Thursday, 7 April 2016

POINTS SOUTH. THE BAHAMAS. RAGGEDS and JUMENTOS. MARCH 2016




Beautiful anchorages in secluded bays epitomizing the sailing ideal. Crystal clear water all the blues of the spectrum framed by deserted white sand beaches. Almost no one lives here so the beaches are freely accessible.

The more rugged east side of Hog Cay.

This is such a rare situation. We take for granted our freedom to access beaches in Australia but it's not so in the US or Bahamas where the waterfront and beaches are most often privately owned. Many wealthy owners only use their properties briefly during the high season and the rest if the year it's maintained by staff and remains off limits to the public.



Hog Cay is the pearl in the necklace, with a newly constructed Tiki Bar for cruisers and townsfolk. The Tourism Commission provided the funds for materials and the Duncantown residents and cruisers built the building. Edward a resident at Bonavista Cay, thatched the palm roof. There are many Avatars in and around the hut with the names of passing boats on them. We left one there for Taipan. Some well marked trails criss-crossing the island provide another diversion. Many goats roam the island so the underbrush is quite thin.



Duncantown is 3nm south and they use the beach here for recreation as the town is on one side exposed to the large ocean swells and on the other festering mangrove swampland. There is a salt pan which is farmed by the local populace but the population is slipping and is down to just 50 souls. Limestone and sand with little fresh water is not too conductive to agricultural pursuits. 
 

Tiki bar on the beach at Hog Cay.


Several islands in the group have abandoned buildings on them, testament to the vagaries of life in the hurricane prone Bahamas. Rebuilding is an expensive process requiring private barges to ferry supplies and materials in and that's before one even considers the labor problem. Insurance is prohibitively expensive. Edward from Bonavista Cay is determined to persevere and endeavors to eek out a living raising goats for the Nassau market.



Taipans Avatar at Hog Cay
The clandestine drug trade route between Jamaica and Nassau, is reputedly alive and well. The banks here are also the back door to Haitians trying to get into the Bahamas but that door is closing with an agreement by the American Coast Guard to conduct surveillance exercises in the area.



Fishing for Conch and Lobster is a major industry on these islands and surrounding banks during the season. The main port is Spanish Wells at the northern end of Eluthera though so their contribution to the economy of Duncantown is minimal. The season is drawing to a close for lobster but we managed to get a feed when Bernie off "Countess Cosel" took David hunting and gathering one afternoon at Bonavista Cay. They also got Conch, a big sort of sea snail. The jury is still out on Conch. Traditionally eaten deep fried it is not very appealing, however as a salad after soaking in lime juice and eaten raw it's pretty good. Further experimentation is pending.



Snorkeling around  these islands is relaxing and pleasant with great water clarity. There is very little marine life or coral comparatively but it's fun until a big Bull Shark comes by and shows way too much interest, forcing us to make a very graceless leap into the dingy which we were fortunately towing with us. The Bull Shark is considered by many experts to be the most dangerous shark in the world. There are many fishermen who regularly clean their catch in the anchorages, a practice known to attract sharks. There have been several shark attacks in the Bahamas with at least two deaths in the past 2 years but these reports are kept under wraps because the tourist dollar is so important here.


Bull Shark Photographed from the dingy after a rapid exit.
The Comer Channel was not so calm during our return crossing but with 500+ mm of water under us (a little more tide) we had a relaxing passage anyway. Georgetown is a good stop to re-provision, catch up with friends and refuel so now we are back.



Our time in the Bahamas is getting short and we are busy preparing the boat for the Atlantic crossing we plan to undertake, leaving Bahamas around mid May for Bermuda. Onward after Bermuda to Azores and Spain. 
 

Before we leave we hope to remove the generator to replace a leaking oil seal. Hopefully this will not prove too complicated. In Fremantle in 2004, we installed the Mase 3.5 KVA ourselves so maybe we still remember how it was attached! It has been a great little unit in spite of the fact that it needed some modifications to fuel and water system to iron out a few wrinkles but it's been running for over 4000 hrs now. For a single cylinder motor we think it's done pretty well to date and is worth the effort to repair. Only time will tell.

A Conch Shell Midden.... traces of the work of many fishermen over many years at Water Cay.
 
Ragged islands. Bahamas