Let’s start with why we were attracted to Andros.
The options after Bimini were Chub Cay or N. Andros. No other cruisers we knew were stopping on Andros, but we weren’t super interested in Chub (small anchorage, lots of sport fishing boats, etc.). We started looking at the big picture.
We couldn’t fathom missing out on the largest Bahamian land mass.
The guidebook description and Active Captain mentioned a few negatives (they described it as dirty, but really, could it be any dirtier than South Beach??), and we weren’t going to let that scare us off. No, these tidbits only fueled the desire to truly discover Andros for ourselves. And what we found was incredible.
THE SETTING AT MORGAN'S BLUFF
Well, there's obviously a bluff!
Morgan's Bluff was named after the pirate Captain Henry Morgan. They say he used Morgan's Bluff as a hideout anchorage and that his treasure may have been hidden in this nearby cave!
Upon arrival to the anchorage we first noticed a massive, rusty (yet gorgeous) beached tugboat who we later learned had run aground during Hurricane Matthew. The locals say it was pushed so hard up onto land that the keel was lodged into the bedrock. Tilted slightly to port it is a beautiful, and now historical, object. She would make a great coffee bar ;)
A large government dock also stood out in the bay.
We witnessed many “projects” on the dock, the first consisted of bulldozers working to unload sand from a huge barge. The kids were fascinated with the “sand mountain” and monitored (and continuously updated us) on its progress.
Several large tankers, ships, tugs and barges came and went. The mailboat came twice during our stay.
A conching mothership joined the neighborhood and stationed itself at the end of the dock for about a week. The conching team would tie together several conchs (so they couldn’t escape) and store their catch underwater until time to harvest the meat from its shell. At that point, they would dive to retrieve them and reload them onto their skiff. While nearing their vessel by dinghy to check out the operation, we saw a skiff full of conch shells and the crew was at work. Orli (appalled by the smell), declared the obvious and shouted, “It smells like conch over here!” Let’s hope the guys didn’t hear her statement!
After further exploration of the government dock, we discovered three sunken ships. Kyle snorkeled and speared at the site and saw many species including angelfish, grouper, blue runner and barracuda.
While at the anchorage for those fifteen days, nineteen other sailing vessels and one power boat visited as well.
On our first morning, anchored in extremely still waters, Kyle climbed the mast to replace our jib halyard, set a spare halyard and install our new, dazzling, excessively bright LED anchor light (which has caused much jealously in the boating community).
When he was at the top he had me help him from the deck. Between instructions, I stared out into the water and suddenly I saw my first sea life since Bimini. A large face (imagine a face similar to that of a sea lion) peeked up out of the water and looked right at me! Before I could even speak, it retreated. I asked Kyle if he saw it from the top, but he did not. I kept searching for it… hoping for another glimpse to prove I wasn’t crazy!
A few days later Kyle had the exact same experience and figured out that the creature was an ENORMOUS sea turtle. The bay was also filled with many small sea turtles who would dart around when we dinghied about.
The first trip to land on Andros, we went in search for Willy’s Bar, a locale mentioned in the guidebook. The blurb about it promised food, drinks and wifi. That was not the case, but we were not alarmed. Willy’s was gone. Unca Harvey’s Water Loop, the new business which opened in its place, served up drinks and a mean hot dog. Note: As of our first visit to Water Loop, there were no other food options aside from the hot dogs and no wifi access—opportunity was very apparent.
Cristol (the establishment’s bartender) and I had many conversations about how cruisers seek food, WiFi, showers and laundry. Every time I came in she would smile and anticipate my question, “Any new menu items yet?!”
The third time we tried to connect to the WiFi, it was back up!
By the second week, she informed us she had “patties” which were spicy, meat-filled pastries made with Bahamian sweet potato crust. I’m wondering if Team Water Loop was starting to see the light..?!
Just outside of Water Loop we met a Bahamian man named Hardass—we asked around and everyone confirmed this as his real name. His home was a 41’ Morgan Out Island (sailboat) that had been abandoned in the harbor by it’s original owner. The government granted Hardass the title to it. Tied up next to his sailboat was his floating kitchen (which formerly functioned as both workplace and living quarters up until he took over the Morgan). Next to that, was his small skiff for conching. He met us on the first day when we were looking for food and offered us an order of fresh house-made conch salad. The conch was definitely FRESH—it was alive and still squirming on the deck of his boat, rinsed over the side and then chopped up and tossed with the other ingredients as we watched.
Simultaneously, we met some local kids who brought it with a rock-throwing contest. Here’s the older boy competing with Kyle—I’m still not sure who won!
Doc is one of the first people we met on Andros. A retired dentist from Georgia, he had spent many years in the Bahamas and settled on Andros. We discovered that although he had been a dentist by day, he had also been a micro-entrepreneur by night. We were instantly fans!
At Water Loop we asked about an auto parts store. I'm surprised they didn't laugh! They instructed us to come back the next day and look for a silver vehicle (that of the local mechanic) who could help us out with the broken alternator bracket (as mentioned on The Great Bahama Bank post).
On day two, the plan was that I would go to Water Loop and try for wifi/look for the mechanic, while Kyle played with kids at the beach. I saw a sparkly (silver/goldish) SUV and approached several men at the nearby dock. The older, and only white man, chimed in when I asked about the vehicle. He said it was his. When I then asked if he was the mechanic he teasingly said, "Well... hmm, that depends. What do you need?"
I explained the alternator bracket situation and showed him the broken pieces. He looked at the time (it was 4:30pm) and within a split second, decided we should head to the Mennonites for a welding job. So I ran over to the beach and told Kyle what the plan was. He said, if I felt safe, to go ahead.
Doc and I arrived at the Mennonite farm and he charmed his way into a quick weld (and had the lock cut off our old door bracket) for only ten dollars. I overly apologized to the other customers, but they insisted it was okay since they had been there for several hours working on a hitch for their van.
All of the Mennonite's children were beautiful (I was graced by the presence of five of them), but the boy who was Zion's age was very strong and muscular and made me question our attention to physical fitness. He had golden eyes and was polite to the max. He rode a fierce trike that had obviously been pimped out by his welder-dad.
I didn't want to leave the tropical farm/homestead!
Within an hour we were back at the beach with all projects completed. Doc tried to refuse compensation for the ride, but I won. We decided we would meet up again.
We didn't see him for a few days, as we stayed on the boat, due to the high wind. Finally we decided to get out and dinghy to shore. We found Doc and his crew working on installing a new engine in one of his sport fishing boats. Next door was his new boat so he gave us a tour (the sport-fishing/trawler crowd always tries to convert us)!
During the tour we gained more perspective on Andros as he had lived in several locations over many years. We had so many questions in our minds about the culture, the different areas of the island, its anchorages and about the marinas that he was able to explain. In fact, he had even attempted to purchase one of the hurricane-damaged marinas that we were considering visiting! He gave us a very good understanding of the Andros we were trying to discover!
SIR ERLING ENTERS THE PICTURE
If you know anything about Kyle & I you know we are entrepreneurs at heart. Even in the midst of escaping the obsession, we were compelled to dive into the opportunities we were presented with.
This amazing young man from Lowe Sound overheard us asking for a taxi to town. He offered to give us a lift. After finishing his vodka & milk (yes, milk), he followed through with the offer. In addition to the ride to pick up groceries, he gave a full historical and cultural tour. With a passion for his homeland, he provided great detail on all that Andros had to offer:
We expressed some of the typical expectations and basic needs of the cruising community and had a great brainstorming session with him on the potential we saw on Andros. By the end of the day he was totally inspired and fired up with a vision for his role in the improvements and the potential for the community.
TIME TO DIGEST
We got all passionate about Erling getting so passionate, but then it was Passover (and the widely celebrated Easter 4-day weekend). We had some time to digest our Seder meal and all that we had been learning.