19 June 2015

The Bahamas Sure Ain't New Zealand | Mangrove Cay & Great Sale Cay

I almost hate to say this, but I was a tad bit disappointed when I saw my first Bahamian island. How can I put this delicately...it was flat. So flat, you might not have even noticed it if you weren't looking for it. I don't even have a picture to share with you, that's how uninspiring it was. Usually, I'm all like, "Scott, Scott! Take a picture of this! Make sure you get a picture of our anchorage!" This time, I said nothing and Scott never reached for his camera. 

Maybe it was because we were tired from our Gulf Stream crossing, but when I saw our first Bahamian anchorage all I could think of was dropping the hook and having a beer. I didn't even think about taking a moment to stop and stare at all of the splendid beauty and scenic landscapes around me - because there wasn't any. At least to this untrained eye.

I think it all comes down to expectations. My only real sailing and cruising experience is in New Zealand. Do you like dramatic scenery? Then New Zealand is the place for you. I think there's a reason they make all those Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies there. It's drop dead gorgeous. The Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands are chock full of volcanic islands, rugged cliffs and stunning anchorages. It looks something like this.

Great Barrier Island, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
Okay, maybe that's a bit unfair to compare New Zealand to the Bahamas. But I do remember thinking - really, there's got to be more to the Bahamas than this. (Don't worry, we later did discover the unique charms of the islands and its people.) 

Our first stop after the crossing was Mangrove Cay. Although we don't have a picture of the anchorage, you can get a glimpse of its flatness in the picture below. Not quite what I was expecting, but I was glad to see it as we were shattered by this point.

Putting the sails up on our way from Mangrove Cay to Great Sale Cay

So, how did we find ourselves at what I now affectionately call Pancake Cay? Once we passed Memory Rock, we found ourselves in the Little Bahama Bank, which is a shallow sea around 85 nautical miles wide and 35 nautical miles long. After crossing the deep waters of the Gulf Stream, it was amazing to look out at miles and miles of nothing but water so clear and so shallow you can see the bottom. It's at this point, I really start to pay attention to our depth sounder! I know everyone grounds their boat sooner or later, I would just rather it be later.

We motored for hours across the Little Bahama Bank, surrounded by nothingness, until we came across Mangrove Cay. It's a tiny little island. Basically, just a rest stop while you're on your way to someplace else. Kind of like Walmart is for RVers. Except, in this case, no one lives on Mangrove Cay so you can't pop out for some milk and bread. I don't think anyone really lands on it, unless they have a dog. 

We stayed on our boat the entire time because (a) we don't have a dog; (b) it didn't look that interesting; (c) we were tired and possibly a bit cranky and (d) we were under quarantine

"Quarantine? What are you talking about? What horrible disease do you have?" This is what you might be asking yourself if you're not a cruiser. Once you cross into another country's territorial waters, you have to hoist up a yellow flag, also known as a Q flag. You're basically like a social pariah who has to be quarantined until you clear into the country. While you're flying the Q flag, you're not supposed to set foot on land. You can sail around and anchor where you want, but you have to stay on your boat. That was fine by us.

After getting some shut-eye at Mangrove Cay, we hoisted the anchor, put the sails up for the first time and made our way to Great Sale Cay, or what I affectionately call Crepe Cay. Yep, that's right another flat as a pancake (or French crepe) island. No people. No shops. No going onshore. Just another road-stead on our way to clear into the Bahamas. 

LOGBOOK NOTES | Thursday 14 May 2015

Total Nautical Miles - 36
Total Hours - 8 hours 25 minute
Number of Tacks - Too many (discovered our winches need to be serviced)
Anchor Up - Mangrove Cay
Anchor Down - Northwest Harbour, Great Sale Cay 
Days Flying the Q Flag - 2

Next time on the blog...we try to clear into the Bahamas, discover its charms and meet up with the crazy cats on S/V Wild Blue.

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  1. Wow, I've never heard anything negative from anyone that's traveled to the the Bahamas before, it's been on our list of places I'd like to go...unlike New Orleans, which is on hubby's list and my I don't care if I ever go, much like China. Funny how we all have ideas of what we think a place will be like.

    Continued safe travels.

    1. I'm not sure if we were disappointed when we saw our first Bahamian island because we were tired or because we had unrealistic expectations of what it would look like. Later in our trip, we did end up enjoying the Abacos very much, but I did want to be honest about our first impressions.

      I've been to New Orleans twice and enjoyed it very much - you may find that you like it, especially if you have some beignets. Yum!

  2. I AM SO GLAD TO READ THIS. We haven't went yet, but I've been somewhat nervous to get there and have my expectations be too high. Fortunately, we've never been to New Zealand (yet), so I won't have that comparison :) Thanks for sharing your insights!

    1. We had a great time in the Abacos and I'm sure you'll love the Bahamas. I was just so struck by how different the topography was from what I had envisioned.

  3. LOL...This is a great post. I know you've discovered by now that Florida is flat like the Bahamas also. Ok...mid to northern Florida have hills. But you are right. The Bahamas is flat. My first trip was to Bimini. Flat. But it had the most gorgeous water I've ever seen.

    My new thing I've learned today is about the Q Flag. Very interesting and I am surprised I never knew about it as many times I have been there by boat.
    Was I always illegal???

    - Lisa

    1. I don't know what anyone checks Q flags to be honest, but probably better to fly one if you have one.


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