This Eletter with all the links to fabulous life-sized photos is at:
http://www.ciekurzis.org/Andros Island/Andros Island.htm
We have arrived at Andros Island – I call it The REAL Bahamas. Not highly developed, this is the largest of the Bahamian Islands; but is sparsely populated = 7,000 residents total. You can find a few things here (I searched the junk yard for Pedigo parts and I think this guy is a doctor) but no Wal-Mart, for sure! It is completely rural and has beautiful beaches on the ocean, beaches on the shallow banks, pine forests, (PIRATE) caves, rocky shores, and very smooth lightly-traveled roads along the entire 44-mile length of its north contiguous portion. So anywhere on the north section of the island is accessible in one day by bicycle!
The Character Of The Land.
We are anchored in the harbour of Morgan’s Bluff just ˝-mile from the Tongue of the Ocean and its mile-deep waters. Two miles south of our anchorage is Nicolls Town and the Pineville Motel with reasonable room rates and a car available. The rooms are uniquely decorated and the courtyard is landscaped into the ‘areas’ of “the Patio”, the “Indian Village”, and the “Zoo”. Yes, there are animals in the zoo! It is five-years old and has a crumby website at: www.PinevilleMotel.com. [Eugene is workin’ on it!]
The reef that runs along the east side of Andros Island is the third longest in the world behind the Australian and Belizean reefs. The Tongue of the Ocean is a unique & gorgeous strip of deep water. On land we have access to the coconuts on the trees, are looking for the areas rich with conch, and once a week a freighter loads up with grapefruits from the orchard here and the forklift drivers fill up our large bag for a tip they initially refuse.
Getting here is easy; flying into Nassau can be accomplished from several East Coast Florida airports. There is air service to Andros Town or San Andros Airports and a ferry comes from Nassau right here on Saturdays and Mondays.
So this combination of exciting features makes Andros the perfect place to have the Grandchildren come for their first visit to Windigo (Joshua, in his three-year-old world of fun calls it “Grandpa’s Pirate Ship”) so in July we will return here for a week of Pirate Adventures.
The Good Peoples Endure.
The first weekend we were here was the largest event of the year on Andros = The Morgan’s Bluff Regatta, now named the Frank Hanna Berry Island and All Andros Sailing Regatta. Native Bahamian wooden sailing vessels from all the islands gather here to race and party. This event has been in July for over a decade, but an attempt to spread the tourist-attracting events over a longer season [the much smaller Crab Festival is in July] and avoid the final election weekend held near Independence Day [10 July] the powers-that-be moved the Regatta to the end of March.
[Some problems arose: they moved it nearly at the last minute making it the first Regatta in the series; causing some boats to rush to readiness, others to be unprepared, and still others to be outraged at the jostling of the schedule so they boycotted the event!
The Crab Festival may be small, but the timing of it is significant = land crabs crawl over the fields, roads, swamps and towns of the whole island; the warmer waters in the Tongue of the Ocean allow fishermen to fill the Festival with fresh, cheap seafood. The Regatta needed to import a lesser quantity and quality of these foods from other places in the islands, raising the cost of eating at the Regatta.
The weather in July is in the summer pattern = gentle SE breezes, very conducive for the Regatta boats with their over-powered sailplans and low ballast. The higher winds for this Regatta caused races to be delayed, cancelled, or combined.
The very political nature of this dispute (in the highly-charged arena of ‘election year’) resulted in hard feelings and much crowing, exaggeration and chest-pounding by the powers-that-be at the event.]
How lucky can we be to have a front-row seat for all this action?
Being a large politically-charged event, the Royal Bahamian Defense Force stationed a cruiser on the water dock. Trying to keep up with Windigo’s festive decoration, the P-61 dressed out the colors, also. Later, to enforce good international relations, I bought the Commander a fruit juice at the Regatta party.
The event’s party is held at Regatta Village, the heart of Morgan’s Bluff. A wide variety of musical groups were presented, groups of schoolchildren performed music, dances and skits. We mingled with the locals and other cruisers, including Lee Shalom, Harbormaster for Morgan’s Bluff (he is wearing a Denis Sullivan cap – the Flagship of Wisconsin that we worked on the constructions of for two years.)
The buildings in the small fairgrounds are constructed mostly of plywood and old palettes, with shingled roofs on top. The water and electricity is run in PVC pipe on top of the rock substrate with a dusting of sand and chunks of rock scattered about, leaving the utilities mostly exposed. I forgot to get a photo of the electrical service, but it would be a good joke to send one to the picky inspectors I dealt with back in Wisconsin!
I was the event photographer, and for the first time the sailors had an on-course spectator and some action shots of their unique craft. So instead of hyper linking a bunch of blah-blah-blah, here are some pix of the delivery, setup, and racing of these Bahamian sailboats. [More photos and complete racing story soon in Southwinds]
I sent a report to Southwinds Magazine to spread the word for these events that are the National Sporting Event in The Bahamas. I made friends with a couple builders and will visit them at their home islands when we travel. Bill Pratt is one craftsman here in North Andros with a long history of participation, he has a trophy named for him, and I visited him at his home & shop.
I had some kite flying experience with my kiteboard kite.
While we were cycling, we discovered coco plums along the roadside. The locals often stop and snack on these just as Wisconsinites pick wild asparagus and Michiganders fill small containers with blueberries.
Lots of cycling –it’s a big island with several remote settlements. See Cycling Notes.
We met some friends (Jennifer & Jay) that were in a boatyard in St. Pete with us that have lived here since November. Another boat (Mark & Rita) we stayed at Chub Cay with arrived a few days after we did, and we ended up following each other for a few weeks, which happens frequently while cruising. See Cycling Notes.
Camping came into the agenda as a necessity for comfort as twice during our stay the regularly-spaced winter fronts from the NW brought strong north winds to the harbor that is open to the north. Sleeping was easier in the Regatta Village than on Windigo in the choppy harbor.
We also camped during our ‘Cycling Tour of Andros’. See Cycling Notes.
[I guess cycling was the highlight of our first visit to Andros . . .]
It is here that Captain Sir Henry Morgan had his Pirate Cave, and we anchored 1000 feet from it. No treasure buried on an aragonite island – only a few inches of soil if any; but if a guy had 40 men on his Pirate Ship, how big of a rock could they lift? And there are lots of holes and caves around. I suppose that would be excellent security, ‘cause one or two traitors couldn’t access something under a one-ton lid! So now I’m checkin’ out my theory under all the big rocks lying loose on the island . . .
There’s a few blue holes on the island both inland and out in the bays which we explored. A feature of the Bahamian blue holes that I didn’t note in the explanation in the Bimini eletter is that The Bahamas has the only ‘tidal’ blue holes in the world. The strong flow of water in & out of the holes makes for interesting phenomena = during rising tides fish can be spewed out in great numbers; and during falling tides, careless divers may be held in the hole for the duration of the strong tidal flow, which may last up to five hours. Not good if they carried only one tank!
Also the ‘bluff’ of Morgan’s Bluff is about as impressive as a Bahamian hill can be. The jagged vertical surface dropping to the ocean is used as a repelling training aid.
This being the largest island in The Bahamas, Andros affects weather as any other land mass near water and gets frequent rainfall. This combined with the typical Bahamian structure of being a flat “rock”, it ‘collects’ a lot of water when it rains and has done so for millennia. This rainwater has eroded and flowed into pockets in the aragonite and is held there. Thirty years ago, just after independence, the Bahamians engineered a water collection system to utilize this great natural resource for a (sub)tropical island. My friend Bill Pratt Jr. [son of famous boat builder Bill Pratt mentioned above] has worked for the water utility since Day One and is now in charge of the reservoirs. He helped cut long cross-shaped channels in the rock to collect the water in the “wellfields”. There is a sump at the intersection of these canals and water retrieved there is pumped to a pair of reservoirs. Seven million gallons of fresh water are stored in the reservoirs. There are two pipelines from the reservoirs to a dock on the north tip of the island and two water tankers makes continuous trips back and forth to New Providence Island carrying this water to Nassau to supplement the reverse-osmosis water made there.
It is interesting to note that Andros has fully one-half of all the daily water available [420 million gallons] in The Bahamas, but uses less than one-third of a million gallons per day. New Providence (and Paradise Island) are able to make ten million gallons per day through reverse-osmosis, but their demand far exceeds this, so they take as much water as they want from Andros as their “birthright” [the Island of Andros receives no compensation for this]. Two-thirds of the total population [300,000] resides on New Providence, but the water requirements are much greater as the tourist consumption has been found to be three to four times the volume per capita compared with residents. Andros helps sustain the huge tourist trade in Nassau, but the Government only just this month opened a tourism office on Andros. The disparity of development in The Bahamas is caused by many, many factors; the island isolation may be the obvious one, but political mechanics is a major dynamic in the modern era. Also interesting is the fact that 15 miles to the north on Chub Cay water is 42˘ a gallon and here on Andros it is plentiful and free.
My method of discovering much about an island by cycling it thoroughly got a little out of hand here in Andros. Because of is large size and interesting nature, the ‘Andros Century’ became the First Annual North and Central Andros Bicycle Tour And Camping Extravaganza. FANCABTACE was a roaring success with two participants, Karin & me. We spanned the whole length of the island from Morgan’s Bluff to Coakley Bight and as far west as Red Bays. It became a 400+ ride, 30 to 50 miles a day with century options. I believe I cycled through every major settlement on the island:
Bowen, Conch, Man-O-War, Lowe’s and North & South Blanket Sounds
Fresh, Davis, Staniard, Stafford and Cargill Creeks
Andros, Coakley and Nicolls Towns
Calabash & Red Bays
Pineville Estates, Love Hill, Coakley Bight, Morgan’s Bluff, Small Hope and San Andros.
We rode past Kamalame Cay, a very ritzy development with a marina. Dockage is $3/ft. with a $100/day minimum. An additional $80/day for each person is charged for facility use; besides showers, water and electricity, this includes breakfast & lunch. But supper is an extra $100/person. So at $360/day, Windigo could afford to stay through the weekend! Now you see why we rode past it.
We also cannot get into the AUTEC sites, but cost is not the issue. The acronym is for the Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center, in other words, a US NAVY submarine base! There are several shoreside installations, some with great harbors, but unless your vessel is immediately threatened by a hurricane, I wouldn’t breach security there. [I heard one local story of an old sailor that bumped into a submarine here years ago. The sub surfaced, both vessels did a damage check (none), chatted briefly on the radio, and went their merry ways. Cool.]
We made a remote camp in Fresh Creek as a base to explore the southern portion of the island, and Mark & Rita sailed down with their shoal-draft boat and joined us for an evening of campfire stories and s’mores.
This section is NOT a substitute for cruising guides; I’ll just try to supplement their information with up-to-date local knowledge and some tidbits a book publisher may hesitate to print.
Remember: this advice is FREE, is well worth the price, and there’s a money-back guarantee.
The entrance to Morgan’s Bluff is EASY. There is a set of red & green channel buoys, and then what looks like a bunch of giant metal mooring balls. I passed them on every-which side when I entered; staying within a few hundred feet of them thinking it is a mooring field for LARGE ships. Then someone told me they are “channel” markers. Dubious at best – why mark a zigzag path when a straight-shot works? There’s 25 feet of water all around them with the Goulding Cays (closest hazard) way off to the north.
Anchoring out in the harbour at Morgan’s Bluff is great; the only hazards in the harbour are the entrance jetties to the inner harbor. go as far south toward the beach as you feel comfortable. The closer you get; the more sand covers the rock. You will only get a couple feet of this sand at most, so use the heaviest ground tackle you have. We use our 70# claw with confidence, letting out 120’ or more of 3/8” chain. We do this EVERYWHERE, EVERYTIME. Why leave any doubt when anchoring?
Get ready for a ride when it blows out of the north! We camped on shore (in the Regatta Village) when it did this a couple times; the rest of the boats dragged while we were on our one anchor. No kidding, five sailboats and two motor yachts trying to deal with conditions after they are developed instead of planning ahead. If a Danforth is your choice of anchor here, you may end up as Blue Dolphin did: near the beach, just a few feet (FOUR feet!) from being on the rocks. Luckily the tides were kind and they were pulled off by a motor yacht at high tide with their mast heeled over by a large dinghy. [Remember: there is no Tow Boat US here!]
This inner harbour may appeal to you. It is small, but the large high-speed ferry to Nassau docks in there, as well as the grapefruit freighter [it has to back-in ‘cause the channel is only as wide as the ship!]. The most available space in there is med-mooring with your own anchor at the bow with the stern tied to the trees. It’s free. So is the water (most convenient at the east concrete dock). So is the trash collection. So are the noseeums and mosquitoes.
All in all, we REALLY enjoyed Andros, and will be back in July for the First Annual Pirate Days Aboard Windigo with the grandkids!
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