We hadn’t intended to stay more than a couple of days at the marina at Port Lucaya. But the weather was against us, and we had a long 10 hour day to travel south to the Berry Islands, so wanted to have reasonable conditions. The marina was convenient – we had power and water, a reasonable rate of $1.80/ft/day and close to restaurants and some shops. But it was a tourist area – visited by busloads of cruise ship passengers each day. Restaurants were expensive and when we spent an afternoon at one bar watching the Patriots final game of the season, we paid $60 for beers, nachos and wings – ouch.
We filled our time there, cleaning the boat, doing more minor chores and routine maintenance, still discovering things on board we didn’t know we had.
The marina wasn’t full – the usual sportfish group from Florida, left early morning, returned late afternoon, lots of activity, and lots of money. One boat had an etched glass window that was backlit with different colours – and a customized polished teak “fighting chair” – we figured each of those would be worth five figures easily. And then there were the 10-12 huge fishing rods for finding marlin. There was another sportfish boat that didn’t leave the dock until the day before us, with an owner on board that was straight out of a Travis McGee novel. Big guy, looked like an ex football player, knew everyone at the dock, was now resident in the Bahamas, and seemed to have a stream of women (young and not so young) constantly on board. Then there was a ketch with four people on board, we guessed probably mum, dad and either son or daughter and partner. The dad smoked cigars which occasionally would waft in our direction and Ted would sniff wistfully. He hasn’t smoked a cigar in four years now.
Then there was a large boat at the end of the dock that seemed to have a single woman on board. When we walked by it one evening we saw a drum set in there and it reminded Ted of his chartering days in the Caribbean, when friends of his ran a boat for a member of Fleetwood Mac.
While operational, the marina definitely bore the scars from Hurricane Matthew which hit Grand Bahama on Oct 6th as a Category 4. We had seen damage at West End, very close to where it made landfall, but the docks at Port Lucaya were also in need of repair and many buildings in the area had major damage. But we were well protected from the weather front that passed through.
It was strange to have so many people pass by Southern Star and ask about her. Mostly the question was “Did you come here all the way from NZ?” given our Auckland, NZ home port on her transom. Our answer was that the boat had travelled here, but we had picked her up in Florida. Some people recognized the Nordhavn design, some other new owners came to see us, having travelled down by car from West End where their vessel “Roam” was berthed before heading back to Fort Pierce. But many were curious about the boat, despite there being so many more Nordhavns in this part of the world compared to NZ, it still generates a lot of curiosity and a lot of questions. Ted would laugh at me after listening to me discussing main and wing engine size, stabilisers, and other features, telling me I should be selling them. It is weird to think that we are now the owners that Nordhavn dreamers talk to. One time all I heard was a voice from the dock saying “Wow, I love your Nordhavn” and I thought how often I’d said that to people in the past. We still feel a sense of privilege to finally be the owners of such a great boat.
The various weather forecasts were predicting a turn in the weather on Wednesday 4th Jan, and we did our engine room and exterior boat checks on the evening of 3rd in preparation for departure at first light. Paid our marina bill and had an early night. Up at 6am and underway by 6.45. Passed through the channel and cut to the ocean where we were met by much higher than expected swell and considerable wind. This continued to build and was pretty uncomfortable. I later realized I hadn’t set the stabilisers correctly for the rougher conditions which was hopefully part of the reason we were rolling around so much. Additionally we had issues with the main on board computer which chose to do an update just as we left port, and when finished we had radar working but no AIS connected, and although our backup GPS and chart plotter was working, the primary equipment was not. Coupled with the rough ride, which meant we were unable to work on the computer, Ted decided to turn around, about 2 hours into the passage. I was relieved, and we were both glad to get back to Port Lucaya marina and tie up again.
Ted immediately went to work on the computer and got everything up and running again, except the connection to the AIS. The AIS itself was working but did not give linked details of the vessels we were seeing on radar. Not critical, but certainly nice to have, particularly when crossing busy shipping channels to and from Nassau.
We waited till Friday to leave – giving the weather another 24 hours to settle and the seas to flatten. And we started an hour earlier, now that we knew the channel, so left while still dark and were about an hour out when we watched the sunrise. The day was glorious, seas almost oily, minimal wind other than what we were creating with our 6.5 knot speed and we spent the entire 10 hour journey up on the flybridge in the sun.
Ted had put out two of his newly assembled fishing rods to troll while we were crossing the ocean. As we approached shallower waters of the Berry Islands he remarked “I hope the first fish I catch isn’t a barracuda.” No sooner had he spoken than one of the lines starting screaming. I handed the rod down to him in the cockpit and sure enough he pulled in a barracuda which he brought onboard to detach and release. But a few minutes later the other line started screaming, and he walked that down to the cockpit, pulling in what we later were told was some sort of mackerel. Ted cleaned it up later when we got to the marina and it provided great fish tacos for two nights.
We made for Great Harbour Cay thinking there might be an anchorage just inside the very impressive cut, but a couple of sailboats had taken the best positions, and we reluctantly called the marina to see if they could accommodate us.
The dockside crew signalled us into our slip, squeezed between a concrete dock and a sailboat with a dinghy in the water. I wasn’t sure we’d fit, but somehow Capt Ted managed to slide us in there, with what seemed to be the entire marina population standing around watching. Lines on, fenders arranged, and we checked in with the marina office. Someone put a clipboard in front of me and told me to sign up for Friday night “Chill and Grill”.
Welcome to Great Harbour Cay!