It’s 4:28am on the 4th of January. Our Bahamas sailing trip has taken us to the Royal Island Harbor. The wind is howling. One of our cockpit sun cover straps is sporadically flapping making a strong humming sound. The waves are lapping against the hull with an occasional ‘clap’ causing my adrenaline to surge. It’s that odd wave that hits the hull sideways making a strong statement that always wakes me up (even when I’m already awake).
(Side Note: make sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch our Florida to Bahamas voyage video!)
Every few minutes the boat tilts sideways as the wind pushes her over.
When the wind is at it’s strongest the whole boat shakes as if Britican is shivering. Interestingly, however, although the wind is coming from the northwest it’s not that cold. When protected from the wind we are all in our shorts and t-shirts.
Friends back home in Charleston, our last long-term port, messaged us over the satellite telling us that they got hit with 4” of snow. Snow in South Carolina is a major event. Surely the whole city is completely shut down. I wonder if the snow is part of the same weather system that we’re getting?
Today will mark our third day anchored in Royal Island Harbor, The Bahamas.
After our 36 hour voyage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida across the Gulf Stream and into The Bahamas, we arrived around 9am and it was as calm as could be. On day two the wind started to increase and now we’re on the final day of the storm system – I hope.
Upon our arrival I felt elated to drop the anchor, survey the quiet bay and feel a massive sense of calm come over me. Coming from the busy New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, this mooring couldn’t be any further from what we left. Furthermore, all the Sailboat Windlass Woes we had in Florida dropped away. The new windlass worked perfectly!
In Fort Lauderdale we were moored alongside a river bank between two bridges that lifted on demand.
Each time they lifted bells and alarms went off. The traffic down the river was manic. We had day-trip cruises, massive gin palaces, sailboats of all kinds and small day boats. There was even a floating tiki bar that went past us several times a day and a massive great big floating diesel station. And if the river traffic wasn’t enough, every dog owner, tourist and homeless person walked past the boat.
It was a great experience and one that really helped me to contrast a city mooring with dropping the hook off a small remote island.
We sailed for two nights from Florida to arrive at our destination.
Rather, I should say that we motored half and sailed half. Just before entering the area outside the harbor, Simon gave our volunteer crew member, Andrew, some lessons on tacking. Until now we’ve been downwind sailing with no tacking required. For five weeks Andrew has not had to work, at sailing – that is!
The lessons took place to waste a bit of time. Sim wanted the sun to be a bit higher so we could see the ocean floor. The entrance to the harbor was littered with rocks so we needed to take it slow, stay on the recommended navigation line and have someone keep a look out.
Andrew and Sienna stood at the bow keeping an eye on the ocean floor.
The shortest depth our reader reported was 3.5 meters or around 11’. With our keel at 7.5’ we didn’t have anything to worry about. As we entered the harbor we had to keep left around a tiny island and proceed through the middle of a very small entrance. Once we got into the harbor we discovered one motorboat (similar to a Hatteras), one Catamaran, of whom the occupants yelled out ‘welcome’ upon our arrival, and a couple other sailboats at the other end of the bay. One other boat came in after us.
Regarding the land, we could see two jetties with boats and some sort of storehouse or mobile trailer storage units.
Before entering the harbor there’s a large hotel. In our pilot guide it notes that it went bankrupt when first built and then it reopened in 2010 and went bankrupt again. We noticed people on the grounds and it looked like it might be being used?!
There is a road on the island but I’m not sure if there’s anything other than the properties on the harbor and the hotel. There are certainly no stores, bars or restaurants.
Royal Island is an almost deserted island!
The land isn’t too high. It’s rather flat but not flat enough to see across to the other side of the island. The bay is lined with trees, coastal edges and a tiny bit of beach in some areas. Otherwise, there’s nothing else. The only sounds you can hear are birds, a jumping fish, a small airplane in the far distance and the wind.
After anchoring, Simon went for a swim to ensure our Mantus Anchor was set. It was set so well that Simon couldn’t find it! We think the sand is quite fluffy and it’s buried right in and covered. With our SARS Excel anchor that we used for four years I always felt confident with it. I could feel it drag for a bit and then bite in. There was only a few occasions when we couldn’t get it to dig in due to poor holding but as a whole I felt it was a good anchor.
With our Mantus, however, it’s one step above the Excel.
There’s absolutely no dragging or lag between dropping and it setting. It goes down to the seabed and as soon as it touches, it immediately beds itself in.
When I drop the anchor, I let it first hit the seabed and then tell Simon to put the engine in reverse so that the chain is fed out rather than dumping on itself. As usual, I performed the same action with the new Mantus. Once I let out the amount of chain necessary, I told Simon to stop. I then had him pull back to bed the anchor in. What I do is put my foot on the chain to feel the anchor drag a bit and then I feel the anchor stop, the chain pull tight and the boat come to a holding pattern (even under substantial revs in reverse).
With the Mantus, my foot felt absolutely no drag.
The chain pulled out immediately and we were done and dusted. With the Excel I sometimes worried that it wasn’t properly bedded in. With the Mantus, there’s no doubt in my mind. Check out guide to figuring out the Best Anchor For Your Sailboat here. OR…just save yourself time and energy and buy a Mantus here.
As we were tidying up the boat we suddenly noticed a massive commotion around 100’ from the boat. And then we all saw it. We saw a shark fin. Yes – a shark fin. And then we saw a shark tail. Simon yelled out, ‘I think it’s a Thresher Shark.’ He then made a comment that they’re nothing to worry about, jumped off the boat and started swimming towards it with his snorkeling gear on.
I video’d the whole thing (make sure to watch the video to see all the action!).
The more I saw of the shark the more I found myself concerned. It looked larger and larger. At first I thought that perhaps there were a couple sharks as I kept seeing a fin, tail…and then I thought, ‘was that an eyeball?’
Simon got close to the shark. I then heard him scream out a bit through his snorkel. Instantly I can tell that he had a nervous laugh. I think he yelled out, ‘Oh my god!’. Then I witnessed him making a 180 turn and swimming quit quickly back to the boat.
It was a Great Hammerhead shark and we estimate that it was at least 12’ – 15’ long and it was feeding on something.
We think it might have been a stingray that he was chomping down on?!
After the excitement wore off a bit, our neighbors Tom and Tammy, on s/v Mac, came over to introduce themselves and say ‘hi’. Being in the anchorage for longer, they told us that there’s some manatee’s and big sting rays in the bay too. We’ll have to keep and eye out for them. (That aside…I’m not sure I can go swimming knowing that there’s a hammerhead shark near me).
Tom and Tammy came aboard and we had a lovely chat. It felt so nice to be back sailing and near other cruisers. We’ve never met cruisers that we haven’t liked. The community is very like minded and we all have very interesting stories to share with each other. And it’s such a small world with cruisers. Come to find out, I’ve been following Tammy’s Instagram account for a long time so I already knew her over social media. Check her out on Instagram under the name SeasickAndBroke.
We all chatted about our past sailing escapades, the local area, where to get bread and the impending storm in addition to solar cooking and future sailing plans.
After our new friends left, Simon and Andrew went out to find a lobster for dinner. They returned empty handed but had stories about finding the largest lobster they’ve ever seen! Sienna and I did homeschooling and ate some lunch. With the boat cleaned up we all just lazed about looking at our new view feeling very calm and relaxed.
For dinner I made a spiraled zucchini pesto salad, capreese salad and quiche. The quiche was store bought (one of my freezer goodies) but tasted really good. We then pulled the big TV out and watched Guardians of the Galaxy II.
I couldn’t help but say to myself over and over, ‘I love my life.’
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Bahamas Sailing Trip Video – Sailing To The Bahamas – Royal Island
If you enjoyed this article & video, check out these:
- 1. Sailing to Florida – Amelia Island
- 2. Sailing Florida – St Augustine
- 3. Sailing Florida – Cape Canaveral
- 4. Sailing Florida – West Palm Beach
- 5. 10 Reasons to sail down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)
- 6. Sailboat Windlass Woes
Any questions, comments or thoughts?! Leave them below.
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