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Vanish - Making The Switch From Sail to Power
What Next?
Vicki – 25C/77F, Wind S 15kn, Cloud 5/8, 4Cast Next Few Days W, NW,N & NE 10 kn
19 March, 2013, Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Exumas, The Bahamas

Making fresh conch salad on the beach

The town of George Town serves 1000 people and is one of the last (semi) decent provisioning stops in the Southern Bahamas. As it is a turning point for a lot of U.S. and Canadian visiting yachties, it is also known as Chicken Town. Have I mentioned there are virtually no navigational marks in the Bahamas? Coming into Elizabeth Harbour is like coming into Moreton Bay in Brisbane on visual on a cloudy day following a straight purple dashed line on the Navionics chart which worryingly went across depths of 1.5m (5 ft). We draw 6 ft. We quickly anchored before hitting anything, dropped the dinghy in the water and sent Jake ahead to check depths, then followed him into the anchorage, a prudent thing to do for us as we do not want to run aground. We anchored at the back of the pack of around 250 yachts which have been diminishing each day since as they are already heading north on a daily basis to avoid hurricane season. We've visited the local hotspot, the Chat 'n Chill, a beach restaurant where Conch Salad was being made as you can see in the above photo. Large stingrays were swimming lazily around waiting to be hand fed at the nearby beach. So far we've seen hand fed pigs, sharks and now stingrays.

OK. The question on everyone's mind is What's Next??? Are we chickens or are we roosters? Well, it looks like a weather window might be coming up with seas of 1 to 2 ft which can take us 240 miles to another country called Turks and Caicos. These places are so well known to U.S. and Canadian citizens, but to us, they never come up in Aussie conversation so we've had to do a great deal of research to sort out a Plan. Basically, we need to be out of the hurricane zone by the end of May so we need to be south of Latitude 10 deg S. We can now announce......da da da daaahhhhhh.......we are headed for either Colombia or Panama via Jamaica. April and May are the best cruising months of the year in the Caribbean so we want to make the most of it. We chose Jamaica over the more traditional Windward Island route as it is less travelled. Also as we are coffee growers and rum connoisseurs, Jamaica is renowned for both products. Pretty good excuse eh?

24 March, 2013 | puffins
Love your blog. I have a question: "We draw 6 ft." The 'great loop' requires no more than 5 ft, does that mean if i tried it with a Voyager 76 i'd run aground? Marlow's specs say the draft is 5 ft. Thanks, and have fun on your trip!
25 March, 2013 | Vicki Smith
Hi Puffins. I asked Maynard to reply to your great question and here is his reply.

"A stock standard Voyager with C-15 engines would have a draft of 5 ft. However, in our case, we have added extra batteries, C-18 engines and 2 cranes as well as carrying enough spares and tools to be self-sufficient over a vast distance. This has increased our draft to 5 ft 5 ins without fuel and water. With a full tank of fuel of 4700 gallons and 500 gallons of water and full provisions our draft is 6 ft 2 ins. We have verified these draft measurements by diving. Most of this extra weight is kept very low in the vessel actually improving its righting moment but it does mean that you need that extra little water depth. It’s the old rule in yachting. Everything is a compromise. Thanks for your comments and if you want any more info, don’t hesitate to ask." Maynard
The Bay of Pigs
Vicki - Air 22C, Sea 25C, Cloud 6/8, NNE 12kn, Forecast of 4 days E :)
15 March, 2013, Little Major Spot Cay, Exuma, The Bahamas

This little pig was an incredibly strong swimmer and nearly pulled me right out of the dinghy.

Well we've seen it all now. Did you know that pigs are great swimmers? We'd heard about a little family of wild tame pigs that live on a nearby cay called Little Major Spot which is close to our anchorage near Staniel Cay. These pigs were left on the cay a number of years ago by a couple of Staniel Cay residents. As we neared the beach in our dinghy, we saw some movement on the sand as three chooks started strutting along the water's edge followed by these huge healthy looking pigs that just walked straight into the water and swam right for us. We'd brought some apples, celery and carrots but they're fussy little devils and rejected the carrots when someone else gave them some peanut butter sandwiches. They're awfully smart and would only swim out to new visitors to their beach party. The pig in the above photo practically launched himself into our dinghy to check out our food and then swam off to find a new grocery store. It was really hilarious watching them swim and some of us were very tempted to swim with them but we were told that they'd been known to bite so we scratched that idea. They also seem to like drinking beer as they sat down politely on the sand and opened their mouths when another local tourist operator took the top off a can of beer. I bet they could all get drunk and disorderly real fast. They're certainly on a good wicket..... for a pig that is.

Next, we headed over to Thunderball Grotto, a great snorkelling site and where the movies Thunderball (James Bond movie) and Splash were filmed. The best time to dive the cave is at slack tide as there is a strong current through here. We tied up the dinghy to a mooring and swam towards the narrow entrance between sharp jagged rocks then swam under a rocky ledge into the grotto itself. Once inside, the water was around 20ft deep and filled with a fairly large school of colourful reef fish. It's possible to jump into the water from the opening at the top of the grotto but we were more interested in feeding the fish this time bringing them right up to our masks. We all agreed that it was the best dive so far.

Now THIS is a pack of sharks

Our last stop for the day was the Staniel Cay docks where local fishermen clean their catches. The nearby population of more than 20 nurse sharks all know about it as they were waiting for the scraps. The sharks all line up near the concrete steps at the water's edge so we took the opportunity to pat their heads as they were so docile. A very young small boy near us had no fear whatsoever and pulled a small shark clear out of the water by its tail. The bigger sharks just nudged each other and rolled their eyes as they remembered fondly their own childhoods flying through the air. One can only imagine what sort of ruckus this would have led to if the boy had done this in Oz, however, these sharks seemed to be used to it as they just came back for more. Once again, some of us were very tempted to swim with them but yours truly was told in no uncertain terms to "get a grip".

(No animals were hurt in the making of this blog.)

18 March, 2013 | Alison Stump
So you are now using Pig Power instead of Horse Power to save fuel? There is never a dull moment in the Bahamas. What next?
18 March, 2013 | PHK
Great post. Now you need to find the beach where the famous beach scene in Dr. No was filmed. Hint: It's no where near where you are, but near where you might go...
19 March, 2013 | Eric
Now that is a funny and unusual sight. Great pictures!
19 March, 2013 | Vicki Smith
Alison, hey that's funny. Yes Pig Power is definitely under-utilized; they are incredibly strong but squeal a lot! PHK; sounds like I need to research where we're going! And Eric; Yes, a weird thing to put on one's bucket list but so memorable.
26 March, 2013 | Damienn Plahn
OMG, well people always say 'if pigs could fly' now we know they don't need to, as swimming in the Bahamas is just as much fun!
Something’s Fishy
Vicki –25 deg, S 16 kn, 2/8 Cloud, 100ft+ water vis
12 March, 2013, Cambridge Cay, Exuma, The Bahamas

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy; Maynard, Jake, Renae and me too. In case there's any doubt, we do actually work and often late into the night on various work or boat jobs. However, we take time out to exercise, not in a gym or such-like, but in The Main Man's swimming pool provided free of charge to anyone who wishes to partake. Coincidentally, we're anchored near Johnny Depp's 40 acre cay which he purchased after filming Pirates of the Caribbean - Renae and I really wish he would come over for a Piña Colada or a Goombay Smash.

Ideally, a great snorkelling experience requires a sunny day with few clouds, low wind, minimal tidal movement, no swell and settled conditions. Usually, one element or another is missing but you have to grab your opportunities. We headed out in the dinghy to explore a couple of spots we'd read about and on our way, found a buoy floating in the water at a nearby cay so we dived down to see what was there. We found a Cessna plane which had crashed years ago and was now home to the local fish. Two 3 ft long barracuda came sauntering past. One was only 18" from my face, yikes, he had big teeth too as he gave me a big cheesy grin, which was probably a bad sign. We also saw a nurse shark, and we also saw a lobster hiding in a crevice and some lovely soft coral. We snorkelled at a dive spot called Seaquarium, our best so far near O'Brien Cay where we were met by a school of hungry reef fish all expecting fish food. The fish life is very sparse but there are definitely more in this area as it is a Marine Park. The water clarity was extraordinary and we estimated we could see 100 ft ahead. We also visited Rocky Dundas, a rocky cay which boasts a cave only accessible by the ocean where stalactites and stalagmites grow just above sea level. Swells were pushing into the cave making a weird booming sound. Lastly we tried the Coral Gardens off Honeymoon Beach on Cambridge Cay but it has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

By the way, a comet by the name of Pan-STARRS is currently visible after sundown in the western sky. March 13 is expected to be the best viewing day so hopefully we'll have a chance to take a photo if we get clear skies.

White Tailed Tropicbirds
Vicki – Air 20.8C, 7/8 Cloud, NE 12kn, Water 24C +-
10 March, 2013, Shroud Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas

These beautiful graceful birds are flying overhead looking for flying fish, crustaceans and mates. We feel lucky to see them as they are in courtship mode and the females are swinging their tails from side to side trying to impress the males. March and April is breeding season and the female lays one white egg in a crevice or hole on the dry rocky islands in the Bahamas and Cuba regions. The birds are up to 40" in length and are a real treat to see.

12 March, 2013 | AlisonStump
Beautiful birds, good photography. The Bahamas continue to delight.
12 March, 2013 | Vicki Smith
Every day is a great day in the Bahamas with lots to see and explore. Wish you were here.
Sex, Drugs and Debauchery
Vicki - Air 25C, N 10kn, 1/8 Cloud
8 March, 2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas

Norman's Cay once served as the headquarters for Carlos Lehder's drug smuggling operations from 1978 to 1982. Lehder was part of the Medellin Cartel, allegedly associated with Fidel Castro, Manuel Noriego and Robert Vasco. He constructed a 3,300 ft long runway on Norman's Cay for his fleet of aircraft to transport loads of cocaine to Florida and South Georgia, USA. The DC 3 plane in the above picture was carrying a load of turf to bring to the island and was practicing a 'touch and go' manoeuvre to simulate taking off with a load of cocaine but due to misjudgement, he crashed at the southern end of the cay in the shallow waters. There was so much money passing through their operations back then that Lehder apparently just shrugged his shoulders and ordered another plane. The island became a haven for partying and debauchery and an associate of Lehder's remembers being met by Land Rovers driven by naked women. The Bahamian Government turned a blind eye for a number of years so Lehder and his mates made their own rules; drugs, sex and no police.

Years ago we watched a movie called Blow starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz about these activities so we must see if we can watch it again as we had no idea we'd ever see Norman's Cay in person. Maynard is over there right now trying to find any Land Rovers. Lehder was finally apprehended during a raid and was convicted and sentenced to life without parole plus 135 years. He sure had a good eye for a beautiful place to run his business.

8 March, 2013 | PHK
I've got a Land Rover. One out of two ain't bad...
12 March, 2013 | Vicki Smith
I'm sure Molly would oblige.
50 Shades of Turquoise
Vicki - Air 22.7C/73F, Water Abt 25C/77F, 2/8 Cloud, N 12 kn, Depth 2.6m
7 March, 2013, Normans Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas

This is the clearest, most crystalline, beautiful turquoise water we've seen so far. The colours range from light to dark emerald to turquoise, and light and dark blues depending on the sun angles. It just keeps getting better. The colours remind me of Rottnest Island near Perth, Western Australia but the clarity here is incredible. Maynard, wearing his Geologist/Geophysisict hat believes these clear waters are due to a couple of factors. Firstly, Exuma Sound sits on the east side and is mostly landlocked and protected from the North Atlantic swells. This unique sea plus the lack of run off from rain on the thin band of islands means there is very little disturbance of the surrounding sands.

We're not sure of the water temp at present but it is probably around 25 deg C or 77 F. Our water temp sensor on Vanish seems to be reading high so we are in the process of working on a fix. I can't report any other problems on Vanish. Boring, I know.......... but I can foresee a big, big problem. We could easily spend another season here.

Well Hello Pretty Boy
Vicki - Anchored Highborne Cay - Air 24C, 2/8 Cloud, 2.3m depth
5 March, 2013, Pic at Leaf Cay, Exumas, The Bahamas

We've been holed up at Rock Sound, Eleuthera for a few days due to a cold front, and I mean cold eg 10.3C and strong NW winds often over 30 kn. Finally it settled down and we motored across Exuma Sound. Geez, I can barely get this blog written as a S H A R K has just swum right next to our swim platform - it's big too, more than 2 meters. Can someone tell us what it is please? See Photo Gallery. Anyway, where was I! I'm shaking now as we just came back from a kayak and cat sail on sunset. Nearly went for a swim too but that's off the cards now. You can see how clear the water is.

Well we are now officially in the Exumas, a chain of 365 or so islands and cays running NW to SE for 90 miles and all part of The Bahamas group of islands and an extremely popular cruising ground. We anchored near Highborne Cay and took the dinghy across to Leaf Cay to see the last remaining rock iguana colony in the Bahamas not expecting too much. What a great surprise. There were at least 50 on the beach and they were simply stunning lizards, as lizards go, being almost a meter in length. They are very curious and will walk right up to you as they seem to be very used to tourists.

Flopper Stopper Comfort
Vicki - Air 18.7C/66FC, 8/8 Cloud, Sea Temp 30.4C /87F, 12 kn NW
1 March, 2013, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

This week we've moved from Harbour Island on the north end of Eleuthera to Rock Sound Harbour at the southern end of Eleuthera. As one of the beaut benefits of our previous piloting experience with Little Woody was a carrot cake baked by Mrs Little Phyllis Woody, we asked Little Woody to pilot us out through the reefs and rocks again. We intended going west on the ocean side of NW Eleuthera, but Little Woody knows these waters extremely well and took us through the shortcut to Spanish Wells, his home town and down through the narrow channel alongside the town's fishing wharves and docks saving us around 12 miles thus staying in shallow waters. He regaled us with many more stories along the way and kept us entertained for the hour and a half it took to get us safely on our way.

Our flopper stoppers were taken out of storage this week as we haven't needed them since September last year due to the anchorages being so flat. This week the winds have not behaved themselves. The island of Eleuthera runs SE to NW. It is preferable to have the predominant winds out of the east so that we can comfortably stay on the west side of the island but we've had winds out of the west which means that most anchorages are exposed. This is not too much of a problem though with the flopper stoppers which work beautifully. We have the largest size, a No. 5 which is 900 mm across, and they are suspended from our cranes. They allowed us to stay happily in anchorages on the way down to Rock Sound that normally would be uncomfortable. Once those flopper stoppers are deployed and sitting 1 - 2 meters under the water, the change in the boat motion is incredible. I've included a link on the side bar to the right of this blog if you want to see more information - see Flopper Stopper Info under Favourites.

One of the main attractions at Rock Sound is Ocean Hole, a circular inland salt water lake 1 mile from the sea joined to the ocean by subterranean channels. It floods and ebbs with the tide. Locals believe it is bottomless but it was explored by Jacques Cousteau who could not find the connection to the ocean. It is more than 600 feet deep. It is full of beautiful reef fish and one can swim or snorkel in the lake but no fishing is allowed.

Every single person we've encountered in town has greeted us with a friendly smile or wave, whether they are driving, walking or even inside their homes. There are lots of photos in the Photo Gallery for your enjoyment.

(Fortunately there have been no further experiences with low flying unlit large helicopters.)

26 March, 2013 | Damienn Plahn
That is awesome. It was always an unknown in my mind how effective the flopper stoppers would be on such a large vessel.
Great News!
19 Dark 44
27 February, 2013

It's not the best anchorage. On my Rolling Richter Scale (RSS), it was a 3 even though we had an offshore south wind but due to a small south-west swell and being held side on with the tide, the guys deployed both flopper stoppers which brought the RSS down to less than 1. Vanish is sitting quietly at anchor as usual in a new spot with no one else around. It's dark outside. The moon has risen and Jake is serenading Renae on the bow with his new guitar. Maynard and I are reading in the salon but then we hear a sound. What's that? Sounds like a fairly large helicopter. At home, a helicopter at night could be police, military or rescue. It's very loud now so we race outside and peer towards the sound but can see nothing. It's a cloudless moonlit night and the chopper is probably 200m overhead. It's unlit! How can that be? We've never come across an unlit aircraft before. It passes but 20 minutes later it's back in the sky and all we see of it is the silhouette as it passes low in front of the moon heading stealthily off into the distance. But what's this? It's coming back and we can hear it coming low right towards us. We race to the fly deck as it's nearly on top of us now and 2 seconds before it passes over us, the pilot switches on a searchlight to illuminate Vanish. The light is quickly turned off again within 5 seconds. He circles and passes across the moon again in pitch darkness before disappearing. What just happened?

You Can Never Have Too Many Boats (Apparently)
Vicki – 24 deg C, 2/8 Clouds, 14 kn SE
25 February, 2013, Harbour Island aka Briland, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

Meet our latest edition to the Vanish Fleet. It's a Hobie Bravo Cat and the hull is made of tough rotomolded polyethylene and weighs in at 88.45 kg, about 195 lbs. We store it on the fly deck aft and when stowed for passage making, we are able to use the aft stairs and there's still room up there for more toys. Who's counting, but we now have 5 water craft on Vanish. The Hobie Bravo takes 20 minutes to set up from whoa to go and it performs really well in a wide range of wind conditions as the mainsail can be easily furled to suit all wind conditions and it comes with a boom and even has 4 beer can holders for those who partake. It's simple to rig and has decent upwind performance and is great fun as we've found out in the past few days Maynard probably wants to trick it out with instruments and carbon fibre sails.

Little Woody told us not to worry about sharks in the harbour because if one is spotted, the locals immediately "get rid of it" but the crew on a 30m catamaran Quintessential ( in the marina told us that a large bull shark was swimming around their boat this afternoon. It didn't stop us though as we all took turns sailing on the water.

Until we came here, we knew nothing about Bahamian life. They enjoy sunshine and a lack of rules and regulations which are becoming so commonplace in the Western world plus they have low crime rates and we found a couple more reasons people seem so happy. There are no local taxes on capital gains, inheritance, corporate and personal income, nor dividends and interest. People speak English, there are many airports, roads and ferries and The Bahamas are close to the USA. The Bahamian archipelago is 100,000 square miles and stretches about 500 miles with 700 islands and cays but the total land mass is only 5,382 square miles yet there are only 350,000 and 2/3 of them live on New Providence where the capital Nassau is located so the rest of the islands are very unpopulated. 50% of Bahamian income comes from tourism. And we can eat outside and have yet to encounter a fly, mozzie or sandfly. There's a lot to be said for that!

26 March, 2013 | Damienn Plahn
Looks like another great & durable addition to Vanish! Lots of fun I bet.
Did you ever end up getting any stand up paddle boards?

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