Late Friday morning we headed off on foot to Clarence Town to try to hire a car. We were offered a cheaper deal for cash rather than credit card – phew – and took delivery of a Dodge Neon, in neon yellow. There is only one main road on Long Island – the Queen’s Highway – so not possible to get lost….
First port of call was Deadmans Cays – where the BTC store is. We found it easily and entered another (air-conditioned) world – not expecting such a lavish store on such a small island. We asked for Denise – told her Leroy from Mayaguana had sent us – and she quickly showed us what was available. My iPhone is really old and struggles to even pick up a provider let alone receive texts now – so we decided to buy a new unlocked smart phone to be our on board hotspot which I can also use at home. As well as a Samsung phone we purchased 4GB of data and put $20 on for calls. Got to the till – and the phone had reduced by $90 overnight, virtually half of its original offer price. Denise was worried so checked it out with head office and, yes, it was true. Result!!! Having had a quick lesson on how it all worked we said our farewells and went off exploring. Excellent service – really impressed.
We went to Salt Pond – to check it out as a potential anchorage – but decided, although stunning, there is really nothing to warrant the effect of getting there so abandoned the idea. We stopped for lunch at a roadside shack – great chicken and fish and dead VW beetles – before carrying on.
We really enjoyed the scenery as we drove around and noted that the housing was quite large, spacious and relatively affluent with manicured gardens. There are also loads of boarded up and derelict houses which is a shame…. The Bahamians do not tend to knock down old houses as they believe the spirits reside within and will move in with them if they do. Oh yes, and while out and about, we managed to pick up a new anchor snubber…..
We then visited Deans Blue Hole, which is the deepest in the world. When we got there we came across a monument to one teenage girl and two women who died here in 2008. The blue hole is at the edge of the beach under some cliffs and there are no barriers to it – the young girl apparently went too close and the sand gave way underneath her…. the two women perished trying to rescue her. Clearly a tragedy – but you do have to wonder why they don’t have at least one life ring nearby to throw to people in case of difficulty???
This is an amazing place created by nature….. Oh yes, in case you are wondering, the structure in the middle of the blue hole is used by free divers who hold annual competitions here.
Back to Clarence Town and we visited the two churches. These were built by Father Jerome who was born in 1876 as John Cecil Hawes, initially became an architect before becoming an Anglian priest. After the 1908 hurricane he came to the Bahamas to restore the damaged Anglian churches using his unique stamp of hurricane-proof stonework with thick walls and barrel-vaulted roofs. His retirement home and last Catholic church – having by now converted to Catholicism – were built on nearby Cat Island.
The views from Clarence Town across the anchorage are really quite spectacular.
We returned the car – got a lift back to the marina – and settled into the Outer Edge Grill for a couple of beers while I published the blog that I’d written in the morning. Back to Morphie and an early night.
Saturday morning we checked the phone worked – obviously we need to be in range of a BTC tower – yay we have internet on board. Hurrah!! The rest of the day we went ashore to the marina and did laundry and cleaned Morphie thoroughly – as we have Andy and Nicky from Intrepid of Dover coming over for sundowners later.
Was a busy day and we had a nice evening… They have circumnavigated the world and gave us some really useful info for crossing the Pacific. We gave them PG tips in return LOL.
Sunday morning and Andy came by with some weather and radio station books for the Pacific – fantastic, thank you so much. We then picked up anchor with our destination Rum Cay, 35 miles away. We had a fantastic sail with some rogue waves beating us up and some strong easterly currents to content with – but had a wonderful time.
As we crossed deep contour lines into shallow water we had just started our engine as we reached our final waypoint – and were about to take down the sails in preparation for eyeballing through the anchorage – and the fishing lure went mad. OMG – Richard has caught a fish – and we quickly identified it as a mahi mahi by its skin colour as it jumped and tried to escape. So Richard played the fish – on a hand line – while I managed the boat…. Finally we got the sails away, the fish was still attached, and we pulled him on board. Wow – Richard is one very excited person! We secured him – the fish, not Richard – on the deck while we picked our way into the anchorage through the coral bombies….. and got our anchor down at 2pm. Now that we were secure it was time for a photo opportunity before we filleted the fish for the freezer.
I kept some back and while Richard cleaned all the blood and gore from Morphie I cooked him fish tacos. Catch to plate in less than two hours. A very happy and full husband….
We decided we didn’t fancy snorkelling having put blood in the water LOL so had a lazy afternoon and evening on board, enjoying the beautiful water and the sunset.
Monday morning we went ashore to explore but the Government dock was too high – so we dinked into the local marina. Well this is a construction site – a few boats were still tied up – but many of the piers and docks were dilapidated and were no longer connected to land. Nice views though and a good place for gulls to have a snooze.
We turned around and went back to the town dock and beached dink instead. We met a local guy straight away – really friendly – had a chat and wandered around and noted the size of the small government building which seems to serve many purposes. We found the graveyard and it was very sad to see so many graves just marked with a rock and no inscription – only the very wealthy had headstones, including one from the original land-owning family dating back to 1910. Carrying on we wandered into a bar – no beer sorry – and wandered out. We checked on Morphie out in the anchorage and found another bar.
Dolores was very pleased to see us and showed us her Sand Bar. Unfortunately she had no supplies of anything – all she could offer us was tequila – er, no thanks. But we had a lovely chat and signed her visitor’s book whilst being regaled with local stories and back in the day when Jackie Onassis visited….. She also told us about the marina – apparently the owner was jealous that a new bar was taking his business so he pulled the competitors bar down one night. To avoid prosecution he ended up giving away his land…..hence the current development. One really interesting fact we found out was that, to encourage islanders to return and settle on the out islands, one member of each family is given a Government job to ensure that all settlers on the “family” islands have a living wage. To put this into perspective though, there are only about 50 people living on Rum Cay right now. The Government also stepped in to assist Dolores rebuild her bar and home after it was devastated by a hurricane many years ago…..
Back on board and we welcome Intrepid to the anchorage and accepted sundowner invitations. We decide to go bobbing for an hour on the beach so I’m unpacking the bag from earlier and putting everything away – and ask Richard where is the iPad? He thinks I’m kidding – er no… Damn…. I think we have left it in the bar when we were searching in the bag for a pen. Richard is back in dink faster than you have ever seen him move – he heads to the bar – and it is shut. He asks the guys outside to open it for him as he thinks he has left something behind – they do, and thankfully, the iPad is sitting on the seat where we left it. He comes back to Morphie very thankful for honest people! So we spent a very short time on the beach having a bob with our last two beers on board before returning to Morphie, cleaning up, and going over to Intrepid for sundowners. We had a lovely evening…. and I tried marmite popcorn for the first time ever! Think Twiglets for the taste…. Totally hooked now…
Tuesday morning and we left Rum Cay early to sail to Conception Island – only 24 miles away.
Had a great sail – wind at 90 degrees – and our anchor was down by 1.30 pm. This is an uninhabited island which is also a marine park – with no facilities and one of the few places without a BTC tower, so no communications either. We snorkelled the anchor in beautiful clear azure blue water and had a quiet night on board watching the spectacular sunset and the milky way in the star-strewn night sky.
Wednesday morning and we went out exploring by dink – and snorkelled a few spots on the reef. Had a good time and we enjoyed playing in the sea. We didn’t see a lot of huge fish nor variety but there was some nice coral around and we did get followed by a baby barracuda for a while.
As we headed back after our final snorkel later in the afternoon we realised that the water was getting a bit dark and that Morphie was surrounded by clouds. Oh well, never mind. Was a great day and Richard enjoyed his first mahi mahi dinner.
Thursday morning and we did boat jobs….. before heading out exploring in dink again. We wanted to go through the cut into the interior which is mangrove swamps, but needed to wait for a rising tide to get through the very narrow and shallow entrance. On the way we stopped off at a number of places to admire the beaches, the reefs and the colour of the sea – plus the birds that are flying overhead all the time.
We got through the cut – had to get out to push dink a little way because of how shallow it was – and then meandered through the channels…. Absolutely stunning – no other word for it! We frightened a few sharks, turtles and rays by dink but unfortunately they all swam away quickly when they spotted us – so no photos. We did have our snorkelling gear in dink but neither of us fancied it as the water was soooo murky.
Back on board and we had an early dinner and got Morphie ready to go to sea – we are heading off early in the morning for our 40+ mile passage to the Exumas. Not a long passage but we want to arrive at a reasonable hour to spot those coral bombies / rocks in the water. So early to bed after sunset.
This morning – Friday – and we were up before the sun and picked up anchor at 6am – enjoyed the sight of the huge yacht Adele lit up as we passed – and then the sun rose behind us.
We were sad to leave Conception Island…. It truly is a very very special magical place….. Sigh…… We had another great and fast sail – with much more boat traffic than we are used to – and, as we passed the end of Long Island across the drop-offs the fishing line went again…… What?!? Hoping for a tuna or a wahoo Richard battles this fish until it jumps out and we realise that it is another mahi mahi. He was pretty strong and feisty and Richard had to work hard with the hand line to bring him to the boat. Eventually he goes quiet and we lift him in – quick photo opportunity.
Richard gives him an air kiss and tells him that he lives to fight another day before releasing him back into the water. Not sure who was more surprised at all this – Richard at catching another large fish or the mahi mahi at being released!
We eventually spotted land ahead…..
…..and whilst still in safer deep water we took down the sails and motored into the narrow cut – having timed it right for slack water – between the cays and Great Exuma working our way along the channel until we got our anchor down at 2.00 pm. We are now anchored off Higgins Landing on Stocking Island, opposite Georgetown on Great Exuma. Looking forward to exploring this new area tomorrow……..
Bye for now