Sailing Cristina: Week Five
Our fifth week of sailing took us deeper into The Bahamas, from the Berry Islands to Nassau and, finally, the Exumas. We weathered wind, waves, and rain for nearly a week, which slowed us down a bit and showed us the truth in the saying that "the most dangerous thing when sailing is a schedule." Being delayed by bad weather turned out to be a blessing, however, as it allowed us time to pick up our first guest, Tyler's mom, in Nassau.
Day 29: Whale Cay to Rose Island
With the wind and swell finally calmed, we left our anchorage and motored across the Tongue of the Ocean. If you look on a map, you’ll understand why it’s called the Tongue of the Ocean. Much of The Bahamas is situated on shallows banks, however, the archipelago is split down the middle by a long, thin slice of deep blue Atlantic Ocean water that snakes its way between the islands. As you leave the Great Bahama Bank and enter the Tongue of the Ocean, the average depth drops from 12 feet to many thousands. It’s not a place you want to be in bad weather.
We had a blessedly uneventful sail across the Tongue, past Nassau and its towering resorts, to Rose Island. We anchored with a handful of other boats in a small bay just off Sandy Toes. Rose Island is private but the small, rocky island paralleling it is not. As the sun set, we took Lulu to wander the jagged, eroded shores of the small island. It was low tide and many small conchs were exposed on the sandy flats; Lulu was quite taken with them and cautiously sniffed as many as she could!
Day 30: Rose Island
Feeling restless, we finally blew up our paddleboards and headed back to the small island across from Rose. I did some beach barre and HIIT while Tyler and Lulu galavanted around the beach. We had hoped to explore the southern side of the island where the map indicated numerous coral heads but the wind was far too fierce. Instead, we hopped in the water and towed our paddleboards as we floated down the shore of Rose Island, moving from east to west. The snorkeling was phenomenal, with small but brilliantly-colored coral heads popping out of the sand and abundant life clinging to the island’s rocky wall. It was absolutely magical.
We headed back to the boat in time to hide from the storm that was rolling through. Wind, rain, and dense gray clouds descended around us, so we spent the rest of the day reading on the boat.
Day 31: Rose Island
The storm showed no signs of letting up after a very rocky, stormy night, so we stayed tucked up inside the boat, writing and reading. When the rain finally let up in the afternoon, we headed to the beach for a quick workout and puppy playtime. Then, it was back to the boat for some travel planning for the two sets of guests that would be joining us later in the trip.
Day 32: Rose Island to Nassau Harbour Club, Nassau
Yet another night of loud wind and waves left us feeling groggy and depleted. We made a hasty departure from Rose Island and headed back towards Nassau to pick up our very first boat guest. We checked into the Nassau Harbour Club and spent the morning prepping the boat - reorganizing the front cabin to make room for our guest, vacuuming, scrubbing, emptying the trash, doing laundry.
After much anticipation, Tyler’s mom, Sue, arrived! We gave her a tour of the boat before heading out to lunch at Syrah Cafe. Then, it was off to the Harbour Bay Shopping Plaza for a few errands. We enjoyed a slow afternoon as Sue settled into the boat. In the evening, we celebrated her arrival with dinner on the balcony at Latitudes, a beautifully decorated restaurant perched above the harbor.
Day 33: Nassau
Due to weather, we decided to spend the day exploring Nassau. We’d heard mixed things about the city, with many in online cruiser forums warning of petty crime and an uninteresting city, but decided to see it for ourselves before drawing any conclusions. After a coffee from Starbucks (what a treat!), we designed a walking tour for ourselves (full blog post coming soon) that took us from one end of the city to the other and it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. As we made our way from place to place, we meandered along lush avenues boasting grand homes, past bustling shopping plazas, through quiet neighborhoods where dogs and chickens roamed. Some locals eyed us quizzically while others asked us directly what we were doing - it became clear that most tourists don’t venture far from the cruise ship docks - but everyone was friendly and kind.
In the late afternoon, we did a quick grocery run to stock up before the next leg of our journey. We’d been warned that prices in the islands were high and indeed they were. Paying $12 for a box of salad greens was a little painful but, given what it takes to import things to The Bahamas, also logical. With our kitchen fully stocked, we caught a cab to Atlantis Bahamas on Paradise Island (previously named Hog Island - I guess they didn’t think that name would “sell” as well). I’d read about a weekly Junkanoo parade at the Atlantis Marina Village and had even called the marina to confirm, yet when we arrived we saw no sign of any performance. Instead, we wandered the jaw-droppingly massive property, taking in the mega-yachts, bustling restaurants, on-site aquarium, flashing casino lights, and more. Over-the-top doesn’t quite do it justice. After an incredibly full day and nearly 11 miles of walking, we headed back to the boat to sleep.
Day 34: Nassau to Highbourne Cay, The Exumas
In the morning, we waved goodbye to Nassau and headed off towards Highbourne Cay, our first stop in The Exumas. Collectively, 365 small islands and cays make up the chain of islands called The Exumas. The string of islands runs generally north to south and is known to be heaven for cruisers with endless anchorages, breathtakingly blue water, picturesque beaches, and great snorkeling.
The sea was glassy, the sky was blue, and the sun deliciously warm as we made our way towards Highbourne. It was a very welcome change after a week of stormy, gray days. The anchorages around Allen’s and Highbourne Cays were well-populated with other sailboats and motor yachts and it felt like we’d *finally* found the cruiser-heaven version of The Bahamas we’d been reading so much about. Upon arrival, we snorkeled, paddleboarded, and visited SW Allen’s Cay to see the Allen's Cay iguanas, one of seven prehistoric subspecies of Bahamian rock iguanas. We anchored in a protected bay at the north end of Highbourne Cay (a private island) before settling down for dinner, games, and route planning.
Day 35: Highbourne Cay
Big swell didn’t stop us from attempting to adventure around Highbourne Cay. We motored through big waves before stopping off the east side of Oyster Cay. We dropped two anchors in the narrow channel and spent the afternoon on a minuscule beach. The eroded limestone shore created many interesting pools, caves, and arches, as well as multiple resonant blowholes. The force of the incoming waves pushes air out through holes in the rock, creating music-like puffs and grumbles.
The swell was unrelenting so we headed back to our original anchorage at the north end of Highbourne. We tucked into the bay and anchored as flashes of lightning lit up the entire sky. Thunder boomed as the squall hit, bringing rain and gust of 35 knots. Everything on the boat rattled and quaked but, thankfully, held tight. As the storm beat down, we crawled into bed to attempt to sleep.