The Bahamas can be roughly divided into 3 vertical sections. Using the nomenclature of the Explorer charts those are the “Near Bahamas” on the left including Abacos, Bimini, Nassau, and Andros, the “Central Bahamas” including the Exumas, Jamentos and the Raggeds, and the “Far Bahamas” including San Salvador, Cat, Long, Conception and Eleuthera Islands on the right hand side.
Since we had come south with Jodi’s mom down the Exuma’s chain, we wanted to go back north on the Eastern “Far Bahamas” route.
Any way I look at it, crossing 8000 feet deep ocean is kind of a big deal, and that is the water depth between the Exuma’s and the Far Islands. The east coast of San Salvador drops to 16000 feet, or over 3 MILES deep. Although we missed San Salvador this year, it is the historic landing site of Christopher Columbus in “The New World” in 1492. In fact there are no less than 4 stone markers that each mark the EXACT first landing site of the the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Cool huh.
Since we had sailed to Long Island and Conception Island during our travels with “the Great White Fleet”, heading north to Cat Island wasn’t too daunting of a task. A simple one day sail from Georgetown north across the Tartar Bank to Hawks Nest Point.
The color change as the water shoaled up from 5000 to 18 feet was absolutely remarkable. We scooted across the the huge bay and dropped the hook in New Bight.
Neat little town that also claims the highest point in the entire Bahamas – Mount. Alvernia at 206 feet above sea level. In 1939 a Jesuit monk create a 3/4 scale monastery on the top of the “mountain” named The Hermitage.
I absolutely marveled at the amount of work done to create this little tribute, and the work done since to maintain it. And all this at then end of an isolated little dirt road in the middle of “nowhere.” A day here and it was time to roll on.
Fernandez Bay Resort is at least one of the prettiest little horse shoe beaches we have seen. The Resort has about 10 cabins, is very nicely done, and the harbor is “protected” by a pair of little islands and a fist full of coral heads. We met a couple from New Hampshire that were here for their 40th anniversary, and as such things work out Jodi invited them to the boat and to go snorkeling.
The girls dove on a couple of corals, and then we took the dink up Fernandez Creek looking for turtles. I think we may have made their day, as much as they made ours.
Jodi found a spot on the chart labeled “Bat Cave” about 1/2 way up the Cat Island west coast. The anchorage was VERY exposed, but how do you say no to a REAL bat cave. We dropped the hook again and patiently waited for morning to go exploring. Alas, morning showed a rocky and very turbulent shore line and no place to land our dink. A weather front was moving in and the wind was going to be coming from the west.. and we were without any cover so we ran north to Bennett’s Settlement.
Bennett’s has a very small harbor, and it looked too small and too shallow for us, so we ended up anchored just south around a point of rock sticking straight out into the banks. We shared this spot with 2 other boats for two nights while the front passed through and rocked and rolled us all night without mercy. Town was a mile dinghy ride. With the wind blown waves it didn’t look like much fun, but we needed to get off the boat. Then I saw something on the chart that looked like a river or creek that went from the end of the rocky point back through the mangroves and came out in town. If this was really true, we could head down wind out around the point, ride the river down to town, and then head down wind from town back to the boat. IT WORKED. Not only did it work, it was a FABULOUS adventure, with hundreds of sea turtles, sharks and rays in the creek. We made the trip “into town” several times…even when we never got out of the boat on the town side. Make sure to see the Eagle Ray video, its very cool!
Our last stop on Cat Island was at the Orange Creek Settlement, the last protected anchorage on the north end of the island. Every place we stop is getting to be better than the place before. Here we found Darian and his mom running the Orange Creek Inn. Wonderful folks, and probably the nicest, cleanest and best run Inn/Store we have seen to date. We rented a couple of bikes from them and rode across the island to the windward side to do some shelling. Remember where I said the highest point on the island was 206′? Well our little 3.9 mile “trail ride” must have climbed to 500′ several times. The “road” was cut and blasted out of the limestone and in many spots was almost too rough to climb, let alone ride. But we made it, walked a couple miles on the beach and succeeded in finding our very first “Sea Beans” – 3 “hamburgers” and 3 “seaheart.”