Lush growth and conical hills of Los Haitises.
From our slip in Puerto Bahia Marina, I can see the other side of Samana Bay where the Haitises National Park resides. The park, established in 1976, was originally 80 square miles but was expanded to 319 square miles in 1996. Los Haitises has very little road access and includes a protected virgin forest and home to a variety of birds. The park is a fairly popular spot for ecotourism and the number of visitor each year is supposedly limited, although we did not have any trouble getting permission to take LIB across the bay for a visit.
Birds in the air and in the trees.
Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and Laura and Chris of s/v Temerity agreed to join us on LIB and head across the bay for an overnight visit to Los Haitises. Ken and Laurie had already visited once so they were our resident experts for the trip.
Laura and Laurie relaxing on the trampoline.
After a relaxing sail across Samana Bay, we anchored near an inlet that Ken told us led to a large ecolodge with beautiful surroundings and fair vittles. Once anchored, we hopped into the dinghy and motored through one of the most beautiful creeks we have explored to date.
I wish I could share the sounds with you as well!
While the water was not the gin clear color we experienced in the Bahamas, the overhanging trees and lush surroundings were breathtaking.
Village Weaver nests.
Nestled among many branches were groups of round bird nests. I later learned that these nests are woven from leaves by the males of the “Village Weaver” species (Ploceus cucullatus). The males weave a nest in the hope that a female will come along, appreciate his handiwork and choose him as a mate. Once she chooses her mate, the female lays 4-6 small blue-green eggs. Village Weavers are not indigenous to the Dominican Republic but rather were brought from Africa on slave ships around 1796. Originally the birds were only found in Los Haitises but recently some have been seen in the capital of Santa Domingo.
This looks more triangular than round… wonder if some female found it exciting?
A short walk past horses, cows, chickens and other livestock roaming in fields was the promised ecolodge. I am not sure what qualifies this as an ecolodge, but I can tell you it is beautiful. We had to pay a small fee per person to enter the grounds and this allowed us to explore the area, have lunch and get in the water. Pictures will do far more justice than my words…
A water feature at the entrance to the lodge.
The sound of waterfalls added to the ambiance of lunch.
Los Haitises has an average annual rainfall of 79 inches. In contrast, Dallas, TX has an annual rainfall of 37 inches. I believe all of the water features are fed from fresh water mountain springs and runoff.
The stonework reminded me of WPA projects from the 1930s.
Laura speaks Spanish very well and struck up a conversation with the gentleman in charge of construction of a new hotel being completed as part of the lodge. All number of US agencies would have slapped fines on the builder for showing us around the construction site but we were thrilled to have a first hand view and he was equally pleased to show off the hotel.
Numerous rooms and additional water features for the lodge.
I must admit that the way these accommodations have been incorporated into the hillside and how the rooms include natural features of the land is truly remarkable. We toured for about 40 minutes and were allowed to see every room and planned space.
Stairways that seem to belong within the hillside.
Use of indigenous materials made the hotel feel more like it “belongs” here.
The view from the upper rooms.
In the picture above, the left side shows a water feature and to the right, the bare areas are the future home of a PuttPutt course. I’m not sure how that fits into an ecolodge but I am sure it will be well liked by visitors.
The construction tour was truly a treat made even more delicious because we knew back home laws would have prevented us from having strolling through this construction site.
Next up was a visit to the caves used by the Tiano Indians way back before Columbus landed! There are two areas for viewing caves on Los Haitises; one is very obvious and is actually a little lame compared to the cave tour we had back in Thompson Bay. But the second option is to hire a local guide who takes you to a more remote cave. Our guide rode in the dinghy and took us through a meandering creek where we stopped at a nicely built wooden dock. From there a quick walk along a path through dense trees led us to a cave used more than 500 years ago by the Tiano Indians.
I just liked the light in this picture.
I was not supposed to take pictures of the hieroglyphics painted by the Tianos and I honored that request. The images were painted with sap from a local tree and the only color used was black. Still, it is interesting to see the “recordings” these people left behind.
Hard to believe all this light is in the caves.
Somehow this makes me think of the resurrection of Jesus.
We were told that the Tianos used the caves to hide and escape from Columbus. Legend has it that they had a few entrances to the caves and the Tianos walked backwards from various directions to confuse their trails, then they escaped through a hidden opening. Very clever!
Looking out from the first caves.
A special thank you to Ken and Laurie who decided to skip the second cave and held on to Captain so I could explore the cave.
Once the cave tour was completed, we motored back to Puerto Bahia as the wind was in our faces. The trip to Los Haitises was quick but it was also interesting and fun to share with friends.
A peaceful bend in the creek leading to the Tiano Caves.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you.
Well Hunter has flown back to the States, so once again I am away from my sons. It is always so hard to say goodbye, but I am fortunate that my children are self sufficient and making their own ways in life. So maybe I shed a few tears, but I have no complaints.
The open air lobby at Marina Bahia.
LIB has been in Marina Bahia in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic this week. I have to say, this marina is very nice! The people are friendly and happy and the facilities are great. It feels pretty upscale yet the fees are very reasonable.
Our friends on s/v Mauna Kea and s/v Temerity are in this marina as well, so we have gathered for cocktails and pizza a few times in the lobby, then met in the gym to work off the calories. We are all waiting for a good weather window to cross to Puerto Rico, but this is such a comfortable place that we are not in a big hurry.
These pretty buildings in Las Terrenas back up to the beach.
Hunter, Frank and I explored Las Terrenas, a town about 45 minutes away by car. Las Terrenas, with a population of about 40,000, is a visual blend of tourist and local areas. There are not any apparent building or zoning restrictions in the DR like you would find in the U.S., so streets often switch between clean and well maintained to much less so.
A board walk along one of several beaches in Las Terrenas.
Although this is a fairly popular area for kite boarding, the wind was insufficient for us to ride. Instead we strolled along the streets absorbing the ambiance of the area, which was aided by Hunter’s ability to communicate and read in Spanish.
Lunch in Las Terrenas
The weather was overcast and mild so we found an outdoor spot for lunch. The owner was originally from Spain and Hunter was able to order some of the foods he ate routinely while living there this past year. It was pretty neat to get to taste some of the food he loved while living abroad.
Frank has decided that having his hair cut in random places by unknown barbers is part of the adventure of cruising life, so we were on the search for a hairstylist in Las Terrenas.
I love the name of the shop.
We hit the jackpot with La Matematica De Dios, the mathematician of God? Not only was the haircut meticulous, the location was quite unique…
Frank and Hunter up on the roof where the barber shop is located.
The international airport on the DR is near the capital city of Santa Domingo. Santa Domingo is the first city of the Americas and the third stop for Christopher Columbus. Since we were going to take Hunter to the airport, we decided to go a few days early and learn a bit about the history of Santa Domingo.
A typical street in Zona Colonial.
You might remember that we took our own self-guided tour of Charleston, NC way back on the ICW and “Tour Guide, Frank” decided to stop at a brewery after only three stops on our tour. Well we decided to self guide again in Santa Domingo, but there just wasn’t enough information available on the web to learn much. We ended up hiring a private guide named Juan Sanchez who took us on a walking tour of the old city of Santa Domingo. Juan actually does tours for the US Embassy in Santa Domingo and he really knows his history. If you have the opportunity to hire a guide, I strongly recommend Juan.
Zona Colonial is the oldest city of the New World and many building remain. The influence of the Catholic Church is visible because many of the old city buildings related to the church. Juan told us that even today the majority of the Santa Domingo’s 4 million residents are Catholic.
Franciscan Monastery built around 1508.
Notice the rope design above the door to the left in the picture above. This rope was symbolic of the rope used to tie the waist of a Franciscan Priest’s tunic and identified the building as belonging to a religious order. If you look in Zona Colonial, you will find other buildings with the same rope design above the door.
The ruins of a private chapel.
It was a fairly common practice in the 1500s for wealthy families to have private chapels and perhaps even their own priest. Even before Juan told us this had been a private chapel, it was easily identifiable as a church by it’s three bells on top.
Each candle holder is the shape of a kneeling priest.
There is a stunning building in Zona Colonial called the National Pantheon that was originally a Jesuit Church constructed between 1714- 1746. The building has a varied history but today it is a national symbol for the Dominican Republic and houses the remains of the countries most honored citizens.
A view from the highest point of Ozama Fortress.
Construction of Ozama Fortress began in 1502 and is the oldest military fortress in the Americas. The castle, built to protect the City of Santa Domingo, faces the Ozama River after which it was named.
Town Hall, another first in the Americas.
This pretty building, built in the early 1500s was remodeled in the early 1900s to restore it’s original elegance. The ironwork and plants give it a Spanish or European flair.
These pictures represent only a fraction of the historic buildings in the old city. To my grave disappointment, we were unable to tour the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Maria la Menor because I was wearing shorts. Ladies must wear a skirt or long pants to enter the cathedral. The Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504 and Mass is still celebrated daily! I am certain we will visit the DR again and I will NOT miss Mass the next time we visit.
Ojo, Spanish for eye or hole.
After a thorough tour of the old city, Juan drove us to Three Caves, Los Tres Ojos, a natural and beautiful area right in the middle of the city! The Taino Indians, who were the first inhabitants of Hispaniola, lived in these caves although I did not see any information about their history or lifestyle.
Refrigerator Lake was not really cold.
In actuality, there are four lakes in the area but only three have names: Sulphur, Ladies and Refrigerator. “Ladies Lake” received that name because only ladies were allowed to swim there, but I don’t know the reason for the other two names or why the fourth lake isn’t named. Juan remembers swimming in the lakes up until the mid 1970s when swimming was prohibited.
Guides pull the boats along with ropes to visit the fourth ojo.
Los Ojos are truly beautiful and I could imagine all sorts of long ago scenarios with Taino Indians living here or kids sneaking away for a swim to escape the heat or perhaps young lovers meeting in secret!
I would need a wide angle to get the whole building!
Our final stop with Juan was the Columbus Light House erected in 1992 to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. This was a huge structure, built in the shape of a cross.
The remains of Columbus are in this mausoleum.
In addition to being the resting place for Columbus, the lighthouse is a museum which houses display rooms for each country that donated to the building. The exhibits are well done and as varied as the countries represented. I could easily have spent several hours here instead of the 90 minutes we stayed. (I am embarrassed to report that there is not a display for the U.S. because we did not contribute.)
Juan told us the lighthouse is only lit for special occasions, but when it is, the light forms the shape of a cross. I would have liked to see that shining in the night sky!
The courtyard at Dona Elvira Hotel
After a very long and informative day, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed sitting in the courtyard outside of our room. We covered a lot of territory in just two days!
Sunday morning we drove Hunter to the airport so he could fly back to The States. I am very lucky to have had my sons visit us together and to have Hunter stay a bit longer. I’m incredibly thankful that they are willing to travel to varied destinations to visit “home.”
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
This is as close as I got to a “family photo.”
Considering there are only four in our family, we sure cover a lot of the globe! Our eldest son, Hunter, has been living in Spain for a year. Our youngest, Clayton, has been living in California and traveling any weekend he can manage to be away from work. We, of course, have been moving about on LIB.
As a result of being far apart, it is rare for all of us to be together; but when we are, we have a great time and we get along very well. In fact, although we are miles apart physically, we are a very close family and we miss being together.
So obviously, the apples didn’t fall far from the travel tree and being active is another trait the kids have inherited from us. That means that when we are together, we generally stay very busy. This visit to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, was no exception. Although Hunter and Clayton dislike my posting pictures, and I catch grief when I post a photo of them on any social media, I’m posting these pictures anyway. Here is a glimpse into the week Clayton and Hunter were with us and the following week while Hunter was still on board.
Returning from a kite trip.
Hunter and Frank launching a kite from LIB.
Clayton and Captain off to explore a bit.
One of the pretty beaches we found while exploring Provo.
It seems like after I had moved away from my parents home, anytime I would return to visit, the absolute feeling of “home” and being completely relaxed often translated into a nap on the couch. Apparently our kids feel the same tranquility when they are here. I was especially happy to see them feel so comfortable in our boat since that is now our “home.”
Nothing like a nap at your parents “house.”
I didn’t get a good picture, but Clayton went scuba diving with us off the western coast of Providenciales. This is the first time we were able to go diving with Clayton since he and Hunter were certified back in 2014. We saw a decent number of fish but it was not a particularly clear dive. Still it was good to explore with him. (Hunter had a sinus infection and couldn’t go.)
After Clayton flew back to California, we had an excellent weather window to go to the Dominican Republic. We thought it would be especially nice to be in the DR while Hunter was with us so he could act as our interpreter!
The passage was fabulous! We sailed most of the way with favorable winds and seas.
A visual display of just how comfortable the passage was to the DR.
The topography of the DR is completely different from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. The lush, mountainous land is a rich and an interesting change from what we have seen for the last five months.
A double rainbow met us at the entrance to Ocean World Marina.
Ocean World Marina
The name Ocean World made me think of an amusement park and indeed there is an amusement park right there at the marina. The marina was clean and the people were really nice, but to me it felt too much like being in a very developed area.
However, Ocean World was an excellent place to use for exploring and, with Hunter fluent in Spanish, we were able to communicate well with the locals and we really enjoyed having that extra insight into the people here.
Let’s go catch some waves!
Although there is a world renown kite beach called Cabarete here, the wind was not very cooperative. So Frank and Hunter went surfing and I walked the beach. Check out those super cool, rubber loafers Hunter rented from the surf guy!
Even along the beach there are many trees.
I enjoyed peaking into the trees and seeing the little areas where benches and huts were hidden. Many of the benches were made from discarded surf boards and other recycled items.
Colorful huts right near the beach.
Enjoying an afternoon snack along the beach.
The area where we surfed was pretty sparse with the huts and surf rental huts built under the trees, but we also found beaches that totally catered to tourists. Even though it was nice to have plenty of options for drinks and snacks along the touristy beach, vendors approached often trying to sell us jewelry or cigars or pralines or lunch, etc. They weren’t offensive, but it makes me uncomfortable to say no. I could do without so many people asking me to buy things.
Fortunately the wind did kick in one day and Hunter and Frank went to Cabarete to kite-board. They said the scene was great for kiting and that there were many really excellent local kiters. Cabarete was a crowded kite area and probably not the best place for beginners so I was glad I had chosen to stay at LIB and have some quiet time.
Hunter jumps from on of the falls.
Twenty-seven Falls is a must do event when visiting the northern part of the DR. We spent one afternoon hiking up a mountain, then sliding, jumping and swimming our way back down. This was a hugely fun day and I highly recommend it! A guide is required and I would not have wanted to try to do this without one. After all, we were jumping into pools of water and we would not have known their depth without a guide to help us.
In addition to getting a little exercise, the scenery was beautiful!
We look stunning in our protective gear!
Moving east along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic can be a challenge because of the easterly trade winds. We wanted to move east to Marina Bahia in Samana and the weather forecast showed that we had to move quickly or we would have to stay in Ocean World for another 7-10 days. There was definitely more to see near Ocean World, but we had to move.
Sunset at anchor near Rio San Juan.
The weather didn’t look great to head east, but we decided to make a run for it. This was not our best decision and after slogging in to the wind from 9:30 am to 4:40 pm, we decide to take refuge behind a mountain in near Rio San Juan. We had a little trouble finding a good anchor spot but managed to get settled by around 7 pm. We had a good dinner, then climbed in bed for a nap until midnight.
At midnight we upped anchor and again headed east. Our hope was that the winds would be less at night. Frank took the first watch and because it was so windy, he let me sleep until the winds settled – around 5 am!!!! Fortunately, after I took watch the wind fell and was below 10 knots the remainder of the trip.
Marina Bahia is beautiful!
We arrived at the Marina Bahia around 1:30 pm and it was a welcome sight. The trip was not horrible, but it wasn’t our best passage either. The trees surrounding this marina are thick and verdant and I practically expect monkeys or parrots among the branches!
Hunter kindly pointed out that during his 25th year, we only saw each other for a total of maybe three weeks. At least this year we had the chance to celebrate his 26t birthday while he was on LIB! Nothing like a homemade cake to remind you of your childhood.
Creative candles since I didn’t have 26 of them.
We have a few more days before Hunter leaves and we hope to spend a couple of nights in Santa Domingo with him. It is really hard to say goodbye to my kids but at least this time we have plans to see each other again pretty soon!
As always, thank you for visiting our blog! If you want to know what we are doing more often, feel free to visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.
Frank is a lot happier than the tuna is.
We had an excellent passage from Conception Island to Providenciales and we managed to catch some yellow fin tuna on our way!
Beautiful tuna steaks!
And what is the best thing to do when you finish a passage and arrive at a dock with fresh fish? Share it with you dock neighbors!
New neighbors and familiar friends!
I am surprised to report that we have spent nearly three weeks on Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos. While many cruisers stop here just as a layover until they have a good weather window to or from the Dominican Republic, we chose to have our kids fly in to visit us, so we are hanging around a while until they arrive.
Turquoise waters draw many tourists.
Provo is an upscale island with a well established tourist trade for those arriving by airplane or cruise ship. The island has several very cushy, all inclusive resorts on white sand beaches overlooking turquoise water where visitors can lounge all day, play golf or visit nice boutiques.
A view of South Side Marina from a nearby hill.
As easy as this island is to access by air and cruise ship, as cruisers we found it less accessible than other islands we have visited. The people here are very nice and extremely welcoming, but the anchorages tend to be exposed to wind or swell, so cruisers must hunt for quiet waters. Once a protected spot is found, we did not find any support facilities nearby unless we went to an actual marina.
Provo is well developed with many amenities, including beautiful groceries, but a car is necessary to get around unless you are prepared to walk a long way.
The ladies hanging out at Bob’s Bar – Captain too!
Even though access to the island is a challenge, we have enjoyed Provo. When we arrived, we stopped at South Side Marina, owned by a great guy named Bob. South Side is very small with about a dozen slips and Bob’s Bar; a fun place to gather for drinks and Bocce Ball. Plus Bob is super helpful and will arrange to have Customs and Immigration come to the marina, and he offers to take folks to the grocery every day around noon.
Bocce Ball ~ where spectators have a ringside seat!
While we were in South Side, we became friends with the other cruising boats and almost every night we gathered for drinks or bocce ball or pot luck dinners.
We went to the Provo Fish Fry with Ken and Laurie of Mauna Kea.
The social life was in full swing for those first 10 days before our friends took advantage of an excellent weather window to go either to the Dominican Republic or back toward the States. But we stayed behind to await the arrival of our sons.
Captain enjoyed free roaming and a new friend, Maddie, while at South Side!
In addition to the social time, the wind was exceedingly cooperative and we were able to kite board several days! Long Bay is the most perfect place to learn to kite I have ever seen! The water is beautiful and shallow and the floor of the ocean is sand with only an occasional seashell to mar its surface.
Long Bay has miles of shallow water!
Frank kited 6 days in a row! I kited four times and loved that I could be completely self sufficient in this location! That is a huge accomplishment for me as a new kiter.
A bit sad to see this abandoned resort.
When the winds settled and we had had as much marina time as we could take, Frank and I sailed to West Caicos Island, home to an abandoned Ritz Carleton Resort. Apparently the Ritz invested $150 million in this resort, then halted construction. The partially finished buildings remain but those are the only structures on West Caicos.
Love those pictures using a red filter!
However, on the western side of the island are several buoys placed by scuba diving companies and each one is named on the electronic charts of the area, theoretically giving you an idea of what you will find below.
Why does this make me think of Dr. Seuss?
We had a very nice dive along a deep wall in a current free area that allowed us to relax and enjoy the scenery. This dive was not as clear or colorful as the one on Conception Island, but it was definitely worth the effort.
We see you Mr. Ray.
After the dive we needed to move LIB to the east side of West Caicos to protect us from westerly winds. As we rounded the southern end of West Caicos, we saw something in the water and were not sure what it was. We were in about 25 feet of water and wondered if it was an unmarked obstacle…..
Whales in the shallows.
But as we approached, the “obstacle” blew out spray from its’ blow hole – WHALES AHEAD!
We were able to get pretty close to the whales so I drove and Frank jumped into the water to swim with the whales. Once below, he found two humpback whales – a cow and calf!
I didn’t realize that humpback whales have all white flippers! It was very easy to see the solid white appendage in the water even from above. Fun fact – a humpback’s flipper can be up to 1/3 of its body length! I guess that is a good thing as it helps propel their huge bodies.
After a very peaceful evening anchored off of West Caicos, we sailed to Blue Haven Marina on the northeastern part of Provo where we hung out and prepared for our kids to arrive.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you.
Well I have not had a single minute to spend writing a post on this blog. It has been forever since mom let me sit down and paw out a few words!
I’m listening to something mom’s telling me.
I have been extremely busy here on LIB. When I first became a boat dog, I was unaware of how important it is to look INTO the water and not just monitor the land. Wow, since I figured that out, I realized I have a lot of territory to patrol to ensure my humans are safe.
But just like on land, my humans don’t always understand why I am barking and sometimes I get in trouble because their noses are really weak and they just don’t smell the things I do.
The best example is the dolphins I talked about last time. While we were on that long Intracoastal Waterway trip (2016 Sail to the Sun Rally), there were dolphins galore! But my humans were oblivious until they actually broke the surface of the water…duh!
Not me! I knew they were there and I barked and barked to make sure those dolphins didn’t get too close to my boat. I was so good at spotting those dolphins that other people in the Sail to the Sun Rally would take notice when I barked. Lots of times somebody would come by the boat and thank me for pointing out the dolphins for them. Big tail wag for that!
Trying to catch those dolphins.
One time there were so many dolphins at No Name Harbor in Florida, that MG let me jump in the water and herd them! I worked and worked trying to coral those things, but I never could gather them all together.
Frank let me rest between swims.
Frank finally came out on a paddle board to let me rest for a few minutes. I did not want to give up trying to make the dolphins behave, but my humans said I had to stop…. I was really tired and a little sad I couldn’t coral the dolphins. But it was still a lot of fun trying and I think mom and dad were proud of me! And later people from boats we didn’t even know came over to tell us they had fun watching me. More tail wags for me!
A nice walk on Conception Island
I liked the ICW but it’s really good to get back to the beaches again. We spent January through March in the Bahamas where the water was clear and blue and it’s really easy to see whatever swims under our boat. It sure is nice to be able to roll in the sand and run on the beaches again.
Me snuggling down into the cool sand for a rest.
Mom calls this a refrigerator but I call it a snack drawer!
One thing is hard about living on this boat…. mom keeps my food in this drawer that is right at my level. Every time she opens that drawer wonderful things happen. First off, the drawer is cold and cool air seeps out when it is opened. Secondly, there are excellent smells in that drawer; not the kind you want to roll in but the kind you want to eat! And thirdly, my food is right there and I could just reach in and feed myself!
Don’t tell, I get in trouble if I put my nose in here!
Anyway, every time mom or dad open that drawer, I think they should feed me or at least give me a snack. But nope, humans can be heartless! I don’t get a treat every time they go into the cold drawer ~ in fact, mom and dad eat a lot more out of that drawer than I do!
Mom and I climbed out on this rock.
This year we have been traveling with other boats and that is fun. We don’t always stay with the same boats but lots of people come over to visit me. It’s sad because none of the other boats have dogs to give them licks and keep them safe. But the good thing is I get plenty of extra snuggles and sometimes the visitors even bring me treats! Pretty much everybody thinks I’m a really great dog (I hear them tell MG and Frank) and that makes me feel really happy.
Chillin’ at a concert in George Town – it was loud!
Don’t worry that I’m getting fat with those extra snuggles and treats. I still get plenty of exercise riding in the dinghy and on the paddle board; chasing birds on the beach and flies off the boat; and generally swimming and hiking with my humans.
See how easy it is to see into the water!
I hope you like the pictures I put in here so you can see what I’ve been doing.
I’m helping dad keep an eye out for coral heads in our way.
All in all, life on Let It Be is really good….. but I still won’t use that silly, fake grass mom puts on the back deck unless it’s an emergency! Like that cheap plastic stuff is any kind of replacement for land! Sheesh, I can’t let them get out of the habit of taking me to shore. There are far too many good sniffs there and I don’t want to give that up!
I’m the dinghy lookout when we explore.
At the end of the day I snuggle with my dinosaur while mom cooks.
Oh, hey!…. I just heard my drawer open…. Gotta run!
Oh yeah, remember to come say hi and give me some snuggles if you see us somewhere. Woof woof for now!
Frank caught a beautiful bull Mahi on our way to Emerald Cay Marina.
After our Sail to the Sun Rally friends left from New Providence, Frank and I spent the day provisioning and trying to buy a few things only available from a large city like Nassau. I had thought the ongoing search for the elusive red filter for my GoPro was completed in Nassau when I bought a very nice red lens cover and GoPro adapter from a dive shop.
However, much to my dismay, the adaptor they sold me does not fit my GoPro 4**, so once again I do not have the correct equipment to get beautiful underwater pictures….. which I find very frustrating! Not bringing my GoPro into town was a really dumb move on my part and the result is that I have a beautiful red lens just staring at me, waiting to allow me to share fabulous underwater pictures, and I can’t get it to fit my GoPro!
Gratuitous sunset photo.
Speaking of big cities, Frank and I spent more than 30 years living in Dallas, Texas which is truly a large city with a population of 1.258 million as of 2013. It is a very different experience here in the Bahamas when we visit various Islands and find them sparsely populated yet boasting of many “towns.”
Our visit to Long Island really drove home how incredibly different this new lifestyle is for us.
Physically, Long Island is large island by Bahamian standards. It is approximately 80 miles long and the width ranges from 3/4 of a mile to 4 miles, for a total of 230 square miles; yet Long Island has a total population of only 3,094 as of 2010! The people who live here do not gather into small cities, but are spread among many small villages usually where their ancestors settled long ago. Even well known towns have very few residents, like Clarence Town, the capital, which boasts a population of only 86 folks!
A modest monument to Columbus.
Long Island was originally called Yuma by the indians who settled there and later was named Fernandina by Christopher Columbus. After the American Revolution, many Americans from the Carolinas moved to Long Island and tried to recreate their plantations but the cotton crops didn’t last long and only ruins of those homes remain. Today farming is still important on Long Island but the planting is “pot farming.” My understanding is that soil accumulates in holes in the limestone and it is in these holes that most planting is done. I admire the tenacity of these people and how well they use the resources of their island.
Regardless of the relatively small population, Long Island has a lot to offer, so Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and ourselves, rented a car and set out to explore. Car rentals are on a 24 hour basis and we could pick up the car at any time. We decide to begin our tour at noon and explore the south part of Long Island one day and the north part the next.
Our first stop was right on the road where a local man is in the process of building his sailboat in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Regatta. This regatta is raced by locals who make and sail their Bahamian Sloops.
As soon as we stepped out of the car and began looking at the boat, two residents came over to chat and tell us all about the boat. Apparently their son is building this boat and has been working on it for two weeks. We were amazed by how much he had accomplished in so little time! He must work quickly though as the race is the end of May!
The pool and buildings at Flying Fish Marina are great.
Our next stop was Clarence Town, population 86. There is a very large marina in Clarence Town called Flying Fish. Flying Fish Marina was completely renovated and reopened in October 2016 after damage from hurricane Joaquin.
The exterior of Fr. Jerome’s Catholic Church
Clarence Town also boasts two churches designed and build by Father Jerome. Father Jerome was born in England in 1876. He began studying architecture then changed to theology and was ordained in the Church of England. Father Jerome patterned his approach to religion after St. Francis of Assisi and later converted to Catholicism. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Father Jerome had designed and build an anglican church in Clarence Town. After his conversion, he wanted to build a larger, catholic church and did so on the highest available point in Clarence Town. Though he is best known best for the Hermitage on Cat Island, Father Jerome also built and repaired churches as far away as Australia. All told it is said that Fr. Jerome built five churches on Long Island. We visited the two largest ones in Clarence Town.
Churches seem to be the preponderance of buildings on Long Island behind residences! The one below is said to be the oldest Spanish church on Long Island.
The Spanish influence is visible in the beautiful arches.
Perhaps the most beautiful stop during our exploration of the southern side of Long was Dean’s Blue Hole. This hole, where the world free diving competition is held, is said to be 660 feet deep with a cavern that extends 4,000 feet laterally once you get to the bottom.
Yeah, we don’t have any pictures of the 4,000 foot cavern!! But here is a stunning view from above.
Guana Cay was another pretty stop and Frank was quick to observe the kiting potential of this bay. For you kiters, Frank definitely kept his eye on the wind and later in the week managed to get in a bit of kiting here.
Long Island has many caves that were once used by ancient residents as dwellings or places to hide during hurricanes. We sought out Leonard, an older gentleman whose family has owned Hamilton Cave for many generations, to give us a guided tour. Leonard had many stories about the history of the cave and pointed out five different types of bats that live there…. Laurie and I were NOT thrilled when some of those bats swooped down toward our heads!
Sunset was approaching so we turned toward Chez Pierre, a well known restaurant on Long Island. Like every place we visited off of the main road, Chez Pierre was found down a long, rocky, pot-holed road that meandered several miles without any signage to reassure first time visitors. We did manage to find Chez Pierre and had a fabulous Italian meal?? Yep, Italian at Chez Pierre!
The picture isn’t great but the food was!
Pierre was the waiter, chef and check out person, so he was a busy man. The bar was self serve and on the honor system which was unique and fun. We highly recommend Chez Pierre if ever you visit Long Island.
Locally grown produce and homemade breads.
Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 am to noon. We arrived at 8:30 but already most of the produce was gone.
Sarah displays her woven goods.
Straw and sisal work is common on most islands in the Bahamas. You will find straw markets and stands in front of homes where locals sell everything from purses to placemats to hats and baskets.
Sarah’s sample board.
Sarah, at the Farmer’s Market, had a wonderful display of items and she had a poster of the various plaits available. This is the first time I was able to see all the weaves used and I found it interesting.
The boating community at Thompson Bay, Long Island has to be one of the finest I have encountered. The boaters and the Long Islanders have developed a wonderful relationship in which both recognize the positive skills each brings. The people of Long Island are kind and welcoming and clearly enjoy the boating community. The boaters are very aware of the needs of the islanders and contribute tangibly to those needs.
Most recently, there was a push to bring trees to Long Island to donate to the islanders. After hurricane Joaquin, boaters brought much needed supplies and food to Long Island and helped rebuild many damaged buildings. In fact, the day before we arrived, a group of boaters volunteered and replaced the roof on a home.
The relationship between the boaters and islanders seems unique and wonderful to me. I can certainly understand why so many sailors return to the area every year. This is the first time I have seen island life and boat life completely intertwined and it was truly beautiful to see.
Lest you think we are neglecting Captain, let me assure you that she goes with us on most of our escapades. Here she is enjoying the pool and view at Latitudes on Great Exuma Island.
**For those who own GoPros, apparently their is the standard underwater housing and the “diving” housing. We have the regular underwater housing and the attachment I bought was for a diving housing.
Wow! Who knew a week could pass so quickly? We had the pleasure of having two couples from our Sail to the Sun Rally come and stay with us on LIB for a week. And several other boats from the Rally made the effort to come and join us in various anchorages. The result was a week of fun, laughter and adventures with a pretty large number of people.
Waiting for guests in Staniel Cay.
We sailed LIB to Staniel Cay, where Brad and Terrie of s/v Reflection and Steve and Janine of s/v Second Wind flew into the Exumas. We had rented a golf cart, so on arrival day the six of us tooled around in a golf cart to explore the island and introduced the newcomers to “island shopping” at the local groceries. We had already provisioned for the week, but part of the experience of the boat life is poking about in local markets.
The wind was pretty strong so we decided to explore near Staniel for a day or two, but the wind could not intimidate our intrepid Rally friends. Tom and Louise of Blue Lady, Tina and Bill of Our Log and Laurie and Ken of Mauna Kea fought the wind and arrived in Staniel to reunite with our guests.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club was our restaurant of choice for our first reunion night. We figured we should go to the Yacht Club since this would probably be one of the only places during the week that had a bar or restaurant. The food was good and the company was even better.
Our days were filled with snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and general poking around the islands, followed by dinner aboard LIB most nights for whichever Rally boats were nearby. As is usual with boaters, every boat contributed to the dinners so we were not at all burdened with feeding everyone.
Instead of itemizing our itinerary, here are a bunch of pictures from our week. A special thank you to Tom and Steve and Brad for contributing photographs. I wasn’t very good about photo documenting so I really appreciate the use of their shots!
Frank swimming out of the James Bond famed Thunder Ball Cave.
Thunder Ball Cave was our first snorkel site right by Staniel. We enjoyed poking about in the cave, though it was pretty crowded when we first arrived. Several of the guys were dropped off on one side of the cave and they drift snorkeled through the cave allowing the current to propel them along.
Light from the hole in the cave ceiling pierces the water.
Susan and Kevin, plus Sue’s brother, Brian, of s/v Radiance, made a fast trek north from George Town to meet the group at Compass Cay. Susan and I were adamant that our guests had to experience the Bubbly Bath since we had had such a great time on our previous visit.
We dinghied to a beach on Compass Cay and walked about half a mile to the Bubbly Bath. As you can see, the scenery and the path were not too strenuous and even if they had been, the effort was worth it to reach the pool.
Thanks for this areal view, Steve.
Steve climbed up the hillside for a look from above and took this picture. On the left you can see where the water breaches the rocks and feeds the Bubbly Bath. At the back of the picture, behind where we are standing, is the shallow inlet that we walked across to get to this spot.
Although the weather was not warm, the clarity and color of the water begs for swimming and we obliged often. We moved LIB over toward O’Brian’s Cay where the Aquarium awaited.
Frank and Brad diving at the Aquarium.
Rather than simply snorkel the Aquarium, Tom, Steve, Brad and Frank pulled out diving gear and dove the site. I think this was the first time Tom was able to use his new gear and it was the first time in quite a few years that Steve had been for a dive. It was an excellent place to explore without much current to fight.
Here fishy, fishy…
The ladies snorkeled the Aquarium and Tom was able to get some great photos from the bottom while he was diving. As you can see, the fish are very friendly!
The picture isn’t great, but the gathering was fun!
While traveling the ICW with our Rally group, I was surprised to learn how many of the ladies did not know how to drive a dinghy or at least were not comfortable starting one. So one afternoon Terrie, Janine, Louise and I went out in Day Tripper for a driving lesson. These ladies were excellent drivers and only needed a little confidence boost. Within an hour all of them were able to start the dinghy, move forward or backwards, get the dinghy on a plain, rescue a fallen object and dock the dinghy….. We all learned some things and now they can confidently get themselves from boat to shore and back again. This might prove to be a retail boost for local economies!
We had the chance to fly the big red asymetric spinnaker which proved very relaxing.
Terrie and Brad found some quiet space on the trampoline but Captain wanted in on it.
We had to visit the crescent anchorage at Warderick Wells!
The full moon brought a certain magic to the scene.
Blue Lady waving goodbye after our drift snorkel through Conch Cut.
Steve gives knot tying lessons as we travel.
Spending the week with four guests who are sailors was a first for me. Because they are all familiar with the limitations and compromises of living on a boat, they were exceptionally easy to have on board. Additionally, although they own monohulls rather than catamarans, they have more sailing experience than I do and they jumped right into the line work, helming and anchoring. As a result, I had a pretty leisurely week!
A special thank you to s/v Blue Lady, s/v Mauna Kea, s/v Our Log and s/v Radiance for making the time in your schedules to make the “reunion” happen. I know Brad, Terrie, Steve and Janine had a much richer experience because you joined us!
We left Cambridge Cay with the intention of going to Farmers Cay before continuing to George Town on Great Exuma. However, once we exited Conch Cut and were on the eastern side of the islands, we had a perfect day for sailing and we just could not get ourselves to stop at Farmers. We had a beam reach and the islands to our west reduced the waves so we clipped along at 8 knots and traveled over 70 miles under main and jib.
George Town is cruisers central in the Bahamas and our first look was startling because of the number of sailboats and cruising boats anchored in the harbors. This was by far the largest gathering of cruisers we have ever encountered!
Typical number of dinghies anytime near Chat n Chill on Stocking Island
We arrived in Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma late in the afternoon and chose to find a protected spot because a few windy days were predicted.
We settled in an area toward the southwest part of Elizabeth Harbor called Red Shanks. It was a nice quiet area to ride out the wind, but we knew we wanted to move closer to where all the activity would happen.
Elizabeth Harbor is very large with several areas for anchoring. George Town is where the facilities are like grocery stores, fuel, restaurants, etc. However, this visit was all about the 37th Annual George Town Cruisers Regatta and Festival and many of the daily activities would be across the harbor from George Town on Stocking Island.
When the wind calmed a bit, we moved Let It Be across the harbor to a spot right off of Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island. This was the perfect spot for us because we were a short dinghy ride from many daily activities.
The GT Cruisers Regatta has far too many activities to list them all, so if you are interested in seeing more detail, look them up on FB: George Town Cruising Regatta 2017
Frank and I tend to be more about ‘doing’ than ‘watching’ so we signed up for many activities. In fact, we were so busy I hardly had time to take pictures.
Yoga was a fabulous way to start our morning on Volleyball Beach.
Nearly every afternoon there were pick up volleyball games that we joined often. Sometime there were 9 people per side and other times we only had four. It just depended on who wanted to play. The games were super fun with a variety of skill levels. We found volleyball to be one of the best ways to meet new people and get a little exercise in the process.
Frank seemed to think that the more sand he got on himself during volleyball, the better and I think he brought home a fair amount of the beach each afternoon. I wish I had a picture of that!
Tina and Bill of s/v Our Log joined us for the Poker Run. The weather was a little rough with some wind and squalls, but we managed to have a great time in spite of it.
The wide, open harbor was rough in windy conditions.
We traveled by dinghy across Elizabeth Harbor to six restaurants and at each location we chose a playing card. The final stop was back on Stocking Island at Lumina Point where we picked up our final card.
Bill, Tina and Frank look pretty serious about choosing a card.
A measly two pair, but we’re still smiling!
Our luck at pulling good cards didn’t exist and we ended up with only two pair. But we enjoyed seeing all of the restaurant/bars and sampling their food and drinks, and we couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Bill and Tina. We also met some great people, especially Jane and Kevin of s/v Libeccio.
Our next big event was the Coconut Challenge which we did with s/v Tatiana. YEP! James and Kristen were back with us again and we had more laughs than should be allowed doing this crazy event. The Coconut Challenge had three parts:
Part 1. Four people in life jackets in a dinghy without a motor. Each person has a swim fin to use to propel the dinghy. 1,000 coconuts were released and each dinghy tried to collect as many coconuts as possible without leaving the dinghy.
Many teams competed in the challenge.
James and Frank catch while Kristen tosses coconuts.
Part 2. One person stands with his back to two other team mates who are holding a garage bag. The thrower tosses coconuts over her head and the catchers catch the coconuts in the bag.
Who gets the most style points?
Part 3. Each teammate has one coconut and the team has 5 seconds to toss the coconuts over a net and into scoring circles in the sand.
Overall we earned 2nd place in the Coconut Challenge!!
Our next event was a dinghy race in which you had to create a sail and race straight downwind. Frank had the great idea of flying one of his kite board kites as our sail. After some convincing, the judge did allow us to enter the race but we had to start a little distance from the other racers as a safety precaution.
We started off great and it looked like we would easily WIN the race. But we quickly outran the kite which subsequently lost all power and fell from the sky! Sadly we were unable to recover and lost the race. Happily, no one was injured by the crazy kite and the kite lines didn’t get entangled in anything.
Next up on our schedule was the SUP race. Frank took first place in the men’s division and I paddled my way into second for the ladies.
There was a big variety show put on at a local park that included acts by cruisers and locals. Most of the performances were singers with musicians. Several dances were performed by children and there was even a poetry reading. Quite a variety of talent.
Frank prepares for the costume party.
Frank pulled out his shark costume from Halloween and entered the costume contest which had a theme of Gilligan’s Island or a Favorite Castaway. Although he was very energetic and into his character, he didn’t win any prizes.
Pretty creative costumes.
The most exciting events for us were the sailboat races! We decided to enter LIB in the In Harbor Race as well as the Around the Island Race. Of course we invited friends to join us as crew! And since most of us were graduates of the Sail to the Sun Rally 2016, we wore our t-shirts!
The In Harbor Race was my favorite because it was fairly short and pretty exciting. Our crew included Ken and Laurie from Mauna Kea, Kevin and Susan from Radiance, Tina and Bill from Our Log and James and Kristen from Tatiana.
The morning of the race dawn revealed a perfect day for sailing. Frank and I scurried about making sure LIB was ready and things were in order. James and Kristen arrived and we fired up the engines, except our starboard engine would not start! It didn’t even turn over. After a bit of diagnosing (and perhaps a swear word or two) we contact Bill, Mr. Mechanic Extraordinaire! He zipped over to LIB and bypassed the ECU to get our engine started. Phew, we were ok and off to the races!!
James directs and we hop to!
James was our tactician for the day and Frank had prepared a job list so everyone could participate in the race. Every one of the crew had only sailed on monohulls so we had to do some practicing before the race began.
I will admit, our tacks were a little rough at first! But we persevered and by race time, we were ready! This is the first time I have ever raced a sailboat and it was an adrenalin rush. I was at the helm and Frank oversaw all line work while James gave instructions.
Our imitation of wild action shots!
LIB from a competitors view.
We gave it our all and managed to earn third place. Ok, there were only four boats in our class, but still we earned a flag!!
Tina and Bill ready to add a preventer when we flew wing on wing.
The around the island race included the same crew with the addition of Brian from Radiance. Once again James was the tactician, I was at the helm and Frank was overseeing lines. Ken, from s/v Mauna Kea, put it best in a FB post:
We must be flying – look at our windswept hair!
“Let It Be placed another 3rd! It was a great race, after the first mark we were second. Shortly after that we were in first and then it all slipped away. We had victory in our hands and then someone offered drinks and snacks.”
Sharing snacks and laughs post race.
Haha, I’m not sure that was the reason we lost, but it makes a good story. Our monohull sailors got to see LIB in her worst sailing position – upwind. But since we were all comfortable while slogging into it and some one (ahem, Brian) even managed to nap ~ it wasn’t a bad day at all.
At the end of the first day, s/v Tatiana and LIB sported the same winning flags.
After many afternoons of practice, Frank and I chose to enter the Fun Volleyball event. We even had to get “rated” by the organizer. Unfortunately, the weather turned and we had to depart George Town earlier than anticipated, so we had to cancel our spots.
We left George Town on Friday so we could make it to the western side of the Exumas before the next weather front arrived. So today we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay in relative comfort even though the winds are kicking up close to 30 knots. These winds are expected to stay with us for a few more days, but we will make our way toward Staniel Cay tomorrow as some friends arrive on Tuesday.
Some folks have asked me to give them my thoughts on George Town because it is well known as a cruisers hang out. I have to admit we had a blast there but I don’t know if that is because the Regatta/Festival was in full swing. Frank and I plan on stopping back in George Town when we move south again toward Long Island. It will be interesting to see what George Town is like when it has it’s “usual” number of boats.
Thanks for stopping by and reading this very long post!
I am sure most people think Frank does all of the boat work on LIB and I just reap the benefit of his efforts, but I do actually contribute. Case in point is changing the anodes on our engine propellers, which I did last week.
New zinc on the left and what was left of the old one on the right!
Anodes are dome shaped pieces, usually made of zinc, designed to be ‘sacrificial anodes’ that counteract galvanic corrosion between metals on the boat. Essentially, zinc will give up its’ electrons more quickly than other metals such as the bronze of the propeller or the stainless steel of the propeller shaft on the boat and therefore absorb the galvanic action of these metals. Zincs are there to protect our propellers and other metal pieces.
I zinc it’s missing on the left! New one installed on the right.
Anyway, we had checked our zinc anodes while traveling the ICW and they were in good shape (greater than 50%), but this week when we looked, they had eroded completely! So I donned mask, fins and a dive tank and replaced our anodes.
The point in telling you that is to prove that I am occasionally useful and to remind boaters out there to check their zincs periodically.
I completely forgot to share with you the fun we had with our Rally friends at Shroud Cay (pronounced “key”). We had read about a cool cut, like a small river, that you can take your dinghy through and move from the west side of the island to the east side.
One bright morning, we followed the cut to a breathtaking beach on the east side of Shroud Cay. There was nothing to do on this beach except enjoy the water, play in the sand and climb up a small hill for a birds eye view. We were happy to spend the better part of a day perfecting these activities! The pictures are better than words.
Crystal clear water of the cut on Shroud Cay
The water in the cut was so shallow and clear that I wanted to capture it with the GoPro. Unfortunately, the camera ran out of battery, but still photos will give you an idea of the view from our “car.”
Arriving at the east side of Shroud Cay
The “hills” aren’t very high, but the view is still great.
We left Shroud Cay and pointed north toward Spanish Wells in the Eleuthera Islands while our Rally buddies headed south. Our route to Spanish Wells required us to navigate through the Middle Ground, a section of the Bahama flats that is very shallow, probably 12 to 20 feet, and extends for miles. The water is clear enough to see through but it is dotted with coral reefs throughout the area and you must pay attention while navigating between the reefs.
As we motored, the wind was nearly non existent and the water was dead calm so it was hard to believe that predicted bad weather was driving our decision to move to Spanish Wells. In fact it was so calm when we were maneuvering through The Middle Grounds we decided to drop our anchor and snorkel a couple of the reefs.
What a great decision! These reefs were the most vibrant we have seen since we moved onto LIB. We did not see many fish, but we sure saw some lively and colorful coral. It was such a pleasure to see healthy reefs for a change! The pictures don’t do it justice but here they are. (Time to buy an underwater filter of some sort for my camera!)
Spanish Wells was a long trip from Shroud Cay, but it was definitely worth the effort. The Yacht Harbour Marina was rebuilt less than a year ago and the results are impressive. The docks are very secure and clean which was good since the weather did change and brought some strong winds and rain. The pool, restaurant, bathrooms, laundry room, etc are all first rate at Yacht Haven Marina. The dock master, Treadwell, is fabulous! He met us at the dock to catch lines and secure LIB and every day his attitude was upbeat and helpful. The office was exceedingly clean and the staff was very pleasant. We cannot recommend this marina highly enough!
The restaurant at Yacht Harbour Marina with the slips in the background.
As for the town, we first explored on our bikes, then we walked parts of it and finally we rented a golf cart. The town of Spanish Wells is amazingly homogenous. The houses were pretty uniform in size and we didn’t see an extremely wealthy or very poor areas. Plus the yards and homes were well tended and most had gardens.
A typical street in Spanish Wells.
Frank and I had read a lot about Harbour Island and specifically the pink sand beach there. But the two options for visiting Harbour Island from Spanish Wells were to take a ferry and stay for about 5 hours or hire a pilot to take LIB through a treacherous pass called The Devil’s Backbone. We compared cost and decided to hire a pilot.
Kristen and James at Pink Sand Beach
Then we invited our dock neighbors, Kristen and James on s/v Tatiana, to join us on LIB and spend two nights on Harbour Island.
Bandit is a super pilot and great guy!
We hired Bandit as our pilot and we were very glad we didn’t try to make the trip on our own. The water was churning and Bandit didn’t follow the chart at all. He followed a curvy track between breaking waves and hidden rocks that only an experienced driver would recognize. We were happy to have Bandit at the helm.
Bandit and his ancestors have lived on Eleuthera for generations and he had a ton of stories to share about his life on the island. I enjoyed learning about him and his various occupations which included farming 20 acres on Eleuthera.
The first day on Harbour Island we walked the town which didn’t take more than 2 hours at a casual pace.
Library on Harbour Island
MISSOURIANS where are you? Not one plate from The Show Me State!
I just liked this.
We saved the pink sand beach for our second day and Frank’s birthday! The four of us took a short tour of the area via golf cart then stopped at the beach. The pink tint is difficult to capture but you can see when on the beach. Pink Sand Beach is absolutely beautiful!
The weather was perfect for hanging on the beach, playing in the water and turning Frank into sand sculptures.
James and Kristen treated us to lunch at Sip Sip. It was fabulous!!!!
The birthday boy enjoying “Sky Juice” at Sip Sip.
We contacted Bandit to take us back to Spanish Wells and he arrived bearing gifts of sour limes from his farm and baked goods from his wife. The limes taste a bit like sour oranges to me and per Bandit’s recommendation we have used them to marinade meat. Yum!
Departing Spanish Wells for Harbour Island
On the way to Harbour Island
Frank and Cap as we sail through aquarium clear water.
Returning to Spanish Wells.
After leaving Bandit, Kristen and James in Spanish Wells, we headed south toward Royal Island where we could wait out the next predicted weather front in a secure anchorage but first we took a detour to a small spot near Egg Island, south of Royal Island.
We had read about a ship wreck off of Egg Island in the 1970s. A Lebanese freighter named the Arimoroa was on its’ way to Europe from South America when a fire started in the galley. The cargo was fertilizer and the fire spread so quickly that the captain had to head for the nearest visible island to get his crew to safety. No one was injured but the ship was lost and supposedly the wreck smoldered for three months.
As a result of the leaked cargo, the reefs were poisoned and destroyed as was the sea life in the area. However, the regrowth around the ship wreck is now a point of study for scientists from several schools in Florida which are trying to understand the drastic turnaround of this area. Today the area is well known for its’ abundant fish population and unusual number of grey angel fish, very large parrotfish and even stingrays.
Of course we wanted to try to dive this wreck even though the weather wasn’t really cooperative. We anchored near the dive site, dropped a grab line in case the current became difficult, then proceeded toward the wreck.
You can see it was murky even though we were in shallow water.
For the first time in my diving experience, I did not do well on this dive. The current was intimidating, the visibility was not great and I was a little disoriented. We dove for about 30 minutes and were only about 18 feet down, but I could not enjoy the dive. The little we could see around the wreck did show a LOT of fish and I would have loved to have a better day to enjoy snooping around.
We knew the day was not a good one for diving, but we wanted to see the wreck while we were in the area. Essentially we tried to force our activity when the weather wasn’t right. Hopefully we won’t make that mistake again.
Once we were safely back on LIB and I finished “feeding the fish,” we picked up anchor and quickly motored to Royal Island and the sedate anchorage it offered. I was really, really happy to enter the harbor where the water flattened out completely!
Sunset at Royal Island
Thankfully I felt better quickly and was able to enjoy a sundowner and the sunset before heading to bed early for a recuperative night of rest.
Sunrise on a crossing.
Wow! I can’t believe how quickly time has passed since we arrived in the Bahamas. We had an amazing trip from Key Largo, FL to Cat Cay, Bahamas. The weather could not have been better and the sea state was great. We left at first light and arrived about eight hours later.
We anchored on the east side of Cat Cay and spent a day or two kiteboarding and playing in the magically blue water. What a fun way to kick off 2017!
Boosting above the beautiful water.
Frisbee with Cappy in the shallow areas.
After checking in at Bimini, we moved to the north side of Cat Cay so we would be in position to leave for the Northwest Cut. At dawn on January 3rd, we lifted our anchor, raised our main, pointed our bow toward the Cut then raised our pretty red spinnaker. We hardly touched our lines for five fabulous hours and averaged more than 8 knots.
Flat water and wind is a great combination!
We sailed all the way to Frazers Hog Cay, which is about 80 miles, before dropping anchor for the evening.
We were pushing forward quickly because we wanted to catch up with some of our Rally buddies who were heading to the Exumas.
Having visited Nassau on a previous trip, we chose to skip it and instead went to the east side of New Providence and a lovely marina called Palm Cay. The marina staff, especially Brayden, were incredibly nice and helpful. They did everything they could to make sure our stay was excellent, and it was!
Again, we only stayed one night, then pushed on to Spirit Cay/Long Cay. This is actually a private island, but we had seen a couple of boats in a small half circle bay and we thought it would be a well protected place to anchor.
Long Cay on a calm day.
Turns out the boats we saw belonged to the islands’ owner who was very welcoming. She was also a bit surprised that we had made it into the area with our sailboat! Apparently very few boats try to squeeze through the cut we took. (Surprise!)
Frank is standing on the ocean floor as he cleans the brown stain off of LIB
The first full day we were in Long Cay, the extreme lunar tides allowed LIB’s mini-keels to rest on the sand and Frank hopped into the water to clean away the “ICW Smile” that had accumulated on the boat.
LIB looks much prettier without a mustache!
Serious winds were predicted for the next several days so we needed to move out of the shallow bay and anchor in a deeper spot to protect LIB’s underside. We chose to attempt a Bahamian moor (two anchors set from the bow about 180 degrees from each other) to reduce our boat swing from the wind and the current.
While we did a good job of keeping the boat in safe territory, we looked a bit like the Keystone Cops trying to get LIB to settle in an area deep enough for her even at low tide. We were trying to settle in a small circular area with a diameter of about 25 feet.
After hours of trial and error, we gave up that spot and moved to a different area on Long Cay. We managed to Bahamian moor and LIB settled nicely but we were less protected than we had hoped. Still, we were confident our anchors were well set and the only issue was how uncomfortable we would be during the winds.
Building winds created crashing waves across the rocks!
The wind began early in the morning and we saw some pretty high wind speeds. Thankfully the boat motion wasn’t terrible, but the water was so rough that we only left the boat to take Captain to shore.
After four days of winds in the low 20 to high 30 knot range, we had a small break in the wind and decided to exit the narrow Long Cay inlet and find a more protected anchorage where we could get to land even with the high winds.
Using the VHF, we contacted a couple of Rally boats who were hiding out in a nearby anchorage. They were ready to stop paying marina fees and we all decided to sail to Warderick Wells, the Exumas Sea and Land Park’s main island.
The trip to Warderick was pretty brisk as we had squalls throughout the day which brought surges in the wind and waves. As our Rally leader Wally would say, the sail was “rather sporty!” But our reward was arriving at the amazing anchorage in Warderick Wells!
A view of the anchorage at Warderick Wells.
It was super fun to get back together with friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally. We spent several days together exploring the trails, hanging out on the beaches and snorkeling.
Inside the bone structure of a huge whale!
Our professional, personal hairstylist, Laurie, gave all the guys a trim!
Hiking one of the trails on Warderick Wells.
The Park prohibits dogs from the trails so Captain was unable to walk with us. But she did play on the beaches with us and between frisbee and romping in the shallow water, we managed to tire her out.
Cap dug down to the cool sand then settled in for a nap.
We had an excellent time drifting about with sailing vessels Valentine, Blue Lady and Mauna Kea, but after more than two weeks without restocking or restaurants, our provisions were beginning to run low. Also, another cold front carrying strong winds was predicted, so we decided it was time to find a protected marina and a grocery store.
Frank and I wanted to head north to visit the islands around Eleuthera and our friends wanted to push further south. So we waved goodbye to our Rally friends again and forged north alone. But I am quite certain we will reconnect with these friends again very soon!