Suselle sailing to the bahamas
bahamas 3  
Little San Salvador

Little San Salvador

Crystal clear reefs (the sand bottom is 12' down!)

Crystal clear reefs (the sand bottom is 12' down!)

Laid back in the Bahamas!

Laid back in the Bahamas!

Little San Salvador

This was a stop over point for me on my way north along the Bahama chain. I had planned to anchor in a small bay on the west side of the island which is protected from the trade winds. Arriving at the island late afternoon the wind had done a 180 due to a frontal system and the Bay was very choppy and would have been very uncomfortable to anchor in as well as being a lee shore.

I was too far from any other island to go anywhere before dark so I figured my only option was to anchor on the far side of the island. One major problem....the far side was a mass of coral heads. The cruising guide said, in so many words, not to even think about going anywhere near the east shore of the island. I looked closely at the charts, anchored my boat off the end of the island and set off in my dinghy to see if there was any way in. After about an hour of cruising around I figured a path I could take between the coral heads to a spot close to the island where I had a couple of boat lengths free of coral heads in fairly shallow water where I could pivot safely on two anchors.

I gingerly motored my boat along the route I had marked painstakingly on the chart and anchored in my little clearing - in totally calm water. I had to consider the possibility of the wind shifting back to normal and getting trapped there but in this case this was not a problem as a smaller island off the main island protected this area from an easterly wind. I figured I was safe to ride out a major storm where I was and could wait it out if necessary to get back out again. It was early summer and winds are very light most of the time. Again, this was a situation where a smaller boat had an advantage.

I went snorkeling among the coral heads and was amazed at what I found. Because, I am sure, virtually no one visits these reefs the fish here were incredibly tame. Even the Nassau grouper, in abundance here, would not zoom down their holes in the coral when you came within 3' of them - her you could literally touch them. I didn't have the heart to spear one - it seemed so unfair.

The small island was similar in that it was covered in birds nests on the ground and when I hiked across it the birds would not fly away when I got close to them, they just stared at me...

The whole place was so interesting I stayed two days to explore the reefs. Some areas were so shallow that when the tide dropped the large trigger fish there would swim with the top third of their dorsal fins above the surface making the reef look like it was full of sharks!

A Very Big Water-Spout

Having just anchored at Royal Island, just south of Nassau, I was walking around the island when I saw this huge black cloud about two miles distance out on the ocean. Within seconds a large funnel cloud formed below it and its meandering single tentacle reached into the sea. The base of the funnel then expanded dramatically in size until it must have been several hundred yards across at sea-level. I watched it in awe, and then with a little trepidation when I noticed it was heading straight toward the island. I started back toward my dinghy in case I needed to go back out to the boat to set a few more anchors. It was not moving very fast and it actually did not go too far in the half-hour of its existence. The funnel finally retreated and the whole thing 'evaporated' back into clear blue sky as often happens with clouds in mid-summer at these latitudes.

I actually met a guy who motored his sailboat right into the middle of one of these spouts to see what it was like. He did take the precaution of taking everything off his deck, including removing his mainsail and boom. He found it wasn't that bad, though he had to crouch down in the cockpit and hold on to avoid being blown out of it.

Miscellaneous Voyaging

For a number of weeks I cruised down the Bahamas Out Islands visiting dozens. Most are uninhabited. It was a thrill every day. Sailing was always perfect, strongish winds, often close-hauled, but the sailing was great as it was never rough as the long string of islands were there to break up any large ocean waves; the water is very warm and always different colours everywhere you went. Navigation took some care approaching the islands, or sailing close to them, as sometimes huge sand banks stretched miles from their shores, always shifting, once trapping me in ever shallower water where I had to sail back up several miles in order to get back out to water more than 5' deep!

Met all kinds of cruising sailors, heard many stories, saw many interesting things and always great snorkeling which is different everywhere you go. One day I beat for seven hours directly into strong headwinds, passing a Westsail 32' heading south, but realized I would not make the next island before dark and had no choice but to go all the way back to the island I left from (at night you cannot see the coral heads.) It only took two hours to get back with the wind behind and a following sea!

The Bahamas are different to the mainland. Look at the picture on the right - I needed money in the Abacos, arrived there on a Saturday and I had five days to wait for a bank to open!

The only difficult thing about cruising the Bahamas is making telephone calls (always done at the local post-office) there is always a queue, and almost inevitably when it is your turn something goes wrong like an operator decides to go for coffee, a relay station is not working or whatever, and you have to come back in a few hours or next day. I once saw a guy crying in frustration having attempted to make a critical phone call for three days. Be VERY careful about making commitments to family or friends to pick them up or drop them off somewhere at a specific time. Always give yourself at least a few extra days to get somewhere at a specific time, and lots of flexibility in making contact with friends.