Monday, 11 April 2016

Exumahhhs!



Well, we have enjoyed the past month in our favourite part of the Bahamas – the Exumas.  The area, also known as the ‘Out Islands’, is a 90 mile chain of small cays and islands.  The waters of the Great Bahama Bank are on the west side and the Exuma Sound (essentially the Atlantic) are to the east. Life moves slowly and nature is at its best here.

We were well sheltered in the Cave Cay Marina harbour. Hot showers...yah !
This year we arrived in the Bahamas in early March, which is later in the cruising season than usual. This meant that as we worked our way south through the Exumas we met friends who were on their way home. We had hello/farewell visits at the same time and enjoyed a Mahimahi meal with each boat before moving on.

 We met our friends Joannie and Keith from Minnesota on the way and enjoyed five days of sailing and snorkelling together.  Keith spent his high school years in Nassau and is an excellent spear fisherman so Kim was very happy to fish with him and pick up some new techniques. Cathy and Joannie were happy to not be watching for shark or Barracuda ‘company’ during the fishing time.  One afternoon they brought back two Lionfish and a crab that they had speared.  After consulting Google we decided that Keith had speared a Clinging Channel Crab (aka Bahamian King Crab). Kim removed the poisonous barbs from the Lionfish and we steamed the crab in a large pot and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.
Keith and Joannie from Pelican


Clinging channel crab. No points for beauty, but those hairy legs were delicious.

The crab and lionfish waiting to be dispatched.

After enjoying such tasty gifts from the sea we thought our fishing run might be over but we had more excitement ahead during Corinne’s visit.  We spent a few laid back days with Corinne at Lee Stockin Island, a retired marine research station.  On our return run to Georgetown, where the airport is, Kim had a pretty good fight with a 30 pound yellow fin tuna and won!  These fish immediately dive after taking the ballyhoo bait. After three or four good runs with the drag set at about 15 pounds they were both finally tired out. We named him ‘Ted’ to reflect his strength and dignity.  Corinne was our official photographer for the occasion so there are plenty of pictures.  We only take as many fish as we can eat (and we have plenty for the rest of our trip) so the fishing rod has been cleaned and stored awaiting next season! 

Not sure who was more tired.  He took one more dive and run after this shot.

Getting ready to tie the fish to the boats stern


We bleed and drag the fish to the anchorage and deal with it there.


At the calm of the anchorage Kim will fillet the fish.  Pictures first !

These tuna are very thick !


20 pounds of sashimi
 It was great to have Corinne visit for a relaxed week – too short for all of us though. (We hope to see Cal and Megan down here next winter!)  Here are a few shots of island life.

It is a tough life but …

Corinne at Lee Stocking

Bathing beauties! We wear wet suits for snorkelling so we can stay in the water for a longer time

Just wandering another deserted beach

A sea slug sunning on the beach?

A girl and her dad

The trees on the small cays don't grow very tall

Walking the beach at Red Shanks

A rare day in George Town at the Driftwood CafĂ© … and very good coffee!

The view from Georgetown across to Monument anchorage



Monday, 21 March 2016

Bimini at last!

The conditions for our Gulf Stream crossing were ‘power boat perfect’ which means calm seas and NO wind.  We were happy to finally be on our way even if it did not include sailing.

The highlight of the trip for Kim so far was catching a 20lb mahimahi (we call her Suzie II after our first mahi in 2014 – which was a larger version).  Both freezers and the fridge were pretty full when we left Florida so the 17 meals that she provided required some creative storage.  We caught her trolling while under sail on the NW Providence Channel on the way to Nassau. Of course we had sizable 15-20 knot winds and moderate seas but that added to the challenge and satisfaction of the catch!
The pressure is off Kim now that the freezer is full of fish.

Catch of the day for dinner
 It has been very windy since our arrival in the Exumas, which is our favourite part of the Bahamas, but the sun shines endlessly and it is nice and warm.  Windy conditions whip up waves and plenty of salt spray so we are always wishing for a rain cloud to rinse the salt from the boat. Highborne Marina provided a rare stay at a dock for two nights as it was difficult to find a calm anchorage.  As always we have met a number of cruisers from the US to keep us company along the way.
These “dock” birds would sit and stare at you in the cockpit until you were guilted into feeding them.
 

Just another secluded beach.  This one is on the sound (ocean) side of Highborne Cay.

We are currently anchored at Normans Cay where you can snorkel on a DC3 plane that crashed in the bay during the drug running days of the 80’s.  There is a Beach Club on shore where we can have two burgers and a coke for $75 US. Yikes ! We think we hear our mahi calling….

Waiting for the Bahamas

“Life is what happens when you’re making plans” pretty much sums up our cruising season so far.  Although we left home on January 7th it took until March 2nd to arrive in Bimini in the Bahamas.  Cathy fractured a few bones in her foot just before leaving home so has been sporting a walking cast. By the time her foot could handle extended sailing it was February 15th.  It then took until March for a decent weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream.  Spending two winter months in Florida still beats dealing with snow, especially when your toes are exposed in a cast.  Here are a few highlights of our ‘sunshine state’ time.
As usual countless hours and dollars are spent preparing the boat for the season. In the Bahamas you need to be prepared for anything with spare parts and a shocking amount of food and other supplies.  You know you’ve spent too much when suppliers start reserving parking spots in your honour.

Spend enough and you get your own personalized parking spot

 We spent a record 10 days in West Palm Beach and enjoyed the free trolley service instead of our usual walking. We are in mega-yacht company as you can see from our neighbors.

One of the smaller boats......

Indeed the streets are lined with Royal Palms and with year round good weather, bike paths are complete with repair tools. Kim ran errands around the city on a rented City Bike and discovered this bike repair station along the waterfront in West Palm Beach.  Every hand tool one would need to effect minor repairs to your bike, including a hand pump.

Broken bike repair station
We always enjoy the Saturday Farmers Market that is a two minute walk from where we land the dinghy.  The produce is very fresh and lasts far longer than the supermarket foods.  Orchids of all kinds are amazing to see.  Martha Stewart came shopping too – it seems she was staying at her Palm Beach mansion.



Orchids at the farmers market

Not all of our days were sun bathing temps. On the day we left for Ft. Lauderdale it was 6 degrees C. Nothing that a t-shirt, turtle neck, down vest, blanket and driving gloves didn’t fix.
Boy was it chilly this morning. Florida can get cold !
We don’t sail much in Florida but did get in a motor sail to Miami where we do enjoy anchoring in a multi-million dollar neighbourhood in South Beach.  We attended the Miami Boat Show and admired the inside of a Hylas 63 and an Amel 54-wow!

We also discovered the Botanical Gardens and have included some of the plants we saw.

Spiny tree...ouch !



Clown fig

Ponytail palm

Orange flower palm

Mangrove tree
Along the canal where we dock the dinghy to go into town Kim spied a beautiful iguana with colours we never see in the Bahamas.  The iguanas we usually see are huge but definitely much more ugly.
He seemed to be protecting his space. We were worried he might jump into the dinghy.
Now we are waiting for a weather window to cross the gulf stream…stay tuned




Thursday, 7 May 2015

Cat Island and Little San Salvadore

We have been lax in sharing our adventures over the last month but will try to bring you up to speed.  We had a great sail from Conception Island to New Bight on Cat Island only to find our friends Chrisy and Roger on Sanderling anchored in the harbour.  Finding people you know when you are travelling is such a delight  and with Chrisy and Roger you know you are in for a good time. This was our first visit to Cat Island. It is one of the larger islands in The Bahamas at 48 miles long and 4 miles across and still has a very traditional culture (you don’t sense any North American lifestyle here).  The  people were so welcoming and very proud of their island.  Many of the native residents believe that when the last person of a generation dies their house is left for the spirit to reside in.  The remaining family members will leave and build a new home to live in.  As a result there are abandoned homes all over the island.  To the casual visitor like us they may appear derelict, but for them it is a reminder of their ancestors.

Current family members live next door to this abandoned house



Our first night at Cat we met a cruiser who had caught two Mahi-Mahi on the sail from Conception.  He very kindly offered to provide fish for all of us, so we paid one of the local ‘Take Away’ places on the beach (take out- but NOT commercial)  to cook it for us and provide the sides. It made for a great evening of company for eight of us.  The next day we rented a car (from the brother in law of some one we met over sundowners – everyone is related here) with Chrisy and Roger and toured the island.  Along the way we met two conch divers on the Atlantic side of the island who had brought up 130 conch in two hours (an amazing feat).

Conch fritters anyone !


In the 1700 and 1800's Cat Island was home to many cotton plantations and more recently was a big agricultural center. We couldn’t see any large farming operations but there are many stone walls from the plantation days, and a few ruins of the loyalist homes.

This century old wall is all that is left of a plantation


One place of note was Arthur’s Town, childhood home of Harry Belafonte.  The town seemed to be more well off than other places along the way – hopefully due to Harry’s support. The town also has a beautiful little Anglican church and as with most of the island, blue holes and caves.

The Anglican church in Arthur's Town


The main attraction on Cat is the Hermitage on Mt. Albernia, which is the highest elevation in The Bahamas at 206 feet! It was a good thing it wasn’t higher because it felt as though we were walking in 100 degree F temperatures as we climbed to the top to tour the Hermitage! The Hermitage was built starting in 1939 by Father Jerome, a priest/architect who built many churches in The Bahamas. Upon retirement Father Jerome built the Hermitage by himself out of native stone, hauling the stones up the steep incline. On the way up the steep slope he carved the stations of the cross out of the rock.   The buildings are a miniature replica of a Franciscan monastery and were built to 1/3 scale.  When you see it from the water it appears huge, but as you get closer to the top of the climb you realise that the doorways are only five feet tall and all the furniture  is also small.  It was here that he would spend his last years in seclusion and contemplation – truly a testament to his faith.

Looking up the steep trail where the building stones were dragged to the top

The Hermitage.  It may look normal size but it is built to about 1/3 scale.

Crissy and Roger from Sanderling

The 13th station of the cross



















A weather cold front was working its way to Cat so while we had the car we scoped out two anchorages at the north end of the island where we took shelter for a few days. Shanna’s Cove restaurant was a welcome sight as we reached the north end of the island.

Kim and Roger chatting at Shanna's Cove



After a long day of driving we were beckoned back to shore for an evening of Rake and Scrape on the beach.  Pompey Johnson is a well known musician on the island and has performed on the Today Show and in Paris. His band was playing for cruisers that night and as one of the girls in the band of three also owned the snack shack, she disappeared every so often to keep the kitchen going.  When this happened the music stopped and this was when Cathy stepped in to do some drumming on the goombay drum to keep the music going. It was good fun and Cathy was honoured to play with a musical legend.  Unfortunately, we left the camera on the boat so we have no photos of the evening.
Sailing regattas are a matter of island pride in The Bahamas and whole settlements will build, race, and support their sloop.  The regattas are a time of celebration and attract entrants from all over The Bahamas with spectators coming from the US to enjoy the festivities.  A new sloop was being built by hand. across the street from our favourite ‘take away’. These sloops have no ballast so crew need hike out on boards to keep the over-canvased vessel from going over.

A new Bahamian Class C sloop under construction.


As always, we spent many hours walking the beautiful beaches, some of them pink sand.  We found a few water creatures as we strolled along.

Starfish are abundant in The Bahamas

A sand crab out of its hole.  Left alone it will quickly bury itself in the sand.

An under water shot of the same crab


As soon as the cold front had run its course we left Cat and sailed west to Little San Salvador (or Half Moon Cay as Holland America Cruise Lines calls it). This island was purchased by the cruise line as a daytime playground for their passengers. It is an odd sight to see a ‘deserted’ cay on one side and as you head toward the anchorage you see Disneyland on the beach. The cruise ships come in around 7 am and ferry 3000 passengers to shore in a very short time. The passengers can stroll the beach, ride horseback along the shore, enjoy water sports, loud music, boat rides, snorkelling and the ultimate waste (in our opinion) sit on an open air – air conditioned, multi-level cabana! At 4 pm 3000 people are sucked back inside the ship and it departs, leaving the beach to people like us – ahhh! Fortunately only 45 of the 2,500 acres have been developed, the rest is kept as a nature preserve. The experience of seeing this daily cycle (except for Sundays) is surreal.


The bar.  Too bad it was closed when we were there.

The small open air cabana, on the right, actually had an air conditioner on the back wall.

The daily cruise ship