Chased by Bright Green Blobs…

Do you ever lie in bed thinking “The wind is going to change tomorrow. We had better move house”? No. That would be silly.

Keeping safe on a boat is so dependant on keeping ahead of the weather it’s boring frankly. When nasty looking bright green blobs appeared on the weather chart for four days hence, it meant “near gale” conditions, with 28-33 knots of wind were coming in.

I am always disappointed that the huge bang as they land – in the manner of dynamite fishing – does not result in a selection of stunned fish floating on the surface ready to be scooped into a frying pan.

Having been on Mayaguana Island, Bahamas for over a week we were itching to move on and to use the days before the bad weather arrived to get somewhere with more shelter.  Assuming that neither of my readers are sailors, I will explain that it is much better if the wind is coming over land to slow it down before it gets to you. Also if the anchor gives way, you will get pushed out to sea not onto the land! Lesser of two evils there. Makes for light sleeping…

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Travel mug of coffee, sat nav on – just like commuting on the M4 apart from the laundry

Our first overnight stop would be West Plana, one of a pair of uninhabited little Bahamian islands. Our cruising so far has been – wherever possible – in the quieter bits like the Bahamian “Outer Islands” which is how we like it. However, the idea of an actual uninhabited island gave me a bit of a nervy flutter, especially as I knew from our friend David there was no internet or phone coverage..

After 5 hours of pretty easy sailing we anchored off a long beach on the leeward side (land between us and the wind) of the island, in a sea that was like a rainbow made only of shades blue and green.

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West Plana – crazy blue

We launched the kayaks to explore (L’s technique for this involves basically chucking them down off the side of the boat and I am always disappointed that the huge bang as they land – in the manner of dynamite fishing – does not result in a selection of stunned fish floating on the surface ready to be scooped into a frying pan.

We paddled in crystal clear water and over little patches of rocky reef. As we dragged the kayaks up the beach I looked back to the shallows to see a 3 foot shark passing by! Amazingly I was excited rather than terrified and even managed a quick swim later. I have apparently been convinced by keen divers insisting to me that “human” is just not a food source for a small reef shark…

As we hiked the wild beach there were salt ponds, palmettos and low green forests to see inland as well. Naturally, L was already busy thinking ahead about the technical challenges of setting up home on this beautiful island. Luckily time was short and we returned to the boat to get ready for an early start tomorrow!

Crooked Island has a nice easy target to aim at, namely a huge old lighthouse dating from the 1870’s. A historic island of ruined plantations and pirate hideaways it also had a wide sheltered beach at Landrail Point in view of the lighthouse, the perfect spot to ride out the coming north-easterly gales.

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Bird Rock lighthouse

We quickly dinghied ashore to stock up on provisions, hoping that the settlement of houses we could see had some actual shops we could walk to. Luckily two retired fishing fanatics at the closest beach house – Louisiana Frenchy and Pittsburg Dave – gave up trying to repeatedly explain to us directions to the shop and just drove us there… (Cunning) On our way they pointed out the many beach houses wrecked and still filled up with 3 feet of sand after Hurricane Joaquin of 2 years ago!

I was damp, salty, with a bra full of sand and armed with a stick by the time we got there.

The weather forecast with the bright green blobs wasn’t kidding.  For 3 days we had howling winds and rainstorms as we munched through all the treats we had bought to alleviate the cabin fever. We did things on the internet and said lovely things about our anchor.

Day 4 was still a choppy but we were determined to get to Gibsons Lunch Room, a Crooked Island institution mentioned in our 20 year old cruising guide. I managed to fall out of the dinghy onto the uneven beach, and as usual the local dogs insisted on doing their guard dog thing.

I was damp, salty, with a bra full of sand and armed with a stick by the time we got there.

Thank goodness that Willie Gibson is a very calming woman. She directed me to the loo to rinse off some of the sand and made us a big plate of lunch, with her home-baked Bahamian corn bread and butter. I hadn’t eaten butter for a while so I went a bit over the top on that.

Change of wind direction? Time to move on again! Long Island was next on our northwards meanderings through the Outer Islands and our cruising guide said Little Harbour was the perfect place to sit out the next weather front, being enclosed all round like a 1.5 mile long “C” and with a small entry way from the ocean.

We practically surfed through the entrance to the bay between the breaking waves on either side, but over the next few days the shelter and the sandy bottom proved their worth, despite the endless sideways rolling from the ocean swells that snuck in through the gap too. The full blue-blood moon of 31st of January added another dimension in that full moon tides are so big, the water actually goes a bit below the minimum marked on the chart, so we did a rapid repositioning of the boat one afternoon.

Just before we became terminally pissed off, the sun came out again, the winds dropped and we realised the full beauty of this Little Harbour which we had all to ourselves.

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There’s sea turtles in them there waters!

Reputedly home to lots of large and small sea turtles, we kayaked round the bay spotting the characterful cream and brown heads pop up regularly to eyeball how close we were getting! Not close enough unfortunately. How they survive here with the depressing volume of plastic rubbish washing into this bay and ending up on the beach is a happy mystery.

A walk off the beach and up the hill led us through miniature palm forests and lush greenery with birds singing and butterflies flitting out of the undergrowth.

And when we got back to the boat the chief mechanic went back down the engine hole for another session of fixing engine stuff…

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