February 2018 - Bahamas

1 February 2019   Boqueron to Mayaguana, Bahamas (Day 2)
Dawn brought us blue skies with fluffy, white trade-wind clouds and a consistent 20 knot winds on our starboard quarter.  Our 24 hour run was 140 miles, which is a good start and leaves us 300 miles to go. Touchwood, we should be there by midday on the day after tomorrow.

Looking for Dolphins




I often say that sailing is the unpleasant bit between anchorages, but today was glorious – blue skies, sparkling seas, running on a broad reach with 20 knots of wind behind us. 

We had 6 foot seas, which made us roll, but it was a motion that we could live with. A pod of dolphins briefly joined us, but were soon on their way doing dolphin things.  The only disappointment today was the fishing.  Despite towing a new blue lure all day, with very little Sargassum weed, we caught nothing.

The good weather continued into the night, with very little cloud and consistent winds, so we continued bowling along beneath the twinkling stars.

2 February 2019   Boqueron to Mayaguana, Bahamas (Day 3)
We had another nice morning with steady east 18 knot winds.  Yesterday, we did 150 miles and with 150 miles to go, we should be arriving tomorrow morning, which will be perfect.  I downloaded a weather forecast and the wind looks to remain easterly, dropping down to south 5-10 knots on Monday 4th.  

The stalled front is still hanging about over the central Bahamas, but it should start dissipating tomorrow.  It looks like another front is forming and will head down to the central Bahamas on the 6th, so we’ll probably have north to north-east winds after the 6th.

There wasn’t much Sargassum Weed about, so I put out two fishing lines, adding a red lure to the blue one.  I hooked two fish on the red one - the first one was a nice 6-8 lb Dorado, but it jumped off the hook when I was trying to gaff it.  The second fish was a 4 foot long Barracuda, which I had to release.  After that there was too much weed to continue – I’m kicking myself about losing the Dorado.

Trying to slow down

The fabulous weather continued into the night and, at our 01:00 watch change, we only had 40 miles to go.  We were romping along at six knots (with a heavily reefed main and genoa) and we had an ETA of about 07:30. The entrance through the reef is directly into the rising sun and there are lots of shallow reefs on the route to the nearest anchorage, so we don’t really want to attempt it until after 10:00.  I rolled the main away and we plodded along on a heavily reefed genoa still doing about 4 knots.

3 February 2019   Boqueron to Mayaguana, Bahamas (Day 4)
At dawn, we were only 10 miles away, so we reefed the genoa down to a handkerchief, but we were still doing 3-4 knots over the ground. We arrived off the west entrance to Abraham’s Bay at 08:00 with the sun very low in the sky.  In my infinite wisdom, I decided that it would be okay to go through the pass because we would be heading north-east, slightly off the direct line of the sun.

Big Mistake.  We easily made it through the pass into the bay, but we still had at least 1½ miles to go before we could anchor.  There are numerous shallow coral patches scattered around the bay and the route to our planned anchorage was directly into the sun.  I stood on the bow, straining to look into the glare and Glenys was at the helm, stressing out because we were moving so slowly that the GPS was getting confused.

To make matters worse, the 20 knot east wind was kicking up 2 foot waves and small clouds were scudding overhead, casting dark shadows on the sea bed that may or may not have been patches of coral. Close to the pass, the sea bed is mostly coral and, with crystal clear water, and the depth of only 5 meters, it looks a lot shallower.  

Early Morning Glare

Eventually, we found a place that we thought was sand and decided to drop the anchor to wait for the sun to get higher in the sky.  The gods weren’t on our side and the anchor wouldn’t hold, so we carried on, heading north-east until we arrived at a place where the chart says “good holding in clear sand”.  At 09:00, we dropped the anchor at 22°19.92N 73°01.47W in 4.5 metres of depth.  I donned my snorkelling gear and confirmed that the anchor was indeed well buried in “good holding white sand”.  We’ve been sailing in Tropical waters for 8 years - what was I thinking entering a reef system directly into the sun?

Anyway, it was a good passage.  Apart from having to motor up the coast of Puerto Rico for three hours, we sailed most of the way and did the 440 miles in 3 days and 3 hours, which is an average of 5.9 knots.  We can take things a little easier now because we have a month to travel 150 miles to meet our son, Craig in Georgetown in five weeks’ time.

After lunch (when the sun was high in the sky), we moved closer to the settlement.  Abrahams Bay is 5 miles long and gradually gets shallower and shallower as you head east.  We skirted around a few shallow coral patches and kept a wary eye on the depth sounder. Our bottle went when we had a depth of 2.7 metres, so we dropped the anchor at 22°21.40N 072°59.41W.  We’re over a mile from the shore, but happy enough.

4 February 2019   Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas
After breakfast, we went ashore to clear in.  There’s an old concrete dock with a 5 metre wide channel, which thankfully is deep enough for a dinghy at any state of tide – leave the pole markers to starboard. We found the customs building underneath the telecom tower.  

Clearing in was a doddle – everything was handled by one lady. All I had to do was fill in five forms and hand over $300US. In return, I received a cruising permit for 12 months, a three month immigration visa and a fishing license.  As usual, our next stop was to buy a SIM card and an Internet data package.  It cost $40US for 1 month, but we get 15 Gb instead of the paltry 2 Gb that we had in Puerto Rico and the BVI.

Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana

The settlement is tiny, with about 50 people, but everyone is very friendly – the policeman even wanted us to pose with him for a photograph. There are only 200 people living on the island, spread across 4 small settlements containing a few small general stores selling essentials – the one in Abraham’s Bay is about the size of a double garage.  One of the locals told me that everyone orders three months’ worth of food from Nassau, which is delivered by the mail ship.

On the way back to Alba, we spotted a flock of Flamingos, so we walked along the beach to have a look.  There are about fifty of them, but they were too far away to get any decent photos, so I’ll go back another day with my telephoto lens.  We had a quiet afternoon, recovering from 3 nights at sea.

5 February 2019   Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas
There’s a weak front to the north of us, which is giving us light north winds.  This means that there’s hardly any swell hitting the fringing reef, so we grabbed the opportunity and went snorkelling on the outside of the reef.  The water was crystal clear, but the coral was sparse, probably due to wave and storm damage and there wasn’t much to see.  We had a couple of Great Barracuda acting very territorial and I found a Nurse Shark sleeping under a ledge.

Before lunch, I went ashore and took some photos of the Flamingos and then we spent the rest of the day on-board.  I caught up on editing photos and my blog, while Glenys worked out an itinerary for the next four weeks until we meet Craig in Georgetown.

6 February 2019   Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana, Bahamas
The customs lady told us that there’s good shelling on North Beach, so we set off early to walk there. It’s about 4 miles and we were hoping to thumb a lift to the airport which is about half way.  Unfortunately, there’s very little traffic and the road is long and boring.  Fortunately, a guy called McFee turned up.  He drives a minibus for the high school and gave us a lift to the beach.

The beach didn’t have many shells, so after trudging along the soft sand for ½ mile, we gave up.  While walking back along the road, we met a local guy who was out catching land crabs for dinner. He was a scruffy looking dude, but incredibly friendly, showing us his crabs that he catches in the thick bushes.  His wife came to pick him up and kindly gave us a lift back to Abraham’s Bay – apparently, the best shells are found at the other bay....

Furred up toilet hose

Last night, the toilet jammed, so when we arrived back at the boat, I had a look at it.  I was hoping that the problem was an inverted Joker Valve, which takes about five minutes to fix. Unfortunately, after pulling the pump to pieces, I concluded that there was a blockage in the outlet piping, which is a nightmare.  Our toilets are flushed with seawater and, as a consequence, salt and (other deposits) slowly build up inside the pipework.  The remaining bore gets so small that it blocks...

After lunch, I tried to avoid the job, but I couldn’t find enough excuses, so with a heavy heart, I got out my toolbox.  A two metre long, 1½“ diameter outlet pipe goes from the toilet, through a bulk head into the engine room, then through another bulkhead into the cockpit locker.  It then loops back down, passing through another bulkhead into the engine room and connects to a shut off valve.  Another shorter pipe goes from the valve to the seacock, where the effluent is discharged into the sea.

The pipes needed to be removed and replaced, but the nearest place to buy new pipe is Georgetown, 150 miles away, so I had to remove the pipes without damaging them and then knock out the hard furring, to clear the pipes.  It’s always a bugger to get the pipes off – they fuse themselves to the male fittings and are always in places with difficult access. I had to cut off both ends of the long pipe, but there was just enough length that it would still fit back.

After one hour of thrutching, grunting and swearing, I managed to remove both pipes from the bulkheads.  The pipe has wire reinforcing and is very tough – a good job because it took 15 minutes of pounding with a mallet to break up the brittle furring, pouring the foul contents overboard.  The 1½” diameter bore was down to about ½” – no wonder it blocked. 

I removed the shutoff valve and cleared it of deposits.  I also scraped the deposits out of the seacock – opening the seacock to flush the bits out.  I was able to replace the shut off valve; fit the short pipe and clean up the appalling mess before the sun set.