Barracuda's Blog

The adventures of Kate and Graham and our OVNI 395.

23 April 2018 | Old Bahama Bay Marina, Grand Bahama
20 April 2018 | Palm Cay Marina, New Providence, Bahamas
19 April 2018 | Norman's Cay, Bahamas
18 April 2018 | Warderick Wells Cay, Bahamas
17 April 2018 | Warderick Wells Cay, Bahamas
17 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Bahamas
17 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Bahamas
16 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
14 April 2018 | Staniel Cay – Exuma Cays, Bahamas
12 April 2018 | Cape Santa Maria, Long Island
10 April 2018 | Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas
09 April 2018 | Lady Slipper Cay, Aklins Island, Bahamas
08 April 2018
07 April 2018 | Myaguana, Bahamas
05 April 2018 | Turtle Cove Marina, Provo, T&Cs
03 April 2018 | Turtle Cove Marina, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands
02 April 2018 | Beautiful Big Sand Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands
31 March 2018
30 March 2018

Homeward Bound

23 April 2018 | Old Bahama Bay Marina, Grand Bahama
It was an interesting moment when we both pretty much said in unison: time to head for home. This whole trip has been an absolute blast and we have just loved the last few weeks in the Bahamas. We could keep doing more Bahamas, but we are now thinking of coming back here for next winter. We still have the US East Coast to cover and the Chesapeake Bay to see (if time allows), as well as friends and family to catch up with, before we catch a flight across the pond. So rather than staying longer in the Bahamas we jointly decided it was time to head north and to start our homeward journey.

Our three nights in Palm Cay Marina, New Providence, were a good rest after the total highs of the Exumas. We fuelled up and watered up and bought more food, showered a lot and did the laundry – all the stuff our readers don’t really get excited about but for us it is the bread and butter of comfortable life aboard. We had started to develop a wee community of very friendly boaters in the marina. All in all it was a good stop.

Yesterday we left as the outbound security chain went down, and headed round through strong winds and bumpy seas east of New Providence. Onward, threading our way through the last of the Bahamas reefs that we will negotiate, and then out once again into the deep blue sea. We decided to head straight up for Grand Bahama, where we can complete our check out formalities, and do the 150 miles non-stop. The overnight passage was busy, as we discovered that all the cruise ships and cargo ships in the area use the route we had chosen, so we dodged some of the ships and called a few of the others up, and generally kept out of their way until we arrived in Old Bahamas Bay Marina today. Just for the record – and prices have increased dramatically as we head north - this is the most expensive marina we have visited, with the least useful docking staff – just saying. On top of a punitive docking rate we have had to pay a $15 mandatory water charge whether we use it or not - so Barracuda (and Guppy) will enjoy a good wash just for the hell of it!! (You can take the boy out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the boy.)

Our weather world is changing too as we head north. G had a lot of rain this morning (while K was asleep) and though we are still full-time in shorts, the fleeces are out for night-time passages. We are starting to realise that our warm winter travels may soon be over as we head up the cooler north east US. We’re looking forward to getting home, but not so keen on having to get back to a world of heavy clothes, eating indoors and even – heaven forbid – oilskins – after ten months of sunshine. Tomorrow – fingers crossed - we will enter the Gulf Stream for the first time – we will tell you how that goes in our next blog.

No good photos from the last few days so we have included our best fish pic from the Exumas.

The cabin boy departs - by AJW

20 April 2018 | Palm Cay Marina, New Providence, Bahamas
After 16 days and 424 miles on Barracuda I am finally allowed to write the blog.

My four big learnings / realisations from this amazing trip were:

1. Sharks don't bite ...... well not usually.

2. The Bahamas is an unbelievably cool place to sail. Round every corner is a new and exciting adventure. The turquoise water, the wildlife, the people, the food (especially the conch) and of course the anchor holding! It is a great big pile of sand after all!

3. I have a very understanding and wonderful wife who let me go play in the sun while she looked after things at home in the rain. Thank you Sarah! XXX

4. Graham and Kate are not just accomplished transatlantic sailors but set a great example by always taking time to do the right thing, be it putting safety first, taking time to clear plastic off the beach, helping those impacted by the hurricanes or taking the initiative to round up fellow sailors for sundowners on the beach!

Thank you Graham & Kate for all your hospitality. I had a blast! Safe travels and look forward to seeing you in Blighty soon.

Angus (the cabin boy)

Sunken Planes

19 April 2018 | Norman's Cay, Bahamas
We left Warderick Wells early in the morning and slid over the Exuma Bank towards Norman's Cay. The interesting thing about Norman's Cay is a crashed plane in the bay at the south. Apparently it was a drug running plane that has now become a good snorkelling site. K stayed on Barracuda for a nap whilst G&A took Guppy round for a swim. First time we have ever swum on a sunken plane. It was a challenge to photograph as there were millions of fish trying to get into the frame.

A quiet night at anchor and an early departure to feel our way over the coral heads of the Yellow Bank to our destination of Palm Cay Marina on New Providence Island - aka Nassau. This is where Angus will leave us before we continue our passage to the US east coast.

Warderick Wells Cay - Part 2

18 April 2018 | Warderick Wells Cay, Bahamas
The Exuma Land and Sea Park also maintains a number of hiking paths around the Cay. We took ourselves off exploring, along the jagged, holey limestone rocks, down to the loveliest little white sand and green sea beaches, through the mangrove beds, and up to Boo-Boo Hill where - like most sailors who come this way - we left an offering from Barracuda (a piece of wood with boat name, date and crew names). Amazing views from the top of the hill, looking out across the deeps and shallows and banks, and all the shades of blue and green you can imagine in among the smaller cays and sandbanks.

The evening took a social twist, when we met some of the other crews visiting the cay and an impromptu BYOB sundowner developed on the beach. Great fun.

Warderick Wells Cay – Part 1

17 April 2018 | Warderick Wells Cay, Bahamas
Our trip up to Warderick Wells took us across the broad, shallow Exumas Bank on the west side of the islands. It took a surprise turn when we were hit by a very big tropical squall. These usually last for about 5 minutes, but this one lasted for about an hour with wind speeds reaching a steady 33 kts on the nose, and loads of rain. The plus side was that G, A and the boat had a good fresh water shower (K was on radar duty downstairs). It really does not feel so bad when it is warm rain; however, horizontal rain at over 30 kts does sting a bit. Anyway..... we made it through, and arrived at last into the delightful Warderick Wells.

Warderick Wells is in a marine park that on first glance looks to be extremely well managed. The rangers have installed moorings in the channels for visitors, to stop the bottom getting ripped up by anchors and keep them off the coral reefs and drying sandbanks. Just as well, as the tide rips through the moorings and into the sandy channels.

We had two firsts today - three big spotted eagle rays parading back and forwards past the boat, and a Caribbean Reef Shark. They aren't dangerous, honest, Mum.

Staniel Cay Blog Part 3 – Thunderball Grotto

17 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Bahamas
We waited for the tide to drop and then took Guppy over to the Thunderball Grotto. It's a hollow inside a small island that you can snorkel into at slack low water, but it's inaccessible at high water without tanks. Without exaggerating, this is the best snorkelling experience any of us have ever had - it was mind-blowing. The grotto under the small island has several entrances above and to the side, allowing shafts of light in from various directions. It's home to many species of tropical fish that are present in vast numbers. The fish are very tame and lazily circle you as you swim around. It is surreal, calm and totally beautiful. A perfect tiny jewel.

This is where two James Bond films were shot: Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice. It would be most helpful if one of our readers could remind us what they were about and where they might have used a grotto in the filming, so that we can remember.

We have enjoyed some great food here in Staniel Cay. We elected to give the Yacht Club a miss and instead gave our business both nights to the wee purple café on the beach, where we enjoyed conch and lobster (and Key Lime Pie) washed down with the local Kalik beer.

We are now heading for Warderick Cay, where the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is headquartered, to see what more surprises the Exumas hold.

Staniel Cay Blog Part 2 – The Swimming Pigs

17 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Bahamas
We took Guppy over to Pig Beach to see the swimming pigs. The story goes that someone tried to start a pig farm on the island a while back; it did not take off, but the residual pigs have stayed and bred and have learnt that visiting boats bring food. People come in to see them and feed them, and the pigs will swim out to you for food and a photo shoot. In fact it has become a major tourist attraction all by itself.

They have some cute little piglets and some big porkers - we are talking about the pigs here, not the visiting clientele. The biggest is called Mama Karma - and you are warned that Karma will 'bite you in the ass'. She was very keen on our bunch of over-ripe bananas, but clearly felt we could have brought more.

Would you allow your child to swim with sharks?

16 April 2018 | Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
You could so easily sail past Staniel Cay on the east side and not realise it is there, and what a mistake that would be. Luckily we had heard about it, so decided to head in for a couple of nights. The entrance is another tidal cut around and over a reef, with some fast flowing currents running around rocks and islands as well as tidal flows. There’s nothing to see from the east, but once you get to the west side of the island it all starts to come alive. There are beautiful pastel-painted beach houses on stilts, massive kick-ass power boats and even some normal yachts at anchor in the turquoise blue water. The big super yachts have to anchor about a mile off, out on the bank. The water is very clear, mostly over clear white sand, and you can see the shallows, reefs and channel. Ashore there is the busy Staniel Cay Yacht Club, a couple of shops, a small café/restaurant and an airstrip. This is all now in striking distance from Florida and Nassau, so people can come down for the day or the weekend. The sights of Staniel Cay need more than one photo to describe, so we will sub-divide this blog into three to share the highlights.

Firstly, let’s discuss sharks and children. As you drive the tender into the docking area there is the clear outline of nurse sharks on the sea bed, dozing under the boats. At the side of the dock, next to the fish-cleaning bench, there is an area where you can swim with the sharks and rays. ‘Why’ - we ask? Anyway: there was a family standing beside the shark swimming area. Mum and Dad were standing back, taking pictures, whilst their four year old child had a paddle with about 10 nurse sharks , all a lot bigger that him. Darwin at work? You decide. (Our photo shows an adult doing the same thing).

Hello Exumas

14 April 2018 | Staniel Cay – Exuma Cays, Bahamas
After a slightly swelly night at anchor, we enjoyed one of our best ParaSailor runs from Long Island over to the Exuma Cays - steady and fast, with no sail trimming. The cays are very low lying, so you have to get quite close before you see much.

At this point we should mention the daily cribbage contest, which entertains the crew on longer and flatter sails.

The Exuma bank is a very large flat area covered in a few meters of water. The chain of cays looks like a rough coral necklace, all lumps and bumps separated by gaps, most of which are strewn with rocks and coral heads, some of which are viable passages. On the Atlantic side, you go from 100 metres deep to high and dry in just half an hour, while on the west - the bank side - it is too shallow for most boats, and is seldom more than 5m deep. As the tide comes in, it rushes in all directions through the gaps in the cays and floods over the bank, which forms fast and sometimes rough channels - and then the reverse happens as the tide falls and the water drains off the bank. So we are now having to do tidal calcs again, but with none of the directional predictability of our old hunting grounds.

Our destination was Rat Cay; not that we saw any rats, but we did see a pretty impressive blow hole spouting upwards on the cay next door. This was our first entry through a viable cut in the cays. We wanted to enter near slack water, so timed our arrival for evening high water, and Angus the rock-spotter was stationed on the bow. The entry through Rat Cay Cut looked worse than it was, but was a good learning curve for how life is on the Exuma Bank.

We spent the night anchored behind Rat Island with a good breeze and a fair amount of tide flowing each way, but the holding was good. This morning we left at high water, just after sun rise. Today we are enjoying a lovely fast white sail reach towards Staniel Cay with Pancakes, bananas and golden syrup for breakfast and heading for the swimming pigs.

Exploring Long Island

12 April 2018 | Cape Santa Maria, Long Island
Firstly we can report that Rowdy Boys was not at all rowdy; we were the only customers but a good meal was had, washed down by the fine local beer (Kalik).

We stopped in the anchorage at Clarence Town for an extra day to explore the island by hire car. We had been sailing for quite a few days, so it was good to take a break and do something different. Lots to report.

There is one main road which runs the 100-mile length of the island. Our first stop was the Hamilton Caves, the second largest cave system in the Bahamas, where the owner, Leonard, showed us round - very impressive stalactites, stalagmites and bats, and well worth the stop. Then we took a drive up the Queen's Highway for a cracked conch lunch - it tastes like a cross between lobster and calamari, and pronounced 'conk' here. Very tasty.

Then a meander around some of the very exclusive beach-side lots on the shallow west coast, where people have been building beautiful beach houses. Looks divine but feels a touch lacking things to do, perhaps with the exception of going to church. Never have we seen such a high density of churches per capita, all well maintained and beautifully painted. Long Island is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer, and we crossed it twice. On the way home we had a swim at Dean's Blue Hole. This is a vertical hole just at the edge of the sea that drops down through the limestone to over 200m in depth. It is slightly un-nerving to swim over the edge from the pale green of the standing depth white coral sand, and be suddenly over the centre of the deep blue hole. The day finished with a sun-downer at the Flying Fish Marina, and then watching the bull sharks and tiger sharks coming in, hoping to be fed at the marina fish-gutting station.

Some excitement this morning when we discovered our anchor chain had snagged a water-logged tree on the seabed. It took a bit of shifting - using a long rope and the buoy-stabber - but shift it eventually did, and all was well.

Today we sailed round the north of Long Island and anchored just south of Cape Santa Maria. The water is turquoise blue, the sand white and the place is deserted. We have now left the Tropics and will head over towards Great Exuma and on to the Exuma Cays. The swimming pigs are getting closer!
Vessel Name: Barracuda
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Crew: Graham and Kate
About: Learning as we go....
Extra: Look to this day for it is life...
Barracuda's Photos - Main
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