22 March 2017 | Elizabeth Island, Exumas
Our friend Bernie of M/V Countess Cozel suggested we look up Helge, a German widow who lives on Elizabeth Island, just SE of Stocking Island. And so we did. Helge welcomed us ashore for a visit and a tour of her property. Over the 40 winters that she and her husband spent on the island, they transformed the landscape with stone wall terracing, tropical gardens and trails. They even created a lake and a plantation with fruit trees and coconut palms. All of which is hidden from view when sailing by. Helge's neighbors look after her, though she manages quite well for herself. We plan to visit her again soon for a longer hike around the island.
Back Where We Came From
09 March 2017 | George Town, Exumas
Photo: The Anchorage at Goat Cay, Exuma
It was a pleasant downwind sail for the 35 mile trip back to George Town from Thompson's Bay, LI. Coincidentally it was the day of the Long Island Cruisers' Rally: over 40 sailboats motored past us into the wind, heading from whence when came. George Town was a little bit less crowded for it, following the Cruising Regatta the week before when over 300 boats were anchored here. But it's a large harbor with lots of room at several anchorages. We're back at Monument Beach, close to the hiking trails ashore.
Life on the Hook
04 March 2017 | Thompson's Bay, Long Island
Photo: Carrying the clean laundry back to the dinghy.
After a month in the boondocks of the Jumentos, it has taken us a week to catch up on the mundane chores of boat life: Get fuel at LI Petroleum (diesel for the engine; gasoline for the outboard; propane for cooking/hot water). Resupply groceries at Hillside Supplies and Midway Mart. Do laundry at Tiny's (while having lunch at their lovely new restaurant). Get a haircut at Marcie's Beauty Spot. Go to boater's beach for Monday night happy hour. Rent a car for an island tour. Renew our visas at the airport. Go to Saturday Farmer's Market. Bake bread (Burger's superduper crusty sourdough). Dinner with friends at Club Washington.
Now we're all caught up on errands and hunkered down at anchor for a rainy, squally weekend aboard. We're happy to have a strong cell tower signal. True to the forecast it's now gusting to 40+ knots from the NE. We're close to shore with little fetch and our 90 lb anchor helps us sleep soundly.
Then and Now: Adderley Plantation and Stella Maris Resort
03 March 2017 | Stella Maris, Long Island
Photo: Burger at the Adderley Plantation Ruins
Next morning the four of us headed north ("left! keep left!"), first stopping at the lovely landscaped little airport to get our visas renewed. Then we meandered around the beautiful German-owned luxury resort club, Stella Maris. They've been pampering tourists here for decades.
On the way back I spotted the brown sign, "Adderley Plantation" in passing and insisted that we turn back. A rough dirt road led to a beach, but no signs. What now? We followed some fresh footprints to the right, that led to an overgrown path lined with conch shells. The trail took us through the dense undergrowth to the Loyalist ruins.
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the crumbling buildings were once the center of a 2,500 acre cotton plantation. It failed, along with all the others on the islands, due to poor soil, drought and infestation. Many of today's Bahamian population are descendants of the abandoned slaves whose owners fled back to the States and to England in the mid 1800's.
Left! Keep Left!
02 March 2017 | Long Island
Photo: Dean’s Blue Hole
“Left! Keep left!” we kept reminding Burger, to avoid collisions with oncoming traffic. The Bahmas used to be under British rule. We rented a car from 1 pm to 1 pm, so we could break up the tour of Long Island into two half-days. The island is 80 miles long and the car rental place is roughly at the middle point, where we're anchored.
Old friends and cruising buddies Nancy and George of s/v Trumpeter, who have been sailing the Bahamas for years, were the perfect choice to take along with us. They directed us to all the highlights and introduced us to their local friends.
As we headed south, our first stop was for lunch at the popular Forest take-away. My fish burger was delectable, as was Burger’s beef/pork mix. We then shopped till we dropped at It’s All Under the Sun, Ena’s Straw Creations, and Midway Mart.
We visited the impressive twin whitewashed stone churches built by Father Jerome, who converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism and built one for each religion. Then we strolled the docks of the swanky new Flying Fish marina in Clarence Town, which attracts wealthy sport fishermen.
And of course we stopped at the famous Dean’s Blue Hole, the world’s second deepest saltwater hole. It’s a magnet for the risky sport of free-diving. A plaque commemorates the tragic death of three young women who didn’t make it. They died together in 2008.
Dinner at Club Washington with Dawn and Mike of s/v Anahata, who we last saw here 15 years ago, ended the day.
On a Calm Day, You Can See Forever
26 February 2017 | Crossing from Water Cay to Comer Channel, Jumentos
Photo: Mother fishing boat with six little babies.
On rare occasions when there's not a trace of wind and the water turns glassy, you can see every pebble and blade of grass in the water. Today was such a day. Standing on the bow and peering below as we motored along, it was like looking down into a giant aquarium. Even at depths of 40 feet we could see conch and starfish on the bottom. Barracuda and triggerfish and a nurse shark swam away as we approached. It was mesmerizing. No where else in the world have we experienced such clarity of water than in the Bahamas.
What a Difference a Day Makes ...
25 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay to Thompson's Bay, Long Island
Photo: Halekai at anchor, 24 hours after the gale
With the wind gone, we left at dawn, out through the cut past Johnson Cay into the deep blue water of Exuma Sound. We skirted the Jumentos for 40 miles, all the way up to Little Water Cay. Then we motored across the banks to the shallow 12-mile long Comer Channel. It's only six feet at low water (we draw 5.5), but not a problem on a rising tide. We dropped the anchor after dark in Thompson's Bay, Long Island, exactly a month to the day since we left from here.
Rocking and Rolling at Double-Breasted
23 February 2017 | Double-Breasted Cay, Jumentos
Photo: Halekai during the storm, photographed by Van on s/v Gratitude.
With a cold front on its way, all the boats anchored off Hog Cay moved north to the shelter of Double-Breasted Cay, where a dozen of us rocked, rolled and bounced in winds gusting to 40 in the wee hours this morning. The wind has clocked around to the west which has changed the configuration of the boats, and suddenly we have new neighbors. Apparently no one dragged in the night and we're enjoying a peaceful breakfast. Surprisingly we have a cell signal, albeit weak, from the Ragged Island BTC tower 8 miles away.
19 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
A small plane just buzzed us, flying out the party guests who came to the Valentine’s Day party this afternoon. It’s held each year on the nearest weekend to 2/14, so that Duncan Town friends and relatives from Nassau can attend. Our new friend Percy was there, dressed in white as usual, as well as Wessie, who proudly introduced Burger to his fiancee: “This is my doctor.” She’s studying nursing in Nassau and hopes to work in the Clinic at Duncan Town eventually.
About 20 cruiser boats congregated for the party. We all donated items for an auction that raised over a thousand dollars for the local school. We donated an extra diving jacket. We bid successfully on two boxes of wine, solar powered cockpit and outboard lights, and a bunch of games for our grandkids who are coming next month. Maxine organized the food, typical Bahamian fare with goat curry, baked ham, fried grouper, mac’n’cheese and coleslaw. Coolers of beer and soda kept us all well hydrated. Adults moved to the music while children splashed in the water. A good time was had by all.
Eggs for Stitches
16 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
While in Duncan Town yesterday we looked up Wessie, the young fisherman whose thumb Burger sewed up ten days ago. The deep knife wound had healed well and Burger removed the stitches. In appreciation he gave us two dozen fresh eggs, collected from his family’s hens.
Percy and His Eagle Nest
15 February 2017
Duncan Town icon Percy Wilson greeted us as we landed ashore at Southside Bay on Ragged Island this morning. Years ago, Percy installed the body of an old DC-3 airliner on the roof of his building, and made it into his then-popular Eagle's Nest bar. Today he and his wife harvest and market “Emily’s natural sea salt” from the salt pond near Duncan Town. Percy kindly gave us a ride to town, a long hot walk along the airstrip runway.
Green Flash at Sunset
14 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Jumentos
Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve been enjoying green flashes almost every evening here in the Jumentos, and last night was no exception. It took us years before we saw one for the first time, when a friend advised us to watch it through binoculars. Just the very last tiny bit of sun turns bright green as it falls below the horizon over water. (Don't watch it too soon and fry your eyeballs!) Once you see it magnified you'll know what to look for next time with the naked eye. It’s hard to capture on camera as it’s so tiny. This photo was taken a second or two beforehand.
Arsonists at Work and Play
10 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
During happy hour at the tiki hut last night, Burger and I organized a beach clean-up on the windward side of the island. Fifteen of us hiked across the trail this morning to the crescent beach that forms a large cove. We spent a couple of hours collecting heaps of plastic containers, shoes, rope and fishing net, etc., into several huge piles around the cove, just below the high water mark, that were then set ablaze. Plastic burns very hot and melts into lava-like rivulets that harden into a small amount of brittle debris. All traces disappear with the next tide. Everyone enjoyed the effort, doing good while enjoying the camaraderie. How satisfying to see the beach transformed from ugly to beautiful!
Emergency Surgery at Super Bowl Half-Time
06 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
Though we weren't the only non-football fans, most everybody in the anchorage--35 of us--piled onto a large catamaran that ferried us across to Ragged Island to a bonefish lodge with a large flatscreen. Over fried chicken and conch fritters, the Southerners amongst us (which doesn't include us despite our Florida residence) hooped and hollered and then lamented at the Patriots' historic comeback.
Burger's surgical skills have leaked to the community, his having treated a friend's infected coral cut. In the middle of the game he was called out to sew up the deep knife wound of a local fisherman who was filleting his catch. In return we were given a bag of eight freshly caught lobster tails!
Sundowners at Hog Cay Tiki Bar
05 February 2017 | Hog Cay, Ragged Islands
This sure is a place one can stay awhile! Happy Hour is a couple of days a week, and last night four cruisers brought along their guitars and entertained us, singing around the bonfire. A good time was had by all.
Back to Civilization, Sort of ...
05 February 2017 | Duncan Town, Ragged Island
Photo: Maxine preparing conch
A 15-minute fast dinghy ride brought us across from Hog Cay to Ragged Island and through the narrow mangrove cut to the dock at Duncan Town, at the end of the Ragged Islands.
Time hasn’t been kind to DT since our last visit 15 years ago: the population has dwindled to 40 or so, with only a few kids left to attend the small school. But Maxine, an enterprising woman they could use more of, saw the opportunity that the cruisers brought to her island. She owns the only grocery in town and takes special orders from cruisers for the weekly mailboat from Nassau. She provided the building materials for the tiki hut that cruisers built at Hog Cay a few years ago, and organizes a big party around Valentine’s Day for the cruisers and town folk each year.
The Secret of the Jumentos
04 February 2017 | Hog Cay, the Jumentos
Aha, we discovered the cruising mecca of the Jumentos; Hog Cay just north of Ragged Island. We're now anchored together with over a dozen other boats off a long white sandy beach. A substantial tiki hut was built by cruisers for happy hours ashore. The island is crisscrossed with hiking trails that wind up and down hills and across to the windward beaches. The dramatic coves and cliffs, battered by the prevailing easterlies, are a great place for beachcombing. The BaTelCo tower on Ragged Island is close enough for slow speed internet, better than nothing. The weekly mailboat brings supplies to nearby Duncan Town, the only settlement in the Jumentos/Ragged Islands. We're about to take the dinghy there to replenish our fruit and veggies. All our needs are met. We think we'll stay here awhile!
03 February 2017 | Racoon Cay, Jumentos
Photo: Burger shows Bernie how big the one was that got away.
Just as I was getting worried when the men weren’t back yet after three hours, I heard the familiar sound of our outboard approaching. Burger and Bernie arrived wearing big grins—the bucket was overflowing with eight big lobster! The three of us dined on steamed lobster with drawn lemon butter, served with garlic toast and cold beer. Mmmmmm … !! The leftovers were frozen for another day.
Goats and Salt Are All that Remain
01 February 2017 | Racoon Cay, the Jumentos
On our hike around the southern end of the island today we came across a wall remnant with whole conch shells embedded in the crumbling cement. Loyalist ruins of houses and pasture walls, built by slaves over two hundred years ago, are hidden among the thick scrub behind the long white beach at House Bay, where we're at anchor. Remainders of the salt harvesting operation are visible in and around the large shallow salt pond with its hardened rim of salt that resembles ice. Goats, not racoons, live on Racoon Cay, as on most of the larger cays in the Jumentos. We came across fresh cloven footprints and goat trails in the sand, but no goats. Hunted by the locals when they tire of seafood, they are skittish and hard to find.
Edward Lockhart, Reliving the Past
31 January 2017 | Buena Vista Cay, the Jumentos
I've been re-reading Wind from the Carolinas by Robert Wilder, a historical novel about the British Loyalists from the South who sought a new life in the Bahamas following the American Revolution. They tried to recreate their plantation lifestyle in the British-ruled islands, importing all their possessions including their African slaves. But it didn't take long to discover that the sandy soil would not grow cotton or tobacco, and they could find no other profitable goods to export. Most families eventually gave up and returned to America or England, abandoning the slaves who were then freed to fend for themselves on the islands.
This morning Bernie took us on a hike across the island to visit his 76 year old friend Edward Lockhart, a descendant of Loyalists and their slaves. He was born and raised on Buena Vista but spent most of his life in Nassau, where his wife still lives. For the past eight years he's been living the life of a hermit here, together with his dog Rip and a bunch of chicken and goats. The weekly mailboat brings him supplies from Nassau. He told me proudly that he is descended from British Royal blood, and is here to commemorate the hard work, sweat and tears of his family so that it was not all in vain. His makeshift house is on the beach, not far from the ruins of the original settlers.
Lazy Crazy Days of Winter--Then and Now
30 January 2017 | Buena Vista Cay, the Jumentos
Photo: Buena Vista Cay anchorage.
We sought shelter from the weather in the south anchorage of Buena Vista, together with three other sloops, five catamarans and two trawlers. The cold front arrived at dawn as predicted, the wind never more than 25 knots as it clocked around and dissipated. I baked brownies and invited our new friend Bernie over for Kaffeestunde late afternoon, in the German tradition. He stayed for supper, providing beer for the three of us. We learned that, after escaping from East Berlin, he became a whitewater kayak competitor in Germany and later a ski instructor in Switzerland. We reminisced about the skiing we all did during roughly the same years, first in the Alps and later in Colorado--half a century ago!
Bernie and the Berlin Wall
29 January 2017 | Flamingo Cay, Jumentos
Photo: Bernie aboard his trawler.
Yesterday afernoon we sailed on to Buena Vista Cay and anchored next to the German-flagged trawler, Countess Cosel. Over cracked conch and cold beer aboard Halekai, we got acquainted with Bernhard, who spends his winters here in the Jumentos. He told us the harrowing story of his escape over the Berlin Wall in 1962. He and a friend studied the routine of the border guards and hatched out a plan that gave them 20 seconds to climb the barbed wire fence. They made their dash in the shelter of a truck that brought the relief shift of guards in the cold grey dawn, the rain helping to dim visibility and distract the sleepy guards. They escaped undetected. Bernie eventually emigrated to Milwaukee where he learned to sail on Lake Michigan. This afternoon he invited Burger to hunt and they just returned with their bounty, a lobster and a grouper. Life is good!
Sharing Supper with a Stingray
28 January 2017 | Flamingo Cay, Jumentos
Photo: Local fishing boats spent the night anchored next to us at Water Cay. By nightfall there were six of them.
For years we've dreamed of returning to the Jumentos, a crescent shaped string of mostly uninhabited islets south of the Exumas. Nowhere else in the world did we find such beautiful white sand beaches and crystal clear, multi-hued coral waters.
After a night anchored at Water Cay, we moved on to Flamingo Cay, where we spent Valentine's Day fifteen years ago. There we snorkeled in the shallows and harvested a bunch of conch. While Burger sat in the dinghy removing the meat from the shells, a large stingray kept him company, begging for the debris he tossed overboard. Conch salad for supper!
Fame Fades Fast--or Not?
25 January 2017 | Salt Pond, Long Island
Today we sailed to Thompson's Bay on Long Island, another popular cruiser hang-out. No sooner did we step ashore at the dinghy dock in Salt Pond when a friendly woman greeted us with "Hi Nancy and Burger! We met you in Annapolis years ago." That's the third such encounter in the past month. Evidently my "fame" as SSCA Annapolis Gam Coordinator back in 2002-05 hasn't completely faded.
The Generosity of Cruisers
22 January 2017 | Red Shanks Anchorage, Great Exuma
Just after arriving in the Bahamas in December, we realized we needed some spare parts for the engine and the head. We connected via a FaceBook cruisers' group with Renee and Ryan of s/v Poerava, who were just about to leave from Florida. So we had the parts shipped overnight to them. But then they were delayed by a last-minute boat repair, then a cold front, and another front once they crossed to Nassau--the same weather we we've been suffering here in Georgetown.
Luckily the need for the parts wasn't urgent. Yesterday we were able to meet up and get not only the parts, but a generous hunk of fresh mahi mahi that they had caught on their way here the day before. We treated them to lunch at Exuma Yacht Club. While enjoying the view of the harbor together, we spotted a shark, a big turtle and a barracuda, all at the same time!
Photo: Ryan and Renee at the dinghy dock. They cleverly painted their outboard orange, both for theft deterrence and safety.