Well, our 2001 trip was great!!! We left frigid North
Carolina in mid January, and arrived in balmy Key Largo, Florida after
a tedious two day trip down I-95. Along the way, we were joined by our
friend Steve, who drove down from New Jersey with his newly finished
power sharpie, TROPICSTAR. When we got to the Keys we stayed at a small
marina North of Jew Fish Creek with our old friend Dave Gatan, owner of
another of Matt Layden's sharpies, SWAMP THING. Over the next two weeks
we enjoyed the warm weather, and spent our time shopping, packing and
getting ready for the Gulf Stream crossing. We also did some overnight
trips with Steve, who in the end decided for safety's sake to cruise
locally because his boat was still new and unproven.
On January 31, we made a quick 9 1/2 hour crossing of the Gulf
Stream from Angel Fish Creek in a light Southeasterly breeze, arriving
in Bimini early enough to clear customs and to enjoy a great "Conch and
Fries" dinner at C.J.'s. Then the next day, we crossed the 75 mile wide
Bahama Bank; however, not entirely under our own power, since our old
outboard broke it's drive shaft in the middle of the night.
Fortunately, while we were becalmed the next morning, a passing
sailboat gave us a tow to Morgan's Bluff, Andros. From there we sailed
over to New Providence where we bought a new engine.
A few days later we sailed over to the beautiful Exumas, stopping at
Highborne Cay for a day's rest before moving on to Little San Salvador,
where we explored the huge inner lagoon. From there it was only a short
10 mile hop to sleepy Cat Island. We found the local people were
extremely friendly, and the cruising was fantastic in the lee of the 48
mile long island . We also enjoyed exploring many of the creeks that
penetrate the virgin interior, and we took refuge inside Fernandez
Creek for two days while a passing cold front went by. A visit to "The
Hermatage," which was built by father Gerome on the highest point in
the Bahamas, proved to be the highlight of the trip. However, after
less than a week, we decided to leave this enchanting place to sail
downwind to Georgetown, Great Exuma where we were reunited with many
old friends from previous trips. In contrast to our quiet anchorages on
Cat Island, we spent the next 10 days in the company of 500 other
cruising boats, nearly all of which were over 40 feet in length! Of
course there were a few small boats like a beautiful "Rob Roy 23" that
anchored with us in Kidd Cove.
From Georgetown, we sailed back North up the Exumas, revisiting many
of the Islands we had previously explored in earlier trips.
Unfortunately, a few of these, like Cave Cay and Musha Cay, have been
sold, and sadly they have been converted to private resorts, destroying
forever the once quiet anchorages and beaches that we and so many
others had come to appreciate. We also stopped at Rudder Cut Cay, Guana
Cay, Staniel Cay, and Shroud Cay; and eventually we crossed our
incoming path at Highborne Cay. Then it was back to Nassau, New
Providence for reprovisioning.
After a few days in the busy and noisy capital, we decided to return to quiet Andros, first visiting Fresh Creek, and then moving on to explore Stafford Creek. To enter the creek, we first had to lower our mast to clear a bridge, and we went on to spend three delightful days exploring the creek and the remains of a ghost town called Owens Town. This town was the center of operations for a large lumber company that nearly clear cut the whole island around 30 - 40 years ago. Now, however, most of the trees have grown back, and hopefully they will not be recut. While exploring the many vacant house lots in town, we discovered sour orange trees and papaya trees in the silent yards as well as an abandoned coconut grove. With our fruit basket full, we left the creek shortly thereafter, and stopped for a few days at a nearby ecotourist resort called FORFAR. Here a young staff of Americans took their guests on reef dives and land tours. We had a few meals at "the station," enjoying the company of two groups who were visiting Andros to see the extensive birdlife and to view the native iguanas, some of the largest in the Carribean at three feet long. At Forfar we also joined up with another cruiser, Dick Chase, who was sailing aboard his 30 foot home-built trimaran, and together we sailed to Morgans Bluff, the Joulters and then on to Red Bays, where the locals still sponge and make intricate baskets for a living.
From Red Bays we crossed the Bahama Banks once more (unaided this
time), and returned to Florida after 10 weeks in paradise.