We arrived at Thompson Bay on the west shore of Long Island just after 10 pm on Monday, March 29th, following an exciting 85 mile, 15 hour sail from Buena Vista Cay in the southern Jumentos. The winds were blowing pretty hard from just east of south, pretty much the only direction with no protection in Thompson Bay. The forecast was for the winds to clock southwest then west and northwest by morning, but we had a pretty bumpy few hours until around 4 am when the bay settled right down. Picking anchorages is an important part of life aboard, but in this case in order to take advantage of a great sailing window we had to put up with a few uncomfortable hours at anchor.
We were one of around 40 boats in the Thompson Bay anchorage. It's not fair to call this another George Town in terms of popularity with cruisers, but it is pretty close. There is a morning net, conducted by the proprietors of the Long Island Breeze, a small resort that caters to the needs of cruisers by providing free internet, a nice restaurant with reasonably priced, good food, laundry facilities, a fresh water pool and lots of good local area information. We have previously enjoyed stays in Thompson Bay, made more comfortable by the friendly folks at Long Island Breeze.
One of Nancy's highlights was beachcombing one day with Marc & Angie from Side by Side - she found a Mary's Bean, a seabean with a cross in it that is an extremely rare find. Seabeans are seeds of tropical rainforest trees that fall into the ocean and are carried by currents until they wash up on windward shore beaches. Large sea hearts are fairly common, with hamburger beans less common and sea purses even more rare. The Mary's Bean, however, is extremely rare, and Nancy was quite excited with her find.
Later in the week, our good friends on Tauá arrived with Asolare, another kid boat that we had met briefly last year but hadn't gotten to know well. Together with the two girls on Las Sirenas, there were at least 8 kids in the anchorage, so Josh and Chris were pretty happy to have so many friends to hang out with.
We attended services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday at St. Joseph's Anglican Church. There were quite a few locals we recognized in church, including the owners of the local grocery store, the local fuel station, the auto repair/rental shop, and more. It feels good to us to have spent enough time here that we have gotten to know some of the locals.
On the Saturday before Easter, Nancy, Chris and Josh joined Side by Side and volunteered to help a group of Bahamians on a beach cleanup project. Early in the morning they hiked to the main road (Queen's Highway), where they were met by Craig in his big pickup. After everyone piled into the bed, they raced about 25 miles north to Newton Cay right near the Columbus Monument at Cape Santa Maria. A few hours later, they had picked up more than 25 big bags of plastic and other beach trash and raked piles and piles of seaweed, all to be burned while folks grilled pork chops and hot dogs. Nancy found a few hamburger beans and sea purses during the cleanup, and the kids had a great time.
On Easter Sunday we were up early for a sunrise service at 7 am, followed by a cruisers egg coloring event on the beach in the early afternoon. After making beautiful Easter eggs, the adults hid plastic eggs filled with candy and other loot in the forest and on the beach for a traditional Easter egg hunt. We also enjoyed a new traditional game - egg cracking! Each person selected one real boiled egg, then went around smacking eggs with others - when your egg cracked on both ends, you were out, and the winner was the one with the last uncracked egg. Colby, a 12 year old boy on Asolare, won the contest, but all had fun. Later in the afternoon we all met again on the beach for a cruiser's Easter potluck. Forty-four cruisers attended, bringing a table full of wonderful dishes to share. Even the no-see-ums came out to the feast, enjoying a little snack nibbling on our legs and feet while we visited with each other. No-see-ums are even worse than mosquitoes, because you can't see um to smack um, and they don't hurt that much when they bite. However, their bites are much worse than mosquito bites after a couple of days.
Another day at Thompson Bay we explored a big cave that was a very short walk from the beach. The cave was pretty long, with three chambers. The first had the entrance plus many holes in the ceiling where sunlight streamed in and tree roots grew down to the cave floor. The second chamber was quite dark, with stalactites and stalagmites, a few bats, and a couple of big land crabs. After passing through a fairly narrow passage, the third cavern opened up. It was extremely dark (think "everyone turn out your flashlights and wiggle your fingers in front of your eyes" dark), and filled with many bats that spooked easily and flew around. Nancy and Dave made it back to the first, lighted cavern pretty quickly, but Josh and Chris stayed quite a while exploring the caverns with Peter and Claudia from Tauá. According to the local who lives right next to the cave, there are five species of bats in the cave, and we could hear the little babies squeaking as we walked around.
On Easter Monday, a holiday in the Bahamas, there was a mini-regatta with four of the Long Island "C" class sloops sailing a couple of races, followed by loud music, food and dancing on shore in the evening. This is one of the social events of the season, and many Long Islanders were in attendance. We spent time visiting with local friends from church and fishermen as well as cruising friends.
On Tuesday, April 6th, we said goodbye to Thompson Bay, Salt Pond and the Long Island Breeze and made an arduous 7 mile, 95 minute passage to Morris' Bay. We sailed the entire way, with a wonderful breeze. The anchor was down by 3 pm, in time to enjoy a long hike on the very long, beautiful beach. Side by Side showed up a little after we did, and the four kids built little ponds in the sand to catch tiny fish swimming right near shore. The wind picked up to blow pretty hard, around 25 knots, and even though the bay is quite large it gets very shallow quite far from shore so we had to anchor quite a ways out. Still, it was not uncomfortable, and we spent a second night here after our good friends from Tauá arrived on Wednesday. Another kid boat that Tauá knew, Passages, arrived late in the afternoon and joined us on the beach as well.
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to Tauá, raised the anchor at 10 am, and sailed 19 miles in just under four hours to the very tip of Long Island, Cape Santa Maria, where we anchored in an absolutely lovely bay next to Side by Side (who had sailed up a half an hour before we did). Our plan was to sail to Conception Island, following several other boats and joining a veritable fleet anchored there. Our friends on Asolare, Las Sirenas and SolMate did sail to Conception on Thursday, but the wind was blowing a little strong for us, and the forecast was for it to continue to lay down Thursday night. Side by Side had told us that exploring Cape Santa Maria was beautiful, so that's what we did.
Buena Vista Cay to Thompson Bay, Long Island (3/29/10)
85.5 nm, 15 hrs, engine 4.0 hrs, avg spd 5.7 kts
Salt Pond to Morris' Bay (4/6/10)
7.07 nm, 1 hr 43 mins, engine .6 hrs, avg spd 4.1 kts
Morris' Bay to Cape Santa Maria (4/8/10)
19.1 nm, 4 hrs 59 mins, engine .5 hrs, avg spd 3.82 kts, total distance to date 9108 nm
We had decided to head for Long Island for several reasons, including the opportunity to worship with locals and cruising friends at St. Joseph's Anglican Church, where we had worshiped during previous stays in Thompson Bay. With our recent engine troubles (the heat exchanger leak that we had fixed), we were concerned about heading to the much more remote Acklins/Crooked Island chain. During our stay we enjoyed getting together with many cruising friends, including at a beach happy hour on our first evening in the harbour and a Bahamian dinner buffet prepared by
Tryphena at the Club Thompson Bay.
Liberty at anchor in Thompson Bay
Marshmallow roasts are a favorite part of a potluck
Alana, Chris, Josh, Haley & Kirsten:
cruising friends enjoying dinner at Tryphena's
Josh gets drinking water from the well on the path to Tryphena's
Sea Hearts, Hamburger Beans, Sea Purses and a Mary's Bean
Chris gets pulled
behind a dinghy on a kneeboard by his friends
St. Joseph's Anglican Church, Thompson Bay
Sabrina, Claudia, Parker, Chris & Josh after Easter Sunrise Service
We rode in the bed of Craig's pickup to the clean-up site
Bags and bags of plastic trash
View from the beach at Newton's Cay
We raked a lot of seaweed
Chris helps light the seaweed piles on fire
After all that work - time to play!
Grilling pork chops on the firepit
A lot of kids (and adults too) turned out for Easter Egg coloring on the beach
Chris & Alana participate in "Egg Cracking"
Waiting for the Easter Egg Hunt to begin
We enjoyed a wonderful potluck Easter Dinner on the beach with our cruising friends
C Class boats lined up for an anchor start
Beerly Legal tries to catch It I'nt Right
The Bahamian Sloops are beautiful to watch
Sunlight & roots come through the hole in the first chamber
Chris & Josh explore the cave
Five species of bats live in the cave
This large crab lives under a rock in the cave
Chris looks for bats in the third chamber
This larger crab was walking around the cave
Chris, Josh, Claudia, Sabrina & Parker on the beach at Morris' Bay
Peter, Monika & Claudia on s/v Tauá