Exuma Park

Much of the central land and sea area of the Exuma chain of islands in the Bahamas is taken up by the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Although it has been here for a while, it seems to have gotten much better organization and funding in the last few years. When we stopped here in the park two years ago, we saw very little of the organization behind it. Now, it is much more aggressively operated.

The objective of the park is to be self-sufficient in funding. To that end, they have a set of fees for anchoring and use of mooring balls in the park. To both collect the fees, and enforce the “no-take” fishing regulations they have roaming patrol boats, and to add a bit of extra muscle to that, they have a Royal Bahama Defense Force patrol boat that is based in these waters.

To add a bit of extra “incentive” when they catch someone poaching in the park boundaries, they make a big public display of it. When we were back in Florida we heard news of them snagging a large American boat fishing inside the park. Fines start at $500, and they can confiscate your boat.

Overall to us based our contacts with the patrol boat, and the headquarters staff the operation seems very well run. Tonight, we are at a mooring ball in a small, well protected harbor just outside of the park headquarters. The mooring balls are very well maintained—some of the best I have seen anywhere. Fees are reasonable, $0.50/foot/night for anchoring in the park, and $40/night for the moorings. The park equipment and facilities seem well maintained, and the people are friendly and efficient.

AND…. it is a beautiful place.

We’ll post pictures where we are back in a place with an internet connection. For now, we are doing this with the satellite phone connection.

We’ll be here exploring for a day or two, and then run further south to Georgetown where we can catchup on email, internet necessities, and groceries.

We had a problem with one of our refrigerators… I happened to notice that it was too cold. A bit of troubleshooting determined that the internal switch had been bumped from “Fridge” to “Freezer” while it was being packed. When we put the switch back to where it belonged… nothing. No cooling. The “Fridge” half of the thermostat seems to have died. It works fine in freezer mode. Hmmm….

When it comes to mechanical things, I am not a big believer in coincidences, but this time, everything I do points to the fact that the thermostat just seems to have died at the same time and from an independent cause, as the switch to freezer mode. Hopefully we can get a replacement in Georgetown.

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Highborne Cay

Yesterday was one of those rare days where all of the weather models got it wrong.. Forecast was for 10 to 13 knots, In the afternoon the actual was more like 20 to 35. It wasn’t a big deal for us, we had the foresight (OK, luck!) to have come into Highborne Cay Marine first thing in the morning before things get really exciting. The weather was the talk of the docks today.

Highborne is a small marina associated with a small, and very high end resort. They have a Seaplane dock and helipad. The only way to get here is a chartered aircraft or boat. The only things on the island are about 8 cottages, the marina and associated amenities for guests and staff.

Many of the boats here are quite large, greater than 100 feet.

Karen needed to check out the beach cabanas.

All of them…

In the “Old Days” one of the most important things an island could have was an easily accessible source of fresh water. An island with a spring was a draw for passing ships looking for fresh water, and sometimes a lair for pirates looking to relieve such ships of their valuables.

When we arrived here, the map of the resort indicated they had a spring on the southern end of the island, and we flagged it as one of the potential destinations for our daily walks.

Without really planning it, on our first stroll we came across the sign directing us to the spring. Actually, to “Da Spring” down the hill…

We followed the path down to the beach…

Where another sign made sure we’d find the way…

Karen is excited about following the next sign’s direction back into the woods…

Where we found….

The Spring!

What? You were expecting water?

We should be out of here tomorrow, with favorable winds (we hope!) for travel south. Our planned destination is Conception Cay. An uninhabited island that is part of the national park system.

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And We’re Off Again!

The strong winds left over after the passage of the cold front a few days ago are finally dying down. Instead of the 25 to 30 knots we have been getting for the past few days, it is dropping down to 15 knots. Perfect sailing weather! I have be accused of selective editing when so many of my posts include the phrase, “Another perfect sailing day!” The fact is, it is not an accident, or good luck. Without a firm schedule, we can wait, safe and hunkered down until the weather suits us.

Tomorrow we will head over toward the Exuma Island chain. It is only about 30 miles away across the deep water of the Exuma Sound, about 4 hours sailing. We’ll be in the neighborhood of Highborne Cay, where we will entertain ourselves until we get a good weather window for heading east again. Two years ago we found a couple beautiful spots in the Exumas, I’m guessing a few more will be found this time.

Since photos are always popular, here is a small collection….

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Cape Eleuthera

Cape Eleuthera is the very southwest corner of Eleuthera Island. An island that Karen observed seems to have been specifically designed to maximize beach front for the available acreage. Long, and thin it separates the open Atlantic to the east from the shallow banks on the west.

The Marina and resort that occupy this corner of the island are on land that appears to have a long history of developments that either were economic failures, or victims of hurricanes. In its current iteration there are maybe two dozen homes, and a collection of apartments and town homes. surrounding the marina which is reasonably well protected and has space from 30 or 40 boats. When they built the marina, they added a short canal to the back of it so the tide flushes through twice a day. An excellent idea, and it keeps that water in the harbor fresh and clean.

The marina is home to a group of large nurse sharks who make their living by begging for scraps at the fish cleaning stations.

The beaches on both sides of this narrow peninsula are favorites of shellers. There are very few people combing the beach so it is practically virgin territory.

This morning the weather had cleared, and the wind calmed a bit, and Karen set off on her explorations as the tide dropped.

The shells are present in amazing abundance and variety.

Although the weather has calmed a bit, the wind is not cooperating with us as far as direction goes, so we are going to alter plans just a bit and detour about 20 miles the the southwest where the Exuma Island chain beckons. We’ll be heading there in a few days as the next weather passes by. We passed through there two years ago, and there are a couple of places that are on our “must see again” list.

We have also updated our “where are we now page” with our most recent travels.

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So Nice…

We are now back in a place we left 9 months ago. Cape Eleuthera Marina on the southern end of Eleuthera Island. I am not sure exactly what we did to make ourselves memorable here, but the staff all remember us from last year, and even what slip we were in! It’s a remote resort, and very quiet. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to describe more about it over the next few days.

We are here for a couple reasons. Karen needs a good internet connection to work up her tax information for 2018, and it is a good place to hide while the front rolls through over the weekend.

This is the southern end of the weather system that is bringing snow, sleet, and other horrible disasters to the Northeastern USA. I think remember the New York Post forecasting a “Cold, Snowy, Hell” for the New York area. We watch the news and have a certain level of schadenfreude since we are due for a bit of wind and lows approaching (Horrors!) 65F. When a cold front like this passes by, the wind blows rather hard, and clocks through 360 degrees over 24 hours or so. There are very few places nearby where you can anchor and have protection form the wind from all directions. Hence our “cowering” in a marina.

The good news is that we have an awesome internet connection for the first time in a week, so we can upload pictures from the past couple of days.

Tomorrow is supposed to be calm, so we might get out fishing. Then we will hunker down for the weather, and then, in a few days, continue further south and east.

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Spanish Wells and Eleuthera

We spent a couple nights in Spanish Wells, one of our favorite towns in the Bahamas. A settlement of about 1500 people very friendly people, it is dominated by the commercial lobster fishing fleet. Last time we were here was after the close of the lobster season so the entire fleet was at the dock. With several weeks to go cashing the tasty shellfish, this time the commercial docks are mostly empty.

I’d guess there are about 35 large boats fishing out of this harbor. Guessing that each of those has a crew of 4 to 6, that’s a rather large fraction of the local population out to sea at a time.

Since the local town is relatively prosperous, the markets tend to be well stocked. We loaded up on fresh veggies, and are back on the move south.

Today was a beautiful sail south along the west coast of Eleuthera. We made it halfway down the island, and anchored in Alabaster Bay. We dropped anchor just as the sun was setting. We turned on our flood light and watched the small fish gather in its glare as the moon rose and the night darkened. Life is good!

Right now our planning is looking at some rougher weather coming through over the weekend. We’ll be looking at finding a place to hide from it before we move on.

We are still struggling a bit to sort out our internet connection. Until we do pictures will have to wait!

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Sandy Point–Redux

We are anchored off the settlement of Sandy Point on the southern end of Great Abaco Island. We staged here a number of times last year, so it is a spot we are well familiar with. We are relaxing, and enjoying being out here in full cruising mode with no worries or schedule other than the weather dictates to us.

So far, everything on the boat has worked well. We have the last of a few troublesome instrumentation issues sorted out. We lack a reliable internet connection here, but such 21st century problems do not seem such a big deal out here.

Today had Karen spending time exploring the beach, while Bill puttered around the boat with some longer term projects and spending some time exploring by dinghy. The sun is now setting in the west, and between us and the horizon are the evening showers over the warm water of the Gulf Stream making a beautiful view.

Tomorrow is supposed to be calm and quiet. We are going to take the chance to do some fishing, then we will begin our path to the south, headed for Royal Harbor near Spanish Wells. Royal Harbor is a small bay, and one of the very few anchorages in this area with wind protection from all directions. We will sit there for the frontal passage which will be coming on Monday. We might asl put into the the harbor in Spanish Wells for a day or two.

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