Misadventures at Rum Cay in the Bahamas

By October 2, 2018Bahamas, Caribbean, Published Works

[Shane – Below is an article I just wrote for an upcoming issue of All At Sea – South Florida. I thought you might find it entertaining, before I start writing about my Trinidad and Tobago adventures, which will start tomorrow.

PS, full disclosure is that the cover photo is the dinghy years later after I sold it. I just thought it fit the title well. :)]

I have written about rum cay in the past, but today I want to share a few misadventures I had one time when I visited.

Rum Cay is one of the Bahamas Out Islands and is close to the center of the island chain. The island is 7 miles long and 4 miles wide with a population around 50 people in the village of Port Nelson. Sumner Point Marina is located in the southeast part of the anchorage off the village and provides all around protection when needed since the anchorage is rather open and only has protection from the northwest to east. The bad news is the marina has been closed since 2013, but the docks are free to use.

The misadventures started when I decided to take the dinghy outside the reef wall on the southern side of the island to see the HMS Conqueror. This 101-gun British ship of the line was only six years old when it was wrecked on the reef in 1861. All 1400 crew survived, but the ship was a total loss. Today the wooden hull is totally gone, but there is equipment scattered all over a small area in about 30 feet of water and it is a great snorkel site. When I did it the waves were a foot or two but built to five as they passed over the reef. The waves hid the reef from my view and caused me to misalign the cut in the reef. It happened so fast. One moment I was in 20 feet of water thinking I was doing well and the second moment the wave picked me up and all I could see was reef in front of me. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do as the wave brought the dinghy down on top of the reef and bounced me across it until I was back on the inside of the reef.

I checked out the damage and was happy that the top of the reef was all dead coral and the dinghy seemed to weather the trip intact and did not follow the Conqueror’s fate. Since everything seemed ok I continued exploring and went to check out a huge salt pond. As I approached the entrance, which sits two miles to the east of the anchorage, I noticed the dinghy was getting sluggish and by the time I got to the creek like entrance I had zero thrust. I pulled the dinghy ashore and realized the prop had spun or broken away from the hub and was useless. It is designed to do this in order to protect the engine’s lower unit but left me stranded two miles from town and my boat. My only course of action was to walk through the waist deep salt pond all the way back, so I could get another dinghy and tow mine back. The good news is that I got to explore the salt pond even better than I wanted.

A few days later I chose to explore Flamingo Bay on the northwest part of the island since the wind was out of the southeast. You have to maneuver through a maze of coral heads in Flamingo Bay, but with good light it is not a problem. Hartford Cave sits a couple miles from the bay and has lots of Lucayan petroglyphs. Since the new prop I ordered was a week away I used my kayak, and everything was going great paddling along the coast. That was of course until I tried to beach the kayak in a five-foot surf. I figured I would paddle hard and ride the wave in like a surfer and slide into the beach all cool like. The reality is that the wave picked up the kayak and tilted it forward until it seemed to be totally vertical. I panicked, jumped from the vertical kayak, got washed in the surf, and plopped on the beach like a dead fish. I was fine but had to gather everything up from the yard sale I had spread along the beach. After checking out the very cool petroglyphs I attempted to launch the kayak, which was not successful until I swam the kayak out past the surf line and then climbed in.

Hopefully my misadventures entertained you while at the same time giving you some ideas of how to do it the right way when you are in similar situations. 🙂

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