Today we were over by George Town and ready to shop by 0845/8:45 a.m. This was our last trip to Exuma Market to see what that supply boat we saw come in yesterday was carrying. The main thing we were looking for was fresh fruits and vegetables. We were able to get apples, oranges, tangerines, bananas, potatoes, onions, zucchini, and carrots. Most of the packaged produce came from the States, Canada, or Mexico. Some of the loose produce, sold by the pound, was not labeled. When we got anchored again back at Stocking Island, we washed the potatoes in bleach-water because they came from the ground. The other produce will be washed as we use it. Of course, much of it will be peeled before we eat it. We wrap each tomato, zucchini and and onion individually in newspaper. That seems to extend their use-by date. Yes, we did buy ice cream one more time for a treat. It is going to be awhile before we have the chance to buy it again!
After lunch, Dave dug out a small piece of wood we were carrying with us. We had talked about making a ladder for our dinghy with two wooden steps and rope, but nothing had been done. The piece of wood was long enough to cut into two pieces and make them into two steps by drilling holes at each end. In no time, Dave was sawing and drilling and cutting a length of rope. I will include a photo of the finished ladder later when it is tied to the dinghy and we are using it.
Dito, Z, and J went snorkeling with the crews from two other boats in the afternoon. They took the rope ladder with them and the girls said the ladder worked. When I have gone to a snorkel site with the crew, I have been staying in the dinghy while they snorkeled because I was not sure I could get back in the dinghy. Getting into a dinghy from the water is never easy or graceful, but I was afraid I literally could not get back in. I had visions of being towed back to the boat! Now you know why I am so happy to see the ladder. I think I will be able to get in the dinghy after snorkeling!
The rest of the day was taken with us getting the boat ready for an all-day-sail tomorrow. The other boat has decided to delay leaving until Sunday, but we are leaving tomorrow morning. We hope they catch up with us at Conception Island. Dave and I were just saying how much smoother this day of preparation went than a similar day one month ago. We feel like everyone is more “in the groove”. We know what needs to be done...and we do it.
O.K., we always watch the weather, but we are checking it more often now, because there has been a hint that the weather will be moving from the southeast to more easterly in a couple of days. That would put us on a beam reach (wind would hit the side of our boat and the sails straight on). We are probably not going to get a full on north wind, so this will be as good as it will get for us going south.
We were staying out at Stocking Island today and not making a trip across the harbor to George Town, I decided I would make pizza. It has been awhile since we have eaten pizza, so the idea sounded like a really good one. I made a crust that rises 2 times, then I divided the dough up into 4 pieces. I used 2 - 9 X 13 pans and 2 - 11” round pizza pans that fit in our small oven. I made a no-cook pizza sauce, then shredded the block of mozzarella cheese we bought in George Town. A lot of effort, but it was worth it! There were ham and pineapple, pepperoni, mushroom and onion, and olive and onion pizzas.
Later in the day, we met with another family from a cruising boat that is headed south. They are going the same way we are to Mayaguana (the last southern Bahama Island). We will continue south and they are going to head west to the Caribbean. There was a cool spot under the casuarina trees on the beach. We enjoyed sitting there while we went over maps, charts, and weather forecasts together. I thought the photo was funny, because one of the cats who live at the beach came up on the table to see what was happening and probably was checking to see if we had any food (we did not). Then, the cat sat down right by Dave. He was the only one in the group who had not stopped what they were doing and petted the cat! The plan is for both boats to leave together, heading south, in two days.
The evening blessed us with another outstanding sunset, so I wanted to share it, too!
We moved EXIT ONLY over to George Town again this morning. It is one mile away from where we anchored last night. Dave stayed with the boat and the rest of us got in the dinghy and went to town.
The first photo shows EXIT ONLY moving toward George Town. I know the photo encompasses a large area, but you see the harbor. we are crossing with the buildings of George Town in the distance and a large blue supply ship unloading in the upper right of the photo. I also took a photo of the line of cars at the Shell Station waiting for fuel. All of the Bahama Islands depend on the supply boats for food, goods, gasoline, and diesel.
We saw a supply boat come in yesterday, so we went in to the grocery store to see what was new since we were there 2 days ago. Actually, there was quite a few things that were new and the shelves were looking a little fuller than they did last time. I was very happy to see packets of powdered coconut milk on the shelf. Could not find it before. The bread supply had been renewed and they now had dill pickles, cornmeal, and pretzels, too. Then one of the people who works in the store told us more groceries came on the boat that arrived this morning (the one in the photos). They put a sign up on the grocery store door that said fresh fruits and vegetables will be available after 1500/3:00 p.m. The coconut telegraph is alive and well on the island, so everyone who wants to know about the supply ships and what they brought finds out quickly!
It is tempting, but I do not think we will come back later today. Our dilemma was whether we should stay over by the town until 1500 or not. No, we did not want to do that. Should we come back tomorrow (Thursday)? Should we come back Friday? The weather forecast is looking like it will be favorable for us to head south on Saturday. We will be going to the last Bahama Islands and beyond. These islands have small populations and few amenities. After we leave Mayaguana, we will be at sea 6-7 days going through the Windward Passage and on to Bocas del Toro. The groceries we have with us when we leave George Town will be what we use for the next 3-4 weeks. We are not expecting to buy more food or fuel before we get to Panamå´. We are satisfied with what we have put on board, but maybe just a few more onions and tomatoes...
We all worked really hard yesterday and a lot of things that needed to be done, got done. By the end of the day, I was happy the work was done, but I have to admit I was more happy I could stop for awhile. Takes a lot to make me admit I am tired of shopping!
After lunch we got ready to go to the beach...the one Dito, Sarah, Z, and J went to the other day. My photos tell the story...the kids at the leeward side of the island where the path that goes up and over to the other side begins. We climbed up and had a wonderful overview of the Atlantic Ocean beach spreading out to the left and right, watching the big waves move water up on the beach as the tide came in. Unbelievably, we were the only people on the beach...it was our private beach for the moment!
When we anchored at Cambridge Cay, there was a site there where the waves rushed in to the shore and over the coral at high tide with a splash of spray and an influx of foam and bubble. The local name for this spot was “Rachel’s Bubble Bath”. We did not get to see this site, because we were not able to go there at high tide. Well, today we found something very similar and we called it “Abbott’s Bubble Bath”! Dave and I walked to one area of “our” beautiful beach that stuck out into the ocean. We knew the tide was rising and we noticed how the waves were breaking and flinging spray and foam bubbles over the coral. We recognized this combination of coral and wave action replicated what we had heard about a “bubble bath”. The rest of the crew was at another spot on the beach riding boogie boards into shore. Eventually, they walked down the beach to the “bubble bath” area, so everyone was was able to enjoy the phenomenon. Later, when we talked to cruisers from another boat. They knew the spot and said someone told them it is called the “Queen’s Bubble Bath”. Okay, we get it that we were not the first people to discover that fun place!
We moved EXIT ONLY over to Kidd’s Cove, close by the dinghy entrance to Lake Victoria “inside” the circle of land that makes up George Town. We all had things to do in town today!
After anchoring, we had school on the boat while Dave and Dito took the dinghy and went into George Town. They took the trash to drop off, they took the propane bottle to drop off, and they went to the small shop called Top II Bottom. This plain looking building contains a treasure trove inside...an amazing collection of items people on boats would be looking for...for the boat itself as well as items for daily living on the boat or in a house. When they came back to the boat, they were telling us about the amazing inventory in this small well-organized store. We decided we wanted to see it, too.
The plan was for Dito to take Sarah, Z, J, and I in to the dinghy dock and drop us off. We would text him when we were ready to be picked up. I needed to go to the post office, so Sarah, Z, and J went into the near-by park to wait for me. When I returned to meet them there, a school class of 5/6-year-olds was sitting in the grass with Sarah, Z, J, and their teacher having a conversation about sailing to the Bahamas on a boat. The teacher said these were the first boat kids they had personally met who sailed here on a boat. The school kids were really talkative. Cute!
Next, we went to check out Top II Bottom. It was every bit as amazing as Dave and Dito said it was. We had a lot of fun just walking through the narrow aisles looking at everything. I bought a paperback school dictionary for the girls to use with their schoolwork and a solid serving spoon. We have realized all our serving spoons on Yee boat are slotted! No big deal, but we will use these things and think of George Town. Nice!
Finally, we made trip #2 to Exuma Market. I took a photo of the a photo on the store’s bulletin board of a huge number of dinghies tied to their dinghy dock in peak season. Today there were only 5 dinghies tied to the dock! A supply boat had come since we were there the first time, and the empty spots we had seen on the shelves were all full. We saw grocery items that were not there last time. We bought some more provisions, then texted Dito that we were ready to be picked up. The 20+ knot wind gave us a good dowsing as we slowly worked our way through the waves to get back to the boat. We all had to change out of wet, salty clothes before we ate lunch!
Around 1500/3:00 p.m. Dito was going into town to pick up our full propane tank. Sarah and I decided we would go, too. We put our salty clothes back on, because we knew we would get wet again! We wanted to check out “the other” grocery store on the far side of town, Shop Rite. We saw it in the morning and realized Dito could take us across Lake Victoria and drop us off near the store. I have never seen so many grocery items so neatly arranged in such a small space. The aisles were so narrow, all of the grocery carts were the mini size. Moving through the aisle was like dancing...two steps forward, one step back, then someone else did that step and you moved through. I told the ladies at the checkout that I thought it was just like dancing and they thought that was so funny. They said no one ever described it like that before! Dito picked us and our purchases up and we all went back to the boat. One more time we unpacked groceries. We filled up containers that were empty, we filled up empty shelf space, we filled baskets, etc. We are pretty much done for now...no more room!
We brought back a treat for everyone...ice cream! We have a freezer on EXIT ONLY, but we choose to use the space for dry storage. Obviously, we cannot keep ice cream on board, so it is always a treat when we get off the boat and find some. It is not hard for 6 people to eat 1 container of Breyer’s Butter Pecan Ice Cream. All of us are willing to do our part!
It was a beautiful sunny day today...plus it was the weekend...plus there is a pig roast every Sunday at the Chat N Chill. We had heard the pig roast was very popular, but that still did not prepare us for all the folks coming across from George Town to spend the day on Stocking Island.
We are anchored with a few other boats right off the beach. This is part of the harbor that holds between 400 and 500 cruising yachts during peak season from January to June each year. Most of those boats are gone now, so there have only been a few boats anchored out and a few people over on the island when we have been there.
The water taxis were full of day trippers who came zooming over here..The “trip” from George Town only takes us between 10 and 15 minutes when we move EXIT ONLY over there to go shopping. The same trip must take the taxis (fast power boats) 4-5 minutes! They seem to only have one speed...full out! They come right through the anchored boats, rather closely sometimes. Their wake makes our boat really rock and roll! I had some eggs sitting out on the galley counter and one wake caused 2 of them to roll off and crack open on the rug on the floor! Rookie mistake on my part! I know better!.
Anyway, we continued ticking off the list of cleaning jobs inside the boat. The kids got involved, too. Z was using the hand vacuum cleaner after the cotton throw rugs had been taken outside, shaken, then laid out in the sun to freshen them. J was cleaning the glass in the salon doors and wiping the walls of the head (bathroom).
In the afternoon, Dito, Sarah, Z, and J got their snorkel gear and went out exploring in the dinghy. They went over by the St. Francis Resort and Marina. Friends had recommended a short walk over to the other side of the island (the Atlantic Ocean side) to a lovely beach. When they returned to the boat, they were raving about what a beautiful beach it was. The waves were rolling in and they were all body surfing.
Back on EXIT ONLY, Dave and I decided to do some laundry and hang it out. We are waiting for the 20 knots of SE wind to change direction, but we thought we would let the wind work for us and dry the laundry. The winds have almost constantly been blowing 20+ knots from the SE since we arrived. The weather/wind forecasts keep telling us a change is coming...but, not yet. In the meantime, we are trying to use our time well...and make it count.
We decided to do school today, because we did not do school on the day we were sailing last week. For lunch we used the left over mahi-mahi for ceviche as a side dish.. We got two proper meals out of the mahi-mahi...one time we pan-fried it with lemon juice and garlic. The second time we made our own blackened seasoning and ate blackened mahi-mahi. All of the mahi-mahi tasted good. Now, we will be on the lookout for another one when we head south.
Y’all will never guess what happened today! We heard this big roar up in the sky and looked up to see 3 2-seater carbon cub airplanes with floats on them, making them sea planes. One literally came by the starboard side of our boat as it approached to land at the beach. The other two passed us on the port side as they approached to land at the beach. They dropped in to have lunch at the Chat N Chill Beach Bar and Grill, located on the beach. Dave and Dito jumped in the dinghy and went to the beach so they could get a close look at the planes. They took really good videos and photos of the airplanes as they arrived, as they were parked on the edge of the beach, and later as they flew away. They met the pilots and asked a million questions. When the time came for the pilots to take off and fly back to where they were staying at Little Farmer’s Cay, one of them did a flyover by EXIT ONLY to say “Good-by” to Dave and Dito. Ok...we saw skydivers at West End, Grand Bahama Island, and now seaplanes are landing near us on Stocking Island. Exuma, Bahamas. Both of those experiences were totally unexpected and a lot of fun!
We have finally stopped long enough to catch our breath and do some of the jobs that make EXIT ONLY look nicer. Dave used rubbing compound and waxed the fiberglass in the cockpit. Sarah scrubbed the cockpit floor,. Some lockers got cleaned out,, some things got sorted and put away. Good things are happening.
Somehow, getting to George Town gives us a feeling of accomplishment. We feel like we had a serious “shake down” trip that helped us readjust to living on the boat, helped us remember the routines that make a smooth entrance and exit from anchorages and good passages, helped us sort out what we need and getting things properly stowed, etc. Coming here, we were ready to take a break, Now that we have had a few days to do some jobs that needed attention, we are feeling refreshed and the boat is looking good. We have a few more errands we want to do in the small town. It takes effort to get to town, find what you want (or not...), then get your purchases back to EXIT ONLY without soaking them with salt water! Of course, all of this is part of the fun, too!
This morning started with The Cruiser’s Net on VHF 72 at 0800/8:00 a.m. The net controller gives the weather report, then goes through a list of useful topics, stopping at each topic to ask if anyone has something to ask or contribute.
We had a few things on a “To Do List for George Town”...we did our first round of grocery shopping yesterday, today was the day for getting diesel for the 2 large engines and gasoline and oil for the outboard engine on the dinghy.
Once again, we hauled up the anchor and went 1 mile across the harbor to Kidd’s Cove. We anchored there just like we did yesterday. This time, Dave and Dito got in the dinghy with 12 20-liter jerry jugs. They had already emptied the diesel we were carrying on deck in ten of these jugs into the fuel tanks. They had emptied the other two jugs that held gasoline into the dinghy fuel tank and the generator for the water maker. They were taking the empty jugs into the Shell Station located in George Town to refill all of them. After that was done, they went to a boat supply store and got two-stroke engine oil and extra spark plugs for the dinghy engine.
Meanwhile back at the boat, the rest of us were doing home school. When they returned and unloaded the heavily filled jerry jugs, we decided to go back to Stocking Island and anchor off the beach before lunch.
In the afternoon, we went into the beach at the Chill N Chat Beach Bar and Grill. There were a lot of day trippers who had come over on water taxis plus several people onshore from the boats that are anchored out. We were surprised to see a couple and their young daughter on the island and they were surprised to see us. We had met them in town yesterday when their daughter and Z and J spotted each other. They were staying at a resort outside George Town. Later, we were over by the people feeding stingrays in the shallow water, and we started talking to a lady about the rays. Then she said to Sarah that she thought she had met her somewhere before. Turned out she and her husband had been on their boat on Dock C when we were on Dock A at Ft. Pierce City Marina. It is a small, small world!
This beach is well-known for the stingrays that come begging for food near the conch shack where the man who prepares conch salad for sale cleans the conchs. The rays like to eat the pieces he throws away. I was astonished how soft and velvety the rays feel. They swam in small circles around our ankles and through our legs...softly bumping into us while looking for food.
It had been spitting rain off and on all afternoon, but there was no rain shower...until we decided to get in the dinghy and return to the boat. We were halfway back to the boat when the clouds opened up and poured for a few minutes. We were all soaked by the time we got to the boat. Being wet often just seems to go with living on a boat! As soon as it came, the clouds left and took their rain with them. They did leave a rainbow behind for us to enjoy!
After a nice restful night by Stocking Island, we woke up to a sunny day with steady 20+ knot SE winds...the ones I mentioned yesterday we knew were coming? Yes, they are here. After breakfast and school, we decided we would go to town and find something for lunch there.
“Going to town” takes on a new meaning around here. We were anchored across the harbor at Stocking Island. We brought up our anchor and EXIT ONLY motored over to Kidd’s Cove, the area near the dinghy entrance into Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is actually ocean water encircled by land, except for one place there is a small bridge over the passage into the inner water. The buildings of George Town are built on this circular land. We put our dinghy in the water and everyone but Dave (he stayed on the boat because of the strong winds and there were other boats anchored around us) went through the passage to the inner water. To our left, there was a dock provided by Exuma Market, the largest grocery store in town. We tied up the dinghy and walked out to the street with 3 big black bags of garbage. Since we spent so much time in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park where there is no place to put your trash, then went to other islands that do not want cruisers to leave trash, we have been collecting and storing all of our trash “until we get to George Town”.
I talked to people on the local cruiser’s VHF radio net this morning about trash and they said to take it to the white truck to the right of Exuma Market. Put $3/big black bag in the cab of the truck. When we got to the first white truck we saw, a man was standing there and we asked him about trash to make sure we had the right place. He said the same thing, “trash in back, money in the cab”. So, we put 3 big bags of trash in the back of a very clean truck and put $9.00 on the floor of the cab by the brake pedal. We headed down the road to take a look around. (Keep reading...more later...this is a funny story...)
We walked around looking at possible places to eat, because we were getting hungry. We finally decided to go back to the Island Boy Cafe right next to Exuma Market. We enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches, fries, and fried plantains (cooking bananas).
Next, it was time to face the challenge of provisioning in a new place. It is always a challenge to shop in a new and different place, but it can also be part of the fun. At least these folks speak English! We have often shopped in places where we did not speak the language. That can mean a whole new level of challenges! There are always familiar brands and products mixed in with the unfamiliar. By now we know what ingredients we have used the most, so that was what we were looking for. We entered the well-stocked small space of the store and began to explore. Prices include import duties and VAT on each and every thing, so are roughly double what the same item costs in Florida.
After we paid for the groceries, there were special red grocery trolleys provided for us to load up with our purchases and use to carry around back of the store to the dinghy dock. Because the winds were still blowing very strongly,, we put all of the grocery bags into 30-gallon-size black trash bags to protect therm from the salt water spray on the way back to EXIT ONLY. Sarah, J, and I stayed on the dock while Dito and Z delivered the groceries to EXIT ONLY. Dito came back to pick us up about a half hour later.
The story of the trash resumes...Dito had discovered that we put our trash and our money in the WRONG truck! If we had looked on the other side of the cafe where we ate lunch, we would have seen a small white truck with a large sign saying “Disposal” on it. That is where we should have taken the trash and the money! The first photo is the sign of the cafe where we ate lunch with the wrong large white truck (the one with our trash and money in it) behind it. The second photo is the small truck that is the real trash truck!
The third photo is Sarah, J, and I in the dinghy with Dito “dressed” in black trash bags to keep our clothing from getting drenched in saltwater on the way back to EXIT ONLY. The bags really did protect us, but the price we had to pay was seeing everyone else look at us like we were crazy! That is OK!
Back at the boat, the next job was putting all that stuff we just bought away. A lot of helping hands made the job go fairly quickly. We will probably do one more round in the store before we leave in a few days, but we did get most of things we wanted today. When we asked about a few things we did not see on the store shelves, the answer was “maybe on the next supply boat”. We found out the supply boat comes on Tuesday and Thursday each week. Whatever comes on the boat is what is for sale.
We agreed last night we would get up and and leave “at first light”. Knowing this, I woke up several times during the night to check and see if it was time to go yet. When Dave got up and out of the bunk at 0600/6:00 a.m., I was asleep! I quickly woke up and got ready to leave. The first photo was taken just after Dave started the engines as the sun was rising over Little Farmer’s Cay. While we were motoring out through the Farmer’s Cut (pass between cays), I went down to check on the kids. Z and J were both sitting up in the bunk, blinking their eyes like little owls. I just started laughing, they were so cute. They said, “Gaga, the boat is moving!”.
The winds were light and the seas were small, so we were able to move along well as we headed south using one motor, then the other motor plus the genoa. The forecast for late afternoon today said the winds are going to increase from the east. We wanted to be at George Town before that happened.
As we moved along, Dave and Dito, with Z’s help, set up the fishing gear. Around 1030/10:30 a.m. the z.z.z.z.z.z.z.z.z.z.of the fishing reel running out behind the boat got everyone’s attention. We caught a 20+ pound mahi-mahi!Guess what we had for lunch! It was delicious! There is enough left for another meal, too.
We arrived at Stocking Island around 1330/1:30 p.m. Stocking Island is on one side of George Town Harbour and (obviously) George Town is right across the way on Great Exuma Island. We will move EXIT ONLY across the water closer to George Town to go grocery shopping tomorrow.
Every year in November or December, George Town is a major gathering place for cruisers who come and hang out with 499 of their cruiser friends for around 6 months. There are still a number of boats here, but the majority of them have moved on...either north or south. The cruisers we met heading north as we were heading south all mentioned the Chat N Chill Beach Bar and Grill. The cruising guides we use mention this place. It is known far and wide as the place the cruisers hang out...the kids meet and play on the beach...you get all kinds of local information...they have live music...they have a pig roast every week...etc. We had heard so much about this place, we eagerly looked forward to going there. When we went “around the corner” in the dinghy from where we were anchored, we found the Chat N Chill right there on Stocking Island. We were only the third dinghy to tie up there. We walked around and looked at everything and took some photos. Then, we decided to look inside. Dave went ahead of me. When I got there, he was talking to someone. I thought, “Good. Now we will get some local information.” Turns out, he was a nice guy, but they just got in today, too! He knew as much as we did about the area. The other two photos were taken on the grounds of the Chat N Chill.
Here are some words of wisdom I discovered taped to a signboard by the picnic tables at Chat N Chill...Life Lessons From The Ocean: Be shore of yourself. Come out of your shell. Take time to relax and coast. Avoid pier pressure. Sea life’s beauty!'
So, we are back at the boat and everyone is tired tonight. It has been kind of a long day, but we had a such a good day! We are so grateful to have arrived here before the winds increased. It is blowing much harder now. Nice to feel secure in a protected anchorage on a strong anchor. We are planning on going to check out George Town tomorrow. Suddenly, we are all talking about ice cream...surely we will find some there!
We left Big Major Cay this morning, heading south. The weather forecast says some strong winds are expected by Thursday. We decided we would make sure we are anchored in protected waters in the George Town, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas, area before Thursday.
We moved 19 miles south today. That leaves us roughly 40 nm to go tomorrow.
The sun was shining and the winds were light today. We sailed on the leeward (the side of the island away from the wind) side of the cays we were passing. instead of the windward (the side where the wind is coming from) side. That dark blue water over there is the Atlantic Ocean. The leeward side of the barrier cays is called “the banks”. The sea surface was smooth, so Dito thought it was a good time to put his drone up and take video of EXIT ONLY moving through the beautiful turquoise blue water. Dave slowed the boat down a tad, so Dito could get the views he was looking for.
One photo shows Dito sitting on the foredeck with the remote control that directs the flight of the drone in his hands. He loves flying the drone, but says it is nerve wracking in that he is constantly aware of the cost of the drone as well as how much he would miss it if something happened to it. We all enjoy seeing the drone videos, and there is a collective feeling of relief when the drone is safely back on board. Sarah is his assistant and she is the one who catches the drone when Dito brings it back to the boat. When Sarah was busy today, Dito talked Baba into catching the drone when it returned. I will tell you no one has asked me to catch the drone and I admit I am glad about that!
The overhead photo of the mooring field here in this well protected anchorage is from Google maps. Dave put the exact location of EXIT ONLY on the map with a blue dot. The winds are light right now, but we are planning to get up early tomorrow morning and get on our way as soon as possible. We will be going out through the Farmer’s Cut immediately, then turning south. Farmer’s Cut is a pass between two cays. The cruising book says the pass is wide and open (meaning there are no obstructions like coral heads or reef, etc.). We will be traveling on the ocean side of the cays tomorrow.
At 0615/6:15 a.m. guess what we heard! A rooster crowing! It was Captain Hook up on the beach! He seemed to think since he was awake, everyone else should be awake, too! He was doing his best to make it happen!
We did school this morning, then lunch. The day was sunny with a light wind blowing...perfect for drying laundry. Soon, EXIT ONLY’s lifelines were full of what looks like fluttering flags from a distance, but is really only our laundry. We use plenty of clothes pegs to hold each item in place...one peg clipped on horizontally on each side of an item folded over the lifeline, then one peg in the middle standing up on the lifeline. The horizontal position of the first two pegs keep the laundry from literally blowing away.
Dito had reviewed his video footage from The Grotto yesterday, and decided he would like to go back today and take more video footage. Dave and I got in the dinghy, too, and they dropped us off at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club dinghy beach, than carried on to the Grotto in the dinghy. Dave and I went exploring.
We were looking for a grocery store and hoping to buy a few fresh vegetables for the next 2-3 days. We will be in George Town then, and the provisioning there is supposed to be very good. Right now, we have run out of fresh tomatoes, fresh sweet potatoes/yams, fresh carrots, and we are down to our last fresh onion. We do have dried and tinned vegetables, but if we could find some fresh, I would buy a few. On Staniel Cay, there is the pink grocery store (Pink Pearl) and the blue grocery store (Burke’s). There is also a yellow grocery store, but it a long walk away. We opted to try the pink and blue stores that are located literally across the street from each other about a 10 minute walk from the Yacht Club. We checked fresh tomatoes at the pink store, then the blue store. We bought a couple of things at the blue store, then went back to the pink store for fresh tomatoes, yams, and carrots. Both stores are small, but have an amazing variety of products very neatly displayed on their organized shelves. The supply boat comes on a regular schedule bringing supplies for the store. Individual families also receive grocery deliveries all over the outer islands by supply boat.
Dave and I walked back to the Yacht Club and Marina area to wait for Dito, Sarah, Z, and J to finish at The Grotto. We saw some folks from a catamaran we met first at Hawksbill Cay and have since been at different anchorages at the same time several times. Dito and family arrived at the marina to visit with them, too. As we were standing there talking, some fisherman started cleaning their catch of the day and throwing the leftovers to the sharks. We got an up-close-and-personal look at around 30 nurse sharks in a food frenzy.
Back at the boat, we saw the news online about the possible first named tropical storm of the 2019 season (hurricane season usually starts 1 June, but I guess nobody told this storm about that). The official predictions about this storm will come out in three days...Thursday...from the Hurricane Center in the States. We will be moving south the next 2 days, so we will be in George Town by Wednesday afternoon. We will see what the predictions for the storm are, then make our plans. Dave doesn’t think the area we are in will be affected.
Talk about living a day at a time...today was unfolding literally hour by hour. The early morning brought us another big thunderstorm that came and went with a lot of lightening and thunder. Once the storm was gone, around 1000/10:00 a.m., we decided to to head south 14.6 nautical miles to the Staniel Cay area. The wind was still from the southeast, and we had to motor into it, but the storm had knocked down the seas (translation: the waves were fairly small) and we made good time using two engines and very little sail.
When we arrived at Staniel Cay, we carried on past it a short way to Big Major Cay. This cay is “famous” for being the home of the “swimming pigs”. A Bahamian man in Marsh Harbour, Abacos, told us that people in the Bahamas have known about these pigs for a very long time. Some tourists (also a long time ago) came and saw the swimming pigs and made a video of their visit to the beach where the pigs gather. The story says the video went viral and soon tourists were coming to this area and asking tour guides to take them to see the pigs. The Bahamians were surprised at the interest, but being the enterprising people that they are, they started offering tours to see the swimming pigs. If you want to see the “swimming pigs”, you can go to YouTube and search for”Bahamas swimming pigs”.
All of us went in the dinghy to the beach where the pigs have a ramada for shade and rain water is automatically collected for their consumption. Dave and I stayed in the dinghy and adroitly avoided the pigs that were swimming toward the dinghy hoping for a handout. We did not bring them any food. Dito, Sarah, Z, and J went onto the beach. At the ramada, a local Bahamian was the go-between for the animals and the tourists. The kids got to hold small young pigs and meet a rooster named Captain Hook who lives there with the pigs. We had heard stories about how aggressive some of the huge adult pigs could be, but we did not see any of that behavior while we were there.
From there, we went over by Staniel Cay (around a headland) to a place named Thunderball Grotto. This grotto can be entered without swimming under water at low tide, so we chose that time to go there. Scenes shot in this grotto were used in two James Bond movies. It is another “must see” in this area.
After the grotto, we dinghied over to the small protected beach by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (third photo) and left the dinghy anchored there, so we could have a quick look around. Because it is Sunday, nothing on the island was open except the yacht club. The nurse sharks were resting at the area of the marina where the fisherman clean their catch of the day. The unwanted parts of the fish are thrown to the “clean up crew”...the sharks! We got back in the dinghy and as we followed instructions we had been given to find “The Creek”, we saw more of the island’s colorful houses as we rode along. We will be here another day, so we hope to see a little more of the area tomorrow.
PS...One year ago today, EXIT ONLY went in the water after being in the Harbortown (Ft. Pierce, Florida) boatyard for almost 12 years. We went through a lot of ups and downs in the next 11 months, but we are so thankful that we persevered...and grateful we are here in the Bahamas...enjoying the journey!
We got up this morning thinking we would look at the morning weather forecast and decide for sure whether we were going to stay here another day or move a little further south. Well, the dark clouds “way over there” did not look like they were going to threaten us and the forecast said the winds would be light, so maybe...no, we did not leave. We decided to hang out on the mooring ball here for another day. That turned out to be a good decision!
Speaking of “hanging out”we are literally tied to a mooring ball again at this cay, because we are still in the Exuma Cays Land And Sea Park. They put in mooring balls, so boats do not use their anchors and damage the reef and ocean bed. Someone asked me about mooring balls, so I took a picture this afternoon when the water was calm and I could see into the water so well. A mooring ball is on a long rope connected to something very heavy buried in the ocean floor. The ball itself floats on the surface of the water. A second rope with a large loop on the end also floats on the surface of the water. When we approach a mooring ball, someone, usually Dito, (with Sarah assisting) is on the bow holding a boat hook (a long aluminum pole with a blunt hook on one end for “grabbing” the rope). Using hand signals to show Dave (back at the helm/steering wheel) which way to go (left, right, straight, hold steady). When Dito signals he can reach the rope on the ball, Dave goes into neutral with the engines, then Dito pulls the rope up with the boat hook. Dito has one of our ropes on deck that is put through the large loop, then both ends of our rope are taken to one bow and cleated (tied) off. Dito takes a second rope and repeats the process for the other bow. This makes the rope from the mooring ball pull evenly from both bows.
We watched the distant dark clouds move swiftly by us dumping rain in the far distance. After about 2 hours, the edge of the storm finally made it to our corner of the world and rain fell while the wind whipped around us. It did not last too long, then, the sun came out again.
After lunch, Dito, Sarah, Z, and J decided to go exploring in the dinghy. Dave stayed at the boat because the water maker was running and I chose to stay at the boat because I wanted to go through the pantry and see what was left in there. Our next “big” provisioning will be done at George Town, Great Exuma Island, in a few days. George Town is located roughly 60 miles from where we are now. As I went through our food supplies, I moved everything toward the front of the rack or basket or shelf where it is located so we can put new purchases toward the back. That way, we will use our older supplies first. I checked the “use by” dates and pulled out a few items we need to use up in the next week. It does not sound like a big job when I write about it here, but it sure seemed to take a long time when I was actually doing it!
We had a beautiful sunset this evening after a sunny afternoon. The wind picked up and the clouds were showing significant vertical development. The evening forecast says there will be thunderstorms south of us tonight around 0200/2:00 a.m. in the morning. We checked the cockpit and made sure everything was in a good place if it does rain on us. We will have to wait and see how it goes tonight and what the weather forecast tells us tomorrow morning before we decided what to do tomorrow.
We left Warderick Wells Cay at 0840/8:40 a.m. this morning and headed south for a couple of hours. We had heard from other cruisers about the things to do and see around the Cambridge Cay area and thought we should check it out. There are maybe a dozen mooring balls there, so the big unknown was whether any of the balls would be open. Fortunately, there were two available when we arrived.
As we were motor sailing this morning, we saw a sun halo. That is a meteoric phenomenon that includes a perfect circle around the sun. I looked up what causes this to happen and I could not have been more surprised. Here we are in the warm Bahamas and way above us in the sky reflections on ice crystals were forming that circle! The information I read said these halos occur more frequently than rainbows. I guess it it true, but since it seems to be raining here so much right now, we are seeing a lot of rainbows and this is the first sun halo we have seen. Anyway, it was fun to be able to take a photo of what we saw.
In the afternoon, we all piled in the dinghy and went exploring. Many people had told us about snorkeling at the spot called “The Aquarium”. It was a bit of a ride, but we found the right place...by going to the area where all of the tour boats were going! We feel like we are out in a remote area, but those huge Diesel engines on those power boats can bring people from more touristy island over to “The Aquarium” in no time. They snorkel for a half hour, then they are gone...headed for another site to see. The snorkeling is excellent at this location and it certainly is like swimming in an aquarium!
On the way back from snorkeling, the tide was fairly low. From our cockpit, we had spotted a large sand spit coming off a small teardrop-shaped cay not too far away from EXIT ONLY. Headed to the boat, it was a matter of minutes to swing over toward the small cay. I wanted to walk out on that spit to the small area of dry sand still sticking out of the water...and we made it just in time. Z, J, and I walked out there, took a photo, then walked back. Fifteen minutes later, the dry area had disappeared and the water on the spit was getting deeper wave by wave as the tide came in. There were several cairns built in one area of the cay that gave me a feeling of being in a place where many people come and go, but at the same time, it felt like we had our own private cay, because we were the only ones there now. The rock sculptures were artistically done and their uniqueness added to the feeling of being in a special place.
The weather forecast this evening says we will have a quiet night with no rain. We certainly hope their prediction will be true!
Last evening we could see the storm clouds were building and we were all wondering what was coming next! I could dramatically say we could hardly sleep because we were worried about another storm, but that would not be true. We have weathered (a pun!) a couple of storms the last couple of nights, but these clouds seemed farther away and moving away from us. We went to bed and went to sleep.
About 2300/11:00 p.m., it did start a steady drizzly rain and we did get up and check hatches and ports, but then we went back to sleep. It was still raining in the morning. Breakfast happened and it was still raining. School happened and it was still raining. Lunch happened and it was still raining.
After lunch, one of the other “kid boat crews” swung by in their dinghy (it was still raining) and said they were going to the sandbar. It was low tide. Three of the boats (including ours) that have kids on board were out there first. The water was ankle deep on the sandbar. The dinghies were held at the edge of the sandbar with anchors dug into the sand. Some other boat crews who were tired of being inside their boats saw the gathering and came to join the fun. The “sand bar gathering” lasted until the rising tide water was approaching the knees of the shorter people!
These spontaneous gatherings are where we get some of our best information...about good anchorages, places to go, places to avoid, where to buy groceries, where to do laundry, where to eat, a good bread recipe, a good idea for a home school lesson, etc. We all buy cruising guides, but word-of-mouth information is the best.
The cruising lifestyle is made up of different kinds of experiences that go together like beads on a necklace. There are the “blue beads” that represent the ocean passages, both short and long, where you are focused on moving your boat from point A to point B. Then, there are the stops you make along the way. Pastel colors represent the anchorages where you stop, but do not linger... because you need a night’s rest, because the island is private and you cannot go on the beach, or because the weather is bad and you are seeking protection. Medium colors represent the anchorages you did not plan to spend many days in, but you stay awhile because repairs are needed, because of bad weather, or you are waiting for favorable wind shifts. The eye-catching bright, vibrant colors stand for the places you go and the things that you do that are joyful memories of days well spent. There are anchorages where you choose to stay because there is so much to see and do.
When the boat arrives at a destination, it is always fun to see if you recognize any of the other boats there. If you do, it is fun to update each other on what you have seen and done since the last time you saw each other. If you do not recognize any other boat, then there is always a chance you may cross paths on the beach or in town and get acquainted. Here in the Bahamas, the question at this time of year, near the beginning of hurricane season, is, “Are y’all going north or south?” The people going north are heading back to the East Coast of the States and north to get out of the hurricane zone. The people, like us, going south are heading south to get out of the hurricane zone.
We have really enjoyed our days at Exuma Cays Sea And Land Park, but it looks like the wind will be favorable for us to head farther south tomorrow. People heading north have suggested several nice stops they made when they were coming this way. We would like to check out a couple of places that sound like something our crew would like to see. We think we will leave tomorrow, but the final decision will be made after we get a weather update in the morning. Weather...it is all about the wind and weather!
Everyone was saying they sure hoped those big storms were over and we were saying the same thing. Tuesday night there was no storm, but at 0500/5:00 a.m. this morning, the thunder and lightening and the rain and the wind all came again. The whole crew was up checking hatches (in deck) and ports (sides of the hulls) to make sure they were closed and watching the anemometer to see how high the wind went (30 knots).
We were in storm conditions for roughly 2 hours before things calmed down. The dark sky of the storm slowly lightened and after the storm passed, the sun came out...just like nothing had happened! What did happen on EXIT ONLY was we all went back to bed for a couple of hours!
After school and lunch, we went in the dinghy to the ranger station to pay for today and go to the beach. There at the dinghy dock, we met two cruising families with boat kids. Z and J love it when we meet some kids of similar ages. Both of these boats had just come in and they are heading north to Florida. One family has 2 kids and one family has 3 kids. All 7 of the kids ranged in age from 5 years old to 11 years old. Turned out they were all coming in to go to the beach just like us. Add kayaks, frisbees, goggles and fins... it turned into an instant beach party.
There is a huge horseshoe-shaped sand area inside the line of moorings. At low tide the sand is almost dry. We had seen several people go up to the sand area in their dinghies, get out, and walk on the sand. Our crew thought it would be fun to pull our dinghy onto the sand and set up the GoPro to take time-release photos. I took a photo of Dito setting it all up. (The ranger station is in the background.). We did it and you can see the results! It was fun! That is EXIT ONLY in the photo with us!
About 0100/1:00 a.m. this morning, I woke up and was so hot and the air was stifling. I got up to take a look outside, because I could not hear any wind...the wind had stopped blowing and the sea was flat...and it was very, very quiet. Dave woke up and got up, too. We could see sheet lightening in the distance, and there was a feeling something was going to happen. Unfortunately we were right! Within 15 minutes, the world around us went crazy! A 20-25 knot wind came out of nowhere and soon it was raining hard, thunder could be heard, and the wind was gusting up to 40+ knots. The whole crew was awake and checking the decks, the cockpit, the hatches (openings in the deck), the ports (openings in the sides of the hulls), “battening down the hatches” to make sure everything was secure. A 40 knot gust is very strong. Everyone in the Exuma Cays Sea and Land Park is tied to a mooring. About this time of morning, we were sure hoping the mooring would hold in these conditions! We also were hoping all the other boats around us were on good moorings, too. We had already put our dinghy engine in the cockpit and the dinghy was up out of the water hanging on the davits.
Another thing (as if we needed more...) to think about is someone else’s dinghy and engine that was left in the water breaking loose from their boat and getting caught under our boat between the hulls. The wave action makes the engine pound over and over against the hull of the catamaran when this happens and can cause a lot of damage. One of the large motor yachts did come on the VHF radio and announce to everyone that their dinghy had broken loose, so all of us were hoping it would end up on the shore somewhere in the park instead of under somebody’s catamaran. Believe it or not, another boat helped them look for their dinghy after the sun came up this morning and they found it on the shore!
We all ended up being up for a couple of hours before the rain and wind moderated. It was a relief that the bad weather moved on and we could go back to our bunks and sleep. Still, morning seemed to come earlier than usual today.
We joined a French family with 2 girls about the same ages as J and Z for a hike after breakfast. We were on a mission to take the piece of driftwood Dito had carved with s/vEXIT ONLY and our names on it plus, the rocks Z and J had painted with the boat name on them to the top of Boo Boo Hill. We wanted to make our contribution to the collection of memoirs piled there. The French parents spoke good English and Sarah speaks fluent French, so there was a lot of conversation. Their girls do not speak English and our girls do not speak French, but somehow the kids to talk and play with each other.
Back from the hike, we got in our dinghy and started back across the huge sandbar in the middle of the mooring field at low tide. We had to get out and drag the dinghy over the high spots of sand, but it was easy to do. Dito set up his GoPro in the dinghy and we all posed for the photo standing in shallow water on the sandbar. Normally, we take the dinghy around the sandbar following the channel where the moorings are located.
There was some storm activity off in the distance tonight, but we did not get much action here on the moorings. We took care of everything on deck and in the cockpit before dark tonight. We are all hoping for a quiet, good night’s sleep tonight!
I have already talked a lot about how much we enjoy being here in the park. You can imagine how we felt when we saw the weather update and forecast this morning talking about the strong southerly winds. Oh, my...I guess we have to stay another day! No one in our crew is complaining!
For all of the good things I have said about being in the park, I will confess I did not sleep so well last night. The boat was twisting from side to side and turning in circles on that mooring all night. I was awake to witness quite a few hours of that around-and-around, back-and-forth motion. The mooring kept bumping against the hull. There is a large cut (pass) located here and the current can be quite strong...first one way, then the other, as the tides come in and go out. The wind was pretty strong last night, but so was the current. They were going against each other and the current was winning. When the boat sets to the current instead of the wind, the boat does not always catch the cool breezes that are blowing.
We woke up this morning and we were pointing one way. The boats next to us on both sides were pointing exactly the opposite way. It was like that all over the mooring field. The south wind was blowing hard and the current was strong from another direction. The boats that were leaving today and the boats that were coming in to pick up empty moorings all have to stay in a designated channel. The current was pushing/pulling all of the boats on moorings close to the edge of the channel.
There was a fast current running through the cut today, so before we jumped in the water off the stern of our boat, Dave and Dito rigged up a rope off the stern, plus the dinghy and the paddle board were both tied behind the boat and we could easily grab on to something floating there in the water. The water is so shallow (we are in 5’ of water under our keel, so 9’-10’ total depth) and clear, it is easy to see where you are and where to grab something to keep you near the boat.
We are going to head farther south soon, but not today! We are really enjoying being right here in one of our favorite places in the world. We are on a park mooring buoy in a well protected anchorage, so that makes it easy to think about staying a few days longer, too. The southerly winds have come in fairly strong, so that gives us another reason to stay! We are headed south and if we left now, we would head straight into the prevailing winds. That is not a comfortable point of sail! Having rationalized a few more days in the park, we went into the ranger’s office this morning and paid for two more days on the mooring...today and Monday.
While we were in the ranger’s office, we saw the free information sheets available to people who rent the moorings. There is quite a variety of interesting plants and animals in this area. Sarah and I decided we are going to do a special study unit about these plants and animals in our home school program. Z and J are very interested in these topics, so they already are learning about this new tropical ocean environment. I will give fair warning that I will probably be incorporating some of the more interesting topics and facts we learn about here in my blog!
Just riding around the mooring field and beaches, we have seen lots and lots of sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, and nurse sharks swimming lazily around. Somehow, these animals seem to know they are in a protected environment.
Sarah and the kids went into the beach today with a special goal in mind...practice using their fins. Swimming with a face mask is a different experience if you have never done it, but the ability to see so well in the water usually makes you forget you have the mask on your face. Using a snorkel with your face mask is easy at first...until the moment the snorkel is covered with salt water and saltwater enters the snorkel from the top. It takes practice to realize you can blow the intrusive water up and out of the snorkel...and do it. Also, fins help you glide through the water when you are snorkeling, but they are hard to stand up in or walk in out of the water. Again, it takes some practice to see what you can and cannot do while wearing fins. The gently sloping beach easing into shallow water near the ranger station is a perfect place to learn and practice how to use this equipment.
Fortunately, we all love being on the water, near the water, and in the water. Being able to enjoy the marine environment gives us the opportunity to learn about a whole new world. What better place to do this than a protected park where the flora and fauna thrive! We think this park is a very special place and we are so happy we can spend a few days here enjoying it.
We set off from a nearby beach this morning to hike to the top of BooBoo Hill. At the base of the hiking track, a sign tells the story of a boatload of people coming through this area many years ago. The boat sunk and all were lost. The local lore says the ghosts of these people are still on Warderick Wells Cay and they are often heard singing “Boooooo, Boooooo” to tunes of old familiar hymns. Thus, the name of the hill. They say this can be heard on full moon nights or when the wind blows strongly (that is pretty much most of the time in the Tropics!).
We were hiking this morning at low tide, so we ended up walking on a lot of old dead coral and a sandy track through an area of mangroves where the water covers low areas at high tide, then goes dry at low tide. The trail is well-marked with arrows keeping you headed in the right direction. We wended our way across the island and up Boo Boo Hill to a spectacular overview of the area.
At the summit of Boo Boo Hill, there a is collection of things laid there by boat crews that have passed this way. When we were here in 2006, we were with a boat from Brazil. They left a Brazilian flag on the hill the day we all climbed it together. They wrote the name of their boat on the flag and let us write sv/EXIT ONLY on it, too. We had a look today, but did not see that flag! Of course, almost all of the names and dates we could see were from 2017, 2018, or 2019. I did see one from 2009. And so it goes... different people on different boats are all drawn to the beauty of a place like this cay. We do not know any of those people or recognize the name of the boats, but we do recognize the spirit and motivation that brought them here.
There is a weathered sign beside the mound of momentous that says something like...”On a clear day you can see forever from here to eternity...Take only pictures and leave only footprints in the sand...These momentos are offerings to spirits for good or to the ghosts that inhabit the island. They remind us of fellow travelers who love this special island. Please respect what you see by leaving it as you found it.” There is a postscript...asking everyone to only leave driftwood...no glass, no plastic, no paper, no cloth, etc. Now, we know why there are no flags and t-shirts like we saw last time. The park is as natural as it can be, while still welcoming the outside world to come and stay awhile. We are glad we did!
On Saturday evenings, whoever is staying on a mooring at Warderick Wells is invited by the park rangers to join an informal gathering at the main beach by the park office. We had heard about this from someone yesterday, so this morning I quickly made a pan of chocolate chip cookie bars just in case we needed to take something to share. We did go in to the beach and met several people from the boats moored around us. There was quite a diverse group, both in age and where they were from. One of the boats had a boat dog, a little Yorkie. The owner said it was a puppy and not used to being around kids. I will just say that the dog played the whole time with Z and J, in and out of the water. I think that dog has gotten over his fear of kids!
This park was opened in 1958 by a private trust. They say it was the first of its kind and still the largest of its kind in the world. It covers an area that is 20 miles by 8 miles. They call this a “no take” park. Everything within the boundaries of the several cays included in the park and the water surrounding them is protected. That includes coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, beaches, shells, trails, birds, fish, turtles, iguanas,..literally, everything.
Every morning at 0900/9:00 a.m. the park ranger from the Exuma Cays Sea and Land Park comes on the VHF radio, channel 9. First the ranger asks who is leaving today and several boats will acknowledge they have already left or they are leaving soon. After that group of people has finished, the ranger asks for any boats that would like to come to Warderick Wells Cay, the headquarters of the park, to pick up a mooring to “come back, now”. We joined a few others this morning in responding to the second question. We told them our boat name, the length of the boat, and the draft of the boat. They asked our ETA (estimated time of arrival) and we said it would be a couple of hours. We were instructed to call on the VHF before 1200 noon to get our mooring assignment. When we called at 1115/11:15 a.m. they told us we would be picking up mooring #13.
Because this is the end of the boating season (Hurricane season officially begins 1 June), and kids are still in school, there are fewer boats in the area. In high season, you may have to get on a waiting list for a mooring. Right now, the majority of the boats going through the Panama Canal this season are farther south than this or have already gone through the Canal. The boats that are stored during the hurricane season have mostly been taken out of the water at the home port. We are still not sure what we are going to do before 1 June, but we did not want to miss Warderick Wells Cay!
After getting the boat settled on the mooring ball and having lunch, we put the dinghy in the water, put the engine on the dinghy , and headed for the park headquarters to pay for the mooring. We plan to be here today and tomorrow. We got a map of the cay. There are several beaches, lots of snorkeling spots, some historical ruins, a hilltop to climb, and there is even a blowhole! We will check out some of those things tomorrow. Today we went to one of the beaches near the park headquarters. More clear, warm water!
While I was standing on the beach, I felt something on the toe of my water shoe. I looked down and a curly tail (that is their name in the Bahamas) lizard had literally climbed up on the toe of my shoe! I was astonished...and saw the humor in the situation immediately! When we were in the Abacos Islands, there were curly tails everywhere. I thought they were really cute and I wanted to get a good photo of one. Well, it is easier said than done. These critters can move fast...and they can jump! I have several photos of where a curly tail was standing a few seconds ago! I did not get any good photos of curly tails in the Abacos. Now, today, I have not only one lizard on my toe, a second one got on the toe of my shoe, too! Somehow, that photo really makes me smile!
When we were finishing our circumnavigation in 2006, we came through the Bahamas and stopped at Warderick Wells Cay. We all remember it as one of the best places we ever snorkeled! It is nice to come back almost 13 years later and see this area is every bit as beautiful as we remembered it!
We woke up this morning with a plan. The cruising guide told us there was a “river” that flowed from the “banks side”’ of the cay to the ocean side of the cay and it was perfect for exploring in a dinghy.
Around 0900/9:00 a.m., we piled into the dinghy and started out at halfway between low and high tides. The “river” is actually ocean water that raises and lowers with the tides. We saw the point where the two influxes of water meet in the middle. The banks of the “ river” are lined with mangroves standing high on their roots at low tide. They look like they are standing on their tiptoes!
We stopped somewhere out on the island where the water was shallow and Dito put his GoPro on an extended pole and supported the pole with a small bush. He pushed the timer button, then got in the dinghy. We took a group photo sitting in the dinghy.
As we continued heading across the cay, we floated along in 2’-6’ of clear water. We saw quite a few sea turtles of all sizes feeding on the sea grasses growing in the white sandy bottom. We tried to get some photos, but those turtles are shy. They can swim very quickly when they want to get away.
It was quite a long dinghy ride, but we finally arrived at the area called “the washing machine”, where the ocean tides rush in and out of the “river”. The surprise waiting for us was an amazing Atlantic Ocean beach . We have seen beautiful beaches all over the world, but this one ranked right up there with the best. The amazing thing is, there are many others just like this one all over the Bahamas! What a sight! We walked on the beach, climbed a hill to look over the beach, the kids body surfed in the small waves coming onto the beach, and just enjoyed being there.
All that happened in the morning! We came back to the boat, had lunch, and moved the boat farther south to Hawksbill Cay.
Hawksbill Cay has some interesting beaches of its own. They are smaller, but the soft white sand holds the same beauty. After setting the anchor here, we had school for today. One of the advantages of home school is the hours are flexible. When school was finished for the day, we went in the dinghy to explore three different beach areas at low tide. One of the beaches was a huge sandy bowl-like area that is only a beach at low tide. The “bowl” fills up when the tide comes in. It is fun to walk on the bottom of the ocean and see what animals have dug into the sand waiting for the high tide.
Then, we went in the dinghy around a small outcropping of rock to one of two connected beaches. EXIT ONLY is anchored right off this area. This was one of our favorite days so far...the sunshine, exploring new places, the beaches and the clear water all add up to what we were looking for in the Bahamas. Good news is there is a lot of all of those things right here!
We ran the water maker last night, so Dave ran extra water into buckets in the cockpit so we could hand wash our clothes. There are no laundromats anywhere near us right now! The first photo shows washing the clothes in one bucket, rinsing the clothes in another bucket, and squeezing the water out by hand. We put the clean clothes in a bag until we could hang them up after we were done sailing for the day.
We left Highbourne Cay and headed south toward Norman’s Cay, an infamous island connected with smuggling in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although the stories vary, all of them hint at a sort of mystique, and if you add in the fact there is a C-46 airplane (a WWII transport airplane) that may or may not have been used (but probably was) by smugglers that crashed into the bay and remains there today. The plane is 99% underwater, but accessible for snorkeling. It is a favorite site for both diving and snorkeling. The current was running fast in that area, so Dave and I stayed on the boat while the rest of the crew went over in the dinghy to snorkel around the plane.
After everyone was back onboard, we moved south to the next cay, Shroud Cay. We hung out the wet laundry as soon as we could and the tropical winds started doing their job...the laundry is drying pretty quickly! This cay is located in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. This park is run by a private Bahama Trust Group. All the flora, fauna, land and sea are protected. We are anchored at Shroud Cay for the night. An official park ranger came on an official park boat to our stern (back of boat) to collect $19 from us for anchoring here tonight. We will be in the park at different cays for the next few nights as we head south and we expect to pay for anchoring or using a mooring ball each night until we are out of the park. We really do not mind, because we are glad to see that the Bahamians are trying to preserve some of their magnificent lands and sea for future generations.
I Have Wanted To Go To Allan’s Cay Since 2006...After a reasonable night at Athol Island, we woke up this morning to find the wind had definitely moderated. That meant today was THE day we were going to cross the shallow Yellow Banks and make it to the ExumasI. We tried to do this almost one week ago and we have been waiting for the winds to moderate since then.
When we were finishing our circumnavigation in 2006, we came through this area. We heard about Allan’s Cay and the Northern Bahamian rock iguanas that are only found on the three cays in the group. These iguanas can weigh up to 24 pounds and live up to 40 years. When we got to this part of the Exumas, thunderstorms were happening, so we did not get off the boat here. Thirteen years later, I still wanted to see the iguanas and I wanted the kids to see them. Somehow, I did not envision is happening like it did...
We took EXIT ONLY into the area surrounded by Allan’s Cay, Southwest Allan’s Cay, and Leaf Cay. The obvious beach area is on Leaf Cay, but the iguanas live on all three cays. There was a very large power boat big enough to hold a tour group of probably 20-25 people. They were on the beach chasing after the iguanas. There was a charter sailboat anchored out that had about 20-25 crew and paying passengers onboard. The power boat left and another came with 20-25 people. My imagination had not included all of those people coming and going!
We did anchor EXIT ONLY, but the bottom there is very shallow and covered with shifting sand...poor holding. We put the dinghy in the water and went in to the beach when only one group was left. Soon, they left, too. Suddenly, there was just us and the iguanas! The cruising guide asked everyone to please NOT feed the iguanas. The article on Google Search said the guides encourage tourists to offer grapes stuck on a stick. They are wild animals and they do have a mouthful of sharp teeth. When we were standing on the beach, we saw remnants of fruits and vegetables that tour groups have obviously been bringing. We did not take any food with us,, but the iguanas were coming out of the bushes toward checking to see if we did have any food for them. They were not aggressive and just turned around and left when they realized there was no more food today. The search said these animals can jump. I am glad we did not see that, because I probably would have jumped higher than the iguana!
Because the anchorage was not good for an overnight stay, we moved to the next cay to the south, Highbourne Cay. This cay is a private area with a resort and marina located on it. The cruising guide says people anchored off the cay can go to the marina and shop at the store or eat at the restaurant if they call the marina on the VHF radio and request permission to do so. We are thinking about going in tomorrow morning before we leave to buy some bread and a bag of ice. We will see how we feel about it in the morning.
This evening after supper and before dark, Dave and Dito started up the water maker. It has already been 5-1/2 days since the last time (which was the first time ever) they made water. We all are very happy with the product the water maker is putting out. The water tastes much better than what we had bought at marinas. I will admit, I did buy some Tang and Crystal Light to put into my water every once-in-awhile just to jazz it up!
After the water tank was filled, there was just enough time to jump in the water for a refreshing dip before a rinse off in fresh water. We will be working our way south through the Exumas for the next few days.
We left West Bay this morning as planned. We went north, then curved around the western end of the island and headed east across the top of the island. Nassau is located on the northeastern edge of New Providence Island. We went in the channel that separated the main island from Paradise Island where Atlantis and many resorts and tourist facilities are located. Having been in small villages and at unoccupied islands for the past month, Nassau looked like a huge city! I did read somewhere that 200,000 people live on the island, so that is a pretty big population center.
As boats come to the western or eastern opening to the channel, we are required to hail Nassau Harbor Control on VHF channel 16. They told us to change to a working channel, then asked us to repeat the name of our boat. We did, then they wanted to know our registration number. The paper with that information on it was inside the navigation station desk. We found it and read the number to them. They welcomed us to Nassau and wished us a nice day. We thought that was a very short conversation, then we remembered our AIS (Automatic Identification System) was turned on, so the Defense Force patrol boat we passed in the channel a few minutes later obviously knew exactly who we were from reading the AIS information on their instruments.
We motored slowly, but steadily through the channel to the fuel dock at Harbour Central Marina. We could see Atlantis across from us on Paradise Island. The marina fuel dock is literally on the side of the channel. Dave maneuvered us over to the dock between a smaller boat and a larger boat. The friendly guy working at the fuel dock helped tie our lines to the pilings of the dock. Dito was up and off the boat and onto the dock. We filled up our two diesel tanks and several gasoline jerry jugs (for our two Diesel engines and our dinghy motor). Once we were done, the lines were brought back to the boat and we moved back into the channel.
We went under the two large bridges that connect the main island with Paradise island. Both bridges are 69’ above the water at high tide. Our mast is 52’ tall measuring from the deck, and about 60’ high measuring from the waterline. We saw a lot of the things that make Nassau so important in the Bahamas...the mail boats that follow a schedule delivering mail to all of the inhabited islands...The cruising guide says some outislands send/receive mail once a week...the Defence Force, the group that maintains the security of the country...the fishing fleet that is tied up at the base of one of the bridges... the marinas that service the boats of all sizes coming mostly from Florida on a regular basis, and the huge cruise ships that bring thousands of passengers to spend money in the Bahamas. We read that Nassau can host up to 8 cruise ships at the same time. Do the math! That is a lot of people!
Once we passed through the eastern end of the Nassau Harbour channel, we were leaving New Providence behind and headed for one of the small islands we could easily see. We are anchored at Athol Island. No one lives on this skinny island shaped like a snake, but there are reefs and beaches. The beach had a lot of broken glass mixed into the sand. All day, skidoos, boat ride tours, snorkeling tours, sailboat tours have been coming out here and making a big circle around the anchorage. We are not in Nassau, but it is literally just around the corner on that island we can see over there! This anchorage probably rocks on the weekend.
I am happy to report the winds are down like the forecast said they would be. The winds are supposed to be 5-7 knots out of the east going to the southeast tomorrow. Fingers crossed that forecast comes true! We want to make it to the Exumas tomorrow!
We are planning to leave this anchorage tomorrow morning and head north, then east over the top of New Providence Island. We are planning to enter the Nassau Harbour from the west end and proceed through to the east end, stopping for fuel at a marina along the way. There are two possibilities for anchoring off the east end of the island...Athol Island or Rose Island. We will choose one when we get there.
We looked into the remote possibility of going to Atlantis on Paradise Island. Everything we read made the possibility even more remote. They do have a marina, but will not allow boats under 50’ to rent a slip. They prefer the boats that are 150’! Also, the charge for the slip per foot per night is astronomical compared to an already inflated market of marinas just off the coast of the States. We have moved on in our planning and we are now hoping for a nice beach on one of those islands I mentioned!
We are seeing our bread supply from the grocery store dwindle and there has not been a chance to go to a store from West Bay. We planned ahead, so we have plenty of bread making supplies onboard. Because we are planning to be on the move Monday and Tuesday, I decided to make some bread today. First thing this morning I got out the big bread bowl, the dry and wet ingredients, opened the 1 pound package of instant yeast and began. We have made hundreds of loaves of bread in our little propane oven when we circumnavigated. I learned to make bread because I had to make it when we could not buy it. I should mention our propane of oven is 14” wide, 11” deep and has one adjustable baking rack. I use the long European bread pans that are 12”x 4”. Two of them fit in the oven at the same time. The thinner shape cooks faster and uses less propane.
We met a South African family on their boat, Quest, in Ua Pou,
Marquesas Island, French Polynesia in 1995. We became good friends with them. They shared their bread recipe with us and that became my “go to” bread recipe. Now that we are sailing again, I made it again today. We call it “Quest Bread” and think of our friends whenever I make it.
While the bread was baking after lunch, I decided to make something sweet, too. My favorite thing to make is cookies, but I change things a tad when I am baking them on the boat. I usually make a 9”x13” pan of bar cookies (or “slices” as they are called some places in the world), then cut them in small pieces, 1-or-2-bite size. The bar cookies cook faster than sheet after sheet of individual cookies and use less propane. Also, small cookies are eaten quickly with few crumbs.
The bar cookies had just come out of the oven when Dito called from shore to ask to be picked up. Dave had taken Dito and Sarah into the beach and dropped them off. They were going to walk awhile and see what they could find. They had googled the area and knew there were some stores 2-3 miles from the beach. When Dave brought them back to the boat, it turned out they brought a treat for everyone...ice cream! I must tell you ice cream never tastes better than when you have not had it for awhile. We do not use our freezer onboard by choice, but I will admit we do love ice cream when we can get it!
How did Dito and Sarah bring ice cream to the boat? Seems they got out of the dinghy at the beach and walked near the people who were cleaning up from a Cinco de Mayo marathon run that started and ended at the beach this morning. Somehow, Dito and Sarah helped the clean-up crew carry some big things to their cars. One of the men asked them where they were going and they said they were walking to a grocery. The man took them to a store, waited for them, and brought them back to the beach. They tried to pay him and he would not take any money. So, that is how cold mint ice cream met just-out-of-the-oven-chocolate chip bar cookies on Exit Only. It was a delicious surprise for all of us!
P.S. The kids found the beautiful conch shell under the boat when they were jumping into the water today. It is alive and they put it back where they found it.
We went ahead and did school today, because we are pretty sure we are going to be heading out Monday morning, The weather forecast is telling us the wind is going to lighten, so we are thinking we will go north then around the top of the island to Nassau Harbour and get diesel fuel. Then, on the northeast “corner of the island, there are two small islands where we could anchor for the night, depending on the direction of the wind. So far, we have not been doing school under way. There may come a time we will try it, but not yet.
After lunch, the kids were ready to jump off the boat into the water. We are anchored in 8’ to 10’ of clear water. They wear their goggles, so they are able to take a look around. Look what they found literally attached to the keels or our boat...two remoras! Well, there were two remoras at first, then we noticed another one had joined the first two! They do not bother people. Normally, they are attaching themselves to very large fish and cleaning the skin of the fish. Maybe they are cleaning our hulls! Not really, but here is something I should say, speaking of our hulls...the bottom paint that Petit Paint provided for us after our first bottom paint job did not work out, has been terrific. This paint is really doing a good job of repelling growth. We are very happy with it.
You can see a photo Dito took of Z jumping in the water off the transom (two aft scoops at the waterline ) while J stands there waiting for her turn to go. They also like to jump off the bows (front of the hulls) and swim under the boat to the ladder on the starboard scoop.
The kids are always looking around under water near the boat to see what is there. Today they found a very large live King Helmet. It was a beautiful shell. We took our photos, then they carefully took the Helmet back to the sea grass in the ocean. I am always looking for shells on the beach. We have a rotating collection on the boat. We keep a few smaller shells, but continuously cull them, so the number of shells does not get out of hand. We do not take live shells. We have reference books about shells and use them to encourage the kids to learn about what kinds of shells we are collecting.
As nice as this anchorage has been for protection, we are getting excited thinking we may be able to leave and head south soon. Hope the weather forecast is right!
he day started off with school and another boat project! Dave and Dito put the aft cabin back together now that the leak had been fixed. Dave repaired the frame of the large hatch from that cabin (photo #1).
Since we were not leaving the anchorage today, I decided pizza sounded good for lunch. I stirred up the dough for the crust and set it to rise wrapped up in a blanket to keep it warm. Then, I started chopping toppings for the pizzas I planned to make. You can see my special sous chefs...Z was in charge of spreading the chopped olives and J was in charge of placing the sliced mushrooms. We made 4 pizzas. the other two were both half pepperoni and half cheese. All of us love pizza, so we make plenty when we make it!
We gratefully came into West Bay last Tuesday at sundown seeking protection from high winds and seas. Wednesday and Thursday were very rainy...day and night. It did not rain last night or today. The sun was shining and we were all ready to get off the boat and take a walk.
We looked at a map and found out there was a small sliver of public beach tucked in between the local private beach and the national park beach. That public beach was our destination this afternoon. The kids were enjoying snorkeling in water shallow enough they could stand up easily. J is holding two of the treasures she found while snorkeling here. Although we can walk around on the boat, it really felt good to stretch our legs on land! Now, if this wind would swing around and calm down, we will be ready to go!
There is never a problem finding something to do on the boat. Now, some of the things are fun...and some are not. It rained off and on all night and this morning, Sarah realized they had a big leak of water coming into their cabin. The leak detectives went into action immediately and actually were able to track down the source. The attachment point in the first photo looks too small to cause such a problem, but there is the culprit. Two screws and nuts through the deck hold the stainless steel loop where we attach the vang coming off the bottom of the boom (crossbar off the mast at the bottom of the mainsail). A vang is a rope pulley system using blocks and tackle to hold the the boom in place so it is not flailing around when the sail is up.
After lunch, the mess made when finding and repairing the rainwater leak was all cleaned up, then. it was time to get out the water maker. We have a brand new water maker that we had never used, because we were at the dock in the marina. Since leaving Florida, we have taken water onboard at 2-3 marinas we went to for fuel and water, so we had not needed to make water before today. Our water tank holds roughly 60 gallons of water. We kept track of the dates when we filled the tank so we could see how long the water lasted. We found that we had plenty of water to last for 9-10 days.
The process of turning sea water into potable water is called reverse osmosis. You can see the multiple parts of the water maker set up at the back of the cockpit. Since today was the first time we used the system, there were some extra steps like running the water through the system for 30 minutes before we actually started making water. You cannot make water in a busy port or anchorage, so usually, making water is done at sea. Right now, we are in a large open anchorage with few other boats, so we decided to go ahead and check out the water maker. About time, huh?! There was a small problem after the components were set up and the switch was turned on. Fortunately, Dave and Dito were able to figure out exactly what the problem was and come up with a plan to fix it. Soon, they were in the “water business”.
Once again, we are using this time in the Bahamas to “shake things out” and try out all of our systems. The water maker was the last big system we needed to test. There have been a few surprises along the way, but all in all things seem to be coming together and the systems we depend on are doing their jobs. It is so important to put our best work into the boat, because we depend on the boat to take care of us everyday!
I have mentioned several times how it is ALL about the weather, but I really do not know how to talk about our present situation any other way. We are here because “out there” the wind is blowing hard from the wrong direction for us, the confused seas are really high, and bands of rain have been passing over the bay literally all day long. We do not really mind, because we are so glad to be at a calm anchorage.
So, what do we do all day when we are boat-bound due to weather? Everyone started the day by sleeping in a tad longer than usual. We have pushed hard the past two days and yesterday was a slog, so it felt good not to have to jump up and get ready to go again. Next, breakfast. Then, it was time for school. That took a couple of hours. Soon, it was time to prepare lunch...eat...and, clean up the galley. During the daylight hours to this point, it rained awhile, blew harder awhile without rain, then repeated this pattern over and over.
Z and J have heard the stories about how their daddy and Auntie Wendy used to go out on the deck and play whenever it rained. They wanted to put their swim suits on and go out and play in the rain on the deck today. When they did go out in the rain, they found out how cold the raindrops were! That detail had been left out of the often-told-story. They persevered and managed to get totally wet in a deluge. Then, Sarah and David went out in the rain with them and everyone washed their hair! The first thing the girls asked for when they came back inside was hot chocolate. “No problem”, I said.
Now, it is evening and the span of time between rain showers has lengthened. The forecast says more rain tonight and tomorrow. Friday night is Movie Night on Exit Only, but someone thought this evening felt like a good time to watch a movie and eat popcorn. It was not hard to get the rest of the crew to agree.
We are safe and sound hanging on our 70-pound anchor, so if we have to spend more time here, we will be fine. Do hope we get some sunshine, so we can put the dinghy in the water and do some exploring.