Our friends Dave and Joan Wolf came to visit us from 14 – 23 February. We had a busy itinerary planned, traveling to places like Shroud Cay, Hawksbill Cay, Warderick Wells, Staniel Cay and Highbourne Cay – in addition to trips downtown in Nassau. As it turned out, however, we had to make major changes to the schedule because of weather. So what follows is a talk of two Bahamas, a few of the beautiful nearly deserted Out Islands of the northern Exumas and the ever-busy and cruise ship filled Nassau.
The Northern Exumas: Shroud Cay, Highbourne Cay and Allen Cay
As I said, Dave and Joan arrived on the 14th and we departed for the Out Islands on the 15th. Our initial destination was Shroud Cay, just inside the Exumas Land and Sea Park. The ride was a little choppy, but it really wasn’t too bad. It took us about 5 hours to get to Shroud. We then took a mooring ball and deployed the dinghy. I must say that it was a bit choppy even in the anchorage. Deploying the dinghy was not the easiest of tasks, but we did get in down and ready to go. Since we had a bit of a ride to get to the Shroud Cay Creek we wanted to show our friends we decided to wait until the following day -- when we hoped the water would have calmed down a little and would be a little less choppy. Meanwhile we headed for a small protected beach on our side of the island and spent maybe half an hour walking around.
Before we left Nassau I had heard that there might be a little weather coming. Our hope had been to get to Warderick Wells before it came in. We had already sat out a light storm at Warderick Wells and knew the mooring field to be well constructed, well maintained and fairly well protected. Moreover, we would be able to go ashore and explore new parts of the island even if the wind was blowing. It looked, however, like the storm was coming in a little sooner than I had hoped and that we would need to form contingency plans in case we didn’t get a mooring at Warderick Wells (I am not sure I touched on this in our last entry or not, but basically, you have to be on the radio, and close enough to Warderick Wells to receive the broadcast, by 0900. The staff then makes a list of who is departing that day and who wants a mooring along with their length and draft. They spend ten to fifteen minutes musing, then make mooring assignments for the day. If you do not get a mooring ball, then you have top priority the following day.) As you might have guessed – and as we feared – because of the storm, nobody was leaving their mooring, so we had to come up with Plan B.
Staniel Cay is about 20 miles beyond Warderick Wells and has a marina. We had not been there before and a number of people had recommended it so our first choice was to go to the Staniel Cay Marina and weather the storm there. Sadly, we weren’t the only boaters to have that idea; their marina was full. There were a couple more alternatives, but next safe harbor on the list was the marina at Highbourne Cay. We had visited it by dinghy when my mom and sister visited so it wouldn’t be a brand new experience for us, but it would for Dave and Joan. We called Highbourne and they did have slips available so we made a reservation. We decided, though, that we would go ahead and explore parts of Shroud before heading back to Highbourne.
I discussed Shroud Cay in our last entry; it is really an archipelago of three islands cut by what appear to be two rivers which stretch from one side of the island to the other. In the northern creek you can take a motorized dinghy from one side to the other. In between you can explore the mangroves and other kinds of plants, birds and animals en route to the Sound. It is really quite an experience.
|In some ways on Shroud Cay you feel like you are a true|
explorer. Maybe no boidy has been here before ...
then you see the "slow"buoy in the middle of the channel.
Well, after finishing with the creek we headed back to the boat in the dinghy. Let me just say, it was a helluva ride! It was choppy enough to get just about everyone wet, even though we weren’t traveling THAT fast. Getting the dinghy back aboard the boat was also a chore. One of Ann’s jobs is to get in the dinghy and hook it up to the winch. Usually it isn’t too difficult. Because of the chop on the water, this time it was like mounting and riding a bucking bronco. Yeee Haww!
We headed to Highbourne and pulled into our slip at the same time the heavens opened up. I mean as Ann was handing the lines to the dock hand to tie us up it started sprinkling. By the time we were all tied, it was coming down like cats and dogs. It was a true Bahamas squall; the wind was blowing, the rain was pouring and we could hardly see across the marina. It only lasted a little while – thirty minutes tops. Although it remained windy, cloudy and unseasonably cold (it seems the weather was the result of two cold fronts meeting in the Bahamas) it didn’t rain any more.
Highbourne Cay is a private island. The owners appear to own several “cottages” that they rent out, a marina, a small store and a restaurant. The last time we were here, we weren’t technically “guests” as we anchored out and dinghied in. This time, though, we were paying money (a lot of money – I’ll come back to that) and were official guests. Still, we really didn’t do much different than we did the last time. We walked the island’s roads and visited the beautiful beach on the Sound-side of the island, but I guess we should have felt more “official.”
The one thing we did this time that we did not do the first time was eat at Xumas, the Highbourne bar-restaurant. Now I am not going to tell you it is the best restaurant at which I have ever eaten, but I would give it a good solid “B” – and an “A” for location as I don’t think there is another restaurant within 40 or so miles. Actually we had two meals there, lunch and dinner. For lunch we had appetizers and a couple of beers. For dinner, three of us had seafood dishes and one of us had pork. All-in-all, it was a good but expensive meal.
|A Happy Stop Sign at Highbourne Cay|
Speaking of expenses, the marina itself was pricey – but as the only marina within 20 or so miles, that is understandable. However, what rubbed me the wrong way was the cost of the electricity. Now I know they have to produce their own electricity and I know that since (for some strange reason) they don’t use solar or wind power and instead rely on a big generator that the electricity is expensive. However, for one fifty amp hook-up they charged us $62 per night!!! Now that is ridiculous. So, since it was a little stuffy the first night we were there, we turned on our air conditioners. Nyah, Nyah, Nyah! If that wasn’t bad enough, water was 50 cents per gallon (remember when gasoline was 29.9 cents per gallon?) Well, the water in the marina looked pretty clean so we just turned on our water maker – and used their high-priced electricity to make some low-priced water.
On the 18th the worst of the storm appeared over so we headed out. Instead of going back down the archipelago, however, we went further north, to Allen Cay. We have already been to Allen Cay and reported on it in our last entry. This time, however, it was a LOT choppier in the anchorage so we didn’t even deploy the dinghy (apparently Ann didn’t want another bucking bronco experience). We do have some pretty good binoculars on board so Dave and Joan did get to see the iguanas. We also saw a VERY big fish in the anchorage – and we saw him on two different occasions. Now I am not going to say it was a shark, but if I were a betting man …
On the 19th we returned to our marina in Nassau and the following day headed onto town. We took a bus downtown that followed a route that we had not been on before. When we got to town we went straight to the high-falootin’ area of Nassau, but no one really wanted to shop there. So, we followed up with the Straw Market where we got a few things at what we hope were greatly discounted prices. We followed that up with a “lupper.”
|The entrance to what was once the "Royal Victoria Hotel." |
The only thing that is left is the gardens, the rest has been converted
into socially useful but aesthetically unpleasing buildings.
Lupper, as you may or may not know, is a word of my invention intended to combine “lunch” with “supper” (just as "brunch" combines breakfast with lunch). If I eat a good noon meal, I am just not going to be able to eat supper. So, if I am going to have something around lunch time, I would prefer to eat a late lunch – say 2 or 3 PM – and then forget supper. That, my friends, is a Lupper. Anyway, we had a combination of conch fritters, cracked conch, grouper fingers and something else. (Yes, Mom and Kathy, we went to the same restaurant and had almost the same meal.) It was scrumptious!
On the 22nd we decided to do a historical day. We went to the Bahamas Historical Society Museum, the Queen’s Staircase, Fort Fincastle, and the Nassau Water Tower (which, for some reason, is supposed to be historical – but I don’t quite get it). We decided on another Lupper and went to Senor Frogs. Now if you haven’t been to a Senor Frogs before you won’t know that for the younger crowd – particularly those on a cruise ship – it is a place to drink as you can get free shots for answering trivia questions (Ann, I am not going to say a word. Not me. Nope.) For the Middle Age crowd, it is a chance to chair dance and try to be as cool as you once were. For the older crowd, it is a chance to make fun of both! Dave and Joan left the following day. We hope they had as good of a time with us as we had with them.
Now I have some disappointing news. My foot is not getting any better. So we are going to leave the boat in Nassau and fly back to the States on Saturday. We are then going to try to find a doctor somewhere who cares about the fact that I have two gaping holes in my foot, a pretty serious infection, have had my quality of life significantly impaired and knows what to do about it. Apparently this kind of doctor is pretty hard to find. (Sorry, but I had to vent somewhat.) Anyway, we are going to hold off on the next Blog Entry until we get back to the boat and have something interesting to say.
ANN’S NOTES: Michael pretty much covered the past couple of weeks…
We did have a wonderful time with Dave and Joan even if we had to change plans a few times.
|The Queen's Staircase|
The off and on loading of the dinghy was an experience … a wet bucking bronco no less … plus one of the hooks that attaches to one of the cables, that attaches to a larger hook, that is attached to the winch broke. So we had to use the weight of the dinghy to keep the broken hook in place while it was being lifted back on the boat. Not a fun time but we got it done. The broken hook has been replaced with a shackle that is much better. Thank heaven…
Our day exploring Nassau was fun ... there is so much history on this island. I had just finished reading a book titled “Winds from the Carolinas” and the lady at the book store said it was the “Gone with the Wind” of the Bahamas. It was very really good book … a little on the long side but it gave me a sense of what it was like back in “the day.” I thought the Queens Staircase was really beautiful. It was carved out of the limestone by slaves. It has 66 or 67 steps, on step for each year that Queen Victoria ruled. The whole day was fun. Yes, I did a shot at Senor Frogs … they were playing a music game of theme songs from movies and tv shows … the answer was The Adams Family. It was like name that tune only the prize was a shot.
I don’t really have a wild life count per say…we did see birds, fish, sea rays, iguanas, all the normal creatures on the islands. I was busy keeping company with friends and holding on for dear life in the dinghy.
Yes … we are heading back to colder weather on Saturday. Send good thoughts to Michael. We don’t want to leave Traveling Soul but we need to get her Captain and his heel well and the infection gone.
Thanks for reading our blog and we WILL have only good news in the next blog…