Yellow Banks

The weather forecast isn’t good. Yet another cold front is moving through the Bahamas with pre-frontal squalls and high winds. We call Palm Cay Marina on the southeast coast of New Providence near Nassau and are fortunate to get a slip for a few days. This commits us to a route from Highborne Cay to the marina across the Yellow Banks. I admit to some trepidation crossing the Banks. An area about a mile in length along this route is riddled with coral heads, some within 3-4 feet of the surface. A view of the charts places an X on all coral heads that can be located by satellite imagery and the X’s are dense; coral heads wherever you turn. Visual Piloting Rules apply; i.e. put someone on the bow or flybridge to serve as a spotter and manually weave your way through the maze. Ideally one would like the sun directly overhead, calm seas and a high tide; the coral is easy to spot under these conditions As we weigh anchor at Highborne it is overcast, seas are gray, and the threat of squalls looms large. We time our departure to arrive on the Banks around 11 AM, sun should be overhead. Unfortunately, high tide isn’t till 4 PM so we don’t have that in our favor. I watch AIS returns from vessels ahead to see their route. A sailboat veers to the west and picks its way through a clearing. Other shallow draft vessels simply plow through. When we arrive we opt to follow the sailboat’s westerly course; with our nearly 6 foot draft and the current state of the tide in mind. Fortunately, the sun has peeped out. As we enter the maze we are pleased to see how clearly the coral can be seen; dark black splotches in a sea of turquoise. They are everywhere. Deanna stands on the bow providing directions via our wireless headsets. Turn to port, turn to starboard, now port again. We slow Tivoli and weave around many that block our way, working through to clear and deeper water to the north. Finally we are free – success!

Our relief is short-lived. Another hour down our track we tun west toward Palm Cay and again must negotiate our way through a maze of coral on the approach to the marina. We arrive unscathed. All in all, a pretty easy task under the right conditions. That wasn’t so bad after all.

The marina at Palm Cay is beautiful. A planned resort community, it has waterfront condos and new marina and facilities, and best of all is relatively inexpensive. We are routed to a slip with short fingers and pilings; we will have to back in – my favorite thing. I’ve learned to center the rudder and steer with the thrusters while backing in and this approach has worked well. Soon, we are tied up and shut down. We record the numbers, lock up the boat and head to the harbormaster’s office to check in and have lunch at the restaurant.

We are happy to be in a secure marina to sit out the coming weather.

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