Saturday, April 20, 2013

Provo to Cat Island, Bahamas

New Bight Settlement, Cat Island, Bahamas

24 17.35 N 75 25.10 W

We left Provo, Turks and Caicos on Sunday April 7th and sailed back into the Bahamas arriving at the south eastern most island of Mayaguana. From there we have day-hopped about 285 nautical miles in a northwesterly direction up through the Bahamas out-island chain stopping at Betsy Bay, Mayaguana; Atwood Harbor, Acklins Island; Portland Harbor, Crooked Islands; Clarencetown, Long Island; Conception Island; and Cat Island.  

"Main Street", Abraham's Bay Settlement in Mayaguana with Reggie's Bar on the right. The island has three small settlements - Abrahams's Bay, Betsy Bay and Pirate's Well. Abraham's Bay, on the southwestern side, is the largest of the three with just over 400 people total on the island. The island is very remote with few good anchorages. Most cruisers who visit do so either on their northbound or southbound route from the Caribbean. 

Reggie greeted us as we walked past his restaurant in the morning on our way to do some beachcombing. He offered to prepare us lunch when we returned. We took him up on the offer and were treated to a very delicious home cooked meal of baked chicken, peas and rice, salad and plantains. He was a very friendly and cordial host who is very proud of his little island.

Needless to say beachcombing was very productive since so few other people ever access these remote beaches !!!

After sitting out four very windy days behind the reef of Abraham's Bay we had a nice downwind sail around to the northwest side of the island to Betsy Bay. Although just an open roadstead with not very good holding it did take 2-1/2 hours & 16 miles off the next jump up to Attwood Harbor in the Acklins. Notice the difference in water color... we are sailing in well over 1000 feet depth of water less than one half mile from shore. The lighter blue is 50 feet or less You could literally drop your anchor in 25 feet of water and fall back so that your transom is hanging over the edge into the depths!!!

Bird Rock lighthouse marks the northwestern end of the Crooked Island. The lighthouse dates back to 1876 but like most navigation aids in the Bahamas it is no longer working.

We rounded Bird Rock and anchored in Portland Harbor on the northwest tip of Crooked Island for one night. It was an extremely uncomfortable night with wind against current and, as usual, stronger winds than predicted. We dropped the hook in clear sand between coral reefs off our stern and bow. In these situations we just put all our faith in God and our ground tackle to hold us secure through the night.

After one night back in Clarencetown, Long Island we moved on to Conception Island. It's great to be back in these beautiful Bahamian islands and quiet anchorages that we love so much. Conception Island is the smallest of the three islands that lie just off the mouth of Exuma Sound where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. The other two are Rum Cay and San Salvador. Conception Island is a national park protected under The Bahamas National Trust - no fishing or shelling permitted.

Kayaking in paradise!!  We took the kayaks up one of the mangrove creeks to check out the turtles that make these creeks their home. We saw dozens of sea turtles - many seemed as curious of us as we were of them. They would poke their heads up to look at us and then swim away at amazingly fast speeds.

We set the fishing lines on our way from Conception Island to Cat Island and had success!!! A Yellow fin tuna (top) and a Black fin tuna (bottom).

We anchored in New Bight, Cat Island and met up with our good friends, Bill and Mara on Puddle Jumper. They hailed us on VHF radio to invite us over for drinks. We had a tuna feast that night...seared Ahi tuna, sashimi and Bill hickory smoked some tuna steaks on his grill to top it off. Delicious!!! 

The main attraction in New Bight is the Hermitage which sits atop 206 foot Mount Alverna, the highest point in the Bahamas. The Hermitage was built by architect turned Catholic priest, Father Jerome. Father Jerome is responsible for building several churches in the Bahamas including the Catholic Church in Clarencetown. When it came time to retire he received permission from the Catholic Bishop in Nassau to retire as a hermit on Cat Island. He began construction in 1940.

The Hermitage is a 20 minute walk from town up a paved road. The remaining distance is a walk up a trail to the mountain top after passing through this portal.

Father Jerome built the Hermitage as a miniature replica of a European Franciscan Monastery. He built the entire structure himself out of native rock including the Stations of the Cross that line the path on the way up. He lived here until his death at age 80 and is buried beneath the structure.

Kathy signing the guest book at Father Jerome's desk in the chapel.

Old and new - The culture of Cat Island is very traditional. One tradition dictates that when the last of a generation dies his house is left for the spirit to reside in and the remaining family members gather stones from the site to build a new dwelling. You see many homes like this with several generations of dwellings side by side. 
Cat Islanders are warm, friendly and proud of their island. Lula runs Lula's Restaurant and Bakery. We stopped to get one of her famous pineapple pies on our way to the market. As is so often the case among these wonderful people, she offered to pick us up from the store so we wouldn't have to walk so far with our groceries. On the way back she took us by her garden and let us pick fresh tomatoes before bringing us back to her little restaurant. She prepared us a wonderful lunch of pork chops, coleslaw and french fries.

Relaxing after a delicious lunch with Carina at anchor in the is good!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Georgetown, Bahamas to Provo, Turks & Caicos

Southside Marina
Providenciales (Provo)
Turks & Caicos
21 45.636 N 072 13.427 W.

We have been on the move since departing Georgetown on Monday 3/25/13. We visited Rum Cay, Then down to Clarencetown on the east side of  Long Island. From there we did a 30 hour overnight passage of about 185 miles to Provo in the Turks and Caicos, arriving on 4/3/13.

Carina at the docks at Sumner Point Marina in Rum Cay. The marina sustained significant damage from hurricane Sandy this past season. The sandbar to the left partially shoaled in the marina channel and the dock infrastructure was also damaged as a result of the hurricane. The owners were offering free dockage through the end of 2013 while they are making repairs. What a deal!

Last stop for provisions in Rum Cay while southbound in the out islands is aptly named.  

Shelves were pretty bare... we were able to buy some delicious local grown tomatoes though.

Main street in Port Nelson...the only settlement on the island. The yellow building in the background on the right is The Ocean View Bar. The owners son, Hartley makes a rum cake to die for. Highly recommended! Order in the morning and he'll have it ready for you in the evening.

After three nights at the marina we decided we needed to get away from the nightly swarm of no-see-ums (tiny blood thirsty pests that make it through all but the smallest screen). The winds were favorable to anchor off the settlement in Port Nelson Bay. The water clarity was incredible with coral reef patches scattered about. Unfortunately the northerly winds brought temperatures that were a bit cool to want to get in the water.

Next stop was Clarencetown, Long Island. Clarencetown is one of only two harbors on the rugged east coast of Long Island. We visited the Catholic church built by Father Jerome to check out Easter Sunday services. It turned out the services were going to be held in a church in Dunmore far away for us. Apparently there are not enough priests or parishioners to warrant running two churches full time.

The woman we spoke to allowed us to climb the church tower for a great view of the harbor. Carina is anchored way in the distance behind the tanker and in front of the two islands in the background. A coral reef stretching between the small islands breaks any incoming ocean swells.

Not much in the way of provisions in this little grocery store either. The building does offer a nice shady spot for the goats and dog to hang out though.

Our new friends, Sandy and Ray from the sailboat Megerin and Kathy are discussing weather at the Flying Fish Marina Bar. We met Sandy and Ray in Rum Cay, who were also heading southbound, and decided we'd "buddy boat" with them. It's nice to know there is another boat close by in the remote waters of the southeast Bahamas.

After a grueling 30 hour / 185nm passage from Clarencetown to Provo in the Turks and Caicos we are resting up at South Side Marina.

On our way to a well deserved night out with Sandy and Ray.

Bob, the marina owner gave us a ride to the north shore of the island and the Turtle Cove Marina. We enjoyed a drink and a lovely view from the Magnolia wine bar followed by a delicious dinner at the famous Tiki Hut. The Tiki Hut has been an institution in Provo for 20 years and a must stop for visitors.

All that being said...we have enjoyed our short stay in Provo and have decided, for reasons to numerous to mention, that we have gone as far south as we want to this year. We will start our slow northbound trip today and be back in the States by mid-June.