Sunday, April 6, 2014

Nya-nya-nya-nya Nassau

Mark, Alexis, Nicholas and Conrad enjoying sherbet in
downtown Nassau. Yes, they voluntarily chose fruit ice cream.
We had passed up Nassau multiple times in our previous trips, avoiding the city based on other people describing the city as dirty, noisy and crime filled.  But there was no escaping it this time. We were meeting friends who were staying in Nassau for a week.  So off we went.

In less than 8 hours, we had had our fill of Nassau and it had nothing to do with the State Department warnings about increased crime in the city. So what was problem? Let me count the ways...

The aquariums at the Atlantis are spectacular.
1. (Note to all grandparents, also known as 'our primary audience', we are fine and the boat is fine.) We took  a big breaking wave over the bow as we were rounding Paradise Island to approach the harbor from the west because we are too tall for the bridges on the direct route that boats with normal sized (or no) masts) can follow. The ocean swell was big from the strong northeast winds of the previous few days, but they were mostly following swells, which should have been okay. Or so we thought. We saw some breaking waves off in the distance, but they were closer to shore.  Suddenly a couple of larger swells passed by that had started to hump up and look like they might break, but they didn't. When the next set of swells came through, the faces was steeper and the first one looked like it was about the break. Matt quickly turned the boat to face it head on, causing an uncontrolled gibe in the process (which is not good, but certainly the lesser of two evils). The first swell passed underneath without breaking, but then we were faced with a larger wave that was already had a wall of whitewater coming down its face.  Matt yelled to hold on and the boat pitched up the face of the wave and then slammed down into the trough. We're not sure how big it was but it was several feet above Matt's head and was a scary thing to behold as it came up over the bow and crashed into the cockpit with a roar.*
2. After (what felt like) our near death experience, we motored past several behemoth cruise ships into the crowded harbor as the smell of their exhaust choked the air. We found a spot at the edge of the small and crowded anchorage. Our boat sailed around at anchor with the opposing wind and current (although nowhere as bad as St. Augustine) while tourist boats raced by and threw up big wakes. A police boat came by several times to talk to boats that were in a somewhat arbitrarily demarcated "turning basin" and told us we should move at one point when our boat swung out closer to the channel during one of its weird swings.

3. As the sun went down, we continued to swing in weird ways and boats kept whizzing by, causing our boat to rock back and forth for a couple minutes afterwards each time. Club Med or some resort started a very loud beachside party with a yelling DJ, music, and laser lights.
4. At around 10 p.m. when the boys were sound asleep and Matt was nodding off despite the noise from the party, we heard a series of huge explosions that sounded like we were being bombed. With hearts racing from the terror-induced adrenalin surge we stumbled into the cockpit to figure out what was happening. It turned out to be a barge that was about 75 yards away from us setting off an impressive fireworks display. We have never been that close to the staging area of such a big display and we were very happy to be upwind as sparks showered down around the fireworks boat. It looked at one point as if there was a medium fire on the barge and a few shells went off on the deck of the boat. The show went on for a long time and was very, very loud. Incredibly, Conrad and Mark slept through it all.
In the next week, we were chased away from one anchor spot by a construction barge, warned away from a cruise ship by a cranky Defense Force boat, and boarded to have our paperwork checked by the local police. Although they were very friendly and professional, it was still the first time we had been boarded. Several other boaters lamented how much the harbor had changed. Nassau stands in stark contrast to the sleepy islands and settlements to which we have become accustomed.

Despite the dire warning about crime from other cruisers (and a couple of local Nassau residents), Nassau itself seems to us like any big city, except with friendlier people, and plenty safe. Granted, we have only walked through during the day but we have young kids so that's how we roll.

Luckily, any misgivings we had about Nassau were completely offset by the fact that we had a blast with our friends who had come to visit us. They spent something like a gazillion dollars to come and stay at the Atlantis resort. We were very sad to have to say goodbye. As a bonus, they brought a bunch of boat parts with them.

We will start heading south again as soon as the winds turn back around.

Mark chilling in the rapids river.
*In hindsight, we should have gone a bit further south to avoid the area of waves, which were breaking across a shallower shoal area which were marked on the Navionics charts but not on the usually more reliable Explorer charts that we use most for close quarters navigation. We were following the waypoints on the Explorer charts, which are usually the safest way to get anywhere in the Bahamas.  We were lucky that the everything came out okay through the wave hit and the 2 uncontrolled gibes (the second one was after the big wave hit and we were scrambling to get to deeper water) . Water splashed into the cabin from the open cockpit door and came in through some of the hatches but everything else seemed to be working other than our depth gauge. Matt tightened up the hatch handles on those that leaked and fixed the depth gauge a few days later by refilling the mineral oil that had spilled out.


  1. AAARGH MATEY'S! There be a storm a-brewin' over da port bow! Batten down the hatches ye scurvy dogs!

    Where were they boys? Did they "hold on"? Were they scared, or was it just a hell of a day at sea?

    Glad you weathered the swells and saw your friends!


  2. Were the kids scarred out of their minds or did they say 'Yeah dad, do it again!"

  3. The kids thought it was super exciting. It's nice to not know any better sometimes...


Add a comment: