Friday, May 20, 2011

THE BAHAMAS, part one

 14th May  – 17th May 2011
The Out Islands : Mayaguana, Plana Cays & Rum Cay.
There is an old saying in sailing circles that you should never leave port on a Friday and especially  if you are bound for another country. The downside to this is that you usually incur overtime charges when you arrive at your next destination during a weekend. Well, some of us cruising folk are a suspicious lot so we sat tight all day Friday and left the Turks and Caicos Islands first thing Saturday morning. The 65 mile sail up to our first Bahamian island, Mayagauana, was a dream run under a full main and screecher. We arrived  at Abraham’s Bay around mid afternoon and  while Liam and Toni babysat the boats out the front of the shallow eastern entrance to the lagoon, Bruce and I dinghyed ashore in search of  the local authorities. The small immigration office  just up from the jetty  was closed, so we decided to walk a little way into town to enquire if it was possible to see an immigration officer.

IMG_4670 We didn’t really want to stay untill Monday but we’d heard of fellow cruisers’ getting a wrap over the knuckles for bypassing an official port of entry and not checking in.
The friendly folk in the grocery store gave us directions to the home of the administrators secretary who they felt would be able to help us. A few minutes later the bush telegraph was in full swing. The word was being passed along the street, well shouted actually, that two whities,( we did stand out a bit)  were looking for the secretary's house.The next thing we knew was that the local police van pulled up along side us and offered us a ride. The nice policeman gave us a tour of the town that took at least 5 minutes and then drove us rather erratically, while talking on his cell phone to the address we’d been looking for. After a couple of quick  phone  calls everything was sorted. The main man, the island’s administrator, was having lunch with his family but had said that he would be down to help us soon.
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The policeman dropped us back at the  jetty office where shortly after the administrator and his secretary arrived to do the paper work. The process was relatively painless except for the $300 plus overtime fees that we were relieved off so that we could cruise the Bahamian waters for the next couple of weeks! So far our Bahamian experience was off to a good start, sans fees of course. The townsfolk had been helpful and friendly and the officials very obliging. Pretty soon we were back on  our boats and heading off to anchor for the evening  just past the now  disused US missile tracking station in Russell Bay.
Continuing on  through what are known as The Out Islands, we arrived at the uninhabited  Plana Cays, some 32 miles north of Mayaguana. This little group is made up of two small islands and we stopped at east Plana which looked great for a lunch stop and snorkel. The sun was out and the waters warm so jumping in was not a problem. The reef area was small with lots of rocky ledges, the perfect spot  for finding lobsters. It wasn’t long before Bruce had spotted a couple of the lurking crustaceans and he was on to them. With in a few minutes they were destined for the dinner table.
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The ever curios and menacing  Barracudas provided us with an unwanted escort service whilst we swam, until they were shooed  away by the threat of the spear gun. They definitely had a penchant for Liam's bright yellow swimming fins.
Having spent a relaxing afternoon lazing around, at 1700 with a light breeze we set the spinnaker and headed out for our overnight passage to Rum Cay, 75 miles further on. That evening as the sun set, we once again saw the fabled “green flash”, the perfect end to a perfect day.


Arriving just after breakfast we tucked up inside the reef and anchored in St George Bay  in about 12 feet of clear water.
The guide book spoke of some good reef and wreck diving not far offshore, so Liam and I hopped in the dinghy and went into the rather small marina to ask if they knew the location of the 1860 wreck of HMS Conqueror. The local dive instructor was due in shortly so we hung about till she arrived. We gladly accepted a small map and although she hadn’t dived on the wreck she assured us that it was only a short way out off the headland resting in 30 to 40  feet of water. All enthused we tore back to GWTW loaded up our  scuba gear and took off in the direction indicated on the map. Threading our way through the numerous reefs we searched the area for about an hour and then gave up and went back to the mother ship. Oh well, maybe we would have better luck finding Kaye’s cafe for lunch. Our friends Daryl and Annie  from “ No Rehearsal” had dinned  there a few weeks earlier and had said for us not to miss it, so off we went.
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On the other side of the bay, Kaye’s wasn’t hard to find. The small purple building just up from the jetty  was pretty much the only one there. It wasn’t  quite the type of cafe we had in mind,  though there was an outside area under the trees. We ventured inside to find Kaye chatting with two patrons at the bar.That day Kaye was wearing the dual hats of bar tender and chief cook  and she cooked us up a lovely lunch of fish, rice and veggies. She was quite the character and still going strong at the ripe age of 70 plus. Something to be said for the unrushed pace of island life I guess.
With the breeze freshening from the south and the anchorage becoming a little lumpy we decided to move GWTW to Flaminco bay on the western shore and  catch  up with  friends on Remi De.They were planning to head further up the island chain and we weren’t sure when or where  we’d see them again. The next morning we said goodbye to the Remi’s and then had a quick snorkel on a wrecked coaster that had come to it’s end one stormy night quite some years back. The hull was pretty much rusted away but there were a few eerie remains of clothing  scattered about on the sea floor.
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Our friend Pete from Sydney was due to fly in to Georgetown on Great Exuma island the following day so it was time to move on once again.
Cruiser info: Formalities. Customs / Immigration on Mayaguana at Abraham’s Bay Settlement in the small yellow building a short walk from the town jetty. Opening hours are 0900 – 1700, Monday – Friday. Saturday on request, Sunday closed.   Fees: $300 usd for cruising permit if over $35 ft or $150 if under 35ft, supposedly valid for one year. Visa and fishing license included in the fee. ASK for the maximum allowable visa duration. Overtime fees are $30 usd on Saturdays.                                                                                                                                                          Supermarkets and Supplies: None, stock up in Puerto Rico or the BVIs’ if you intend to cruise these three out islands of the Bahamas.     

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