From Highbourne Cay, we scrutinized the weather reports and entertained all options for what to do with our last few days in the Bahamas. We considered returning south, even as far as Georgetown, to avoid the possibility of a menacing tropical depression brewing off the coast of Costa Rica. The next day, that same storm appeared headed straight for the Exumas, so we researched anchorages in the Berry Islands. Realizing there are few options for a deep draft boat, and that we’d end up much farther north than our goal for crossing back to the Florida Keys, we talked to fellow cruisers about the charms of Bimini. And after all that, we did what pretty much everyone else does, and sailed a full day to the island of New Providence and the city of Nassau to hide out from yet another week of strong winds and unpredictable squalls.
Two thirds of the population of the 700 islands of the Bahamas live on this one island. And pretty much everyone goes to college here at some point, or works here, or has family here. Which means a cruiser can find needed boat parts or provisions, but that it’s also crowded! And also feels slightly seedy with the only threat of crime we’d experienced so far on our trip.
We set a course for the Palm Cay marina on the southeast side of the island. We’d met Demario, the dock master, at Highbourne during the Poker Run, and he’d invited us to come visit his marina and he offered us a discount. Well, heck yeah! Admiring the sunset over bacon cheeseburgers at the restaurant our first evening, it was clear that we’d chosen a great place to be “stuck” waiting out the next blow.
This place has everything a cruiser needs: laundry, showers, cafe, restaurant, fuel, and of course a protected harbor and safe slips. In fact, I’d often forget how hard the wind was actually blowing until I’d follow the boardwalk around the corner past the marina office, and experience the full force of the wind in the face, almost blowing me over! It felt very safe with security at the gate to the community, and an actual chain prohibiting access to the harbor overnight.
And at a very reasonable rate of $2.00 per foot, Palm Cay boasted unusual amenities. We had use of a courtesy car for free for two-hour blocks. Plenty of time to travel to the marine supply store (where we bought a new macerator pump for the galley sink),or the grocery store (where we resupplied with fresh produce and even gluten free English muffins), or to get a haircut (I was weeks overdue for a trim),or just to go out for lunch when we got a little bit stir crazy after several days of rain. I’m pretty sure we got our money’s worth out of that free car!
For $15 per person, we bought a membership to the Palm Cay Beach Club for the duration of our stay. Talk about fake it till you make it! When breaks in the wind and the rain allowed, we definitely pretended we were yachties instead of cruisers for a change.
Palm Cay has a fairly common dock cat, and a much less common marina manatee. One morning, as I was attempting to navigate the huge step from the boat to the dock at low tide, I thought, “I don’t remember that big grey rock living under our pier.” “Mmmmm……Mike! Come quick! There’s a manatee under our boat!” We watched her drift from piling to piling, nibbling on the vegetation that grows there, wishing we could convince her to eat the vegetation growing on Sanitas’ hull instead. I named her Blue for the streaks of blue hull paint visible on her back, and we watched her brunch her way across the harbor for quite some time.
In the amazing coincidence department, we met two families in the marina from Capt. Mike’s home town in Western New York!