We arrived at Rum Cay at 11:30 A.M. Tuesday and departed the next morning for Long Island, 26 miles to the west. The wind was blowing around 15 to 18 knots and we had a lovely, relaxing broad reach sail scooting along at better than 6 knots. Our destination that evening was Calabash Bay, on the west side of Long Island, near the northern tip. A strong easterly wind was forecast for Thursday and the charts made this anchorage look very protected from swell and wind waves, plus it had the same name as the family boat that GG sailed on as a child. Charts can be deceiving, it was very rolly, but at least we did not have big waves as all day Thursday the winds blew at 22 to 28 knots. Friday the wind had moderated and we sailed a further 21 miles to the southwest and arrived at Great Exuma. We anchored in front of Georgetown, ate some lunch and then GG went ashore to check us in; 8 days since we departed Cuba we were officially in another country.
Unlike many of the other countries we have visited the Bahamas has a fee for cruising: US$150.00 for boats less than 35 feet, US$300.00 for boats over 35 feet. Curare is a 36 foot boat but our registration papers give Curare's length as 9.51m (31 feet 2 inches) so we paid the lesser amount. The length discrepancy is due to Transport Canada measuring from the bow to the rudder post, not length overall, we like it as this has saved us money in the past.
The Exumas are a long chain of Islands and Cays in the central Bahamas with the deep Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the shallow Bahama bank on the west. This is a popular cruiser destination and the Georgetown area anchorage was crowded with lots and lots of Canadian flagged vessels, the most we have seen in one place. We elected to anchor close to the town so that we could easily get to shore, but the majority of boats were anchored about 0.8 miles to the east on the west side of Stocking Island. Each morning at 8:00 A.M. there is a VHF cruiser information net - the last time we heard one of these was in Trinidad. Activities are planned, events are organized, information is shared, and it seems that some of the participants have been here a very long time. As the new neighbor we did not say very much, we just announced our arrival in case any of the boats we had met in Cuba had arrived here as well (they had not).
We stayed three days in Georgetown and had a great view of several Bahamian sloops practicing their maneuvers for the Family Island Regatta. On Monday morning two coastal freighters arrived with many more sloops lashed to their decks. The races started on Wednesday and we were tempted to stay but the clear waters of the Bahamas beckoned us so we hauled the anchor early Tuesday morning and sailed 55 miles north in the Atlantic ocean.
All of the Exuma anchorages are on the west side of the Cays, on the shallow protected bank, so boats have to leave the Atlantic and get inside through a cut. We had intended to go through Farmers Cay cut but we arrived at full ebb with strong wind over current and very rough entrance conditions. The crew looked at each other with wide staring eyes and without any debate we decided to continue north. By the time we arrived at Dotham Cut the tide had turned, the water in the cut was smooth, and we had a 3 knot positive current.
We are now anchored in front of the small settlement of Black Point (24deg 06.31min: 076deg 24.40min) and have two pet sharks hanging around our keel. We'll stay here for a few days doing minor maintenance and then head north making day stops in these beautiful islands.