Nov 21-26: Sale Cay & Allans-Pensacola Cay


The morning broke with tropical storm, knocking out internet and washing away the last of our stress with soothing sounds of rain on the canvas cockpit. The quiet, thoughtful morning was a welcome beginning to our unscheduled days ahead. A good reminder that our trip had purpose, to find quiet spaces, revive our sense of community and find new joys in our relationship.

As the storm cleared, and blue sky emerging around 10:30am, the first sailboat was already underway towards Great Sale Cay (pronounced ‘key’.) Two other sailboats planned to meet us at a designated spot and perhaps travel on together the next day towards Allans-Pensacola Cay.

The journey required specific departure times and some careful GPS navigation points through very shallow waters and reefs. Andrew had already programmed everything in so our trip went off without a hitch.

Occasionally I had to take the ‘Titanic’ stance at the front to look for potential issues. The task was not a chore. I had a spectacular view of fish swimming below through clear turquoise water and dark sapphire coral.

Today I would tackle my first batch of hand washed laundry…in years! The task was surprisingly fast and soon sweet smells of spring ocean breezes wafted from clothes hanging on a makeshift clothesline in the cockpit. Who knew all my Congo training from village mamas would come in handy on a sailboat. Too funny!

We arrived at the designated location just before sunset. The skies were glorious, reflecting on calm beach waters, but our friends were nowhere in sight. We had hosted everyone the night before, sharing our solar tips including the blow-up blue solar lights, so put them out in hopes they would remember and find our boat.

The next morning one of the boats was right beside us. They had arrived late in the evening and spotted the lights 4 miles away like a beacon to safe anchorage. Our other friends had continued through the night, trying to stay on schedule for a planned meetup with family.

We packed up early to for Allans-Pensacola Cay but this time weren’t in any rush so Andrew slowed the boat to try trolling for fish. 6 knots seemed to be the perfect speed and before long we had a 2.5’ Grand Barracuda. Wow! It felt like we were on a fishing show. It was almost as big as our counter.

While we were back at Palm Beach we happened upon a couple watching as their charter staff prepared their catch. They very graciously invited us to watch. I am used to descaling, removing the innards and leaving the fish whole for cooking but this guy skipped most of the usual steps, keeping things super simple. With a quick knife he peeled off the scales, cut around fins and removing the steaks without bones, only perfect fillets ready to cook.

Now it was my turn to remember his demonstration . . . and it worked! The extra bits went overboard for other fish and we had gorgeous fish ready to cook . . . and just in time. Andrew had caught a second Barracuda, this time 3’ long. Inspiring afternoon!

We arrived at Allans-Pensacola Cay later in the afternoon and immediately fell in love. This stunning series of uninhabited islands hosts one of the best combinations of Bahamian nature. Ocean coral nearby, great diving, rich fishing, lots of lobster with well protected anchorage, hidden heritage sites and over twelve different beaches to explore. The only down side were the tiny no-see-ums (tiny mosquitoes that look like a grain of dirt) and mosquitoes, which all seem to LOVE me.

For the next four days we stayed and explored, looking for shells and coral treasures on beaches. The second day we happened upon an old shipwrecked aluminum boat and a shack that looked like Huckleberry Fin had just left the night before. Although the Walmart parking sign gave it away as home to less historic residents. A plastic blue 'FREE REAL ESTATE GUIDE' box still held recent papers, a sign offering more information about the location, other trinkets and a folding chair sitting ready for the next visitor had us dreaming up what the location had been used for. Perhaps a teenager getaway, sleeping bags in the fort with rowdy laughing and singing as instruments were played by the campfire.

Our daydreaming halted abruptly with a rustling sound from the dense forest. After trying to spot someone hiding and toying with us, and calling out a few hellos we finally agreed that no one was there and decided to move on. Partway down the next beach, two figures standing up in their zodiac suddenly showed up, pulling up onto the beach beside us. We were a bit freaked out until they pulled down their face scarves revealing their welcoming smiles and lovely personalities.

Previous surf-shop owners and professional fishermen, Bill and Bettie Sue have made this location their regular stomping ground through the winter. They knew all of the local residents on nearby islands by name, the best spots to fish, and trails to the interesting features on the islands which included a hurricane hole where boats could safely ride out hurricanes, and an ancient stone wall put up by early British settlers.

They relayed the history of the shack and guided us to a spot we had been looking for, a signing tree where boaters leave a memento with the name of their boat. We found the tree and a pair of great friends. Over the next few days of our stay Bill and Bettie Sue showed us how to fillet some of the more challenging fish, clean and prepare conch, and taught us to spear fish, pointing out the best spots to catch lobster. Just about every day they would drop off fresh fish and even delayed their departure to drop off a few more tid bits.

As they left we promised to join them at their next location shortly and Andrew captured great footage of their boat underway. Being in the Bahamas has been such a great experience, complete with welcoming local Bahamians and a huge community of boaters who go out of their way to provide information and support where needed. Amazing!

After enjoying the rest of the day exploring, we will head out tomorrow for Manjack Cay . . . and our waiting friends Bettie Sue and Bill.