Monthly Archives: April 2017

Happier Hour And The Very Good Deal

We first heard about Emerald Bay Marina (or The Marina at Emerald Bay as they like to call themselves on the VHF) from another cruising couple we met in Nassau. During our travels we often learn of places that weren’t originally on our radar from talking to other boaters. I’d go so far as to say that probably half the places we’ve made a point to visit were places we’d never even heard of when we set out for the Bahamas last December.

When another couple we were having sundowners with several weeks later, this time at Allen’s Cay in the northern Exumas, also mentioned Emerald Bay, it cemented the notion that maybe this was a place we should visit. And when weather delays kept pushing back our arrival in George Town, and we found ourselves staring April 15th in the face and needed to find some reliable internet to do our taxes, the Marina at Emerald Bay sounded like a very good option since we were in the area.

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So we pulled in for a few days. To do our taxes. And catch up on laundry. And grab some provisions and restock our liquor cabinet. And then the weather closed in.

We’ve been here now for two weeks, listening to the wind blow. A steady 15 to 25 knots from the northeast, with gusts on some days into the 30’s. But before you tell us to suck it up and not let a little wind scare us, I should point out that the marina entrance faces northeast, and runs close to a shallow reef. When the wind blows strongly from anywhere north of east, large breaking waves sweep the inlet.

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We watched boats try to leave. And the breakers stopped them dead like they hit a wall, and then tossed them around like a cork in a tempest. There just wasn’t anyplace we needed to be that merited chancing an exit through those waves. As I said to another boater who thought he could impress or inspire us with tales about worse conditions he’d endured in the past, we had no reason to deliberately put ourselves in a situation where one little engine hiccup could cause us to lose the boat.

But here’s the good news. If you’re going to be stuck somewhere for a while, it would be hard to beat The Marina at Emerald Bay. Because it would be hard to think of a place that was better at serving the needs of cruisers like us.

There’s pretty good, free WiFi, and a strong cell signal. The shower room is among the best we’ve seen in our travels, with individual rooms each containing a sink, toilet and enclosed shower, all cleaned daily. Modern floating docks in very good condition. The laundry facility? Several washers and dryers, all late model front loaders, and they’re totally free! Yes, free. A free DVD lending library with several hundred movies. A pleasant, professional staff. And probably the nicest clubhouse we’ve ever seen. Even nicer than any yacht club we’ve visited.

The front desk check-in.

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The reading room.

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The coffee bar, replenished daily.

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The boater’s  lounge.

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More of the boater’s lounge.

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The TV room, with American satellite TV.

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Even a complimentary internet-connected computer for those who don’t have their own laptop.

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We forgot to take a picture of the fitness center and weight room, but we did grab a shot of the billiards table.

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Now none of this would surprise many of you if I told you that we were paying $5, $4, even $3 a foot to stay here. But get this. Our charge to stay at The Marina at Emerald Bay has been 50 cents a foot. That’s right. Half a buck per foot per night. So for our 37 foot boat, we have the free laundry, free WiFi, free DVD library, showers and coffee bar and lounge and computers for less than $20 a day.

But wait, there’s more! It’s called Happier Hour, and it takes place every Monday at 5:30. You see, The Marina at Emerald Bay is owned by Sandals Resort, and to make us feel part of the family, they throw a free weekly party for the marina guests.

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Just be sure to be on time, because the rum punch and food goes fast once the bell rings!

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Not enough for you? Well, there’s a Greg Norman designed 18 hole course right next door that wraps along the shore like Pebble Beach, and of course, the Sandals Resort that I mentioned in our previous post is just a few minute’s walk down the beach. They’re not free, of course, but with all the money you can save by staying at the marina, well, maybe you can afford to splurge a little!

What’s the catch, you ask? Well, there are two. First, in order to secure the 50 cents per night rate, you have to stay a minimum of three nights (but honestly, why would you want to leave after just one or two nights?). The second is that the bargain rate dockage comes with no services. That’s no water, no power, no pumpout. Just a space at a dock to tie up your boat. But since we make our own water and power, and the temperatures are still cool enough to be comfortable without air conditioning, this hasn’t been a problem for us. But if you absolutely need power and water for air conditioning and the ice maker, well, the rate is $2.75 a foot a day, plus metered utilities.

But honestly, who would have believed you could find such value here in the Bahamas, land of the $18 hamburger and $45 case of beer?

Yes, I Am (Or Theoretically Could Be) A Pirate, 200 Years Too Late

So we’re currently stuck at Emerald Bay Marina on Great Exuma Island waiting yet again for weather. We’d heard a lot of good things about the marina here at Emerald Bay and what a first class operation it was from cruisers we met on our way south, and we’ll have more to say about that in another post. But today we want to talk about the enjoyable time we had yesterday.

Emerald Bay Marina is owned by Sandals, which also operates the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort that’s just down the beach. Rhonda and I decided to go for a walk on the beach yesterday, because we’d heard that it was a shortcut to a local bakery in Roker’s Point where you could order fresh Bahamian bread for pick up the next morning.

So we’re strolling along a typical Bahamian beach (beautiful clear blue water and nice almost-white sand) when we happened across the beach-side entrance to Sandals.

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There were water toys scattered about and pretty little cabanas full of Sandals guests relaxing and enjoying the day, and one of the first things I noticed is that there really didn’t appear to be any sort of control over access to the resort from the beach.

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So I started looking a little closer at the folks on the beach, and the second thing I noticed is that no one appeared to be wearing any sort of wristband or tag that identified them as guests of the resort.

So I turned to Rhonda and said, “You know, I’ll bet that in theory, (since this was a purely hypothetical conversation, after all) we could just walk right into Sandals and check it out, since there really doesn’t seem to be any type of gate or fence or person checking IDs.

It actually seemed like it would be a reasonable thing to do, because the marina, being an extension of Sandals Resort, offered a resort day-pass for $160 per person, and we’d discussed possibly buying a day’s access for my birthday next Tuesday. Surely they’d understand if we wanted to first take a quick look to see if it merited $320 for a one day pass for the two of us?

And then I said to Rhonda (purely theoretically, of course), “And you know, since the resort is an all-inclusive, I’ll bet if we just walked up to the pool bar like we belonged there and asked for a couple of beers, they’d more than likely serve us, because I doubt the wait staff checks room keys or anything.”

“Do you think so?” Rhonda asked apprehensively, as she is not a natural born pirate and somewhat uncomfortable with such speculation.

“I dunno for sure, but I’ll bet you the servers don’t care, particularly if you throw a couple of bucks their way,” I offered hypothetically.

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“And I’ll bet we could even enjoy some of the activities and perhaps even relax by the pool. If we were to try, that is,” I conjectured.

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Let’s just say that it ended up being a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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Were we pirates? Well, who’s to say, really? Maybe the title of this post reveals a hidden truth. Or maybe it’s all just an opportunity waiting for someone with a sense of daring and adventure to exploit. We’ll never tell… 🙂

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The Bahamian Ghost Town

We first heard about Lee Stocking Island from some cruisers we’d met further up the Exumas. It was an odd place, they told us. It had been home to a large marine research station that had been suddenly and completely abandoned in 2012. The crew just got on boats one day and left, leaving everything behind. As recently as two or three years ago, they said, you could still find computers sitting on desks, outboard motors on skiffs, and equipment in the labs.

It sounded like an episode of Lost. This we had to see.

It was a short trip from where we had anchored at Rudder Cut Cay to see David Copperfield’s underwater sculpture The Piano. Only 12 miles or so.  Of course, we had to thread our way out Rudder Cut and then back in through Adderly Cut. Navigating cuts, which are the breaks between the Exuma Cays that provide passage between the Banks and Exuma Sound, is one of the most dangerous navigational challenges you face down here.  Huge volumes of water stream through the cuts, generating strong tidal currents. The tumultuous reversing seas and standing waves that sometimes arise, as well as numerous reefs and rocks, have ended more than one cruiser’s journey. We then had to ride a rising tide to clear a large shoal in order to get into the anchorage. But hey, it was only 12 miles or so.

It took a radio call to boats already in the anchorage for guidance on navigating our way in. An hour of seeing a foot or less under our keel left Rhonda craving a stiff drink by the time we finally dropped the anchor. But we obviously made it, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Three or four weeks ago, we would have just passed on by. But after dozens of Cays and weeks of navigating the shoals and channels of the Banks, I was sure we could do it.

So what did we find? Here, have a look.

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I can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t made a horror movie here. We walked about the property for an hour, the only people there, feeling a bit uncomfortable and out of place, as if we shouldn’t be intruding in this Bahamian ghost town. It definitely wasn’t your typical Exumas experience. But it’s a stop I’m glad we took the time to make.

And by the way, you may have noticed that it’s been darn near a month since we’ve updated our blog. That’s entirely due to how rare it is to find a decent internet connection here in the Exumas. While we’ve occasionally been able to get a good enough connection from a nearby BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) tower to do a quick Facebook update and sometimes even upload a few pictures, it has been over four weeks since we’ve had WiFi with enough bandwidth to do a blog post. But we arrived today at Emerald Bay Marina on Grand Exuma Island, where it looks like we’ll be hanging out for at least a few days, maybe a week, to wait for some windy weather to blow through. We’ve seen and done some amazing things in the last four weeks, so maybe we’ll have to do a mother-of-all-update posts to catch everyone up!