14 October 2016 | Staunton, VA
21 August 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
08 July 2016 | Bert Jabin Yacht Yard in Annapolis, MD
14 June 2016 | Charlottlesville, VA
03 April 2016 | Saint Petersburg, Florida
15 February 2016 | Key Biscayne, Florida
27 December 2015 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
03 December 2015 | Oriental, NC
23 October 2015 | Portsmouth, VA
24 September 2015 | Cape Henlopen
02 September 2015 | Rockport, MA
27 July 2015 | Salem River, New Jersey
14 June 2015 | Oxford, Maryland
21 May 2015 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
09 May 2015 | Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
04 May 2015 | Hope Town, Abacos, Bahamas
13 April 2015 | Nassau, Bahamas
24 March 2015 | The Bight Anchorage, Cat Island, Bahamas
28 February 2015 | Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
17 February 2015 | Highborne Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

When Pigs Swim

28 February 2015 | Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Caroline / 77º, clear and sunny, winds E 12 MPH
The Central Exumas
Our first several weeks in the Bahamas were marked by colder temperatures and higher winds and seas than were comfortable - remnants of all the storms that have been bashing our poor New England friends all winter. Now, however, the weather is settling back into its more normal pattern of mild temperatures and moderate trade winds blowing steadily from the east. This is quite a relief to us!

After leaving Allens Cay, we docked for one night at swanky Highbourne Cay, a private island with a very pretty but relatively expensive marina. We needed to take on water, fuel, and provisions, though, and it worked well for that. We feasted on seafood ceviche, a mahimahi sandwich, and a local specialty dessert, guava duff, for lunch at the marina’s lovely restaurant, Xuma. Then we walked around the island to explore the beaches on the eastern side.

The next morning, winds had already picked up considerably, and we had a pretty exciting time getting out of our tight little slip on one side of the harbor and then onto the fuel dock. It took several tries and the help of several people to get out, as the wind was making it hard to dock Thalia. Finally we did, though, and then motored out through the narrow channel, where one boat had run aground and four or five more were waiting for us to leave so they could come in.

Having dropped more than $500 in just one day there (dockage, fuel, water, internet, lunch, and provisions), we knew we couldn’t afford to stay longer, although it certainly would have been easier to do so.

Exuma Land and Sea Park
Moving further south, we spent a couple of uncomfortable nights bouncing around tiny Elbow Cay, trying to escape strong northerly winds, before we finally moved down to Emerald Rock at Warderick Wells, an uninhabited cay where the Exuma Land and Sea Park is headquartered. This turned out to be the most stunning anchorage we’ve ever seen, a crescent of turquoise in a protected harbor surrounded by scrubby hills, sugar sand beaches, and groves of mangrove trees.

We stayed four nights, taking our dinghy over daily to land on one beach or another, and hike the many trails. The highlight was hiking up to Boo Boo Hill, so named for the eerie sounds said to be made by the ghosts of a long-ago shipwreck. Located at the highest point on Warderick Wells, the spot is marked by an enormous pile of driftwood, much of it carved or painted with the names of visiting boats. To the north of Boo Boo Hill, numerous blow holes pock the coral rock cliffs, spouting foamy columns at high tide.

Returning to Thalia from our hike, we took our dinghy out into the bay, anchored, and snorkeled in the clearest water I’ve ever seen. No fishing or removal of anything is allowed in the park boundaries, so it teems with life. The small coral reefs we drifted over were home to a large array of wildly colorful fish, mostly juveniles. Experimenting with our GoPro for the first time underwater, Larry followed a nurse shark as it moved from one hidey hole to another.

The water was so clear - and only about seven feet deep at low tide - that any stingrays, sharks, remoras or other fish that swam by our boat were almost as clear as if we were still underwater. In the evening, we realized that the nurse sharks were lurking under our boat, as they love to hide under anything. Shining a flashlight into the water drew them out and they’d swim right by Thalia, some six or seven feet long, and each with one or two large remoras attached. It was thrilling to see them so close and to “play” with them.

What was best about our stay there, though, was that for once we didn’t feel compelled to move on the minute the weather became favorable to do so. You can get into the mentality where your focus is on finding places to hide from the wind and swells, traveling from one place to another just to seek protection, and leaving without ever seeing much. Spending several extra days in a calm, protected anchorage was a real treat.

When we felt ready to head further south, we exited from the shallow Exuma Banks through Conch Cut into the Exuma Sound on the east side, where the water is much deeper and where we hoped to catch a fish by trolling the short distance south. We did in fact catch a small barracuda, which cause some real excitement (Larry would say reel excitement) when a good sized nurse shark pounced on it as I was reeling it in, creating quite a drag on the line. The shark attacked the barracuda twice before I could get it in, leaving only the head with a staring eyeball and a lot of very sharp teeth. Laughing, we let the line back out, figuring the head would be good bait for another fish. Unfortunately - as is all too common around here - a fast fishing boat came screaming across our stern way too close, severing our line and causing me to lose my favorite purple squid lure.

Big Majors Cay
We came back to the Banks side of the cays through Big Rock Cut, a somewhat tricky passage with strong currents and numerous coral heads that leads to a popular cruiser’s destination, Staniel Cay, by way of Thunderball Grotto (where Sean Connery and crew filmed a Thunderball scene in the late 1960s). Our first destination, though, was the next cay north, Big Majors Cay, which I had long wanted to visit because it is home to a large drift of pigs. Swimming pigs, that is.

The legend is that the pigs swam ashore from a wrecked Spanish galleon, and over the years have adapted to their environment by learning to swim. I don’t honestly know if other pigs swim, but these pigs sure are good at it! What’s more, they’ve trained the tourists so well to bring them treats that I doubt they even have to look for food on the island. When a boat approaches, they swim right up, sometimes even hooking their hooves over the side, and open their mouths for a carrot or an apple or other treat.

We took our dinghy ashore the first afternoon, armed with our Nikon and a handful of carrots, and had a great time bobbing around in the shallow water, fending off a couple of huge, very friendly sows who weren’t about to let the piglets near us.

The pigs are a great tourist attraction, of course, and bring a steady stream of power boats, dinghies, kayakers, jet skis, paddle boarders, and others to visit. Despite that, it’s a wonderful anchorage. It’s huge, with room for up to around 50 boats, and well protected from all but the west. We spent three or four peaceful nights there before moving back down to Staniel Cay - only about two miles away - and anchoring out here after filling our water tanks at the local marina, the charming Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Staniel Cay and Thunderball Grotto
We’ve spent the past two days at Staniel Cay, walking around town and eating wonderful lunches of fish sandwiches and the local Kalik beer with several friends who are also anchored out here. Yesterday the weekly supply boat came in, good timing on our part. There are three tiny grocery stores here, known as the Pink Store, the Blue Store, and Isles General Store. Shelves were empty of any fresh produce Thursday, but Friday afternoon we returned with our friends and stocked up on tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, pineapples, mangoes, chicken, eggs, and more.

We also left our propane tank at Isles yesterday afternoon. We’d taken it in to be refilled, and were told we’d have to leave it overnight. Apparently the propane isn’t pumped under pressure into the tanks as it is in the States - they use gravity to fill tanks, which takes hours. No problem - we’re happy to stay another night!

As we are anchored directly off Thunderball Grotto, this morning we dinghied over to snorkel there. It’s a tiny island - really just a very large coral rock that has eroded from above as well as below to create a natural cavern in the center of the island. At low tide, several narrow openings appear that you can snorkel right into. We arrived this morning just at low tide, then swam in. Once past the entrance, we found ourselves in a stunningly beautiful domed cavern. Openings in the coral rock ceiling above let in shafts of light, so there’s no sense of a dark, cold cave. It’s more like an indoor saltwater swimming pool, teeming with a colorful array of fish who are much less shy than fish normally are on reefs. I suspect they, like the pigs, are often fed by visitors.

Now, of course, we want to get our hands on a DVD of Thunderball so we can watch it again. There are photos of the film crew on the walls at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where they also hung out, eating fish sandwiches and drinking Kalik beer. It doesn’t seem that all that much has changed, thankfully.

Tomorrow we will again attempt to catch a fish on our way five or six miles south to Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay. A local fishing guide and bread baker named Cool Runner (you can’t make this stuff up!) in Highbourne Cay told us he’s from there, and that we must visit. We’ve since heard from several other cruisers what a nice, untouristy, typical Bahamian town it is, so we’re looking forward to checking it out. Also, apparently a woman there named Lorraine runs the best laundromat in the Exumas, and will serve us conch fritters - six for a dollar - while we wait. Now that sounds like a plan!
Vessel Name: Thalia
Vessel Make/Model: Passport 40
Hailing Port: Portland, OR
Crew: Larry and Caroline Lewis
We retired from our urban organic gardening business in early 2013. We're both originally from California, where we grew up sailing and playing in the water. We have lived in Portland, Oregon the last few decades. [...]
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes, These are the days that must happen to you: You shall not heap up what is called riches; You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve. However sweet the laid-up stores, however convenient the dwellings, you [...]
Thalia's Photos - Main
For our final blog post as owners of S/V Thalia...
16 Photos
Created 14 October 2016
13 Photos
Created 21 August 2016
Thalia's last leg of nearly 400 miles from North Carolina to Annapolis.
13 Photos
Created 8 July 2016
Travel back up around Florida to North Carolina, including visiting our new grandson Max in Baltimore.
17 Photos
Created 14 June 2016
From the wilderness of the Everglades to the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg...
20 Photos
Created 2 April 2016
From St. Augustine to Miami, our travels down the Florida coast in 2016.
21 Photos
Created 15 February 2016
From a boatyard in Oriental to the decked halls of Charleston mansions, December was an eventful month.
23 Photos
Created 27 December 2015
Travel around inland North Carolina and Thanksgiving in Baltimore.
8 Photos
Created 3 December 2015
We didn't take many photos - too busy trying to keep warm - but here's what we have from our trek up the Delaware and Sassafras rivers to Georgetown, MD to wait out Hurricane Joaquin.
6 Photos
Created 23 October 2015
18 Photos
Created 24 September 2015
We're spending most of the month of June wandering around this enormous and wonderful area, checking out all those little towns and creeks we've been told about. Here are some of our shots.
26 Photos
Created 14 June 2015
Scenes from Marsh Harbour - including diving shots - Hope Town, and Treasure Cay.
26 Photos
Created 9 May 2015
Travels to two of the more remote - and beautiful - Bahamian islands.
No Photos
Created 13 April 2015
Some of the cays we've visited in February and early March, 2015, from Bimini to the central Exumas.
24 Photos
Created 2 March 2015
Traveling from the lower Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, VA out into the ocean and up to Nantucket.
17 Photos
Created 15 September 2014
Photos of our new mast as well as repairs to Thalia's decks and interior.
9 Photos
Created 19 August 2014
Three generations of a family enjoy a Baltimore tradition.
7 Photos
Created 28 July 2014
Travels from New York City up the Hudson River and through the Erie Canal, Oneida Lake and Oneida River to Lake Ontario.
32 Photos
Created 13 June 2014
A screenshot of our planned and actual routes, and a shot of Thalia with her sister, Sea Escape.
2 Photos
Created 10 May 2014
Impressions from a week spent in this lovely city.
20 Photos
Created 14 April 2014
Our impressions of this lovely city - with a focus on its architecture - as we explore it during our March/April 2014 visit. We added a few shots of the lovely blooming flowers as well as a bit of sailing to round things out.
33 Photos
Created 22 March 2014
Our first days onboard Thalia, including the first meal we cooked.
5 Photos
Created 10 February 2014
The first photos of our new boat, taken where we purchased her in Annapolis and then heading down to her temporary home in Oriental, NC.
7 Photos
Created 17 November 2013