Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ghost resort

We are docked at the Emerald Bay Resort Marina, near Roker's Point Settlement on Great Exuma (map). "Resort" in this case is something of an overstatement, although that is not apparent from the glossy advertising photos. Nevertheless, this is the first dock at which we've tied up since we pumped out at Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach nearly two full months ago.

Vector looking lonely on the cheap docks.  There is actually a fairway between us and all the empty slips in the foreground.

We left Georgetown Harbor on Thursday, as we had hoped, and had a nice three-hour cruise here in moderate seas of about three feet. Bringing the anchor up after over three weeks in the same spot taught us a new lesson: vary the anchor scope by half the water depth every week or so. We had hard marine growth on the chain, but only for the length it hung in open water.

The part above water, of course, was fine, and the part that was on the bottom, dragging back and forth through the sand, was also fine. Next time we spend that much time in one place, we'll try to prevent the same length of chain from hanging in open water for longer than a week or so. Fortunately we had plenty of margin to take our time bringing the anchor up, and then dodging and weaving our way out of the harbor through the anchorage.

Drinks on the beach on our final evening in Georgetown.

Once out into the sound, we diverted to a point three miles offshore to empty our tanks, after learning that a pumpout at the marina would cost $25. The diversion only added eight tenths of a mile to our trip, which cost us only about $2, and macerating is easier than dealing with the pumpout anyway. It did mean we had to shut the watermaker down about an hour early.

The pumpout is not the only costly thing here. Water is $0.40 per gallon, and electricity is $0.85 per kWh. It costs us less than that to make our own water and power, so we opted for the docks where those services have never been installed, at an attractive rate of $0.55 per foot, with a three-night minimum. By contrast, the docks with water and power available run $2.48 per foot.

Even $0.55 per foot is more expensive than anchoring, which is free. But they have a free self-service laundry here, and we desperately needed to do laundry. We have our own machines aboard, but they are older units that are not water-efficient, and we have to run the generator for two hours per load. The four loads we ended up running here at the marina would have used at least 150 gallons of precious R/O water and translated to perhaps an extra eight hours or so of generator run time above our other needs.

A pair of fancy front-load washers and a pair of dryers. I think they got pot luck on the colors.

Between the $35-$40 savings on the laundry, and another $6 a day that we're saving on Internet access by using their included WiFi, and the few bucks it would otherwise cost us to get rid of our trash, the $90 it's costing us for three days here is not such a bad deal.

All of that being said, anyone falling prey to the glitzy advertising and actually expecting to find a resort here will be sorely disappointed. The dock map depicts a lavish resort, complete with swimming pools, restaurants, and other amenities, but, like the extravagant bridge I showed you in the last post that leads to nothing, here they have but one (admittedly high-end) building, which contains a front desk, a TV lounge, a billiard room (really!), and a "bar" that is not and has never been open for business. There is room for a C-store that has also never opened, and an outbuilding houses rest rooms, showers, the aforementioned laundry, and a recently opened exercise room.

The rest of the resort was never built. It's now owned by the nearby Sandals resort, but they are trying to sell the marina off. Staying at the marina provides no access to the Sandals amenities, although anyone can buy a day pass (subject to availability) for $160 per person. Kitty-corner between us and Sandals is another resort property, the Grand Isles.

Giant sign in the marina lobby advertising Sandals' day rates.

The arrested development is how we are able to stay for just 55 cents a foot on some of the nicest and most expensive docks in the Bahamas, concrete floating "Bellingham" docks, from the town of that name in Washington. For reasons that make sense only to bankrupt resort developers, they excavated the entire basin and filled it with nice docks before running out of money to install power, water, and sewer on most of them.

I'm pretty sure the reason the laundry is free is that all they could then afford were a handful of household washers and dryers; coin- or card-op models are expensive and take a long time to pay for themselves. The downside of a free laundry room for guests is that every employee here and possibly at Sandals too has figured out they can bring their laundry here (water and power, as noted, are very expensive in the Bahamas), and so even with the marina at less than 25% occupancy, we had to queue up for the four washers and dryers.

After we got tied up I lowered a bicycle to the dock so I could explore a bit, and found a pub about a half mile from our dock, between here and Sandals. It's in a modern-looking strip mall that also houses a duty-free liquor store and the now-defunct remains of the nicest grocery store on the island. I grilled chicken for dinner our first night here, but last night we walked to the pub, which was not bad and mostly full of Bahamian locals, many sporting Sandals name tags.

Martin and Steph arrived this afternoon, fueled up Blossom, and are now tied up in front of us in the cheap seats. The boat behind us, a sailing cat which is unoccupied, is coincidentally named Odyssey (for any newcomers, that is the name of the bus in which we lived before the boat, and for which the blog is named). Blossom will probably leave with us tomorrow, but paying $1.65 per foot, to meet the three-night minimum, is still cheaper than $2.48 a foot on the full-service docks.

Getting the package of chicken out of the freezer made just enough room for us to finally condense all the frozen foods down into the small freezer atop the fridge. We've been using the U-Line icemaker, with the ice unit turned off, as an auxiliary freezer since our last big provisioning run in Florida, and I estimate that this freezer alone has been adding nearly an hour of generator runtime per day.  It starts hard and works hard the whole time it runs. We cleaned it out and shut it down today, so our generator time should go down considerably.

As long as I am on the subject, we've long known that we average about two hours of generator time per day when anchored long-term. The extra freezer has pushed that closer to three hours, and we actually used 76 hours of generator time in 25 days in Georgetown, which included some extra hours for making water (something we normally try to do only when under way, where the power is cheaper).

In the temperate weather here over the last month, we've pretty much been running the gen only to charge the batteries, although we try to turn as many other things on as we can. It has given me cause to think about adding another battery charger. Under these conditions we can easily power a second 100-amp charger, in addition to the 110-amp charger built in to our inverter, and that would cut our generator runtime down by 40% or more.  I'll be keeping my eyes open for a 24-volt, 100-amp charger when we return to the US.

LED strip lighting in the taller part of the engine room. Now we can see the washer/dryer, stabilizer reservoir, fuel polisher, and other critical systems without having to fumble for a flashlight.

I did not get much done in the way of boat projects here, although I did manage to get the WiFi networking hardware working again.  I'm not sure what the problem was in Georgetown, maybe multipath interference, but I will be keeping an eye on it for a while. I did take some photos of the new lighting in the engine room (and vestibule), which Louise reported, after her under-way engine room checks, as "awesome."

Here's the new lighting in the lower-headroom area, almost too bright for the camera.  These light up the drivetrain, including the stuffing box and sump.

These small strips, glued to a galvanized drain pipe, light up the workshop.

Tonight will be our third night here and we will have met our minimum. With the laundry done, the trash off the boat, and all our backups and software updates done, we are ready to leave tomorrow and head back to the freedom of a lovely anchorage.  The next sensible stop north is Lee Stocking Island, another three hours or so from here, and tonight we sync'ed up with Blossom on where to anchor there. We ended up dining at the pub again; we had hoped to go with Steph and Martin to the nice poolside joint at the Grand Isles, but they are at full occupancy and are not taking outside guests for dinner.

Sunset this evening over the marina (at left), Emerald Bay, and Poor Betty Cay, taken from the 14th tee at Sandals' golf course.

Checkout time here is 11am, and I'll run over to the office to pay the bill before shoving off. Blossom will give us a head start, since they have no such deadline. That should put all of us at Adderly Cut on a rising, nearly high, tide, with plenty of water and daylight to hunt around for a good spot. There are no settlements there, but it is rumored that we should still have some cell service.


  1. Interesting what has happened to Emerald Bay. When I was last there Sandals was a Four Season Resort and you could use the facilities, pool and beach if staying at the marina. It was quite elegant. There was also a poolside restaurant at condos across from the marina. And the grocery store was one of the best in the Bahamas. The marina was rolly when there was a surge, but quite nice otherwise, including the laundry facilities. Sad.

  2. Thanks for your comment, John. I know things were different when it was the Four Seasons -- sorry we missed it. Clearly Sandals does not want the place and they are trying to liquidate it. There is still a poolside restaurant across the street, at the Grand Isles, but they will not take outside guests for dinner when they are at full occupancy, so we missed that, too. They would have been happy to serve us lunch, though, up to 5pm. The grocery shut down a few months ago, making the papers in Nassau and giving a boost to the two places further south, in Georgetown.

    Right now someone is developing a high-end community just north of the marina; they've cut through the granite to make protected waterfront lots there. Perhaps if that makes some headway the marina property will again become attractive to a developer and might return to its former glory. In the meantime, they are barely hanging on.


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