July 19, 2015
After dropping off our guests, we spent some time exploring Black Point and Great Guana Cay by bike. Much of this was mountain bike terrain on rocky, unpaved roads. I explored the site of the once-planned resort, which never actually got developed, enjoying some beautiful beaches, scenic views, and no people. Unfortunately, the bike ended up with a flat tire! Next, we headed over to Cat Island where we anchored at Bennett’s Harbor, about mid-way down the western side of this 40-mile long island. This gave us a good base of operations as there is a dock where we can take the tender to get ashore, good spearfishing to the west and north, and good protection from all but westerly winds. Our 50-mile trip over was in ideal conditions, even giving us a chance to wash the boat while underway!
First up was to head out for some spearfishing. Despite a weather forecast of light winds, we had moderate winds, so instead of heading to the reefs 8 miles out, we chose some closer ones. Good thing as the wind continued to build and it was a bit rough for a long tender ride. We had some success with spearfishing, getting one nice grouper before heading back. Later we ventured out to the further reefs on a calm day. Bradley speared 3 nice fish – 1 grouper and 2 snappers, but one snapper was lost to a shark – it grabbed it right off the spear just as we got it to the tender. While this sounds scary, it’s not an uncommon occurrence. Sharks and barracudas are pretty savvy, waiting for humans to provide them a free meal. They are not interested in the humans – only in the fish they can provide. Once they steal your fish, they generally swim away.
I set out on my paddleboard to explore Bennett’s Creek, a beautiful, shallow, crystal clear creek that offers spectacular paddling. It is filled with turtles, tiny sharks no more than 2 feet long, and bonefish, which dart away as you approach. This creek meanders along, eventually meeting up with another, even bigger creek. Mangroves and white sand beaches line the shores, with even more turtles – literally hundreds of them! Later we would take the tender up the larger creek at high tide, shut off the engines, and drift lazily along, watching the turtles and sharks, always amazed at how fast the turtles can swim when they are surprised. I spent several wonderful days in this spectacular setting, just me and Mother Nature.
We also met a group of teenagers that was here on a Mission trip from Florida and were invited to attend a basketball tournament they were organizing in Arthur’s Town. It sounded like fun – we just had to get to Arthur’s Town. The town dock there was destroyed by a hurricane many years ago and there is no place to leave a tender – and it’s quite a long tender ride from Bennett’s Harbor to boot. But we thought we’d have no problem getting a ride – usually when I go for a walk, I will have several cars stop to ask if I’d like a ride. Pastor Dan, the leader of the group, also gave me his phone number and said he would send someone to pick us up if we couldn’t get a ride. As we were tying up the tender, we saw a local woman walking near the dock. We introduced ourselves and we walked together the ½ mile to the main road. She is a Cat Island native, is 94 years old, and walks every day. She was quite a delight!
As we suspected, we did not have a problem getting a ride. As soon as we reached the main road, a bus appeared – it was picking up people along the way to take to the event. So we climbed aboard. At Arthur’s Town, we headed to the Hard Rock Oasis, which is not exactly like its namesake cafes in the US. However, it’s very clean and has wonderful, very fresh Bahamian food. We ordered fish and conch with peas and rice and fresh Bahamian bread. As they said it would take quite some time to prepare the food, we headed over to the basketball court to watch the preparations – there seemed to be some serious teams for this 3-on-3 tournament. At one end was the adult group and at the other the little kids – both were great fun to watch.
We enjoyed our dinner and watched some very entertaining basketball. We sat next to Kay, the nurse who runs the local medical clinic and who offered to drive us back to Bennett’s Harbor after the event. A fun night indeed!
We had one exciting night at anchor. A very large and very intense thunderstorm came through. We do get a bit nervous about lightning, but this storm also brought some intense winds of 45 knots along with very heavy rain. Worst, the winds were from the west (not predicted), the one direction where we had no protection. The storm came through at 3am, meaning we had to scramble to close all the hatches, secure everything that could possibly blow away or be thrown off counters inside, make sure the tender was well secured, and stand watch to be sure our anchor was holding. Waves whipped up and we were tossed around quite a bit – but the anchor held and after two tense hours the storm moved on.
Next, we headed back to Staniel Cay, where we met up with friends Carl and Leigh on the Nordhavn 76 Take 5. Carl is a very accomplished spearfisher so we headed out to see what we could do. Carl got a nice hogfish – a first for us – and we also got two large lion fish. We’ve noticed that the lionfish population has declined quite a bit from a couple years ago – this is good news as the lion fish is an invasive (non-native) species that was wreaking havoc on the reef systems. Lion fish are prolific reproducers and voracious eaters, so there has been a huge effort to encourage people to kill them and they have been marketed as a delicacy (they are quite delicious). This all seems to be working as we saw very few of them this year.
We followed Take 5 north to Compass Cay where we also caught up Bob and Melanie on the Nordhavn 47 Istaboa, enjoying drinks on their boat followed by some wonderful burgers at the marina grill. Then it was back to Staniel Cay where I finally met Samantha, a long time Facebook friend and daughter of someone I used to work with – we have never met in person and they just happened to stop in for one night on their way back to Florida. The we headed by tender to Black Point to pick up Amanda, an intern who is joining us for a short stint as a deckhand.
We then headed a short way south and anchored at the southern end of Great Guana Cay where we could take the tender down to Little Farmer’s Cay. It’s a lovely place but the Ocean Cabin restaurant was not open that day and the local store had not been re-supplied in over a week, so we were only able to get a few potatoes and onions. We did find some good snorkeling and fishing and Bradley was able to procure two nice hogfish and a grouper.
The weather was looking good and we decided to head back to Black Point and position for a crossing back to Cat Island. The plan was to anchor at Black Point, then take the tender to Staniel Cay for a quick shop for fruits and veggies, plus a top-up of fuel, then to load the tender on deck for the 50-mile crossing to Cat Island. But the weather was SO calm, we decided just to continue straight on the Cat, towing the tender. It was a very nice crossing and we did not even engage our stabilizers. The weather forecast remained positive, so we decided to anchor and explore Half Moon Cay, also know as Little San Salvador. A private island that is now owned by a cruise line and a regular stopping point for the cruise ship guests to play, there are also some fantastic reefs for fishing and diving. We anchored at the north end of the island – a little hairy given the massive system of reefs. The good news is that we could do a dive right off the back of the boat. We had not done any scuba diving in a couple years, so were anxious to get back into the swing of that and to be sure our equipment was working well. We organized our gear and experienced a wonderful dive in 30-40 feet of water with some very interesting coral formations.
Besides the density of coral reefs, the anchorage was also a bit uncomfortable due to some swell so we moved around to West Bay where the cruise ships come in. Carnival Pride was anchored nearby, but getting ready to depart soon so soon they and their 4000 guests were gone, leaving only a small cadre of workers on the island. We had a visit from one young man, who came out by kayak to say hello. He asked if we’d like some conch and came back later to bring us three nice fresh ones! Thus I had my first – successful – attempt at making conch salad!
We’ll hang out here a bit longer, then begin planning for our return to the U.S. Exactly when and where remains to be determined! We do tentatively plan to be at National Harbor in MD for a month or so in late September and/or October, so for our friends in that area, please let me know if you will be around and/or interested in scheduling some time to catch up!
Check out some updated book reviews here!