Our next leg took us from Provo to Abrahams Bay on the SW coast of Mayaguana. We decided to again stage at Ft. George so we could get going shortly after sunrise without first having to take the extra time to negotiate a circuitous route from Turtle Cove marina to Stellers Cut. Even though we had our in-bound track we elected to use a guide boat from Turtle Cove again just in case there were any tricky cross currents or remaining serious swells coming in over the reef. All went well and we were on our way to Ft. George by around 12:30pm, taking advantage of a 10-knot SE breeze for a lazy sail up to our evening’s anchorage. The seas had laid down over the past day or so, particularly inside the Ft. George cut, making for a calm night on the hook.
3/31/2014 – Ft. George Cay to Mayaguana
We woke to a 5:30 a.m. alarm, had a full breakfast, readied the boat, and were underway by about 7:00 a.m. in good light. The only downside was the lack of wind … less than 5 knots from the northeast. With the main raised but not helping at all, we set off under power for Mayaguana some 60 miles away. The GRIBS suggested we should be seeing at least 10 knots or more of wind by sometime in the afternoon, but at least for the start of our passage that was not to be.
At about two hours out a mature humpback whale passed, surfacing, diving and spouting not 100 feet off our port quarter on a reciprocal course toward Provo. By the time our cameras had been retrieved the whale was a ways behind us, but we did get a short movie of it spouting (see spout near center of frame about 5 seconds into the following 10-second clip). Exciting!
That whale apparently also brought us some good luck. A little later in the morning we passed through two rain squalls which must have marked a trof and wind shift line, bringing 15-17 knots gusting 19 out of the northeast for an exhilarating hull speed passage the rest of the way to Mayaguana’s Abrahams Bay entrance.
Abrahams Bay is a 5-mile long bay lying ENE to WSW on the southwest side of Mayaguana. The bay is defined and protected by a continuous reef along its south border. To reach our anchorage we entered the relatively wide reef opening at the WSW end of the bay and picked our way northeast around shoals and coral heads (see accompanying chart clips) to the anchorage about a mile from the settlement where we’d find customs and immigration plus a few other services. By 5:45 our anchor was down and set after almost 11 hours and over 65 miles underway.
About five other boats, rotating as some left while others came in each day, shared the anchorage with us during the three days we were there. The bay provides reasonable protection from most winds, but the fetches within the shallow bay can make for a choppy anchorage … especially for the long and often wet dingy trips ashore each day.
4/1 – Bahamas Check-in and Settlement Visit
Each of our dingy trips into the settlement’s concrete dock was a wet adventure in short chop, with the final 200 yards spent carefully following the posts which marked a slightly deeper channel into the dock. Outside that channel the bottom almost dried at low tide, and nothing was ever deep enough to transit there. In fact, friends with a rigid bottom inflatable who had visited in a prior year had to get out and drag their dingy through the sand and up to the dock, but with our dingy’s flat bottom we were able to use the motor tipped up almost out of the water, even at low tide, to get in and out without wading.
The Bahamian out islands aren’t prosperous, plus the settlements there are sparse and have very small populations. For example, Mayaguana’s total population is about 300 souls spread across the 25-mile long by 2 ½ to 5-mile-wide island’s handful of settlements. Abrahams Bay is the seat of island government, and check in there was informal, if a bit time consuming. After filling out the numerous forms and paying our $300.00 cruising permit at the customs building (see accompanying photo), we were off to explore.
The small settlement of Abrahams Bay was also the site of the island’s high school (pictured). Only 23 students from across the island attend its grades seven through twelve. With three teachers the student/teacher ratio would be the envy of most US schools, if the school’s other resources were not. We stopped by just after the end of the school day and chatted with a couple of teachers. Everyone was extremely friendly, as have been the other Bahamians we’ve met over the years. The school’s math teacher, came from Cuba, while the other teachers were native Bahamians. It was clear from seeing the school’s teachers and students, plus others, that the island residents were rightfully proud of their little community’s schools.
After a tour of the town we stopped at “Reggie’s Lounge and Guest House” for our first taste on this trip of a Bahamian Kalik brew, the famous beer of the Bahamas brewed in Nassau. Here we also met Terry and Leslie from the trawler Orient Moon out of Annapolis and anchored near us in the bay, plus “Scully”, the island’s unofficial ambassador, taxi service, and bone fishing guide who we had talked with earlier that morning on VHF. Scully would be taking us to and from the airport the following day. We highly recommend using his services for island tours or transportation if visiting in these parts. Just call for “Scully” on VHF 16.
4/2/2014 – Crew Change Day
After breakfasts we stowed Ted and Jane’s two duffels and one carry-on in large garbage bags for the wet, up-wind, trip into the settlement. Once ashore they changed into salt-free travelling clothes before Scully arrived to run us to the airport.
Mayaguana sees two scheduled flights a week to/from Nassau, plus the occasional charter plane. Most of the passengers seemed to be locals augmented by a few tourists visiting for the island’s excellent fishing, especially bone fishing. While at the airport we had a long chat with a London, UK, couple who had spent one week fishing at Andros Island followed by another week fishing at Mayaguana. The island has a few guest houses and one small resort that cater to visiting fishermen.
Mayaguana’s airport was a throw-back to the 50’s when the US had built a small base and observation post on the island, presumably in response to perceived threats from Cuba at the time. All that exists of “the base” at this point are two abandoned concrete observation and gun emplacement towers plus the airstrip. The hill with the concrete building ruins is also home to an obelisk and plaque commemorating the recovery of the first orbital capsule to capture movie film of earth from orbit (see photo). The capsule was recovered off Mayaguana back in 1960.
The airstrip’s “terminal building” had once been a fire station. Ted and Jane would definitely not be flying out of an MSP or even an Anoka County or Flying Cloud clone today. Informal and a bit worn as it was, the facility works and in no time after Stan Cory and Linda Jerlow’s plane arrived the plane’s 15 seats were emptied and then again filled for the return flight to Nassau.
We hated to see Ted and Jane depart. We had had some wonderful times and special experiences with them from the D.R. to Mayagyana, a total of some 217 sea miles, but by the same token we’re also looking forward to our upcoming adventures with Stan and Linda as we continue our trek north and west toward the Exumas and ultimately Nassau. Stay tuned as the adventures continue!