It was now clear that the winter weather patterns were already hampering our plans to cross over to the Bahamas, but in the meantime it was great to have old friend, David Green and Lindsey visit the boat. I had worked with David in Brazil in the early nineties and had been 24 years since we last met. After Brazil I moved back to the UK and David had moved to the USA. Then we took a taxi down to Ocean Drive at Miami Beach which is a nice way to start our 2020 travel plans.
Eventually we motored down through Miami to Key Biscayne where we found a space to anchor in No Name Harbor which was a great place for early morning runs and to get my new paddle board out to go manatee hunting and to hire bikes to cycle into downtown Miami. The timescales for crossing the Gulf Stream to Bimini were forever extending and Caroline decided to return to the UK.
I cleared out of the USA six months after sailing into New York, and then crossed the Florida Straits to Bimini in the Bahamas. It was a great crossing but the entry into Bimini wasn’t helped by the position of a rogue buoy that hadn’t been moved to cover shifting shallows! A fellow sailor called on the radio to explain the best entry through the shallows and I found my way to Browns Marina in Alice Town, Bimini, BAHAMAS!
I loved the laid-back island style in Bimini and soon made good friends using Bimini as the shortest crossing point to & from Miami….one of whom was French Canadian, Louis on Yacht Sono who I had met in No Name Harbor. I had developed a slow water leak from the raw water pump and ordered a replacement seal which arrived the following week on the twice-weekly mail boat from Nassau….island style! Water leak resolved and more waiting for the right weather I left Bimini and headed east across the Great Bahama Bank where I was able to anchor overnight with nothing in sight except the sunset and my anchor in the shallow water! The following day I arrived in Chub Cay in the Berry Islands to anchor overnight in front of the beach in the “anchorage from hell” so I booked into the marina for two nights while the wind and swell calmed down….and Louis was in the marina too! I had my best sail of 2020 as we both made the passage to Nassau, where there were SIX cruise ships in dock!
The headline photograph is Atlantis marina on Paradise Island, Nassau where I would probably have to sell my house to pay for a mooring!
I’m staying longer in Nassau to do some errands and especially update my website which is now with a new web host and complete up to 9 December 2019…which is why I’m now sat in Starbucks Nassau using their WiFi and drinking their coffee!
I decided to have a pirate day!….I’m reading The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard, I visited the Pirate Museum in Nassau and I went to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville on Paradise Island in the evening…my favourite song of his is “A Pirate Looks at Forty”.
I’m all ready to leave Nassau, and spent an hour or two in the Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation….. colourful on the outside and sombre on the inside.
About twelve yachts were escaping Nassau Harbour sails aloft eagerly waiting for the forecast northerly of 11 knots…which didn’t materialise, so we all dropped our sails and motored to our destinations! I arrived in the Exumas at Norman’s Cay late afternoon and dropped anchor. This is the island that was the centre of a drug smuggling operation that eventually ended with the longest drug trial in US history, and a double lifetime sentence for Jack Reed, the main character of the book Buccaneer by MayCay Beeler. I only stayed overnight and had a beautiful sail down to Big Majors Spot, and dropped my anchor in the bay in front of Pig Beach. Later I was joined by my Québécois friend, Louis…the fifth time we had met since Key Biscayne!…and he arrived on his dinghy with cold beer! Louis was in the next bay at Staniel Cay.
The swimming pigs were just fabulous, and another beach in the bay became the “sundowner beach” to watch the sunset and say goodbye to friends Joe & Jocelyn, and Ruby the dog on Godspeed, and Louis who were heading back to Nassau and then onwards back to the USA. Bill & Nicole on Resolute were staying a while longer in Majors Spot, and I was heading down to Georgetown. I motored a short passage to anchor at Galliot Bay, and then got up before sunrise to pass through Galliot Cut into Exuma Sound to have a fabulous sail down to Georgetown. I anchored off Honeymoon Beach on Stocking Island and prepared myself for at least three days of very strong winds!
Well, we’ve had two days of strong winds which have affected many events such as the Annual Regatta. I made it to Chat ‘n Chill beach for the Sunday Hog Roast, but I’m not prepared for the long wet and windy crossing of the bay into George Town in the dinghy!
The weather is back to normal, but there is a chill in the sailing community following the death of a yacht skipper whose dinghy was involved in a late night collision with a local water taxi!
News regarding the affect of the spreading Coronavirus is now affecting the transient cruising yacht community in many parts of the world and many Caribbean ports are now denying entry to transient cruising yachts. The best advice now is to…”stay where you are for the time being”. My Bahamas Cruising Licence expires at the end of April and can be extended if necessary. So I will stay here in the Bahamas rather than sail to Turks & Caicos. Although the Bahamas has already denied entry to a cruise ship with infected passengers, its first case of Coronavirus was announced yesterday. The woman in Nassau has no recent travel history and so the authorities are frantically trying to establish her recent contacts. Turks & Caicos are already denying entry to transient cruising yachts which have recently travelled from St Martin as it allowed an infected cruise ship to dock. The situation is now changing daily!
It is now 23 March, and both Turks & Caicos and Ile à Vache (Haiti), my original next destinations, are now denying entry to transient cruising yachts. Here in the Bahamas non-essential businesses are closing and rules about group activities, social-distancing and inter-island movement have been introduced. There are now four infected cases, all in Nassau and all from the same family…two of whom had recently travelled overseas. I must say that the Bahamas government seem to be managing this crisis in a calm manner, and the locals here in George Town continue life as usual without panic buying and abiding by the new rules. Is this an aspect of island life?
It is now 24 March, and last night Dr Hubert Minns, Prime Minister of the Bahamas announced a stronger package of actions to restrict the transfer of the Coronavirus, including a ban on the entry of foreigners into the country and further restrictions on inter-island movement. I am essentially restricted to remain on my boat 24/7 with an allowance to dinghy into town for essential services like, supermarket and laundry, and only when absolutely necessary. These measures will remain in place until 31 March and then reviewed.
The George Town yacht community is fabulous. The early morning radio net is both informative and helpful, and there’s great contact with local authorities and businesses. The Trivia Evening and Sunday Beach Church have both been conducted over VHF radio to comply with the restrictions on group activities. A VHF radio channel remains open 24 hours for inter-boat contact.