With no disrespect to Tennessee Williams, our next island of call south, after Rock Sound, Eleuthera, is Cat Island. It is an appropriate metaphor for a place that has no harbor of refuge. Like its smaller “out islands” neighbors, Conception Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay, Cat Island has no harbors that are safe in all wind directions. In fact, most offer protection in only 3 or 4 compass points (of the 16 principle points). This lack of protection makes cruisers “as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof”. We had waited in Rock Sound for a favorable wind to visit Cat, and maybe Conception, but the window that we got was awfully narrow. Maybe two or three days before another cold front penetrated the Bahamas; a new round of wind clocking around from North to East, to South and then West and back to North again. A new place for us, another Maduro cigar for Shep, but the euphoria is short lived. We are not inclined to enjoy anchoring for the night in 25kts of wind (gusts to 30) in an exposed place. We chose Fernandez Bay as the/our best anchorage. If you can tuck way in toward the east side, the cruising guides says it has N-NNE-NE-ENE-E-ESE-SE-SSE protection…Woo Hoo! Eight Points! I guess, only if you are talking about direct exposure to the wind-driven waves. But the surge is the scourge! Surge is waves of big-water swells created by big wind from one direction that wrap around points of land and change direction, generally into an otherwise calm anchorage. Surge makes seemingly snug harbors very uncomfortable for all but the biggest vessels. The surge from the NE wind on our first night makes us rock-and-roll, 60 degrees and we hardly sleep. The next night the wind is SE and we get the same rock-and-roll treatment….not fun. So much for the best protection on Cat Island. After two uncomfortable nights, we get the really bad news from our weather guru, Chris Parker, during his 0630 weather broadcast on the SSB Radio: the next night it will be SE wind going to S and then SW and going to W just before dawn. Fernandez Bay will be completely open to wind and waves from the west. We cry Uncle! We decide to motor directly for the only really protected place on Cat Island: Hawks Nest Marina. It is up in a narrow creek, with the type of entrance that makes Hatchet Bay seem like child’s play. Rocks to the right of us, coral to the left, here I am, stuck in the middle with Deb!
Beautiful place, Hawks Nest, with its own 3,000ft runway, guest cabins, restaurant, beach, swimming pool… But we are like a ‘fish out of water” here. The marina is full of 30-60ft sports fishing boats (read expensive…since copious amounts of diesel fuel, at $6 per gallon, is no problem for these guys); we are the only “rag boat”. However, our neighbors are all nice, and we only need one night of protection, and, and, and, we don’t need any fuel! We can do laundry, fill the water tanks, and take real hot showers with lots of water; not the usual splish-splash some water, turn it off and soap up, turn it on for a few seconds to rinse. Unfortunately, the fishing has been poor (too much wind, they tell us, perhaps cursing rag boats under their breath), and we get no Mahi handouts that night. The forecast is not good for a visit to Conception Island…we punt, and sail off to Georgetown. The Cruisers Regatta shenanigans await.