We spent three weeks in Key West and, if you haven’t been there, you should go. We were very impressed with how accommodating the town is. Everything is either within walking distance or accessible via the bus line. This is especially important for cruisers who typically have no form of land transportation. We enjoyed exploring during the day and we did the obligatory pub crawls on a couple evenings as well. At some point we both realized we were beginning to see the same people on the bus. Once we started recognizing the locals it was time to go!
We scheduled a visit by the mobile pump-out boat, made a trip to the fuel docks to top off our diesel tanks, stocked up on groceries and on April 20th, headed for the Bahamas.
We had heard horror stories about crossing the Gulf Stream and I’m sure it can get very rough, but we followed a cold front and actually had a great crossing. Our forecast was for moderate to very light winds, so we expected to have to motor most of the way. Turns out we had great winds with calm seas and were able to sail almost the entire trip. Ddraig is a big, heavy boat but at times we were actually doing over 10 knots with help from the gulf stream currents
We put out a line and caught our first keeper – a dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi).
We dropped anchor almost exactly 24 hours after we left Key West at North Cat Cay. Since it was Easter Sunday, we were pretty sure Customs and Immigration wouldn’t be open, so we raised our Q flag and settled in. After a bit of research, we discovered Easter Monday is also a holiday so we didn’t attempt to check in until Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, we gathered up our paperwork, passports and money, put the dinghy in the water and headed in. As soon as we pulled up to the marina, a gentleman in a golf cart comes driving up demanding to know what we wanted. Once we explained that we needed to check in he told us it would be $112 for the marina fee. Seems Cat Cay is a private island and there’s a fee to go onto the island. This is above the normal fee for a cruising permit which for our boat is $300. We decided not to pay and told him we would check in elsewhere.
We chose to sail to Chub Cay for our check in. Between Cat Cay and Chub Cay is the Great Bahama Bank. The banks are very shallow but there are well documented routes that are used to safely cross. We left Cat Cay on Tuesday afternoon with very little wind. We motor sailed until around midnight then took down the sails. We ended up anchoring for a few hours out on the banks which was actually pretty cool. At sunrise we pulled up the anchor to finish our journey to Chub Cay.
At Chub, we anchored just outside the marina entrance off a beautiful little resort beach. Once we were confident the anchor was holding well, we headed into the marina in search of Customs and Immigration. A very nice gentleman took our dinghy line, tied us up and promptly informed us that within the last two weeks Chub had also instituted the same $112 fee! Well crap!! At least this guy was friendly and said we could drop off our trash and they would provide a ride to the airport. We decided to pay up and get it over with. Afterwards I asked if there was a restaurant where we could eat. I was informed they did have a restaurant but only for marina guests. Our paltry fee didn’t afford us access.
At least we were now legally in the country and could leave the boat. For the next couple of days we explored two nearby uninhabited islands and snorkeled.
Next stop was Highborne Cay where we found some of that Bahamian hospitality we’d heard about! Highborne is also a private island but has a marina with a dinghy dock, trash disposal ($5 fee per bag), a small (and very pricy) store, fuel dock and a restaurant that is welcoming to visitors. There was also internet access until lightening struck the tower while we were there. A short dinghy ride from Highborne took us to Allans Cay.
Allans is famous for the Iguanas that live free on the island. The adults are about the size of a small dog and since visitors feed them, they run out onto the beach to greet you when you pull up. I found it a little bit creepy but very cool. There are a number of small islands that make up Allans with numerous beautiful little beaches and some decent snorkeling. After a couple of days, we headed off in search of internet so we could upload our blog and let the family know we were still alive.
Our next stop was Normans Cay. Unfortunately, they are on the same cell tower as Highborne so still no internet but beautiful beaches and a bar! McDuff’s is hidden behind some vacation rentals and is also a restaurant offering lunch and dinner. After a few very, very expensive drinks we dinghied back to Ddraig for dinner.
Our normal routine in the evening is to turn on the generator for an hour and make water. Once we turn off the generator, we leave the engine room door open to allow everything to cool before I make dinner. We have to remove the galley steps in order to open the engine room door leaving an approximately 3 foot drop from the saloon to the galley. That night our timing was a little off. I made dinner when we got back to the boat and we ate while we were running the generator. After dinner, I made some rum and pineapple drinks and we went on deck to watch the sunset. When I came back down it was after dark and I didn’t realize we had never put the galley steps back in. I usually go down the steps backwards if I’m carrying anything (I had our drink glasses in my hands) so I suddenly found myself laying flat on my back on the galley floor. Fortunately, I didn’t really hurt myself but we both realized it could have been very bad. We’ve now added a rope that goes across the entryway any time the stairs are out.
The next day brought pretty high winds so we stayed aboard and enjoyed the view of the mega yachts at anchor. Rumor has it the 358 foot yacht in the distance belongs to the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
Time to plan our next hop which will take us to Warderick Wells and the Exuma Land and Sea Park.