We knew that Rum Cay anchorage wasn’t going to be the best. Comments on Active Captain suggested it was going to be uncomfortable. The reefs, rocks and shallows make it impossible to get close enough to the island to gain shelter from the wind.
And the wind, previously eluding us, made an untimely appearance just before we arrived at Rum Cay. We anchored in three metres of water in sand about 300 metres away from the beach. And we rolled all night. Fortunately, it wasn’t the nausea-inducing pendulum-like rolling we have previously experienced. But to get any sleep, we had to prop ourselves in place with pillows.
The next day we were up at 0630 to prepare Lady Jane to continue south. After motoring clear of the coral heads and out of the anchorage, we set the genoa for an easy downwind sail all the way to Crooked Island. This worked well, at first. But after a few hours in confused seas, with our speed slowing, it became clear we weren’t going to make the anchorage before nightfall. So, we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Pittstown. Fortunately, this wasn’t too bad an anchorage. At least we didn’t need to pad ourselves with pillows to get to sleep. Probably because we were knackered.
With some relief, we didn’t need to drag our carcasses out of bed at such an early hour to get to our next destination. Jamaica Bay is only 40 miles from Pittstown. And getting under sail in flat seas at 0800 got us to Jamaica Bay anchorage at a leisurely 1500.
The weather threatened us with a beating if we continued south the next day, so we cowered in Jamaica Bay for an extra day. Besides, the anchorage was comfortable (although one of the least picturesque). And there’s always boat jobs to do. This time we installed a new hinge on the anchor locker door to stop its contents spilling out, and reorganised the storage.
How’s that for an anagram?
Our original plan was to sail from Acklins to Hogsty Reef (a horseshoe-shaped geological oddity) about halfway to Inagua Island. Getting underway at 0700, however, it became clear very quickly that the combination of wind and sea state would make anchoring in the reef uncomfortable at best. And the wind angle would have meant a heavy slog to windward. So we bore away and sailed all the way to our final destination in the Bahamas: Matthew Town on Great Inagua Island.
With Lady Jane’s speed averaging 7.5 knots, thirteen hours later, we dropped our anchor just south of the government dock in what the chart suggested was clear sand. We couldn’t see what it was – it was pitch black. But, the great thing about this anchorage is that it is free from rocks and coral. So it’s fairly safe to arrive at night (although we did switch the radar on before getting close to land and I checked two different charts and Google Maps).
The next morning we looked over the side to see what was beneath us: nothing but clear water and sand. Not a rock in sight. And it was less than five minutes to the dinghy dock in the newly built government harbour. So, we had scored a good hit – except for the rolling. Walking around the boat without holding onto something was impossible. Forget Alton Towers. If you want bruises, come to Matthew Town. Fortunately, most of the time it isn’t too bad, just a gentle side-to-side motion. But when the swell really kicks in, that’s when the fun starts. I guess that the anchorage is better if there is a lot of wind. But we will never know.
Matthew Town is a great place to clear out. It’s also a great place to check the state of your antifouling. When we got in the dinghy to head off to Customs and Immigration to clear out of the Bahamas, Lady Jane was rolling so much we could see underneath the waterline almost to the keel. The little harbour here, however, is very smart. It’s home to the police and the defence force, and a few local boats too. I believe it’s possible to dock here, but the slips are far too high for us.
We tied our dinghy near to one of the ladders and climbed up to be greeted by the smell of freshly sawn wood – evidence of its newness – and countered that with the smell of our newly bagged garbage. After standing around for a while looking gormless, we walked towards the roadside with our bag of rubbish. It wasn’t obvious where to take it until Maria asked a local guy, who pointed toward a building. Then, as we walked towards the building, a man came towards us and offered to take the bag.
That wasn’t the first act of generosity we experienced.
As we walked in the general direction of the Customs and Immigration building, a man pulled up in his pickup truck offering us a lift. Patrick is building a retirement house here to escape the cold of his native Alaska. He also happened to be heading to the Customs building, to collect some timber. And he said he would wait for us to take us back. Nice.
Customs and Immigration
Customs was relaxed and friendly. We walked into the air-conditioned comfort of their office, told them that we wanted to cleat out, and five minutes later we were back outside in the heat with departure papers. And because there was no-one at the immigration office, the officer said that he would hand the documents to them for us.
Patrick was still loading his lumber, so we took the opportunity to load up on essential supplies at the wine shop next to the Customs office. When we came out, Patrick and his truck were waiting for us. After we got in the back, Maria asked if he knew of a shop where we could get some groceries. Not only did he know, but he also took us to the shop and said that he would return in twenty minutes to pick us up. So, we left most of our things in his truck and went shopping. The mini-market here is very good. And the prices are less than might be expected. The prices at the wine shop and this little grocer are a lot less than Georgetown.
We waited just outside the shop for Patrick to return. Before he did, we had another offer of a lift from a woman driving by. We know from other islands that it’s always possible to get a ride in the direction you want to go. But this is the first time we have seen this level of helpfulness. It’s brilliant. Patrick came along a few minutes later and took us back to the government dock. We asked him how he came to choose this place. He told us that he worked here in his twenties searching for shipwrecks, has returned here over many years and has cultivated many friendships.
Another factor is that the costs are also lower than other islands and it positively isn’t overrun by tourists. The main tourist activity here is bird watching. So unless you are a twitcher, or you like to look at salt flats, the more northern islands might appeal more.
Earlier this evening, a definitely non-touristy Haitian vessel came into the anchorage. We could hear their voices long before they arrived over the rumble of their rattly old engine that ran throughout the night (I’m not sure it would start again if they switched it off). My guess is that they are part of a construction team working on the harbour. But whatever they were, we’ll be leaving them at 0700 on Tuesday 15th January.
That brings us up to date. Our next destination is Santiago de Cuba on Cuba’s south coast.