Enjoying the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

After leaving Georgetown on April 8, we motorsailed to Staniel Cay. As always we waited for relatively calm seas since we had to go on the Exuma Sound for part of the day until we entered Galliot Cut to the shallow Bahamas Bank. Our purpose in going to Staniel Cay was to pick up guests Carolyn and Ed (S/V Sharkitecture) on April 14 and take them to Warderick Wells in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, 15 miles north of Staniel Cay.

According to a brochure, “Exuma Park, a no take zone by land and sea, was established in 1958 to preserve and maintain the delicate ecological balance of marine life in the Bahamas.” People are not allowed to remove anything from the water, the beaches, or the land. The park begins at Wax Cay Cut in the north and is 22 miles long, ending at Conch Cut. The average width is eight miles and the park is a total of 176 square miles. The sea part goes from 3-5 miles off the land in both directions, on the Exuma Sound to the east and on the Bahamas Bank to the west. There is nothing commercial on any of the cays, including Batelco cell phone towers. Therefore there is no phone or Internet service while in the park. In fact the only structures are on Warderick Wells, where the park office is located, as well as living quarters for the park wardens and staff. Oddly, a few of the Cays (pronounced Keys) in the Park have been sold. Johnny Depp purchased 45 acre Little Halls Pond Cay, next to Cambridge Cay, in 2004 for a mere 3.6 million dollars. I wonder if he doesn’t take anything from his beaches and property. 

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Carolyn and Ed flew in on Watermakers Air and took some amazing photos of the Bahamas as they passed above the islands. One in particular was special because they happened to get a photo of Seas the Day anchored by Thunderball Grotto. We are in the center, closest to the two small cays. Never having been to Staniel Cay, they just happened to get a perfect shot of us as the plane was landing. Our usual anchorage is at Big Majors Spot (where the swimming pigs live), but that morning we had moved closer to the yacht club where we were picking them up. It was also convenient for snorkeling the next day in the nearby grotto. 

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Mark picked Carolyn and Ed up at Staniel Cay Yacht Club and brought them to our nearby anchored boat.

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After our guests arrived we spent a day snorkeling in the Thunderball Grotto and waiting for the mail boat to come to Staniel Cay with fresh groceries. Then we moved over to the anchorage by Big Majors Spot. There are numerous beaches so it was easy to go to a deserted one to let Sailor chase his ball and for us to swim in the turquoise water.

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Arriving in Warderick Wells the next day, we tied up to a mooring ball in the preferred north mooring field, which offers excellent protection. This crescent shaped field with various shades of turquoise water is a favorite photo opportunity for anyone visiting the area. When we first came here in 2010, the mooring ball fee for a boat up to 45 feet was $20. This year it cost $30. We paid $80 to become part of the “Support Fleet.” For this donation we got two days of ball fees and for the next year we will be put at the top of the waiting list when we request a mooring ball. The park is the only area of the Bahamas which has restrictions on fishing, shelling, etc. so we were happy to help them with their costs to preserve this treasure.

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Close to the park office there is a skeleton of a whale. 

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As with all of the cays and islands we visit in the Bahamas, there is no shortage of beautiful beaches. In the park, dogs are allowed on the beaches, but they cannot go on the numerous trails. Below are photos of one of our favorite beaches, near the Emerald Rock mooring field. It is well protected from any wind or waves, the sand is like sugar, and it is very shallow.  The rocks in the foreground are actually under water, which shows the clarity of it. Each beach area has paths that go across to the Exuma Sound side of Warderick Wells. 

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At this beach there are tall rock piles and on this day we found a gecko sunning himself on the top of one tower of rocks.

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Shortly after we picked up our mooring ball we had an interesting event develop before our eyes. Four Lagoon catamarans came into the mooring field. At first we noticed they were very close together and coming in too fast. We saw flags from a charter company flying so knew they could be inexperienced cruisers, and it turned out that was an understatement. I guess no one told them they didn’t have brakes. Even Sailor knew they were coming in too quickly and too close to each other. As you can see in the photo below, they had plenty of people on each boat to help pick up a mooring ball. Each boat had 10 or 11 people aboard. Unfortunately, none of them seemed to know how to do it.

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They all tried to pick up their mooring balls next to each other at the same time. Big mistake! There was current at the time, so the little control they had was lost. The first one turned sideways and ran into the front of another Lagoon catamaran that was already on a ball and not with their group. The second one hit the side of the first one. The third one hit the second. Another cruiser yelled at the fourth one to turn around and grab another ball near the opening of the field and wait. While turning around, that boat almost hit the monohull in front of us. We already had our fenders out ready to protect Seas the Day. The charter people seemed to have never picked up a mooring ball before, but eventually they each grabbed a ball. Unfortunately then they put out far too much line placing them dangerously close to each other, especially since the current causes the boats on the mooring balls to swing with each tidal change. The correct way is to pull the ball as close to your boat as possible with lines coming from each hull on a catamaran. Other people in the mooring field rushed up in dinghies to instruct them on the correct way to attach their boats to the balls and also had to tell them to use stronger lines. The people on one boat spoke Italian and the others were speaking French. The charter company was from Canada out of Nassau. 

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Later, they all went ashore in their dinghies. It was interesting to see how many people a small rubber dinghy can hold.

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After they were finally all on balls, the Lagoon (not part of the charter group) that had been hit by the first one moved a few balls away. The picture below shows Seas the Day at the front with with three of the charter boats behind us. The fourth charter in the group went around to the other side of the field. Whether by choice or not, they were the wise ones and the only boat in their group without damage. When they left a few days later, they hadn’t learned any lessons as they all went out at the same time very close together, one of them even passing another in the narrow channel. 

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The wind picked up for the next few days so we decided to stay in Warderick Wells rather than follow our original plan which was to spend a day or two there and then go the few miles back south to Cambridge Cay. We prefer the multiple snorkeling sites and beaches in and near Cambridge Cay, but we were able to snorkel at Warderick Wells.

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Of course, Mark hiked up to the top of Boo Boo Hill to add “2016” to our Seas the Day sign. This is a popular thing for boaters to do. The signs have to be made on a piece of driftwood. Mark made ours in 2010 and we have added a new year each time we have come for four more years. Our original sign had our previous dog Daisy’s name on it, but when she died in 2013, the next time we came we wrote “RIP” by her name and added “Sailor, 2014.” Mark screwed our sign into a post, which has helped keep it above the pile of other signs for six years and prevented it from blowing away. The original sign had white paint over the letters and numbers which were cut into the board, but for the last few years he has used magic marker which has washed off. Next year he’ll bring white paint.

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Here is a photo of the entire north mooring field taken from Boo Boo Hill on a cloudy day so the water isn’t as beautiful as on a sunny day. The inlet from the Exuma Sound is on the right side of the photo, and this is where we leave the Exumas to go to Eleuthera.

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After the boats near us in the mooring field left, we had this beautiful view to ourselves until the next group of boats arrived.

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On our way back to Staniel Cay to drop our guests off, we stopped at another favorite area located south of the park on Compass Cay called the “Bubble Bath.” The Cay is privately owned, and if you want to visit the beaches and hike on the paths, you must pay $10 a person. However, the Bubble Bath is on the north end of the cay and no one seems to care if you visit it. It is far away from the marina area on the south end. There is little in the Bahamas reference books about the Bubble Bath, and not a word in the several ones we own. We discovered it three years ago when boat buddying with our friends on SV Interlude, Cathie and Tom, who knew about it. Now it’s a “must stop” when we approach Compass Cay. The Exuma Sound shore on the cay is steep and rocky, but there is an opening and a calm pool on the western side. At high tide, waves occasionally reach the opening and crash into the pool, covering it with bubbles. Sailor joined us but wasn’t interested in the bubbles. First we had to walk a short distance from where we anchored until we came to the pool.

In the photo below, Seas the Day is anchored on the west coast of Compass Cay while Carolyn and Ed start inland to the Bubble Bath. In the background is Rocky Dundas, another grotto and an excellent snorkeling site close to Cambridge Cay.

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Mark and Sailor are almost to the Bubble Bath pool. The path we are walking on carries the excess water collecting in the Bubble Bath to the Bahamas Bank side of the cay. 

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In the foreground is the Bubble Bath pool and through the opening you can see the darker water of the Exuma Sound. At high tide the waves splash through the opening into the pool. The pool is shallow enough to stand in while waiting for the bubbles to arrive.

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Carolyn, Sailor and I wait for the waves to reach us.

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Here comes the wave!!

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The water goes from very warm to chilly with the arrival of the bubbles.

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Here comes another wave, but Sailor decided he had enough.

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It was certainly fun having guests aboard.  Hopefully Carolyn and Ed had a relaxing vacation. We tried to make it interesting for them, showing them “the real Bahamas.” Chef Mark made them some wonderful breakfasts. Below they are eating French toast made from Jan’s homemade French bread with bacon and cantaloupe for breakfast in the cockpit. Their coffee was made with freshly ground coffee beans in a French press.  I guess the theme of the breakfast was French! 

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There is probably not a prettier spot in the Bahamas than the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We always try to stop there during our trip south in the winter or north in the Spring. Warderick Wells is also a good place to make the cross over to Eleuthera. The day after our guests flew out of Staniel Cay on April 20, we went back to Warderick Wells. It was Saturday night and the park employees always invite all of the boaters in the mooring field to get together for “Happy Hour.”  Everyone brings treats to share and their own drinks. The park provides something most people appreciate – ice!

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After waiting for a good weather window to cross the Sound to Eleuthera, on April 25 we left Warderick Wells and arrived in Governor’s Harbour in the afternoon. The Exuma Sound is deep water, part of the Atlantic Ocean, so we always wait for calm seas. We stayed at Warderick Wells until the wind had been down for several days, flattening the seas. On the day we crossed, the wind picked up at a good angle for our sails, but the seas were still flat – perfect sailing weather. One way we always know when the seas are smooth is that Sailor stays at the helm. If there is any rocking, Sailor is inside, down the steps and up on a bed, expecting one of us to join him. He is indeed a “fair weather sailor.” This trip he stayed at the helm the whole day.

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On April 26, 2016, we motorsailed up the coast to the northern end of Eleuthera to Spanish Wells. In order to get to Spanish Wells, we first have to enter Current Cut. We always wait until slack tide, since the current is very strong on the incoming and outgoing tidal changes. This is a picture of the cut after we went through.

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We have stopped in Spanish Wells for the last month of our Bahamas cruise every year and this is our fifth trip here. After securing a mooring ball for the month and renting a golf cart for the same time, we settled in to relax and enjoy this wonderful Bahamian town. On May 25, weather permitting, we will leave Spanish Wells, heading back to our hurricane season location in Stuart, Florida at Sunset Bay Marina. Below we are safely attached to mooring ball one, close to the channel and a very short dinghy ride into the town.

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We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends

Ask any person on a boat what their favorite part of cruising is, and it will probably be the people they meet. We are still in contact with friends we met in 2008 on our first year living aboard Seas the Day. Each year we cruise, we make new friends and connect with old ones.  Sometimes we don’t see them for years, and sometimes we’ll never pass near them again, but they are friends for life. 

If you need help at your home port or at a marina or anchorage you are visiting in the States, you have lots of options on shore. Same thing if you want to socialize. You have friends onshore and friends at your home marina or anchorage, but probably don’t say more than a quick hi to cruisers passing through. There is also a tendency to get to know the same “type” of boater as you are, be it sailor, powerboater, or megayacht owner. This is certainly not true in all cases, but it does seem to happen fairly often, especially when you are away from your home port. 

That all changes when you cruise offshore and from our experience, especially in the Bahamas. Once at Cambridge Cay we had sundowners on the beach and the owner of a large yacht joined us. Of course, the sailors scarfed up the gourmet snacks from the yacht owner a little faster than the salsa over cream cheese with Tostitos we brought and the similar snacks from the rest of the people. Another time we stopped at a a restaurant in Eleuthera and the only other people there joined us at our table. We had a nice conversation during which they told us about some repairs they were working on. When asked, they said they were on a motor yacht and at the end of the meal we found out they were staying in an upscale marina at nearby Harbour Island on a 100+ ft yacht. They live in Palm Beach right on Lake Worth where we often anchor and they invited us to stop in to see them (in what we saw later was a large mansion) the next time we were there. Regardless of  the size of boat or type of propulsion people on the seas are living on, when cruisers meet the camaraderie is instant.

There is no better example of “getting by with a little help from our friends” than what happens in Georgetown, Bahamas. Every morning on the Cruisers’ Net, there is a section called “Boaters’ General” when people can “buy, sell, trade or give away something or ask for help.” Earlier this week, we had a reason to ask for that help. To prepare for our departure, on Monday we let go of the mooring ball that we had been attached to for almost three months, and motored across Elizabeth Harbour to the Exuma Yacht Club Marina to fill up our tanks. The entrance to our mooring field is shallow at low tide, so after getting our fuel, we crossed the harbour again to anchor until we could get back into the mooring field. We have an electric windlass with a remote handheld to raise and lower the anchor. Mark was at the helm and I was in front ready to drop the anchor. I touched the “down” key and nothing happened. No problem. This has occurred before and we just need to reset the circuit breaker for the windlass. Didn’t work this time! That was a big problem since we were leaving in a few days and needed to anchor. We went back to the middle of the harbour and floated around for a few hours while Mark checked everything he could think of to fix it. Mark had installed a new windlass two years ago, and knows the mechanics and electronics of our boat well. He worried that the problem could be somewhere in the wiring or in the circuit breaker. Worse yet, he thought he might have to tear the windlass apart. When the tide was up, we went back to our mooring ball (thank goodness we had this option) and he continued to troubleshoot. As they say, cruising is making repairs to your boat in exotic places. We posted our problem on the Lagoon Owners Facebook page and got several suggestions. 

The next morning on the Georgetown Cruisers’ Net (on VHF radio station 72 every morning at 0800) Mark explained our problem and asked for help. We got several responses, but the most promising was from a friend on another Lagoon 420 named The Norm. Bruce and Rhonda had the same problem recently and the cause was the wiring in the remote device. They had put in a switch to fix it and then ordered a new remote from the States which their son brought to them in Georgetown. They kindly loaned us the repaired one to try and when we plugged it in, presto! Down went the anchor!! So Mark headed to town to buy a switch, however when he opened the remote he saw the loose wire and decided to try soldering it back on. This worked!  We also ordered a new remote which we’ll have forwarded to us at one of our next stops and will also order a new circuit breaker for the windlass, since several people said theirs had cracked. 

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On a daily basis, the cruisers in Georgetown help each other. Whether it is rescuing a dinghy that came loose from another boat and floated by them, coming to the aid of other cruisers with electrical or mechanical problems, answering questions, helping with an injury, etc. cruisers answer the call for assistance. They are some of the most giving people we have ever met, especially considering that help is often offered to total strangers. A few days ago a cruiser on a boat in our mooring field went to make tea, and the can holding the tea bags had a long snake wrapped around it! (They believe it climbed aboard when they spent a few days at the marina a week ago.) They called someone they knew in the harbour who had worked with snakes. He came, captured the fellow, and released it on land. Last night while we were at anchor, someone came on the radio calling the St. Francis resort. They had found a black lab swimming in the harbour and thought it had fallen off a boat named Second Chance. They had called them on the radio with no answer so they called the resort to see if the dog’s owners were there playing poker. They weren’t but eventually were tracked down. In the meantime the dog was safe on someone else’s boat. Georgetown is not unique in this way. Gather any group of cruisers together from 2 to 300+ and if you need something, ask for help and you will get it. 

Another positive feature of us being with cruising friends, especially in the Bahamas, is they get us involved in activities where we make more friends. The perfect example of this happened last year when we boat buddied with friends Cathie and Tom (SV Interlude) and they taught us to play Texas Hold’em poker. Twice a week at the St. Francis Resort for the last two seasons, we have played in the “International Texas Hold’em Tournament” with a $5 buy-in. For $10 a time, we have had great fun and, even better, made new friends. We go there to eat dinner and play cards, but it’s also a social event. Cathie and Tom also encouraged us to take a ball in Hole 2 last year. Not only did we enjoy the calm weather in the protected hole, but we made another set of good friends who are on the other boats in the mooring field. We have enjoyed many get-togethers and bonfires on the Hole 2 beach, had  sundowners or meals or just visits on each other’s boats, talked on the beach when other dogs were there to play with Sailor, and of course had friends over every Saturday night for poker on Seas the Day. The photo below was last year’s group, all of them from Hole 2, and this year, since half of these cruisers didn’t return, we invited others and made more friends.

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Several of our Hole 2 friends have been on adventures with us, and I know we wouldn’t have done them without their invitations. A few weeks ago we went to Mariah Cay, a long dinghy ride from where our boat is, with friends Jean and Art (MV Interlude) and their visiting friends. What a fantastic day we had eating our picnic lunches, swimming in the crystal clear turquoise water, floating with the current on a natural “Lazy River ride,” walking on the beautiful deserted beach, and of course talking. 

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DSCF2425DSCF2369Another day, Christina and John (HB Oasis – that’s HouseBoat) invited us to go with them on their Carolina Skiff, about 18 ft long, for a day of snorkeling. We hadn’t been snorkeling in Elizabeth Harbour so we were thrilled to have the  chance to visit the coral gardens they knew well. Even Sailor got into the act, as he was unwilling to stay in the skiff alone and joined us in the water. After some excellent snorkeling, we explored a nearby cave. Next we motored to Santanas, a very popular restaurant south of us in Great Exuma. As we anchored the skiff, a dog we assume belongs to the owners of Santana’s swam out to greet Sailor. We had two delicious lobster tails for $14 and some conch with sides. A perfect Bahamian lunch. Next door we visited Mom’s Bakery and bought rum cake and coconut bread. Mom used to bring her baked goods to downtown Georgetown, parking near the Exuma Market, and sold her cakes and bread out of her car, but she is getting older and doesn’t make the trip now. She still gave us the hugs she is famous for, however. Santana’s was too far away for us to go in our 12 ft inflatable dinghy, so we really appreciated going with Christina and John. The underwater photos below are from Christina’s camera. 

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We left Georgetown as soon after sunrise as it was safe to go on Friday, April 8, after anchoring out the last night at the Monument anchorage in Elizabeth Harbour. The first part of the day we motorsailed on the Exuma Sound, part of the Atlantic Ocean, in water over 300 feet deep a mile offshore. We waited several days until the seas were calm, and we had a very smooth sail. Then we entered the Bahamas Bank through Galliot Cut and sailed in shallow water, about 14 feet deep, to Staniel Cay where we will wait for guests to arrive from Florida by plane in less than a week. The photos below begin with the sunrise over the Monument anchorage as we left Georgetown and end with the sunset at Big Majors anchorage near Staniel Cay.

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Sailor knew it was going to be a calm day at sea when he settled under the helm seat instead of running inside to the bed to hide from the big waves. He didn’t move from this spot for 8 1/2 hours until we arrived in Staniel Cay.

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Why Do So Many Cruisers Converge on George Town?

We’ve been in George Town for almost two months, having arrived here on January 16, 2016. The settlement of George Town is located on the island of Great Exuma at the southern end of the chain of 365 islands and cays in the Exumas. (An island is a land mass completely surrounded by water. A cay, pronounced “key” in the Bahamas, is an island that forms on top of coral reefs.) When traveling south along the Exuma chain, George Town is the first settlement most cruisers have visited since they left Nassau that has a large selection of services such as: two large well stocked grocery stores, two banks, a small hardware store and a very large one with marine supplies, a dive shop, several places to get propane, two laundromats, a library, a marina, a deli with a large selection of meat, many restaurants, a pharmacy, a clinic, a dentist, a bimonthly visiting vet and dog groomer, businesses that can repair small engines and refrigeration, liquor stores, a Batelco (Bahamas Telephone Company) office, a phone and electronics store, a computer repair shop with wifi and phone services, hair salons, masseuses, nail salons, bakeries, gift shops, Customs and Immigration offices, gas stations, a straw market, and much more. Some smaller settlements in the Exumas have a few of these but grocery stores not located in a house and banks with ATM’s, in particular, are only located here in Georgetown. Most cruisers headed further south to the Caribbean stop in George Town to provision for food and other supplies. Once we arrive here, our destination for half of our time in the Bahamas, we breathe a sigh of relief. Finished are the days of checking weather to see if we can move on, and rocking and rolling in anchorages when we can’t.  

While the area is called George Town, that is just the name of the small Bahamian town located on the east side of Elizabeth Harbour. Stocking Island, where the anchorages with the best protection from the prevailing east wind and the three mooring fields are located, is on the west side of the harbour. In the harbour there are designated reefs where one can snorkel. On Stocking Island, numerous sandy beaches are located on the harbour side for swimming, and long sandy beaches great for walking and swimming are on the Exuma Sound side. A short dinghy ride out into the Exuma Sound is the best place for fishing and spearing lobsters. The Exuma Sound is actually part of the Atlantic Ocean with very deep water offshore. Kite surfers like to use the harbour, but when the Sound is calm, they are out there too. Below is a satellite picture of Elizabeth Harbour. Our mooring field in Hole 2 is located by the blue dot below the word Stocking Island on the map. The settlement of George Town on Great Exuma Isand is directly across the harbour from us, about a mile by dinghy. When the water is rough we either don’t cross the harbour or we wear rain coats and pants so our clothes are dry when we arrive in town.

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This is our fifth trip to the Bahamas and last year when we came to George Town we took a mooring ball in one of the three “holes” on Stocking Island. The other years we anchored in the harbour. Last year I had three month old knee replacements and I didn’t want to deal with getting in and out of a dinghy in an anchorage with rough water. After a few days of totally calm water in Hole 2, regardless of the speed or direction of the wind, we knew we were spoiled. This year, there was no question about it. We were ready to grab a mooring ball in Hole 2 as soon as we arrived on January 16. Unlike some places in the Bahamas, these mooring balls are very secure and checked regularly. Hole 1 is called “The Fruit Bowl” and is mostly filled with houseboats with names like “Cantaloupe,” “Pineapple House,” and “Papaya.” They obviously stay here year round, but some of the Hole 1 balls are used by cruisers here for the season or maybe a few weeks. They like it because it is very close to the popular Volleyball Beach. Hole 2 is a bit more protected and boats have survived hurricane force wind with no damage. About half of the boats in Hole 2 do not have people on them right now, with their owners flying in for short visits throughout the year or coming to their boats and sailing to nearby destinations. At least four airlines fly into the Great Exuma Airport and cruisers or their guests leave and arrive daily, together with packages delivered to locals and cruisers.  Hole 3 is a true hurricane hole and no one is allowed to live on the boats there. Many boats are stored there while their owners are home in various parts of the world. There is a small deep “blue hole” in Hole 3, filled with fish, a popular place for snorkeling. Numerous turtles live in the mooring fields and occasionally dolphins visit, although they seem to prefer the open water in the harbour. At least once a day someone will come on the hailing channel 68 and announce “dolphin alert in _______ anchorage.” The harbour is filled with fish, starfish, stingrays, dolphins and the occasional shark. Being on a mooring ball in Hole 2, we rarely rock. On occasion a small boat will speed past us, between Hole 1 and Hole 3, creating a slight wake. It is calmer in Hole 2 than at any marina or mooring field where we have stayed in the Bahamas or the States. As I write this blog entry, the winds have been in the 20+ knot range all day long and our boat hasn’t moved. One of the other nice things about being in Hole 2 is the friends we have made. Below are photos of one of the bonfires we have had in our hole this season.

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There is a small beach in Hole 2, and that is where Sailor goes ashore twice a day. He could swim the short distance to the shore, but he rides in the dinghy and then jumps out. Usually there are one or two other dogs to play with who live on boats in Hole 2. Other dogs could come to this beach but since every anchorage is near a sandy beach, that is where dogs on those boats go to play. Last year, Sailor’s  BFFF (best furry friend forever) Zorro, a Portuguese Water Dog, was here in Hole 2 on MV All In. Unfortunately Zorro and his family were not able to come back this year.  Libby from SV Flying Dog and Tasha from SV Tikitiboo often played on the beach with Sailor.  Libby preferred to eat coconuts, but Tasha, a shaved Golden Retriever (very smart idea to keep shedding down), loved to run on the beach and help Sailor fetch balls. Sadly, both went back to the States this week. Sailor still enjoys running on the beach and swimming, but he likes it better with a friend.

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Since the mooring fields are so protected, they are an ideal place to paddle on our kayaks. Sometimes I join friends on their kayaks and sometimes we paddle alone. One friend, Christina, has a stand up paddle board and Sailor enjoyed jumping on her board and taking his first ride on one last month. He doesn’t fit in our kayaks, so perhaps a SUP should go on our list of things to buy for the boat. Many cruisers have kayaks and SUP’s onboard and of course we see them paddling along the shores in the harbour, but it’s much easier to paddle on flat water in the holes.

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We love walking on the beach on the Exuma Sound side of Stocking Island. It is usually empty or might have a few people walking on it or swimming in the turquoise water. Needless to say, it is a beautiful beach for dogs and people.

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We got “hooked” on Texas Hold’em last season, and this year we returned to playing Tuesday and Thursday nights at the local resort, St. Francis. Luckily it is located next to our mooring field, so even when it’s windy and the water is rough in the harbour, we can dinghy to poker without getting wet. On Saturday, we host a game on Seas the Day. Last year we had the same group of six couples every week, all from Hole 2. Three of those couples did not return this year, so we had to recruit new players. Unfortunately some of them have not been able to come every week, but we are always able to have about 12 people playing, the men at the large table in the cockpit and the women at the salon table. When we get down to six or seven people, they move to the inside table and sometimes we have a “losers table” in the cockpit. Halfway through the game, we stop to have snacks and drinks.  Both at the St. Francis and on our boat, each person puts $5 in the pot and the top three players split the money on the boat while the top five players split a much larger pot at the St. Francis. Below is a photo of our friend Jean (MV Winterlude) when she got all the chips and won a game on our boat.

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This year, I decided to try water aerobics. It is held every morning at 9:30 on one of the beaches by the monument. We call it South Beach, since it is the most southerly beach of the several beaches near the monument. The instructor, Callie on SV Serenity, is a well trained yoga and water aerobics teacher and she makes the class a lot of fun. Music mostly from the 70’s and 80’s is played from a device resting in her dinghy, floating next to her. The water temperature is in the high 70’s but sometimes, especially if it is very windy and the sun isn’t shining, it feels chilly when we arrive and climb out of our dinghies. However, we all warm up quickly with the fast paced exercises. There is also yoga offered on another beach at the same time. As with all events here, classes are free. Occasionally Callie will jokingly say, “You get what you pay for,” but we would gladly pay her for this incredible experience. 

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Impromptu sundowner get-togethers are held on various beaches, where everyone brings their own drinks and snacks to share. Someone announces over the VHF radio the time and place, and dinghies arrive on the beach. It’s a great way to meet new friends and greet old ones. Occasionally an ARG (Alcohol Research Group) meeting is called, which involves a bonfire, singing, musicians playing, and of course eating and drinking. Many other regularly scheduled activities are available, including a Bible study group, trivia, bridge, dances on Volleyball Beach with a DJ, Bahamian “Rake and Scrape” dances at several restaurants in town, volleyball, and softball. A group of cruisers also meets every week with children from the local school who need help in reading. 

At 2 pm every day, cruisers arrive on Volleyball Beach to (surprise) play “fun volleyball,” take part in all sorts of board and card games such as Mexican Train, or sit around and talk. Chat ‘n Chill, a restaurant with burgers, drinks and more, is located on Volleyball Beach. The owner does not allow people to bring their own food and drinks to that beach, so if cruisers want to eat or drink, they buy it from him. Whenever someone wants to talk to a group about various topics, this is also the beach they use. There are numerous benches and picnic tables under large Casuarina Trees for shade. A tire hangs from a rope swing in one of the trees for the children on boats to use. On most Sundays during the cruising season a local historian shares interesting and educational stories about the Bahamas. Last week, Jeff and Karen Siegel, developers of the popular Active Captain (a website used by cruisers to share reviews of marinas, anchorages, etc.) gave two talks: one on what to do in a medical emergency and one on the most recent cruising APPS and other technology to use on a boat. The medical talk was not a first aid class, but rather gave valuable information on what to do when someone is hurt, especially on a boat, until help arrives. We are seriously considering buying an AED (automated external defibrillator) for the boat and know of several cruisers who have them. The Siegels were both EMT’s for many years before moving aboard their motor vessel. Whenever groups want to get together for a specific purpose they meet on Volleyball Beach. Recently one cruiser shared his expertise on marine electrical systems. Another boater taught people to make conch horns so they could blow them at sunset. When a group of people are going to a particular destination, such as south to the Caribbean, or to Cuba, they meet to discuss their plans and then often travel together as boat buddies to their destinations.  Usually an experienced cruiser who has been to those destinations leads the discussion. On Sundays, Beach Church is held on Volleyball Beach with cruisers taking turns sharing a message and a choir singing songs, followed by a fellowship time with coffee and treats. 

Last week was the 36th annual George Town Regatta. Here is a link to the regatta website with a list of all of the activities. There is also a Facebook page for the regatta with lots of pictures and information. There are always more than 300 boats here during regatta week. Many cruisers are now waiting for weather windows to travel north and eventually back to the States, or south to a variety of near and far destinations. One of our favorite events during Regatta Week is the Pet Parade. Sailor won this year for “Best Costume” wearing the K9Sailor sailboat that Mark made for him. He tried it on before we left and then competed on Volleyball Beach with a dozen pets who also live on boats. All the dogs got prizes. We have never entered our catamaran sailboat in the races, but two years ago we crewed on our friends’ monohull, SV Interlude. The first race is in Elizabeth Harbour and the second is around Stocking Island. There are also small boat races with kayaks, SUP’s, rowing dinghies, small sailboats, and more. A poker run event is where cruisers motor in a dinghy to multiple bars and restaurants along the harbour, picking up one playing card for their group at each stop. The dinghy with the best poker hand wins. Bocce Ball and beach golf are other competitions and the cruisers’ softball team competes against a local Bahamian team. This year the score was a tie. A scavenger hunt is also a fun event. The regatta began  with a Variety Show in town with cruisers and locals performing, and ended with an awards ceremony at the Peace and Plenty Restaurant in town. The George Town Regatta Facebook page has photos of most of these events and the website has descriptions of all of them.

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imageThanks to Donna on SV Duchess for the pictures below of some of the Variety Show acts. My camera’s battery died when we arrived at the show.

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Every year there is a contest for the design to be used on the regatta t-shirts for the following year and cruisers vote for their favorite design at the opening event, the Variety Show. This year along with t-shirts, water resistant backpacks and hats were sold to raise money for regatta expenses. Any money left over is given to a local charity. Volunteers sell regatta items at a small booth between the Exuma Market and the new Red Boon Cafe, a popular place for breakfast and lunch. 

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There are lots of reasons why cruisers flock to George Town, although admittedly people either love it or hate it. We’ve heard it called “Adult Daycare.” Some cruisers think it is very “clique-y.” Other cruisers don’t like the crowded anchorages, although there are so many they could  easily find an empty one in the harbour. Some people take advantage of many activities and others interact with a few old and new friends. Since there are many anchorages in Elizabeth Harbour and two mooring fields, it is easy to find a secluded anchorage or cruisers can choose one of several popular anchorages to be among many fellow cruisers either close to town or near the activities on Stocking Island.  Boats with children on them love to come to George Town to meet up with other “Kid Boats.” They can be found playing together on the beaches, especially Volleyball Beach, and there are special events for them during the regatta. Young voices are often heard on the hailing channel calling their friends. Naturally, those who come here year after year make good friends and socialize with those friends. However, these same people are very friendly and anyone who wants to be part of that “clique” can join in by getting involved in the cruiser and/or local activities. There is a Cruisers’ Net every morning at 8 am on VHF channel 72. A volunteer “net controller” recognizes other cruisers and locals who indicate they want to share something. The Net begins with a weather report (someone reads marine weatherman Chris Parker’s report for this area), then there is a section for local businesses, followed by community announcements, a section where cruisers can buy or sell or give away items, and the last section is where cruisers who have just arrived in the harbour tell about themselves and departing cruisers share their new destination and say goodbye. When cruisers ask for help with a problem on their boat, they get numerous offers after the Net ends. Last year, our freezer stopped working and we asked on the Net if someone had a cooler we could borrow while Mark fixed it. Immediately after the Net ended, a cruiser offered us their 12V Engel freezer which kept our items frozen until Mark discovered the problem and fixed it. Requests like this are asked and answered here every day. This week, cruisers are collecting clothing and household goods for a young Bahamian family from George Town whose house burned to the ground. Many cruisers brought items to Long Island this year to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Joaquin last summer. Rum Cay lost all of its trees, so cruisers going that direction are bringing small seedlings provided by the locals from Great Exuma. Overall, cruisers love the Bahamas and especially the people here. It’s a mutual admiration society as the Bahamians appreciate the cruisers who spend their money here and in many cases lasting friendships are made between cruisers and Bahamians. 

Besides all of these activities going on, there is perhaps an equally important reason why cruisers stop in Georgetown for a day, a week, a month or more: groceries and free water. There are two well stocked grocery stores located on the shores of small Lake Victoria, which has an entrance from Elizabeth Harbour under a bridge on the main George Town street. One of them, Exuma Market, provides dinghy docks and a hose dispensing free RO (reverse osmosis) water. Dinghies line up along the dock by the water hose with their 5 gallon jerry jugs and fill them, return to their boats, and pour the water into their tanks. Even people like us who have watermakers supplement the RO water they make with a few gallons of the free water. When we run the watermaker we have to turn on our inverter and sometimes the generator, so it does take fuel and power. Below, a line is formed on the right with Mark and Sailor at the front putting water in our jerry jugs. In the rest of the Exumas, water costs 40 to 50 cents a gallon or more. In town we can also drop off garbage at $2 for a small bag or $3 for a large one. Rodney on the Harbour Services boat comes to all the anchorages near George Town to collect garbage, pumpout holding tanks and he also collects propane tanks to be filled and returns them a few days later.

DSCF2250The Exuma Market has an excellent supply of fresh produce, together with meats, dairy products and other staples. Supply boats come twice a week to restock the shelves. In other smaller towns in the Exumas, you have to go to the store (usually in a house) on the day the boat arrives to get any fresh food. In George Town the shelves are fullest after the supplies arrive, but the shelves are never empty. Prices for most items are more expensive than in the States because most are shipped from the US and since last year, a 7% VAT is added to everything here. However, like most cruisers, we are happy to contribute to the local economy by buying items from them.

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We have less than a month left to relax and enjoy our stay in George Town. Friends from Hobe Sound, near our hurricane season marina in Stuart, Florida, will be flying into Staniel Cay on April 14th to enjoy a week aboard Seas the Day with us. We can get from here to Staniel Cay in a day, by sailing north on the Exuma Sound for part of the trip and then entering a cut to the shallow Bahamas Bank to travel along a chain of cays and islands until we reach Staniel Cay. We will leave here several days early to be sure we are in Staniel Cay when their plane touches down. As in all cruising, weather is the main consideration, and if there are strong winds out of the north or high seas predicted, we’ll need to plan an earlier departure from George Town. We’ll be in the Exumas and Eleuthera during April and most of May we’ll stay in Spanish Wells, returning to Florida at the end of May. 

We love these last few months of our cruising season because the days are longer, meaning more hours of sunlight. With the strong winds today and the clear blue sky, our wind generator and solar panels are working hard, currently giving us 35 amps of power and our batteries are fully charged with no need to turn on a generator for power. Every morning at the end of the Cruisers’ Net, the net controller asks if anyone has a thought for the day. If I was giving mine right now it would simply be “life is good.”

Bimini to Georgetown

On January 8, 2016, we left Bimini for Chub Cay in the Berries at 0520, obviously in the dark, arriving at the Chub Cay anchorage in daylight at 1700. We were going almost directly into the wind and made good time, but it wasn’t a comfortable ride. However, we were on the Mackey Shoals portion of the shallow Great Bahama Bank for most of the trip and the water was beautiful. Chub Cay anchorage is not the best, but OK for one night. It is often rough because large fishing boats race in and out of the channel to the marina, which is right next to the anchorage, causing huge wakes. It is close to deep water, where the fishing boats are headed, and often there are uncomfortable swells. Also, Chub Cay is private so we aren’t allowed to take Sailor ashore. Below was our view while sailing on the Bank. 

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Unfortunately we had to stay a second day in the Berries since the sea and wind conditions were still unfavorable for going on to Nassau. Also the wind was clocking and the conditions were getting worse at Chub Cay. In the morning we moved to nearby Frazier’s Hog Cay and while the first part of the trip around the end of Chub Cay was VERY rough, it smoothed out and we spent a comfortable night at Frazier’s Hog Cay. This will probably be our stop in the Berries from now on instead of Chub Cay. We had a nice time swimming off the beautiful beach and Sailor got lots of exercise chasing his ball. The evening ended with a gorgeous sunset.

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On January 9, we reluctantly left our anchorage in the Berries headed to Nassau. We heard on Chris Parker’s morning report that the seas were 6-8 ft with over 3 ft swells on the beam and we try to only sail in 3 ft seas or less. However the weather this winter in the Bahamas has been very different than usual with constant storms and poor sailing conditions for long periods of time. This was our last sail on deep water until we go out on the Exuma Sound for one day to Georgetown. The winds were also not great at SSE 19-20 kts gusting 22. It was a rough ride, in fact Mark wrote in our cruising log, “Worst sail by choice ever.” Thankfully it wasn’t a long sail, leaving at 0715 and arriving in Nassau at 1230. 

We had reservations at Nassau Harbour Club and enjoyed a quiet night in a slip. Of course, we had to have our last frappuccinos at Starbucks and visit the Fresh Market grocery store, both right across the street from our marina. The photo of Starbucks below is taken from the exit of the marina. Two years ago, when Sailor was 7 months old, we stopped at this same marina and Sailor, spooked by fireworks (in February!) jumped off the boat, ran down the dock in the dark, and fell into the water when the dock turned to the right as he kept going straight. Mark showed him the very spot this happened, but not sure if Sailor remembered.

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While our sail from Frazier’s Hog Cay to Nassau was rough, other boats had come in after sailing straight from Bimini or the States over a period of several days, and they had horror stories to tell. A boat in a slip across from us had taken on water. The marinas in Nassau were filled with tired cruisers. We were glad we waited the extra day to leave the Berries even if we still had an uncomfortable sail.  

We try to never stay longer than one day in Nassau. It is not a safe city, and other than crossing the street from the marina to the strip mall, we don’t have anything else we want to see or do there. Boats have even been boarded by thieves at several of the Nassau marinas and it is dangerous to be out on the streets after dark. Paradise Island, where most tourists go, is across a bridge and probably safer. Nassau is on New Providence Island and is where the cruise ships stop. Our boat buddies since Miami on Renaissance II, another Lagoon 420,  decided to stay in Nassau since they had never been there and we left the next morning for Norman’s Cay, our first stop in The Exumas.

On January 11, we left the last marina we would stay at until we return to Sunset Bay in Stuart, Florida, at the end of May. The route to The Exumas is across the Yellow Bank portion of the Great Bahama Bank. We had a great wind angle for sailing although on a long day we always use the engines and sails and at one point were motorsailing at 8.3 kts. We left Nassau at 0900 and arrived at Norman’s Cay at 1445. It was almost full when we entered the anchorage because strong winds were forecast for that night. We anchored southwest of the sunken plane and several boats came in after us but left, probably going south to the next anchorage or mooring balls at Shroud Cay. During the night we had high winds and rain while turning 360 degrees with the strong current.

After listening to Chris Parker’s report the next morning, we decided the weather was settled enough to head south to Big Majors/Staniel Cay. This meant we were going past the entire Exuma Land and Sea Park, something we would never do if we weren’t planning to return on our way north in April. The park has the best hiking, kayaking, beaches, and snorkeling in the Exumas. Our goal was to get to our mooring ball in Georgetown as quickly as we could safely move. Friends who were already there told us the balls were being taken quickly, perhaps in part due to the 100+ kt storm they had while we were safe at a marina in Bimini.  We left Norman’s Cay at 0740 and dropped the anchor at Big Majors at 1230. We made very good time, outrunning a squall coming from the ENE as we left Norman’s Cay followed by a sunny day. Big Majors is a large, excellent anchorage, unless the wind is from the west. We will be returning here in mid-April to pick up good friends Carolyn and Ed (S/V Sharkitecture) so we didn’t mind missing snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto. We did go ashore for a walk and Sailor got to visit the nurse sharks who hang out at the marina waiting for someone to drop discards from the fish cleaning station. Of course we had to bring him to see the famous swimming pigs also.

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The next morning we made the short trip to Cave Cay, where we planned to exit the cut to go out on Exuma Sound to Georgetown. We knew we would have several days to wait for calm seas and favorable wind. We left Big Majors on January 13 at 0825 and arrived at 1130, the only boat in the anchorage outside Cave Cay Marina. It was a very pleasant sail and after dropping the anchor, Sailor and Mark headed to a beautiful beach near our boat. The shore has some interesting caves and there are many more on the cay, thus the name “Cave Cay.” Mark and Sailor also took the dinghy into the very protected marina at Cave Cay. He reported that it is a hurricane hole marina with excellent docks, but it seems to only get boats in its slips during very bad weather. During the several days we were in the anchorage, two boats joined the one that was already there.

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Houses and caves were next to the beach where Sailor played.

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Sailor checked out the marina at Cave Cay.

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We spent three nights at Cave Cay waiting for the Exuma Sound sea state to calm down. On the first morning we had a BIG surprise. We got up at 0630 to listen to the Chris Parker marine weather report and saw a 160 ft long tanker named Tropic Breeze headed right towards us. (We have AIS and checked the info about the tanker.)  We saw her anchored on the deeper south side of Cave Cay Cut the night before and early that morning she was coming to our shallow anchorage.  Tropic Breeze motored straight for our starboard side, then turned and went a few feet off our aft, turning again passing us on our port side. A short distance past us, her anchor dropped. Next, we saw a small boat with a diver in it next to the tanker. The diver brought a large fuel hose from the tanker to the shore and for several hours fuel was pumped into the Cave Cay tanks. We weren’t worried about the “close call” because we have seen these Bahamian ships often and their captains are very good at maneuvering in tight spaces. The reason the ship went around us was to get downwind so they wouldn’t be blown into us. However, we were surprised that this was a marked anchorage on the Explorer Charts but there was no indication that tankers would come here to transfer fuel to the cay. We have anchored here before but this was our first close encounter with a big ship. 

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The fuel hose is visible floating in the water in front of the small boat.

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For the next two days, all was quiet in our anchorage, mainly because we were the only boat there, and by January 16 the sky was clear, seas were 2-3 ft, and winds were from the southwest at 8-12 kts. It was time for the last leg of our journey to Georgetown. Even Sailor stayed out in the cockpit all day, which he only does when it is very calm. Otherwise he insists I get in one of the beds with him where he feels safe. We left at 0730 and were on our mooring ball in Hole 2 at Stocking Island, across the harbour from Georgetown, by 1230. There were only two balls left in Hole 2 and a few days after we arrived the last one was taken. We were very happy to reach our destination for the next few months and are looking forward to our stay here until the end of March.

This was our view of Exuma Sound on our way south to Georgetown. It is rarely this flat so it was well worth the wait.

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Entering the turquoise water of Elizabeth Harbour. The city of Georgetown is on the right and Stocking Island is on the left. 

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Finally we are on our mooring ball in Hole 2.

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This is Hole 2 with Elizabeth Harbour and Georgetown in the background, We are at the far end of the mooring field, protected on all four sides with a narrow channel running in the foreground of the picture from Hole 1 through to Hole 3.

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Cruising is a Waiting Game

Leaving Miami at daybreak on Friday, January 1, we had moderately rough seas for most of the cruise to Bimini. The forecast was for light wind, but unfortunately we were going right into it. We decided to stay on the mooring ball at Dinner Key Thursday night since it was New Year’s Eve. Normally we stage at No Name Harbor at the eastern end of Key Biscayne, which is right at the entrance to the ocean, the night before we leave for Bimini. We knew that there would be many boats out on the Bay celebrating and watching the midnight fireworks, and anchored in or near No Name would not be comfortable as it is next to a channel. Leaving from Dinner Key added an hour to our trip but at least we got some sleep. We left at 0650 and arrived in Bimini at 1500. The distance from Miami to Bimini is about 50 miles. Since we were motorsailing into the wind, we didn’t get much help from the sails.

Below is is a photo taken with Miami behind us and a screen shot of what our SPOT track looked like for the first hour, leaving Dinner Key and entering the Atlantic Ocean. (The SPOT track is always available on our website located in the “Location” menu.)

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While it was a bit rougher than we like, headed into the waves and “hobby horsing,” to show how comfortable it is in a catamaran, I took a picture of a glass of water that was on the galley counter while the boat was rocking. Notice the water isn’t moving and the glass is not falling over nor is anything else on the counter moving. Outside in the cockpit, our plants are not sliding off into the ocean. This is one of many reasons why we like living and cruising on a catamaran.

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As we approached Bimini, we were happy to see the Bimini Sands Marina and the narrow opening to the harbor. It is not much wider than our 25 ft beam. Once we are in the marina the water is always flat and backing into the wide slips is easy. This is the only marina we have ever stayed at where all slips are wide enough for two monohulls or one catamaran with no post in the middle. There is no extra charge for a catamaran.

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We knew we would be in Bimini at least a week because we only had one more day left of the current “weather window” and that would get us to an anchorage in the Berries. There is a very nice marina called Great Harbour Marina in the Berries, but we would be arriving in the dark and have never been there so we decided to wait out the current weather system in Bimini. We have stayed at Bimini Sands many times, and it is always amazing to us that so many boats go to the North Bimini marinas instead of staying here.  There are only a handful of boats with us at Bimini Sands while the marinas in North Bimini are much busier. Several of the popular marinas there are $1 a ft while at least one is $1.50 a ft. We are paying $1.50 a ft and it is so quiet and calm here compared to North Bimini where the streets are very busy and the docks, which aren’t floating like we have at Bimini Sands, are hit by the wakes of powerboats rushing back and forth in the channel next to the marinas all day long. We are completely surrounded by condos and the water is always flat. For us, it is well worth the extra $20 a day.

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We have been waiting since we were here last May to return to the Bimini Sands Beach Club for their seafood pizza covered with big pieces of lobster, shrimp, and conch as well as veggies. We bought an extra pizza to take back for leftovers. The free shuttle took us to the the Beach Club at the southern end of South Bimini and picked us up after our delicious meal with boat buddies Sandy and Tom (Renaissance II). The colors of the bus match those in the Bahamas flag.

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seafoodpizza Just like the weather in Miami was unusually stormy while we waited there, we haven’t had much sun in Bimini this week. It makes walking around the town difficult when rain clouds are overhead and the wind is blowing hard, but on Monday we took the water taxi the short distance from South Bimini to North Bimini. Our one goal was to go to Batelco, (Bahamas Telephone Company), to get a new phone and a SIM card for it. After several years of exclusively using our iPad with a Batelco SIM card while in the Bahamas to get online and a small cheap phone to make calls, we decided to get an unlocked smartphone with a hotspot feature so we could also use our US phones and computer online. Our current US smartphones are locked so we can’t put a Batelco SIM card in them. We were lucky to find a Samsung smartphone for a little over $100. It kills me to use an Android, after owning  Apple products since the first one came out back in the early 80’s, but I have to admit this Samsung is a nice phone and has all the features we need while here.

Many of the readers of this blog know that I talk to my 36 year old daughter Jennifer, who is autistic and lives in Florida, each night at 9:30. On past cruises, I used a Batelco phone which cost about 80 cents a minute when I called her each night for 3-5 minute conversations. This season we are using Facebook Messenger when we talk, which is free and uses very little data. The Samsung smartphone has an APP for Messsenger so I am still talking to her on a phone and it seems to be working beautifully, plus I am saving a lot of money. 

The Bahamas started providing cell phone service with towers on or near every inhabited island a few years ago with SIM cards that can be easily topped off online or by using purchased cards. When we first came here in December, 2009, we had a wifi extender and used free or prepaid wifi. It was very expensive for the prepaid ones and the unlocked free wifi spots were few and not necesarily safe or broadcasting strong signals. Each year Batelco has improved their plans for cruisers and tourists who are not here all year. This year we can get 5 GB’s for $55. Last year it cost $30 for 2 GB’s and that option is still available. The year before it was $30 for 1 GB. Year round residents can get 15 GB’s for $75 after putting $300 down and there are other cell phone plans for people who are here all year.

We were in Bimini last May and during that visit my son Peter was with us so we took him to all of our favorite places. This time we have been spending most of the time relaxing and as always there are things to fix on the boat. As I write this, Mark is repairing our deck wash system. Sailor was happy to get to his first Bahamas beach of this cruise, just a few steps from the marina. The photo above of the entrance to Bimini Sands shows the beaches to the north and south. They are almost always empty or with one or two other people on them. The beaches on North Bimini are more used since the bulk of the residents of Bimini are located there, as are most of the tourists and cruisers.

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Tonight we will pay our marina bill, minus 10% for being here a week, and go to sleep early. We will leave before sunrise Friday morning at around 0530 and round North Bimini, headed to Chub Cay (pronounced Key) in the Berry Islands. It’s a long day, but we’ll  be on the shallow Bahamas Bank most of the time, so the water should be relatively calm. We will arrive at the anchorage after sunset and it is an easy one to enter in the dark. We have reservations to stay at the Nassau Harbour Club on Saturday and will hopefully leave there for the Exumas on Sunday. We were smart to stay in Bimini this past week. Last night there were reports of squalls in the Exumas with gusts to 106 kts in Cambridge Cay and sustained 70-80 kt wind with gusts up to 105 kts in the Georgetown Harbor with five foot seas at the Chat ‘n Chill Restaurant on Volleyball Beach! This is extremely unusual and we heard that many anchored boats dragged and some landed on the beaches in Georgetown. When we are there we stay on a mooring ball in a very protected hole. That weather has moved out of the Bahamas and we will hope for “fair winds” for the next few days.

Waiting for a Window in Miami

On December 10, 2015, we arrived in Miami and picked up a mooring ball at Dinner Key Marina and Mooring Field.  Expecting it to be a few days’ wait before a favorable weather window to leave for the Bahamas, we settled in. When it was time to take Sailor ashore that afternoon Mark climbed into the dinghy and oops……..”Something on your boat is broken….you just don’t know it yet.” Before we left Stuart, Mark transferred the outboard motor from our old dinghy to our new one. While doing so, the motor tipped and some fuel got into it. Mark assumed he could fix it when we got to Miami. He couldn’t. It always happens when we are ready to leave that something important breaks. We ordered a new outboard motor and missed the window to cross to Bimini.

Three weeks later as we listened to Chris Parker’s morning weather report we confirmed that we could finally leave Miami and cross to the Bahamas. Chris Parker is the marine weatherman we subscribe to who sends us daily email marine forecasts and broadcasts a morning weather report starting at 0630 on computers and tablets (for subscribers) and SSB radio for subscribers and anyone else who wants to listen. Since we subscribe, i.e. pay him money, we can ask a question about our particular route. We did that on December 30 and he replied that Friday, January 1, would be the best day to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini. We knew the weather would be comfortable for crossing the Gulf Stream on January 1, having listened to his forecasts the previous days and weeks and read his emails in which he recommends crossing weather windows as well as conditions in all parts of the Bahamas. What we learned from him on December 30 was that we would have to stay in Bimini for at least a week. We generally like to stay a night at Bimini, go to the Berries the next day, then Nassau, and then to the Exumas which is our destination for most of our winter/spring cruise. We can make it to the Berries on Saturday, but Sunday’s weather is not good for getting to Nassau. In fact, a gale force weather system is arriving in the Bahamas on Sunday and Chris Parker advised no travel for anyone from Bimini to the Exumas until at least Friday, January 8. 

While in Miami we made good use of the time. Each day Sailor got to go to a fantastic dog park in Coconut Grove. It has astroturf instead of grass and the walkways are recycled tires, so even when it rains there is no mud. On the short walk to the park we would stop at Starbucks. Several blocks past the dog park there is a Home Depot and also a very nice IGA store named Milans. We did some additional provisioning there, mostly for fresh fruits and vegetables since our pantry shelves on Seas the Day have enough food to open a store of our own. We also did some shopping at Home Depot and of course West Marine, also within walking distance.

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Unfortunately for the entire three weeks we were on mooring ball 157, the weather was very windy which made the water in Key Biscayne where the mooring field is located extremely  rough. Some days the large water taxi shuttle couldn’t come out to pick up people who didn’t want to go ashore in their own dinghies. This was a problem for us because for the first week we were there we had no dinghy motor. Even on a calm day, it would be a long row into the marina but impossible with the waves crashing through the mooring field. We got accustomed to rocking and rolling on the boat. Frequently we heard loud noises as waves pounded the hulls, sounding almost like we had been hit by another boat or large floating object. Sailor was particularly upset and wanted to spend almost all of the time while on the boat in a bed with one of us next to him. We read numerous books on our Kindles while we took turns in bed with Sailor. There was not a break in these weather conditions the entire time we were there. Once we got our new dinghy motor, we stopped using the water taxi and got used to getting wet going ashore and coming back to the boat. It was easier than waiting for the taxi which runs on the hour and sometimes cancels pickups midday or starts late due to the wind and water  conditions. One time Mark and Sailor got caught ashore when that happened and had to pay someone from a kayak rental company at the marina to take them back to the boat.

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All was going well while we waited for good crossing weather until three days before we were going to leave. I went into the freezer, which is full of six months of frozen food, and noticed that some of the food was thawing! A quick check confirmed that indeed the freezer temperature was going down. We transferred most of the food into several large insulated  cooler bags we use for shopping and also into a large cooler. We moved the meat into the small freezers in our two refrigerators and put some of the food in the refrigerator sections. Since this happened in the early afternoon, we were able to purchase large bags of ice for each cooler and put several bags in the freezer where we left some food thus keeping everything cold overnight. Our freezer is made by Vitrifrigo and luckily for us their headquarters are an hour away in Ft. Lauderdale. They gave us the phone numbers of three repairmen we could call and we were able to get someone out to the boat the next morning at 10 am. They didn’t even make us come to the dock, but rode out in our dinghy with their tools. The two repairmen who came checked everything and couldn’t find a problem until they discovered a great deal of dust where Mark hadn’t been able to reach when he cleaned it before we left Stuart. With their industrial strength blower, it all came out and the freezer temperature dropped immediately. Luckily cleaning people don’t charge $140 to come out to dust one item. For us, it was worth every penny to save many hundreds of dollars worth of frozen food.

With the freezer working, we hoped that was the end of the problems. On a boat, the repairs and maintenance are constant. Over the past few months we have replaced the dinghy, the outboard motor for the dinghy, the two trampolines on the foredeck, two of the four air conditioning units, the water maker pump, the two small seats at the front of the hulls on the foredeck (originally made of wood for some stupid reason and obviously were doomed to rot), the chart plotter, the radar unit, and numerous other small items. Because of these major expenses we didn’t get the one item we were determined to buy after our freezer went out for a day last winter in Georgetown, Bahamas, and we needed to store the frozen food. A neighbor in the Hole 2 mooring field loaned us their Engel 12V freezer which can also be used as a refrigerator with a different setting. That time the problem was caused because ice had formed over a thermostat and once thawed all was well. We could have used an Engel this time, but it remains in the Amazon.com cart where it is “saved for later.” Since it is about $900 it will be there for awhile.

While it seems like we might have had a miserable time in Miami, we didn’t. We never expect to get there and leave immediately and having rough water and repairs are all part of cruising. Below are two photos from the deck of Seas the Day. The first was on Christmas night with a full moon above Biscayne Bay. The second is our boat under one of many beautiful sunsets, taken by our boat buddies on the next mooring ball, Renaissance II. 

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After one last trip to Milan’s for fresh food, another to the nearby Fresh Market for their homemade cookies, a visit to the marina laundry, a stop at the fuel dock to top off the tanks, a last time at Blanche Dog Park for Sailor, followed by a bath at a hose at the marina, and one last frappuccino, we settled down to get a good night’s sleep before leaving for Bimini on January 1, 2016, hoping the midnight fireworks wouldn’t be too loud. They weren’t and at daylight January 1, we released mooring ball 157 and headed east.

Cruising Season Eight Begins

After a few delays for weather we finally left Sunset Bay Marina on Tuesday, December 8, 2015. We had a great group helping us get off the dock and as much as we want to get to the Bahamas we will miss our friends in Stuart.

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We were worried about getting under the 65 ft. Roosevelt Bridge as we exited Sunset Bay because due to all the rain, tides are extremely high. Our mast is 63 ft plus the instruments at the top and we did get under without touching. The next day we weren’t so fortunate. 

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We had a pleasant motor on the ICW to North Palm Beach and stayed at the North Palm Beach Marina. As usual lately, it rained part of the day. Still this was the best weather in awhile and there was a train of boats traveling down the ICW. We were in a group of eight each time we waited for a bridge opening but after we arrived in North Palm Beach we watched many more boats passing by to get into marinas or anchorages in the area and no doubt continue south the next day or perhaps head east to the Abaco Islands.

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The next morning, an hour after high tide, we approached the Riviera Beach Bridge and saw the board showed 62 1/2 ft clearance. We decided to wait as we watched the board. An hour and a half later the clearance was just a little over 63 ft and we decided to go……very slowly. As we started under the bridge our antenna started to drag on the bridge bottom. It has never done that before, but we continued and made it under with the antenna dragging the whole way. No pictures here as we were both watching the mast very closely.

We exited the Lake Worth Inlet to the ocean and turned south to Ft. Lauderdale. Even though there weren’t even white caps, the seas were rough and confused (coming from all directions). Sailor is a fair weather sailor and always lets me know he wants to get into the bed by going down the steps to the companionway and staring at me until I come.
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We were very happy to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and motor up the New River to tie up at the New River City Marina along the Riverwalk. We walked across the bridge and had dinner at Briney’s Irish Pub and got a good night’s sleep.IMG_2659

Thursday we left under the 17th Street Causeway bridge opening and again turned south to Miami. This was a pleasant, calm motorsail and we arrived on ball 157 at Dinner Key Mooring Field after filling up with fuel at Crandon Park Marina for the trip to the Bahamas.
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As mentioned in the previous post, cruising plans are written in sand. The next good weather window to go to Bimini is next week and that’s when we hoped to cross. That was the plan. However, Mark had to work on the dinghy motor because when he moved it to the new dinghy before we left Stuart it tipped and oil got in it. Despite his best efforts to repair it, the motor is dead and we have to buy a new one. Mark was able to find exactly what we wanted in the Miami area, but it has to be ordered and won’t get here until next Wednesday or Thursday. The good news is we found out before we left, although we could have purchased a good outboard motor in Nassau. Also, this is a nice place to stay. One year we spent most of the winter on a mooring ball at Dinner Key when we were waiting for the boat to be converted to twin diesels from an electric hybrid system. There is a Fresh Market a few blocks away, lots of great restaurants, the best dog park we’ve ever seen nearby, and the marina has been updated with a new three story building and all new facilities inside. Also, there is a water taxi shuttle that comes to pick us up and drop us off from 0800 to 1700 so we don’t need our dinghy while we are here unless we want to be off the boat after 5 pm. This is good for us because until next Thursday we can’t use our dinghy. We could row in but being on Biscayne Bay, the waters are rarely calm and there is almost always a brisk wind. 

The shopping and eating area of The Grove has many choices. We headed straight for this one. Once we are in the Bahamas, Nassau is our last chance to go to a Starbucks.

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Below is a photo of Blanche Dog Park in Coconut Grove, a six block walk for us. The astroturf and recycled tire walkways make this the perfect dog park because even though it rained the morning this picture was taken, no dogs got muddy!

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Chris Parker, the marine weatherman whose forecasts we subscribe to, says next Tuesday and possibly Wednesday are good days to cross to the Bahamas and there might be one more opportunity before Christmas on December 24. I suspect we’ll be celebrating Christmas in Miami. Nothing new here. No matter how early we start, we have never made it to the Bahamas before New Years’ Eve. Weather and boat repairs always hamper our plans. One year we were almost to Bimini and our previous hybrid propulsion  system failed. We had to be towed back to Ft. Lauderdale and we made a successful run to Bimini a few weeks later. We’ve talked to a number of other cruisers who are here at Dinner Key waiting to go someplace. Almost every person has either said they aren’t quite sure where they are going or not quite sure when.  We know there are many people who would like to have this “problem” and we realize how blessed we are.

Cruising Plans Written in Sand

There is a saying that “Cruising plans are written in sand at low tide.” Once again that has proven true for us, but this year it wasn’t our electric windlass that broke or our watermaker that needed a part the day we left on a cruise as in years’ past. The “plan” was to leave on Monday, November 30, when our slip reservation at Sunset Bay concluded. However, the weather has been rainy and windy for weeks, and it looked like the best weather window to get to Miami would start Tuesday, December 1. Unfortunately, Sunday night we spent four hours in the emergency room when Mark had intense pain. It was diagnosed as a prostrate infection, and he has an appointment with a urologist on Thursday. The antibiotics and pain killers they gave him in the emergency room stopped the pain but also made him very tired, keeping him from doing some last minute projects. We decided we had to stay and now the weather window is closing Friday. Also, today (Tuesday), I got a phone call with the results of a recent bone density scan. It came back with a diagnosis of osteopenia in both of my hips. Luckily someone had just canceled an appointment today and I got in to see my doctor shortly after the phone call. Now I have to get some medications to keep it from getting worse and developing into osteoporosis. We are incredibly lucky that these two health issues occurred before we were in the Bahamas where health care would not have been what we got here.

We have had a very busy six months in Stuart. Another popular saying is, “Everything on your boat is broken, you just don’t know it yet.” Some repairs we knew we had to do, some we didn’t. This summer and fall we replaced the trampolines, which were rotting. We also knew the watermaker needed a new pump. It was no secret that our dinghy had seen better days and after having to add air everytime we used it last winter, we replaced it this fall. The radar wasn’t working and we were able to find a new unit, which has been discontinued but works with our current Raymarine navigation system so we don’t have to replace everything. We have four air conditioning units on the boat and two of them needed to be replaced. We were able to have the salon one custom built locally, for about half the price of the same one we had. We didn’t replace the one in the master cabin yet but cool air from the other cabins and a fan keeps it comfortable. Our TV stopped working several months before we returned to Florida last spring so a new one had to be purchased. Luckily we had a warranty in effect and the replacement was basically free. Even our “marriage saver” headphones died and new ones were no longer available. The new bluetooth ones were more expensive but also much better. We use these to communicate when one of us is in the cockpit and the other dropping the anchor and approaching or leaving a dock or mooring ball. Also, when Mark goes up the mast it is easier to communicate using the headsets. Since the new ones are bluetooth, we can listen to music from our phones or computer on them and even talk on the phone. In addition there were many smaller projects, such as marking the anchor chain for depths so we know how many feet we are putting out. In fact, Mark was doing that when the pain began this past weekend. 

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A few weeks before we are “planning” to leave, I make an inventory of the provisions we have on board. I itemize this on a spreadsheet by category and make a list of what we need for the next six months. Then, let the shopping begin!  Most of the items are purchased at Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart. Apparently we haven’t spent much money at these stores this year, because after a number of multiple hundred dollar purchases, an attempt of charging over $1200 at Sam’s was refused but another try at $1000 on the Sam’s card with the rest of the purchase on another card went through. We knew we weren’t near our credit card limit so when I checked the account online, I couldn’t get to it and was prompted to call the company. That resulted in a number of questions to answer about the purchases and they even sent a text with a code I had to repeat to the agent. All was well, and I profusely thanked her for keeping a close eye on the charge card, as they obviously thought someone had stolen it. Many of our provisions are bought online and delivered to the marina. Sailor gets six months of food, medications for heartworm and flea and tick, vitamins, treats, dental chews, etc.

As the provisions are brought on the boat, the organizing begins. A few years ago we decided to remove the bedding and mattress from the starboard aft cabin and stack plastic boxes labeled and filled with food on the platform. Most of the paper products are stored in one of several   large watertight holds on the forward deck. Also a few years ago we both got Kindles and stopped reading paperback and hardcover books. Those we were storing on the book shelves in the port companionway were given away or placed in our storage unit, and food now resides on those shelves. In addition, items are placed in cabinets, drawers, closets, in benches under salon cushions and under beds. To store under beds means you lift a mattress, remove a section of the platform, and put items in the storage area under the bed. Ingredients for rum punch, gin and tonic, and wine are under a bench in the salon, and a large supply of juice and pop (or soda for those of you who aren’t from the Midwest) are under a bed or tucked away on the floor.

Overkill? Perhaps. Yes, people do eat in the Bahamas, but the stores are few and far between and the selection of products is limited and expensive. Some Bahamians order their food in bulk from Nassau and it comes on weekly boat deliveries.  In the Exumas where we spend most of our time we can get some items in Staniel Cay at the Blue Store, the Pink Store, and Isles General. These are all in people’s houses, and if you don’t arrive at the door soon after the weekly food is delivered on a supply boat from Nassau, the pickings are meager. In Blackpoint there is another store in a house that has limited provisions. Georgetown has several stores that have fairly good supplies including the Exuma Market which is similar to a small US grocery store,  but in many cases the items are quite expensive and of course the selection of products is more limited than US stores. Some food, especially dairy products, are subsidized by the government so they are reasonably priced. One could easily live on food purchased in Georgetown, but if we want our favorite brands at a discount price, Sam’s, Target and Walmart aren’t there. Snack items are very expensive. One year I craved red Tootsie Pops and Mark craved Sweet Tarts when we ran out early in the cruise. We finally found some in Spanish Wells in May just before we came back to the States. My Tootsie Pops were in a small bag where half were red and half were green and the price was about a dollar a pop, so you can guess how long they had been on the shelf. We do buy fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products in the Bahamas, although this year we are bringing four dozen eggs from my yoga teacher and friend Kim’s free range chickens and they will last awhile since we got them so fresh. We also have a large cherry tomato plant that is full of green tomatoes already, nine strawberry plants in a strawberry planter, and quite a few leaf lettuce plants.  

The good thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The bad thing about a catamaran is there is lots of storage space. The result is we overbuy and always come back with enough to live on for most of the summer and fall. The freezer and two refrigerators are both full now and most of the freezer items are in Food Saver bags so they will keep for many months. Below are some of the items we have stored for the next six months. The boxes on the bed are two rows deep. Right now there are 30 boxes, but I do have an additional few days for more shopping! Many of the snack foods are for sundowners where we get together with other cruisers on beaches for drinks, snacks and conversation. We also need snacks for the Texas Hold’em games held on Seas the Day every Saturday evening while we are in Georgetown. 

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Besides boat repairs and provisioning, we have to get in all of our doctor, dentist, hair, dog grooming , veterinary, and medical test appointments before we leave. This year I also got involved in months of chiropractic care when an x-ray showed I have severe scoliosis. Last year, Mark was diagnosed with spinal stenosis shortly before we left, although it doesn’t seem to be very advanced. Sometimes trying to get this done doesn’t work, like this year I tried to schedule  my yearly eye exam and my insurance wouldn’t cover it until December 1, since that’s when I had it last year when we stayed later than normal. That is today, and we were supposed to be gone so I had canceled it. 

There is a great deal of work and planning that goes into leaving the country on a boat for six months, especially to a third world country. One worry has always been what would happen if one of us got sick, or even died, while in the Bahamas. This year we planned for that by getting a nautical policy from SkyMed that in the event of a serious injury or illness will fly us back to a hospital of our choice in the States by Lear Jet, even picking us up from a remote island in a helicopter, paying for our boat to be returned to our home port in Florida if we can’t return to it, flying us back to the Bahamas when we are well, paying someone to watch our dog or flying him back with us, ground transportation in an ambulance from a US airport to a hospital is included, and flying a visitor to stay with us in the hospital if needed. Physical remains are recovered and returned to the States if the worst happens. It is worth every penny for the peace of mind that if one of us was sick, injured or worse, we could get help in a US hospital quickly. We also pay for daily email, SSB and online live forecasts from marine weather forecaster Chris Parker. Another yearly expense is our SPOT device that tracks our progress when we move. In addition we pay for a mail forwarding service that scans envelopes and posts them online so we can see if we want to have the mail sent to us, shredded or the contents scanned. This is essential when we are out of the country for so long.

Sailor, of course, knows something is going on. He got suspicious when he saw some of his toys being washed. A visit to the vet for an exam, shots and paperwork we bring for immigration further confirmed it. When five bags of dog food and enough snacks to cause him to drool arrived, he got dressed in his sailing clothes.

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Sailor is ready to take over his responsibilities as First Mate. This is his third Bahamas cruise and as soon as we arrive, he will start running on deserted beaches and swimming in crystal clear water. While we have trained him not to bark, he does woof a few times if a stranger comes past us in an anchorage or mooring field. Some of our followers on this blog and on Facebook have commented that they would like to have Sailor’s life.

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After Mark’s appointment on Thursday, we could leave Friday morning, but the weather window closes that day, according to current forecasts. Hopefully we can leave early next week. Our cruise to Miami, where we wait to cross to Bimini in the Bahamas, takes us first to Lake Worth/Palm Beach on the ICW, then to Ft. Lauderdale on the ocean, and finally to Miami on the ocean. We need a three day window of good weather that doesn’t create big waves on the ocean before we will leave Stuart.

It’s been a wonderful six months in Stuart, but we are anxious to get to the Bahamas. Each year something seems to happen just before we leave, and hopefully these medical problems were  it this time. While we wait, we can enjoy having our Christmas tree lit all evening without using up the power in our batteries that our solar panels, wind generator and diesel engines give us when we are no longer plugged into shore power. In the photo below the smoke is coming from a diffuser with an essential oil called “Christmas Spirit” making our salon smell like the holidays are already here. Hopefully we’ll be opening our presents in the Bahamas.

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Spanish Wells to Stuart

We arrived back in Florida at the end of May. Guess I was a little lazy about writing the last post of the 2015 cruising season, because here it is the middle of October and I am getting around to documenting the end of our last season while we are planning our 2016 Bahamas Cruise.

We left Spanish Wells after a fantastic visit with my son Peter who flew into Eleuthera and joined us for the rest of the cruise. We then sailed from Royal Island, near Spanish Wells, to Chub Cay on May 19, leaving at 0645 and dropping the anchor at 1515. This was Peter’s first opportunity to sail with us in the Bahamas and luckily we had perfect calm seas. We stayed at Chub Cay one night and the next day sailed to Bimini, leaving at 0550 in the dark and tying up to the dock at Bimini Sands at 1650. 

Here are several photos of our crossing from Chub Cay and entering the waters of Bimini. In the third picture, the red rooftops of the condos surrounding the marina at Bimini Sands Resort and Marina are visible. Sailor had been there before and I am fairly certain he recognized it, or at least he said to himself with a smile, “Land Ho!”

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We stayed in Bimini two days and enjoyed the north and south islands. Peter snorkeled on the beach from Bimini Sands to the southern end of of South Bimini. He saw some fantastic underwater scenes, so next time we are there we’ll have to try it ourselves. Oddly after many visits to Bimini we had never snorkeled the reefs. Of course, we had to show Peter The Dolphin House in North Bimini, and he was impressed. He said he hopes to go back someday and rent a room from Mr. Saunders. We saw Mark’s last Minnesota license plate from his Corvette on one of the walls.  We donated it to Ashley Saunders’ collection of many car license plates two years ago. In his museum, we read the famous quotes he had mounted on the ceiling. To see more photos of The Dolphin House from our previous website, click here.

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One of the prettiest views in Bimini is from the Dolphin House. Mr. Saunders told us that a man from China recently approached him about buying The Dolphin House. Of course, it will always be in the Saunders family as it is a labor of love which he will no doubt continue working on until he can’t physically do it anymore. We will visit every time we go to Bimini to see the latest additions.

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When we stay in South Bimini, we take a very short water taxi ride to North Bimini. We always look for two white Golden Retrievers, who live outside by the water and fish for their food! Yes, we have seen them dive for fish and bring them ashore. They seem pretty healthy so perhaps the locals provide them with other food. We especially like watching these dogs because Sailor’s grandfather is a white English Golden Retriever.

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On May 22, 2015, we left Bimini Sands at 0610. Sailor was glad to spot land as we neared Lake Worth  that afternoon and  entered the channel.

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At 1410 we dropped the anchor near the Lake Worth Inlet after a very calm crossing.  We dinghied over to the park on Peanut Island to stretch our legs. The next morning at 0630, we left the Lake Worth anchorage with a beautiful sunrise in the sky, and started up the ICW to Stuart. We love being able to go under the 65 foot bridges and through the lift bridges while looking at the gorgeous homes along the route. We do not like being waked by speeding powerboats and fishing boats, and as always we seem to end up going on this leg of the trip on a dreaded South Florida weekend when they are out in force. As we entered the ICW, numerous fishing boats were ready to race out onto the ocean.  Later in the day, Sailor seemed to be a little bored, but Peter had a talk with him and they relaxed for the rest of the trip.

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Finally, at noon we pulled into our slip at Sunset Bay Marina, where we have spent hurricane seasons for the last four years. It’s called Sunset Bay for a reason. (That is a power cat in the next slip, not Seas the Day.)

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Thus ended our fourth Bahamas Cruise and our seventh year living aboard S/V Seas the Day. We spent the other three winters in Corpus Christi, the Florida Keys up to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and one season in Miami and Ft.  Lauderdale as we waited to have our hybrid catamaran converted to twin diesels. 2015 was a very different cruising season as we visited new places in the Bahamas and spent three months on a mooring ball in Georgetown. We boat buddied with good friends Tom and Cathie (Interlude) meeting up with them and spending Christmas together in South Beach, Miami,  then sailing together all the way to Georgetown, The Exumas, then back north with stops in Long Island, Cat Island, Little San Salvador, Eleuthera, and finally to Spanish Wells where Interlude continued to Abaco and we stayed in Spanish Wells.  We learned to play Texas Hold-em in Georgetown and played three times a week! We met a lot of new friends and hope to see most of them again in 2016. Sailor, of course, met his BFF, Portuguese Water Dog Zorro aboard M/V All In (Vivian and Chris). He’s never enjoyed playing with another dog this much and hopefully they’ll reunite this season. As we love doing, we spent the last month in Spanish Wells, renting a golf cart and staying on a mooring ball. The highlight of that month was having my son Peter visit, which added to the excitement and caused us to enjoy some new experiences.  He almost didn’t make it though, because after taking the Red Eye from San Francisco, at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport he wasn’t allowed on the plane to Eleuthera without a return ticket to the U.S. When he called us as the plane was loading (thank goodness he knew our Bahamas phone number), we were able to email a copy of our cruising permit to prove to the airline people that he did have a way back to the States. In Spanish Wells, a definite highlight was when we hired James, owner of Spanish Wells Bahamas Ocean Safaris, for a phenomenal day on the water, snorkeling, diving, swimming, finding conch and shells, watching James spear our fish for dinner, and playing on a huge sandbar.  Having Peter sail back to Stuart with us also added to the uniqueness of our 2015 Bahamas Cruise.

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Visitor Number One Comes to Spanish Wells

We have lived on the boat since July, 2008, and been to the Bahamas four times. We finally had our first guest in the islands, my son Peter. He arrived on Wednesday, May 13, stayed on our boat in Spanish Wells, and sailed with us to Chub Cay, Bimini, and back to Florida. He flew into the North Eleuthera airport and was met by Calvin Pinder who took him by land and water taxis to Spanish Wells.

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On Thursday we rode the water taxi back to Eleuthera and rented a car for the day. Peter is a surfer and lives on the coast in Central California so he was anxious to try surfing in warm water. Eleuthera is known for its good surfing, thus our first stop was Surfer’s Beach. Unfortunately the wind was the wrong direction for good surfing, so we continued south to Rock Sound. There we showed him a dramatic series of caves and a blue hole. 

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We then drove north to Governor’s Harbour where we had conch fritters at The Buccaneer Club and walked on the beautiful pink sand beach at the Club Med which was destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

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Our next stop was the Glass Window Bridge where the dramatic view has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. In 1991, a rogue wave came through and pushed the bridge four feet.

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On previous car trips we had seen most of the places where we stopped this time, but a new one was Preacher’s Cave. In 1648, 70 people who had left Europe for religious freedom and came to Bermuda decided to find a new place to live and set sail for Eleuthera. They were called the Eleutheran Adventurers. Eleuthera means “freedom.” Unfortunately their boat hit the Devil’s Backbone reef and sunk. The survivors made it ashore but all of their provisions were lost. They found a large cave and lived in it but had no supplies so they built a boat and a small group of them headed to Jamestown, the nearest English settlement. They actually made it and returned with supplies. Later some moved to Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Man of War Cay in Abaco, and Governor’s Harbour in Eleuthera. 

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The next day we arranged to go out snorkeling and diving with James from Bahamas Ocean Safaris. It was just the three of us and Sailor with James and we got to design our own water adventure. We started with some diving for Peter and snorkeling for Mark and me. The first dive was over a wreck, but the current was too strong so we went on to another area which had beautiful coral and fish. Diving near the sunken boat they saw a 300 pound turtle with barnacles on its shell. The boat is partly above water in the first photo below. James speared two fish for us, a hogfish and grouper. Our next stop was a huge sandbar that rises out of the water at low tide and disappears at high tide, much like our favorite anchorage in the Bahamas at Joe Sound. Sailor of course loved being able to run free and had fun chasing birds. Peter snorkeled and found a trumpet conch and lots of sand dollars and shells. 

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At the end of the day, James cleaned the fish he speared. Unfortunately when he cut into the hogfish he saw it had ciguatera poisoning so he threw it out, but the grouper made a tasty dinner for us.

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On our last day in Spanish Wells, Peter went kayaking. We had lunch at Buddas, watched a final sunset, and made our last nightly visit to Papa Scoops. 

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