On To Roatan

At 5:30 this morning, we raised anchor and left the area near Graham’s Cay to head for Roatan. The sun rose through clouds, keeping the early morning temperatures below 85 (thankfully) and providing nice views on our way out.

We made our way back past El Bight and Bonacca, and through water that is crystal clear 60 feet down!

Howard wasn’t happy to leave Guanaja, as he got in some last sniffs…

Soon, we were traveling in 5,000 feet of water (I forgot to mention that on our way here from Mexico, we were in depths of 16,000 feet!). Scott chose our travel day perfectly, as we enjoyed pleasantly calm water all the way. We “flew” along, averaging  7.0 knots!

 

It was so pleasant that Howard enjoyed hours of sleep, in many positions..

Roatan is a long,  long, long island, and was in sight for hours before the shoreline finally came into clear view.

We did an eight hour run to West End, the farthest point that we plan to visit. From here, we’ll make our way back east along the island, making for a shorter trip to Guanaja when we return.

Coming into the anchorage was just a bit challenging, as electronic navigational information for the area is vague  (we were working off of an 8×11 black and white photo copy). Scott had me go up onto the bow as we entered the anchorage, passing over gorgeous views in the water below. He was concerned about possible rocks or coral heads just below the surface, but we went through and into the anchorage smoothly.

We are currently anchored off of West End. It’s popular with tourists, but much quieter and more low key than Isla Mujeres.

Tomorrow, we’ll start to explore our new surroundings. Here are many more photos of our travel to Roatan.

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

 

Our Days In Isla Mujeres

Catching you up on the last week at anchor here in Isla…

We started our week with, what else, A COLD FRONT! These are getting SO old! This particular one was going to come from the northwest. We were facing southeast with zero wind, and then like a light switch the winds shifted 180 degrees and came from the northwest at 30+ knots. Of course, it happened at night, when it’s more challenging to keep an eye on your location, and that of others around you.

Scott had been nervous about this front for two reasons. First, we’d heard that the anchor holding here was bad, and that boats regularly drag. Second, strong wind swinging you 180 degrees tends to dislodge an anchor. As the front slammed  into the anchorage, our iPad app that we use to track the anchor showed that it was skipping a bit. My stomach sunk at the thought of having to pull up and re-anchor in the dark with 30 knot winds. Scott decided to wait, and see if it continued. The Hulk skipped about 50 feet and then had enough, and dug in hard.

We stayed up until 1am, making sure that the Hulk was happy, and that others in the anchorage were safe and secured. Scott got some brief sleep in the pilot house until daylight. After listening to the cruiser’s net (no way I could sleep through that!), we crawled back into bed to catch up a bit. Since then, the week has been full of fronts coming through, bringing moderate winds and chop to the anchorage. Life as usual this winter!

Speaking of chop, as I mentioned before, we are anchored alongside the I-95 for tour, fishing and charter boats. All sizes pass by us, usually at higher speeds than they should. For the most part, it’s tolerable, but some of them really give us a roll.

What is amazing and entertaining is the amount of catamaran party boats that pass us, and how full they are! They are stuffed with people, so full that they are sitting on the roof and hanging over the sides.

It’s fun to watch the passengers as the catamarans go by, to see who’s already feeling the effects of the rum punch…we’ve seem some entertaining dancers! The music is also interesting. Loud, dance club-type music..all the time. We can hear them coming way before they pass by. Scott likes to say that it’s always 3am  here!

So the last week has been spent exploring the island, visiting  local restaurants and meeting some new people. We’ve found that that things are pretty darned cheap when you use pesos, while using the US dollar doesn’t get you the best price (up to 20% more than using pesos!), so we quickly made a stop at the money exchange store in town, and are now spending like locals!

We have left our bikes at Marina Paraiso, and when we dingy to the southern end of the island, they are there for us to go to the big grocery store, or to just ride the island. When heading to the downtown area, there is a dock next to one of the commercial fishing piers that cruisers can tie to. We have become pretty familiar with the downtown area, and are taking more time to explore the southern part of the island lately.

The town celebrated carnival, in the days leading up to lent. Scott and I went to shore on Sunday afternoon, to watch one of the parades. The costumes and dancing were pretty neat.

But what was more entertaining was the overall organized chaos of the whole thing. Beer was an integral part, with participants drinking it before, during and after the parade, usually while catching a ride to or from their place with a group. (Notice the beer in her hand)

Support beer cart..

We watched an entire fleet of dressed dancers on scooters ride up into the parade, get dropped off to dance and then picked back up and whisked away. Strange.

There was never an official “start” to the parade, with huge gaps between floats and dancers (luckily, that gave us plenty of time to run across the street for 2.00 beers, or next door to the ferry terminal for their restrooms). Outnumbering the parade’s numerous performers and participants, where the many, many “support” vehicles and people walking alongside on the sidewalk. We guessed that the people walking alongside must be parents…all of the parents, by their numbers. The support vehicles carried giant speakers blaring music at deafening levels and much, much beer. After awhile, the parade was randomly diverted by police onto a different street. I guess they’d used up the allotted time??

We decided it was a good time to head back to the dingy, as we’d been invited to meet other cruisers to watch some of the Superbowl at a nearby bar. The winds kicked up quite a bit while we were there, dropping the temperatures. Scott got downright cold, wishing he’d worn his foul weather coat to block the winds rushing into the open bar. As his shivering got worse, we called it a night and headed back to the boat, timing our climb back on board in between waves.

On Monday, Scott and I biked some of the southern end of the island. We had lunch at Oscar’s, where  cruisers in the area meet for Pizza Friday. Since we plan to do that this week, I enjoyed shrimp for lunch.

Afterward, we made our way to the eastern side of the island. While enjoying views of the coastline, I noticed Villa Bella. It appeared that there was a bar, and it was public, so of course we went to investigate.

our village

The small property is beautiful and relaxing (no one under 18, and no groups of people over four in number), with many “island” details.

They have a Cadillac margarita, that contains two shots of aged tequila, a shot of Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime and a shot of Grand Marnier on the side; there is a limit of two per person. Although Scott was very tempted, we opted for the regular margaritas, going easy on both the wallet and our livers. The drinks came in neat coconut glasses, and Scott soaked up some warmth from the full sun, as we’re still waiting for it to act like winter here in Mexico!

Oh, on a happy, happy note, we have solved our washer problem! Scott finally heard back from technical support. Based on the email, he was able to figure out that our washer doesn’t like Mexican electricity(??). If we run the washer on our inverter it works like a charm, go figure! So no more bucket washing for me, and we save many dollars not having to order a control panel! We just have to time washing on sunnier days, to take advantage of power from the solar panels…fair enough!

So life here at anchor is rolling…literally. Here are some photos.

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

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!”

 

 

 

 

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!”

 

 

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!”

Exploring Great Harbour Cay

We have been exploring the area around our anchorage. Scott has done some snorkeling at the two boat wrecks that are near us, as well as the wreckage of a DC-8

We also took a ride around the nearby small islands and went into and around the harbour here.

Scott had read that there is a path through that mangroves, which takes you through the island and over to the Atlantic side. We decided to check it out, and loaded the Aluminum Princess up with chairs, towels and such for a beach day.

We made our way down to the entrance of said path and followed as the water got more and more shallow, and the “path” got more and more narrow!

The mangroves were really thick on either side of us. The boat, and sometimes us, took beating at times. I kept trying to stand up and take pictures and video of the path ahead, but it wasn’t easy.

I’m fairly sure that the path was meant for kayaks and such. However, we managed to squeeze our way through, and were rewarded with pretty blue, sandy-bottom water (the water at our anchorage is clear, but the bottom is covered with grass, so it’s a darker, green color).

The plan was to stop at a restaurant on the beach first, but being a Monday they were closed. Not such a bad thing, as the winds off of the ocean were blowing right at the location, and would’ve made it difficult for us to get off in the bumpy water.

Most dingys can just beach onshore and then get off at the bow, but with the enclosed pilot house, we can only get on an off of the Aluminum Princess at the stern end. We’d have had to anchor and make our way to shore in chest deep water (at least for me). Not appealing.

Ok, so now our lunch was going to be boxed Chex Mix that I’d brought for a snack….no problem! We were just happy to be able to spend some time on a spit of sand and wade in some clear water. We chose a spot around the corner, out of the way of the ocean swells.

Scott was not going to waste time with sunscreen, and made is way right into the water.

While I napped, he walked around toward the ocean side of our spit of land, which got more and more rocky.

A quick video:

There were many, many snails in and among the rocks, and a lot of conch shells that had been empty and discarded.

After a few hours, we squeezed our way back through the crazy mangrove trail. It was a great day, except for the fact that I was an all-you-can-eat buffet for the bugs while on the beach. Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray…I learned that lesson the hard, itchy way.

Here are today’s photos.

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