Nassau to Norman’s Pond, The Bahamas

Nassau, New Providence Island,The Bahamas

Thursday – Friday, January 8 – 9, 2004

One of the Nassau traditions is the “Cruisers Luncheon” at Crocodiles, a harbor-side bar. Far be it from us to ignore something like that! We walked the mile or so to the bar with Major & Rose (Airborne) and arrived as the crowd of cruisers was assembling. It was pretty nice, with about 50 or so people in attendance. We talked, ate and listened to an appeal to join BASRA (Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue Association), a volunteer organization who performs rescue and other emergency services in The Bahamas. We were planning to make the contribution, anyway, and resolved to do so the next time we passed the office.

Returning to the boat, Bill worked on updating the web site, which is getting sadly behind (three weeks worth).

This morning, Airborne departed for the Exumas. Since we still have some chores to do, we’ll have to follow along later. We busied ourselves taking care of those chores including topping off the fuel tanks, walking downtown to join BSRA and to visit an internet café to post the updates to the web site. Sandy wandered through the duty-free shops, but nothing caught her fancy.

Then it was off to the grocery store to stock up one last time. After Nassau, there is really nothing like what we’re used to in the states. The stores in the Exumas are relatively tiny and get their supplies by boat perhaps once a week. So, this is the last chance to get many things at reasonable prices or to get some things at all! Of course, we ended up buying more food than planned, but all fit on board. Our fresh produce has been lasting two-three weeks since we are storing them in Ever-Fresh Bags, which are plastic green bags that absorb and remove damaging gases and reduce moisture build-up. They really do work! We plan to use them at home when we return. (They’re available at West Marine).

Nassau to Norman’s Pond, The Bahamas

Saturday, January 10, 2004

After topping off our water tanks (something else not easily obtained in the Bahamas), we departed Nassau at about 9:15. The weather was sunny and warm and the wind, light at first, turned into SW at 10-15 knots. What a change from the howling winds of the past few days! We shut off the engine and headed south across the Banks toward our first Exumas anchorage. Our hope had been to head to Allens Cay, a traditional first stop when heading south. However, the forecast was for 20 knot northerly winds for a couple of days, beginning on Monday, and the Allens Cay anchorage is not protected from winds in that direction. The alternatives were a marina at Highborne Cay or Norman’s Cay. We really didn’t want a marina. However, the anchorage at Normans is reputed to have some strong currents and we didn’t want that in combination with high winds for our first night out. Normans Cay also has a huge interior “pond” but the entrance is tricky and the chart indicated we’d have to enter at near high tide to clear the bars in the channel. So, we set a course for Highburn Cay, hoping we’d be able to reserve a slip when we got within VHF radio distance.

Meanwhile, the sailing was marvelous! We had a relaxing day, reading and tending the autopilot from time-to-time.

Drug Smugglers' Plane Wreck
Drug Smugglers’ Plane Wreck

A couple of times we called Airborne and finally, they answered. What was really cool was that they said they were anchored in Normans Pond and that they thought we’d be able to get in, too. We changed course and they agreed to meet us in their dinghy to help guide us in. We met a couple of hours later, in the main anchorage, and took them aboard and their dinghy in tow. Heading through the cut into the ocean and a couple of miles north, we entered the cut. That was the easy part. Inside are a series of sand bars and we ran aground about five times until we finally found the deepest section that let us slide inside at dead low tide. Whew!

Narrow Entrance to Norman Pond
Narrow Entrance to Norman Pond

We headed to the north section of the pond and dropped the hook, which grabbed immediately. A subsequent inspection with our “look bucket”, a gift from John & Bev Stehman, verified that the anchor was safely buried in clean sand.

Later, we dinghied over to Airborne for cocktails and to thank them for their help. We treated ourselves to New York strip steaks, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes. We were hungry!

Norman’s Pond, The Bahamas

Sunday, January 11 – Monday, January 12, 2004

We’d heard about the winds that can blow in The Bahamas and we’d even gotten a taste of them in Nassau. But, we were sure glad that we had a protected anchorage today. The wind blew. Like in excess of 40 knots in gusts! It lasted all day. There were scattered showers and temps were in the low 70’s. There was so much wind that it was never really comfortable on board. Sure, we read and had our meals, but there was no way we were interested in heading out to explore anything by dinghy … we’d have been soaked! We started the day with a great cheese omelet with homefries. Can’t beat that!

We were delighted to be in the “pond”. We heard, via VHF radio, that the south anchorage on Normans was rolly and, at least once, we heard that someone was dragging anchor. In the pond, we didn’t see any of the 15 other boats drag of have any other kind of difficulty.

Really, it was an OK “down” day. We just don’t need too many like that, even though we know we’ll see a few more. We spent the day reading (Sandy cleaned, too) and deciding what we wanted for dinner that night. Sandy went through her recipes and selected a Moroccan chicken dish complemented with cheesy grits (from a recipe she’d gotten from a restaurant we had eaten at in Wrightsville Beach). Both were delicious.

We decided to sleep in the main cabin, since the vee berth (in the bow) was a little “bouncy”. However, we awoke shortly after midnight and the winds had subsided enough that we figured the vee berth would be okay. It was.

The next day the winds abated somewhat and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Bill spent quite a bit of time putting waypoints in the GPS. We decided to dinghy ashore and walk some of the island (Normans Cay) with Rose and Major. We found a small beach with a path leading to the road that runs the length of the island, so we anchored the dinghies, waded ashore and set out on foot. First order of business was to locate the house that a friend, “bonefish” (calling name on VHF), of Major and Rose house-sits. We found the place, a medium sized, four-bedroom cottage on the northern beach. The view was spectacular. The owners and/or their friends only visit three or four times a year. The house sitters keep the place up in return for free rent and a small salary. There’s a small restaurant on the south side of the anchorage called MacDuffs, but it was closed the days were there. Hope to catch it on our return.

Rose & Major of Airborne on Norman's Island
Rose & Major of Airborne on Norman’s Island

From there, we walked to the beaches of South Table Bay, just north of the entrance to the Pond. The beaches were small but beautiful. We saw a couple of young children playing on the beach and soon located their parents, Janet & Mark (Top Cat) who were also anchored in the Pond. One beach has a nice grove of casuarinas (an evergreen tree). It sure was pretty against the white sand.

We enjoyed a nice visit on board Airborne before retiring for the night.