Day 1: From Nassau to the Exuma Islands

Provisioning done (lots of jugs of water, plenty of dry food, toast, cheese, coffee, weird sweets and obviously some sparkling wine for New Year’s). Water and fuel tanks filled, batteries charged. A general idea of where we were headed and which lines to pull to get the sails up. “Ready, captain?”, asked the charter company staff member as he handed me the last remaining docking line. And off we went!

The Hardest Part of Sailing

At Palm Cay marina. Turn left before reaching the boat dead ahead since it seems expensive.

Once you’re out there, with water under the keel, wind in the sails (or the motor chugging along in that humble way only diesel motors can) and some space between yourself and all other things you may drive into, everything becomes less stressful.

Leaving and entering marinas is, in my humble opinion, the worst part of it all.

With wind, current, an unfamiliar boat, a dinghy tied to the side of it, poor maneuvering capabilities at slow speeds, and quite small safety margins (before screwing it up somehow) it can be a bit tricky.

And then there are the spectators. It’s very enjoyable to be one and see how other people get themselves into and out of harbours, but quite a lot less enjoyable to be the one being watched.

But we did ok.

Our dinghy got caught on a pole so we had to jiggle it away from that while trying to keep our bow from being blown downwind (which would have made it much harder to make that upwind turn before running in to the expensive yacht right in front of us), but we managed. And Charlotte did very well, keeping her calm and doing just the right things to resolve it all.

“My heart was beating so fast I thought it would jump out of my chest”, she said later, though, once we were out of the harbour.

(Well, during the ordeal she might have uttered some small curse words in Finnish also, but in a very calm and relaxed fashion, mind you!)

Watch Out for Coral Heads

The route from Nassau to Highborne Cay. Picture of the Explorer Chartbook.

The first leg from Nassau to the Exuma islands is 35 nautical miles of open sea sailing in shallow waters with scattered coral heads (small patches of coral that you very much don’t want to run into).

The coral heads are a bit scary because when the conditions aren’t ideal it’s really hard to spot them. Polarized glasses are a must (to reduce sun glare and get better visibility to what’s beneath the surface), but if it’s cloudy or the sun shines from the wrong directions, or if there are a significant amount of waves, you just don’t see them before being right on top of them, and then it might be too late.

What we found really useful, though, was an app called Ovitalmap. All modern navigation apps come with satellite imagery, but Ovitalmap is (as far as I know) the only one with offline satellite imagery capabilities. This is a must-have because there is no cell coverage during the crossing.

Easy coral head navigation. Stay away from the dark spots!
(By the way, the Bing satellite images were much better than Google’s for this area.)


“Oh crap!”

“What now?”, Charlotte said.

“The dinghy! It got loose! We lost the dinghy!!”, I shouted.

Apparently, when messing around with the dinghy leaving the marina, I had failed to secure it well enough.

I also failed at the situation comedy and didn’t shout “Wilsoooon!” when seeing the small white dot distancing itself from us into the horizon. I clearly am not as funny as I thought I was.

Unlike Tom Hanks in Castaway, though, we did have a steering wheel and an engine, so back we went.

There were some waves messing with everything, so it wasn’t enormously easy to catch it, but we did. And I did an extra good job of securing it to the cleat. And then at double checking it for a couple of times every five minutes after that.

It’s embarrassing, obviously, so please just look at my new red shoes. They are pretty nice, right? Charlotte bought them for me since my previous ones had big holes in them.

Finally We Are Sailing!

After getting out of the densest coral head forest and over the shallowest banks (the most legendary called Yellow Bank with depths just more than 2m in some places) we finally got to hoist the sails.

Charlotte was quite seasick for the whole trip so things weren’t perfect by a long shot. But still, it was such a nice moment to finally be able to move by wind instead of humble diesel. The movement of the boat got less jerky as well, and I hope that made it a bit better, or at least a bit less terrible for her.


Anchor Down West of Highborne Cay

After a few hours of upwind sailing and some motoring dead upwind we reached our first destination, Highborne Cay, and dropped anchor in the middle of a bunch of other boats (most quite a bit larger motor yachts).

Our first sailing day was a conflicting one, because of Charlotte feeling so sick, but we did get to sail together for the very first time and we did get safely to where we wanted. And we did hope that a good night’s sleep would do the trick and that the next day would be a lot better.

Sun sets west of Highborne Cay, behind one of our neighbor yachts.

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