Sailing South

S/V Mariah with Trish & John Billings

15 January 2017 | Tropical Mexico
27 November 2016 | Mazatlan
25 May 2014 | Mission Bay, San Diego
04 May 2014 | Isla Mujeres, Mexico
05 April 2014 | St. Maarten
17 February 2014 | Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, DR
31 December 2013 | Thompsons Bay, Bahamas
20 December 2013 | Long Island, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
01 December 2013 | Exumas, Bahamas
11 November 2013 | Marsh Harbor, Abaco
31 October 2013 | Grand Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
21 October 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
15 August 2013 | Folly Beach, SC
17 July 2013 | Charleston, SC
14 June 2013 | Hilton Head, SC
14 May 2013 | Key West
18 April 2013 | Key West
25 March 2013 | Venice, FL
06 March 2013 | Orange Beach, AL

The Bahamas

11 November 2013 | Marsh Harbor, Abaco
My blog is changing now that we are having exciting adventures every day. I will try to journalize what we’ve seen and done and post them in one piece when we get to a place where we have both the internet connection and the time to put it all together for you…

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wow! Everything it’s cracked up to be ! Beautiful clear tropical water, we can totally see the bottom, 84 degrees with a 12 knot wind to cool us down. No other boats in sight. I guess we’re a bit early as the season doesn’t actually start until Nov. 1st. But our new insurance has NO limitations on where we go during hurricane season, so we left when there was a good weather window from Charleston. We had to motor all the way for 2.5 days as there just wasn’t much wind. We arrived at our entrance to the Bahamas an hour before sunrise, too early as we don’t want to go into shallow strange waters in the dark. So we turned around for half an hour and just as we did so, the wind came howling out of the East at 20-25 knots. Too much to make landfall where we had planned. So, we went around the west side of the islands and entered through a huge opening…nice and safe. We were actually able to sail across the bay to an anchorage called Great Sale Cay (pronounced Key) which was completely deserted, horse-shoe shaped for wind protection and sandy bottomed so it was all a lovely pale green colored water. Beautiful!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

We left Great Sale Cay this morning with the intention of going somewhere to check in with customs as you’re not allowed to set foot anywhere until you’ve cleared customs. Our paperwork said it was in Grand Cay. We snaked our way into the harbor – actually hit zero feet below our keel – Yikes! - and found a spot to anchor in 2.5 feet of water (below our keel which is 4.5 feet). John went in to find the customs house and it turns out that the agent alternates between this cay and another nearby and won’t be here until tonight. We have tried to raise him on the radio to no avail…island time, eh? So, I guess we’ll just sit here in the pretty bay across from Rosies Place and wait to be legal. Too bad we can’t go ashore to Rosies for a drink. Oh well, this too we shall survive, eh? John did manage to meet up with a fisherman who had a boat full of lobster tails. He bought 5 of them for $10 and they were yummy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

We got checked in through customs… very easy but lots of forms to fill out. Turns out, we didn’t need to get rid of our gun or our spear gun…bummer. Oh well, we move on. We are anchored in Grand Cay Harbor. It is a very quaint (the locals would probably call it squalid) but since we’re tourists, I’ll stick with quaint. The buildings, very dilapidated, are all different colors and most double as the bakery or grocery or phone card store on the island. We are out of season so we are the only visitors on the island. The people are very unassuming and friendly, only electric carts on the paths (no roads) and mostly inhabited by barkeepers and fishermen. It has been described as the Bahamas about 30 years ago.

There is a strong storm coming in on Saturday (many of you are probably experiencing it right now in the mid-west and east coast) and so we need to move to a more sheltered island. So, we’re heading out this afternoon to Double Breasted Cay (yes, John does like that one) where we will probably stay for 3 or 4 days. It is totally primitive so you won’t be hearing from us for awhile…no internet there. Also, the internet connection we have here is so weak that I can’t send any pictures. I will save them up and send them later when we are at a more populated town.

Well, we are anchored outside Fox Town on Little Abaco Island. We tried to get into Double Breasted Cay and GROUNDED!! Yikes! All our charts said that we could do it with about 1.5 feet to spare with an incoming tide….WRONG!!!! We did get off the ground as the bottom is soft sand (not sticky clay) and the tide coming in helped too. We realized later that we should have just anchored Mariah and taken the dinghy out to do some depth soundings to try to find a way in, but in the panic of grounding we just got the heck outta there! We ended up at “tried and true” Great Sale Cay to spend a well-anchored night. Then, we headed for Fox Town in an effort to talk to other human beings and maybe glean some information about these shallow inlets. It’s a lovely little town, a definite stop for many boats coming from Florida and heading to Hope Town. However, it’s not the season and we are the only ones here. The town is very much like the last place, Grand Cay, rundown but quaint. The Head Man, Ronald Russell was a great help. He called the grocery store lady to come and open the store for us where we found plenty of canned goods and starches (rice, etc) but not one ounce of fresh produce. When I asked about it, Judy said that no one eats that stuff here…maybe when the tourists come in the summer, but not now. WOW! How is it possible that nobody in the town eats fresh. produce???????

Apparently, it is not tourist season here. We are very surprised. Why would you want to come here in mid summer when it’s so hot and humid? I would think you’d want to come here when it so cold up north. Anyway, as we sail/motor around in this huge inland bay between islands (yesterday was 25 miles between Great Sale Cay and Fox Town), we don’t see a single soul. Not even little fishing boats. It’s an eerie feeling, like we’re the only people left on the planet. I’m sure we’ll see more people when we get to Hope Town and it is quite nice to be the only people exploring some of the little islands, but it is an unknown feeling in this day and age of totally exploited beautiful settings. Another strange thing that I don’t understand here is why all this beauty has been untouched by the giant hand of American tourism. I know there are big places like Freeport and Grand Bahamas, but so far all we’ve seen are many, many uninhabited islands and tiny towns – not hotels or vacation homes. This section of the Bahamas just has not been exploited and it’s quite surprising…and wonderful!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We are in the lovely harbor of Green Turtle Cay, about 30 miles from Fox Town and halfway to our goal of Hope Town. The town recently dredged the channel to an even trustworthy 7 feet. Now, we are in a place that looks as we would expect. There are 2 marina resorts that are quite “Americanized” with small cottages, a marina to park your boat in, a couple of restaurants, pool, etc. It’s not that we are all that happy to see it, but it is more of what we expected. In retrospect, I’m sure glad we came into the Bahamas where we did as we may not see such genuine Bahamian towns again as we go south towards the more well-known harbors. We particularly came into this harbor because we needed fuel and water and knew that there was some wind coming and we wanted to be protected. After getting fuel ($500 worth!!) – we have got to find a way to sail rather than motor around here, but at least it got us a months worth of internet connectivity – we went into the bar at the marina, Bluff House Resort and had the most wonderful drink. They called it a Tranquil Turtle. Yummiest rum drink yet. The ingredients are a secret but she did give me a hint…orange juice, pineapple juice, 151 proof rum and 6 other kinds of rum. And during happy hour it’s 2 for 1 at $8.00. Anyone wanna meet us for happy hour??

Today, we took a dinghy ride around the west side of the cay (the east side faces the Atlantic Ocean). We had a cold front move over us so although it’s still 84 degrees (not any cold front we would recognize), the wind is just howling – 20-25 knots. So, the dinghy ride was a bit wet. We went about a mile down the channel to the actual township of New Plymouth. We found a grocery store with some bananas and apples…whoo hoo! Fresh food. Since it’s Sunday, everything except the grocery store was closed. But it was very quaint (and NOT squalid). There’s obviously some money being spent in this town. We will return tomorrow when stores are open and go to the hardware store and the phone store. We need to find a “Sim Card” for my phone so that we can at least call locally to get information. We are soooo dependant upon communications these days, that it’s quite a surprise to find that if a company doesn’t answer their VHF radio, we just can’t contact them.
We have finally found some other cruisers and have made fast friends with a couple of them. One, a catamaran called Sunset Cay, had a lady on board with a t-shirt from California, so I asked her if she was from there. Turns out, she lives in La Jolla Colony and was visiting her friend who lives in Treasure Cay. Great fun! We also met our newest “boat buddies”, Lisa & Doug Shivvers on S/V Carefree. They have been cruising for the last 2 years and know their way around the Bahamas. We have been picking their brains and will probably stick with them as long as they’ll have us.

We’re thinking that we’ll stay in Green Turtle Cay for a couple more days and then head over the Sea of Abaco to the “mainland” of Abaco to a spot called Treasure Cay. People rave about it and National Geographic ranks it as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. (See picture) Thought we’d go in and check that one out before heading for HopeTown.

We had a wonderful day in Treasure Cay and Fishers Cay. The water is a gorgeous sea foam blue color which means that it’s got a sand bottom. This morning, the color of the water was reflected up onto the bottom of the clouds. So beautiful. We even found a few wind waves to surf. We are heading with our boat buddies to Marsh Harbor this afternoon where we should be able to shop for all the groceries we could want…lol. We should be able to get internet, showers and food. It is a main city, not so much attractive as useful. Then on to Hope Town. Talk to you then.

Friday, November 8, 2013

We’ve been in Marsh Harbor for the last 3 days. There is a full “American –style” grocery store where we were able to re-provision for everything except gluten free stuff. It’s all American products so it was quite expensive, but it does prolong our ability to eat familiar foods. We are waiting for Monday for the liquor store and the marine hardware store to open before we head out.
Our plan from here is to go to Hope Town for a day or two and then head south into the “bundoo.” According to our “boat buddies”, Lisa and Doug on S/V Carefree, the southern islands are much less inhabited…more like the villages that we saw in our first few days here…and primitive, but incredibly beautiful. So, we will be heading in that direction as long as weather permits.

Monday, November 11, 2013

We are leaving tomorrow morning with our boat buddies to sail south. We may stop in at Hope Town for an afternoon, but we are a bit tired of tourist towns…and “no see ums”, so we think that we will have less of them in the more primitive areas. We plan to stop and anchor whenever we find a lovely bay that we like and keep making our way south to Eleuthra & the Exumas. We will need to wait for weather windows as both require ocean passages. I’ll catch you all up then.
Vessel Name: Mariah
Vessel Make/Model: Morgan 41
Hailing Port: San Diego
Crew: John & Trish Billings
About: John & Trish hail from Mission Beach in San Diego, are avid body surfers and dinghy sailors. They are in their first year of full time cruising.
Extra: We are cruising the East Coast of the US until November when we will head South again.
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