This special report by Greg Allard is typical of the excellent reporting and gorgeous photos our readers have come to expect from Greg’s contribution. And, as always, SSECN is deeply grateful!
Report from the Bahamas – Grand Bahama: West End & Port Lucaya
Hurricane Matthew tore through the Bahamas in early October of 2016. When it reached Grand Bahama, it battered the island with sustained winds of 140 mph. This is a report on the current conditions at two of the marinas which are often used by cruisers. READ MORE!
1) West End – Old Bahama Bay – West End is one of the key locations for cruisers either entering or leaving the Bahamas. Old Bahama Bay Marina, at West End, was closed for months after the storm, and then re-opened for dockage at $1.00 a foot since the marina was still without power.
We visited Old Bahama Bay earlier this month (June 12-14, 2017). The marina is now in full operation, and it looks the same as it did before the hurricane. There had been minimal dock damage (all now repaired), thanks to the substantial jetty/sea wall which surrounds the harbor. The main damage had been to the electrical system, since the storm surge had risen about four feet above the level of the fixed docks, destroying all of the power posts and transformers. Those have now been replaced with brand new ones, the repairs to the power supply were completed about two months ago, and power at the docks is solid, at good voltage.
Generally the resort property at Old Bahama Bay looks excellent. The grounds and buildings are in very good condition, the pool and restaurant are open and there was a lot of activity. Unfortunately, the tiki-bar by the beach at the north side of the property was completely destroyed, as well as a small nearby “shack” which handled diving tours, towels, kayaks, etc. Wisely, the resort rebuilt a temporary tiki bar, which serves drinks and food. Old Bahama Bay has plans to start construction in September on a permanent building at the site, which will include a tiki-bar, dining tables, bathrooms, and other facilities. The Customs/Immigration office at the marina is fully operational.
The temporary tiki-bar at the beachfront is at the left. The beer was cold and the food good. Eddie’s Gully Wash booth reopened, as did the two local booths run by Miss Anne (a legend at Old Bahama Bay) and Cora, both residents of the West End settlement, which is a small village about two miles east of the resort. That settlement was devastated by the hurricane. We spoke to one resident who – at the height of the storm – had to swim with her family out the back door of her home, toward higher ground.
Many of the residents of that settlement work at Old Bahama Bay, the only real source of employment in the area. It is worth taking some time to visit the settlement. If you want to help with their recovery efforts, make a donation at the St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal/Anglican church. Then, have some excellent conch salad at Shevo’s Conch Shack which was rebuilt and is right along the waterfront; try one of their specialties – a delicious tropical conch salad.
The resort property is in fine condition. The pool was clean, with all new poolside furniture.
Dockage at Old Bahama Bay is not inexpensive at $2.99 a foot. Membership in the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club (RMHYC) entitles you a 20% discount, and allows you to waive the mandatory $20 a day water charge; no discount on holidays.
If you regularly cruise in the Abacos, you should consider joining the RMHYC, which offers discounts on dockage in many places in the Abacos, and in a few places elsewhere in the Bahamas and in the U.S. (At the Leeward Yacht Club on Green Turtle Cay, the RMHYC card not only gives you a 10% discount on dockage, but also on food and drink at their restaurant.) Here’s the RMHYC link: http://www.rmhyc.com
Many cruisers find Old Bahama Bay at West End to be perfectly positioned. It’s not just a marina but a resort, so while the dockage charges seem high, you do have access to all of their facilities. We found it a restful stop on our return from three months in the Bahamas.
2) Grand Bahama Yacht Club at Port Lucaya – About 30 miles east of West End, on the southern coast of Grand Bahama, is Port Lucaya. There are two major marinas there, both owned by the same company. As you enter the harbor through Bell Channel, the Port Lucaya Marina is to port, and the Grand Bahama Yacht Club (GBYC) is to starboard. On our way to the Bahamas, four months ago, we stayed at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club, which was our first stop as we entered the country from the U.S. Contrary to current postings on another web-site, there is no fuel at Port Lucaya Marina, and no Customs/Immigration – both of those operations have been moved months ago to the GBYC. We did not visit the Port Lucaya marina on this trip, but we heard that they had considerable damage – including to the harbormaster’s office which had been completely destroyed.
Grand Bahama Yacht Club also had damage, but is now in full operation. Some of the slips are unusable, but many are fine, and the repair work continues. The marina will not assign you to any damaged slip.
The Grand Bahama Yacht Club’s docks can accommodate boats of all sizes. There are many usable undamaged slips; note the two broken pilings between the first two boats.
This is one of the slips at the marina which is undergoing repair. Apparently a large yacht sought refuge from Matthew at the marina, and was tied to this dock. The hurricane sank the yacht, tearing the concrete dock apart in the process. On the far shore are two other casualties of the storm.
Both marinas in Port Lucaya list their dockage at $2.20 a foot, but discounts can be had after some polite discussions directly with the marina manager; don’t use the US phone number for any reservations, as they are clueless about any discounts. Instead, call the marina directly. GBYC also offers some good longer term rates. The pool-bar and restaurant at GBYC have not yet reopened, but the marina runs a ferry, on demand, which is a five minute trip over to the Port Lucaya Marina, where there are several restaurants and shopping (and often big crowds, bussed in from cruise ships, to shop there.) We much prefer the peaceful, less frenetic GBYC, with its pleasant grounds and friendly staff. Karen is the congenial manager, Fabian and Aaron the excellent, helpful dockmasters. When we were there, the pool was open, but it needed attention.
One of the best, highest rated (and expensive) restaurants in the Bahamas, is diagonally across the harbor from the GBYC. We’ve had exceptional meals there. The Flying Fish restaurant has a dinghy dock, and the water shuttle from GBYC will take you there too. Their bar menu, each day at 5:30 out on the patio/dock, is a good value.
Note: I have no financial interest in any of these marinas, and received no compensation in any form.
These reviews are submitted for the assistance of members of Salty South East Cruisers’ Net.