Cruising Headquarters

After sailing south from Black Point, we were entering the southern Exumas, with our southernmost stop being George Town on Great Exuma. A short sail on the bank, less than ten miles, led us to Little Farmers Cay, our staging point for our trip to George Town. With a total population of about 50 residents, Little Farmers Cay was the smallest settlement we visited.

There are several anchoring options here, including both the east and west sides of the island. We chose to anchor just east of the yacht club, just off the channel between Little Farmers Cay and Great Guana Cay. This turned out to be quite an interesting place to anchor: the holding was excellent (Troy was in heaven); the anchor disappeared in the soft sand. The current however, was incredibly strong due to the proximity to Farmers Cut. Every six hours, the boat did complete 180-degree swings as the tides changed. The current determined which way the boat pointed, not the wind. There were times that, although we had 70 feet of chain out, the anchor lay beside or even near the stern of the boat…a little unsettling, but after a few tide changes, we knew we were good to go. Troy and I visited Ty’s Sunset Bar and Grill and enjoyed a few Kaliks on the west side of the island.

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One evening, we went to the yacht club for drinks with Lyle and Sheryl from SV Bacchus, who we met at Black Point. We enjoyed time with friends and talking to the yacht club’s owner, Mr. Roosevelt Nixon, a member of the original settling family. His stories and friendliness made us feel right at home. He told us that nearly everyone on the island is related, part of the original family or in-laws.

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The next day, as we waited for Farmers Cut to calm for our exit onto the Exuma Sound, we made a dinghy trip north to hike to a large cave with saltwater pools. The trail was interestingly marked with a hard hat and rocks…I started to second guess my flipflop choice…were hardhats a hint??

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After about twenty minutes, we arrived at the cave’s entrance. We made it…without hardhats! The cave was much larger than I expected and as soon as we lowered inside, carefully avoiding loose rocks, we felt the temperature drop…still humid as can be, but cooler. The wind noise diminished, and it was eerily quiet…except for the flapping of bats…lots of bats! They mostly stayed in their inverted position at the roof of the cave, only flying by every so often. We climbed the rocks and explored the cave, peering as far as we could into the saltwater pools. We’ve heard that divers can dive the pools and swim underground quite a ways…not for us, we stayed topside.

A night later, the trickiness of the current in the anchorage posed a problem for another boat. Before sunset, there were two other boats nearby us, forming a lopsided triangle…enough space to turn with the currents. Another boat arrived and decided to drop anchor right in the middle of our nice, well-spaced triangle. We instantly became concerned: when slack tide (the short time in between tides) comes, the boats become confused and turn unpredictably. This new boat was too close for comfort; we dinghied over to let them know about the current and that their proximity to other boats may cause a problem. We kept an eye out luckily and when slack tide came, the new boat began moving in the direction of one of the other boats. With the owners nowhere in sight, Troy called out to the couple, who were below deck. They scrambled to the deck and moved their boat before colliding with our neighbor. Had Troy not called out, they would’ve hit, ruining the day for everyone.

Sunday, the weather was right for our long haul to George Town. The winds slowed and the cut was calm (as calm as a cut can be, anyway); we exited onto the Exuma Sound during an ebb tide without issue. We motored south to George Town, the winds were virtually nonexistent so our 40-mile trip was hot! Dark clouds loomed, but luckily stayed away and we weren’t faced with a squall.

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We arrived in George Town after a seven-hour trip, dropping anchor at Monument Point, the first of many anchorages in Elizabeth Harbor. The most popular anchorage is in front of Chat n’ Chill, but we prefer a spot less crowded. We would definitely be spending time at Chat n’ Chill, but we didn’t mind a short dinghy ride to save us from the crowded anchorage. George Town is situated on the western side of Elizabeth Harbor, with Stocking Island acting as a barrier island and the spot for most of the anchorages on the east side.

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We were pumped to be in George Town. It is the spot in the Exumas that most cruisers aim to reach before heading back north. It is also a full-service stop complete with two grocery stores, marine stores, laundromat, the customs and immigration office, airport, a wide assortment of restaurants, hotels/resorts, etc. Some cruisers stay for months or even the entire season; we met a couple who had been there since December! Most come and go after a few weeks or maybe a month; we stayed for a week and a half. We made plenty of trips to Chat n’ Chill, the hangout spot for cruisers (day and night), to hang out with friends, play games, eat, drink, and even play some volleyball.

We made it to George Town just after the annual regatta (and passed a ship carrying racing boats out the day we arrived). Around this time, many cruisers have already begun their journey back, we passed another wave of cruising boats headed north on our trip down. Even then, there were possibly 200 or more boats across the various anchorages. We recognized many boats that we’ve crossed paths with during our trip south in the Exumas.

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I think we brought the rain with us to George Town…we had days and days of rain and clouds. It made dinghy trips across the harbor to George Town very, very wet and bumpy. If it was calm and sunny, the dinghy trip took about 10 minutes but add wind, rain, and heavy jerry cans of water and it became longer…luckily we remembered our rain jackets, usually.

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Speaking of water…George Town is very cruiser friendly. Exuma Market (the main grocery store) offers a free dinghy dock inside of Lake Victoria (a protected lake for small boats, accessible through a narrow bridge) and free water to cruisers. We were able to fill our jerry cans from the dinghy without lugging them to and from a spigot! Along with refilling water, we also reprovisioned at the grocery stores, picked up a few marine supplies, refilled our propane, and had our tourist visas extended. We almost always ran into familiar faces during our trips in town…the dinghy dock was always a conversation spot!

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Troy and I hiked to the top of monument beach on Stocking Island and had awesome 360-degree views. Standing atop, we were able to see the peaceful and calm waters of Elizabeth Harbor and the intense waves and surf of the sound side…quite a difference; I’m thankful Salty Tails rested in the tranquil waters of the harbor. We strolled along the beach; Troy even waited patiently as I dug in the sand for sea glass.

We took Ginnie with us on one of our hikes; we tired before she did! She was ready to play in the sand and surf and even found a coconut to serve as her ball…she’s not picky.

After making one final provisioning run, we were ready to say goodbye to George Town. In the morning, we would retrace our path back to Little Farmers Cay and begin our journey north through the Exumas.

Home Away from Home

Our next stop heading south was the anchorage at Black Point on the northern end of Great Guana Cay. It is the second most populated settlement in the Exumas after George Town, home to about 250 residents. The anchorage itself is quite roomy, we counted thirty-five boats on the busiest night during our stay. Strong northeast winds were in the forecast, so this spot would provide us with the protection we needed. Although we couldn’t get tucked up close to the beach, waves did not have the opportunity to build and rock us around because of the shallow sandbar that extended far out from the beach.

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We hadn’t made it to shore before a squall hit the area. Lasting only twenty minutes, the dark clouds encroached upon us, dropped some heavy rain, and cleared up in time for sunset. I was looking forward to checking out the laundry facility; we had heard that it is the best in the Exumas. The next morning, we arrived at the laundry facility with two loads to do…we also brought along our laptop, iPad, and cell phones hoping to connect to the free Wi-Fi. We learned that the laundromat also sells basic marine supplies, snacks, and T-shirts. The shaded pavilion just outside the laundromat seemed to be a cruiser’s hangout. We met several cruiser couples and families and made plans to meet for Happy Hour at Scorpio’s that evening. We chatted and surfed the net while we waited for our laundry…all with a great view of the anchorage.

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That night and the next night were spent at Scorpio’s enjoying 2 for 1 Rum Punches, sharing stories and experiences with other cruisers. On Saturday, cruisers met again for the cruiser dinner at Lorraine’s café. We had a great time hanging out with our new friends and enjoying hamburgers, hotdogs, wings, fries, rum punch, vodka lemonade…all you can eat/drink…for only $20 per person! It was dark out by the time we left Lorraine’s, but rather than heading back to Salty Tails, we decided to entertain an offer from another boat in the anchorage. Along with Jess and Brent from SV Seaduction, we headed over to Beacon Won in our dinghies. After tying up amongst several other dinghies, we climbed aboard. Captain Bruce built the nearly 70-foot vessel himself five years ago. The sailboat is used to charter youth groups, educational trips, and mission trips, etc. We toured this fascinating vessel and explored everything from the galley, helm, engine room, and sleeping accommodations and then swapped stories on the stern upper deck. Finally, we headed back to the boat to settle in for the windiest night.

After the weekend concluded, we were really starting to feel at home. The friendly people of Black Point were warm and welcoming. We often found ourselves stopped in the street talking with the locals about the island, our plans, sailing, the upcoming regatta in George Town…just like old friends. Even the kids of Black Point share the adults’ charming qualities. Dressed in their green school uniforms, they always waved, smiled, and said hi on their way to or from school. And on weekends, boys and girls often played near the water or on the docks, fearless of the nurse sharks swimming nearby. The settlement was much more laid back and quiet compared to Staniel Cay, no mega yachts here. The settlement offers free RO water (reverse osmosis) for cruisers, just another example of their great hospitality. We had plans to leave early in the next week, but we ended up staying for a total of 15 nights! The next week was spent exploring the town, completing maintenance jobs, and hanging out with friends. Between the awesome cruiser community and the locals, we definitely recommend Black Point!

Since we had tried out the two restaurants, we of course, had to try out the third: Deshamons. I tried the conch burger, Troy had a hamburger…both excellent! That afternoon, we stopped by the home of Lorraine’s Mom. She baked and sold the most delectable homemade bread, renowned around the Exumas. We enjoyed eating pieces of the coconut bread on our walk back to the dinghy dock. I froze a few pieces in effort to make it last longer!

A day or two later, the mailboat arrived. When you read mailboat, think floating semi-truck, for size comparison. Because the Exumas are far from Nassau, island communities receive their goods via mailboats that come approximately three times per month. When the mailboat arrives, everyone comes out to unload. Trucks, golf carts, and helpful hands work into the night unloading and sorting goods and supplies. I even spotted a little guy walk away with a new pet bunny! I was just as excited, the next day we rode over and loaded up on fresh fruits and veggies from Adderley’s Friendly store.

Nearing the end of our time in Black Point, we decided to take a dinghy ride north to Gaulin Cay to visit the caves and iguanas. We crossed over Dotham cut, which was still pretty churned up from the strong winds that had been blowing through. We drug the dinghy ashore and enjoyed the beach to ourselves. Afterwards, on our way back to the boat, we explored the mangroves just inside the cut and discovered a beached sailboat. The last registration sticker dated 2015, but the harsh saltwater had taken its toll, making it appear the boat had been there for quite some time.

After some planning, we decided that our next stop would be Little Farmers Cay, just at the southern end of Great Guana, 10 miles south. We were sad to leave; Black Point has made a special place in our hearts…we will be back!

French Fries, Sharks, and Piggies, Oh My!

Staniel Cay, our first island outside of the Land and Sea Park, is a bustling settlement with the epicenter being Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We headed south from Cambridge Cay to reprovision: we needed gas, water, and groceries…and planned on treating ourselves to lunch at the yacht club. We decided to anchor on the western side of Big Majors Spot, the cay just northwest of Staniel Cay. Here, rather than be in the be in the path of boats entering the yacht club, we’d be a 10-minute dinghy ride from Staniel Cay. We would be able to resupply and fill up our jerry cans while being anchored in a place that offered several pretty beaches as well as Pig Beach!

We entered the anchorage from the east and settled in the back of the pack: this was the most crowded anchorage we have experienced so far. Cruising boats dominated the anchorage, but there were quite a few large mega yachts off the southern point. Now that we’ve been cruising for a few months, we are beginning to recognize sailboats we have seen along our way south. Several of these familiar “faces” were anchored here as well.
Our first full day was spent doing chores. First up: filling the water cans and gas cans and getting rid of trash. We took the dinghy…full of cans and trash bags over to the yacht club. Our dinghy may not have been a pretty sight, but the views along the way were! The water was crystal clear, we spotted coral heads and several nurse sharks along the way. We paid $0.40 per gallon for water and $7.00 per bag of trash…expensive, but a necessity. The yacht club seems to be a haven for nurse sharks; countless sharks hang around the docks regularly until the fish cleaning station is in use (aka feeding time).

We were just thankful to have full water tanks and be free of trash (nowhere in the Land and Sea Park is there a place to dispose of trash). Diesel and gas were priced as we expected, roughly $5.00 per gallon. Loading and unloading 20 gallons worth or gas/diesel was a sweaty workout!
Next up: laundry, groceries, and propane! Three convenience stores can be found on Staniel Cay: Isles General (conveniently located in a canal with its own dock), the Blue Store, and the Pink Store. We visited all three…you never know what one store may carry and the others may not. All three stores are well-stocked with staples. We loaded up on fresh fruits and veggies at Isles General, along with dropping off one propane tank to be filled. Isles General also has some basic marine supplies and DVD rentals. We found our favorite tortilla chips and other necessities at the Blue and Pink stores. We noticed these stores had more of a variety than Isles General but were a further walk.

The yacht club has a beach just for landing dinghies. This was great: it was free, near the laundromat, and just outside the restaurant (French fries, here we come!). The laundromat on Staniel Cay is clean and in a newer building just a short walk from the yacht club. We hadn’t done laundry since Nassau, so we had two big loads needing to be washed. We paid about $20 for both. Do you know what else is at the laundromat? The liquor store! We restocked our rum supply while our clothes finished up then headed over to the yacht club for lunch.

In preparation for our trip, we ate all meals at home…this would be our first meal out in over six months! We took a seat in the bar area, tucked our clean laundry under our seats, and immediately ordered drinks: Troy had a Kalik (Bahamian beer) and I had a frozen mango daquiri…heaven! Next up: a cheeseburger and fries for Troy and a giant Chef Salad for me. We probably looked like starving sailors; we scarfed our food down, barely speaking. That hit the spot!

That evening, feeling like little piggies, we headed over to the beach on Big Majors Spot to see the famous swimming pigs. After watching tour boat after tour boat unload tourists onto Pig Beach to feed them, we decided the evening would be a safe time to go…my hope was that the pigs would be nice and full and therefore, less pushy. Armed with apple cores, carrots, and other veggie scraps, we climbed out of the dinghy. Most of the bigger pigs lay passed out on the beach, not seeming too interested in us, thankfully.

We noticed a sign on the beach that says: Mama Karma will bite your butt! Hopefully Mama Karma was somewhere sleeping and dreaming of tomorrow’s visitors! One large, wiry, gray-haired pig approached and was surprisingly, very patient. She opened her mouth and waited for food to be dropped down without stepping on my toes.

The baby piglets were our favorite and since they are often pushed out of the way by bigger pigs, we made sure they got a fair helping! The beach was really a sight: pigs lay scattered over the beach sleeping and grunting, roosters peck around at scraps, other pigs find anything they can to rub and scratch their bodies along, and baby piglets hop in and out of their raised wooden pen.

We spent five nights at Big Majors and we had guests under the boat every night. Five large remora called our bottom home. The stayed suctioned to our keel (and had blue paint on their heads to prove it) until I dropped crackers in the water to feed them. Soon, expecting crackers regularly, anytime we’d walk on deck, they’d come out circling and splashing.

The remora took off for a bit on the afternoon we cleaned Salty Tails’ bottom. That’s when we met Stanley! He was another resident who lived in our rudder shaft during our time here. He’d circle our swim ladder before darting back to safety.

That afternoon was the first time we had cleaned the bottom. Even after three months, all that was needed was a light scrubbing; no barnacles and hard growth needed to be removed. I helped for a while, but Troy did the vast majority of the work. Soon, she was nice and clean!
We enjoyed our final night with the dogs on the cruiser’s beach at the northern end of Big Majors. Over time, cruisers have added a swing, picnic table, chairs, and a grill to the beach, for all to use. No one was there that evening, so we enjoyed the sunset with just the four of us.

Exuma Land and Sea Park, Part II

Next up in the Land and Sea Park: Cambridge Cay! Cambridge is the last major cay of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We set sail southbound and since it was a smooth ride, we decided to investigate a little “problem” we had been experiencing while underway. For the last few sails, our bilge pump would cut on and expel some water. We weren’t sure where the water was getting in, but we had our fingers crossed that it would be a simple fix. Something like that could potentially be a major issue, but since the bilge cut on only while underway and only pumped out a small amount of water, Troy had a hunch that it may be one of a few minor problems. We emptied two of the lazarettes in the cockpit, allowing us to see the hoses to our cockpit floor drains. A small stream of water (imagine a water fountain), came through a pinhole in one hose.

Since water only comes that far up the hose when heeled, it only leaked while underway. YES! We had found our problem…and it was by far the easiest fix. Troy repaired the leak: now the water would stay outside! After reorganizing the cockpit, we enjoyed the rest of our sail to Cambridge Cay.

As we entered the protected anchorage, we were hailed on our VHF radio by the mooring attendants…all the mooring balls were taken, except for a mooring ball meant for vessels up to 150 feet. Since the park operates on a first come, first served basis, we would take it until a standard sized ball became available. This was our first experience with mooring attendants. Chuck and Carmen on SV Soul Mates were cruisers who volunteered to oversee the moorings. During the months of March and April, they lived aboard their catamaran at Cambridge Cay. Chuck and Carmen were incredibly hospitable and made Cambridge Cay feel like a close-knit community! They invited us aboard their boat to tell us all about Cambridge Cay and the places to go nearby.

That afternoon, they arranged a group to ride over to Rocky Dundas, a set of caves across the channel. We immediately agreed to go with the group; how nice it was to travel together with several dinghies, a buddy system. We suited up, grabbed our snorkel gear, and crossed the channel to reach the caves. It was a bit rough that afternoon; many guides suggest visiting Rocky Dundas on a calm day at low-tide. The seven or so boats tied off to the two dinghy moorings outside the caves and bounced around like bumper cars. Thankfully rubber boats don’t leave dents! Chuck described the best approach to the caves: swim under the opening and into the tall cave; quickly get your footing and climb out onto the cave floor. On a calm day, this was fairly easy, but because the afternoon turned out to be quite choppy, we had to have our wits and swimming legs on!

We didn’t expect to see such beautiful coral on our swim over to the cave. An abundance of fish and sea fans swayed with the current; the bright sun made the colors of coral pop.

We headed through the cave opening and popped our heads up once inside. We took off our fins, tossed them onto the cave floor and climbed out before getting knocked over by the waves crashing through the opening.

Once inside, it was really a sight. The cave ceiling stretched high above head and the sun’s rays shone through the opening at the top, illuminating the inside of the cave. The cave floor, although rocky, had been worn smooth by the water over time.

The pounding of the waves echoed inside. In furthest corner of the cave, we wrote our names in the sand for good luck, a tradition we all took part in. After returning to the boats, I climbed in while Troy swam and explored the second cave with others from our group.
A standard sized mooring became available after our first night. This turned out to be good timing because Chuck let us know that a large yacht was arriving hoping to take a mooring. We would be doing a bit of shuffling so that everyone could fit! Before we had a chance to move, the yacht’s tender (an impressive Everglades center console) pulled up to our port side. Graciously offering us a bottle of wine, the crew member thanked us for making room for the approaching yacht. We would have, of course, moved anyway, but we didn’t turn down a nice bottle of wine!
Over the next few days at Cambridge Cay, we met some great people! We enjoyed a sunset and drinks at the sandbar with other cruisers and played games aboard a neighboring boat. We took another group trip to “The Aquarium” and snorkeled a sunken plane. Cambridge Cay turned out to be a great staging point for some of the best snorkeling spots we’ve visited in the Bahamas.
The Aquarium is one of the most popular snorkel locations in the Land and Sea Park. Aptly named, the site is a massive shrub covered rock above the waterline, but below is an impressive coral reef teeming with a variety of fish. After our group hopped in the water, we were immediately greeted by a school of fish…clearly hoping for handouts.

We snorkeled around the wall of coral, spotting trigger fish, lobster, snapper, sea urchin, angelfish, parrotfish, just to name a few.

It had been a couple of weeks since we left Nassau so we were beginning to run low on water and gas for the dinghy. We thanked Carmen and Chuck for their hospitality and let them know that we would be leaving in the morning. A few hours later, we got a call on the radio from the neighbor boat (actually another 150+ foot yacht) letting us know they had a gift for us courtesy of Chuck and Carmen… water and gas!

We enjoyed another few days at Cambridge Cay; this was turning out to be one of our best stops yet! Soon though, we moved on to the first settlement since Nassau: Staniel Cay. We needed to do some resupplying and were going to enjoy our first meal out in six months at the yacht club!

Exuma Land and Sea Park, Part I

We were beginning to go stir-crazy at Allans Cay…so thankfully, the bank finally showed enough improvement that we felt comfortable moving on. No mutiny…phew! We had two things going for us that Saturday morning: calm seas AND winds from the east. As soon as we hauled up the dinghy, we were on our way. Just about 20 miles south was Hawksbill Cay, our second stop in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Our three-hour trip was a blast…nothing like Gilligan’s! 10 to 15 knot winds kept our sails full on a beam reach. We got on a pretty good lean as the wind heeled us over, but not too much to knock over my sun-tea warming on deck. As we approached Hawksbill, I replayed the instructional YouTube video in my head…I was about to pick up my first mooring ball; we wouldn’t be dropping the anchor here. I walked up on deck with the boat hook in hand. Troy slowly guided us up to the mooring ball. All I needed to do was use the boat hook to pick up the pendant attached to the mooring in the water and feed our already-prepared line through, tying it back to the forward cleat on the bow. It seemed pretty easy on YouTube…as long as I didn’t miss stretching down to the water with the boat hook! This was a nail biter, but I got it! I quickly tied us off as Troy shut off the engine. We were one of three other boats in the mooring field: two sailboats, including us, and one mega-yacht. For our sized vessel, mooring in the Land and Sea Park cost $20 per night.

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The water was spectacular. Turquoise blue surrounded us below while puffy white clouds filled the light blue sky above. The island in front of us boasted several white sand beaches and once we explored by dinghy, we discovered a wide, dry at high-tide, beach around the backside.

The area was pristine, picturesque, unspoiled, breathtaking…none of these adjectives really do the island justice! During our second day, we hiked to the top of the island, a rocky trail is visible from the main beach. We were treated with panoramic views and got some great shots of Salty Tails! Later, we rode to the northern end of the island and hiked to ruins once occupied by British Loyalists. As we stood within the ruins, we commented that the views we were enjoying probably looked almost identical to the landscape the Loyalists called home so long ago.

After two nights at Hawksbill, we made our way south 13 miles to Warderick Wells, the headquarters of the Exuma Land and Sea Park and the anticipated pinnacle of our trip. There are three mooring fields here, all of which require reservations by radio with the park headquarters. The North mooring field and Emerald Rock mooring field each have many mooring balls available, but over the nights we stayed, they were nearly full. We arrived around lunchtime and chose to stay at Emerald Rock. Cherry, the park attendant we spoke to over the radio, told us to pick any mooring and report to her which one we took upon check-in. We were glad I didn’t insist on that second cup of coffee while still at Hawksbill that morning because as we approached, about a mile out, we suddenly noticed an armada of boats lining up behind us on their way in. I counted seven boats to our stern…thankfully we were just ahead, so we were able to beat the scramble to find a mooring.

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Warderick Wells has so much to offer. Once we checked in with Terri and purchased wifi at the office (where they also have a book exchange and gift shop), we were ready to check out what the island had to offer! Aside from enjoying the unspoiled beauty, we were able to hike several trails, snorkel nearby coral heads, relax at several beaches, and add our sign atop Boo Boo Hill. There is even a sunken boat hull in the North field (which we didn’t get a chance to see, but we will on our way back North).

Our first night was pretty windy; winds clocked at over 30 knots. We were content knowing that the park mooring balls are well maintained…we trusted our mooring just as much as our Rocna! After a restful night of sleep, we awoke ready to explore. First, our sights were set on the trail to Boo Boo Hill. It’s said that in order to appease King Neptune, cruisers are to leave a token atop Boo Boo Hill…typically this means a wooden plaque decorated with your boat’s name. We wanted some inspiration before painting our own sign, so we decided to check it out first. The enormous mound of signs is pretty impressive; years upon years of offerings lay piled, some bright and colorful and others weathered by the relentless sun and salty sea spray. Ideas were brewing in my head for our sign as we headed over to the blowholes. The Exuma Sound was pretty rough so waves crashed against the rocky wall of the island, making the blowholes extra active! I decided sticking my head over top would give a pretty good idea of the force of air…I had knots for days. The next day, we made our sign using on hand materials…black chalkboard paint, red spray paint, a few screws, and a couple feet of extra rope. As best as we could manage, we snapped a picture of our sign with our three salty tails and headed back to Boo Boo Hill to leave our offering for Neptune.

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Snorkeling the nearby coral heads was next on our must-do list. Several snorkel spots are equipped with dinghy moorings, so once we tied off, we were ready to jump in. It was COLD, but I ignored my goosebumps. There were all kinds of fish and coral on the reefs. The reefs themselves weren’t huge, but they offered plenty to look at. Tropical fish of all shapes and colors called the reef home. We were even able to get nice and cozy with a nurse shark who rested at the bottom. This would make many people nervous, but we know nurse sharks are docile; it didn’t mind that we swam alongside as it got moving again.

After five nights at Warderick Wells, we were ready to say good-bye…well, sort of. We really loved spending time here and will definitely be stopping here on our way back!

10 things we’ve learned in 90 days…

We’ve been cruising and living aboard for just over 90 days now. It is hard to believe three months have already gone by. This has been an experience unlike any other. It has been challenging, physical, tiring, stressful, but also rewarding, relaxing, full of adventure, and downright satisfying. We’re new sailors and cruisers, so of course we had a steep learning curve…talk about “on the job training”! We prepared for our trip while still living our “normal” lives: scouring the internet to learn about sailing, cruising, living aboard, life on the water, weather, anchoring, and the list goes on and on. We found a wealth of information and inspiration on blogs, YouTube videos, websites, forums, all thanks to the many cruisers who document and share their journey. Every day Troy and I talk about how we’re adjusting to this life, what we have learned, things we wish we had known, things we’re proud of, and even what we’d change if we started from the beginning again. I have compiled this list as a means of capturing a summary of what we’ve learned so far. Honestly, the list is much longer than this…I could expand each of these infinitely and add many more nitty-gritty details. But for your sake, we’re keeping it to the “Big Ten”.

1. What we prefer to eat doesn’t change just because we’re living aboard.

I suppose I thought we would be living on a diet of beans and rice or soup. It was important for us to provision and stock up on foods that are shelf stable. We took major advantage of BOGO deals at Publix…canned soup, canned veggies, pasta, rice, canned tuna and chicken. We wanted to make sure we would have food that would last…while preparing, we didn’t know how long we would have to wait to visit a market or grocery store as we explored the Bahamas. Plus, we read and heard that buying food in the Bahamas can be very expensive. But guess what…there are grocery stores in the Bahamas and the many staple items are not bank breakers. Lots of our provisioning staples are still in our storage compartments…we haven’t eaten all 48 cans of soup, nor the 80+ cans of vegetables. But, we did begin running low on our favorites. About six weeks into our trip, we were just about out of cheese, bacon, deli meat (we love a yummy hot ham and cheese for lunch)…which we had already picked up more of in Miami. Our favorite tortilla chips ($2 in the states) are at least $6-$8 here…but we love them, so we buy them. I try to eat as healthy as possible…looking back, I’d stock up more on lean meats, protein bars, frozen chicken (3 chicken breasts cost upwards of $13.00 in the Bahamas). Thankfully, fresh fruits and veggies (although sometimes tricky to come by) are not overly expensive, depending on which island we’re visiting and the ease of deliveries. I’m also happy to report that we’ve found brand alternatives to snacks we enjoy…because I just can’t splurge for Oreos when they cost $9.00!

2. Weather dictates EVERYTHING.

We definitely already knew that weather would play the biggest role in our decision making. I suppose the new learning was that weather plays the biggest role in our decision making AND it is always changing! When we boated during the summers in Tampa, all we needed to know was the chance of rain and waves/chop. Now, the focus of our planning is wind. Wind speed, wind direction, the effect of the wind on the sea state (wave height, wave direction, current, tide, swell, etc.). This information answers several questions we constantly ask and assess…Can we safely travel to a new location? Will we be able to sail? Will our sail require few or many maneuvers? How will tide and current affect our travel? Will we have protection from wind/ocean swell in our anchorage? If the weather changes, how will our anchorage serve us? By no means have we become weather experts, we are far from it. What we have become is aware. Awareness and a respect for weather will keep us safe…and hopefully smiling.

3. The boat is always moving.

After a long, exhausting day at work, there is nothing better than coming home. Your home is your sanctuary: the place where you are safe, protected, and STILL. Well, the boat is our moving sanctuary…even at anchor. Weather affects the water, water affects the boat…and the boat NEVER stops moving. Whether the movement is caused by wind, current, waves/swell…we can always expect the boat to be in motion. Even on the calmest of nights, we can expect tide changes or 180° rotations which we may not feel, but will affect our anchoring decisions. Generally, we stay pretty comfortable; this is simply a feeling that took some getting used to.

4. Hardy ground tackle is an absolute MUST.

We were fortunate to purchase Salty Tails with extremely good ground tackle. Our boat is equipped with a 55lb Rocna anchor, oversized for our boat. When it comes to anchors, bigger is always better. And we’ve got it, thankfully. She is also equipped with strong 3/8” G4 chain…well over 100 feet of it. Now that we’re 90 days in, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to many other cruisers about ground tackle…what works, what doesn’t, stories of dragging, etc. When other sailors hear what kind of ground tackle we’ve got aboard, their response is always, “Oh! You’re not going anywhere.” This always feels good to hear. We are incredibly thankful the previous owners set her up so stoutly. We trust our anchor and heavy chain. We’ve also learned to read the type of bottom we’re anchoring in; we know what will hold well and what may not (soft sand is our favorite). Troy always dives on the anchor to check that it’s set. Last night during a squall with 30 knot winds, we were still able to sleep soundly.

5. Our dinghy is our “car”.

The grocery store, restaurants, laundromat, hardware store, marine supply store, access to water and diesel/gas, visiting friends on other boats, taking the dogs ashore…anything away from our boat…requires a trip in the dinghy. Just days before leaving Punta Gorda, we made the decision to purchase a new dinghy so that we would not have to worry about waking up to a flat dinghy. This was probably one of the best purchases we made before taking off. We decided to buy a 9.5-foot West Marine dinghy that could get on a plane. With our 9.8 Nissan 2-stroke motor, we’re able to zip around anywhere, in favorable conditions, at around 12-14 knots. It would have been cheaper to buy a smaller, non-planing dinghy, but our range would have decreased immensely. We can cut across a larger body of water or get to that cave on the next island in less than half the time it would take if we weren’t able to plane up. Our new dinghy is without a doubt, money well spent.

6. In the Bahamas/Caribbean, we really don’t need a huge wardrobe.

More than half of the clothes I’ve brought, I have never worn. Troy and I have an entire cabinet in the v-berth, just in front of our bed, packed full of clothes that neither of us have touched. Swimsuits, gym shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops are our main attire. It is warm and humid; to keep cool, we do not need or want to put on many clothes. Same goes for shoes, we’re usually barefoot…but obviously flip-flops are the footwear of choice. I’ve even hiked some pretty rocky trails in my Reef flip-flops…they’re still holding strong! Another motive for needing so few clothes is laundry. More clothes equal more dirty laundry. Since we do not have easy access to a laundromat most of the time, it means I do laundry by hand, in a five gallon bucket. I “encourage” poor Troy to wear the same shirt until we both can’t stand it. Soon my forearms are going to look like Popeye’s from wringing out t-shirts and towels. We try our best to wear clothing that dries easily…the less cotton the better. Next time around, we’ll leave many articles of clothing behind…I guess I don’t need five sweater options or over a dozen pairs of shoes.

7. We can do MORE with LESS.

Troy and I live simply these days…we can go for days without the internet when we’re out of cell service range. 100 gallons of water can last us a surprising while…at least two weeks. Our only power source comes from the sun (we haven’t even connected shore power when we’re docked at a marina). We only see live TV if we’re at a bar that has a television. We’ve learned to fix boat issues with on-hand items…like the time we noticed our lines were chafing when we were on a mooring ball. We cut up an old water hose, zip-tied the hose around our lines, and voilà homemade chafe protection! Basically, we’ve learned to appreciate our resources. It is amazing to me to think back to our land-lives and how much water, electricity, and food we wasted on a regular basis. Out here, we’ve adapted quickly to conserving, we’re totally happy to do so. We hope that by making a smaller footprint, we’re doing our part to protect our vulnerable environment.

8. Stop and smell the roses.

Cruising is a major change of pace from our land lives. While we were working, it was always go, go, go. Work, chores, traffic are just a few things that kept us on the move. We were lucky if we got to simply relax, even on the weekends. Leading up to our departure, our days stretched 12+ hours as we worked to prepare Salty Tails. Now that we’re cruising, if our chores and boat maintenance are done, our time is OURS. We can explore, swim, hike, snorkel, visit new friends, nap, read, watch a movie. Sometimes I still find it difficult to sit still. After years and years of always being on the go, at work and at home, I find myself getting anxious if I’m sitting for too long. Slowly, we’re adapting. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of work to do; maintaining a sailboat is not a walk in the park. But we definitely have more time for us!

9. Weather it out and learn to adapt.

We have faced countless unexpected challenges and sleepless nights in these first 90 days. I’m not going to lie, there have been a few instances when we’ve questioned what the hell we’re doing. We’ve misinterpreted the weather, rode out storms, drug anchor (only once, thankfully!), found ourselves in rough seas, and lost engine power completely…all in just 90 days. Things rarely go as expected; we’ve learned to adapt to situations and circumstances that are down right scary or uncomfortable. We’ve learned a tremendous amount about ourselves, how we problem solve together as a couple, and what we are capable of. We aren’t free of challenges…but we are full of rewards. There is no greater feeling than thinking about how far we’ve come and what we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. We are rewarded by being able to call one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in the world our home. The Bahamas have become a place that we’ll cherish forever.

10. The dogs will always lay in the middle of any tight space, causing plenty of bruises.

When we began looking for a sailboat, a 37-foot boat seemed HUGE, especially since we began our search with our sights set on a boat in the 32-34-foot range. Now, we’re totally comfortable maneuvering our 20,000lb girl. She keeps us safe and comfortable. The dogs are comfortable too, maybe too comfortable. While the cat curls up in the v-berth or on a salon settee, the dogs prefer sprawling out across the middle of the salon. Even though Salty Tails is plenty big for us, it is still a monohulled sailboat with a finite amount of floor space. A 60lb lab mix can take up quite a bit of space if she chooses…and so can Bella. I’m always knocking my knees or toes on things moving about the boat and you can bet in the middle of the night, I’ve tripped over Ginnie and Bella…and have the bruises to prove it.

South, South, and North Again

The following Monday, we left Allans Cay and headed to Normans Cay. At just under ten miles and two hours, this would be a quick hop south. Even though the trip was speedy, I was still able to count over 50 colorful starfish along the way (Yes, I kept count)!
We chose to anchor on the western shore of Normans Cay, just south of Skipjack Point. We had good depths here, compared to the shallow depth we anchored in at our last stop. We dropped the anchor in about 15 feet. The water was incredibly calm that day. Although we were open and exposed to nearly everything except the east, the water was flat, we could see straight to the bottom. When we set the anchor, we could see it biting into the sand, as if it were just inches underneath us. After lunch, we hopped in the dinghy and rode to the other side of the island (where many cruising boats chose to anchor). On our trip over, we slowed every so often to observe the stingrays, giant needle fish, and coral heads.

Once inside, around the southern tip, we idled through the anchored cruising boats, over to the sunken airplane (said to be from drug-running days). We hadn’t brought our snorkel gear with us, so we were unable to dive the site, but with the water as clear as it was, we managed to get a good look from inside the dinghy. We headed to the island’s “hurricane hole” next. Norman’s Pond is accessible from the eastern side of the island and is for shallow draft boats only. We considered anchoring inside as we planned this leg, but knowing how shallow the entry was, we weren’t going to chance running aground. We were free to explore by dinghy, however. We entered the “pond” between two large rocks and it became shallow almost immediately. At the current tide, the depth could have been no more than a few feet. Once clearing the shoal just inside, the depths increased as we followed a deeper contour into the pond where depths are reported to be well over ten feet. The pond was more than what we considered a “pond”, it was quite large actually. The water was just as blue as the outside, but opaque and two neat caves rose above the water along one side. We drove around in the dinghy…only one sailboat was inside. We decided that it might be a good spot to escape bad weather, if we could enter at a high tide; but for now, we were happy with our anchorage on the west side of the island.
The next day we headed south to Shroud Cay, the first cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. This hop was even shorter at only six miles and under 90 minutes. We arrived fairly early in the day and opted to anchor rather than pick up one of the mooring balls. Since we arrived before midday, many boats had not left from the previous night; we anchored as close to shore as we could, without crowding other boats. We hiked a few trails around Shroud Cay and explored some of the mangrove creeks.

Later that day, we hopped in the dinghy, loaded up the dogs and then tossed the anchor in knee-deep water with drinks in hand so the dogs could play. After Ginnie got her fair share of running around, we headed back for sunset on board. That night was rolly. We didn’t sleep much since the boat didn’t really stop moving. We had protection from only the east and winds had shifted to the southwest, so waves rolled in from that direction.

shroud 2

shroud

We headed back up to Allans Cay that morning to wait for the winds to subside. We learned what it means for Allans Cay to be a “fair weather anchorage”: it was quite different this time than when we were last here. Strong current and swell from the bank rolled through, not always matching the wind. This lead to some interesting moments in the anchorage. Usually, boats point into the wind, so typically all boats point in the same direction. This was not the case now. Because the current moved differently depending on which side of the anchorage one was anchored, boats danced around their anchor, often pointing in different directions. At one point our anchor (which thankfully held secure) was behind us rather than at the bow. The combination of current and swell was uncomfortable. One night, I had to remain holding onto a pot of boiling water so it wouldn’t topple.

Obviously, we took anchor watch shifts. During my shift, I watched Pitch Perfect (singing along quietly so Troy wouldn’t hear me), drank too much coffee, and made mini homemade cherry pies…because, why not? We tried to make the best of the several nights we were there. We hiked around Leaf Cay to a beach on the east side (which was remarkably calm) and climbed rocky hills of Allans Cay to check out the Exuma Bank which was incredibly rough from days of western winds. We decided to stay put until the Bank settled.


Thankfully, it finally did…we were itching to move on!

Exumas, Here We Come!

Exumas Day, Exumas Day! Today was finally the day! We woke up early that morning…mostly from excitement, but Troy would say it was to get out at high tide. We would be crossing the Yellow Bank, a shallow expanse of water between New Providence and the Exumas that is littered with coral heads. Crossing the bank at high tide meant that we would have the most water beneath our keel to avoid the coral. So, with that in mind, we took the dogs out to do their business just as the sun rose and began preparing to depart our slip at Palm Cay Marina. We untied the lines, said good-bye to wi-fi (and the friendly staff, of course), and we were on our way.
We were scheduled to arrive at Allans Cay in under five hours; the trip was just shy of 30 miles. For our first time crossing an area with known large coral heads, we weren’t taking any chances. More than likely, we’d be fine since our boat has a shallow draft and we were crossing at high tide. In any case, as we approached the bank, Troy made his way to the bow and I took the helm. The plan was for Troy to keep a lookout for coral heads and guide me as I steer through any potential hazards. Before we left for our trip, we picked up a set of two-way radios, and I’m glad we did. Over the wind noise, we wouldn’t have been able to hear each other, unless we wanted to shout like lunatics. We backed down to about 1500 rpms, just enough to give us time to dodge a coral head, if needed. Just like crossing the Gulf Stream, the Yellow Bank was not nearly as scary as I had made it out to be in my head. Troy easily guided me a little to the left or a little to the right to pass coral heads safely. They were not too difficult to spot. Every so often, a dark mass appeared in the jewel-toned blue water. Soon, we were passed any potential hazards and the first cays of the Exumas came into view.

We picked Allans Cay as our first stopping point in the Exumas. This wasn’t the first of the Exuma Cays, but it was one of the first places that many cruisers stop on their journey south…plus there are iguanas! What is known collectively as “Allans Cay” is actually made up of three small, separate cays: Allans Cay, Leaf Cay (aka Iguana Beach), and Southwest Allans Cay. These three cays are arranged closely together in somewhat of a triangle shape, with a channel in between.

As we entered the cays, we did two things, almost simultaneously. First, marveled at the absolutely stunning scenery (endless shades of crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches, palm trees, boats anchored and swinging lazily in the breeze). Second, we had to decide where we were going to drop anchor. Most boats anchor in between Allans Cay and Leaf Cay. Southwest Allans Cay has a little shallow bay, where only two to three shallow draft boats can fit. There were about six to seven boats in the main anchorage, but the little bay was empty. That was our spot! Slowly, very slowly, we inched our way in as shallow as we could manage. The further in we crept, the shallower it became, but that also meant more protection from wind and sea swell. We dropped the hook in about six feet of water, at about mid-tide. Once we shut off the diesel, Troy and I just looked at each with big dopey grins…we were finally here!

Our anchorage was picture perfect: Salty Tails sat in the middle of the shallow crystal-clear bay surrounded by land on three sides. Two sides, opposite to one another were rocky with shrubs and low trees growing on top, the third side was a white sand beach…one that we had all to ourselves! However, we did notice a few iguanas poking around; surely waiting on handouts of fruits and veggies.

We dropped the dinghy soon after we recovered from our Exumas arrival shock. Ginnie, Bella, Troy, and I were off to explore the cays. The water was calm that day, so we were able to go wherever we pleased. Ginnie took her typical spot on the bow of the dinghy, paws stretch over the side and her face as close to the water as she could manage to reach. Bella instead, opted to lay on the floor, her eyes barely open, enjoying the warm sunshine. Troy and I poked around each of the cays, taking note of where we’d like to go ashore in the next few days.

Through the weekend, we spent time soaking up every minute…enjoying our typical taco night, swimming, sunbathing, and exploring by dinghy.

On Saturday, we ventured over to iguana beach (Leaf Cay). We went empty handed, just to observe, not to feed. Part of me hoped that if the iguanas saw our hands were empty, they’d keep their distance. Thankfully, they were pretty slow moving and didn’t seem too interested in us. They did however, let us snap a few close-ups.

The iguanas on Leaf Cay were enormous! And, they were everywhere. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said we saw at least 50 iguanas: either lounging on the sand, sleeping on rocks, or scurrying around the shrubbery. We noticed that what got their attention most were the loads of tour boats that came in. Many giant center console boats packed with tourists would arrive throughout the day, offering handouts to the iguanas. That is probably why they weren’t too concerned with us: we didn’t have the goods! In the next few days, I did hold on to a few apple cores…and tossed them from a distance.

The weather remained calm and placid over the weekend, we enjoyed every moment! This could not have been a better first stop in the Exumas!
Next stop…Normans Cay.

Berry Scary

We were a little groggy the next day, but ready to head to Little Harbor. We would be taking the outside route on the Northwest Providence Channel to reach our destination. This leg would take approximately four hours and the winds we were dodging had finally subsided. Once we began rounding Little Stirrup Cay we noticed the sea swell had not. In the Northwest Channel, waves were still significant…we estimated around 8-10 feet. We had originally planned to start under motor since there was very little wind. But, sailboats are made to sail, and in these conditions, the boat teeter-tottered, making the ride very uncomfortable, not to mention, cans of peas and carrots were rolling around down below. The direction of the waves in comparison to the direction of our track had the waves hitting us right on our beam, throwing us side to side. Troy decided to let out some of our headsail. WOW! What a difference! This balanced out the boat nicely, no more heaving. Just in time…no one lost their breakfast! What wind there was filled the sail nicely as we rode up and down the swells, catching glimpses of only the masts of other sailboats as they too rose and fell with the sea.
The Berry Islands are a chain of over 100 cays and islands that separate the Great Bahama Bank and the Northwest Providence Channel. We traveled the outside (Northwest Channel) route over deeper water. Anchorages along the Berry Islands are generally located on the bank side. This means that sailboats must pass through cuts, a pass between islands to travel from one body of water to another. We would need to pass through a cut to reach our anchorage on the protected and shallow bank side. We knew this was going to pose a challenge. The water that moves between cuts can be agreeable or your worst enemy. Since the angry sea swell from the deeper water would be funneling through the cut, we were going to experience the latter. Since we were unable to capture the events on camera, below is an accurate representation of the moment.

With the binoculars, I surprisingly spotted Delphinus far in the distance. We hadn’t planned on traveling with them, but here they were…small world. They were nearing the cut well before us, so I watched as intently as I could manage, hopefully getting some sense of what we would be up against. Keeping binoculars steady while underway in dicey conditions is harder than you might expect! But, I was able to see their mast pass though the cut. It soon would be our turn.
I was white-knuckled; Troy was focused as we approached. Because of the funnel effect and the depths decreasing rapidly, the ocean became even more churned up. We got closer and closer, finally at the point of no return…we couldn’t turn around even if we wanted to with the waves building around us. The waves picked us up and surfed us in. I finally started breathing again, we made it through the cut. Soon enough though, the depths on our depth finder decreased suddenly as we approached a reef, much shallower than our charts indicated. Although we were through the cut at this point, the force of the water would not allow us to retreat. The bottom became visible, too visible. We could see the rocky bottom and coral heads below as if we had just inches of water beneath us. If we grounded, we were going to be in serious trouble. Thankfully, what felt like an eternity, really only lasted seconds. No grounding, we cleared by just 18 inches; depths rose quickly as we entered the calm anchorage.

As if we had entered another world, the water in front of us was calm and flat, glassy even, while over our shoulders the angry sea raged on. The calm waters also brought quiet, no more crashing waves buffeting our ears. It was truly an idyllic place…just like a postcard. Delphinus was anchored just inside along the first beach. We stopped for a moment and they began to tell us that they had grounded badly while crossing the reef. This I could obviously not see through my binoculars earlier. Their 5.7 foot draft was just too much in comparison to our 4 foot draft. Paul was getting ready to dive and inspect the damage. Later, they let us know that the damage was only superficial, and no real harm was done. To this point in our journey, I don’t think I have been more thankful to drop anchor. We were exhausted, hungry, and in need of stillness.

We stayed a total of nine nights at Little Harbor. Our anchorage perfectly suited us to ride out two spells of high winds. We were protected from eastern and southern winds by the island and from northern and western winds by shallow waters. The strongest winds, around 35 knots, came out of the west. The shallow waters kept large waves or swell from building, so conditions were tolerable. During the days of poor weather, I made homemade bread and we watched the Back to the Future trilogy! And of course, Troy got a few boat projects done.

We kept busy the entire time we stayed. We were able to explore several places by dinghy, including the blue hole at Hoffman’s Cay, multiple pristine beaches at Devil’s and Comfort Cays, and the shallow waters that formed a hurricane hole near Flo’s restaurant (a popular cruiser destination). Stingrays, starfish, and sea turtles were everywhere. Our dinghy rides were always spent admiring the sea life.

Delphinus was finally able to leave after depth sounding several exit options by hand. They too, were weary of the charted depths that proved to be inaccurate. We said goodbye to our friends as they headed to Nassau.

A few days later, we left Little Harbor for our next stop, Chub Cay, one of the most southern islands in the Berry Island chain. The Northwest Providence Channel was a totally different ball game. The waters were calm, and we made it out of the cut with no problem. Five minutes in, we decided to stretch our trip and head straight for Nassau, skipping Chub Cay altogether. This would eliminate an entire stop for us, making us one step closer to reaching the Exumas.
The weather was sunny and warm that day, with very light winds. We motored and eventually could see the towers of the Atlantis Resort. Rather than entering the busy Nassau Harbor, we decided to make our way to the southwest side of New Providence Island and dock at Palm Cay Marina. Another cut lie ahead of us. The swell rose as the deep waters of the Northwest Providence Channel funneled down between Nassau and Rose Island. Unsure if the swell was too great (it felt like it was), we changed directions and entered through a wider cut. This took more time, but was a much safer option.

Troy guided us through the narrow channel into Palm Cay Marina. Upon our entry, we filled up on diesel at the fuel dock before heading to our slip. Without wasting any time, we took advantage of the marina’s Wi-Fi, hot showers, and laundry facility. I hadn’t used a washer and dryer in nearly two months…I savored the smell of freshly done laundry. We spent two days in Nassau, taking time to provision, fill our water tanks, and pick up a few marine supplies, including a spare Fortress anchor. Our cab driver made our errands more fun. She happily told us about growing up in the Bahamas and all the places we needed to visit.

On our second night, we made homemade pizza and discussed our next stop, the Exumas. We were so excited for our next leg of the trip. The Exumas are the reason we decided to travel to the Bahamas and couldn’t wait to start exploring!

Overnight, Dragging, and Rum

We said goodbye to the friendly faces at Brown’s Marina and began the first leg of our trip to the Berry Islands. We left ahead of Delphinus en route to Mackie Shoal. It was a beautiful day; the winds were light, the sun was bright overhead, and the water was crystal clear. The depths, which averaged 20 feet, appeared much shallower since we could see straight to the bottom. We moved along at 4 knots: definitely not racing speed, but we enjoyed the calm, smooth sail. We arrived at Mackie Shoal just before sunset. Expecting to drop anchor in depths less than 10 feet, we actually found much deeper water and turned out not to be quite the shallow safe spot we anticipated. Since Delphinus had hailed us on the VHF a few hours before to let us know that they would be continuing on through the night to Great Harbor, we decided to do the same. We knew the weather was going to remain calm and winds light; and since our buddy boat was somewhere nearby, we wouldn’t be alone. At our current speed, we’d arrive at Great Harbor just after sunrise. I was nervous, Troy was excited…for our first overnight, the weather was in our favor, so it gave us a good first opportunity. As the sun faded, the moon seemed to take it’s place. We were close to a full moon and the clear skies kept our path well lit.

We ate a quintessential “sailor dinner” that night: rice and beans. And later on, when I was trying to stay up and awake, I made homemade chocolate chip cookies…we “accidently” ate most of those throughout the night. Oh well. Neither of us slept in the cabin, instead we took shifts. One of us took the helm while the other catnapped on one of the lazarettes in the cockpit. The dogs slept just fine, but for us, sleep was difficult to come by, not because the waters were rough or uncomfortable, but because this was our first overnight! We were feeling constant excitement and anticipation. Darius Rucker’s new song, “For the First Time” has really spoken to me lately. In it he asks, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Ummm…now! Everyday, actually! We reached our anchorage in Great Harbor and dropped anchor around 7:00 in the morning. After sorting a few things, sweeping up cookie crumbs, and waving to Delphinus upon their arrival, we crawled into the v-berth to get some sleep.

We planned to stay in Great Harbor for a few days to allow strong north winds to pass; we had good protection in an anchorage with about six other sailboats. The winds began to howl on day 2. We sat in the cockpit that afternoon and began to notice that very slowly, we were falling back in the group of boats. That could only mean one thing: the anchor was dragging. We hopped in the dinghy (Ginnie pitched a little fit that she wasn’t able to go for a ride) and rode out to check. Troy dove down on the anchor and since the bottom was grassy, it had not dug into the seabed. He picked up (all 55 pounds) and manually set the anchor, digging it passed the grass and into the seabed. After that, we had absolutely no issues, although we still slept with one eye open.

Our last night in Great Harbor was spent aboard Delphinus. Paul and John invited everyone in the anchorage over for drinks. We brought along some snacks and rum to share. The stern of Delphinus was a dinghy parking lot! Thank goodness dinghies are rubber inflatables, otherwise the bumping would have caused some traded paint! Everyone found a place to tie off and climb aboard. As we all trickled in, everyone gathered in the salon. We spent hours eating, drinking, and sharing plans, experiences, and stories. The cabin was such a melting pot: Canadians, Brits, and Americans. French was spoken and we even learned some British slang. As the night wore on, the rum was passed around…we ended up writing a song…but I’ll spare you the details.