Nigel North
Wed 22 May 2013 12:21





I was soon to lose two important tools for recording this voyage.  My little Nikon camera that had being giving such good service had a habit of getting bored in the  pocket and would turn itself on, which meant that the lens came out.  I can remember the moment exactly as I leant across the cockpit and heard the crunch as a jolt brought me in contact with the pedestal on which the wheel resides. Squashed lens, end of camera.  Try as I might over the next few weeks, I could not undo the damaged lens system.  

Next to go was the laptop.  For no reason known to me, it just would not start up.   I have reset the start up process as it advises, but all it gives is a blank screen shining dimly after going through part of the start up process.   Its own analysis says its probably some software or hardware I have introduced that’s caused it,  and my suspicions lie with the USB plug in WIFI booster aerial which has proved cock all use lately, and indeed seemed to be starting to affect my smaller standby netbook on which this is being written, too.   This really is not good.  For a start, the next part of the blog was already written on it, so that’s lost – now being rewritten here in retro.  I can no longer send and receive emails at sea through the satphone either, as it needs the laptop.   So if anyone has any suggestions on how to clear it…?  I guess it will need to have Vista re-installed.   

But worst of all… movies!  

In the month that Ali came along we would often watch a movie on her massive Cinemascope sized laptop,  unless actually at sea,  for as an impressive movie buff she managed to work her way through my entire collection, then left. 

 I wonder…?  No, surely not.    

Living on the sea, with the sea, it is sometimes  a wonderful thing to lose oneself in a good film for a couple of hours, and definitely a treat to bribe more effort from oneself.    In the 20 odd months onboard,  television has never been missed, not once.  But a film….luxury. 


Time to leave our kind Canadian guides and head North up the string of cays of the Exumas a bit further – this time to SHROUD CAY.    It was only 30nm away – 6 hours – but that wasn’t what was on my mind.  It was getting out of Cambridge Cay anchorage.  A very shallow entrance had welcomed us and the tides would be even lower now,  but we escaped unscraped by cleverly leaving via a different exit which leads back out to sea rather than onto The Bank.  It meant a few miles of ocean and re entering  via Conch Cut - which gives access to the calm shallow waters of the Bahamian Bank that runs up the west side of the Exumas -  but it was worth it for the peace of mind.   Great that is until hit by two vertical waves which rolled PW more than I’ve seen,  sufficient to throw a big heavy nav station drawer across the cabin upside down.   But picking it all up again I found several things I’d lost for months so bargain.   But once back on The Bank it was easy going in the shallow water in the lee of the Cays,  averaging just 4metres, and at just gone 6pm Ali picked up a mooring buoy in triumph first time round in Shroud Cay and that was that for the night. 

SHROUD CAY I thought desolate, and didn’t like it there.  Unable to explain why,  some places you just don’t like and this was one of them.  Probably due to this sense of unease I spent  a restless night getting up frequently to check the mooring,  and at first light we were off, this time on a longer run of 54nm to New Providence Island, or what most people just call Nassau, the capitol of the Bahamas.    It was another gentle downwind sail over 4m deep water, but by mid pm the wind had died back so we motored the rest. With the island dead just a few miles ahead I caught a glimpse of fin, and sure enough a really big single dolphin came charging in attracted by the engine noise but didn’t stay to play – they don’t seem to do that here unlike Atlantic dolphins – disappearing just as soon as the video camera (the only functioning camera left) made an appearance.  They are so CLEVER!   Soon we were dropping anchor in the remarkably quiet, unspoilt and almost deserted West Bay, or Clifton Bay as the locals call it,  having ‘eyeballed’ our way in across a shallow bar (with a lot of help from the chartplotter).    A little earlier we had been overtaken by a large American yacht that had slowly been catching up us all day, so I was hoping he’d go across the bar first so if he got stuck I could be snottily superior and go another way.  But he sailed right past, then came in from the North.  Some people are so unhelpful. 

Next day we hoisted Percy off the foredeck where it is lashed at sea and lowered it back in the water so we could set off to explore New Providence Island.   Strangely quiet with no visible life anywhere apart from on the beach near  a jetty with a handy ladder at the end,  we tied and locked the dinghy up there, but strangely this brand new jetty stopped short of land by about 20’ so it was roll your trousers up time and wade the rest.   The whole place seemed deserted.  The reason, it became apparent, was that this was where the knobs live, or at least own their super properties, but probably don’t live there.   Walking on up a track we came to a road and Ali suggested we went to the big spanky hotel we had seen on arrival in the bay, for a shower and wifi if poss, but we couldn’t’ find the way in.  It certainly didn’t give access from the road, so we stuck our thumbs out and in minutes were on our way east towards Nassau, 12 miles away.  Not that we wanted to go there, just to somewhere to buy some provisions, and do some wifi’ ing, and we were soon in the perfect place -  Solomon’s Food Hall about four miles down the road.   They had everything.   Excellent choice of food, café with fresh coffee, nice loos and free wifi!  To a cruiser this is Christmas.  

But it wasn’t all good news.  Ali was to return to Colorado the very next day to sort out domestic problems, and within a couple of hours had booked air tickets, arranged insurance and a dozen other things.  Next morning found us standing at the roadside hitching again, this time with bags, but once again Ali’s amazing luck with picking up rides held good,  with a pick up quicker than any taxi.  So after sailing very nearly 1000nm, and just over a month on board, Ali was soon home to snow on the ground…and I was singlehanded again.  As if to rub it in, it took me three lifts and some time to hitch back again.  

I decided to pay a visit to Nassau, not just to see the place but also to buy those hard to find charts that had so far eluded me, and another blinking camera.   I was picked up by a young fellah working at the National Park nearby who had in fact picked us both up on the first day in.  I was dropped at a bus stop where a Number 10 was waiting for me to turn up, giving  me a delightful 12 mile ride complete with commentary from the gregarious old driver whose deafening voice easily drowned out the rickety old diesel, and all aimed it seemed at the young American couple canoodling in the back.  

Nassau the capitol is a busy, bustling but not that big a town that is all about tourism and the cruise ships in particular, of which they can park up to five in the specially built docks adjoining the town front.   The high street – Bay St – along the front is wall to wall jewellers catering for those loose dollars crying spend me in the Cruise Shipper’s pockets.   Even the one, solitary chemist shop wedged between glittering sparkly lit jewellery arcades had a cabinet of jewellery, just in case you needed some with your aspirin.    I just couldn’t see how a dozen or more jewellers could survive financially with so much competition, but they didn’t look too thin.   I didn’t stop, but walked right on through looking for the chandlers, but the town soon petered out into shabby  buildings so turned back.  If I’d kept going another 15 minutes I’d have come to the ‘boaty’ bit right down by the stylish bridge sweeping across the channel between the mainland and Rose Island.   So after asking, I ended up walking the road twice, and found what I was looking for.  

Getting home again should have been easy.  Squeezing  onto a packed Number 10 in the terminal   I was advised by the very nice lady next to me to get off again at the fire station on the way out of town as the bus wasn’t going where I wanted.  ‘You’ll want a number 12’. I got off.

A stream of No 10’s came by mainly jam packed but no 12’s, , and all the 10’s drivers shook their heads when I asked, so got off again. I just couldn’t see how if you got on a number 10 somewhere, that it wouldn’t go back there!  A really nice woman also at the bus stop, who like me abstained from getting on any of them,  was very helpful and said she would ask ‘her’ driver when he arrived.  Finally after an hour of this I saw a 10 coming the other way with the driver clearly nodding in her direction, so this was the one!  He wiggled his fingers at me, drivers don’t like to speak anywhere I’d found, and I got on as madam sat herself next to ‘her’ driver.  Must be her old man then I thought.  On the way back the bus slowly emptied until it was just me and them up front, and we continued on towards West Bay until the driver pulled up  a mile short. 

,Ok thanks a lot’ I said, giving him a few extra dollars.  ‘You two married then?’  I asked.

 ‘Nope.  Why, you wanna marry her?