sailing maneuvers. We interpreted that to mean we could finish our 'tour' of all the remaining islands . . .)
Enter Windigo's callsign: W3IGO
(and zoom in when it starts tracking)
Where we are right now:
Our permanent and EXACT address:
Capt.KL & Karin Hughes
S/V WindigoIII ? PMB 365
88005 Overseas Hwy. #9
Islamorada, FL? 36033-3087
Text-only Email addresses aboard Windigo, checked daily:
Email addresses checked when at a land-based computer
(infrequently, but good for attachments):
And of course, the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue: