Black Point and the Best Laundry in the Caribbean

Who knew that I could ever be so excited about a laundry with a dinghy dock!  We arrived in Black Point and we had heard about Ida Patton and her laundry, which is rumoured to be the best in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  It certainly did not disappoint!  The facilities are spotless, the machines are well maintained, there is free wifi, you can get a cold drink and conch fritters, you can get a haircut, you can pay for a shower – oh, and did I mention the dinghy dock?  Three weeks without a laundry and I was a woman on a mission.  I loaded up with laptop and my heap of dirty washing and spent the afternoon updating the blog and feeding coins into machines.

In the course of chatting with Ida, she mentioned that the headmistress at the local school welcomed the boat kids as they came through.  On hearing this, both girls’ ears pricked up and they looked extremely hopeful.  Eleanor and I walked along to the school and popped our heads round the headmistress’ office.  Sure enough, she was more than happy to take our two in the following day.  Time to dig out some skirts and shoes!

On the basis that we wanted the kids to be presentable, we paid for showers at Ida’s. All was going well up to the point where the electricity on the island failed and the water pumps went off. I was soaped up and had just put conditioner on my hair. After a good amount of laughter from S, E and H, Stewart set off to find some water which he got from the bar. When he returned with a bucket of cold water, we found that E had allowed the door of the shower she had used to close, locking in all her and S’s shower kit in. A boost over a wall and some gymnastics from E later, we were back in and I got rinsed. Let’s just say we were glad to move on!

That evening at the Happy Hour in the bar we met the crew from the The Liberty Clipper, a 125-foot gaff rigged schooner that offers Bahamas sailing holidays.  Hannah, not being a shy sort, introduced herself to the skipper and then promptly asked if she could have a look around.  I think she was hoping to have a go at jumping off the bow as she had seen the guests leaping off the front the day before.  As they were setting off early the following day to head back to Nassau, an early visit was arranged.

With a fun-filled day ahead of them, the girls were up and ready early.  Unfortunately the weather was not as accommodating.  A westerly was happily blowing directly into the bay at Black Point (which directly faces the west) making for a very uncomfortable morning.  I only felt better when I saw the mast of a fellow boat (a monohull with a very shallow draft) swaying massively in the swell – at least we weren’t having the worst time.  Stewart and the girls headed off in the dinghy to see Liberty Clipper before their interesting ride to school and had a great time exploring the replica 19th century Chesapeake fishing boat. H and E both spent their time charming the paying guests on board. One of ladies, whose birthday it was that day, got a birthday cuddle and tearily demanding a photo with them. She was missing her grandkids.

Disembarking from the dinghy at the dock was certainly interesting with the swell but the girls were determined to get to school on time so Eleanor did the duty and steadied our little dinghy to allow Stewart and Hannah could get ashore.  I stayed on board while this was all happening and found myself having to lie down in the swell as it was so lumpy – it was not pleasant.   It was with great relief that Stewart came to collect me to take me ashore for a much quieter day on dry land.

From Black Point we sailed to Little Farmers’ Cay, where we stopped for a night.  Our trip ashore would have probably been a tad more pleasant had we not been accosted by the town’s wood carver, who was either many sheets to the wind or simply spaced out on other substances.  As we were enjoying our quiet exploratory walk into town, he must have heard us coming because he grabbed us as we passed to come into his little workshop at the back of his property.   The kids were good in the fact that they accepted his slight craziness and did as they were told (BLOW!) as they were instructed in ‘conch blowing’.  We slowly and politely made our exit and planned an alternative route back to the boat.

Little Farmers Cay is a really well maintained village with a lovely little harbour.  It has a small bar/restaurant, called Ocean Cabin, and shop with great internet access that is run by an interesting character, Terry Bain.  Stewart had a very in depth conversation with him about Scottish independence.  He put up a very strong and informed case as to why Scotland should be independent.  We were surprised to find such interest in this remote island several thousand miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic. It turned out one of his “early wives” was a Scottish girl and he maintained an interest in the country.

We headed back to the boat and prepared for the longer jump down to Georgetown the following day.

Big Major’s Spot – Home of the Swimming Pigs

We left Exuma Park with a short hop from Cambridge Cay, across the cut to the top of Compass Cay.  One of the recommended stops had been ‘Rachel’s Bubble Bath’ at the top of the Cay – I have no idea who Rachel is but we decided to drop the anchor and go and have a look.  A short walk took us to a rocky coastline where the sea came rushing in through a cut in the rocks.  The girls had a great time avoiding the waves and then climbing the surrounding rocks.  Yet another great opportunity to get them off the boat and tire them out with plenty of exercise.

From there we motored a couple of miles south and anchored for the night at Pipe Cay – again a recommended spot.  It was extremely sheltered and really scenic but we found that there was nowhere to take the dinghy ashore and there was absolutely no marine life, so nothing exciting to see whilst snorkelling.  What we did see was several empty beer bottles and an old ladder, and that is it.  As a result we decided to move onto Big Major’s Spot the following morning.

Having safely arrived and dropped anchor, I decided to take a look round the boat.  I was just about to call the girls out and tell them there was a very large ray by the boat, when I looked again and realised it was a shark!!  It was a nurse shark (which, I now know, is pretty safe) and about six feet long, who had a good nosey at our boat before swimming off.  With lots of other boats anchored in the bay and plenty of people in the water, I figured it was still safe for a swim so we all cooled off with a dip.  See how my confidence with marine life has grown?  I have never seen Hannah’s little legs kick so quickly when the shark made a surprise reappearance from under the hull just as she jumped in.

Up until now we had only seen one other boat with kids on in Nassau.  We kept being told that we would meet lots of boat kids on our travels but we were getting to the point where the girls were growing impatient.  Well, we had been anchored for less than an hour and we had visitors – the crew from Taia, that included nine year old Camila and six year old Matias, came to say hello.  The girls were so excited and we arranged to meet on the beach later.

Big Major’s Spot is famous for its swimming pigs so a visit here would not be complete without a trip ashore to see them.  We had been warned that they would try to get in your dinghy if they could smell food, so I wrapped up the sacrificial carrots extremely well.  I really didn’t fancy a punctured dinghy – or a pig as company for that matter!  The pigs were not shy and they knew what they wanted; once the food was gone, so was their interest in us.  Hannah thought the piglets were very sweet and spent the time following them around.  I just had to warn her to beware of protective mothers.  We would have stayed longer but the ‘no-see-ums’ were out in force and we were proving to be a very tasty dinner so we headed off to douse ourselves in Skin So Soft.

Further north from the pig beach, there is another beautiful beach, these days known as “Bill’s Beach”, that has been taken over by a group of Canadian regulars who spend their winters in the bay on their Hatteras motor cruisers.  Every year  for more than 20 years they bring down various items of garden furniture, BBQs and beach games.  They have also built benches and produced decorations out of driftwood and other flotsam and jetsam.  They are very welcoming to visitors so we headed across to meet the crew from Taia and enjoy a playdate/sundowner and great conversation with several other cruising crews.

The following morning we headed round the point at low tide to go snorkelling in ‘Thunderball Grotto’, which is yet another location from the film.  Apparently Sean Connery sits inside the grotto awaiting a helicopter rescue – we have yet to watch the film to see if we can spot the scene.  Myron and Dena from Holdfast, who we had met the previous evening, very kindly offered to help us with our ‘load’.  Yes, they had a big dinghy and a big engine (it’s all about the horsepower

), but we really appreciated the lift and got round to the grotto a lot quicker and a lot drier than otherwise would have been the case.  The snorkelling really was great!  Dena had brought some crackers to feed the fish with so they were immediately attracted by the food and we had so many of them around us, much to the girls’ excitement.  There was so much marine life and the water was really clear so we got some great photos, with Eleanor yelling the names of the fish through her snorkel – her hours pouring over the fish books have obviously not been in vain.  Eleanor and Stewart had great fun exiting the grotto several times through the three underwater holes.

We headed into Staniel Cay from there and bumped into our old friend Igor, who was anchored in close to the harbour for easy access with his rowing boat!  He seemed to be enjoying the buzz of the town and the marina after several weeks of solo sailing through the quiet Exuma Cays.  Staniel Cay really does cater to the mega yachts that pass through and we saw several crews clearing out the local shops of milk and fresh fruit and veg.  The marina does not have any shower facilities – we were certainly not checking in – but we enjoyed a cold beer in their very nice bar.

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park was created in 1958 as a land and marine protected zone.  The park covers an area of 176 square miles and is managed by the Bahamas National Trust, who are responsible for all 27 national parks in the Bahamas.  The park is 22 miles long and extends out approximately four miles on either side of the cays.  Its purpose is to provide a replenishment area for the wildlife native to the Bahamas and to educate the public.  Fishing is prohibited in the park and the penalty if caught is steep, with a $500 fine per person on the boat as a starter. The most severe punishment sees offenders having to leave the Bahamas within 48 hrs.

Our first stop in the park was towards the northern boundary at a park mooring off the west coast of Shroud Cay.  There were not many details on Shroud Cay in any of our charts or guides but it had been recommended to us as a beautiful destination so we decided to visit.  We were not disappointed – golden sand beaches and brilliant blue seas.  This is the Bahamas after all!  It was here that we had our first experience of the remora fish.  As I was throwing some lettuce cuttings over the side, I saw these sizeable fish come and try the lettuce out.  I have to admit to being pretty alarmed at first as we were still getting used to marine life around the boat, but we had great fun getting their attention by splashing the water.

The following day we headed ashore for a spot of snorkelling.  Unfortunately the only sign of the enormous ray that we had seen from the beach was the massive imprint it had left on the seabed.  Stewart and Eleanor swam off round the headland in the hope of tracking it down but had no joy. We then took the dinghy inland for a look at the mangroves before returning to the boat for our first batch of freshly baked bread.  I was a little dubious about the oven onboard but it did not disappoint and we are now very excited about the prospect of daily fresh bread.

From Shroud Cay we sailed to Warderick Wells, which is where the Park HQ is located.  We moored alongside our old friend, Igor, the Ukranian American we had met in Allen Cay and caught up on his progress.  The harbour at Warderick is stunning and there are a few trails across the islands so we decided to go and explore.  Boo Boo Hill is the highest point at a dizzying 60 ft above sea level – just as I was thinking about maybe, just possibly, breathing a little heavier, we reached the summit.  But what a view!  We had a full 360 on a clear day and could see for miles.  There is a bench at the top dedicated to one of the park wardens and we could have sat there for hours taking in the seascape.  I also managed to get 3G coverage for a very brief period if I stood in the right spot so we managed to at least get the odd weather forecast.  At the summit there is also a pile of pieces of driftwood which sailors have placed there with their boat names on – cue task for Stewart with his ship’s knife.

At Warderick we also bumped into a couple we had originally met when we had first arrived in Bimini.  Tony and Carna run a dive business in Cozumel in Mexico and Tony was kind enough to give the girls an excellent snorkelling lesson in exchange for some movies.  Tony was explaining that they were doing really well but didn’t want to expand their business as, at the number one spot on Trip Advisor, he thought it would take him further away from diving and the customer. It would also mean that he would not have the time to pursue his desire to get away and sail more. We decided to check out their reviews:

Scubatony Trip Advisor Review

It’s just about the best Trip Advisor review I’ve ever seen!

After five days at Warderick, we decided to continue South to Cambridge Cay where we again picked up a park mooring.  Stewart and Eleanor dived to check the anchor only to find us attached to a massive lump of concrete, which in turn was attached to a massive concrete ball.  I am not sure the size can be fully appreciated in the photo but it was HUGE.  Fortunately with the aforementioned concrete, came a little bit of sea life so we had a lovely time snorkelling and seeing that – including our first queen angel fish, much to the excitement of the girls.  We enjoyed a trip ashore and a scenic, windy walk along the ocean side of the island.

Exuma Park was absolutely beautiful and we did see plenty of marine life but we had been expecting a little more, bearing in mind it is a national park.  You need to know the good spots but we had a lovely time.

Allen’s and Leaf Cay. A Happy New Year!

We had an easy transit down from Nassau to Allen’s Cay, our first stop in the Exumas.  The more popular stop is the next island down, Highborne Cay, borne out by the number of really big stink boats passing us and heading for there.  The space between Allen’s and Leaf Cays, famous for its iguana is thankfully far too small and shallow for the big stinks.  We were able to park up alone in not a great deal of water on the sand bank between the channels with a bunch of monohulls around us.  We are finding considerable advantages of having a boat that only draws 3 ½ feet.

Peace.  So nice.  These Cays are all very low (no higher than 20 feet) but provide lovely shelter for the East winds we are expecting.  There is a little current (1 ½ knts at half tide) but there are lots of little bays for us to duck into and plenty to see.

We decided to spend New Year here.  On our first night here, we were very surprised to see a full blown fireworks display at Highbourne Cay.  Not sure if someone pressed the New Year display button two days early by mistake but it looked good!

We had the pleasant surprise of Ana and Augustin (our neighbours in Nassau Yacht Haven) arriving who parked up behind us.  Fresh coffee was offered and we did the return for them with a sundowner.  Rusty nails and Argentinian red wine don’t mix well but it was a lovely night.

It is interesting to hear others drive to push off sailing.  Ana and Augustin are both lawyers and although neither can go off full term due to work commitments, are intending to sail 3 months a year keeping the boat in the Caribbean.  They only started sailing 5 years ago but decided early that if they were to sail they wanted to do it properly.  They are on their second yacht, this one a 42 Benneteau Oceanis that they bought in Italy and shipped across, which they have done up nicely even with an office so that they can keep up with work back home.  They are going as far as the Dominican Republic this year and will leave the boat parked up until they return after the hurricane season of 2015, about November, to continue their way south.

New Year itself was quiet.  We made a few calls back home to family and friends with Lou’s new data allowance.  Thanks to the drunken crowd in Andover for letting us hear Big Ben with them– much appreciated.  Our own bells here didn’t include fireworks but we were just about awake!

We are really looking forward to this year. 2014 was a year of planning, packing up and a degree of panicking!  2015 should be so much more.

We wish you all a happy and successful New Year and hope to see one or two of you out here in the coming months to help us in our adventures.


To allow us to celebrate Xmas somewhere tied up and allow Ed and Flip to prepare for their trip home, we moved from Rose Island into the Nassau Yacht Haven, a journey of about an hour and a half.


After the picture perfect peaceful Rose Island to downtown capital city, Nassau was always going to struggle to meet my expectations and I’m afraid in the end there wasn’t really much competition.

These days Nassau has a population of about 250,000 and is split between two real areas.  One is the tourist destination of Paradise Island (no, really called that) filled by the Atlantis complex (again, really) which is 24hr eating, casinos, all the trimmings of the all inclusive perfection the international tourist requires/demands and the enormous houses of the stupidly rich each with its own sea front. Truly horrible.

The main town itself is across the bridge to the south of Paradise with the first shanty town build around the end and below said bridge.  The general instructions we got from our friends at Spanish Wells were to stick close to the marina at night and “take care”. Sadly we could see why.  There is money in Nassau but how much of it is in the hands of the general population I don’t know.  Not much it would seem.

The Yacht Haven itself was pretty well run and there were another five boats in, four other liveaboards, all but one waiting for family members to come in for Xmas.  It is perhaps appropriate to mention the demographic split of the other yachts.  They were three Canadian, one Argentinian (although flagged Italian “for ease”– go figure), one from Alaska wonderfully named Bipolar and registered at the North Pole and ourselves.  We have been surprised at the number of Canadian boats everywhere we have gone, certainly more of them than American.  Their reason for being down here is pretty much universal – “escaping the winter”.  Can’t blame them.

With Xmas a day away, the ladies ran around getting food stocks in, Lou and Flip managing to find the Nassau outlet of Waitrose all of 10 minutes walk from the Haven.  Brilliant… although probably not the cheapest option around.  The girls and Ed used and abused the endless fresh water supply (@$10 a day non optional charge) and washed and scrubbed pretty much everything they could on the boat and removed a lot of salt both in and outside Skylark.  Christmas Eve was spent wrapping presents and then we tucked down to wait for the appearance of Santa.

Thankfully he was kind!  The girls each got a new boogie board and a variety of new bikinis (all modelled excitedly) and the boys got enough chocolates and small things to tide them over before they had their “proper” Christmas on their return to Germany.  Christmas dinner involved Chicken Jerk and the late addition of huge slabs of Mahi Mahi (locally known as Dolphin) which were a present from one of the Canadian boats that had caught one coming in from the Berry Islands.  Fantasic!

The great event of the social calendar in the Bahamas is Junkanoo, a celebration with roots back to Africa where most Bahamians originate from.  Think Rio and carnival; the Bahamians have their own take on it!  It starts at 0001hrs on the 26th and runs through to midday, involving competing parades each trooping through the old town centre on Bay Street.  We decided we couldn’t miss it and so walked the mile and a half at two in the morning through an area all the good books say to avoid.  No hassles!  We stayed for a couple of the parade groups.  The first confused the girls (and us!) as it was a political group dressed up as Death, equipped with scythes, with signs demanding the reintroduction of the death penalty!  Bizarre!

Thankfully the next group round was what we had come to see. Great fun, great noise and wonderful costumes.

Having had a day back at Rose Island on Boxing Day, we had a day in the city centre of Nassau, firstly at the Pirate Museum which was excellent before wandering back along to towards the boat through the crowds of cattle from the FIVE cruise liners parked up in the harbour.  Didn’t really set the place up for us to see the authentic Nassau, more an offshoot of an expensive US mall.

We said our fond farewells to Ed, Flip and the boys on the evening of the 27th before their long trip home to Germany.  We loved having them and it was great to see the boys having seen them briefly once since they had returned from Oz.  A bit scary to think that the next time we see them Alexander will be the age Thomas is now.  Ah well – skype will be abused to let us see them on as regular a basis as the dodgy internet here allows us!

With the 27th being a holiday, we allowed ourselves the 28th with the shops open to restock in readiness for our time in the Exumas.

Ana and Augustin, the Argentinian couple and myself had the night with Billy from Bipolar, a regular in the Caribbean for many years, who kindly offered up his charts detailing his favourite anchorages, most of which were not shown.  The wind looks good for the next few days and we will aim for Allen’s Cay as our first stop.

We said our farewells to Nassau on our last night at the Poop Deck, a famous restaurant and bar, once upon a time a preferred hangout for sailors; these days pre-booked as one of the preferred eating places for the crowds off the cruise ships.  The cocktails did taste good though.

We set sail and left what should be our last visit to a major city for quite some time at 0830hrs on the 29th.

The Exumas await…………..