Saturday, April 10, 2021

Flying Fish


Flying fish. Photo by Mike Prince from Flickr

We're seeing lots of flying fish on our passage today. Cool stuff like this is a reason why when we have crappy days—including ones that prompt us to change our plans—why we do this.

Mich nicer to see flying fish this way, and in daylight, as opposed to from our night passages of yore

Location Location

Making this short while we're still in cell tower range, leaving the Bahamas Exumas from Black Point. Our goal is to arrive in Eleuthera before sunset tonight, crossing Exuma Sound to get there.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

When to Tuck Tail & Turn Around

I took this 7-second video of our passage to the Raggeds when things were still comparatively mellow. Then I stowed my camera below and braced myself.

You've probably heard the adage: Why do we keep beating our head against the wall? Because it feels so good when we stop.

My "Aha!" moment happened when we were attempting to follow our friends in Fiji from Savu-Savu to the Taveunis. They caught the weather window there in time. We did not. That became abundantly clear as the sun set and our autopilot went on the fritz because it couldn't handle the conditions. Wayne quickly reconstituted the autopilot—he's had a bit of practice—then asked . . .

"What if instead of pounding upwind, we turned around, and headed for the Yasawas instead of the Taveunis? It would be a much easier passage and we'll be there tomorrow."

We did. It was. We were really glad we did. We even caught back up with our friends elsewhere in Fiji.

Fast forward to a week ago. 

We were leaving Flamingo Cay in the Jumentos after spending a week with our friends in the Georgetown area, then two days on Long Island, with a hop to Water Cay, then Flamingo. We were bound for Buena Vista in the Ragged Islands, then from there we'd catch up with friends in the Ragged Island at Hog Cay.

A driving motivator to buy our boat when we did and leave right away was driven in part by our desire to return to the Bahamas' Ragged Islands this cruising season. It's a place of fond memories, new friends, good times, and great conversations with cruisers and locals.

The Raggeds' name is apt: they are rugged and remote, particularly in comparison to the Abacos, Bimini, Nassau, Eleuthera, the Exumas, and Long Island. Only one island in the Raggeds is inhabited: Duncan Town. When we last came, Duncan Town boasted a population of 70 hearty souls, a little bar, a tinier market, Marjorie's charming local handicrafts store, and a robust flock of peacocks. Duncan Town was a dinghy ride from Hog Cay.

Meanwhile, we were pounding our way into 20-knot winds, getting soaked by the waves washing up over our bow and making their way back toward us. We braced ourselves into the cockpit, grasping and holding what we could with our hands and feet, our stomachs tight, our teeth clenched. The fun-to-suck ratio was most definitely out of whack, severely pegged on the suck end of the meter. 

We were about to cross the Man O War channel and shift our angle onto a track we needed to travel for several more hours, which would make everything even worse.

Instead, we turned around. For us, that meant writing off the Raggeds for the season and maybe even forever—a disappointment. Yet we felt flooded with relief. It wasn't an easy decision, but for us, in that place and time, in those conditions, it was the right decision.

This is 7-second video shows what it looked like when we turned around.

What are you doing now in your life that's beating your head against the wall?

Notice it. Question it. Figure out a way to stop. Then . . . stop.

Location Location

Georgetown area, Great Exumas, the Bahamas.
The view off our bow at our current anchorage of Sand Dollar Beach. Stocking Island.

We are again anchored off Stocking Island's Sand Dollar Beach, 23 30.690N 75 44.561W. Still catching up on posts from Georgetown, Long Island, Water, and Flamingo Cays in the Jumentos. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we're headed to Lee Stocking Island, working our way back up the Exumas chain. We'll be out of wifi range for a few days.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Quirky Cruiser Art of Stocking Island, Bahamas


In case you're having trouble linking to the video above (there were some issues with that), try this direct link

I love the creativity cruisers use to transform found materials into practical yet whimsical art. 

Stocking Island's Art Walk, one of the newest walking trails in the Georgetown area of the Bahamas Exumas offers a delightful example.

If you can spare a little less than 2 1/2 minutes, enjoy a virtual walk with this video.

Location Location
This video is a recent retrospective of our initial stop in the Georgetown, Bahamas area, where we've since returned. We are again anchored off Stocking Island's Sand Dollar Beach, 23 30.690N 75 44.561W. Still catching up on posts.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Snorkeling Thunderbolt Grotto at Staniel Cay The Bahamas

Staniel Cay is Exuma’s mecca for the novel experience of snorkeling (click the 1-minute YouTube video to join me on my snorkel, or check out this one) in an internationally famed cave grotto and to get a gander and Major Cay’s equally famed swimming pigs—just don't get bit in the *ss by a porker like I did! 
Chris of s/v Scintilla, getting ready to snorkel Thunderball Grotto.

If you fancy propping your elbows on the bar where Sean Connery and the Bond Thunderball crew hung out, then stop on by the Staniel Cay Yacht club. They must’ve liked it as part of Never Say Never was also shot there as were Splash and Into the Blue. For more on Staniel Cay celebrities and Thunderball Grotto check out Planet D's post.
My cruising budget is the two-fer Liquormat on Staniel Cay, rather than the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
We went for a beer, but did our own laundry rather than use the "mat."

Staniel Cay offers the basics and post-COVID could use the business.  There are two tiny grocery stores on the island, a pink and blue one. You’ll find some overlap but different enough stock it’s worth a stop at both. But when our friend Chris got a shock when the small can of Spam she bought and thought was $4 rang up for $9, we were glad our provisions didn’t need restocking.  
We're still well stocked on our cheeses from the States—thank goodness.
These were for sale in one of the Staniel Cay markets. Guess inventory turnover is low these days.

A small airport supports the jet-setter crowd, as does a marina. On our past visits, the fisherman put on a bit of a show feeding their scraps to the friendly nurse sharks and stingrays. This year, we didn't see many sharks or rays. Guessing they've re-learned to fish for themselves.
This rather handsome rooster ruffling its feathers was one of my favorite sights on Staniel Cay.

For us cruisers, neighboring Big Major Cay—a great place for cruiser BBQs, if they’re far enough from the porkers—is 20 nautical miles from Warderick Wells and 57 nautical miles from Georgetown. Stocking Island offers a midpoint stop between Georgetown and Staniel Cay for those who want or need one. Staniel and Big Major Cays are considered don’t-misses in the Exumas. 

Location Location
This is a recent retrospective from March 14, 2021, as I'm playing catch-up after a week or so out of WiFi range (and sometimes it takes a while to make a video). We anchored at Big Major Cay 24 10.96 N 76 27.637W and made the ~2-mile dinghy ride to Thunderball Grotto and nearby Staniel Cay. 

We are currently in Great Exumas protected Elizabeth harbour, getting ready to hunker through a couple weather fronts. More catch-up posts coming up!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Temporarily Incommunicado


Even this won't be an option for at least a day maybe several.
We've seen working phone booths in far more remote places
like this in French Polynesia
Photo by 
Kelly Lacy from Pexels

Weather permitting, we're off to the Bahamas Ragged Islands tomorrow, likely stopping off at Water Cay first. We loved Water Cay when we last went, in 2014.

The Raggeds are a series of islands that are mostly relatively remote. That means instead of Georgetown's 150 boats in their harbor (versus 400 or more in a non-COVID year) or superyachts or charter boats, we either be on our own or with more crusty cruisers like ourselves.

When we get in range of Duncantown—population 70—the only populated island in the chain, we will be back in phone and thus wifi range again.

So in the interim, I'll be queuing up some catch-up posts, when we're not too busy with new adventures.

More soon!

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Location Location

Dean's Blue Hole, from today's Long Island, Bahamas road trip. 
It's the second deepest blue hole in the world and international freediving championship site

We're currently anchored off the Salt Pond area of Long Island, Thompson Bay, 23 21.474N 75 08.376W.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Major Cay, Bahamas: Who's Faster—a Pig or Me?

 The worst pig often gets the best pear.Italian Proverb

Major Cay pigs, May 2013. Exumas, the Bahamas. Deflecting them from our dinghy by tossing them eats.

The first time I went to Major Cay, I took one of my all-time favorite shots—the swimming pigs, eyeing pancakes tossed to them from our dinghy. 

One of the many Major Cay tour boats bringing tourists to the swimming pigs. 
This is Pudding, one of the the more assertive porcine swimmers.

Truth be told, every time I come to Major Cay, the prospect of these enormous highly food-motivated hooved, sharp-teethed animals going after the grub we've got in our inflatable dinghy or on our person freaks me out. I may as well festoon myself with salmon bites and waggle myself a few feet from a grizzly bear in prime fishing season.

Sign at Major Cay, home of the fames swimming pigs. Consider yourself duly warned.

Let's just say I know better. 

These cute little guys que up for their bottle feeding.

I even smirked a bit when I saw a youngster get chased by a pig when we were last at Major Cay in 2014—shooting my photos of the episode from a safe distance. 

This time I got complacent, foolishly figuring because there were lots of food sources and other folks closer than I was—like tour boats—that I wouldn't become a target. I'd brought food and decided to snap some photos from my not-very-Zoom-lens water camera. In the process, I not only got closer than I should, the food I carried and previously kept hidden from view caught the attention of one of the pigs.

The pig at Major Cay, Eleuthera, the Bahamas emerges from the water
and goes on the move. This is the sow that charged me.

The pig charged.

I  turned tail and ran, but not fast enough. The pig nipped me in the *ss—hard! I don't even remember falling on my *ss, but my sandy backside provided the proof. I just remember that I flung the bag of food to get the pig away. It pounced the bag, and tore it open devouring its contents instantly.

"Pavlovian response," Wayne said. "It knew that would work, and it did. But I do feel like my manly territory was usurped by that pig." 

Ahhh . . . empathy (not).

I'm lucky that I was still wearing my neoprene wetsuit from our Thunderbolt Grotto snorkel. The pig's teeth didn't tear the suit or my skin. The bite still left some serious teeth imprints, which since filled in with a bruise. My keister still smarts, especially on bumpy dinghy rides, which are the norm

Where the pig left its mark on me. The bite is a little bigger than the size of my fist.
It's been several days and the bruise looks worse but doesn't hurt as much.

Afterward, while I watched the gal who worked at Major Cay bottle feeding piglets vitamins I nearly saw some of the more mature pigs nearly trample baby pigs as they tried to horn in. I am reasonably sure some get trampled to death. Wayne later told me he saw lots of YouTube videos of visitors getting chased. Our friend Neville of Dreamtime, who got phenomenally great photos of the pigs earlier this year, told us about a tour boat passenger feeding the pigs whose breast got too close to the food source. The consequences were ugly.

This gal who works at Major Cay to help care for the pigs there knew her stuff.

Major Cay is still worth a visit. Replace "when pigs fly" with "when pigs swim" is still a novel sight to be seen for us city slickers. I still believe baby pigs are freaking cute. 

This piglet was quite gentle, but I was still on the lookout for the sows and watched my backside!

Just . . . beware about how close is too close a look.

Who's faster—me or the pig? My high school competitive track racing days are too far behind me—most definitely the pig is faster.

Location Location

The pigs don't swim out as far as this couple on the SUP at Major Cay, Exuma, Bahamas.

This is a recent retrospective from when we were at Major Cay, Exumas, Bahamas, 24 10.964N 76 27.637W. We are currently in Long Island, working our way to the Raggeds. Since Major Cay, we've anchored in the Salt Pond/Thompson Bay area of Long Island. Catch-up posts coming.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Bahamas Exuma Parks Crown Jewel: Warderick Wells

Take a 2-minute YouTube mini-tour of the Bahamas and you'll wonder why depression is called 

"the blues."

We tucked tail from Shroud Cay to get better shelter in Warderick Wells, the crown jewel of the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Parks, and home of the park's headquarters.

Warderick Wells, part of Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Bahamas.

Warderick Wells still gets windy, but thanks to near 360-degree protection, the chop never gets too rough. It's the kind of place boats go to securely ride out 70+-knot winds. We were there in winds in just the steady 20-knot range. We were "stuck" there 5 days, and even though the winds kept me from snorkeling (though here's a little bit of what I saw on a prior Warderick Wells trip) or kayaking, there are worse places to be stuck, even without WiFi.

Eight passengers on a 4-person dinghy, Warderick Wells.
Note the ponytail on the gal standing. Yes, it was windy!

The park used to sell limited WiFi access but decided the complaints about its limitations weren't worth the hassle of offering the service. Technically, there is WiFi if you are able to get enough of a signal in the non-public part of the park headquarters or at the top of BooBoo Hill from nearby Highborn Cay's BTS tower. Honestly, despite my addiction to the internet, my time at Warderick Wells reminded me of how little really happens most of the time if you step out for a while.

Chris and Chris' sailboat Scintilla, looking like the cover of a cruising magazine at Warderick Wells.
Warderick Wells is named for its natural cisterns, which provided drinkable water in times past. These days, drinking water throughout the Bahamas comes from reverse osmosis—also known as taking the salt out of saltwater. If you're coming to the park, you bring your own water, along with anything else you need.
Dana and Wayne at the top of BooBoo Hill, Warderick Wells, the Bahamas.
Photo courtesy Chris(tine) of s/v Scintilla.

The hiking is terrific at Waderick Wells. You could easily spend a couple of days to cover all the trails, especially if you want to wade the island's lovely beaches. Thanks to the Bahamas Land Trust formation and management of the park, the trails are reasonably well-marked and there's useful educational signage about the park's history, flora, and fauna. At least this time, I didn't get myself lost on my hike—not sure if that's due to improved trail markers or hiking with Wayne, rather than solo.

This is the rough, Exuma Sound side of Warderick Wells.

The blowholes burst 30 feet into the air, but I was unwilling to soak my non-waterproof camera with a decent enough zoom lens to photograph the blowholes in all they spurting glory at a distance. Even at the top of BooBoo Hill not only could I not hold my camera steady in the wind, and there was still significant saltwater spray from Exuma Sound. Getting closer would've surely soaked my camera. Besides, I decided I wasn't up for rock-hopping out to the blowholes in the winds as I was and still am healing up from the knee I tweaked at Shroud Cay.

View of our Gulfstar 45 from BooBoo Hill, Warderick Wells.
The turquoise area is the only part deep enough not to scrape a hull, and it's got a wicked current.

My only real complaint about Warderick Wells is how tight the channel is. We muffed our first grab at the $35-a-night mooring ball line that we tried to snatch in 20+knot winds—despite our friends from Scintilla's help. There was no room for error, so we scraped what little paint there was on our keel down to the fiberglass on the sandbar. We'll add that to our list of items to address on this summer's haulout.

One of the 8 superyachts anchored near us at Shroud Cay, Exumas, Bahamas.
One of the superyachts at Shroud was called
SkyFall, like the Bond flick, and looked Bond-worthy.
The good news is that narrow channel keeps out the superyachts, who have an uncanny talent for blocking my sunset views at anchor. They also tend to run their noisy generators all night, which helps them eviscerate our night vision with the disco-like lights they irradiate the water with after sunset and until dawn. 

Stepping Stone, a trawler, got rammed by a catamaran attempting to tie off
on the mooring ball next to them at Warderick Wells.

That narrow channel also probably factored into why we witnessed a catamaran slamming into a parked trawler at Warderick Wells. At least we just hit a sandbar. Warderick may not get the superyachts, but it gets a lot of charter boats that are not always working as they should, with captains who don't always know what they're doing. Beware!

Location Location

Sunset at Warderick Wells, Exuma, Bahamas. Not a bad place to be stuck for a while.

This is a retrospective of when we were at Warderick Wells, Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, the Bahamas, 24 23.797N 76 37.940W, mooring ball #9, March 8-13, 2021. We are currently anchored off of Georgetown. My next posts will cover Major Cay and Stanley Cay, where we anchored after Warderick and before Georgetown. We're working our way down to the Ragged Islands.