A short post here before we leave BaTelCo cell coverage, under way southbound to Great Sale Cay across the Little Bahama Bank. I do have some nice photos, which will have to wait until we have better connectivity.
We had a very nice crossing Monday from Palm Beach. We left about mid-exodus, with several boats passing us on their way out while we were still at anchor. Near-coastal waters were actually pretty rough, three to four feet on a short period of perhaps four to five seconds. By the time we were ten miles offshore, though, things had calmed down to the forecast one to two feet on a long nine-second period, and the ride was quite calm.
After clearing the inlet, we angled north toward the White Sand Ridge, which gave us quite a push from the Gulf Stream and we made over seven knots the whole way. We also left behind the conga line of other cruisers, all of whom made a bee-line for West End on Grand Bahama Island.
The crew of Blossom had chosen White Sand Ridge as a deeper-draft entry to the bank, and on reports of a large pod of dolphin living there. I was the lucky winner on the dolphin front, spotting one breach a good dozen feet or so out of the water, the sort of display you might see at Sea World. Blossom had a small group play in their bow wave for a while.
We ended up anchored on a high spot of the ridge, so high that my NOAA chart showed it as awash (map). That made for a very rough night, though, with winds 15-20 and a swell to match. A bit too close to, and unprotected from, the ocean at that spot. We did, however, have a lovely sunset.
Our first Bahamian sunset.
While we had hoped to wait for higher sun, the roll had us weighing anchor around 9:30 Tuesday morning and heading across the bank for Walker Cay, our chosen port of entry for clearing in. We anchored in the bight of a large sand bar (map) and had a very calm afternoon; Blossom dropped their tender and came over for cocktails.
Yesterday morning Martin picked me up and we tendered in to Walker Cay to clear in, tying up across from the now defunct marina there. We walked the length of the small runway looking for Customs and Immigration, but the island seemed deserted. Eventually we found a couple of guys working on renovating a building there and they informed us that Customs had moved over to Grand Cay while a new office was being built for them on Walker. We had half expected this, so back to the tender and on over to Grand Cay we went.
The defunct marina at Walker Cay, from the end of the airport.
We tied up at Rosie's and walked the half mile or so to the administration building, where the very accommodating Sheryse took our paperwork, but apologized that she did not have the proper forms on hand to clear us in; she expected them on the boat from Freeport around 2pm. She gave us verbal permission to go to the Batelco office, and to bring the ladies ashore for dinner, and we agreed to return to the office around 4pm to finish checking in.
Martin and I spent well over an hour in the BaTelCo office getting pre-paid SIMs for our phones and getting data working, and so now we have limited Internet access whenever we can see a tower. I also have a Bahamian phone number so we can call local businesses and they can call us back -- much simpler and cheaper than the sat phone.
Around 3:30 or so Martin and Steph picked us up in their tender and we all headed ashore to Rosie's. Martin called Sheryse when we landed and learned that the boat was late, so she still had no forms. Instead we all walked the entirety of the small island community and then landed back at Rosie's for a round of Kalik beer. We saw the boat arrive from Freeport and had just about finished our first round when Sheryse called back to say she was ready.
The docks at Rosie's marina, from the deck of the restaurant. Far too shallow for us to get in.
Martin and I shuffled off to check in, which was easy and painless if a bit lengthy. I can declare Walker Cay/Grand Cay to be cruiser-friendly for check-in. We now have a cruising permit good for six months.
We finished our visit up with an excellent meal of lobster and conch there at Rosie's. I had the lobster and it was some of the freshest I've ever had, in a generous portion. We did have a wet tender ride back after dark, as the wind had picked up a bit.
Today we got under way for the protected anchorage at Great Sale. We are expecting a very big storm to blow in tomorrow, with winds steady over 30 knots, and we want the protection afforded there. It does mean we'll likely be off-line for another couple of days, as I don't think BTC's signal reaches that far.