It felt good to finally leave Nassau. The forecast wasn't great, but if we didn't move, we would be in Nassau for another week. We topped up the fuel tanks at Nassau Harbor Club because the diesel was only $5.74 a gallon, pretty good for Bahamas prices. It was about 9:30 AM and the sun was just beginning to get high enough for us to use eyeball navigation around the many patch reefs at the east end of the harbor, but more importantly, to navigate the numerous coral heads we would encounter crossing the Yellow Banks. Some of these heads are only a few feet below the surface and could do serious damage to a prop. With the sun overhead, clear skies and reasonably flat seas, they are easy to pick out. They appear as a bark blob in the water surrounded by white sand. There are many of these on the section known as the Yellow Banks, only a short distance from Nassau. The conditions weren't perfect - there were some clouds and it was a bit choppy, but all in all, doable. Once we reached Porgy Rock, it was a straight line to our destination at Highbourne Cay.
The good news was that the winds were out of the north at 10 to 15, and the wind and waves would be on our stern. The coral heads were easy to pick out and once we cleared the Yellow Banks, they were much fewer and still easy to spot. The rest of the day went well up until we made the turn off the banks toward Highbourne Cay. This put wind and swells right on our beam and we rolled all the way in until we cleared a shallow bar near Highbourne that knocked down the seas. Little did we guess that this would be a preview of things to come. Our first night at anchor in the Exumas would be one that we wouldn't soon forget.
Our first big surprise arriving at Highbourne was the number of megayachts at anchor. There were about 8 or 9 and we aren't talking about just big boats. Some were well over 100 feet and they all carried a fleet of jet skies and at least one large center console tender with about 750 horsepower total outboards on the back. The jetskis ran through the anchorage at full speed all afternoon and the tenders ran back and forth from the megayachts to the beach, at full throttle, with little regard for anyone else there. Highbourne Cay is a private cay and the beaches were serving as party destinations for the folks on the megayachts. As we approached Highbourne, a large megayacht named DreaMER almost ran us down and refused to respond on the radio. We had to make some serious avoidance maneuvers. It was not a pleasant experience and it was soon to get worse.
The parties went on well into the night but soon after we went to bed, the surge that works its way around the cay began to roll all of the boats in the anchorage. And we're not talking about a gentle roll. We're talking about a "throw things off the shelves and counters" roll. It lasted all night and into the morning until we hauled up the anchor and got out of there fast. This rates up there with the worst anchorage in which we have ever spent the night. The only other one that might have been worse, and only slightly, was behind the reef on the coast of Mexico at Tulum. No one got much sleep and at times it seemed that the flybridge might get ejected from the boat. We were very grateful to be out as early as possible and head south to Warderick Wells.
It was surprising to see all of the boats heading both north and south on the banks. At one time we counted about 15 sailboats heading north as we continued to move south. The winds and seas were much more pleasant than the day before and it was a great transit. Powerboats were also well represented. We felt right at home as some of the vessels were yelling at others on the radio about the wakes they were throwing up as they passed. For a moment it was like being back in South Florida. At 1:15 PM we dropped the anchor in the clear waters just south of Warderick Wells in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. There is a mooring field here but we chose to anchor just beyond the moorings. It has been a long time since we have been here and we looked forward to spending some quality time.
There have been a lot of changes since our last visit to the Park on our sailboat Sea Trek. But some things are just the same. You never forget the view from the ranger station as you look down on the moorings in the channel at the north end. It's absolutely spectacular and no matter how many times you have seen it, there is still the same "wow" factor. We felt like we had finally arrived.
Susan and I are both long time sailors with tens of thousands of miles under our keels spanning the US east and west coast, Bahamas, Caribbean, Central Atlantic, and US Gulf Coast. We have been freelance writers for major boating publications, including Bluewater Sailing, Soundings Magazine, Sail Magazine, Southern Boating, Lats and Atts, MarinaLife Magazine, Nor' Easter, Good Old Boat, Living Aboard Magazine and a host of internet sites. We have spent over 17 years living aboard and cruising our Mariner 40 ketch, Sea Trek. In the not to distant past, we sold her and after much soul searching decided a change in lifestyle and scenery was in order so the search was on for a new boat. We knew a trawler was in our future and after doing a lot of research and looking at a lot of boats we found a very well cared for 1980 Marine Trader 34. We have named her Beach House for Susan's love of the beach and the hopes that the view from our new house will always be pleasant. Our plans are to continue our lifestyle and to change our cruising grounds a bit and visit those inland lakes and rivers we never could with our sailboat.