Friday, April 7, 2017

Calabash Bay, Long Island and Joe's Creek

White Pepper has been to Calabash Bay several times over the years and has many happy memories of the place. So it was with anticipation that we hauled past Cape Santa Maria and into Calabash Bay on the northern tip of Long Island. This was the third spot Columbus was reported to have visited in the New World. Conception Island was the second. Calabash Bay is 20 miles or so from George Town. It was made famous by Bruce van Sant as the first spot on a “Gentleman's Guide to Passages South”-- that is the trip from George Town, Bahamas to Lupron, DR. It is rolly and exposed to every wind except the prevailing Southeasterly.

Cape Santa Maria. One can barely see the Columbus Monument on top of the cliff.

We sighted on the famous Yellow House at the south end of the anchorage to avoid the fringing reef and anchored in 9 feet of crystal clear water over sand.

Yellow House

White Pepper's reasons for stopping at Calabash Bay were to show guest, Barb Mathis, another beautiful spot in the Bahamas and to explore Joe's Creek. Joe's Creek is a deep and wide creek with 360 degree protection just one mile south of Calabash Bay. We have always heard and read about this anchorage but were deterred from visiting by the entrance. We set out to explore by dingy. Indeed the entrance is formidable being only 6 feet deep at low water and about 30 feet wide with rocky shore on both sides. Today the entrance was peaceful. Once inside White Pepper was treated to an idyllic Bahamas scene of swiftly flowing deep and clear water over sand. There seemed to be plenty of space to anchor numerous boats. White Pepper may someday bring the big boat there at slack tide high water and when there is no swell running in Exuma Sound.

 Entrance to Joe's Creek

 The Captain Max on a bad day

Wide and deep.  Plenty of room to anchor once inside Joe's Creek

If Joe's Creek was a place to hide and get away from civilization, then on the other end of Calabash Bay was one of the refinements of civilization—the Cape Santa Maria Club. This is a high end resort that competes with the near by and world famous Stella Maris resort. Rooms start at $400/night. However, they welcome scruffy cruisers in dingies. White Pepper went there with fellow cruisers, Ron and Linda from Escape from Reality, for lunch. We all had a relaxed and delicious meal. The contrast to the wilderness of Joe's Creek could not have been more vivid.

Very civilized lunch at Cape Santa Maria Club

Sunset over Calabash Bay

Conception Island

White Pepper has blogged expansively about Conception Island, Bahamas during a previous visit. This year we again visited; this time with guest Barb Mathis aboard. With White Pepper's powerful new motor she was able to power directly into a gentle Northeasterly breeze for 7 hours arriving in the mid afternoon of the first of 4 lovely days. We were fortunate enough to catch a small Mahi-mahi two miles west of Cape Santa Maria. It provided two great dinners.

Conception has not changed. It remains one of the most pristine and beautiful of all of the Bahamas islands. It is uninhabited and protected by the National Trust as a Land and Sea Park. One change that I did notice was how many yachts were there. There were 8 normal sized yachts anchored along the shore of the favored West Bay Anchorage and 4 mega yachts anchored in deeper water. Conception has become popular!

170 foot ketch Adele at sunset

We walked the lovely beaches. Barb is a birdwatcher of note from Rockport, TX and was pleased to see the birds of Conception. Her constant worry was how few birds there were. All through out the central and southern Bahamas the bird population is severely limited by lack of fresh water.

Day two was devoted a dingy trip up the creek to see the Green turtles. The creek does not have a name that I am aware of. It is the mating and nesting site of numerous Green turtles. One deep and very green hole about a mile up the creek is said to be the origin of most of the Green turtles in the southern Bahamas. We cut the motor and drifted for a long time here. Although I was able to snap a few pictures of the turtles looking around I could not image them as they literately flew through the water at remarkable speeds. It was a breath taking time.

 Clear water

 A Green Turtle in the green hole (may need to click on pic)

Read the water!  Channel is to the left, entrance to the creek is in the background.

This year we were able to arrive at high tide so alert readers will note that the scenery is much different from our previous visit. We were able to penetrate much further up the creek and into the interior of the island. Also in the creek were sharks, rays, and fish easily seen in the crystal clear water.

Upper reaches of the creek

Day three was a trip to Booby Cay on the eastern side of Conception. It is a dedicated bird sanctuary and would be off limits to visit after April 1 for nesting season. Since today was March 31, I was sure there would be a lot of birds to see. We set off for Booby Cay about 6 miles away in the Habanero and in the company of two other dingies. We had plenty of gas, safety equipment, VHF, hand held GPS, binoculars, water, sandwiches, and (thankfully) extra spark plugs and tools to change them. The trip was long, lovely and eventful. We never did see any birds, however.


 Booby Cay ahead

 Western side of Booby Cay

Intrepid party arrives at Booby Cay

The next day after a lazy morning White Pepper pulled up the anchor. There was a gentle wind out of the South. We could have easily sailed to our next destination, Long Island, 14 miles away; however, the batteries needed charging so we motored. That is the main problem with cruising—you do not get to sail much. Long Island will be the subject of the next post.