For us Georgetown is a special place because that’s where our cruising dream started most of 20 years ago. That being said it’s not our favorite place to be this time of year because it’s crowded with hundreds of cruising boats in the harbour. A stop in Georgetown is a necessary evil as it’s the best place within hundreds of miles to buy groceries and other essentials. We were in and out pretty quick and were off to Cat Island immediately after the passage of another cold front. The night before leaving Georgetown we were able to stream the Super Bowl on our laptop. The picture was small but the nachos and IPA’s were wonderful.
Cat Island is one of those places in the Bahamas that leaves you feeling good about the land and the people. When someone asked us recently what was good about a visit to Cat, I thought of the beaches and the water first. Then I realized what makes Cat special to me, and that’s the people. They are extremely friendly and legitimately happy that we are there.
Our sail to Cat started without much wind and a few miles out of Georgetown we discussed going back and trying again the following day. It’s about a 45 mile trip and we didn’t want to motor that far. Thankfully the wind came up quickly and we ended up having a fast and comfortable sail.
Cat Island is home to many old buildings and churches. Several of the churches were designed by Father Jerome including “The Hermitage” which he built himself. Loyalist ruins are everywhere as you walk down the road.
The beach at New Bight is home to “Fish Fry”, a collection of food shacks, a souvenir stand, and a bar. We had dinner with friends, Dave and Betty, at one of the food shacks, Sunshine Takeaway. The food was excellent but the mosquitos and no see-ums were awful as the sun set. We tried our bug spray and our waitress brought mosquito coils to light but neither worked. Finally she came back and asked, “Would you like some smoke?”. Not really sure what she had in mind we watched her and her son make two piles of casurina needles and light them on fire. They added green leaves to the fires to create smoke. No more bugs!
We managed a stay of about 10 days at Cat Island but the wind direction kept us from exploring the northern parts of the island. We’ll have to go back. Maybe on our way north in the spring.
From Cat we sailed into the Atlantic to reach Conception Island which is a Bahamian national park. It was actually a motorsail hard on the wind for most of the trip. Not something that we normally do and I was tempted to fall off the wind and sail to Long Island. But we pressed on and were rewarded with a landfall on a beautiful uninhabited island. The anchorage was calm and the water clear when we arrived. It was absolutely beautiful. We dropped the anchor in 12′ of clear water and clean sand. Just after dropping the anchor I looked down and saw a “rock” that hadn’t been there moments before. The “rock” turned out to be a stingray that came to checkout the anchor. The anchorage would have been a great spot for swimming if it hadn’t been for the large lemon shark that also came to greet us. His slow, shallow passes around the boat convinced us that we were happy to stay in the boat.
It’s odd to me that we can go to places where other boats are anchored and yet it’s easy to find a secluded beach. It happens all the time (thankfully).
One of the fun things to do on many Bahamian islands is to explore the mangrove creeks by dinghy. They’re usually shallow so you need to go on at least a mid tide and preferably a rising one. Good light is also essential for seeing the water depth. The mangrove creek at Conception was a bit challenging to enter because of surf and a shallow bar at the entrance but it was worth it. The water inside quickly turned to a turbid green color making it difficult to clearly see the sea life but there were many turtles scurrying away from our boat as we passed. It’s difficult to show in pictures but the sandy beaches made for beautiful scenery.
When we entered the Bahamas back in November we were given 90 day visas. These visas can be extended to a total stay of up to 8 months. The tricky part is that you can’t get an extension until your current visa is about to expire and there are only a few places in the Bahamas where this can be done. When our time was nearly up we had a choice of going back to Georgetown or sailing to Long Island. We chose Long Island and a friendly immigration officer made it easy to get another 90 days.
The anchorage here in Thompson Bay is very protected from most directions and is a popular place to stay during inclement weather while staging to go to other places. We’ve been here quite a while now as we bide our time waiting for weather suitable for our first trip to the Jumentos and Ragged Islands in the southern Bahamas. It looks like we’ll be getting passage weather in a few days so we’ll be off to new places. In the meantime we’ve been exploring some of the local area and getting some beach walks in. The people here in the settlement of Salt Pond are also wonderful and welcoming. We’ve been here long enough that hugs are a part of greetings.
The ocean side beaches are stunning and secluded but require some work to get to. First a dinghy trip that may or may not be a wet one. Then walking or hitchhiking to the mile long access roads. Once there you’re alone. Speaking of hitchhiking, it’s a great way to get around. Sometimes you’re in a car and other times you ride in the back of a truck, but you always get a ride and the people you meet are great.