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Mermaid statues on Rum Cay, damaged by Hurricane Joaquin

The mood out here has changed since we started down the Thorny Path. Gone is the constant chatter between sailors on the VHF radio, and with it, the reassuring sight of many white sails rising up from the horizon. We’ve officially entered less-traveled waters, and sailing here demands renewed focus and (sometimes) a salty, stiff upper lip.

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Our sail to Rum Cay was filled with exciting marine life encounters. First we hooked this swordfish – one look at his sharp bill was enough to determine that we lacked the skills and equipment to bring him aboard. We let him go.

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Pod of dolphins swimming off our bow en route to Rum Cay. We counted over a dozen in this group, which stayed for a while to jump across our path and play.

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Following some tense navigation through a minefield of coral heads (and instant flashbacks to this incident ), we dropped anchor safely in the wild and gorgeous Port Nelson anchorage at Rum Cay. Our cruising guides promise some can’t miss stops on the island, but they were written before Hurricane Joaquin decimated the island last fall. With tempered expectations, we pulled our dinghy up alongside the dilapidated remains of the Government dock and made our way down the sand-covered road leading to where the marina, restaurants, and shops used to be.

En route, we took in the devastation. Buildings and docks leveled, roads concealed by drifts of sand. The marina was a sad mess of crooked pilings and a large sunken sailboat, with a handful of smaller boats parked at rickety slips rebuilt by squatting captains. They had recently installed pumps for gas and diesel at the dock (an upgrade that promised to bring more sailors and dollars to the area), only to have them wiped out by the storm. A young woman and an older gentleman came over to say hello. They offered us water and invited us to pull Nightingale Tune up to one of the docks. We took one look and politely declined (to say we’re not confident in our docking skills, especially without the assistance of a marina dockhand, is a huge understatement), but we were grateful for their generosity nonetheless.

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Remains of the government dock on Rum Cay

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Outside Kay’s Restaurant, the only watering hole left on Rum Cay

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Sand drifts where the road used to be

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Nightingale Tune anchored off beautiful Port Nelson in Rum Cay

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A wrecked ketch, submerged where the marina docks used to stand.

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A woman living aboard a fishing boat docked at the remaining marina dock asked me if I wanted to see “the amusement park”. She led me over to a shallow spot, where two Lemon Sharks were circling. The sharks were waiting to be fed fish carcasses by the local fishermen.

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Marina wreckage

 

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Earlier that day, another boat joined us in the anchorage. They had successfully snagged more Wahoo en route than they could eat, so they gave us some filets. It almost made up for the swordfish debacle. Our ocean fishing record: 2 fish caught by us, 2 fish donated to us.

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Wahoo, marinaded in lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, fresh thyme (last bit left from George Town), salt, pepper. The fish has a firm, fleshy consistency, reminiscent of swordfish.

We returned to our boat to await the arrival of our friends on s/v Delancey, who were en route from Long Island. The wind picked up, along with the swell, which came in from the sea, at an mind-bogglingly different angle than the wind, making us extremely uncomfortable. Brian spent the afternoon rigging up a swell bridle (our pal Brittany explains the concept perfectly here)  to alleviate the bucking and rolling. To our surprise, and great relief, it worked! It’s a good thing too, because we’ll be here a few more days, waiting for the right weather to begin the 27 hour passage to Mayaguana, our final Bahamian island stop, as we venture further down the Thorny Path.