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Bahamas

Curious what backpackers do on the Bahamas? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • The day our dear friends departed, they took ALL of the wind… Our next leg was about 450 nm from Culebra to Great Inagua – The Bahamas (!!!) so we were stuck until wind could fill our sails. Mike took another stab at aligning the prop shaft/V-drive using a new app called Vibration. Using an accelerometer, it charts 3 different frequency waves to measure the vibration of our engine alignment (thanks Nate for suggesting this!).

    We kept a watchful eye on passageweather.com and saw a decent weather window that we decided to take. It would be light wind the first few days with building stronger winds the last few days – we were okay with that.

    But before we really started the journey we topped off on diesel fuel and water in Fajardo, mainland PR. It was then I noticed our diesel prices throughout the trip.

    2015 Oct – VA USA $2.03/g
    2015 Dec Bermuda $4.50 /g (and that was greatly subsidized!)
    2016 Mar St. Thomas USVI $3.14/g
    2016 Apr Fajardo PR $2.45/g (we unfortunately did A LOT of motoring in Mar/Apr)
    2016 May Georgetown Exuma $3.72/g

    Priciest fuel goes to Bermuda, Cheapest goes to VA

    Our passage from PR to Great Inagua Matthews Town took us 4 full days, we arrived in Matthews Town at midnight Friday. We did 4 hours on, 4 hours off for shifts but again, since it was a short(er) passage we were a bit lenient on the shifts. The first day was great sailing. Puerto Rico appeared more mountainous than I imagined and I hope to explore mainland PR one day. The second day, I was feeling a bit under the weather, and I don’t think it was seasickness, it felt different. Mike was amazing and pulled off a 7 hour night shift for me and the next day I began to pull through my ‘funk’.

    Also worth mentioning, we passed over/ by the Puerto Rico trench. The trench extends 500 miles long and it’s deepest point is Milwaukee Deep at 28,373 feet, the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean.

    It turned out to be gorgeous sunny sailing. A pod of 16-18 porpoises swam alongside Gaia, playing in the bow wake for a while and we both got a kick out of that. Later, while Mike was asleep, the USCG helicopter circled the boat twice before disappearing over the horizon. We suspected they were doing routine checks in the area for drug control. We passed the northern entrance of the Mona Passage effortlessly – the Mona Passage is notorious for being the biggest in-to-the-wind passage for sailors headed toward the Virgin Islands. Reason # 738 why I’m glad we went to Bermuda then down to Antigua to follow the trade winds back home – one less pain in the butt windward sail for us.
    On day 3, the winds picked up to 20-25 knots and we dropped the main in some decently sized waves which made the entire process…. uhm….”sporty”. For my night watch, I pulled my foulies on in preparation for a few looming storm clouds. No moonlit night sailing this time, it was far more stressful for me this time. A cargo ship was approaching at 13 knots but I lost visual of it in a particularly thick squall that passed. I monitored the cargo ships progress via AIS (AIS is a way to track other boats progress through the water on your GPS, ours is receive-only). Once the squall passed I looked behind me where the GPS showed the cargo ship, only to find darkness. The cargo ship was much much closer than what our GPS was reading & on top of that the controls on our GPS were not functioning. I jibed to get further away from the path of the cargo ship. After the jibe, I took another look around and noticed a single tall white light. I starred at it for a few minutes trying to calculate just what the heck the light was. It couldn’t have been a rocky shallows off the coast the DR – maybe it was a buoy, or another sailboat without red/green running lights. Whatever it was, my current heading could be on close collision course with said mystery light. After a few minutes, I decided it’d be best to jibe and steer clear. I looked over my shoulder to see where that cargo ship was… but another squall had hit. The winds picked up, the rain was slamming down, and I had a mystery light ahead of me and a cargo ship hiding in the squall on my starboard – all with a GPS that was none-too reliable. Earlier, I had looked up the cargo ships AIS data and found the name of the ship so I went down below and hailed the cargo ship on channel 16. “Cargo ship XYZ, cargo ship XYZ, this is the sailing vessel on your port bow” A pregnant pause and then there was a response!!! A complete and utter stranger responded back to me at 2:00 AM in the middle of a squall! I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting a response but my heart was pounding, I was so excited. Since 16 is purely a hailing and distress channel, I was very curt and requested their course over ground / heading. He responded and I said thanks. I looked at the compass and estimated my new course through the water once I jibed & saw I’d be in the clear, close to the cargo ship but in the clear. I made my jibe and about 10 minutes later the squall passed and I saw on my port bow the cargo ship putting along at it’s 13 knots.

    darkness befalls us

    The rest of the sail was a breeze and rather dull. We dropped anchor at 11:50 PM on Friday night and we both slept soundly on Gaia in the Bahamas. We were finally here. Only west and north from here until Boston.
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  • We wobbled onto land to check in on Saturday morning to Matthews Town. We immediately found the locals to be immensely kind – amazingly generous. There were two locals who gave us a ride to the police station to check if the Customs/Immigration office would be open on a Saturday. The police stationed phoned the C/I who drove over to pick us up at the police station before clearing us into the Bahamas. We paid $300 USD in cash to clear in which gave us a cruising and fishing permit for a year and the ability to leave for up to 3 months and return without clearing in/out!

    Matthews Town wasn’t all that exciting, it had a screened in gazebo/hut with free wifi but even the prospect of free wifi didn’t stop our progression to a new anchorage. We anchored in Man O War bay just South of the Morton Salt dock. It was there we snorkeled the crystal clear Bahamian blue. We decided to splurge and take a tour of Great Inagua.
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  • From Crooked Island we went to Long Island and had another beautiful downwind sail. We tucked into Little Harbor finding ourselves alone again. The cut into the protected anchorage is narrow and East-facing. Don’t time this cut incorrectly or it’ll prove to be a dicey and uncomfortable motor into steep strong standing waves. We timed it perfectly at slack tide and found the harbor to be curiously inviting with a half submerged boat in the shallows. I enjoyed my morning coffee watching the occasional green turtle surfacing.

    The following day we made anchor in Clarence Town and the nearby marina had a nice laid-back bar we really enjoyed. From there we hitchhiked to Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole In The World (cool! blue holes are water filled sinkholes). Most known blue holes in the world average 110 meter/360 feet deep. Dean’s Blue Hole is a whopping 203 meters/666 ft deep. A couple of locals picked us up no problem and dropped us off…. on a beautiful white sand beach…. with about 30 other people and a …film crew… (?). Not what we were expecting either. The International Freedive Competition was camped out and taking place before our very eyes.
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  • We watched as five deviously laughing young men surprised someone, picked him up by his arms and legs, ran him over to the water and tossed him in. The man they threw in the water was William Trubridge, who earlier that day, set the new world record of free immersion diving to 124 meters (407 feet). Good grief! The idea of diving with weights and a scuba tank past 90 feet scares me…. I can’t imagine swimming freely for another 327 feet. We wandered the premise enjoying the sights and watching this close-knit world of free divers around us. We eventually strapped on our own dinky snorkel fins and mask and swam around the blue hole. The diving competition took place within a square, marked off by 4 floating pcv tubes. Friends and spectators could hang off them and watch. As curious spectators, we floated in the warm clear water with the pros. We asked questions as to how athletes started and met their depth. We learned the long wire that hung straight down had flags at predetermined depths for each diver to reach and retrieve their own flag. Upon their ascent two aiding free divers swam down 100 feet only to assist if something was awry. When the athlete surfaced they were required to perform basic functions to show they were stable. It’s not completely uncommon to witness a diver black out or show problems breathing. Not to fear, there are completely qualified and trained medics standing on the raft and in the water to help should any serious problem arise.

    We stayed and watched several divers. They were beautiful, elegant swimmers. They disappeared into the abyss with purpose and rose back to the surface like slow rising smoke or an unearthly ghost – it was fascinating. I watched one woman ascend from afar by diving down a few feet. Through my own mask I could see her face. Her nose pinched off by a plug, and her eyes closed. She was completely zen and relaxed. If it wasn’t for her feet effortlessly moving I would have thought she was asleep.

    We made our way back by hitchhiking again. A diving competitor from Germany, generously stopped for us and gave us a ride back to the marina. She kindly listened to our elementary questions on the sport and we hung on to every word she had to say on what it was like to dive down that deep.

    Seeing Dean’s Blue Hole was beautiful and unique and a great start to visiting Long Island…
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  • We had a most beautiful sail down to Salt Pond Bay.
    But the day Jess n Justin arrived, it poured… I mean it poured hard. We had rented a car to run a few errands like laundry and groceries then pick our friends up at the airport. When the rain subsided we ferried our dry warm clean laundry and groceries back to Gaia. As we opened the hatch we found that we (cough..Mike cough) left the hatch above the aft cabin bed completely open. The neat and tidy bed we had made was drenched. Bugger. What a way to start off a vacation for friends. We picked them up at the airport returned to the boat and sure enough the sun began peaking out of the clouds just before sunset. It wasn’t going to be so bad… they’d just sleep on the settees. All the running around and being swamped by buckets of rain was all made better when Jess n Justin pulled out of their luggage 4 steaks from a cooler bag. The last time we had a decent steak was in …. New York? 8 months ago… god that long… yeah not cool. Mike and I were aside ourselves incredulous with happiness. We broke out the good wine and the good the silverware, the only silverware, and went to work.

    The next day we used the rental car to drive over to Dean’s Blue Hole. The free dive competition was gone but a few curious tourists and a class for free-diving was taking place. Jess and Mike were bold enough to climb to the edge of the limestone cliffs and plunge about 25 feet into the blue hole. Both had good form.
    We set sail for Calabash Bay near the northern part of Long Island and found a trail that lead to the Christopher Colombus memorial. The walk over was easy and nice to catch up with old friends.
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  • After a night of too much chess games, we made our move to Conception Island. We thought San Salvador would be amazing but sailing there and back and seeing the island would eat up 4 days easily. Conception Island was only 30 nm, a far more manageable day sail. When we approached we caught a horse-eyes jack. Discovering that ciguatera was an issue for larger horse-eyed jacks, we had to set this big lugger back to his home. As we settled down from the excitement another friend playfully swam by. A dolphin swam around the boat, twirling about in the water and playing in the bow wake. At this point we found Conception Island to be most welcoming. The wind was just north of East which made the swell that wrapped around from the south to be very subtle. When the sun set and the stars rose we were completely alone in paradise. The next night we moved to the the northern anchorage and found two other sailboats perched nearby. We dropped the anchor and found three large nursesharks nestled in the shadow of the boat. All 4 of us flung ourselves into the water to get a better look. They were pretty great. I think of them like sheep, cute and harmless but in a beguiling shark kind of way. We enjoyed the beach and were intending to leave early next morning but then we bumped into the folks on the nearby monohull – a chatty bunch from FL and then two brothers from the catamaran dinghy-ed over and invited us over for drinks which quickly escalated to a potluck. I believe it was the words of fresh caught seafood that sealed the deal for us. We decided we’d stay another night and party with our new friends tonight. We found out there was a great mangrove river to be explored and so much more to snorkel.Read more

  • The next day we dinghy-ed to the mouth of the river. The entrance is shallow and the water color varies from crystal clear to an iridescent sparkle like diamonds. As we continued, the river forms to a more traditional turquoise color with deceptively fast turtles that dart away. At the junction of the river there was a deep pocket of water. It was near here we decided to jump out of the dinghy and float with the current. I stayed with the dinghy, while Jess, Justin, & Mike got up close and personal with the sergeant majors hiding in the mangrove branches, and the conchs trudging along the bottom, even the barracudas lurking in the back. We returned to the mile long white sand beach with a few beers and relaxed. I wrote in big block letters ‘ GAIA IN DA HOUSE’ – it seemed like the right thing to do.Read more

  • From New Bight we went to Fransesco Bay where we found a resort that had a trusting bar on the beach. The owner welcomed us and showed us a circular bar completely stocked with cups, ice, liquor, wine, beer, and juices.

    Each party took account for every drink they made or took and tallied up their own order to pay for it up at the front desk. And then the owner walked away. And we continued to party.

    The next day was a bit slow in more ways than one. The wind had died and we had a very long sail from Cat Island to Georgetown Great Exuma. The seas were so flat and so calm, we slowed the boat and jumped in. It was a fantastic trip all around but again the friends had to return to Boston and we, we had to prepare for our last round of guests…. my parents…. bum bum bum!
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  • We greeted my parents at the hotel, Peace & Plenty, they were standing on a veranda looking out over the water. When they turned around to see us it was a tidal wave of hugs and smiles. Despite having traveled thousands of miles under sail for several months, they kept repeating ‘ I can’t believe you’re doing this, that you’re here!’ That made us smile even more.

    From the moment they stepped onboard I knew it was going to be trouble. Of all our friends who visited, it was my Mom and Dad, who couldn’t keep still. The second I turned my back they were running foredeck or off the side boarding ladder into the water. Aiyiyi. It was going to be a long week. 😉

    We began in Georgetown, the capital grounds for cruisers in the Bahamas. Peak season is in the winter months, so the anchorages we explored (in May) were largely quiet and we had our pickings of where to anchor.

    My Mom and Dad quickly made use of the clear water when they first arrived. We eventually & leisurely motored across the harbor to Stocking Island and made landfall at the Chat n Chill. It’s a beautiful beach with picnic tables scattered under trees, a volleyball net, tree swings, the ring game – this place is ‘never never land’. It was crafted for adults, a place where day drinking and laughter lifted all your cares and land worries away. It was easy to get sucked into this place. And yet, after all the hype of hearing about the infamous Chat n Chill, I was a little underwhelmed. It was a beach bar that seemed to serve you a beer and usher you back out. So back out is where we went and the place I enjoyed the most. We left the Chat n Chill beach area and wandered to the eastern side of the island wadding through a narrow channel to get to the next beach.
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  • From Stocking Island we sailed all day trailing thunder clouds until we anchored in Lee Stocking Island, near the old maritime research facility, abandoned in 2011. It was once the Perry Institute for Marine Science a research facility started in the 50’s to pursue marine research and sustainability. Sadly, in 2006 Perry died and funding dried up, a caretaker now looks over the grounds. A couple of cruisers dinghied over and informed us this anchorage had a lot of mosquitos but further south the pristine anchorage of Williams Bay had no bugs. We pulled up anchor and sure enough, yes, Williams Bay was astounding. Twin beaches, interesting limestone formations and a sandy bottom.

    We went ashore and walked the adventurous trails taking in the sites.
    We had a beautiful day sail to Farmers Cay in light wind and took the mooring ball in front of the yacht club in stunning clear water. The current was a bit strong but the wind was light. We tied our dinghy to the newly built dock and were greeted by Roosevelt. We enjoyed a traditional Bahamian dinner and even learned how to dance with Roosevelt once we were finished.

    We explored the ship wreck across the channel and strolled the beaches around Little Farmers Cay.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Commonwealth of The Bahamas, Bahamas, Bahama, ባሃማስ, الباهاما, Bahamalar, Багамскія астравы, Бахамски О-ви, Bahamasi, বাহামা দ্বীপপুঞ্জ, བྷཱ་མས྄།, Bahami, Bahames, Bahamy, Y Bahamas, Bahamas nutome, Μπαχάμες, Bahamoj, Bahamak, باهاما, Bahamaas, Na Bahámaí, બહામાસ, איי הבהמה, बहामाज़, Bahama-szigetek, Բահամներ, Bahamaeyjar, バハマ国, ბაჰამის კუნძულები, បាហាម៉ា, ಬಹಾಮಾಸ್, 바하마, बहामास, بەھاما, Ynysow Bahama, Insulae Bahamenses, Bahamen, Bahamasɛ, ບາຮາມາສ, Bahamų salos, Bahamase, Bahamu salas, Бахамски Острови, ബഹാമാസ്, बहामाज, Baħamas, ဘဟားမား, Bahamat, Bhahamas, Bahama’s, ବାହାମାସ୍, Bahaamas, بهاماس, Багамы, Bahâmasa, බහමාස්, Bahamet, Бахаме, பஹாமாஸ், బహామాస్, บาฮามาส, Bagama Adalary, Pahama, باھاما, Багамські Острови, بہاماس, Ba-ha-ma (Bahamas), Bahamuäns, Orílẹ́ède Bàhámásì, 巴哈马, i-Bahamas