Bahamas: Cat Island
7th April to 17th April 2017
Passage to Cat Island from Exuma Park
7th April 2017
The approaching cold front allowed us to use the wind as it clocks to time our sail from Cambridge Cay (Southern Exuma Park) to New Bight in Cat Island. For most of the passage we could use our asymmetrical spinnaker turning the 64 nm into a nice day trip with still enough daylight to navigate the shallows of the bight. Our fish supplies were also top op with some fresh Dorado.
8th April 2017 to 17th April 2017
Saturday the 8th April
For two weeks now we have been cruising at remote places where there was no shops and for most of the time no internet. The mission was fresh produce and the top up of a few supplies. We dingied to the bridge up to Musgrove Creek halfway through the falling tide. The dinghy was tied up to some mangroves and a stern anchor was dropped to keep her of the concrete. The New Bight Market and liquor store was just up the street. We did get carried away a bit with the shopping, lost track of time and made sure we accumulated enough groceries that the owner had no choice but to transport us back to the creek. It was close to spring low and most of the water had disappeared from the creek. We were brought back with our goodies to the bridge. Using the standup board paddle and the setting current Zack had to row us back to the entrance of the Greek.
At New Bight at the shore at the “Take –outs” we eat tropical conch salad at Duke’s Conch stand.
To me this was one of the best conch salads I have had in the Caribbean. It was served with slices of apple and orange around the sides and in the middle the salad. Yummy!!!
The afternoon we went to the Hermitage. It can be seen for miles when one is out to sea as it sits on top of the highest hill in the Bahamas (206 feet/63m). Father Jeremo named this steep hill Mt Alveni
“Father Jerome, also known as John Hawes (1876 – 1956) built the Hermitage in 1939.
Born of a comfortably affluent family in England, he studied architecture and then switched to theology. He became an Anglican priest and came to the Bahamas where he devoted himself to repair churches damaged by storms and hurricanes. In 1910 he designed St Paul’s Church in Clarence Town on Long Island.
In 1911 he left The Bahamas for the United States where he converted to Catholicism. He went to Rome where he became a priest and adopted the new name Father Jerome. He went to Australia and worked as a priest, architect and builder and remained there for a quarter of a century. Then perhaps sensing his own mortality after had a heart attack, he returned to the Bahamas in 1939. Using local stone, he built The Hermitage on the peak of Mt. Alvernia, a small medieval monastery where he could live in solitude.
He died in 1956 and was buried in the cave he had prepared for himself below his hermitage.”
He built a steep set of winding steps going up the mountain to the Hermitage. At various intervals he made detailed hand-carved stone and molded cement Stations of the Cross along the way. Almost his version of the “Via Dolorosa”
The Hermitage is a scaled replica of a 12th century monastery. From a distance it looks much bigger.
The Hermitage is a conglomerate of small rooms including a kitchen, bedroom and a chapel with one pew only wide enough for one person and a small alter. All the rooms were only large enough for one person. There was also a summer kitchen and storage room for his food, much of which he grew around the Hermitage.
The sunset at New Bight overlooking Musgrove Greek.
"Cat Island is centrally located in the Bahamas chain; this fishhook shaped island is 48 miles long and between 1 to 4 miles wide. The first European settlers were Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, who arrived in 1783. The island may have been named after Arthur Catt, a pirate, or the name may refer to its one-time large population of feral cats. The population of Cat Island is 1,522 (2010 census)
In slash-and-burn agriculture, forests are typically cut in a controlled manner months before a dry season. The "slash" is permitted to dry, and then burned in the following dry season. The resulting ash fertilizes the soil and the burned field is then planted at the beginning of the next rainy season with crops such as upland rice, maize, cassava, or other staples. Most of this work is typically done by hand, using such basic tools as machetes, axes, hoes, and makeshift shovels.
An economic crop is Croton eluteria that only grow in Eleuthera and Cat Island (called also cascarilla) bark, which is gathered and shipped to Italy where it becomes a main ingredient in medicines, scents and Campari."
A strange thing for us to understand was the neglect to remove objects that has fallen into disuse. Abandoned cars, boats and houses are common and is littering the landscape of each island. Apparently it is part of their culture to abandon the house and leaf it untouched once the last one of the generation die in order to provide a place where the departed spirits can stay. They will then often build there new home adjacent to the old one. These properties are never sold, sitting as testaments of past generations. Maybe it is applicable to cars and boats as well?
On Monday the 10th April we rented a car. The island was explored from north to south and east to west. We managed to travel 250 km that day. The island is laid-back from New Bight to Orange Creek in the north and then to Hawk’s Nest in the south.
Just north of Smith Bay we explored a dirt road east to the open ocean side of the Atlantic at Ocean Dreams holiday resort.
The Big Blue Hole east of Orange Creek on Dickies Road is connected with the ocean. Many objects have been observed to get mysteriously displaced from the blue hole to the ocean. One such observation was a dead farm animal. Some locals believe that a monster live in Big Blue Hole and it was said to devour horses. This folklore still scares local fisherman from venturing too far into this inland seawater lake.
Griffin Bat Cave
Roughly a kilometer before the Big Blue Hole on the southern side of the road a small insignificant driftwood sign “Cave” let us to the Griffin Bat Cave, once a hideout for slaves.
Traveling back south on the main road just before entering the town of Stephenson we found the Bat Cave.
Map of the southern Cat Island
In the Port Howe area of Cat Island, are the ruins of an 18th-century plantation at Deveaux House mansion. In its glory days it was given to Colonel Andrew Deveaux in 1783 for protecting Nassau from Spanish invasion and occupation.
Driving north from Columbus point we turned off east to Greenwood Beach Resort. This is a beautiful resort on the Atlantic Ocean where you can do kite surfing, wind surfing as well as scuba diving on the southern wall.
On the Western corner of the foot of the island is Hawks Nest Point. This is a mecca for sport fishers with an easy fly in from the USA onto the marinas own landing strip. The Marina was filled with sport fishing boats.
Wednesday the 12th April we sailed up north to Orange Greek and anchored east of the creek outlet in front of a beautiful long sandy beach.
Thursday the 13th April we dinghy the 3nm south to Arthur’s Town. This is the government headquarters in the north. The population of the town is about 400 (more than 25% of the people on the island), there is a police station, airport, clinic, and some small stores.
Saint Andrews Anglican Church in Arthur Town
We had lunch at Da Smoke Pot. Julian has prepared for us fish, rice, coleslaw and mixed vegetables.
The entrance to the creek where Zack spend some time exploring for bone fish.
Snorkeling at the point of Orange Greek.
Port Royal Bay
Port Royal Bay in Cat Island is another nicely sheltered bay in the NE side of the island. We moved Vagabund further north from Orange Creek to be out of the strong Easterlies that is blowing for the next few days. The wind is already gusting up to 28 knots. The sheltered bay allowed us to still get off the boat, kayaking, beach combing and enjoying lunch at Shanna’s Cove Resort with the friendly Frank and Gabby.
Tug in close to the beach ready for the wind
Exploring the secluded pink beach all for ourselves
Enjoying every moment. Flying back home in a couple of weeks. I am going to miss the blue water, pink sand…..
Overlooking the bay where Vagabund is anchored from Shannas Cove Restaurant.
Man of War Point on the northern shoreline of Cat Island.
Where east meets west at Man of War Point.
Tiger shark: Port Royal Cat Island
Reason why you do not snorkel your anchor late in the afternoon. This 2,5m Tiger Shark visited us both the afternoons on anchor in Port Royal Bay. Being so close to the drop off the sharks enter the bay at night.
Photo from Vagabund as the shark swam by.
The shark was close enough to take an underwater photo from the stern.
It was an awesome sight from Vagabund to see her slowly swimming twice around us. She even inspected our anchor.
Little San Salvador: Half Moon Cay
17th April 2017
Holland America cruise line owns this island and they have constructed a resort for their cruise ships. Fortunately the day we visited the island there was no cruise ships and we could go to shore. Port of Half Moon Cay Cruise Ship Timetable indicates a cruise ship that will arrive the next morning.
We dropped the hook in the bay close to the resort.
After exploring the bay with our kayak we asked permission to go ashore. The resort was like a light bulb that you could switch on and off. It was a weird feeling to walk through the playground with almost nobody present.
A Pirate ship is used as a bar.
Their aim was fortunately a bit off, missing Vagabund on her starboard side. We will make sure we are out of here before the tourists arrive in the morning.
We departed early on Tuesday for Highborne Cay as the cruise ship: Carnival Ectasy was approaching to spend a day on this pretty island.