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Retirement to Bahamas
Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!
Warm in Georgetown
01/12/2011

Just enough time for a quick location update; we are in Georgetown. We'll probably stay here for a while. Will have a chance to update the blog in more details soon.

01/16/2011 | Triana
Hello! my family and I are planning a february trip to staniel cay...i am worried that the water will be cold to swim as we have a 6 year old... and shes used to going to the exumas in june...can you please tell me about the weather there now in general? is it warm to be in a bathing suit? is it ok to swim?
01/17/2011 | Claire Caloren
Hi Mike,
Paul was in Ottawa last week and I asked about you. He resent me the address for your blog. Sounds like you are ``weathering the good, the bad and the ugly``.
Best regards, Claire Caloren
01/17/2011 | Mike and Judy
Triana, water is and will be fine for your trip to Staniel in February. We swim pretty much every day and we have been told that the water is particularly warm this year. And the colours!!!!!! Staniel Cay has some amazing snorkle sites and it's a wonderful place.

There are regular, cyclical cold fronts which march through and make for blustery and coolish days but they become less frequent as the winter passes. Enjoy your trip.

Claire, so good to hear from you. We're enjoying our winter very much. Regards to your colleagues who I had the pleasure of working with.
Between the Majors
01/09/2011

So, we head back to the Staniel Cay area; this time preparing for a cold front. Instead of anchoring west of Big Major (pig Beach) we opt for the much more protected anchorage "between the majors". This is a narrow but deep passage between two substantial islands with "near" 360 degree protection.
Weather forecasts indicate a significant front but we figure we're in a great spot. There are only a few boats here when we arrive but lots of boats come in as the day progresses 'cause of the inclement weather to come. We find a good spot and dig our anchor in really good and go to the beach. There are beaches galore anywhere here and most are deserted. Don't know who loves this more; Chopin or Judy.
Evening is quite clement and we lull ourselves into thinking that the front will not be significant and that it'll dissipate before it gets to us. It's a peaceful evening and we go to bed thinking that we might get a bit of wind but have, generally, a restful night. Well, around 1:30, the wind starts to howl, the sky is completely lit with lightening and it becomes really scary. We are dancing around our anchor as are our neighbours. There's no possibility of rest and I spent the night in the cockpit reading and fretting. We note that a neigbouring boat starts to drag and spends some considerable time, in the black of the night and in fierce winds trying to reanchor. The trawler behind us seems to be moving further away and in the dark it's hard to determine what's happening.
The boat lurches and tugs at the anchor; picture a vessel which, with it's cargo probably weighs 10 tons being pulled and pushed on an anchor weighing 45 pounds and 70 feet of chain. You've got to have a lot of faith in the engineering of modern boat gear. Our anchor holds fine but I barely sleep. When day breaks around 6, the wind abates a bit and I go below to sleep fitfully for a couple of hours. The wind continues to settle and by this time when we see 20 knots it almost feels calm. we hear that four boats drag in our supposedly protected anchorage. One report showed peak winds of 60 knots but while I think this is exaggerated, we heard many reports of wind gusts in excess of 40 and more.
As the day progresses, the wind abates and it's a lovely day. Roger and I dinghy into Staniel to get our propane tanks filled. It's a bumpy ride over with the wind still coming in from the west but warm and pleasant.
This is a small island and most of the road transportation is by golf carts. There are a few trucks and cars but mostly golf carts and scooters zipping noiselessly by. As we wander to one of the three small stores to get propane we are offered a drive by a local lady. She's quite a character and we find out later is the community police. I don't think there's much crime to begin with but I would not want to have to reckon with her if I was on the wrong side of the law.
We get our propane tanks refilled which is a time consuming process but have a great chat with the store owner and get lots of stories about life on these small islands. On the way back we stop at the two other stores; the pink store and the blue store. They are tiny and sparsely stocked stores owned by brothers (one died last year). We get the sense that there is a very easy rivalry between them if at all. I ask various locals which they prefer and they're to a person careful not to indicate their preference for one over the other.
Things are very costly and not readily available. When the so-called "mailboat" comes in, they have a run on produce and other things and people surge to the stores to get the fresh stuff.
We stop by one of the small bars called Taste and Sea for a cold Kalik (the local beer) and get more stories from the affable and industrious proprietor.
All in all, a very pleasant day...



01/10/2011 | Georgie
Hi!

I miss you guys! Sounds like horrid night but a great day afterwards... I think I would have put up with the wind. It snowed today in vancouver. Its not supposed to snow here! haha

Keep having fun. Lots of love to you guys!
Miss you
Georgie
Back South Again
01/09/2011

We somewhat reluctantly leave Cambridge Cay after two fantastic days of snorkelling and great weather. We shared this harbour with Audacious and only a couple of other boats; one being a large (130 foot) yacht. In addition to their various fun watercraft, they had a small airplane which they flew low over the various islands and cays. It was fun to wave to them as they buzzed along and around the cays.
Judy and I hiked to a fantastic beach, called "honeymoon beach" a fine almost white powdery sand crescent beach. We roam around and Judy decides to do the typical thing and does a heart in the sand with our (and of course Chopin's) names. We return to Sea Sharp and sometime later a dinghy comes past us and says that they've read about us. I thought that they might have been following our blog but they clarify that they read our sand valentine. They were from Vancouver and pleasant folks like all of the cruisers we've met.
We reluctantly leave this wonderful place but Georgina has to leave and we want to accompany her and her parents back to Staniel to see her off. We head back down island, past Staniel to a place called Bitter Guana Cay. For those who followed our blog over the past two years may remember our rendition of this place. This is a deserted Cay with a fantastic beach, inhabited by iguanas which make those on our aformentioned Allen's Cay iguanas look like Tattoo from Fantasy Island.
Audacious and Sea Sharp are the only two boats anchored in this place and once settled we quickly go ashore to be greeted by these corpulent and voracious iguanas. Since we were here two years ago, some scientists, we presume, have been tracking and labelling them. They all have numbers painted on their scaly flanks. As we land, they trundle down to greet us; not aggressive but certainly confident and not afraid. They are pleased to gobble up our left over veggies and other semi spoiled foods. They're quite a sight.
We take the short path which brings us from the "bank" or west side to the "sound" or east side. There is a great reef here and we all snorkle and take in the amazing underwater vistas. It's particularly memorable 'cause it's Georgina's last day with us and she just loves to swim and experience the marine environment.
Georgie's flight out tomorrow is from Staniel Cay and we decide to dinghy her over rather than take the big boats over. By dinghy can make the trip in 15 minutes across the shallow banks where by big boat it'll take us a couple of hours when we consider up and down anchor. We take our dinghy which is identical to Rog and Jacqie's but with a bigger engine.
We are as sad to see Georgina leave as her parents. We've sailed with Georgina for more than 25 years and have watched her grow up to be an intelligent and vivacious young lady.

Back North (a bit)
01/08/2011

After several pleasant days in Staniel Cay, we head back up the Exuma chain to a place called Cambridge Cay.  This is in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. There are Park moorings here and supposedly some great snorkling sites. It is a short sail back to this place but the entry from the Bank side is tricky. You have to skirt an island (Cay) called Bell Island. While it is within the territorial limits of the Park, it is privately owned; by the Aga Khan. In fact, there is a local controversy simmering because he has applied to dredge the channel and make a place for mega yachts and landing craft. Reportedly he flew the Minister of Environment to his place on his private helecopter and the press were critical of the perceived conflict the Minister put himself in by accepting the Aga Khans hospitality. à
We then have to pass by another Cay which is owned by Johnny Depp. We pick up a mooring and it is a very special place. The next day we go snorkeling with Rog, Jacquie and Georgina and have some spectacular sights. One site is an old plane wreck and because the water is so clear you can make see the plane in fine detail. Another site has caves which you can swim into and enter these eerie, caverns with many fish and strange geological feature. Other sites are colorful reefs with many fishes of all sorts and colors.
We dinghy to Johnny Depps island and see him on his large yacht. Judy would like to visit him but I doubt he want to host us. It was a special couple of days here and we certainly will return.

Staniel Cay
12/31/2010

Weather has settled down very nicely and we leave Wardrick Wells (Exuma Cay Land and Sea Pärk) to head to Staniel Cay. It is a 25 mile run and we get to sail some of it.

Staniel Cay is a very popular place for boaters and yachtsmen. It is home to the famous Staniell Cay Yacht Club where there will be many festivities for the New Year Holidays.

It is also the location of Thunderball; the cave, grotto made famous in teh James Bond film of the same name. In fact we snorkle into this grotto and it is fantastic. You enter through a very narrow entrance and emerge in a grotto with eerie light, many many fish and strange geological features. We bring bread with us to feed the fish and they literally swarm you; fish of all shapes and colors.

We anchor by Big Major Cay otherwise known as Pig Beach. There are numerous wild pigs which inhabit this island and when you dinghy into the shore, they swim out to meet you expecting to be fed. It is quite remarkable.

We dinghy the several miles into Staniel cay at least once a day and participate in various of the festivities. Glad we have a fast dinghy as it only takes a few minutes to make the trip. Sometimes, however, it is quite wet and we have to take changes of clothing for when we get to shore.

There are loads of boats here including many mega yachts. Weather has been superb.

So to all readers, Happy and Prosperous New Year. Pictures and longer posts will happen when we get better connection.

12/31/2010 | Sarah-Jane & Norman
Happy New Year and all the best for 2011.
We so enjoyed the area you are now in several years ago with Bonnie & Mike. Judy, no swimming with the pigs. The best conch I ever had is at the Staniel Cay YC. Of course, Norman had his hamburg. We are enjoying no snow and 6 degrees and sun. Tomorrow we will go to the various Yacht Club levies by motor yacht with friends. Even in Halifax on New Year's Day we go boating. Love to you both and Chopin
12/31/2010 | Blair and Laurie Aston
So good to see someone in the warm weather and water. We are really enjoying your blog and tracker. Hope to catch up with you or at least get into your area in the new year. Happy New Year to all crew. Laurie and Blair.
01/01/2011 | jeerry b
The water twirled and the wind howled !
But Captain mike said "not today !!" he sternly growled,
"you see I have some pigs to feed and some fishes to be fed,
so you mother nature, now, just go to bed."

good read Mike, enjoying your blog, your trip is mind boggling, I don't know if I'm jealous or relived to be an land lubber.
01/07/2011 | Kent Ross
Greetings from the great white north, hope all is well, hope the weather is good although I hear it might be a bit cool. have fun Kent
Paradise Found
12/28/2010

We left Allan's Cay for the modest hop of 30 or so miles to the Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park, more specifically, Wardrick Wells. This from their website, "Established in 1958, Exuma Park is one of 25 National Parks and Protected Areas managed by the Bahamas National Trust. Unique in the world, the Trust is believed to be the only non-profit, non-governmental agency mandated with management of a nationwide system of parks and protected areas. In 1986, The Bahamas National Trust established Exuma Park as a complete NO TAKE ZONE and marine protected area, the first in the wider Caribbean".

This place is unbelievably beautiful with every color of water imaginable. The main Island, Wardrick Wells, is very carefully managed notwithstanding the many many cruising boats which visit here each year. They are very careful about how this place is used and it has been worth the effort! Our good cruising friends Mike and Bonnie from Millennium Odyssey have contributed many hours over the years helping to build and maintain the infrastructure here - it has been worth the effort.

We arrive on Christmas Eve with warm balmy weather and are assigned a mooring in the north mooring field. It looks like a dark blue river meandering through a yellow ocean as we find our way to our designated mooring. There are about 18 boats (all sail boats) in this mooring field; there are two others, one at Emerald Rock just to our south and Hog Cay. The moorings are well maintained and we feel secure knowing that that there's a serious weather system coming.

So we wake up on Christmas day to a perfect Caribbean day; warm and clement. We take the short hike to "Boo Boo Hill" where cruisers typically inscribe their and their boat's name on drift wood and place it along with the many, many other weathered mementos of previous visits. Early in the afternoon, we all go snorkelling and see lots of reef fish in the gin clear waters.

There's a cruisers' pot luck at 2:00 and true to form, virtually all of the boaters turn up with many delectable dishes to accompany ham and turkey provided by the Park staff. We meet many fellow boaters and it's a special afternoon. We are invited to drinks at the "Bahamian Defence Force" which maintains a presence here. This is the approximate equivalent of the Bahamas navy and they patrol the park to watch for poachers, drug smugglers, refugees, etc. They are wonderful hosts and provide us with Rum Punch, tropical music (to which Judy and I dance) and great conversation. While we miss our family and friends but it's been a great day!

A strong cold front is coming on boxing and we're glad to be on a mooring well secured to the ocean floor. We wake up boxing day to reasonable weather but know that around noon the beginnings of the front will appear and the full force will follow the passage of the front. I tell Judy that around 2:00 pm it'll pass over us and at 1:45 it hits us. For the next day and a half we are pummelled with very strong winds. We cannot leave the boat and it's bouncing around on the mooring and the cacophony of the wind in the rigging is scary. I stay in the cockpit for part of the night with instruments on and on the qui vive to respond to the possibility of the mooring line breaking or other calamity. Winds peak at 35 knots then up to 40 through the night. The winds continue through the next day and we're prisoners of our boat which ain't so bad. Judy and Chopin watch 5 movies. I stay in the cockpit and read two books on Kindle. Every boat in the mooring field is bouncing and lurching around. I check our mooring lines about every hour and at one time discover that one of our three lines has parted (broken). I go forward with life jacket while Judy eases the boat forward under motor to replace this line. All in all, it's a hairy day and a half and a poignant contrast to the peace and serenity we had here on Christmas day. But, it's only a day in the life of the cruiser.

Finally yesterday around sunset the wind subsides and I hit the bunk early and sleep like a log, probably not having slept much the night before. We get up this morning (Tuesday) to moderate winds but cold temperatures. The boat's no longer straining at her mooring lines and the shrieking of the wind in the rigging has abated. I do some boat chores and visit Audacious. We decide to spend some time on the beach today as we all need shore leave. Judy and I take poor Chopin to the beach and he's glad to get off that lurching hellship Sea Sharp for at least a while. We to go to the beach for the afternoon where Judy gives Georgina a beach pedicure, Jacquie gives me a long overdue haircut and Roger fabricates a sign for us to leave on Boo Boo Hill. We meet various other cruisers and have a restful afternoon after the tumult we endures over the last 36 hours.

It's amazing how quickly the fear through the storm fades into the beauty and peace of this wonderful place once it's over.

So, we plan on heading out tomorrow; probably for Staniel Cay, about 20 miles south, where there are lots of festivities for the holidays. On the way we will pass Johnny Depp's and the Aga Khan IV's private islands. There's interesting news articles about the Aga Khan's dredging and development of his island without having obtained the proper permits. We understand on the other hand that Johnny Depp has been very responsible and modest about the development of his island.

So, it's been an amazing four days here; calm, serene, boisterous and downright scary, but we're doing fine and not shovelling the acres of snow that we understand has befallen our families home in NB.

By the way the website where you can get our current location as we proceed is http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0yR6laDhTYKeQB8vFPUhuEHHFHAytAUoz

Also, we cannot post pictures for the time being but promise to load some as soon as we get better internet.

Happy Holidays to all.

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Preparing for Retirement Trip
Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
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