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We had just a sliver of some time before hurricane season started to go sailing in the Bahamas.
For a day trip experience in Bimini to swim with stingrays and dolphins, check out Bimini Undersea.
Unfortunately, getting to the Berry Islands is difficult, as there’s not much tourism there. Instead, you can see a different blue hole called Dean’s Blue Hole in Long Island, Bahamas.
Other areas of the Bahamas are definitely worth exploring. There are sailing charter companies in the Exumas. We’d love to take a page out of Let It Be’s book and cruise an entire season in the Bahamas.
Letting stingrays play bumper cars with our ankles in Honeymoon Harbour. (We LOVED Honeymoon Harbour).
North and South Bimini are very close, so it was easy to change plans. Thanks to our cruising guide we knew that Bimini Big Game Marina had the customs office in it, so we hailed them and they had a spot for us, but no diesel. Since we had to motor so much on the passage, we were down to half a tank.
David went in to sort out the customs and immigration. It’s a flat $300 for a boat over 30 feet, no matter how long you stay, plus our fishing license. Image only staying for a few days – that’s expensive. The customs office is open 9 am to 7 pm every day, and it was very crowded for the 9 am rush.
While David got us taken care of, I found the marina wifi and set about trying to activate our Bahamas SIM card, given to us by our Tumbleweed friends Chris and Sara. Using the wifi, I was able to “top up” and add money to our account, and then activate a data plan – 2GB for $30.
At this point, the marina deckhand came by and said we had overstayed our hour and we needed to pay $40 in dockage. What?? No one told us we had a time limit, so we told him we wanted to leave. He went back to the office and reported back that now we owe $50. David went to the office and managed to talk them into letting us go without charging us, thankfully!
After clearing in, we spent 3 days in Bimini, where we decompressed and picked up my cousin Robert. We did a bunch of snorkeling and swam with wild dolphins!
We zigzagged across the Great Bahama Bank for almost 30 hours, before deciding to stop and spend the afternoon and night at Hoffman’s Cay in the Berry Islands.
This worked well for an anchorage; we snorkeled with starfish and sea anemones, and then hiked up the short path to the blue hole, which was gorgeous!
We left Hoffman’s early this morning, aiming for New Providence. Getting out of Hoffman’s proved to be tricky though. Even though the chart read 5+ feet, we bumped the bottom of our keel, doing a bit of damage. One more thing to fix, which might expedite our next haul out and bottom job.
The sail to New Providence was fine, and we arrived around 4 pm. We have anchored in West Bay, according to our chartplotter, but our cruising guide says West Bay is more north and we may be in Lyford Cay. Either way, we are in a big beautiful anchorage with just one other boat…
..and who is that one other boat? Rain Dog, a boat from our hometown of Kemah, TX. We had not met Brian and Erika before, but knew them through their blog and Cruiser’s Forum. They stopped by in their dingy and chatted for a bit, and then Brian stopped by after dinner to chat more. This adventure makes the world really big sometimes, and really small other times.
From Jaw’s Beach, it’s 7 km to Solomon’s Fresh Market at Old Fort Bay. The surrounding neighborhoods are luxury homes, so it comes as no surprise that this grocery store rivals Whole Foods. Unfortunately, I chose to bike the 7 km in 90-degree weather, which I would not recommend. Next time, I would take a taxi, which would probably be $20. The buses in Nassau don’t really have hard defined routes…no one I asked could tell me exactly how far west the #12 bus goes. It does go past the market though, so one could walk east from Jaw’s Beach until you reach a bus stop and wait (hoping that the bus will go that far), or take a taxi there and a bus ride and walk back. In my experience, the bus drivers have been very nice and accommodating, and if you tell them you are headed for Jaw’s Beach they will get you as close as possible.
Solomon’s is extremely well stocked with high-end food. There are lots of organic options and specialty items available. Accordingly, it’s expensive. I was only there to pick up basics. I had a backpack, and since I was in for a long bike ride back I only bought frozen meat and vegetables, which kept the eggs and milk cold. There is an entire freezer full of meats. I am guessing that when the meats don’t sell, they are frozen and for sale. Some of the frozen meats looked a bit freezer burned though. I was very aware that most of what I was looking at was organic. Conventional items seemed to take up a small percentage of the store.
Here’s what I bought and prices:
Dozen extra-large eggs, store brand: $3.99
Half gallon 1% milk: $4.69
16 oz frozen green beans: $2.49
10 oz organic frozen broccoli: $4.49
10 oz frozen Brussels sprouts: $2.99
Nature’s Bakery fig bar (energy to get home!): $1.19
Apple juice (cold beverage for hydration!): $2.19
2 lbs organic frozen chicken breast: $9.99/lb
4 lbs center cut frozen pork chops: $4.99/lb
I have no mind for prices and can not for the life of me tell you how these prices compare to what one would buy in the states. I did know before hand that prices in the Bahamas tend to be more expensive because everything is imported. I was also told before that pork is one of the cheapest meats – which is good for us, we love pork chops!
My bill was $62.54 when VAT TAX was added in. These meats will last 5 meals, and with everything we have on board we should be good with provisions until Marsh Harbour.
Another note: Solomon’s Fresh Market delivers. You can learn more on their website, but there’s a minimum and it looks like only dry goods. Also, there is a company called FoodStore2Go that delivers almost anywhere in the Bahamas. There is (supposedly) only a $9 delivery fee, but after shopping in a store and checking out prices I see the huge markup.
On the 26th, Robert and I went to Clifton Heritage National Park, to snorkel the Ocean Atlas sculpture (more about that in a separate post). After nap time, we called a taxi. From West Bay, it’s best to call the airport taxi stand (242-207-7318), because the airport is only about 10 minutes away. Our taxi driver, Beryl, was amazingly funny and gave us a driving tour of the main road in Nassau. The taxi ride to Atlantis was $70. Factoring in each way, you are looking at $140+ for transportation. Moving Starry Horizons to the Atlantis Marina would have cost $200 a night, so arguably we could have moved the boat and gotten the amenities of a marina, but we enjoyed West Bay and I’m glad we didn’t move.
Get some tips for staying at Atlantis.
We had a wonderful dinner out with Robert and spent some time strolling and people watching at the casino and in the marina. I’d been here in 2008 with my dad, but now that I’ve been to Vegas I can see that it’s really the same thing.
Robert left the next morning which was very sad! The taxi ride to the airport was $30. Robert was a great companion, and easy-going. Never even complained, even though it’s crazy hot.
David and I spent the next few days in West Bay, for some quiet time. We tackled a few projects including sending me up the mast.
Thursday the 2nd we left for an overnight sail to Little Harbour. It took us about 14 hours and was a great sail.
Little Harbour is a small, very well-protected harbour, with a handful of houses, and Pete’s Pub. We moored for the first time ($25 a night, payable to Pete’s). The water is a bit murky, and it’s all a sand bottom – good holding, but not good entertainment.
David and I went ashore to pay for our mooring and go for a walk. We walked around the residential area and beaches and then up to the abandoned and defunct lighthouse. Back to Pete’s Pub for a well earned cold drink! Back at the boat, I kept noticing little “fins” breaking the water. Turns out, they were baby spotted eagle rays! They swam their slow, leisurely circles around us, just skimming the top of the water. During our stay, I even got to see them jump twice!
Saturday was July 4th, and we started early by kayaking over to the cave across from the pub for a little exploring. If you are interested, you should read the history of Little Harbour. Pete’s Pub had a pig roast special, plus a DJ. Little Harbour has about 25 mooring balls, but most of them stayed empty as the Pete’s Pub dock filled up with power boats and fishing vessels. We went early and enjoyed the food and their signature drink – a Blaster. It’s safe to say their potato salad is probably the best I’ve ever had. Pete’s Pub has a boardwalk that goes up and over the island and down to a beach. It’s a beautiful scene, with the waves careening in and splashing up!
We had some quiet time on the boat, and then I took the kayak out for a solo expedition to the mangroves. Little Harbour is calm, perhaps the calmest we’ve been to on Starry Horizons.
Sunday morning we left Little Harbour for the three-hour sail to Man O War Cay. We anchored just west of Dickie’s Cay, where its a short dingy ride to MOW. We took an evening “stroll” in our dingy, exploring MOW Harbour and East Harbour. There are even some cats here – four sailing cats in charter, and a private power cat. We also said hello to our monohull neighbors on Magic Dragon, Andrew and Carl.
Monday morning, I tuned into the Cruiser’s Net, moderated by Richard on Horse Feathers. Cruiser’s Nets are a scheduled time for cruisers to check in with local information. This net is for the Abaco region. It’s at 0815 on channel 68 on the VHF. First, there is a weather report, including passage weather for those headed to Florida. Then, there is a general update about local events, such as the Abaco Time Regatta going on right now. Then, some local businesses give a short advert (mostly restaurants) and then cruisers can ask questions, and finally there is a time to announce arrivals and departures, so I chimed in to report our arrival.
Back in our passage from Florida, I’d managed to break our sail bag zipper, so we found a recommended guy, Jay Manni, to replace the zipper. Monday morning we arrived in MOW and located Jay, who I had been emailing. We dropped the sail bag off at his shop on Dickie’s Cay, and he told us about the local going-ons; he’s a very friendly guy, with a very sweet dog named Licorice.
We dingyed back to MOW and went off on a walk. There are no real cars on MOW, but a lot of golf carts! The golf cart paths are well paved, and the island is a Bahamian beauty, with lush landscaping and cottage houses. David and I made a stop at the ball field, which overlooks the beach and Atlantic Ocean – stunning! We stopped for lunch at Hibiscus Cafe, where I had a conch patty burger and David had Chicken in da bag – basically French fries and chicken tenders in a foil packet with a mix of ketchup and hot sauce. All was good, including the ice cream we got next door!
We walked back up to where we had passed MOW Groceries. I had done a recon mission when we first passed it and now we stopped to pick up a few basics:
Broccoli (was marked on sale): $1.85/lb
Chicken quarters, frozen: $2.75/lb
Half gallon 2% milk: $3.98
Popcorner chips, individual size: $1.25 each
Barritts Ginger beer cans: 6 for $6.00
Chicken breast, not frozen, was available around $7.50/lb. there was frozen lamb available cheaper at about $5/lb. overall though, the store was well stocked!
On our dingy back, we stopped at Horse Feathers to say hello to Richard and thank him for moderating the net.
When Jay finished our sailbag, we headed over to Marsh Harbour to settle in and prepare for Thomas’ arrival and our departure for Nova Scotia.
Three weeks is not nearly enough time sailing in the Bahamas, but it’s what we had for the end of the season. Next time we go sailing in the Bahamas, we will spend a whole season like our friends on Let It Be did. We didn’t get to see the swimming piggies or Thunderball Grotto. Sadly we didn’t get any diving in either, although there are many fantastic dive sites in the Bahamas.
We are about to start our engines and head north! Should be arriving in Halifax around the 22nd. You can keep an eye on our progress here.
-The Star Chasers