Nasty, But We Had To Do It
05/20/2012, Marsh Harbour, Abaco
When someone offers you the opportunity to hang out with them in Atlantis, you'd be silly to turn them down. Even if it means playing dodge ball with 30+ knot squalls to get there. We left George Town under gray skies and misting rain hoping that the weather would clear as we made our way north toward the day's goal of Staniel Cay. Unfortunately our hopes were not enough to keep us clear of bad weather. Instead the weather worsened, and we settled in with the fact that the day would indeed suck. The squalls were relentless, packing plenty of wind and drenching sideways rain. The kind of rain that somehow comes around the dodger...forcing us to close the companionway entirely. The waves grew from 5'-7' to 10'-12' in short order. I kept reminding Maxwell that Atlantis would be fantastically fun and this was all totally worth it. At that point he did not agree with me, at all. Nonetheless I remained powerfully optimistic.
We bailed Exuma Sound at the first (and safest) opportunity thinking that we could sail much faster on the flatter waters of the banks. The cut was thrilling to say the least. Fortunately, the tide was in our favor and cooperating with the wind direction on our back. Ideally, smaller waves would have helped our stress levels while negotiating the cut but as I said earlier we were prepared for it all to suck. I was super proud of Maxwell as he sailed Anastasia through the tricky entrance. We had the engine on but not engaged as a safety measure. Once inside it was like a different place. We sailed at 7+ knots (very fast for our sea slug) with only our yankee jib. The water was close to flat, an extreme contrast to what we had just slogged through for the past 4 hours. The only problem at this point were the ever present squalls with their gusty winds and our course required us to head up substantially thus creating and uncomfortable, super heeled boat. My optimism faltered and we were very tired so we called it quits at Little Farmer's Cay accepting the fact that Atlantis might not happen. We know and respect the cardinal rule of not sailing to a schedule and anchored for the night over 80 miles away from Nassau. A distance Anastasia cannot sail in daylight hours.
The next morning we were underway fairly early but not the-crack-of-dawn early. We planned to make it to one of the northern Exuma islands, Norman's or Highborne, great jumping spots for a passage to Nassau the next day. I am not sure exactly when we made the decision, but somewhere along the way we pointed directly for Nassau. As the day progressed we committed to the decision knowing that we would be entering Nassau Harbour with our running lights on. We crossed the Yellow Bank (a.k.a. coral head alley) with not 30 minutes to spare as the sun waved goodbye and visual spotting went out the window. The nice thing about Nassau is that all vessels entering and exiting must clear with Harbour Control so we knew when there was a tanker or ferry headed our direction. Against the bright lights of the city it was really hard to see oncoming lights so this heads up was helpful. We negotiated the channel just fine and went under the two bridges to the anchorage just west of the second bridge. We dropped the hook around 11:30 that night just off of the port side of one of our friends and the bow of another, giggling to ourselves about when they might notice we were there. Utterly exhausted after two demanding days underway we prepared for bed ecstatic to be there.
Atlantis was amazing. Our friends on Good Trade put their boat into the marina and shared 2 of their 20 water park passes with us and Imagine, a family of 5 who have just completed a circumnavigation. All total our gang added up to 10 people, 6 adults and 4 very excited and energetic kids. Good Trade was the home base for our group as we all came and went throughout Atlantis. There is so much to do there from the aquariums to the casinos, restaurants, movie theatre, water park, and shops. It was so much more than we expected. Over and over again we told ourselves that it was worth the discomfort we endured to be there. However, the best part of all was what we brought with us in coming as a group. The children's excitement was an energy that we all fed from. Maxwell and I agreed that if we had experienced Atlantis alone, it would have been totally different and we are sincerely grateful to have been included in all of the fun.
National Family Island Regatta
04/28/2012, George Town, Exuma
What a week of fun! This is our third year in the Bahamas and our first in attendance of the National Family Island Regatta. It is so neat to watch as Regatta Point transforms into Party Central. We already knew that Bahamians know how to throw down from our experience in Rock Sound a few years ago but it has been a while. By day, the crowd is slightly more conservative, attending the three daily races. By night, the place gets bumping and jumping.
On Thursday Maxwell was lucky enough to get on a B-Class sloop #7 out of Acklins. Unfortunately, during the completion of their first lap they were wrongly advised by a committee boat on which side to round a mark and were disqualified. Later this was resolved, but they did not finish the race so his on-board time was cut short.
We have been anchored on the town side of the harbour with an excellent view of the races from our deck. Often times the boats warm up by sailing through the anchored boats. These sloops are so beautiful...handmade out of native wood, Bahamian owned and Bahamian captained. The size of their sails and length of masts and booms are crazy. Hence the need for the planks off the side with men as ballast.
We have really enjoyed being here and glad that we came back to do it.
The Hardest Part Of Cruising
04/10/2012, Black Point, Exumas
There are many things that are difficult in this charmed lifestyle but the toughest thing for us, by far, is saying goodbye. We meet SO many interesting people who become fast friends and no doubt will be lifelong companions. But they are not neighbors across the street or members of a home softball team. They are explorers like us, traveling and searching for their dreams. By chance we have crossed paths and touched each other's hearts marking special places on all of our internal maps. We never know if or when we will meet again and because of this our farewells are bittersweet.
Goodbyes happen throughout the trip but seem concentrated this time of year. Most of our friends are either heading back north or points farther south, all at different speeds. Whether we cruised long term together, for a month or just a few days we cherish each connection as one of the best parts of cruising.
Up To Speed
03/31/2012, George Town, Exuma
Since our last post about Long Island we have been places! Our first trip to the Ragged Islands was so delightful that we decided to do it again. This time we traveled with our friends on Joint Venture and Kianda. We had an awesome sail from Thompson Bay to Flamingo Cay where we spent five nights. By day we were fishing the inside reefs because the winds were too thrilling for us to brave the outer ones. By sunset we happy-houred either alongside a campfire or in each other's cockpits. It is a lot of fun to travel in small groups of like-minded people...we all had a great time.
After that we backtracked north to Water Cay for two days of relaxation and our friends worked their way ahead of us to George Town. By then the wind had moderated but we were subject to residual swell that wrapped around the island gently rocking us from side to side, side to side. That sucked. Two nights was about all that we could stand of that and our water tanks were nearing empty so it was time for us as well to be underway to George Town.
We departed Water Cay around 06:30 knowing that we needed to travel at least 5 knots to make high tide at Hog Cay Cut. Now we had had strong winds for about 4-5 days prior but where were they then? Our main flopped because of the wave action and our jib checked out so we had to motor...the entire way. Luckily we did make it through the cut with no issues seeing 5'6" just briefly as we passed the skinniest spot. Knowing from past "experience" that Anastasia likes to continue floating until 5'4" most days. Whew! That was tight! Maxwell remarked that he would love to be in the water to watch us pass.
Once we made the turn toward George Town the wind returned, on the nose! Come on! So we motored, still. Now chugging into short chop. By the time we made it into Elizabeth Harbour we were spent. With only enough energy to make a pizza we settled into the night, happy to be rid of the roll and anchored once again among friends.
The lead shot is with our buds on Kianda & Joint Venture. From left to right: Dave & Jess, Maxwell & Jen, Brad & Sabrina.
Love, Love, Love Long Island
This is not a newsflash...we have been in love with Long Island since day 1 of setting foot there three years ago. But it is SO much fun to repeatedly return and STILL love it as much as we did then. We keep finding new things that amaze us about this place and its people.
This morning we are actually in George Town but Long Island is in the cross hairs of our afternoon adventures. For now we are filling up on water and doing some laundry. Hopefully tonight we will be sleeping 40 miles SE of here.
Internet has been sketchy over the past few weeks. Sometimes we can get it and sometimes we cannot. I will try to write more when I can. Cheers until then!
The Rugged Ragged Islands
02/28/2012, Jumentos Cays & Ragged Islands
The guide book reads "Cruisers must be totally self-sufficient here; there are no services to speak of in the entire chain." That line alone was enough to intrigue us into exploring the super-remote string of islands sitting below the Exumas.
We had heard about this place on our first trip through the Bahamas in 2010 but never made it there until now. The stories about the "fishing grounds" were always amazing but somehow it never worked out for us. This year the Jumentos Cays and Ragged Islands were an absolute MUST. That was settled before we even left the Chesapeake Bay in November.
They are called the fishing grounds because that is where the locals go to do their serious fishing. And if you have been following us for any time at all you know that we are serious about fishing too! Day one: after 3 hours out we returned with 2 hogfish and 3 lobsters. Day two: 5 lobsters, 6 conch and 1 hogfish. Day three: 8 lobsters. We ran into a big problem. Too much seafood! The only evident solution was to empty the freezer* of all non-seafood items. Of course we ate like kings from our fresh catch but it was too much to consume in one week so we made sure that we could save every little bit.
In packaging the fish and lobster for the freezer I learned a few tricks to save space. The lobster tails make a magnificent presentation when cooked in their shells. But those big shells take up so much room. A few years ago I remember seeing lobster meat, out of the shell, for sale in the grocery store in Marsh Harbour. So I knew what to do...and I de-shelled 7 tails that now take up less than the space 2 would have. Plus, with this much meat your recipes must go beyond steamed lobster with garlic butter!
Even if you are not into fishing there is so much to do and see in these islands. As we moved from one to the next we marveled at the beauty. There are a lot of beaches to walk and even cliffs to hike. The snorkeling is amazing. I was shocked at the size of some reefs. They can be really tall or low and long. And so different! I only recognize a few types of coral by name but there are so many kinds in all colors. Truly lovely to see.
I am not sure if we will make it there again this season but it is definitely on any future itinerary.
*Our freezer is very small to begin with. It is about the size of most people's lunch boxes...which makes the real estate that much more valuable!