25 January 2007

West End to Grand Cays, Bahamas

January 23-25, 2007

We’re writing this at anchor in Grand Cays, one of the northernmost cays (pronounced “keys”) in the Bahamas. We came here via West End and Great Sale Cay over the course of two days.

We left West End on January 23, the day after we arrived, first thing in the morning, around 7:30AM. (The marina cost $70/night and we want to save money like that for first-rate meals out!) The chart showed Indian Cay Channel as a viable shortcut on the way to Great Sale Cay, however, once we arrived at the “entrance” we weren’t quite sure where exactly to go and we didn’t want to rely entirely on our GPS to get us over a shallow coral reef. Instead we trekked 10+ miles north to Memory Rock and turned due East to Great Sale Cay, bypassing Mangrove Cay on the way. The total trip was about 50 miles and we arrived after dark around 7:00PM.

Kristen on the bow, hamming for the camera

Sunset on the Bahama Banks on the way to Great Sale Cay.

The trip across the banks was the first time we were able to see the reputed crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. As soon as we entered the Banks, the waves subsided with the shallow depths and we were able to see the bottom all the way to our anchorage. We motorsailed in about 3-4 meters of water, leaving the steering and pilotage up to the GPS and autopilot and sat on the bow for the majority of the day. Hans saw two sea turtles swim under the keel.

After listening to the weather report by Chris Parker on our SSB radio at 7:00AM, we swam down to the anchor and looked at Whisper’s keel underwater. The bottom was mostly all sand and grass. Kristen tried to catch a fish for breakfast but was not as successful as the turtle we saw swim by and catch a fish at the bow. We weighed anchor around 9AM and headed towards Grand Cays, about 18 miles away. There was no wind at all, so we had to leave the job up to our trusty Beta engine, Boris. Along the way we motored through a pod of dolphins and they all took turns swimming through our bow wake.

Approach to Grand Cays

We arrived at the anchorage at Grand Cays around 1:00PM, quickly ate lunch, inflated the dinghy and went ashore to check out our first Bahamian town. The population of Grand Cays is about 500 people, all living in a very densely populated small town. There is one car belonging to the telephone company, but lots of golf carts which is the second most favored form of transportation, with boats being the first. The houses appear to be all concrete/cinder blocks covered with wood and all look rather weathered. The school is large and we saw all the kids get out of school in the afternoon wearing their uniforms. Very smart for a small island, miles from any other population center. After two visits to the phone company office (Batelco) which was closed both times (employee at a long lunch!), the women who worked in the government office allowed Kristen to use their phone to call her sister who is sick. We stopped at Ron’s Hot Spot for two cold Kalik’s, the local beer, and then walked down to the docks and met some fisherman who sold us almost 2 pounds of lobster tails for $14. We initially paid $14 for one pound, but then a second fisherman, Ellis, scoffed at our small bag and threw in 3 more tails for free! We took our lobster back to the boat and cooked up a great lobster curry with a recipe from a fellow cruiser who has authored “An Embarassement of Mangoes.” Caribbean Spiny Lobster tastes different than Maine lobster—it is not as sweet and a little stringier. Kristen prefers the Maine lobster, but there were no complaints when the lobster curry was served.

Lobster dinner part 1: the tails pre-cooking.

Lobster tails being boiled/steamed.

Lobster tails marinating with green peppers, onions, lime juice and spices.

Bon Apetit!

On Thursday, the 25th, we got in the dinghy and started to explore the area beaches. We also spent some time trying to learn how to read the depth of the water based on the colors. Tricky business, but something we’ll learn, hopefully not the hard way! The first beach was covered with seaweed and consequently was a little smelly. We moved on to Well’s Beach which faces West and was beautiful. There were lots of conch (pronounced “conk”) and starfish on the bottom as we dinghied over. We lingered a little too long and the black clouds on the horizon caught up with us as we were on our way back. The rain was freezing cold and also hit our skin like beebee gun pellets. The salt spray from the ocean didn’t help much either. That squall was the beginning of the cold front which kept us on the boat for the rest of the afternoon and the evening. We played Scrabble and pored over the chart and our guidebooks, thinking about where we’re going next. Kristen made chicken soup with dumplings for dinner and we had a Scrabble rematch. The score stands at 1-1 and counting.

Deserted beach at Grand Cays

Another deserted beach at Grand Cays, this one is Mermaid Beach, one of President Nixon's old vacation spots.

A sea urchin Kristen found on the first beach, "Mermaid Beach".