Lazy Bahama Days

The last few days have been pretty lazy around here. Scott continues to explore and snorkel, and we have spent time on a beach nearby. I won’t go into the water around the boat anymore, for fear of having a remora suck onto me!

We are now up to six or more remora under the boat…ick, ick, ick. When we through food scraps into the water they immediately come to the surface and fight for them..ick. Did I mention that they gross me out?

The other night, they got a real treat. Two nurse sharks spent time under us, and they immediately took hold (ick).

Howard, as usual, is always finding new things onboard to amuse himself. He just realized that the dingy we have stored on the starboard deck makes for great climbing, and a new way to enter the saloon.

Other than that, we’re just enjoying the scenery and the sunsets.

This morning we are pulling up anchor and making our way north. Our slip reservation in Key West starts on December 3rd, so we have about two weeks to make our way there. We can make it in far less time, but will have to wait for, move around and get ahead of weather on the way.

Today we plan to anchor farther north in the Exumas, in the Emerald Rock area off of Warderick Wells Cay. The area is part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Established in 1959, it was the first land-and-sea preserve in the world. It includes 76 square miles of water, along with dozens of cays and beaches. The waters of Exuma Cays have been managed as a no-take marine fishery reserve since 1986, allowing populations of  queen conch, Nassau grouper and spiny lobster to thrive. It should be good scenery, above and below the water!

We anticipate little to no internet access in the next ten days, until we arrive in the keys area, so posts will be sparse. If we don’t post next week, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Lazy Bahama days photos (Scott loves his sunset photos!)

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Spear Fishing & Thunderball Grotto

As you know, Scott had been busy honing his spear fishing skills while we’ve been in the Bahamas. Sizable fish have eluded him so far, living too far down for him to spear and retrieve in one breath.

We have, however, been enjoying many lobsters, and he recently speared his largest one yet!

A video of the kill..

He also spent some time snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto. Underwater scenes from the James Bond movie, Thunderball were filmed here. They recommend that you go a a slack low tide, making it easier to get into. Of course, Scott decided to do his own thing and go at a higher tide. It was the best light option, but made it harder to get inside and there was also a pretty good current going through. Again, worth the hassle for the photos.

Check out this video of Scott squeezing through sharp edged openings, swimming through underwater holes and sliding along rocky walls….with fish, and perhaps a shark.

As is common around here, the day included minor bleeding.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Day On Staniel Cay

Earlier this week, we ventured over to Staniel Cay for the day. There are few options to dock your dingy on the island. You can pay to dock it at the yacht club, but the logistics of our dingy make that difficult. The public beach next to the yacht club is available for free, but you have to anchor off shore and wade in..hmmm. The general store that we visited earlier in the week has a dock behind it, but it’s reserved for their patrons.

There are several places on the island that rent golf carts, the general store being one of them. The idea of a golf cart was fun, and we would also have the most hassle free dockage. We again tied up at the dock behind Isles General, were given a golf cart, and told that there was a battery charger under the back seat should we need it. Hmm…people use golf carts for long periods of time (like playing 18 holes of golf) without needing to charge a battery, but oh well. We were off and running..

We first did a spin through “town,” which consisted of the yacht club, two other restaurants, a church, a clinic and two more grocery stores; the “blue” store and the “pink” store are literally right next to each other.

Pink Store

Blue Store

When getting our golf cart, we’d asked about buying fresh bread. We were told to check at the yellow house, before the blue store. We found the yellow house, just before the blue store like they told us. I expected some kind of bakery, with a sign, but this was definitely someone baking out of their house.

I poked my head into the open side door (of someone’s house) and gave a hello. A woman appeared behind us with a big smile, and asked if we wanted bread. We had a choice of either white or coconut, we chose white. She pulled a saran wrapped loaf off of a shelf, where it sat between her paper goods and various other things. I blocked out the condition of said kitchen where I assumed this bread was baked, paid her 7.00 and we went on our way (the bread, by the way, is terrific!). I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll go into someone’s home for what we need.

We continued on, stopping at the “wholesale” liquor store and laundry, where we bought beer and then to the Atlantic side of the island. There are really big houses being built there, complete with ocean views on one side, protected piers on the other, clubhouse, etc. I’m sure this island will look very different in the coming years.

As we continued on, we quickly realized why we were given a charger. Our battery was obviously on the older side, and wasn’t going to last us the entire day. Our golf cart had really hard time on inclines. This was a frustrating, as the hills here are not big by any means. Big, four-wheel drive-type carts would pass right by us, making Scott crazy. We’d rented the cart at 9:30, and by 11:00 we were at a quarter charge, and on the Atlantic side of the island. We decided to head to the yacht club for lunch and a plug-in.

All routes back to the west side of island involved a hill. We chose the one with what seemed to be the smaller hill. Once up that hill, our only road took us up another, bigger hill. Yeesh. Scott got out and walked to the top of the hill to make sure that there was a public road on the other side, and not someone’s private, do-not-enter driveway (this had happened before).

By now, our battery light was blinking, meaning that we were on borrowed time. Trying to save every bit of usable juice we had, Scott got out and pushed, while I floored the gas pedal (ha…if we only had gas!). We just made it up the hill without rolling backward, and Scott got his cardio for the day!

We paused at the top. Scott caught his breath, and we took advantage of the views.

The term “road” was used loosely, for the route down on the other side of the hill. It was a steep decline, made up of ruts and large stones. In addition to being power-challenged, our gimpy little golf cart also lacked good breaks…on a flat surface. The whole way down this stupid “road,” I was terrified that we’d blow one of the tires (which were low on air, so maybe that was harder to do), break an axle or just plain flip over. I prayed that disaster would happened sooner than later. Flipping at a slower speed meant less chance of death.

By the time we reached the bottom, the poor cart was rattling to beat the band. The road bottomed out into a big puddle from the previous night’s downpour, and veered hard right, toward the road to town. Thankfully, no one was coming or going, and Scott mercifully missed the lake-like puddle as we careened to the main road. At this point, I considered an entire liquid lunch. I hoped that their beer was cold.

We literally coasted into the yacht club, and were shown were to plug in (no one around us was plugged in, because their carts worked!).

Our lunch in the bar at Staniel Cay Yacht Club was great (I decided to add solids to my liquid lunch). The James Bond movie, Thunderball, was filmed throughout the Bahamas, and underwater scenes were shot right near the yacht club in Thunderball grotto. There are photos on the wall of the cast, hanging out at the bar. The yacht club has been around since the late 50s, and seemed to be quite the hangout in the 60s. It’s polished up a bit since then, but still has a great atmosphere.

So we’ve eaten lunch, had some beer and cooled off. It was time to check the battery. On the way, we stopped to see the nurse sharks at the sea wall. The yacht club feeds them, and some were sizable.

Back to the cart. The battery was still blinking bars for “empty.” It was time for a trade in. We managed to get back to the general store, having to push up a small hill along the way. They close from 12-2 for lunch, but we lucked out and found the man who had helped us in the morning behind the counter. We explained our dilemma, and he brought us a replacement cart to use for the rest of the afternoon.

It soon became clear that we had gotten his best cart the first time. This poor thing had an even harder time going up hill. It also made a random, scary, shuddering noise. Determined to see the ocean, we continued on. When we found the ocean path, Scott backed the poor cart up the path as far as it would go…until it stalled. I was now sure that we’d either have to walk back to the other side of the island, or spend the night right where we were. Luckily, we’d had a huge lunch and I had brought plenty of bug spray with me, so we were good either way.

We followed the rest of the path to the ocean over look. The views were beautiful, and we were glad to not be traveling out in it. There were white caps out as far as you could see.

When we returned to the cart, it had half a charge, and she thankfully started up for us. We headed back to the yacht club for another drink, and another shot at a better charge. Here’s our second, even sadder ride.

After some mango daiquiris, we gave in and decided to head for the general store. I wanted to make a stop at the blue store along the way, and it was getting close to sunset.

We coaxed the cart up the ant hill of an incline to get to the blue store. This one was half the size of the general store, not offering hardware or auto parts. I grabbed some fresh stuff for salad, more milk, some Ramen noodles and Scott added some cookies to the pile. Here’s the scale the the woman used to weigh my tomatoes. Scott loved it.

We drifted down the ant hill and back onto the main road. There was one more hill that we had to get up, to get to the general store. So once again, I floored it while Scott pushed the even bigger cart up the hill. The cart shuddered it’s way into the general store lot, and we left her to die. All in all, it was a fun way to see the island, and was worth the hassle and the heavy breathing.

On our way home, we stopped at the yacht club’s fuel dock, for gas. They are the only location on the island that offers fuel, and regularly run out! We’d heard on the vhf radio (aka island phone) that they currently had fuel so we stopped. It was comical how high the fuel dock was.

We paid for our 5.35 a gallon to fill the tanks for the Aluminum Princess and then headed back to the boat. Quite a day!

Here are the rest of our Staniel Cay photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rainy, Squall-ly Day

A strong cold front has been moving our way. The winds started to build Saturday evening, and yesterday we had a cloudy, windy day. This morning, the cold front officially arrived.

Here is where we are on the map, and it shows the front passing us (tongue of the ocean is to the left).

We had steady 30 knot wind, with gust to 42, as shown on Scott handy weather monitor (he loves it).

Nothing dangerous, but it was nice to see how our anchor and chain responded. It was also good to see that no one around us had an anchor drag, which can be common in a storm.

We have had some really warm temperatures since coming to the Bahamas. Our daily highs range from the mid 80s to the low 90s. The afternoon high in our saloon usually gets to 86 (we don’t have air conditioning at anchor).

Needless to say, we were ready for a temperature drop. So when the squall came through, Scott said that God turned on the air conditioning! We woke up to 84 degrees, and the squall knocked it down to 78. It  is after 3pm, and our temperature is at 80, which is a nice break!

We have come to realize that in the islands, the vhf radio is used in lieu of a telephone. Most days, we keep our radio on scan, so it will pick up anyone talking on it. We hear talk between employees at Fowl Key Resort next to us, as well as people contacting Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Most interesting, however, is listening to boaters talk to each other. We hear chatter about meeting for lunch, working on boats, ordering parts. etc. People also discuss where they’re headed to next, or where they’ve come from. They’ll also call to shore to make a reservation, or ask about transportation from their boat.

Conversation between the two UK boats near us is a favorite of ours (they are from Scotland),  especially as the storm came through. They commented on nearby boaters washing their sailboat in the rain (people often do this to make use of free fresh water), and how that they were surprised that the people weren’t showering in it (something that happens here regularly). Apparently, whisky is scarce aboard, but they have a friend bringing in reinforcements. All of this is of course made more entertaining with the addition of their accents!

And by the way, this guy showed up to anchor today..big! The boat to the left is the dingy, that was towed in behind him. Once they are anchored, it will tie up next to them.

So, we have our first rainy day since mid September. Scott is on a Black Sails viewing marathon, and I am blogging and baking. By the way…even through clouds and rain, the water still a beautiful blue!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

At Anchor In The Exumas

We are enjoying life, anchored in this gorgeous blue water.

Scott has been snorkeling and exploring since we dropped anchor here. Some of that being under our boat! First, check out the clarity under there!

We’ve seen stingrays and hermit crabs hanging out under us, and what we thought were small sharks are actually two remoras, or suckerfish..ick! They’re two feet long..double ick!! I think I’d rather have small sharks under there. Whenever I get into the water, I’m panicked that they’re going to suck onto me. That’s a spa treatment that I’ll pass on, thank you.  As I mentioned in my previous post, A Rainy, Squall-ly Day, we’re boat bound today, so here is what we did (we’re beginners, so bear with us, we’ll get better)!

On one of his excursions, Scott went ashore and climbed to the highest point on one of the nearby cays for some photos. The path up was overgrown, and Scott had to tramp through to get his “money shots.”

On the way down, he realized that he had grabbed onto, and brushed by poisonwood on his route. He was so zeroed in on getting to the top, and to his photo site, that he hadn’t paid close attention going up.

Poisonwood is a tree similar to poison sumac, and it’s very commonly found in the Bahamas. Not good. Scott hustled back down to the Aluminum Princess, stripped down and jumped in the saltwater to rinse off. He then rinsed out his clothes and put his swim suit on to high-tail it back to the boat, where he again stripped down and showered in fresh water with soap. So far, no itchy rash, so it appears that we’re in the clear and the risk was worth the pictures!

Right near us is Pirate Island. Years ago, a cruising couple who were here on their boat (named Pirate) “developed” the beach here for cruisers to come ashore and enjoy. There are benches and tables, a bean bag toss game, lounge chairs, fire pit and a charcoal grill stocked with charcoal.

Throughout the years, those who visit maintain it, keeping the beach swept and the charcoal supply full. When you’re onboard for extended periods of time, it’s nice to have a place to go to, and be able to stretch you legs and have a cookout. In the winter months, when there are many more people here, the cruisers meet here for pot lucks and happy hours.

We are “around the corner” from Staniel Cay, and Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Their adorable cottages have been on my vacation radar for years, so I had Scott do a drive-by for me. They’re soo cute!

As usual, Howard is enjoying his happy hour stints on the pulpit.

He’s getting more and more comfortable out there, yeesh.

When we arrived, there were four other boats. There are now sixteen other boats. We attribute this to the winter season approaching, when people bring their boats here and stay for months. There is also  a strong cold front coming through, with big winds. This anchorage is pretty protected from most of it, so we’re guessing some are here to wait it out.

There are boats here with cruisers from the UK, Germany and France. The French like to bath “au natural” on their swim platform, so that’s entertaining. The “Germs,” as Scott has taken to calling them (they have a generator on their bow, and the noise annoys Scott, go figure), are getting great use of Pirate Beach. Excuse the blurry photo, but Scott could not get over how big their fire was. He was convinced that they were burning one of the tables, or had thrown their dingy onto the fire.

That’s it in a nutshell so far. Signing off with the sunset and the rest of our photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Grocery Run

Yesterday we ventured out to one of the three general stores on Staniel Cay. We’ve read that it’s one of the best stocked around and they also have a dock that we can tie up to, which is always a plus. I’ve stocked the boat with a lot of canned goods, rice, pasta, sauces and such, but wanted to get some fresh foods.

We arrived at low tide, so it was a bit of a challenge to tie up the boat and climb up onto the pier, but we managed fine.

Not a bad view from the pier either.

Disposing of trash can be somewhat challenging while cruising. Small islands usually don’t have dumps and trash service. However, Staniel Cay does have a dump, and the general store will take your trash, so we brought it along (Scott is still loving his big straw hat).

It was HOT, HOT, HOT inside! Within minutes, I was soaked in sweat. Aside from being a sweat box, they managed to fit a lot into the relatively small space. We found groceries to the right. Below is the produce section; this is all there is. We grabbed bananas, green and red peppers, avocados, romaine lettuce and “pink” tomatoes. Canned goods, crackers, sodas and such are at the back wall.

The baskets stuffed with food on the floor belong to crew members who were buying things for a charter yacht. We felt bad for the locals, as these guys put a dent in the fresh stuff. Stores on the island get their stock from the mail boats that come once a week, so these greedy shoppers irritated Scott to no end. He gave them the stink eye the whole time we were there.

Along the wall is the refrigerated and frozen food section. One refrigerator was empty, but the other had milk, eggs, butter, sliced and block cheese, some juices and sodas, yogurt, and limes. One freezer held chicken, beef, hot dogs, steaks and lunch meat. The other had frozen vegetables (peas, mixed veg., corn on the cob and broccoli) and ice cream (one flavor of Breyers, and some Klondikes). How someone, in a car or boat, was going to get ice cream back home without it  turning to liquid is beyond me. You’d have to bring your spoon to the store. Even then, you’d have to race to eat it in that sweat box.

Through the openings is the side which has hard goods.

Paper products and “household” items were in the far corner. Jewelry and nautical charts were on either side (of course). I grabbed a box of quart-sized, Ziploc freezer bags….for 7.75!!

The last corner held tubs of interesting miscellaneous items.

In the center of the store were boat and motor parts and chemicals, cleaning and laundry items, hardware items, charcoal and snorkel masks. There were also racks with cards and videos. I meant to get photos of this stuff, too, but by then I had sweat in my eyes.

We were held up checking out, because the charter crew had so much stuff. The woman behind the counter looks up the prices in a binder, and adds it up on a calculator. Once it was finally all boxed and totaled, their card didn’t go through. Mercifully, another crew member appeared and payed with cash. By this time, sweat was running down my entire body. I was afraid that it was going to start to pool on the floor at my feet.

While we were waiting, a local man cut in front of us, wanting to pay for a can of WD-40 spray. They couldn’t ring him up, because the register was tied up with the greedy crew. The can was $12.00, and he had a 20.00 bill. The woman told him to come back for the change on Monday (they are closed on Sundays)…HA! How would that go over in the US?

Finally, it was our turn to check out. As she weighed my peppers, the woman thankfully let me know that, by the way, your red pepper is $6.00! ONE red pepper! It promptly went back to the bin. Our little basket of things came to $87.00. We loaded our cold items (which were now half warm) into the cooler bag we’d brought, and headed back to the boat. I managed to not succumb to heat stroke, and we are now experienced island shoppers!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Pig Beach

We are anchored in sight of Pig Beach, a very popular spot in this area. Several pigs live on the island, and boaters and tourists come to the beach to feed them. The pigs will even swim out to the boats for food (swimming pigs, maybe they are circus escapees)!

It is unknown how the pigs originally came to live on Big Major Cay. They aren’t native to the area, and the island itself is uninhabited. Stories suggest that the pigs were either dropped off by a group of sailors who wanted to come back and cook them (which was popular), or that there was a nearby shipwreck and the pigs swam to safety. Either way, they are firmly rooted here now.

I’ve read that approximately 20 pigs and piglets live on Big Major Cay. They thrive partly because the island is lucky enough to have three freshwater springs, and partly from all of the feeding they receive from local Bahamians and tourists.

On our first day here, we went over to the beach. I am not keen on being up close and personal with the pigs, as some are pretty sizable (flashbacks of being bum-rushed at petting zoos also come to mind), so we stayed in the boat. There were three or four pigs on the beach, and one swam out to us. It’s a bit freaky for a big pig to swim up to you, when your boat is low in the water. We stayed for a few minutes, took a few photos and left.

Since we are so close to the beach, I check on the feeding action daily. Dingys of all sizes stop to feed the pigs throughout the day, and there are also smaller tour boats that stop a few times a week; the pigs make out well. After viewing daily feedings through my binoculars, I decided that I’d like to do another “drive by.”….again, in the boat (still not wanting to be up close and personal).

On our second visit, there were many more pigs, and we again had a swim up welcome.

The larger, spotted pigs are the biggest swimmers, while the white ones, and the smallest speckled guy only seem to venture in occasionally. We got lucky, and had multiple swimmers come to the boat, for my delicious Ritz crackers (it’s all I was willing to share).

 

We also got some great video!

So there you have it, Pig Beach. I can check it off my bucket list (will have to add it first)! Here are many more pig pictures.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Traveling To The Exuma Cays

We left our Hoffman’s Cay anchorage at 4pm on Thursday, and headed south on an overnight run to the Exuma Cays. The winds are forecasted to increase this weekend, so we wanted to get a jump on them and get a comfortable passage in. There may be more tropical weather to deal with next week, but Scott has scouted out several protected anchorages for us if needed.

As we left the Berry Islands, a beautiful sunset sent us off on our way

Our journey took us down the Atlantic, through the “Tongue of the Ocean,” (named for it’s shape) where we were in 2700+ feet of water. Scott thought about fishing, but we decided against it, not wanting to deal with it while traveling overnight. Our depth finders stop working in these depths, and one of ours shows 5-6 feet, which will freak you out when you glance at it in the middle of the night! Then we turned east,  back onto the Great Bahama Bank which took us over to the Exumas Cays and back into 30 or so feet of water.

We arrived in the Exumas mid morning on Friday, much earlier than expected, and anchored north of Staniel Cay, off of  Big Majors Spot. The water here is stunning, a gorgeous acrylic blue. The white sandy bottom makes it crystal clear, and we can’t stare at it enough.

 

During overnight, extended passages, your sleeping and eating clock gets all turned around. It’s like jet lag after a long flight,  so after anchoring we usually eat, shower and nap. But first things first…we got into that gorgeous water! It was great to float around and cool off for a bit. No barracuda yet, but two small sharks have already found us. We’re happy to share the anchorage with them…their mouths are far less intimidating!

Once the journey  was officially behind us and we were refreshed from a dip, a meal and a nap, we were anxious to explore the area around us. Scott lowered the Aluminum Princess from the flybridge, and we set off on a late afternoon ride. Like our Hoffman’s Cay anchorage, this area is a full of small, rocky islands. Some are  just big rocks with scraggly trees, and others have beaches and height to them. Their shorelines jut out like the bow of a ship.

We then headed off to enjoy the sunset, before heading back to the boat.

We’re excited to spend some time here, and explore the surrounding area and town. Here are our photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Hoffman’s Cay

Tropical Storm Kate passed to our east on Monday evening with no issue, as planned. We left our slip at Great Harbour Cay Marina the next morning, and continued on to an anchorage off of Hoffman’s Cay, on the Atlantic side of the Berry Islands. Our trip there was perfect, with big, gentle swells. After a five hour trip, we dropped anchor in gorgeous blue shaded water. We were surrounded by beautiful small islands. Each one with a beach, and each uniquely different.

One had a rocky, cliff-like shoreline

One was lined with coconut palms

One was lined with scraggly pine-like trees

And one even had a blue hole

At lower tides, the rocky shorelines seemed to float over the water

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to explore any of these islands. While we were enjoying our meal at the marina restaurant, the no-see-ums had a meal of their own. It turns out that I’m very allergic to their bites. I’d just started to recover from being eaten alive at our private beach excursion, and this time they hit me twice as hard. The normal Off spray didn’t have much effect on them, and I am covered in big, red, crazy itchy welts. Like chicken pox on steroids. The bite are SOO itchy, I want to scratch the skin from my body!

I have spent the last few day hiding inside the boat, giving the irritated bites time to ease a bit before I spread more repellent on them. I’ve been doing small painting and varnishing projects, watching movies and admiring our beautiful surroundings.

Scott, on the other hand, was like a kid on summer vacation. He’d take off early in the morning, exploring on the Aluminum Princess….come in for lunch (Which usually consisted of lobster that he’d caught. We’re still working on fish)….go back out for an afternoon run…come in for a snack and a nap….and then go out again before dusk.

The water around us was full of life. Stingrays and schools of fish swam by the boat, and there were at least three sea turtles who lives near us. We watched their heads break the surface regularly, as they came up for air.  And, we again had a resident barracuda under us. When Scott would get into the water the barracuda would come check out what was going on, and then retreat back to the shade of the boat. It was unnerving, but we learned to coexist.

We were anchored right near a coral head that was full of lobster and various fish. If Scott was near the boat, this is where I’d find him..

Howard keeps a close eye on Scott when he  gets in the water. I don’t know if he’s concerned, or jealous…

During his explorations, Scott found some coconuts, and we enjoyed fresh coconut water.

We enjoyed two days here, having the whole area to ourselves. It was completely quiet, except for the sound of the waves breaking on the rocky shoreline of the surrounding islands. However, with the forecast calling for the winds to build, we decided to continue south, and keep from getting stuck in one place for the next 8-9 days.

I took a quick video of the view from our anchorage.

Here are more photos of the waters around our beautiful anchorage, and Scott’s exploration.

Catch of the day: Lobster

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”