24:51.5N 76:12.8W Great Exuma to Eleuthera
If it wasn’t for the fact of being here in the Bahamas, one might have recorded the fact that the last ten days or so have not been of the best! On returning to Emerald Bay via two days of flying we took a couple of days off for R and R and some sight- seeing. So far, so good. We planned to leave Emerald Bay on Sunday, May 19th, but the thunder, lightning and heavy rain had a strangely deleterious effect on our get up and go. Strike one. On Monday we were all ready to leave at 0630 when we noticed that the GPS associated with the chart plotter and the autopilot was not working. The rest of the day was spent tracing every element of the system, wire by wire, discovering that in all probability a sophisticated connector block had failed. Rewired to provide the autopilot but no chart plotter. Strike two. Tuesday 0630 all ready to go when we discovered that the bow thruster was not working – tested fine three days previously! Another day with the boat in bits but no successful resolution. New part required. Strike three. I think we will gloss over our failure to get up early enough on Wednesday to allow a satisfactory time of departure. Strike Four.
Finally, a lovely sunny Thursday. We left at 0700 and set off north for Dotham Cut. Emerald Bay is on the East of the chain of Exuma Islands and Cays (pronounced Keys) and the long necklace of islands hangs roughly North-South with the anchorages and shallow water on the west side. So we proceeded north in Exuma Sound with the Islands to the west. Dotham Cut is one of the gaps that one can pass through to get on the west side of the chain but it is essential to pass through at slack water to avoid the strong currents that flow through the cuts. When the wind and tide are opposed the result in the cut is called locally “a rage”! We arrived on time and sailed through with no problem. Perhaps the tide was turning in our favour. A couple of lovely Bahamian anchorages followed together with a visit to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. One should explain that “Yacht Club” in these parts denotes simply the biggest/best pub- cum- restaurant on the water front and fortunately has little of a club atmosphere. The somewhat haphazard wooden pontoons nearby are surrounded by nurse sharks and rays. Different. There is also the odd nurse shark in the anchorage to be seen from time to time swimming under the boat. They are harmless, of course (?), but swimming off the back of the boat was a more than usually cautious enterprise.
The anchorage near Staniel Cay is famous for its swimming pigs. These guys are big; they swim or paddle around on the beach. This is a tourist attraction. The pilot book actually says “bring leftovers” so the water is full of floating lettuce leaves and other detritus. Very different if not very edifying! We’ve kept pigs and know the size, shape and smell of piggy poo! Madeleine’s journal records the fact that we had salmon for supper, “couldn’t face ham”!
Our next major step was to sail north and then east back through the island chain at Conch Cut. Remember the need for slack water and avoiding the wind against tide, as above? Well despite every calculation somehow we got it wrong. The water boiled and crashed around us, the crew “raged”, but we ploughed on through with white knuckles and set sail north east across the Sound to the Island of Eleuthera.
We must return one day to the Exumas; we probably saw one hundredth of the small bays, beaches and sparkling anchorages – but next time we will give the pigs a miss.