Today was a bit more like English sailing than
we've become accustomed to. Well, these things are relative (the temperature
didn't drop much below 28 degrees C) but the wind blew, the sun hid behind
clouds and a short, sharp sea piled up and splashed us heartily as we butted
along. It looked like rain at one point.
Summer Song has finally moved out of Nassau
Harbour, where she has been gathering barnacles for the last 10 days. We pulled
up the well dug-in hook and motored off to the southeast, towards the Exuma
Island chain, which stretches away like a broken string of ragged pearls. The
only obstacle is 30 miles of sand and coral, known ominously as the Yellow Bank.
Whether this is due to the colour of the water over the endless shallows or a
reflection of the emotions raised by this fearsome hazard, I don't know. But,
for the first time in half a year, we had to reckon with the tides and time our
crossing to avoid low water.
Locals espouse something they call 'eyeball
navigation'. This does exactly what it says on the tin, and is all about looking
out. Thus the skipper spent two hours perched on the bow, scanning the water
ahead for the dark patches which betray the presence of a coral head. In the end
we slid uneventfully over the bank and have emerged by the disappointingly-named
Allan's Cay. The anchorage here was full of American yachts anchored in two
narrow channels between rocks on one side and sand on the other. A strong tide
rips through, so they all had two anchors out - one upstream, the other
downstream. Try as we might, we couldn;t see a good spot for Summer Song, and
ended up puttering back out onto the bank to look for a late alternative.
Motoring south for a couple of miles, we've chosen a spot that should be
protected by a wide crucible of reef and coral. There's a strong current, but it
should be a reasonably quiet night. A large gaggle of boats are anchored up on
the other side of the reef from us, but we are alone. I hope this isn't a
portent of something sinister.
Tomorrow we'll do some exploring, but I'm already
missing Nassau after our long stay there. The town had a complaisant charm to it
and provided us with endless opportunities to eat conch in various different
formats - the latest being conch fritters at an establishment of the same
name. Nassau gave Alex with her first ever conch salad, and we spent a happy
afternoon watching Arsenal vs Aston Villa over pints of the local brew and
G&Ts at the cricket club. It was just like being back in
So, it'll take a day to change gear into
desert island mode. The islands here are said to be the equal of the Tobago Cays, which we sailed to with Andy and
Celia back in January. The difference here is that their western edge is knee
deep and fringed with coral, while their eastern edge plunges abruptly to 1000m.
This makes for strange tides and a hellish current known as 'the rage', but also
great fishing. Sadly the fish are not biting at present due to a strange
effect of the full moon. Better luck is expected shortly.
Turning back the clock a day, I should mention that
I now possess a shiny new American visa, while Alex has been promised a new US
passport (she was born in New York). She had to go through a potentially
harrowing interview process to establish her right to the passport. But in the
end, she waved her birth certificate and the consul stopped asking questions
after that. With a short comment to the effect that Alex had a very strong
British accent, the consul promised a replacement within 10