Hurricane Season 2014

Having spent the last few weeks in the true cruising mode with Charlie, we are now switched over to traveling mode to head east and south for hurricane season. We have to wait a few days for a good forecast to cross the Anegada Passage to St Martin. We use this time to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Bitter End and do some hiking and snorkeling. We took a walk to a new resort being built on the east side of Virgin Gorda called Oil Nut Bay. It was a hot hike from Bitter End past Biras Creek and then we get to Oil Nut Bay. It is reached by boat through the cut beside Saba Island and the channel inside reefs. A gorgeous spot with lots of expensive development. Worth the hike to check it out.

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The forecast came for light easterly winds set us off  for St Martin and we arrived to the Dutch side of St Martin at 1AM or 14 hours later. We decided we could come in to the bay off of Simpson Lagoon in the dark and anchor until morning . We were just inside the bay when we spotted a fast motor boat up behind us without any lights on.  Before we could react they were beside us. Turns out they were the Coast Guard patrolling their shores. There were maybe 10 guys on board all dressed in dark clothes and no lights. They wanted to know who we were, where were we from and where we were going. We were able to soon proceed to anchor without incident.

St Martin was a destination for us to look to buy a new hard bottom dinghy. We wanted to replace the type of dinghy that had gotten stolen from behind Maraki years ago on the Hudson River on our return to Michigan. Success was had with a Flexboat from Brazil, used for a few months and then traded in. We also bought a little Honda generator for emergency purposes or just batttery charging in place of the motor. We anchored inside the lagoon which would be a decent hurricane spot if need be. We did wander by dinghy over to French side of St Marten.  We did only a little sight seeing around the lagoon and spent time on boat projects and the boat shopping.  Did find the Vandorp stationary store though i think they are not relations.

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We then head south and had a lovely  8 hour sail to St Eustatia, a Dutch island. Statia as it is commonly known is a oil transhipment depot for huge tankers to offload and smaller freighters to load. Lots of activity around the depot all day and night long. There is not a harbor but only what is called an open roadstead.  We took a mooring ball for the night and had intended to explore Statia in the morning. We had done a wonderful hike into the old crater from the volcano years ago and wondered if we would do it again. But we spent such a rotten night there rolling all n.ght long and the tug boats passed by every hour through out the night. They are the ferry to the tankers and work goes on.

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Nevis was our next destination. All of these islands have a volcano(about 3200 ft above sea level) that defines their look. We anchored right under the highest point and off a miles long beach.  Nevis was a favorite stop of ours in the past but has grown up tremendously. It has become a place for the rich to buy land and buy citizenship. We wandered the hillsides and found a hot spring/bath area where the water is so hot all i could put in was my toes. People come to bathe here daily for health. we met an old man who rides his bike 2 miles here every day to bathe. He was in his 90s and said it helped his joints.

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Alexander Hamilton was born in Charlestown Nevis, son of a Scotsman and a Nevian. Later he immigrated to St Croix and eventually made his wa y to the colonies to become the first Secretary of US Treasury. There is a musuem in town to visit.  Our stay was cut short when a tropical disturbance developed so we headed for Antigua.

Antigua has a good harbor named English Harbor for hurricane protection. Our friends on Krow were anchored there so we made a long day of beating to windward. Not a fun day though we passed close by Isle of Redondo and north coast of Montserrat. Hiking up to shirley Heights above the harbor had beautiful vistas and tall gorgeous  century plants. We used this tree in the VI for our Christmas tree. Lots of sheep and goats wandering around up here too.

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After a week of sight seeing we headed on to Guadeloupe and Ile de Saintes. But another tropical disturbance was predicted for later that week so we stayed only one night and pushed off again for the south. We sailed past Dominica not stopping but sailing in close so we could enjoy the views. This island is so dramatic and beautiful but has no harbor to provide any protection so we need to keep going.

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We made it to Marigot Bay St Lucia and picked up a mooring ball here.  It was not long before Jah Man came out to the boat to sell us some fruits and veg.

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Next morning we sailed past the Pitons.

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Each day we are sailing about 60 miles southward in order to be in Martinique by weeks end as they have a good hurricane harbor in Le Marin. We hated sailing past all these beautiful spots but it is hurricane season. We have been to all these places before and remind ourselves of all the great hikes and explores we have done. At least we are not sailing past them in the dark but get to enjoy the beauty.

Next day we sail to St Pierre Martinique at the base of Mt Pelee. The mountain stands 4600 ft above and back in 1902 the 30,000 inhabitants were killed when the volcano exploded. Only survivor was a guy in jail!! St Pierre at that time was called the Little Paris of West Indies. Today it is a little village.  Pelee here is clear and not in the clouds.  Sailing along the leeward side of these massive mountain islands results in calm sailing with little wave action and it stays deep right up to the shore. We did have lots of rain showers washing off all the salt and collecting rain water for showers.

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I will stop here now and will make the next post on the Round Martinique Race by the native boats called Yole. We head for Trinidad tonight and i will catch up to real time then. We will be in Trinidad for a month or more to do some needed repairs and haul out. Love to all!

 

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Back to the US and British Virgin Islands, Charlie comes to Visit! July 2014

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With much excitement and anticipation we sailed back past Saba Island and Flat Keys and into Honeymoon Bay. Many more boats since Maraki last was there in 1998. But it still is a beautiful spot and so full of memories for us. John used to bring the boys here most weekends while i worked. He taught them to water ski here by pulling them slong the shore. Many birthday parties were held on this beach. It has been developed with a beach bar on each end but it still is a wonderful place.  We found several friends still living and working on Water Island.

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We wandered in and around Haulover now called Subbase Drydock (where John used to work and Maraki was docked).  It has changed a lot as it now has 2 large drydocks and is busy repairing/painting ferries and large ships. It was so good to see how bustling and diverse the business was as well as finding Gene and Mary as well as “little Geno” there. Geno is now taller than his dad and is looking to be the main man. How time flies.  We did not have a lot of time with Gene and Mary but enjoyed a fabulous fish dinner at their house complete with this view and sunset. Many stories and laughs were shared and we are so grateful we could have this night together.

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Cruise ships still come in right beside Subbase Drydocks but the ships have gotten even bigger-like this pic of Oasis of the Seas which may be the largest cruise ship made.

We were excited to be able to have Charlie come for a visit of almost 3 weeks. He was last to St Thomas  in 1998 when we completed our circumnavigation and he was only 10 years old.  He had completed kindergarten at Sibilly school and began 1st grade before we left. So now we wanted to show him around his old haunts. Much of it he did not really remembered but it has changed a lot too. We walked downtown, along Frenchtown , the waterfront and Crown Bay.

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As luck would have it, before we could go out to play with Charlie though we had to fix the anchor windlass and repair a hole in the dinghy.  Charlie hit a sharp metal bit at Haulover and punctured the front tube. Oh well! But then we ready to head for Christmas Cove St James. Moorings have now been put in here but they are  free and you can still anchor. It remains a wonderful idyllic place.   Little St James is now a private island all dressed up but we still snorkeled all around it.

John wanted to test out our dive gear which had not seen any use in the years we  lived in Michigan. So John and Charlie did many dives together and the equipment worked well. The water of the  Virgin Islands is just perfect for snorkeling and diving. The underwater camera got lots of use but ended up dying by the end of Charlie’s stay. It was not for  use under10 feet but they are able to go so much deeper without thinking about that.

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These were taken off Levango Key. The lobster was full of eggs so we had to let her go. Cruz Bay,St John was a must in order to see the next game in the World Cup series. They had $1 well drinks for happy hour during the game????

 

photo 1 (3) Then off to Whistling Key and Maho Bay with a walk over to Cinnamon Bay.

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We got back to Jost Van Dyke and the bubbly pool even though there was very little swell or wave. we hiked up to top of Jost just to get the picture.

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And of course we had to look for Godwin and Foxy. Found Foxy who looks just like he did years ago when he sang for Jim and Mike’s 3rd birthday!

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Lazed away an afternoon watching kiteboarders off of Sandy Cay as well. Life is hard!

Tortola is just a quick sail away so we head to Cane Garden Bay to find the tire swing and Stanleys! However it was no longer there but we had fun watching the locals and even dropped by Callwoods Rum factory.  Interesting floating picnic table craft idea!

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Too many places and stops to go through each one. But we were anxious to get to Virgin Gorda and the baths. Shocking how many boats were there and all on moorings even in summer. Enjoyed the day there and we found it easier to  navigate the steep rocks thanks to the wood stairs they have added. Even OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

found cricket on the beach.

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Underwater is just as beautiful as above the water. We spent hours and hours snorkeling and exploring with Charlie. So much to see!

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And so the days were filled with so much activity, sailing, exploring, snorkeling and diving, reading, cooking, eating, texting!!

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We also saw Rik and Ann on Sandcastle who are still chartering after sooo many years. We had a few meals and drinks and scrabble games as we caught up on the last 20 ish years. Can that figure be right???

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Evenings were lit by beautiful sunsets and moon rises.

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And then it was time to bring Charlie back to St Thomas to fly back to his summer job of teaching sailing to ROTC students in Norfolk. It took very  little adjustment to have him back in his bunk and in  our lives. How special this time has been.  It all passed so quickly and we were sad to say good-bye until Christmas time. We need to be on our way soon across the Anegada Passage towards St Maarten.  We have so enjoyed becoming re-acquainted with the Virgin Islands and if you ever get the chance to sail there, DO IT!!

Puerto Rico June 2014

 

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I have started this segment many times and now it is so long ago that i have forgotten some of the details i like to include. So forgive me for this and i hope to catch up to present day shortly as we are now moving slowly during this most active part of hurricane season. At present i am writing from Grenada.

Finally we made it to Puerto Rico on June 1st and I was excited to be able to use my cell phone again. I know that sounds like a silly thing to be excited for but it meant we could have more spontaneous connections to family and friends.  Truly as enjoyable it is to be cruising again, we miss the daily connections and conveniences of communication with those close to us. So Puerto Rico gave us just a little bit of that communication piece. Anyway, we also knew we needed to keep on moving eastward and we hoped this would be the last month of windward sailing. (As it is now July 26th when this is being written, we know that it was not to be so. We hope we have now made our last all to windward passage for a while.)

We landed on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico in a little town called Boqueron. We crossed the Mona Passage quite pleasantly in company with our Dutch friends on Carina Rose. Boqueron is mostly a beach getaway for Puerto Ricans and we found that beach going in PR was a loud, musical and family oriented affair. The BBQs on the beach were complete with large music speakers, umbrellas, chairs, big food spreads and the whole family of all ages together kicking soccer balls, basketballs, bikes,flying things, etc.

 

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When the weather forecast called for light winds, we pulled the anchor and headed around the corner for Ponce for one night and fuel before pushing on to Salinas midway on the south coast.  We did see large wind farms along the coast. Visibility was often poor due to humidity and sahara dust so some of these photos look washed out.

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Salinas is a large well protected bay that is a safe  shelter for many boats including mangroves for hurricanes.The Salinas Yacht Club provides a  friendly spot for us to land and chill out. Many cruisers  sail in and end up staying months or years. Perhaps that is what happened here?

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By car we drove up in the mountain with our friends on Krow to visit a women Niels had connected with online. She and her husband were cruisers who settled in Puerto Rico and bought a coffee farm called Finca De Seto.  Suzanne still lives here alone as her husband has died and does mostly online selling of her coffee and salsas she makes. Beautiful drive up into the mountains!

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Anything can grow here on the rich soil and plenty of rain water.  A gardeners heaven!!

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After several days of land travel we were ready to push eastward.  Each day we motorsailed as far as we could go and stopped for the night to anchor and relax. Our goal was Vieques and Culebra for the long Fathers day weekend upcoming.  Years earlier John had hid in the mangroves of Culebra to avoid the wrath of Hurricane Hugo. We were hoping to avoid needing it again but we wanted to see what was available if needed. We also dreamed of clear water and some good snorkelling. We found it at an off-island bay where there was great turtle grass and plenty of not shy turtles.

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For Fathers Day we hitch-hiked over the hill to Flamenco Bay and joined lots of Puerto Rican families celebrating with the extended families on the beautiful beach. We met a 94 year old gentleman who had walked the length of the bay by beach which must be 2.5 to 3 miles long. He looked and acted 20 years younger and was so happy and positive and wanted to chat about our life traveling the world.

This tank was beached on Flamenco Beach but if you look closely you will see an ad painted for Pure Michigan?

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The town of Dewey on Culebra was quaint, friendly and picturesque. Our boys had gone to Dewey a few months before we got there and enjoyed the Painkillers, Flamenco Beach as well so we enjoyed thinking of them here together enjoying this paradise.  The sign board outside a restaurant says it all -Open some days Closed others!

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My final picture is of the full moon rising over Vieques! A glorious site. I promise to get right working on the next edition of our returning to the US and British Virgin Islands. So stay tuned and sorry we are so behind. Having tooo much fun i guess!

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Luperon, Dominican republic to Puerto Rico June 2014

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Since leaving the Bahamas we have been traveling the Thorny Path eastward. Going eastward means into tradewinds and currents so we have been moving slowly but that has also given us the time and opportunity to get to know places we found. Such was the case with Luperon. We stayed waiting for good weather which meant light winds and not much northerly swell. Here are some random pictures of the area of Luperon.

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The bay for Luperon is a secure hurricane hole and is surrounded by hills and mountains. We could expect the quick hard rain and then bright sunshine again.

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Nothing is more Dominican than dogs, baseball and sugar cane.  Except maybe Rum! We did tour the Brugal Factory in Puerto Plata.

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Everything grows here including cattle. Here we are shopping for delicious drinkable yogurt and cheese straight from the farmers.

The people of luperon and in fact all over DR were so friendly, wanting to help and make us feel welcomed.  We visited Puerto Plata and Santiago on day trips. Busy cities hustling and bustling but so interesting.  Toured the Amber Museum in PP too.

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Here are the daily sights of Luperon Harbor.  A lucky rainbow over our friends boat named Krow, and this bow-heavy motor boat steaming in to the government dock. The fishing fleet is mostly home built boat actively fishing daily.

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We got our weather wind and motorsailed our way to the Bay of Samana in about 24 hours. We had heard a lot of horror stories about Samana (the town) regarding theft especially of  outboards. So we locked the motor to the boat and used our dinghy as a rowboat and had no problems. The town was full of activities and since the cruise ships were finished for the season we were the target of lots of attention from hustlers. They would do anything , take us anywhere, sell us anything. But they also understood NO when accompanied with a smile. So we got along well with the locals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASamana is a very colorful place, motor scooters with 3 or 4 people on them buzz everywhere. School kids in uniform choose either morning, mid day or night school. Fruits, vegetables,shoes anything you want can be bought on the street.  Locals play dominoes under the shade trees midday.

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Los Haitses National Park is located across the Bay of Samana about 10 miles to the SW from Samana. We sailed over to enjoy a peaceful anchorage and found no one there except for the park ranger. The boat was anchored in 10 feet near to caves, mangrove river and high almost impenetrable cliff sides. Lots of birds nest here in the trees including frigates, pelicans and some unknown to us bird.

 

 

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Can anyone tell us the bird that makes these nest? the opening is on the bottom and the bird is bright yellow with a bit of black, size similar to robin.??

 

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We did see pictographs in the cave as well as carvings from Pre Columbian era.

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Time seems to move quicker than we do so we departed Samana for points east. We did pull into Punta Cana for fuel and one night in a marina. Then off for an overnight sail across the Mona Passage to Boqueron Puerto Rico.  We are excited to be back  in the USA again after a good mild crossing. We will be exploring Puerto Rico as we meander along the south coast on our way to Virgin Islands. We have made great friends and continue to enjoy our travels/meanderings.

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Rum Cay Bahamas to Luperon Dominician Republic-May 2014

Leaving George Town right after the Regatta finished, we headed for Long Island but looking at the weather upcoming decided for us to continue on to Rum Cay. We had heard a lot about Rum and wanted to be able to spend a few days there before heading for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Dominician Republic (DR).

Rum Cay is only 9 miles by 5 miles and has only about 70 people living on it. It has a marina that is not operational at this time- some kind of legal hassles but boats go in and tie up to the docks without having to pay. It has a very tricky entrance , shallow, narrow and with coral heads alongside so we elected to stay outside and dinghy in.

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Art made by the owner was scattered around the marina grounds.

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The mailboat has not come for more than one week so the shelves were mostly empty.However we stopped at the Last Chance grocery they were open! We did buy a loaf of coconut bread made on the island that was delicious.

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Outside was the largest milkweed plant and pod we have ever seen.

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Also saw this brain coral on the shore with these striations we had not seen before.

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Saw sea cotton on the walks.

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A highlight of the stay was going into the marina after the fishing boat had been out fishing. They returned with 6 large mahi mahi and a barracuda

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The shark knew what was to happen next and gathered under the cleaning station. Soon we had 2 lemon shark, a few bull shark and maybe a dozen nurse shark ready to be fed.

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When asked if we wanted any fish, my hand went up and we shared a pan of steaks with a German catamarran named Sud Oest with Chrisian, Angelika and 2 teenagers on board. We had not caught our own Mahi so we were very happy and put several steaks in the freezer for later.

It is a beautiful island with fringing reefs where John shot a large grouper that ran away with his spear. He hunted and hunted for the fish who pulled deep into the coral but never found it. We are sad to lose it but we are moving on to waters that allow our spear gun to be used.

When the weather indicated a lessening in the SE trades, we pulled anchor and started for the Turks and Caicos Islands. We were able to sail eastward the first day but then we lost the wind entirely so motored for 24 hours. It was a trip of 350 miles in the SE direction so we continued to motor/sail to Grand Turk. However just off of Grand Turk our wind came up out of the west!!! So we kept on as we now could sail directly for the DR at 6 knots with wind on the beam. Delightful! By nightfall we were about 35 miles from Luperon and the wind slowly died away to nothing again. We finished up with a 5 hour quiet motor to be able to enter the harbor at 0700 in daylight.

We did have success with fishing – we shared a blackfin tuna with a shark. 1/2 the fish gave us several meals worth and was easier to haul on deck.

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Luperon harbor is a large enclosed bay on the north coast of DR not too far from the Haiti border. It is a small village with a few ex-pats living there. Many sailed in and moved ashore (built on Gringo Hill) and are very happy there. We took a mooring for $3/day and Papo the local entrepreneur helped us with the officials. He speaks decent English and is very willing to sell you any service for a very good price. He also seems to be related to everyone in town.

Checking in to the DR involved seeing no less than 7 different officials but only 3 had to come onboard. All were very pleasant although spoke no English. We are a little rusty at this as well. Each needed a bit of money and dollars were just as good as pesos.

Mosquitos and No-see-ums were reported to be bad when the wind dies so we started out with getting our old screens out and repaired them. We went to a tailor/sewing store to buy a bit of sunbrella for the repairs and ended up buying new foam for our mattresses. Our foam was over 23 years old so it was needed and at about 1/10th the price of foam in the USA.

We try to go for walks in different directions most days and have explored the countryside.
We took a car with another boat to Puerto Plata for the day. Here we visited the Amber Museum, government square and a large grocery store. On the way home we stopped at the local farmer who makes wonderful yogurt which we bought a a gallon of. Also had cheese like gouda,even wrapped in a red wax paper.

A highlight was an excursion we took with 3 other boats to an area about 45 minutes towards Santiago in the mountains that boasted 27 waterfalls to slide, jump or walk through. It was great fun! We had to rent a helmet, lifejacket and 2 guides and then afterwards we had a buffet lunch at the waterfall entrance. The total cost for the 6 hour trip was about $40 US including the transport there and back.

Now we are waiting for the next weather window to move along the north coast of DR through the Mona Passage and on to Puerto Rico. Again it is straight into the tradewinds so we wait for a weather patttern that includes diminished easterlies. Maybe this weekend!

Our new friend in this harbor is a boat called Krow(turned around spells work) newly retired couple from Cairns Australia. Roweena is a neonatal RN with lots of certifications for flight nursing, midwifery and neoICU work. Niels is a pilot whose career was flying for private corporations in mostly the Orient. Fun and interesting people to travel with. They are also heading eastward at least for now. Eventually they will sail back to Australia.

Who knows where Maraki will go next?

George Town, Exuma Bahamas for 61st National Family Island Regatta

George Town is on Great Exuma Island about 150 miles southeast of Nassau and 300 miles from Miami (as the crow flies not as Maraki sails). The harbor (called Elizabeth Harbor on charts) for George Town is defined by Stocking island to the east, Great Exuma to the west and reef with small cays to north and south making for an area of 6 miles N to S and 1.5 miles E to W. It is in this area that the racing was held. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA George Town is a center for winter yacht gatherings for southern Bahamas and we estimate that easily 150 yachts of all sizes and nationalities were at anchor in this harbor during the time we were there. We hear that at peak season which is Jan-Feb the number swells to double that. There are a few marinas in the harbor also but most of the boats are anchored. Most services can be found here including repairs, shopping for basics food stuff, restaurants, bars and services like laundry. We timed our arrival to be there for the Family Island Regatta which we last attended in 1983. My sister Cook and her husband Geoff joined us then and Cook sent me photos of what the area was like back then. The only noticeable difference is the number of cruising boats in the harbor. The history of the regatta dates back to March 1954 while the Bahamas was under the British flag. The purpose as state  d in the original memorandum was “to give a sailing regatta to encourage the building and maintainence of the sailing fleet. The races are exclusively for working boats of the Bahamas island and the timing was scheduled to not interfere with the fishing season on which the livelihood of the fisherman depends”. Today the fisherman get paid to bring their boats here and the winner gets prize money. Most of the boats from farther islands were brought as deck cargo on 3 local freighters. Quite a sight seeing these boats arrive. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All boats must be made of wood in the traditional manner. All sails are made entirely of cotton. The boats are placed into 5 different classes based on a few measurements. They are not one design. Today the boats do not have to be actively used in the fishing industry. Class A for example are sloops about 28 feet long and have up to 60 foot mast and 32 foot boom carrying a large main. They sail with 12-15 crew members and they can have up to 4 non Bahamian crew members. IMGA0893  IMGA0872  IMGA0881  IMGA0867 Class B sloops are 21 ft on deck, Class C,D and E are cat rigged and of smaller lengths (17 ft and less). IMGA0811  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA All the boats are brightly painted and proudly display the island of which they are from-Acklins, Long, Abacos, Staniel Blackpoint, Nassau, e          OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Boats use a pry board( or up to 3 boards for class A) for hiking the boats. The board is slid from side to side when tacking and however many crew are needed to balance the boats are on the board. If the boat tips over, as happened in one race after a collision at a buoy rounding, it will sink quite quickly. However the bay is never more than 15 or so feet and the water is crystal clear so recovery was just a matter of time and effort. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  IMGA0833  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For the sailors reading this we wanted to give you an idea of the type of boats and Rules/Regs of the regatta. A quote from the original NOR “We believe the good sport of sailing should be fun and the complicated racing rules used in Yacht racing are more conducive of acrimonious argument than they are of fun.” Maybe something to learned from here???? Therefore the basic rules of racing are the same (like port/starboard rules) with changes like a downwind boat must pass 3 boat lengths to windward of opponent and the leeward boat is not allowed to luff up another off the course. The race committee could be heard enforcing these rules during the races much like on the water judges would be during stateside racing. Each class sailed one race each day for 3 days and the course was generally a triangle with 2 or 3 laps. A major difference is all starts were from anchor with sails down along a defined line. The starting sequence was a one minute gun for warning and then a gun to go. At that time the anchor(4 pronged grappling hooks) was hauled up as quickly as possible and the sails hoisted. No winches on these boats, used only manpower. IMGA0840  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Many Bahamians enjoy watching the races from shore and are very animated including betting on who wins. They are happy to share what they think about who is best, who is winning and show fierce pride in their favorite. The noise of the crowd gets loud and spirited at key moments like the starts and finishes. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Onshore a regatta village was constructed and featured continuous loud music from speakers from late morning till dawn but we were anchored far enough away to only be aware of it, not annoyed by it. The village featured food and drink by locals and was well attended by local and tourists. Conch salad, fish, chicken and pork were sold and was delicious. We met a well known BOC raceboat designer named Roger Martin here and shared stories over local Bush Crack beer. He sailed to the Bahamas on a lightweight shallow draft (about 18 inches with boards and rudder up) cat ketch that he trailers to Miami from Rhode Island. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the final day we attended the parade which was the local all age school band complete with majorette and a team of dancing girls.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA     Following that were the Bahamas Police Band from Nassau that the Bahamians referred to as world famous! They are on the $1 bill too. They were a great performance to watch and hear. Those are leopard skins worn over the shoulders. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Trophy presentation at night turned into many political speeches by the various party members and then a brief awarding of the winner trophies by class. John stayed through all the presentation while I returned to a friends boat for cocktails and dinner. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We also spent a bit of time each day exploring the islands around the harbor. Good hikes up to Momument and over to the ocean beaches were part of our daily exercise plan. We attended a very good talk by a local Bahamian on the history of the Exumas and the Bahamas. He also talked about local herbs and their usage for medicine to heal stomach aches, head aches, and any other ailment. At the Chat and Chill we played checkers outdoors and bocce balls. A permanent volleyball net was available and had regulars who played on that beach. The signpost already had an entry for Muskegon Mi on there and stated that it was 1,485 miles away. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many cocktail hours and dinners were spent with friends. Gary and Kathe on Tribasa Cross.

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LaVonne and Donald on Cats Meow, a unique 76 foot catamaran from Virginia. This boat was bought in Miami at auction after it was seized for drugs. The then owner had run marihuana and hash oil from Jamaica to Georgia for about 20 years before getting caught.

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We enjoyed hearing their stories and making new friends. LaVonne is a collector of “unique” art she finds on her beach walks. I learned a new way of looking at collectibles from her.

Carina Rose with Wil and Loes(she is named Louise but called Loes just like me!) from Curacao. They will be traveling back to Curacao after a cruise up to Maine and the east coast so we hope to see them again.

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So this is what cruising is all about and we have enjoyed our time in the Bahamas very much. We have made the 350ish miles in a south east direction to Luperon, Dominican Republic. This looks and feels like a whole new world from the Bahamas. We are excited to be exploring here and will spend a week or so here. Next onward along the north coast of DR to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. That will be for the next post. Hope all is well with our family and friends and we miss you. However spring time has come we hear to the USA after a long tough winter so time for all you sailors to get your boats out and go racing and sailing again. Fair Winds to you!

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Exuma chain of the Bahamas March-April 2014

The Exuma chain is oriented mostly north -south from Nassau and consists of 365 cays(islands) over 90 miles. None are tall, all are quite dry and have lots of beautiful white sand beaches. All have crystal clear water and relatively shallow. Not a lot of towns but there are some settlements which appears to be small villages.

We entered the Exuma chain at Highbourne Cay from southern Eleuthera and had a wonderful sail across under our asymetrical spinnaker.

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Many of these islands are private islands and appear to be for the very wealthy. However we are able to anchor off them and on many we can land a dinghy for limited access. Lots of huge mega yachts abound as well.

Just north of Highbourne is Leaf Cay and Allan’s Cay which together form a pretty secure anchorage for a few boats. Their claim to fame is a species of iguana that is not found anywhere else in the world. They are used to people feeding them so they approach anyone coming on to the beach.

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We did sit out some weather fronts here. Beautiful sunsets and weather pictures of course to set the scene.

One night was quite ugly and a large yacht named Salesmanship ended up on the rocks just in front of us. All turned out ok for them but they needed to be salvaged off and towed back to Florida. The guests and crew were ferried to shore in the early morning and flown back home only one day into their vacation
A vivid reminder of what can happen.

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We travelled south on the banks side in shallow water for many miles until we reached The Exuma Land and Sea Park. Snorkeling throughout the park was spectacular as the sea life is protected. We saw lobsters as big as a small child as well as groupers and lots of fish. Normally these are wary of people and you need to peer under rocks and ledges to see them but here they are wandering in the open and unafraid of people. underwater pictures are challenging unless you have great equipment but we have included what we were able to capture.

Warderick Wells, park headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park (ELASP) does not allow anchoring so we took a mooring. It has fast currents and limited space so mooring is best anyway. There is a narrow strip of water deep enough for us and the colors of the water are so vivid. Notice the dark strip behind John and that is the part that is deeper.

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ELASP is 22 miles long and 8 miles wide. It encompasses many cays. There is no fishing, spearing or taking of any thing from the park area.

We did do several hikes on the island including to Boo Boo Hill where people bring “Art” -their boat name written on natural canvas like drift wood etc.

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We met new cruising buddies here and have enjoyed their company as well as many stories and drinks/meals. The name is Tribasa Cross with Gary and Kathe board. Finally we have a buddy boat that draws more than Maraki! T.C. hails from New Mexico and has plenty of their own stories to add.

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Continuing south in the Land and Sea Park we anchor in Cambridge Cay. Another very protected anchorage and find our buddies from the Erie Canal again on a boat named Saltine with Donna and Scott from Minnesota on board. When the canal was shut down they trucked their boat to Georgia and we have not seen them till here. Here we are diving with them and Scott wanted his picture taken!

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We hiked/scrambled up on Bell Rock which juts up out of the deep water on the Atlantic side giving a great view from the top. We have heard that one of these islands is owned by Johnny Depp and another by Aga Khan so it is high priced real estate.

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Lots of great snorkeling and hiking with new friends and boats to meet. Happy hour on a sand bar attracted 50 plus people including a lady I meet whose grand kids went to Charlie’s school in Norfolk and she knew Charlie! Small world.

Next stop was Big Majors off of Staniel Cay and the famous swimming pigs.
These pigs (i counted 4 adults and 16 piglets) live on the island and are so well feed by visiting boats and the locals as well. They must have great pig roasts here. I am told the pigs love beer but at $42 /case we did not share with them.

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James Bond’s movie from the 70’s named Thunderball was filmed here and we dove the cave at low tide. John got some beautiful Queen Angelfish pictures.  Most times I get cold before John so I warm up on the dinghy tubes.

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Every sail we fished and hoped for dinner but we did not do very well in the fish catching department here. All meat and foodstuff is very expensive in the the Bahamas so we always try to supplement our supply from the sea. lobster season also ended April 1st so that hunt is over for now.

 

Next island stop was Blackpoint Settlement on Great Guana Cay. it is known to be one of the friendliest places for cruising boats in the Exumas. The anchorage is large, crystal clear and deep enough. the laundry is raved about by cruiser because it is modern, clean, very scenic and has free wifi. What more could we ask for?? We went to the local school fundraiser which was a chicken, pork or hamburger dinner on Saturday afternoon. The school has about 40 kids for pre-k through 12 th grade. The settlement is only about 300 people. We would have stayed longer but the weather forecast was for westerlies coming in and that is the direction that is not protected.

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So onward towards Georgetown where we will hold up waiting for the Family Island Regatta April 22through 26. This regatta will get a separate blog post with many pictures and explanations for the sailors in this group. Hopefully while we still have some internet access. That is all for now.

Surfing March 2014

The day finally arrived when our son Jim was due to come for a 2 week visit from Puerto Rico. We arranged to meet him at the Green Parrot in downtown Nassau at 7PM. We had a Kalik beer and conch fritters waiting when he arrived sporting his surfboard and one small backpack. Looking very tired but tanned, blond and happy. 20140415-190440.jpg Jim has probably never spent this long with just his parents and no siblings. So this time was going to be spent doing what Jim most wanted to do. Snorkel, surf and relax!

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Next morning we were off (after picking up a new dive mask and fins) to Rose Island only a short distance from Nassau. It did not take long and those two (John and Jim) intrepid hunters found a spiny lobster for the dinner pot. A few hours later they found a slipper lobster too. So we had a delicious dinner and taste tested the two kinds of lobsters. Slipper was slightly sweeter but both great tasting! 20140415-191046.jpg 20140415-191115.jpg 20140415-191421.jpg He tried to get in and surf off of Sandy Cay next door to Rose but decided it was not too good. Our goal was to get to Hatchet Bay Eleuthera and show Jim the place we had been a week earlier for surfing. The trip across the bank to Eleuthera turned into a motorsail but gave us opportunity to get some good Maraki pictures.

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We were also hoping to meet up with Meridian(Chad and Drew) and Orial C (Glen and Deb) from our long trip out the Erie Canal and ICW trek.                                                 
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Glen and Deb on Orial C

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The surfing hotspot was a 3 or so mile hike from the harbor which turned into a hitchhike for them. John and I biked down most days. Hitching is a very normal and acceptable way for folks to get around the island. Only on the weekends did it prove to be slow and not so successful.   Several days in a row the boys spent the bulk of the day at the shore surfing.
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View from above to watch the surf in the shade.
The 3 amigos heading for home after a long good day!

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Local surfer restaurant sporting awesome knick-knacks.   A cold one on the way home for all!

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We did go to Hatchet Caves and snorkel in the salt pond as well. The pond was actually quite large and had lots of small seahorses along the mangroves. The caves went in for maybe half mile made of limestone. We made it a one way trip and came out a rope ladder into a field at the other end.

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Jim tried fishing and almost gave up thinking there were no fish to be had. But these pictures showed his success.

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We had crab claws for dinner one night (bought from a local fisherman).

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John got a spider crab which provided a wonderful dinner. Finally John was able to get a grouper and another lionfish too on his hawaiian sling. We ate very well off the sea ! There was good snorkeling just outside of the harbor and we took some underwater pictures.

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Jim was returning to Nassau by Southern Air from Governors Harbor Eleuthera so we rented a car for the day before. That is a story in itself but we did get a Dodge Caravan with 200,000 plus miles on it to sight see the island. We wanted to show Jim the Glass Window which we had seen years before on our return trip to USA in 1998. Jim did not remember it until we got there and then he had some memory of it. It was a great day to be there as the north swell and east wind were up. The glass window is a road over the narrow part of the island with Atlantic on one side and Eleuthera Banks on the other.       IMG_0423                        IMG_0435

This is the Atlantic side crashing onto shore.

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The bridge crosses north to south and Jim is standing overlooking the banks side where it is calm and serene.  The water rushes under the road and at times of high wind and swell the road may have to be closed.

All too soon is was  time to send Jim back to Puerto Rico. So this post ends with a few family pictures of John, Jim and Lucy.

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Next up is the Exumas in the Bahamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bahamas Part 2

So I start off Part 2 still in New Providence but now we have moved to Nassau. I never thought we would go to Nassau but we have lots of time and know we can anchor there in the heart of the city (about 200,00 people. ) The anchorage we chose is next door to the cruise ship dock and daily 3-5 ships land at our doorstep. It is entertaining to have some of the largest cruise ships in the world so near by.
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We are also at the entrance to Atlantis, a huge family entertainment and gaming resort with marina and hotels themed on the Lost Continent of Atlantis. This is actually located on Paradise Island across from Nassau. We managed to wander around much of the resort including a aquarium with shark, reef, all sorts of fish swimming with plate glass windows the size of huge rooms.
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John also found his next boaT!
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We did do some of the tourist things like walking up the Queens Staircase- 54 hand carved steps
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and wandering Fort Charlotte overlooking the harbor from the 1700’s.
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After being in the city for a few days, we longed for the pristine waters and beaches. Luckily Nassau has several small islands not far away, Rose Island is only about 7 miles east and out we headed for snorkeling, beach combing and peace. Did i mention the currents running through Nassau harbor? Wind against current has become my least favorite combination and Nassau had it coming on.
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Northward we sailed toward Northern Eleuthera and Royal Island. Royal Island today has only a few ruins from the 11970 era and one new exclusive small resort that runs about $15,000/night for 4 guests. Obviously for the rich and famous not us! We were told we were allowed on the island but only east of the dock. We did enjoy our peaceful walks amongst ruins.
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We also killed our first lionfish here and found it to be delicious white, mild meat.20140415-172910.jpg  These fish are an invasive species and should be killed. They are venomous as well so care is needed to cut off 18 spines without getting stung. The remaining meat is excellent.

 

The island of Eleuthera is 90 miles long and only 2-3 miles in most places. It is a more pastoral place seeming to have more water than many other island groups. In the past century, the island grew lots of vegetables and fruits primarily pineapples. it also had dairy and beef cattle as well as chickens. We are not sure what happened to this industry. Now they are trying to bring back this farming and advertise it as “organic”. We appreciated this effort as we needed the produce. More on Eleuthera to come as we return here with our son Jim so he could surf. It is also known for its surf areas.

We were able to dinghy the 4 miles from Royal to the town of Spanish Wells which is a neat and orderly little fishing and mariners community of white Bahamians. Here you could buy most everything we needed in a small area. The area is shallow and beautiful and we picked up a mooring because there is no swinging room for anchoring. We rode our bikes all around the island enjoying their color schemes on the houses and colorful flower gardens.
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Next we sailed through Current Cut and into Eleuthera Bight. We wanted to check out some spots we thought Jim would like to visit when he arrived.We had heard that Hatchet Bay was a good place to surf so we headed there. Hatchet Bay was a salt pond until the limestone cliffs were cut back in 1940s.
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The cut is said to be 90 feet wide(looks more like 60) and offers all around protection from any weather. It is deep enough for lots of boats and has moorings put there by the government. The little town of Alice Town with maybe 200 people was very friendly and welcoming. So we stayed just long enough to know that we needed to return with Jim and headed back to Nassau to pick him up.

We leave off again with just a few fishing pictures which substantiates our fish stories.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is a barracuda that we did not eat because of concerns regarding ciguetera. Just needed to get him off our hook.

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John had to fight for this Jack that almost got eaten by another fish, likely a shark. What a fisherman!!!!

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Oh how we love the Bahamas Feb-March 2014

Here I sit in Blackpoint laundry using their washing machines and free WIFI. I need to go back 2 months and update all the fun and adventures we have had. The internet service has been at times non-existent but we were having too much fun anyway to try to search it out.
Backtrack to early February and we quickly get ready to leave Key West to cross over to Bimini Bahamas in the next 24 hours because a change in the weather is forecasted. so we fill the water tanks, fuel tanks and reprovision as much food and drink as we can reasonably hold and set off in a very calm sea.

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The crossing of the Gulf Stream from Key West to Bimini is about 120 miles NE and we hope to utilize the 2-3 knots of current in the Gulf Stream to arrive in Bimini in daylight the next day. We motored and motored sailed and arrived as planned. Lots of ship traffic were encountered as we crossed tracks with ships heading into and out of Miami’s busy port. By morning we are off of Bimini and entered and clear Customs easily. It was so beautiful there and the wind we had anticipated was coming so we pulled into Browns Marina and stayed for the night. Cocktails and potluck dinner was enjoyed. The next morning we had dramatic waves and seas to watch from the safety of the marina.
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After a few days of Bimini we headed to Gun Cay to snorkel and explore before heading across the Bahamas Banks.
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This is miles and miles of sand with 10-15 feet of crystal clear water covering it. Again a light wind motor sailing crossing where we caught some mackerel and kept hoping for more. But there is not a lot of fish to be caught here. by night fall we were off of Chub Cay in the Berry Island group. We did a landing after dark which we always try to avoid but sometimes can’t be helped. We had thought to anchor just off the banks at dusk but found large discrepancy between our charts and our depth sounding so we opted to not risk it.
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West Bay on New Providence was our next port of call.We were looking for a place to land near the airport for picking up our son Jim in a few weeks. We biked around the south and west side of New Providence which is much less inhabited and seems to cater to the rich and famous. The Lyford Cay peninsula had this almost Disneyesque looking resort? private home on the point.
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On the SW side of New Providence was a terminal port for oil delivery but historically it was used in the slave trade. here you see a cut into rocks staircase that was used to bring slaves ashore.
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Also located in West Bay was the Clifton Heritage Park which had a great spot for viewing birds.
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This is a sculpture made from casaurina wood called the Sacred Ladies.
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Very cool sculpture!!
But that is enough blogging for now. I will leave you with this full moon thought and a promise to continue this tomorrow.
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