Category Archives: Sailing

Georgetown, Part Six

It’s hard to believe that this is our sixth visit to Georgetown with the first one occurring in 2010. It is a popular stop for cruisers who spend time in the Exumas. A great many arrive to spend a few days and stay for weeks or even months, returning year after year. It is the ideal place to provision for going further south, so some stop, shop, and continue on their way. Occasionally  cruisers avoid Georgetown at all costs. Some have heard stories about it being “adult daycare.” Others don’t like to be around so many boats, although there are numerous anchorages in Elizabeth Harbour and some are frequently empty. You can be surrounded by other boats or anchored all by yourself. Last year I wrote an extensive post about Georgetown. It’s located here.  This year we are doing and seeing all of that and more.

We arrived in Georgetown at the end of November and quickly settled into our routine. As more cruisers arrived, the activity level picked up. Add to that the opening of the new resort at Lumina Point where we had an additional place to eat, exercise, dance, listen to cruiser jam sessions, and attend Happy Hour. When we arrived in Georgetown there were less than 20 boats here. The number peaks during Regatta Week. Below are two photos of the dinghy dock at Exuma Market. The first shows my son Peter, Mark and Sailor on the dock with five other dinghies when we first arrived in November. Mark is holding the hose hanging where cruisers line up in their dinghies to fill jerry jugs with free RO water, provided by Exuma Market. Yes, that is free. Other places in the Bahamas RO water costs 50 cents a gallon, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less, but never this convenient and free. The second picture was taken in March when there were about 300 boats in the harbor. Notice the dinghies lined up to get water. By the time we left in April, there were less than 100 boats remaining. When the Regatta ends, some cruisers continue on their way south to the Caribbean, some head back north through the Exumas or Eleuthera and on to Abaco or other islands, and others follow different routes, eventually ending up in the States before hurricane season begins.

This is our third year in Hole 2, a hurricane hole mooring field. Not only do we enjoy the protection from high winds, but we also get to meet new friends each year because as a group we are “Hole 2.”  Michelle and Dan on Sea Monkey hosted a number of fun get-togethers, including a Valentines Day party and a jam session with Shannon and Bob (Category 1) and Gary (Tamaki) singing and playing their guitars. One afternoon Michelle offered to read our Chakras, which was very interesting. The bonfire parties on our beach in Hole 2 are legendary, but this year our main organizers, Joanne and Jack on Houseboat Panda, sold their boat and returned to Canada early. Jack was great at building bonfires and we only had one after he left – someone needs to take on that job. Most of the boats have kayaks and/or SUP’s and it’s not unusual to see several of us padding through the holes together since it’s always calm on the protected water. Below are a few get-together pictures with our Hole 2 friends and a photo taken, I believe, by Ingrid from Tamaki as they flew over Hole 2. The four mooring fields are on the west side of Stocking Island in Elizabeth Harbour. The long sandy beach on the east side of Stocking Island is on the Exuma Sound, aka the ocean. That beach is one of the most beautiful in the world and oddly, even when there are hundreds of visitors and cruisers in the area, rarely are there more than a few people walking on the beach and sometimes we are the only ones. Most cruisers spend time on the beaches on the harbor side of Stocking Island or in town. 

Below is a photo of the women of Hole 2 when we had a farewell luncheon at Lumina Point for Joanne on Panda and a welcome to Jill, the new owner. 

Saturday Night Poker on Seas the Day continued this year.  It is the highlight of our week and a good excuse to get the boat cleaned. We host 12-16 people with the men in the cockpit (seats aren’t as comfortable) and the women in the salon. (A note to the men – we hope to get the cockpit cushions replaced before we come back next year with much thicker seats.) When the number of players left in the game gets down to about 7 or 8, we combine the tables into one, usually in the salon. Most of the cruisers who come are from Hole 2. In fact three years ago when we began this, all the players were from Hole 2 the entire season. The last two years we have also invited friends from the anchorages when there aren’t enough players on the Hole 2 boats as cruisers come and go. Halfway through the game, we stop to chip up (trade in our chips for higher value ones) and eat a variety of always delicious snacks contributed by the players. New friend Holt (SV Agandau) is a gourmet snack maker and we hope he’ll be back next year, not just for his food. The name of his boat combines the symbols for silver (agand gold (au).  Sailor greets each dinghy pulling up to Seas the Day with one of his stuffed toys and kisses. He even has special ones he always brings to the same people. For example, Cathie consistently gets Mr. Squirrel. 

Three years ago we started to play poker at the St. Francis on Tuesday and Thursday. When we arrived in mid November this season, there was one table of about 10 people playing, including the three of us. Once hundreds of boats had arrived a few months later, the limit was set at five tables of ten each and we needed to register by about 5:15, with registration beginning at 5:00 or we would not get a place. Play starts at 6 pm. Mark and I won money enough times that we probably broke even. Buy-in is $5 with all money going back to the top five winners at the St. Francis and top three on our boat. Mark actually made it to the final table at the poker tournament during the Georgetown Regatta where there are many more players than the normal 50. He came in fourth place and won a very nice St. Francis shirt, a bottle of wine, and money – around $50. Pam on SV Dejarlo won the tournament, which was fitting since it is the last year she and Ollie will be coming to Georgetown after many years of being involved in numerous activities and volunteering through the years for just about everything. They will be missed. Below are photos of the final table at the Regatta Week tournament and Jillian, co-owner of St. Francis giving Mark his prizes.

Free yoga classes at Lumina Point Resort were offered during November, December and part of January. They were held on a large deck also used as an outdoor restaurant, a small deck overlooking the harbor, or, when weather was rainy, in their exercise gym. The teacher is from Andros Island and was trained in the States. She is also their massage therapist and is excellent  in both positions. I attended classes every day until the middle of January when I discovered that some of the poses were hurting my shoulder. Starting about that time, the classes switched to three times a week and there was a small charge to attend. The free classes attracted 20-30 people or more. Once the nominal fee was charged, the attendance dropped sharply. Luckily at that time free classes were offered by Agnes, a cruiser teacher, on Volleyball Beach. As the new resort started to get more guests, they stopped having so many activities for cruisers. It is an eco-resort, with solar power running everything and all aspects designed to be environmentally friendly. They even hand carried all of the building materials through the property to build the cottages. The paths are carefully cut through the thick foliage. Lumina Point Resort will no doubt attract visitors who are there for a relaxing, peaceful vacation. Cruisers tend to be noisy!

About the time I stopped going to yoga classes, a few of us realized that our two aquafit teachers from last season would not be coming to Georgetown this year. I volunteered to teach the class and Joanne from SV Bristol Cream provided the music and led the arm exercises. I have taken water aerobics/aquafit classes for many years, both in Columbus, Ohio while I was working and now in Florida. I researched poses that would work in the open water, rather than in a pool, and designed a routine that has a warm-up, followed by aerobics, then exercises strengthening each part of the body, ending with a cool down. As cruisers who came to our classes left Georgetown,  I gave them each a copy of the routine to follow as they visited other islands or back home in their own pools, lakes, rivers, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting many new friends who came to the classes. Having retired from classroom teaching 11 years ago, I had forgotten how much I like being a teacher.

While we still paddle in our kayaks, mostly in the smooth, calm water of the four large mooring fields, this year we added an inflatable SUP (stand-up paddle board) to our “water toys.” I have to admit the main purpose was to give Sailor something to ride on with us. He hopped on our friend Christina’s SUP last season and seemed very comfortable, so now he has his own spot on the “pup deck” at the front of our SUP. So far he has behaved perfectly, sitting the entire ride. However, I am worried that if he ever decides to stand up, we’ll both go over into the water. 

Lumina Point Resort held several open mike sessions and we discovered there are many musically talented cruisers. One of my favorite sessions was when Sarah, on MV Borrowed Horse, played “Dueling Banjos” on her banjo with another cruiser on his guitar. It was incredible. Our friends Shannon (aqua shirt below) and Bob (red hat playing his guitar) are from Nashville, and their country music was fantastic. 

Activities in Georgetown increase substantially during the Regatta. There are usually close to 300 boats in the harbor and while the highlight is the big boat races, there are many other daily events, such as the poker run, bocce ball, beach golf, small boat races, the coconut challenge, a scavenger hunt, and much more.  A variety show is held the opening night in Georgetown at Regatta Park. The participants are both cruisers and Bahamians.

Our friends Cathie and Tom were on SV Interlude when we met them in January, 2013 in Bimini and they introduced us to Hole 2 three years ago. After selling Interlude, last summer they purchased a Tolleycraft motor yacht they named True North. Of course she goes much faster than a sailboat, up to 25 kts. One night we were invited to take a sunset cruise in the harbor with other friends from Hole 2 and we got a taste of Tom’s need for speed. 

We can’t write about our Georgetown activities without including Sailor’s adventures. He does have a great life on the boat. While in the Bahamas he goes ashore twice a day to play on the beach, plus he goes most places with us since the Bahamas are very dog friendly. He hasn’t met a friend as special as Zorro, his Portuguese water dog BFF. They were inseparable two years ago on the Hole 2 beach and later on in Long Island and Spanish Wells. This year a puppy named Bentley, which incidentally is the name of Sailor’s father, was the one dog who loved to run up and down the beach with Sailor.

After each visit to the beach, Sailor has to be washed off with fresh water. Then he is wrapped in this towel so he doesn’t shake water all over the boat.

In past years, we have never checked into the Bahamas before January 1. This year we arrived in Bimini on November 14 and Georgetown on November 27. A huge celebration on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is Junkanoo. In the larger cities such as Bimini and Nassau, a second Junkanoo is held on New Years’ Day, beginning at midnight. The parade held in Georgetown was colorful and fun. The groups practice for a long time and in many cases make their own costumes.

Groceries are always an important consideration when visiting the Bahamas. We provision for our entire winter/spring cruise, seven months this year. However, we always have to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products and the Exuma Market and the Shop Rite Mart in Georgetown have great selections, but fresh produce only lasts on the shelves for a day or two after the supply boat brings food. These are by far the best grocery stores we shop at in the Exumas and other than Nassau, the second best we go to during our Bahamas cruise. The best is the Food Fair in Spanish Wells. Below are photos of one shopping trip at Exuma Market and some of the food we have enjoyed on Seas the Day.

Broccoli, muchroom, and cheese quicheMarinated boneless pork loin pork chops with pineapple and maple syrup, fried rice, and asparagus

Multi chip (and multi calorie) oatmeal cookies

These are items we purchase almost every week

Caramel pecan rolls rising overnight to bake in the morning 

Rice Krispie treats – not fancy or unusual but we couldn’t make them without bringing Rice Krispies with us from the States since cereal is very expensive here

Of course there are many good restaurants in Georgetown. A tradition is Valentines Dinner at St. Francis, always with a wonderful gourmet meal. It is so popular that it isn’t even “advertised” on the morning net, but the reservations fill up quickly.

I often say that the best thing about cruising is the friends we meet. This year, we met Tucker and Robbie on SV Pixie Dust. They were in Hole 2 on a ball near Seas the Day. Little did we know that Robbie would give us a very special gift the day before they flew back to Michigan. She is a talented artist, and she certainly captured our boat, Mark, Sailor and me in the water color picture she painted of us. Each day, we picked her up on her boat to go with us to water aerobics. We looked just like this arriving at Pixie Dust. 

We left Georgetown on April 2nd to start our way north. We’ll be back next year to create more memories. The sad part about leaving is that each year some of our friends do not return to Georgetown the next cruising season when they sell their boats and become CLODS – Cruisers Living On Dirt. Our 2016/2017 cruise is not over yet though. We still have two more months to enjoy the Bahamas as we travel through the Exumas, across the Sound to Eleuthera and on to Spanish Wells.

Great Harbour Cay to Cambridge Cay

On November 18, 2016, we left Great Harbour Cay Marina at 1500 and motored to nearby Bullock’s Harbour, about 1.5 miles north of the cut into Great Harbour Cay. Even people who have been in and out of the marina many times do not do it in the dark in a large boat. There are several tight cuts and turns to navigate through.  Since it was our first visit to this marina, we were definitely not leaving in the dark from the marina slip the following morning and that was necessary in order to get to Nassau in the light.

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Since we saw “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” we left the next morning for Nassau. Actually, we checked the weather forecast first and had a fairly pleasant motorsail, averaging 8 kts. Part of the route was over deep water, called The Tongue of the Ocean, and we did have large swells, but they were on the port aft beam, about 12 seconds apart, so they were manageable. We left Bullocks Harbour at 0520, in the dark, and arrived in Nassau at 1435, pulling into a slip at Nassau Harbour Club with several hours of daylight left. Very few boats were there, since the majority of cruisers hadn’t crossed to the Bahamas yet. We walked across the street to the strip mall, stopping at Starbucks and also picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables at the Fresh Market. It’s not the chain from the States, but is an equally nice grocery store and the last well stocked store we would see until the Exuma Market in Georgetown. In the Bahamas, we rarely look at prices, and buy what we need since there really isn’t an option. Except for a few dairy products, almost everything is much more expensive than in the States and of course we don’t always find the brands we prefer. Since we have stocked dry goods for seven months, we usually only have to buy fresh vegetables and fruit and eventually cheese, eggs, yoghurt and other dairy products. I freeze several months worth of yoghurt and eat it frozen for breakfast every day, so I don’t have to buy any for quite awhile.

The next morning we left the marina at 0755 and motorsailed across the shallow bank, arriving  in Shroud Cay, part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, at 1340. Until we exited the Park after Cambridge Cay, we would have no Internet or phone service since there are no cell phone towers in the Park. For most of the rest of the way to Georgetown we would be on the “bank” which is shallow water. Therefore unless the winds were extremely high or from the west, which isn’t protected since we travel on the bank with islands to the east of us, or if there were squalls, we could move from cay to cay without encountering uncomfortably rough conditions. We chose this stop over the more protected Norman’s Cay, a few miles to the north, because we wanted to take the kayaks into the mangroves. Unfortunately there were swells on the beam in the Shroud Cay anchorage/mooring field so it was an uncomfortable stay and Norman’s Cay would have been a better choice for our first stop in the Exuma chain.  We didn’t paddle in the mangroves long because the tide was going out and it gets shallow even for a kayak, so we could end up walking back and dragging our kayaks behind us. However, this is a favorite place to snorkel in the midst of nature and silence so it was worth the rocking and rolling night. 

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The next morning at 0725, we sailed south to the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park, Warderick Wells, and took a ball for two nights. When we arrived at 1000, we were the only boat on the balls in the North Mooring Field, except for a lonely sailboat that belongs to the park. Over the two days we were there, a few more boats came in but it was not full the way it is later in the season. Of course we had to go up to Boo Boo Hill where cruisers leave handmade driftwood boards with their boat names on them and there is a beautiful view of the Exuma Sound and surrounding Park foliage and water. Even though Hurricane Matthew passed over the Exumas a month earlier, there were still plenty of signs on the hill, including our Seas the Day one that we first put on Boo Boo Hill in 2010 and have added to in subsequent visits in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Mark originally carved into the driftwood and painted the letters, but the past few years had just used Magic Marker and it had washed off. He brought the sign back to the boat and painted the dates. We’ll probably stop at Warderick Wells again this season, so will add “2017” on that occasion. (Usually we stop here on our way south in January or February, so we had already been here in 2016.) We also went snorkeling in the north mooring field and around Emerald Rock. Peter used his GoPro camera to shoot a video and got some nice shots, although the coral is not as bright as it was when we first came here in 2010. After two days we were ready to move on.

Seas the Day, alone in the mooring field

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Peter stopped to look at the skeleton of a 53 ft sperm whale, who died after swallowing a plastic bag.

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Dogs must be kept on a leash in the park and only on the beaches, not the numerous trails. We take Sailor to a beach by Emerald Rock  so he can swim and fetch his ball.

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The Park Headquarters are in the building on the hill, with access by dinghy from a dock or a beach near the sperm whale skeleton.

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Peter walked up the path to Boo Boo Hill.

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Views below are from the top of Boo Boo Hill.

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Video of snorkeling in Warderick Wells in the north mooring field and near Emerald Rock, by Pete Beagle:

We had one more stop in the Land and Sea Park, Cambridge Cay. We left Warderick Wells at 0915 and tied up to a ball in Cambridge Cay at 1130 on 11/23/16. Again, we were the only boat in the mooring field. We only stayed one night, but it was an exciting, and a bit frightening, afternoon. Since it was still very windy, we took the dinghy to The Aquarium, a sheltered area with a coral wall and lots of tropical fish. We all went in the water and then started back to the boat. One of us had to stay in the boat with Sailor or he would have joined us.

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As we passed near the cut to the Exuma Sound by Cambridge Cay, where the waves were high and choppy, our dinghy engine suddenly quit. Mark is proficient at fixing motors, but he could not get it started. We were bouncing around and water was splashing into the dinghy while he attempted to restart the engine but we soon realized we had to get ashore quickly to get out of the waves in the cut. In the Land and Sea Park, except for Warderick Wells where the park rangers stay, almost all of the cays and islands are uninhabited. While we always bring a handheld VHF radio with us in the dinghy, unfortunately this was one of a handful of times over eight years that we forgot it so we were unable to call for help. However, we were fortunate to be near Bell Island, owned by Aga Khan, the leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community. His purchase of Bell Island was quite controversial, since it is in the Land and Sea Park, the one area of the Bahamas left that is kept in its natural state as a “no take by land or sea” zone. The Aga has dredged a marina for his megayacht and built a mansion and other buildings on the island.

Because this was the Aga Khan’s island, it was probably the only one where we could hope to find someone who could help us. Mark and Peter rowed through the waves to a small sandy beach on Bell Island, surrounded by mangroves and sharp rocks. We had protection from the large waves on the east side of the hill pictured below. We knew there was civilization on the west side of Bell Island, so Mark took off walking through the mangroves and sharp rocks. Luckily we had all brought hiking shoes. Peter, Sailor and I stayed on the beach and waited. Even Sailor knew something was wrong because he was on a beach but just stayed near us, rather than run back and forth like he usually does.

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Periodically, Peter walked to the top of a hill and said he could see buildings and a few workers on the other side of the island but didn’t see Mark. By now it was late afternoon and we hoped we wouldn’t be sleeping on the beach. We could see our boat in the mooring field, but it was far too rough to attempt rowing there. We had almost given up hope when Mark came around the end of the island in a large open boat with two powerful motors and a Bahamian at the wheel. He was a maintenance worker on the island and kindly towed us back to Seas the Day. We gladly gave him $50 and thanked him profusely for saving us. I doubt that he expected any money, but he certainly earned it! If not for the kindness of this Bahamian, we would have been sleeping on the beach. We were incredibly lucky that the motor died where it did. I believe a guardian angel was watching over us that day.
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After this harrowing experience we decided to leave the park the next morning and move on to more populated Big Majors Cay and Staniel Cay. This meant we couldn’t snorkel in one of our favorite spots at the Rocky Dundas Grotto or visit the Bubble Bath on Compass Cay, but the water was too rough and high tide for the Bubble Bath, when waves crash over the rocks from the Exuma Sound into a small pond on the other side creating numerous bubbles, would be in the late afternoon the next day. Most importantly, we had no way to get to either of these without the dinghy.

We hoped that Mark could find out what was wrong with the dinghy motor, which is only one year old, when we arrived in the anchorage at Big Majors Cay the next day. If not, we wouldn’t be going ashore again until we arrived in Georgetown where we could ride on a water taxi to town and possibly bring the motor to a repair shop. When cruising, a dinghy is our “car” and our only way to go ashore. We do have two kayaks and an iSUP, so we could possibly use them to get off the boat, but with the high winds we had on the entire trip so far, and choppy water conditions, it wouldn’t be the preferable mode of transportation. We are fortunate that Sailor will “go” on the boat, using the trampolines on the forward deck. However, we were looking forward to snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, showing Peter the swimming pigs, and eating lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

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.

imageHere we are leaving the Exuma Sound at Galliot Cut and entering shallow water.Sometimes this cut is very rough, and today it slowed us down 3 kts since the tide was going out, but it was a smooth ride. 

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imageThis is the sunset from our boat in Big Majors anchorage. 

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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.

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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Blackpoint to George Town

After being treated to a boat wash courtesy of Mother Nature, we left Blackpoint Tuesday afternoon and motorsailed to Cave Cay.  We anchored near Cave Cay Cut, which was where we were leaving the shallow waters of the Banks to go out on the deep  Exuma Sound on Wednesday. We always try to take Sailor for a beach run when we arrive at a new island, but Cave Cay didn’t look too promising.  The shores near us did not have any beach, just rocky cliffs.  Still, Mark took off in search of a sandy beach and found a great one. Posted signs said “private” but all Bahamian beaches are public up to the high tide line, and Sailor always stays on the edge of the water or in it.  Cave Cay is a privately owned island with a marina and a resort.

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At 0750 today we left the anchorage, motored the short distance to the cut and headed south on the Exuma Sound with less than 5 kts of wind out of the NE. Needless to say, we did not bother to try to sail.  There were quite a few boats out on the Sound ahead of us and a storm brewing behind us, so we went a little faster than our normal cruising speed.  We counted 18 boats as we passed them and more came out of the cuts behind us. It’s not that we are that much faster than the boats we passed. We just chose to use more fuel in order to reach George Town before the storm clouds. The photo below shows some of the boats following us into Elizabeth Harbor.

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By 1350 we were dropping our anchor in the Monument anchorage. Tomorrow we will pick up a mooring ball in Hole 2, a very protected hurricane hole in Stocking Island. Our friends Cathie and Tom (Interlude) always stay there and we know that we won’t have to be concerned about the weather.

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There are many anchorages in Elizabeth Harbour and when a storm or heavy wind is predicted, boats move to different anchorages for protection. The harbor sometimes gets very choppy and the current is strong. There have been times when we couldn’t get into the dinghy. We decided that due to the fact that I am not fully recovered from my knee surgery, it would be best to be in a situation where I am not constantly trying to stay balanced.  I discovered since we left Stuart on December 19 that on days when the boat was rocking a lot, my knees became sore.

Sailor has become more comfortable on the boat as the days have passed and when it isn’t rough, he likes to stay at the helm. However, on the days when the boat bounces around in the waves, he wants to be inside, usually in a bed with me next to him. Today was a good day.

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Of course, as soon as he saw and smelled land in Elizabeth Harbour, he was ready to come to the foredeck to check it out. We undo his tether when we approach land.

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He knows that soon after we stop, Mark drops the dinghy and they are off to play on a new beach.  Once we are in Hole 2, we will be a very short calm dinghy ride to shore where we can go over a hill and be on a long sandy Exuma Sound beach.  Today, Sailor enjoyed another new beach on the harbor side of Stocking Island. The monument in the background is how this anchorage got its name.

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This is the earliest we have arrived in George Town, mainly due to getting good weather windows along the way. Except for Sunset Lake in Florida and Warderick Wells where we waited for weather to pass, we never stayed more than a night at any stop. People either love or hate Georgetown.  Yes, there are a lot of boats here, but if you don’t want to anchor amongst them, there are plenty of anchorages where no one goes.  On one side of the harbor is the city of Georgetown.  Of course, this is where you go to shop. The Exuma Market has built a large dinghy dock and provides free water to cruisers who line up at a hose to fill their jugs. The market is the best since Nassua, large and well stocked. There are at least seven roomy anchorages on the George Town side.  On the Stocking Island side, where we are, there are also many anchorages, but these are the populated and crowded ones since they are the most protected from the prevailing winds.

Lots of activities here to join or ignore.  Someone just came on the VHF radio announcing a meeting of the ARG (Alcohol Research Group) this afternoon. All interested parties are to gather their research materials and meet in the harbor in their dinghies to raft together and drift. Mark chose to do his own research with a rum punch in the cockpit after returning from Sailor’s beach run. As I said, some people love it here and some avoid George Town like the plague, but the good news is there are a variety of things to do, everything you need is available in town, the phone and Internet signals are strong, the scenery and water are beautiful and that makes for many choices.

Nassau to Blackpoint

Before I begin our first blog post from The Exumas, I want to mention that I do regularly add photos and brief descriptions of our travels on our Facebook page. The link to that is in the right column of the website. Also, when a new blog entry is posted, there is a notification on Facebook. Followers of the website receive an email message immediately after an entry is posted. There is a place to enter your email on the right also. I do not have access to your email address, but you will be sent each new blog entry.

We left Nassau on January 1, after staying up until midnight for the dueling New Years’ Eve fireworks in the harbor. I can’t comment on them because I was huddled on a bed with a shaking Sailor. Mark, Cathie, and Tom (Interlude) said they were very impressive. Our first stop in The Exumas was Norman’s Cay. Sailor and a Mark went ashore to a nice deserted beach. Sailor always knows he goes to a beach when we stop so he positions himself where he can see it until he hears the dinghy start to be lowered when he races to the cockpit to hop aboard.

imageThe next day we sailed to Warderick Wells, which is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  This is a “no take” area so the beaches and underwater life are left as they are. We stayed for three nights, waiting out some strong wind.  Luckily we got in the north mooring field which is very protected in all directions.  We barely felt the effects of the wind.  Mark walked up to Boo Boo Hill and found our sign which we first put there in 2010. He updated it with 2015 but forgot the camera, so here is a picture of it from last year. If we return again this year, he’ll use a drill bit to etch Sailor’s name and the new dates on the sign to replace the Magic Marker.

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We went to our first group sundowner in Warderick Wells.  Almost all of the cruisers on the mooring balls came with a variety of snacks and of course their own drinks.  Friends Nancy and Jim (Summer Breeze) happened to be on a ball so we got to visit with them, pictured in the foreground wearing a blue shirt and white blouse. Also, Steve and Susan (Peregrine) who were a few slips down from us at Sunset Bay were here.  We motored past their Lagoon 380 in our dinghy and thought someone came out to wave as Lagoon owners often do to each other, but she called out, “Is that Sailor?” Everyone remembers Sailor and then we realized who was on the boat. One nice thing about cruising is that you constantly run into old friends and make new ones.

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The north mooring field is definitely a “Kodak Moment.” We are hidden a bit on the curve, the fourth boat from the front. It’s hard to believe water can be this beautiful, but this is what we usually see in The Exumas, with the variations in color due to depth. The darkest blue on the left of the photo is the deep water of the Exuma Sound.

imageYesterday we left Warderick Wells and motorsailed to Blackpoint, about a four hour trip. Blackpoint is known for several things. The most notable is the US style laundamat.  However, prices are a bit different with $3.75 for a load of wash. Ida, who owns the laundry also sells baked goods, gives haircuts, provides free wifi, has a small store, and recently opened a “gaming room” aka online gambling, and a golf cart rental.  Quite the entrepreneur. In the photo, Cathie and Tom (Interlude) are folding their laundry. Only about half of the machines are shown here.

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Today we will leave Blackpoint and sail a few hours Cave Cay, and tomorrow we will exit the shallow water to the Exuma Sound through Cave Cay Cut.  We’ll be in deep water again for a half day sail to Georgetown.

Happy New Year From Nassau

We left Bimini at 0540 in the dark two days ago on December 29, 2014.  The early start is because it is about 80 miles from there to Chub Cay and daylight at this time of year lasts less than 12 hours. We arrived in the dark at 1850.  The day couldn’t have been nicer with smooth blue water.  I am never sure how to describe the color of this water and often there are various shades in stripes, but I can’t believe there is more beautiful water anywhere.  

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We left Chub Cay at 0805 today and arrived in Nassau at 1415. Again, there was little wind and the seas were smooth. The above photo is on the Banks which are shallow. Today we were back on the deep ocean which is dark blue. There are several views that always welcome us to Nassau: the lighthouse, the cruise ships, and the Atantis.  We don’t really like staying in Nassau because we are anxious to get to the Exumas, but we always stop here for fuel and a night’s stay. Then we have an easy day’s sail to the Exumas. We’ll spend most of our time there on a number of small islands with gorgeous beaches, friendly Bahamians, and of course the phenomenal water.

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We are staying at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina in Nassau which is across a busy street from a strip mall that includes Starbucks, Fresh Market, a Batelco phone store, and much more. We made our usual stops, first at Starbucks where Cathie (Interlude) and I had our last drinks until we return to the States. We didn’t need much at the grocery store but did purchase a few items since this is the last real grocery store that isn’t in someone’s house until we reach Georgetown. Tomorrow, January 1, is the official start of the 7% VAT in the Bahamas.

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Tonight is a big celebration in Nassau with Junkanoo and fireworks beginning at midnight. The Junkanoo parades are held on all of the Bahamian islands on Boxing Day, December 26, and New Years Day.  The people dress in colorful elaborate costumes and march to the beat of drums and horns. There is a competition between various groups on each island. We will enjoy a few hours with Cathie and Tom tonight with some wine and snacks, go to sleep, and no doubt be woken up a few hours later when the noise begins. On January, 2010, we were in Bimini for Junkanoo.  Below are a few photos of that celebration. We won’t be out there taking pictures tonight in downtown Nassau! However, we have heard that Junkanoo here is much larger than what is done on the less populated islands. Junkanoo had its beginning during the Bahamian slavery days when the slaves got three days off a year and celebrated by dressing up and partying.

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