Good bye Eleuthera, hello Exumas! It was a long day today. We left Spanish Wells about 7:30 this morning headed toward the Exumas. Heading south from Spanish Wells is interesting as you head through a canal that is part of the town. We motored right next to the big fishing boats in what seemed like very shallow water. Once past the fishing boats you make a sharp turn into shallower water, down a narrow canal lined with mangroves, follow some telephone poles and finally, you’re out. I was really glad we didn’t meet another boat.

Once outside, we headed across Eleuthera Sound. It was choppy, and the wind was forecast at 16 knots. We needed to get to the other side of Eleuthera to head to the Exumas so we headed for Current Island Cut. This cut is about 100 feet wide and about 50 feet deep. The tricky part is that there is a strong current coming through the cut (sometimes up to 5 knots) and you need to take precautions to make sure a rage is not forming. (A rage forms when a strong current flowing one way meets a tide flowing the opposite way). We went during a flooding tide and though the current was about 3 knots we were fine.

The next hurdle, once you are through the cut, is making a tight turn south to avoid having the current push you onto the rocks on your right or a shallow bank on your left. Again, Dan steered us safely through. With that excitement behind us, we settled in for a long trip. Tessa and I played cards while Tristan helped navigate. It was a little rough, like being in a washing machine, but nothing that bothered the kids. Of course it was all motoring. With the wind on our nose and the shallow water, that was all we could do.

A few hours into the trip, I had to go up front to help visually navigate as we were entering areas with a lot of coral. I sat up in the front seat, on the end of the pontoon, and did nothing but stare at the water, for a long, long, time. If I saw a coral head, I had a walkie talkie with me and communicated to Dan, back at the helm, which way to steer around it. Simple, right? That was what was supposed to happen; this is what did happen.

I had a walkie talkie and would talk into it, telling Dan which way to turn. Dan would come back with “What?”

I would then yell into the mike (having the mike too close to my face) “Turn, turn!”

He would yell back “I can’t understand you!!”

Imagine if you will, about 3 hours of this and you will get a sense of our afternoon. Eventually he abandoned his walkie talkie and we used Tristan as our go between.

After we made it through the worse of the coral heads, the port engine died. It just stopped working. (For those of you keeping track the refrigerator was working and then it stopped yesterday too!). Dan was able to get it restarted but it sounded funny, so we just went on one engine. We originally thought we would get to Warderick Wells to anchor that night, but it was now 3:00pm, the sky was getting overcast so it was hard to see the coral heads and with one engine, we decided to anchor at Ships Channel Cay. Not bad though. We covered 55 miles today.

Ships Channel Cay is a private island. As we approached, a powerboat from Nassau was leaving. It brings tourists over for day excursions. The only other boat in sight was a forlorn looking houseboat, for lack of a better word. It had several lobster traps piled on top, though lobster season doesn’t officially start until August 1st. Tied to the houseboat was a good size open motor boat or skiff. We saw a guy standing in the doorway of the houseboat, but we were too far away to see much else. We dropped anchor in what we hoped was good holding as on the other side of the island was open ocean. While Dan put on his snorkel gear to go dive the anchor, our attention was immediately diverted by a helicopter hovering over the island. The pilot made a few low passes over our boat. We had no idea what he was doing.

Tessa asked if she could snorkel with Dan to check on the anchor. Usually we let them go but this time I told her no. I just didn’t feel good about it. Tristan had no interest in going either which was unusual. So Dan swam off on his own. He had a ways to swim as we were anchored in about 13 feet of water and I had out over 100 feet of chain. When he came back he said the anchor was flipped, so he started the engine and backed down on the anchor some more. We hoped this would cause the anchor to flip over and dig in.
I went inside the boat to get some fish out of the freezer for dinner. The next thing I hear is some yelling from the back of the boat. I run back out into the cockpit. Just off our swim platform is the biggest barracuda I have ever seen. Just as Dan had started to go back into the water to check the anchor the barracuda swam right underneath him. He almost landed on top of it. It was just huge! It had to be 5 feet long. The barracuda waited patiently for him to get back in the water. Dan didn’t have much choice. He had to go back and check on the anchor He grabbed his spear. (Thank you Bob!!) I ran back inside to look for something to throw at the barracuda. I came back out with two kiwis.

The barracuda had drifted about 10 feet away from Dan. “I’ll try to chase him off,” I yell, throwing a kiwi. The barracuda at first looks as if he is leaving so I throw a second one at him. Note to self: Kiwi’s float. They never go below the water and never hit the barracuda. He thinks I am feeding him! He is, however, momentarily distracted by my offering until he hears Dan splash back into the water. Dan heads around the port side of the boat. The barracuda starts to follow him and as I head back inside to find something else to throw, a boat pulls up from the starboard side scaring away the barracuda. It’s the guy from the houseboat.
“There are sharks in the water,” he calls out. I think he’s joking. He looks a bit like an older Crocodile Hunter. Except he is not wearing pants, as Tristan points out. (He is wearing a shirt over Speedos).

“Yeah,” I laugh. “We just saw a really big barracuda.”

“Do your kids want a baby seagull? They make a great pet,” he smiles.


“I have a few baby pigeons in my boat.” Sure enough, on the floor of his boat are three baby seagulls. He has been out fishing all day and found the baby seagulls on the island. They tried to follow him but couldn’t fly.

Tessa immediately “Can we have one?”

“No. We don’t need any seagulls, thanks.” I ask him about the helicopters.

“They are DEA looking for drugs. They were here all day yesterday too.”

Great! I am now in an episode of COPS BAHAMAS. I make a mental note to leave our sliding glass door open tonight, so they won’t have to break it down when they mistakenly raid us.

“Seriously,” he says. “Tell him not to go back in the water… There are sharks.”

I nod thinking of the quaint sharks in the Abacos. We’ve seen a lot of sharks. Nothing really to fear. No reason to panic.

“A hammerhead swam by us earlier,” he says. “He was bigger than my boat.” Did I mention his skiff is about 15 feet long? This is a perfectly good reason to panic!
My eyes widen as I realize Dan is still in the water. “He’s checking the anchor. He took his spear gun,” I offer meekly.

He shakes his head. “If that shark wants him, he’ll get him. I’ll go pick him up.”

He heads out to where Dan is, about 100 feet from the boat. I start to look for more fruit to throw. Wait! He said that shark was over 15 feet long. I am going to need bigger fruit!!!!

He slides the boat up next to Dan and says something to him. We can’t hear them, but we can tell by how quickly Dan jumps in the guy’s boat what was said.

Our hero delivers Dan back to the safety of our boat and after asking one more time about the pigeons, he takes off. They are fishing that night for jacks. Much later that evening we can see their fishing lights in the far distance. Other than that we are very alone in this anchorage. After dinner of Tilapia, the kids and I play the game Sorry and Dan works on the port engine, changing the fuel filter. When he is done he starts it up. It runs better but you can tell the problem is not totally solved and we have no idea how it will perform under a load. We decide to get to bed early as we have another long day tomorrow. I and the kids love being on anchor in a place all by ourselves. Dan is not a big fan of that. That night he is up at least 3 times checking on the anchor. I get up once to do a check but after that, I sleep like a baby under a blanket of stars.