Saturday, March 14, 2020

Exclusive club

We are under way across the Tongue of the Ocean. There is 8,000' of water underneath us, and we are about half way to our destination of West Bay, New Providence. Seas are 3' on six seconds, making for a bumpy ride. We lost Internet coverage a short while ago, but I expect it to return within an hour.

Yesterday morning we awoke on the bank to just as much motion as when we turned in. We gulped down a cup of coffee and got under way; not the most comfortable ride, but a lot better with stabilizers than resting at anchor.

As we were returning obliquely to the sailing line, we saw a familiar boat approaching visually and on AIS. It was Salty Paws. a 28' Rosborough. We had met Bill and Molly at Mel's Riverdock in Hardin Illinois back in September. They were past us so fast I could not get even a distant photo, but we hailed them on the radio and had a brief chat before they passed out of range. At their speed they would finish crossing the bank and make it all the way to Lauderdale by day's end, and we passed along some of our anchorage knowledge.

The ride got a little bumpier as we crossed off the bank and into the deep water of the Northwest Channel. Lots of big sportfishers were out fishing "the pocket," known for big game fish. We gritted our teeth, and as 2:00 rolled around we had our anchorage at Chub Cay in sight. The anchorage is often tight, and so I peered at it through my binoculars.

Barefeet at anchor. I snapped this pic this morning, after the anchorage emptied out.

Somewhat to my surprise I spotted another familiar boat, the 47 Selene Barefeet belonging to good friends Chris and Erin. A quick check of the AIS confirmed what I thought I had seen with my eyes. We've been following their blog as they've cruised the Bahamas, and we were pretty certain we were going to miss them entirely, but just by a day or two. We were very happy to find them in the anchorage.

We arrived at the anchorage around 2:30 to find more than a half dozen boats crammed into the tight anchorage. Fortunately, we had sounded this anchorage on our first visit, and had no fewer than four previous anchor tracks on our plotter. We could see the best spot was still available, much closer to shore than anyone had yet ventured. We drove through the line of anchored boats like a linebacker through a line of scrimmage and dropped the hook in 7' in the calmest spot in the anchorage (map).

It would have been lovely to meet Erin and Chris ashore for cocktails and dinner at the nice restaurant there, but I'd heard that the Chub Cay Club had changed their policies since our last visit to essentially exclude any anchored cruisers from dining ashore. And this, after all, is the meaning of "exclusive," a word which has positive connotations for many, right up until they are on the business end of an exclusionary policy.

Since I am bound to come back to this post the next time through, to remind myself of what happened "last time," the new policy is that no one may land or disembark on the island unless they have purchased a marina slip. Those run $4.75 per foot with a 40' minimum. $190 to land a dinghy? No thanks. They will, however, sell you a day pass good for everyone on the boat, but you must leave the island by 5pm. The rate varies by date; yesterday's cost was $42.50 plus VAT.

The exclusive Chub Cay Club. A nice stop in years past, but now off-limits. Dinner would have been at least $200 so I guess they did us a favor.

Instead we made dinner aboard and had them over; they brought a home-made pizza for appetizers with cocktails, and Louise made a nice stew. We spent hours catching up and laughing. It turns out that they are having transmission problems, which delayed them enough that our paths crossed. They are leaving this evening for an overnight run all the way to Fort Lauderdale, where they hope to effect repairs.

We had left open the possibility of staying at Chub another day if there was some way I could help Chris with the issue. But after a couple of back-and-forth rounds of troubleshooting on the radio, we determined he needed a new heat exchanger and his best option was to nurse it along to FLL or run on his wing engine as needed until they were back in the US where parts could be obtained.

Once we made the determination this morning that there was little I could do without parts, we bid them farewell and weighed anchor. We're hoping to see them in their home port of Boston later this year.

As I wrap up typing we are about an hour away from New Providence. NP is home to Nassau, and Nassau is a major cruise port, so we are giving it a wide berth. We'll anchor for the night but remain aboard, and continue in the morning toward the Exumas. My laptop's keyboard gave up the ghost this morning, so I have this evening's project already cut out for me.


  1. Great post Sean. I noticed you left Bimini by going south. I have always travelled around the north end and then on to Chub Cay. I've never really thought about it. Is it shorter to exit Bimini to the south?

    1. We've done it both ways. It's very slightly shorter by the southerly route, by a bit less that two miles (it would be even shorter for boats of 5' or less draft, which can turn onto the bank sooner). However, depending on wind and sea conditions, it can be a more comfortable ride for the first couple of hours. It also keeps you in Internet coverage a bit longer. The down side is that some of that comfort is provided by a ridge east of Cat Cay that you must cross, and that ridge can be just a hair over 6' MLLW. We crossed at high tide so had no issues. At low tide I might have chosen the northern route.

      The route is known as "Lark's Two Fathom Bridge" (even though the bar crossing is more like one fathom) and is shown on the explorer charts. Coming the other way, it gives you the option of stopping for the night off Cat Cay instead of running all the way to Bimini. There is a semi-protected anchorage east of the cay, near the airport, with tender access to the club for dinner, and if that's too rough, there is an option around the west side, too. We've used both.

      I was sad to read on your blog last night that you must cut short your Bahamas plans, but I think it is a wise decision. We'll look forward to crossing paths again stateside some day.


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