Click Back to the
"Latest News"
for additional

Log Entires

Grand Bahama Drama

June 20th,

After a long, windless, 6 day passage from the Virgins our arrival in the Bahamas was quite inauspicious. Out of fuel from our days of motoring, we sailed into the Clarence Town Harbor in Long Island at a whopping 2 knots. We readied the anchor but before we could drop it, we found ourselves slowing to a gradual stop as the keel nestled itself against the grassy bottom. The crystal clear water of the Bahamas makes depth perception difficult and eyeball navigation becomes tricky, when all the details of the bottom are just as visible in 20 feet of water as they are in 3 feet. There was half a liter or so of diesel fuel left in the tank which the pickup tube couldn't get to, so I siphoned that into a bucket. This allowed us to run the engine just long enough to break ourselves free from the bottom and re-anchor in deeper water.

There was not much to be found ashore, but we were able to fill our jerry cans at the one gas station and do laundry at the only marina. After 6 days at sea we were all ready for showers. In fact, it was the very first thing on Lizy and Miranda's agenda. So they were understandably disappointed when the strange lady at the marina steadfastly refused to let them use the shower facilities. She explained that they were closed due to lack of water, no exceptions. Then in a surreal twist of events, they were shown to the laundry room and welcomed to do as many loads of laundry as they wished. The logic was beyond us.

As we sailed northward through the Bahamas with Sam and Lizy still aboard we found most of the islands had little to offer ashore. Even in the main harbor of Georgetown, we found the facilities underwhelming. Calling the local airline proved to be a difficult experience and getting a connection to Australia was next to impossible. After trying at least 6 different 800 numbers I resorted to the local operator, whom to my surprise connected me to a Telstra operator. But as I suspected, it was too good to be true. A second later I lost the connection with Telstra and had to start the procedure again. I rang the local operator a second time and explained that I had been disconnected and would like her to once again connect me to Telstra.
   "I can't do that," she said.
   "Well, someone just did," I replied.
   "No. No one connected you to Telstra before," she insisted.
   "Maybe I'm crazy," I said, "but as far as I know I was just connected to Australia!"
"Are you trying to get someone fired? You're trying to get something for free aren't you!"
   "Look, I'm not trying to cause trouble...I don't want to get anyone fired and I'm planning on paying for the call. I just want to get a line to Australia," I said in my most apologetic voice, the whole time wondering if I, as a tourist, was getting the special run-around service or if this was business as usual. I fear it was the latter.

The sand and water in the Bahamas held much more charm than the towns or the people. So, for the few days that Sam and Lizy were with us in the Bahamas, we spent our time snorkeling, swimming and lazing on the boat and beach. The weather turned gray the day that Sam and Lizy left and it stayed that way the for the rest of our time in the Bahamas. Without the sun, the Bahamas had little to offer. Most of our time was spent slogging our way north through one rain storm after another as we tried to make our way to Grand Bahama and then over to Florida.

When we reached the island of New Providence we found where all the inhabitants of the Bahamas were hiding: Nassau. All the buildings, boats, businesses and tourists that the other islands lacked, were packed into this one town and it was all a bit much. Sitting on an inappropriately named Paradise Island, the gaudy pink Atlantis Resort loomed over Nassau Harbor. Across the way giant cruise ships each disgorged hundreds of sunburned passengers. We spent an entertaining morning walking among the downtown shops and watching the cruise ship passengers shop in stores identical to the ones they had just seen at the last cruise ship terminal. I overheard one passenger complaining to his wife that although these shops were in a different place they were selling the same stuff. When we had had enough of that we ventured over to the Atlantis Resort. It is an enormous place which encompasses a large hotel, at least two giant aquariums, a casino, many restaurants and shops, and a movie theater showing free films for guests. Due to the inclement weather, there were added showings of that day's movie which happened to be Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Having just finished the book Miranda and I were anxious to see the movie and the woman at the door was nice enough to let us in, even though we weren't guests at the hotel. It was a pleasant surprise and a nice way to spend the rainy afternoon.

The most excitement we had in the Bahamas was provided a few days later by our transmission. As we sailed north toward Grand Bahama the transmission, which had been acting a little funny for a day or two, decided that it no longer wanted to shift into forward. We had been sailing for West End but the wind was not cooperating and without the engine it was going to be a long haul. We opted instead to head for the somewhat closer commercial harbor of Freeport. With light and shifty winds it was well after dark when we finally arrived at the mouth of Freeport Harbor. There was almost no moon and the night was dark. Traffic was heavy that night and we watched at least three tankers appear, approach, pass and then disappear into the blackness. I called the Freeport Harbormaster, told him our situation, and asked if we could enter the harbor. He asked us to wait for 15 minutes while another vessel cleared the port, so we sailed back and forth dodging tankers, studying the chart and worrying about how we would enter an unknown harbor, in the dark, under sail only. When the Harbormaster gave us the go ahead, we gave it our best shot. With Miranda at the wheel, I stood on the bow giving directions and talking to the Harbor Master on the handheld VHF radio. The wind was behind us and we ran through the harbor breakwaters on the small jib, which I dropped as soon as we were in the protected water of the harbor. With the wind still behind us, we drifted slowly forward, moving just enough to give us a little steerage toward the cement wall where we were to dock. The clock struck midnight as we cinched Baggy up fast against the huge tractor tire fenders used by the tugs and cruise ships that normally tied up here. We tried to get a few hours of sleep, as tugs and pilot boats continued the work of an active, always open harbor.

Upon investigation the next day, we found that Freeport Harbor catered very well to tankers and cruise ships, but not so well to small private vessels. No one on the island worked on small diesel transmissions. It quickly became obvious that our best option was to sail the 80 or so miles back to the States and get the repair work done there. So, after a day of rest and shopping, we arranged for the Pilot to give us a tow out of the harbor and we were off again, sailing slowly in light winds, toward the USA.