Conception Island

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Conception Island

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Conception Island

   
                 
Conception Island
 

Conception is a protected Land and Sea Park, and is surrounded by superb beaches and reefs with some good snorkeling and dive sites.

 

As we sailed up from Flamingo Bay on Rum Cay, a distance of 24 miles, we knew that yet another cold front was due so we would have to anchor off the eastern shore of Conception until the front passed, then move around to the western shore.

 

On arrival into the lagoon of the eastern shore, we found about eight other boats and a large rusting ship with a drilling rig and other rusting machinery on board. Read on for the full story on the ship, the Louis J. Goulot.

 

We explored the eastern and north eastern shore of Conception the following day, finding beautiful beaches, coves and limestone cliffs. The northeastern shoreline is open to the Atlantic, but the eastern shore is on the shallower banks so is usually much calmer.

 

During our second day at anchor a small warship arrived off the southwest corner belonging to the Bahamian Defense Force. Soon we saw a day-glow red inflatable being launched, then head our way. We knew then that we were in for an inspection, the first since our arrival in The Bahamas.

 

They boarded the first boat and spent 15 minutes aboard before moving to the second. It looked like this would take all day. When we thought it was our turn, they speeded past us to inspect another boat moored at the extreme north end of the anchorage. As they came close to the boat, we noticed they stopped and waited, (all this now through binoculars). We assumed the boats occupants were not on board and the Defense Force were waiting. Fifteen minutes later another day-glow red boat speeded in from the warship to join the first one. Minutes later, both turned around, headed back at speed to the warship, were hauled on board and the warship departed.

 

We were later to find out that the yacht at the north end of the anchorage was called Wanda and we heard the full story the following day.

 

On our third day we moved Dream On around to the western shore to anchor in West Bay at the northwest corner. On our way around we passed two large live-aboard dive boats at anchor off the reef on the west coast.

 

Once all the boats had moved around to West Bay and re-anchored we organised a beach happy hour. During this happy hour we met John & Mikki Powers from Wanda. They are a great couple and we spent time with them over the next few days.

 

We also learned the full story on the Defense Force visit. Just as the BDF inspection boat came close to Wanda, it ran out of fuel. Hence the second boat which delivered fuel. On arrival with the fuel, the second boat sprang a leak, so both had to head back to the mother ship without completing the inspection.

 

In West Bay we saw a family of dolphins close to the boat and there were also a couple of comical trunk fish that were obviously used to receiving tit-bits from cruisers as they would hang around the stern until hand fed.

 

We joined up with John and Mikki to dive off the west wall of Conception. Having waited until the large dive boats had left, we went round in two dinghies and moored to a mooring buoy which has been installed there to protect the reef.

 

The reef started at 18 metres and we were immediately inspected by a Caribbean Reef Shark which spent the whole dive with us. Great coral, many fish but because of the depth it was a short dive.

 

The next day we took the dinghy and towed the kayaks about 2 miles down the west shore to the entrance to the inner lagoon. At one time, it would have been a lagoon deep enough for boats to enter, but over the years the sand and mangroves have taken over. We anchored the dinghy just inside, then set off by kayak. The tide was low and some of the creeks within the lagoon were landlocked. In many places the kayaks were grounded but we spent three hours exploring this fascinating area. We saw juvenile fish of every kind, including nurse sharks and barracuda. We saw many small turtles, popping their heads up every so often to check us out.

 

On return to the dinghy, it was totally aground and we had to tow it out of the creek with the kayaks into deeper water.

 

The strange thing about Conception, particularly as it is a national park, is that there are so few fish on the reefs. There is a tremendous shallow reef structure to the north of the island but few fish.

 

We walked around the northwest corner of the island, and down the north coast to a bay with a fantastic curved white beach, probably 2 miles long. No boats can enter due to the depth and the surrounding coral heads. Even a dinghy entry would be difficult. The downside, as with any Atlantic facing beaches is the rubbish that floats up. In older days, this would have mainly comprised fascinating bits of wood that eventually become part of the beach structure. Nowadays, unfortunately, it is mostly plastic and glass.

 

The following day we had planned to set off to Cat Island, to the northwest of Conception. However, while adjusting the alternator belt tension, Geoff inadvertently shorted out the alternator. Without an alternator, we cannot fully charge the batteries or run the watermaker and we were low on drinking water.

 

We tested the alternator and assumed it was not working, then installed a similar spare. That too did not perform. Then we were not sure whether it was the alternator or the regulator, a fairly sophisticated three stage charging unit. John of Wanda came over to lend a hand and spent most of the day with us. Wanda also supplied us with some extra drinking water. A third but different type of alternator was installed, with a re-jigging of the support mountings and this enabled us to start charging again.

 

We spent a very pleasant evening on board Wanda, a very nice classic Bristol yacht and discussed where to leave our respective boats in the US this summer. Both Dream On and Wanda could end up in the same yard.

 

The work on the alternator was tidied up the next day and we set off for Hawk's Nest Creek, Cat Island, 32 miles to the northwest. John and Mikki would probably follow us there the following day.

 

Conception was very much worth the visit and we would love to return one day.

 

The Louis J. Goulot:

We dinghied around the rusting hulk of the Louis J. Goulot to see if we could find out where she came from and why she would be in a conservation area and a danger to the area in the next hurricane season. As we pottered around, a man called Bob came onto deck and gave us the story.

 

Bob was there looking after the boat as relief for the usual single crew member. The ship was an oil exploration ship owned by a Canadian company and leased to a US company. She had been anchored securely last summer, we assume somewhere in the western Atlantic, when the hurricanes were imminent. The crew were evacuated. After the hurricanes, when they returned to find her, she was gone. That was August 2004. She was not seen again until January 2005, when she came aground on the shallow banks off the west coast of Conception. Whether the Bahamian authorities could not locate the owners or wanted time to investigate the boat is not clear. Either way, the owners were not informed until March 2005 of the boats location. At some point it was towed or driven from the banks into the secure anchorage at Conception and was awaiting a tug large enough to tow her away when we visited.

 

Bob also advised that it was very creepy on board as all the rusting metal and old machinery creaked and groaned all night.

 

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prower@ondreamon.com

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USA: 1-954 4785948        UK:  +44 7855388258         Skype: geoff.iza