Mis-Adventures of Spindrift - Nassau to Norman
Trip Start Mar 09, 2009
49Trip End May 26, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
At 9:30AM we took on 23 gallons of fuel and headed out to Norman Cay 34 miles from Porgee Rocks. We last took on fuel in Key Biscayne so used 23 gallons so far, a dah!
As we left the marina in Nassau several of the boaters yelled "See you in the Exumas". We know of three boats coming down, eventually. One thing I've noticed, when we come into port, I tend to homestead, and it's hard to leave!
Norman Cay is just north of the Exuma Cay Island and Sea Park which is wonderful, we hear.
We had south winds 5kts and clear skies. Not great for sailing since it's on the nose, but great for visibility on the water. We are traveling down the Great Bahama Bank and it's a far cry from the trip from Bimini to The Tongue. Which is a good thing because we have to cross the Yellow Banks which is shallow water - down from 20' to 9' - and over coral heads. We didn't want to arrive on the Yellow Bank before 11AM because the sun needed to be behind us for better visibility.
At 11:30 AM we approached the Yellow Banks. I got the headsets and went forward to the bow to call out the heads for Dave to steer around. We didn't expect to have any problems but wanted to be sure. Since it's impossible to tell how far down the coral heads are, I could only steer us away from the "big black patches" as recommended by fellow travelers. We came through just fine and after about 30 minutes we were back in 20' of water.
I sat on the side of the boat looking down at the water and was mesmerized. The color is that of a crystal emerald, but I'm not even sure that describes it. The color is non-reproducible - only God makes these kinds of colors.
There is a poem the Bahamians have on a postage stamp and it is written about the Exumas:
Isles where Columbus first unfurled
The Spanish flag in the Western World
Isles where the pirates once held sway,
And scuttled ships off many a cay
Isles of summer and endless June
Velvet nights and a golden moon
Waters of turquoise and lazuli,
Whitest of beaches and sapphire sea
Isles of romance, story and song
Of gallant deeds and bitter wrong.
The Exumas history includes Lucayans and Arawaks, Privateers, Buccaneers and Pirates, Loyalists (Torys) migrating from NY/NJ area after the U.S.Revolutionary War, Blockade runners during the US Civil War, prohibition and rum running, and drug smuggling and tourism. The economy of the Exumas has been up and down throughout the history. The sea is once again bringing a share of wealth with the cruisers and developers.
It would seem this log is more about the mis-adventures of S/V Spindrift as opposed to Bahamas Bound! Unless we're tied up in a slip, we seem to find our way into difficult situations.
At this particular moment, 8:45 PM, we are hard aground inside the channel cut of The Pond on Norman. Now, The Pond is a well protected anchorage, actually a hurricane hole, and we thought it would be a good place to wait out the impending front. However, it's tricky getting in....obviously!
The Pond Entrance:
To better appreciate how to get into here - or not - is to enter from Exuma Sound (ocean side). According to Steve Pavlidis ' crusing guide - "The entrance is tricky...most people do not attempt to enter the pond because they heard it is extremely difficult and that many people run aground in the attempt." Right so far! Your approach is from Exuma Sound to the small rocks leading to the entrance - once inside to starboard is a privately maintained range - large white pole and shorter one in front - it became clear where that was once we were aground, Line up the range (4' at low tide) and parallel shoreline in 8' water. There is very shallow dark water on port (that's where we're spending the first night). However, it goes on to say that the pond is an excellent spot to ride out frontal passages . It's actually one of the three hurricane holes in the Exumas. It also said that hammerhead sharks frequent the pond - so I guess we'll be swimming close to the boat!
We arrived around 5:00 with the sun low in the sky - so visibility want squinty. Reading from Pavlidis' guide, we looked for the first landmark which was two canons pointing at each other -the water between the two rocks is the channel into The Pond. Trying to find the canons was a feat!
Once inside, we were to line up the two range markers on starboard , making sure we don't cross the dark patch on port. Well......I was on the bow trying to identify the range markers - I could barely make them out and was directing Dave when over the dark patch on port we go. We stopped so gently that Dave didn't realize we weren't moving any more.
It was about 5:30PM. We spent the next 90 minutes trying to kedge off the sandbar. We were about 3' from deeper water - being 8'. Dave took the dinghy and took our Bruce (my new boyfriend) into deeper water and dropped the anchor and chain. We then wrapped the line around the windlass but could not get the boat to budge. At sunset we decided we weren't going anyplace soon.
Right now we have all the sea cocks closed and are stowing all items because if we roll at low tide which is 11PM we'll be at about 30-45 degrees. Oh joy! Dave actually wants us to roll so that it might assist us in getting off.
While we're here, here's a brief history of Norman:
During the 1970's and 80's the center of all drug smuggling activity in the Exumas was in Norman Cay. A Columbian, Carlos Lehder came down and bought up Norman and Wax Cay putting lots of money into the island for a staging ground for his smuggling operation. Various folks such as Fidel Castro, Manuel Noriega, Robert Vesco (who was a fugitive of the US and living just south of Norman Cay on Cistern Cay) were involved in this operation. The Bahamian government was quiet on the issue, capturing and releasing Lehder. The US DEA began choking off his cash by arresting pilots and confiscating shipments. By 1983 Lehder had left Norman and his men ransacked the villas on the cay. A new plane destined to smuggle cocaine for Lehder crashed into the shallow waters and now rests in the anchorage. That and the bullet holed buildings are all the remain of Lehder's drug smuggling operation.
So, now you know about Norman. Hopefully we'll actually get to see the airplane and do some exploring. There are caves to explore and snorkeling to do although the hammerhead shark seems to like The Pond.
So, I'm on tide-watch right now - Dave's sleeping. I'm sure we won't be getting a lot of rest tonight. Hopefully tomorrow will bring help and a brighter day.
Despite our present circumstances, it is beautiful here. Life is good!
Where I stayed
N24 37.217 W076 48.479