The Bight (Crooked/Acklins) – Thu Apr 15
Having overdosed on Delectable Bay, we headed out across the bight headed to Long Cay – this in the face of 20-25 kt NE winds with no prospect of good anchorage at Long Cay. We ended up snugging up as far as our draft would allow us in the NW corner of the bight. Several miles from Long Cay (to leeward) and with a couple miles of fetch over shallow bank water to windward – essentially the middle of nowhere. It was a bumpy night – but nothing notably horrendous. Overall, cruising the bight is nothing I’d highly recommend to fellow sailors. The scenery is relatively bland and it is stunningly desolate – not an experience I will do again.
Long Cay (Crooked/Acklins) – Fri Apr 16
After our night on the banks of the bight, we headed down to the eastern shore of Long Cay. The forecast was NE 20 – so we knew this was going to become an uncomfortable anchorage once the nighttime bubble burned off. So we got there early, anchored the boat, and headed ashore. The only settlement, Albert Town, is tiny at 30 souls. It’s located on the western shore, so you have to hoof it for the mile track over the island. Along the way, there are old salt ponds with pink flamingos. The settlement itself is large given the population – a testament to better, more populous times. In better times, a hundred years ago, 2,000 people used to live here; working the salt pans, harvesting sea sponges, and servicing the the trading ships that used to stop here as a favored port of call. Many ruins remain as a testament of those better times, including a huge church and a prison compound (odd combination of ruins). Despite today’s small population, the cay sports a Batelco office, school, and power station. The western shore waterfront and beach are spectacular, but the reef-strewn anchorage looks downright dangerous (all the guides advise against it).
French Wells (Crooked) – Fri Apr 16
After our pitstop at Long Cay, we headed out the bight around the southern tip of Long Cay and up to the the western shore of Crooked Island. We intended to anchor just north of the entrance to French Wells along a beach where the chart assured us we would find 12′ close to shore. Well, I’m sure there may be 12′ close to shore in there – IF you can find your way through the maze of patch reefs that are not shown on the chart! Ahh – good ‘ol eyeball navigation to the rescue. We weaved our way along the reefs until they were thin enough for anchoring comfort… a few miles north of the French Wells entrance. This turned out to be a nice anchorage. In the morning we headed off to French Wells in the dink. The scenery in there is spectacular. If I’d brought more gas, I would have headed up Turtle Sound. Instead we walked the immaculate beach north of the French Wells cut. This is definitely a nice spot.
Landrail Point (Crooked) – Sat Apr 17
After exploring French Wells, we headed up to Landrail Point. Here we engaged in true drive-by cruising. In one afternoon, we visited the settlement, and toured Gun Bluff and the Bird Rock lighthouse. It’s a nice settlement – notably clean and well kept. But everything was closed, as this is a community of Seventh Day Adventists, which we discovered means they observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So while we were able to ogle a few veggies through the grocery store window, we were unable to partake. While the chart indicates Gun Bluff is the site of fort ruins, we only found a private residence – nice views to be sure, but no ruins. Bird Rock lighthouse is dramatically situated on the northern-most rock of the Crooked/Acklins chain and services the important Crooked Island Passage. It’s an impressive tower situated among the ruins of the old crew quarters and such (it’s all automated now). Nica was not permitting a landing, despite protests… next time. Looks like the door to the tower was unlocked and open though! Tempting. There are ruins of "Marine Farm", an old British plantation and military outpost. There are reportedly several canons to be seen there, but none of the guides pinpoint the location. I suspect it’s on the high ground east of the salt pond. Maybe we’ll find it next time.
Little Harbour (Long Island) – Sun Apr 18
The following morning we headed across the Crooked Island Passage to Long Island. We headed to Little Harbour, an anchorage on the southeastern coast. This is the windward coast of Long Island, exposed to Atlantic swells and such. The entrance to the harbour is through a shallow cut with reefs on either side – and there was an Atlantic ground swell running… So this was a relatively lively lanfall. Nica could not watch… The harbour itself offers surprisingly good protection from the Atlantic surge. It’s also surprisingly big. We were the only boat – with a couple wrecks to keep us company. Once, "Southern Waters" was a commercial fishing boat from Andros – it’s now stranded on the beach at the south end of the harbour. The other wreck is a small (maybe 25′) canoe stern sailboat hailing from Boston (no name on the hull). The hull is overturned (keel up) on the rocks next to the entrance. Maybe he got rolled on the reef on the way in. The decks are missing and pieces of the mast are strewn around the shoreline. Potent reminder that "bad things" can happen.
Clarence Town (Long Island) – Mon Apr 19
From Little Harbour, we could either continue north up the eastern shore of Long Island to Georgetown Exuma, via Clarence Town and Conception, or head south around the southern tip of Long Island to get to Georgetown via Gordons, Dollar Harbour, and Hog Cay Cut. The weather forecast suggested favorable conditions for the northerly route, so we headed up to Clarence Town. Clarence Town is site of the Flying Fish Marina, and the town has some (meager) reprovisioning. The marina seems to be doing well. It has fairly new bulkheads and the grounds are well kept. A few sport-fish boats seem to be based here. We took the opportunity to do laundry and fuel up. The settlement is clean and well kept – but sparse on facilities. One of the two grocery stores has closed and the propane depot is gone.
Gordons (Long Island) – Tue Apr 20
Unfortunately during our stay at Clarence Town the weather Gods dealt us a bum hand. The wind clocked much faster than originally forecast, cutting off the option of a leisurely run up to Conception. We’d expected this to be a broad reach in the lee of Long Island. Instead, the updated forecast dealt us north winds… so we turned tail and headed back south – backtracking to Little Harbour and onward around the southern tip of Long Island to Gordons. To our surprise, as we rounded Cape Verde, the NE winds we had been running with all day long switched to NW on the western shore of Long Island – making Gordons a lee shore… This must be a localized phenomena, caused by thermals over land. We anchored anyway, figuring the wind would settle back to NE in the evening – and it did. The beach at Gordons is pretty, but the shelling is not all that great. There was a marooned Bahamian fishing smack in the mouth to Ford’s Creek which made a good photo subject – I’ll post pictures when I have bandwidth.
Dollar Harbour (Long Island) – Wed Apr 21
This place is just spectacular. It’s like Joe Sound on steroids. Meandering tidal creeks extend for miles into the sand flats, which dry at low tide. We anchored in an area called the "Snakes". We went walking on the southern beach at Conch Cay. It’s a dud of a beach for beach combing (hardly any shells or flotsam at all), but the sand is exceptionally fine and the gentle slope of the beach makes for pleasant wading. From here we headed up through Hog Cay Cut to Georgetown – to catch the last couple days of the Family Island Regatta.