For the first time in my life I truly understand that the difference one day can make in my life is huge. I have so many examples recently that have driven this home and unfortunately they have mostly been sad examples.
Our dear friends, Ken and Laurie, sent a video of their sailboat Mauna Kea while they were finalizing preparations for Hurricane Irma which devastated St. Martin a mere 24 hours later. Mauna Kea had engine problems and it was unsafe for Ken and Laurie to sail out of harms way. A picture taken from the same place 24 hours later would show Mauna Kea in a much different condition.
We were in Chicago glued to the television as we watched Hurricane Irma swirl toward Puerto Rico where we had left Let It Be and our sweet dog, Captain. We were very lucky because in the last 24 hours, Irma took a slight wobble north and our boat and dog were spared! What a difference a day made.
Fast forward about a week to 5 pm Saturday, September 16th. Frank and I were sitting at the pool at The Yacht Club in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico. We were chatting with other live aboard folks lounging in the pool and we all agreed that the morning forecast of 60 mph winds for Hurricane Maria were not a problem for our boats. We could be comfortable about staying in the marina.
An hour later, when we read the 5 pm hurricane forecast, the story was dramatically different. Hurricane Maria had changed from a category 1 to a category 4 forecast! And she was barreling directly toward our marina!
The Yacht Club from the top of the mast the morning we left.
Frank and I immediately began redressing Let It Be; returning her sails to working order, putting the enclosure back on the helm, replacing the broken anemometer (luckily the new one had arrived in the mail the day before!), walking to a nearby mini market for canned goods and plotting our departure for early the next morning.
We left Palmas del Mar on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours later, and had a beautiful passage of about 375 nautical miles to Bonaire. We sailed for the first day, then motor sailed the remainder of the trip. We had mostly following seas that were never greater than 1 meter. Surprisingly, this was one of our most pleasant passages!
Twenty four hours later, our friends Greg and Shelly on s/v Sempre Fi had found the quickest flight they could back to Puerto Rico to prepare their sailboat and leave the marina. Shelly and Greg left Palmas del Mar on Monday, about 24 hours after we did. They experienced 21 foot seas and a lot of wind. They could see the very outer bands of Hurricane Maria and tension was high on board! Eventually they encountered ‘a parking lot of tankers and barges drifting in the sea,’ Shelly said. This was their indication that they had run far enough to be out of harms way and could continue more comfortably to Aruba.
Once we arrived in Bonaire, we found wifi and checked on our friends back in Palmas del Mar and learned that Maria’s eye had passed directly over our marina! Thankfully our friends are all safe, but not all of their boats survived.
What a difference 24 hours can make!
Frank and I like to tease that since moving aboard, we live our lives at 6 knot. Thankfully over a 24 hour period, that seemingly slow six knots was enough to remove us from harm!
There are many times in our lives when one day makes a lifetime of difference; one day you’re single the next day you are married; one day you are pregnant and the next day you are a parent. Yes, there are many life changing moments, but somehow this hurricane season, the changes that can occur in a mere 24 hours has become shockingly real!
Drone photo of Palmas after Maria (sorry don’t know who took it!).
We mourn for our friends, their homes and the beautiful islands that have been devastated this year by hurricanes. All those suffering loss from Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria are in our thoughts and prayers!
Although this season has been a challenging and heart wrenching one, we are trying to take away the positive aspects as well. For instance, we have some friends whose boats survived hurricanes with nary a scratch! We have seen many people step up and make huge inroads in gathering and delivering food and water to those in need. We have seen friends drive from Dallas to Houston, towing boats to help rescue stranded flood victims. There are silver linings to every cloud if we look hard enough.
On a personal note, this season has reminded us that we cannot be complacent about weather while living this nomadic lifestyle that is much more vulnerable to weather and storms. We are reminded that we must do our best to keep Let It Be movement ready at all times. We have agreed that we should try to keep our fuel topped off in case we have to sail away from a weather event. We are reminded that we must make our own decisions and allow friends to make theirs as well – what works for us might be all wrong for someone else.
We are reminded that we are blessed to have survived this season without injury or damage to property! (So far.)
Though this blog post could be construed as a negative reflection on sailing life, in truth, Frank and I enjoy living on our boat. While others might dislike the need to pay such close attention to the forces of nature, we find this lifestyle requires us to be more observant and respectful of the power of nature. We are constantly learning to improve our ability to understand what surrounds us. We can no longer jump in a car regardless of the weather and without regard for tides and seas and upcoming storms.
No doubt this life is a greater challenge than living on land, but for us it works. We like the learning aspect and prefer to be caught up in weather and seas and trip planning rather than being concerned with the daily news or which Hollywood star has returned to rehab or who was this years biggest loser. (Plus we were too cheap to pay for cable tv!)
Over the last two years we have learned many things, but in the last two weeks we have learned to appreciate that 24 hours can bring humongous life changes.
As always, thank you for reading. Next post I hope to report more positive things, like about the amazing diving in Bonaire!
Our early departure from Gilligan’s Island meant we arrived in Ponce by 7 am. The anchorage was pretty quiet at that hour except for the Ponce Marine Policia who followed us into the anchorage and politely waited for us to anchor before approaching our boat. Apparently when they spotted our boat and looked up our information, they did not show that we had checked into the country. Fortunately Frank had a record of his conversation with the Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) officer and he had the confirmation number of our check in via the telephone. The Ponce Police were very nice and respectful to us and soon the misunderstanding was resolved. The Policia returned our paperwork and wished us a happy Memorial Day weekend. A police stop is one way to get your heart rate up early in the morning.
We didn’t spend enough time in Ponce to rent a car and go into the heart of town so we really don’t know what it has to offer. Instead we walked the (mostly closed) boardwalk where only a handful of people were strolling about. Apparently things don’t get started there until evening, (surprise) but we were too tired to go back to the boardwalk that night, especially with another 4 am wakeup planned. Obvously, we are not your source for information about Ponce.
Beautiful scenes on our way to Jobos Bay
There was a bit of a storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean and along with every other boater in the area, we were keeping an eye on the weather. We left especially early for Salinas the next morning with the express purpose of looking into a suggested hurricane hole near the Salinas anchorage just in case the storm developed.
We guided LIB through the mangrove lined inlets and fingers just east of Salinas in Jobos Bay and basically toured the area to determine if it would be a good spot to wait out a hurricane if the storm developed. (Yes, it is, but the area is protected and you cannot anchor there until a storm is imminent.)
Mauna Kea looks pretty in the evening colors.
After a pretty thorough reconnaissance mission, we went back to Salinas and anchored near Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea. We were really excited to catch up with the only other 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally boat gliding around Puerto Rico and still exploring outside of the States!
We spent a couple of days in Salinas hanging out with Ken and Laurie who were experts on the area since they had been there for more than two weeks. The marina in Salinas welcomes anchored cruisers and has a nice dinghy dock which we have learned is sometimes hard to find. The marina has a little bar/restaurant as well as washer/dryer and showers. Very helpful to the cruising community.
Are you jealous of that exotic blue leopard material?
There is a decent grocery store about a third of a mile from the marina and Laurie lent us her collapsable grocery cart to make the walk home easier. For these last two years, Frank and I have carried our groceries home in backpacks and reusable bags, but this little cart made the walk so much easier that I have already ordered my very own collapsable cart.
We hung out in Salina a few nights waiting to see what would become of the storm in the Atlantic that was projected to head toward Puerto Rico. Fortunately the storm dissipated and we would not need to seek refuge in Jobos Bay.
Look how bright and well defined the colors are in this rainbow!
Rain has been plentiful here in Puerto Rico so the salt water is routinely rinsed from our decks and we have seen many pretty rainbows. I especially liked how vibrant the colors were in the rainbow pictured above.
Patillas is at the foot of these lush hills.
Mauna Kea and Let It Be left Salinas and headed for Patillas where we would stop before our final jump to The Yacht Club Marina at Palmas del Mar; our stopping point for this hurricane season.
Ken strikes a pose after anchoring Mauna Kea!
Once anchors were set and a quick rain shower had rinsed our decks, Laurie, Ken, Frank and I dinghied into town to stretch our legs and check out the town. We strolled to the left, then we strolled to the right and about 30 minutes later we had pretty much traversed the waterfront area of Patillas and Captain had enjoyed plenty of sniffing and calling card deposits.
Ken, Frank and Captain chilling in the shade and watching the activity.
Rain was threatening again so we found a little outdoor spot with plenty of umbrellas and enjoyed lunch while watching the comings and goings along the main street. We were surprised that there seemed to be a lot going on here even though the town was tiny.
Can you tell we were caught in the rain? Maybe I need a selfie stick? Or longer arms?
Our lunch table was right on the main road and we had the perfect spot to observe the comings and goings in Patillas.
Disco bus for elders??
I have no idea what was up with this bus but the folks on board were having a grand time and the lights on the bus were flashing all kinds of random patterns. We couldn’t decide if it was a tour bus (but there were no blaring announcements) or if a retirement home had gone all out on their day bus!
I wish I could have captured the lights and music in a picture!
Lights and bling are obviously emphasized in Patillas as is evidenced by the ice cream truck we saw on the main street just as we were finishing lunch.
WAIT!!!!!! Did you say ice cream truck? Well we paid our lunch bill and took off after that ice cream truck. I felt like we were part of a cartoon comedy because every time we got close to the truck, he moved on! But we persisted and finally managed to catch the ice cream man!
I didn’t see any bomb pops but we found plenty to enjoy.
After strolling the beach front and eating our ice cream, we had pretty much exhausted Patillas so we headed back to our sailboats and simply enjoyed the view from our boats.
Once again we were leaving before sun up so it was early to bed for all of us. But at least we had a chance to walk around a bit, and had a short jog chasing the ice cream truck!
A stellar final sunrise!
Our final sunrise as we motored toward Palmas del Mar was stunning. The sun sprayed golden rays across the ocean and brought forth a beautiful day for our final push along the southern coast of Puerto Rico.
We arrived at The Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar and were warmly welcomed my the great team who runs this marina. In the fall of 2015 when we were preparing LIB to be our live aboard home, we had spent almost two months here and we were thrilled to see the same fabulous folks here upon our return.
Sunset from The Yacht Club
I truly cannot say enough positive things about the staff at The Yacht Club Marina. They are the most caring, helpful, happy and kind people we have met. And they are very organized and efficient.
Full moon rises over the rock jetty at The Yacht Club
This is a wonderful place to while away our time during hurricane season and if we must be on the dock, I can’t think of a better place.
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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.
We left Thompson Bay and sailed to Calabash on the northern tip of Long Island. There is a lovely establishment called Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort where we enjoyed lunch with Laurie and Ken and friends from s/v Sand Castle.
The next morning as soon as our sails were set for the completely uninhabited island of Conception, Fisherman Frank put out his fishing lines. We were about to take in those lines when I saw several MahiMahi jumping out of the water on our starboard side. Seconds later the fishing line “zinged” and Frank had another fabulous catch!
Another bull Mahi…. fish tacos tonight!
White sand as fine as powder.
I seem to say this repeatedly, but Conception was the prettiest place we have visited. The beach sand is as fine as powder and almost as white. There are no buildings or cell towers anywhere on this small island and the water vacillated between turquoise and deep blue.
We spent our days lounging on the beach, walking the shore, exploring creeks, sharing dinners with Ken and Laurie and generally relishing being disconnected from time, electronic devices and even communication.
Once again the pictures are better than my descriptions so I’ll show your our activities.
Captain on alert as we explored a creek.
(I will try to put up a video of traveling this creek on the FB page when we get internet again.)
While the water was aquamarine or perfectly clear in most of the creek, we came upon a deep pool that was very green and murky. Turns out, this was also a popular swimming hole for turtles, so we donned our masks and jumped in. We saw about 20 turtles!
I had to really mess with the colors of this picture so you could see the turtle in the murky water.
Ken hoisted Frank up on Mauna Kea to fix a problematic flag halyard.
Those rocks and coral heads are in about 20 feet of water.
We walked to the opposite side of the island and climbed up a rocky point for an eastern view.
Laurie, a professional hairstylist, cut Frank’s hair on the back of LIB.
Frozen margs… a first on LIB.
Payment for said haircut was frozen margaritas! We lucked out and found frozen Bacardi mix in Long Island, so we shared it with Laurie and Ken. Frank used to make margaritas often when we had friends visit back home and it was a big treat to have frozen concoctions on LIB!
After a week on Conception, we decided to hop over to Rum Cay; a mere 15 miles away. On the way we stopped to dive the Conception Wall on the southeastern side of the island.
Sorry for the quality of the picture… at least you can see how vibrant the growth is.
This is the best dive we have had in the Bahamas! We dove to about 100 feel along the wall and saw scads of healthy, vibrant coral! It was a feast for our eyes. There was very little current and the dive was extremely relaxing.
Frank leads the way through some coral.
There were a decent number of little fish and a few larger trigger fish and angel fish, but the only schools of fish we saw were of very small fish. However we did see a huge lobster having a stroll along the nooks and crannies of the wall. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that lobster’s body was three feet long!
Rum Cay was decimated in September 2015 by hurricane Joaquin and then took a lesser beating by hurricane Matthew in 2016. There was a large marina on the island, but Joaquin dumped so much sand in the channel that the marina entrance was blocked and remains that way today. The main peer, a government dock, has not been repaired and getting weekly supplies to this island via the mail boat is a challenge.
The lack of rebuilding of the government dock and the closure of the marina have caused difficulty for the few remaining residents of Rum Cay. But you would never know it from the incredibly warm and welcoming attitude of everyone we met on the island.
A young man named LeMont and his dog, Spicy, strolled the island with us and introduced us to everyone we met and the dogs as well. Even the free roaming dogs were welcoming and didn’t get territorial with Captain!
Cotton grows wild along the road.
Though I am no agriculturist, Rum Cay seems to have the best soil we have seen so far in the Bahamas. Grass, cotton, trees and flowers grow here unaided and LeMont told us locals grow a wide variety of food.
Principal Ann and Frank
The local school has grades one through nine and a total of 11 students! We stopped by one afternoon and donated a few toys and toothbrushes to the Principal. The school is spotlessly clean and appears to have a good supply of books.
The church and evacuation location
– can you imagine water up to mid-thigh rushing down this street?
During hurricane Joaquin, 40 people took refuge in this church. LeMont told us that the water began encroaching from three sides and they had to move everyone to a different location. LeMont said it was frightening to walk through the thigh high water rushing across the street and that there were elderly people who had to be carried through the rising water. How brave these people are!
Unfortunately our visit to Rum was short because the wind turned south and the anchorage became too rough, so we returned to Conception. Of course we stopped and dove the wall again because who can skip such a great dive opportunity?
Our plan is to stay in Conception until the morning of April 7th, when we will leave at first light and sail toward the Turks and Caicos. Originally we had planned to stop at Mayaguanna, but it appears we will have a W-NW wind so we are going to take advantage of it and go to the Turks in one jump.
The trip to the Turks and Caicos will be a bit over 200nm and should take 30-35 hours. Your prayers for a safe passage and that Captain is accepted into the country are appreciated.
The perfect blue waters welcomed us back to Conception Island.
Bougainvillea is commonly found in the Bahamas.
It is hard to leave these beautiful Bahamian Islands with their unmatched waters and hospitable inhabitants. Everywhere we have visited we have felt welcome and safe. I completely understand why so many boaters choose to return here year after year.
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!