Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Exiting the Exumas, Passing New Providence, Bouncing off the Berrys

Saturday, January 18, at 5:00 am, we weighed anchor and turned SeaClearly west. We left the Exumas Cays behind us and watched the sunrise over them as we left. We set out on the 50 mile trip across White Bank headed for West Bay, New Providence with a plan to anchor there for one night and then move on.

West Bay is an interesting spot. It is the furthest west point on the island but there is a shallow bay that you can reach by entering through the reef from either the south (if coming from the Exumas like we were) or from the west (if you are coming from the north). We missed this stop on the way down because we didn't arrive in time to make a daylight entrance to the bay. Now that we have seen it in the daylight, I am really glad we didn't attempt it.

The undersea geography of New Providence is pretty interesting. The south and east coasts open out onto the banks - miles and miles of water that is rarely deeper than 12 - 15 feet, much shallower usually. The north and west coast drop, almost immediately, from 10 to 25 to 2500 to 7000-10000 feet. Yes, 10,000. West Bay is at one of those edges. As we approached from the south, we sailed over the drop-off, then back onto the shallows toward the reef. The most unnerving thing about the approach is that it appears to be wide open water except for one rocky cay off to the left about a mile. In reality, the reef is only covered by 3 - 5 feet of water everywhere but the entrances I mentioned.

West Bay, New Providence island. And, yes, those colors are
very accurate. The shallow or deep water  and reefs
 are obvious. We anchored in the sand by the pushpin.
In the daylight, coming in from the south, you can clearly see the dark coral and rock (awfully close) in contrast to the white sand of the clear passage. Once you are inside, it is shallow and clear. We started to drop our anchor out pretty far in the bay just because we were leery of the depth. In the middle of the process, I was hailed on the radio by 'Faith', a boat that was already anchored in the bay. He was kind enough to instruct me where to find the best bottom for good holding and assured me that we would still be floating with our 5'8" draft. I yelled out to Junie to bring the anchor back in and explained the situation since she had not heard the conversation (since she was out on the bow, clanking out anchor chain). Had we anchored where we were, we would probably not have held because there was only a bit of sand covering hard rock bottom. Thanks 'Faith'! At low tide, we had less than six inches of water beneath us but we stayed where we anchored.

But, 'Faith' wasn't done helping us with experienced guidance yet. The following morning, we lifted the anchor and I had decided to just go back out the south entrance the way we came in. It was really the wrong direction and would add a couple of miles to our trip for the day but we had a path to follow safely. As we headed out, I got another call from 'Faith'. In a most unassuming manner, her captain pointed out that, of course, I could go that way if I wanted. Or, he could give me a specific waypoint to drive to that would take me out the west entrance through the reef to send me the right direction and save some time. You gotta love helpful people.

Chub Cay Marina, Berry Islands
Chub Cay Marina definitely won the award for the best
docks that we have seen in the Bahamas...
... although, not many boats were taking advantage of them
while we were there. This is really a sportfishing marina and
this isn't their time of year. But, hey, we like sportfishers.
So, after this quick overnight, our only stop on New Providence island, we headed through the reef (how South Pacific-ish) and pointed north toward Chub Cay, Berry Islands. Once again, I was amazed to watch the depth drop from 10 feet to several thousand within a few hundred feet. Our, relatively short, 30 mile trip for Sunday took us directly up the Tongue of the Ocean. Which meant that we would be sailing in water thousands of feet deep all day. It is the most beautiful cobalt blue imaginable. We have not seen a ton of wildlife on this trip but we have always seen Flying Fish when we are in water like this.

It was a mellow day and an easy trip. It is always a little easier on the crew of SeaClearly when we are arriving to a marina. No dinghy to fool with, easy on-off, access to grass. There were not many boats in Chub Cay Marina on this day. The trip to the fuel dock was uneventful, the docking was easy, the place was pretty nice. We got settled, got Roux settled and went out to dinner at their restaurant. A welcome break after several days at anchor.

We had intended to stay here for a couple of days but the weather picture (plus some sketchy laundry facilities) incent'ed us to change plans on short notice after one night - again. I was whining because, as I looked at the weather, the good weather seemed to be happening at night. Junie pointed out that we know how to sail at night. We agreed that we should prep for an immediate, afternoon departure and do an overnight trip to Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama island, right next to Freeport. Less than two hours later, we were gone. This turned out to be a great decision, a marvelous experience but a rough and rolly end. More on that next time.


  1. Hey Duane and June - These past few entries sound marvelous, except sorry to hear about Junie's back getting worse. Duane, let met give you a little taste of the great times you are missing here in NW Indiana. It's been really cold again - nights below zero, and it will get a little colder as we move into next week. Lake effect snow has been a big player. A few days ago, TWO FEET fell just to the west of us, and yesterday, maybe 8 inches fell just to the east. Yesterday afternoon, on I-94 near Michgan City, about 10 miles from my house, there was a mega-crash during an intense lake snow event. As I write this early the next morning, they STILL don't know exactly how many vehicles were involved - they think around 45. I-94 is closed and they don't know when it will reopen. 20-30 injuries - they can't even keep exact track of those - and 3 fatalities. Situations for people stuck behind this became desperate as temperatures dropped last night. So we are having fun up here, too.

    Best wishes as you begin to make you way slowly back to NC.

  2. Randy,
    We have no troubles compared to your weather and those poor folks in the crash. We are a little further north now (a little behind on the blog and position reports) and we had some effects from the US weather. We had to put on jeans and sweatshirts for the first time in months. Guess we better get used to it. We are crossing back to Florida tomorrow.