Sometimes we wonder why so many people, us included, live in places that are so dreary and cold a good chunk of the year. We are reminded of this every time we use Grant’s birthday as an excuse to visit a tropical locale. Three years running. Last year was on Velocir in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera.
We made a delicious turtle cake, making do with whatever baking pans were available.
For dinner, we skipped the sunset cruiser’s raft-up to enjoy some fine dining. We watched the sunset and the moonrise about 30 minutes apart.
Besides birthday celebrations, we’ve been reading, knitting, snorkeling and walking the beach. Relaxing in the Caribbean!
We stopped our lazy ways and got to work, taking Motu Iti out for a sail! The forecast was 10-15 kts with light chop. Sailing the Sea of Abaco, Motu Iti did a fine job gliding through the water, not wanting to heel too much even with some puffs.
At the end of our sail, Amelia got in the dinghy and anchored it, while Motu Iti sailed back and forth to get some great photos.
It’s hard to have good sailing pictures of your boat when you’re always on it!
Here’s some fun video of the sail:
Just this last month we’ve started a new video series called “I’m On A Boat.”
It will cover all sailing projects and endeavors apart from our cruising on Velocir. Here are the first three installments about a Camper Nicholson 31 owner fixing fiberglass, gelcoat blisters and running rigging.
Hope you enjoy! And if you haven’t watched our other series “A Day in the Life: Cruising Albin Vega Velocir” you can watch at www.youtube.com/svvelocir
It has been over a month since we arrived in Georgetown and we are ready for some new adventures. But the weather has not been cooperating. Staying here another week, we spotted a sailboat with an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) flag and went over to talk with them. They were a great resource telling us about a trail map of the island and where to find it!
We procured this map from a couple on Eleanor M. He keeps the trails maintained, made this map and builds new trails every so often. It was very exciting to have this guide to explore Stocking Island with.
He said we were free to share the map. One of the things about Georgetown is that even though there is a community net every morning on the radio, you will not find out about most things that go on unless you socialize a lot. (a struggle for us)
The back side of our map alerts us to conservation pointers. We didn’t know starfish could get sunburned and die so easily!
We started out by the Casuarinas, a non-native species that is now plentiful in the Bahamas. They are known by their sharp acorn-like seeds that people (especially kids), enjoy throwing at each other. Today they are an important part of many islands, staving off erosion because de-foresting in the early years of settlement caused many native trees to become extinct (according to a local and the internet).
Palm trees are another large tree we see a lot. The path to the ocean-side took us a little bit to find but was a nice trail.
After we reached the ocean the paths became over-grown. Using the map we could just make out the way down to the rocks below. The waves were crashing in and we were glad Velocir was not out there today!
A sand treasure.
Interesting geology of the rocks towering above us.
Instead of the usual sharp coral formations, this coastline was covered in Pleistocene and Holocene Rhizomorphs (meaning root structures), which as far as we can tell means calcified root systems ten-thousand years ago.
It looked like someone made a very intricate drip sand castle!
Later that afternoon we went to work on the outboard motor. I has been quitting lately. Starting up again fine and then after a little ways stopping again. We cleaned the spark plug (looked great).
Then we took off the carburetor but that looked great too. Finally we decided that there may be too much oil in the fuel mixture. See, we usually keep a mixture in a small tank and fill the motor with it. We think maybe too much oil has been mixed in because we don’t always empty it all the way before adding a new mixture. It’s all we can come up with for now and will wait and see if it helps. Meanwhile, it is still dependable enough and always starts up again.
Grant staying handsome with his clippers plugged into the inverter.
We ended the evening with some steak, adding potatoes with spinach and onions. Garnished with some Minneolas. Canned food will come again as soon as we leave this area.
And another achievement: after two weeks of waiting for propane it was finally available again in Georgetown. Grant waited two hours and was at the front of the line this morning when the propane truck came. Over 50 propane tanks were sitting in a neat little row, waiting. Now we can continue to enjoy warm meals!
By this weekend the weather should clear and we will head north to Andros and the Berrys (weather permitting) on our way back to the United States. After much agonizing about wanting to go farther south we chose the safer option for hurricane season. It was clear in the end- Velocir is our home, so she comes first. Don’t worry, we’ve planned a fun summer for ourselves sailing tall ships, visiting family and camping throughout CA before we head south again next fall! And with the weather being so unusual this winter, staying out of hurricane territory is probably for the best.
Some videos to enjoy:
Hi All, we have been on blog hiatus for a while visiting family and friends but are now back to share Velocir’s voyage. Velocir has been lonely the past couple of weeks. Amelia went to sail with family in the BVIs while Grant stayed onboard for a week long of heavy weather (note to self: take down flags when wind is 40 knots for days). However, an interesting tidbit is that we’ve noticed cruisers will leave their flags up until only inches of the fabric is remaining. We think it is a status thing: My boat has been in the Bahamas SOO long my flag is a piece of string.
This week, Velocir continues to wait for us, bobbing about on her anchor close to town, as we have a fun visit with Grant’s parents.
We stayed at Regatta Point (in the background) and really loved the location. Velocir was in sight of our room, which was great. We could see her rolling around in the gentle chop and smiled, thinking “yay, a week on land in a real bed that doesn’t move!” We enjoyed on demand hot water showers, a sleeping in a normal rectangle shaped bed, and marveled at life with refrigeration and counter-space.
Luck was with us and we had beautiful weather to explore the town and islands all through the week.
We spent some time on the boat doing a little sailing, exploring, and motoring through the cruising fleet.
We went sailing on Velocir around Elizabeth Harbor.
We watched the Bahamian sloops sail. Like the Log Canoes of the Chesapeake, these craft have a shallow draft and huge sail plans, crew will climb out on the board you see in the photo to balance the windward side. This day the boats had their small main sail alone as it was blowing near 20 kts, but normally they have a large, distinctive mini gaff on the top of the main sail. A striking similarity has been noted between this sail design and modern racing boat’s flat top mainsail designs. The Family Islands Regatta is in a few weeks, we have heard it is a riot and wish we could be here for it.
We walked the many beaches, hiked up to the monument and around the hills of Stocking Island. We also recently got a map from a cruiser who keeps up the trails on Stocking Island, man there are a lot of trails to beaches, vistas and through the trees and scrub.
Grant went spearfishing out on the reef, but no dinner! He saw yet another small (we think) bull shark, but as usual they are more interested in cruising the reef than chomping on neoprene.
We snorkeled a blue hole full of fish. Though not marked on our explorer charters, we heard of an underwater cave entrance in the mooring filled hurricane holes of Stocking Island. Here we found a bunch of different fish as well as sunken inboard and outboard engines. Grant’s Mom even spotted a Bearded Fireworm out at the reef!
We checked out the local shops and bought a fish identification book—these are Atlantic Spadefish. They are 14-16 inches long and supposedly good eating, too bad spearfishing is prohibited here!
We feasted on lobster and organic beef from Uruguay sold at the Driftwood Café, one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots in Georgetown!
We watched tons of gorgeous sunsets and (whether we wanted to or not) the music from the Heritage Festival in Regatta Park roughly about where the sun is setting.
It was a real treat to share this wonderful area and the cruising lifestyle with our parents and, although we are slightly reluctant to get back on Velocir after being spoiled on land, we are excited for what lies ahead.
Today we went offshore to spear fish with our friends aboard Sandpiper. They go offshore to spear pretty much all the time for food, and have a Hawaiian sling (a type of spear) that we could try out. We found some coral and got into the water. Sandpiper got some fish right away. Grant saw a huge lobster in a hole but it was successful in hiding far enough in that we couldn’t get him!
Then, just as we were about to leave, Mark from Sandpiper came back with a fish and said he had spotted another lobster. Grant went over to the spot and speared a medium-sized lobster. Amelia spotted a mega-lobster and Mark speared it. It is the biggest lobster we have seen!
Our friends on Sandpiper put a lot of time into spearfishing and it really shows! They usually get snapper for dinner and will fillet Lion Fish too. They shared a Lion fish fillet with us and it was really good!
Because we only caught a medium sized lobster, we baked it for an appetizer and then made burritos with some chorizo from the store. Amelia made handmade tortillas because the store didn’t have any. She used 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 tablespoons lard (substituted butter), 1 1/2 cups water. Mix all together and then lightly fry on a skillet.
The chorizo, can of black beans, onions and green pepper was heated up in the same pan after the tortillas were made. (The tortillas took a long time, rolling them out and heating them.)
And to finish the meal we added fresh cantaloupe slices, still chilled from the store! Fresh produce is still a luxury.
Sunday night was Oscars night—our chance to reconnect with American celebrity culture. Another cruising boat put on a voting contest at Chat and Chill, the bar on Volleyball Beach. Amelia spent hours researching websites and blogs to create her “winning list” because with all the business of cruising we haven’t seen or heard of most of these movies. She entered her picks into the contest’s computer (all very sophisticated) and won the grand prize, a bottle of Pusser’s Rum, by a landslide. Amelia would like to thank the NYT and Washington Post websites for their advice.
-We continue to relax here in Georgetown for a while, having fun with the regatta and scheming about what we will do for hurricane season.
We left Rock Sound with the sunrise, making a good sail southward to Highborne Cay in the Exumas. The crossing was about 60 miles through protected Eleuthera sandbanks and out into the unprotected Exuma Sound. Just as we crossed through the last part of Eleuthera we caught a pretty good-sized fish! As Grant reeled it in a small shark started to attack it. Luckily it just cut its tail and we didn’t lose it. We made some yummy fish tacos for lunch the next day.
Our decision not to take our sea-sickness medicine, Stugeron was a bad one. Amelia felt the worst she has the entire trip, even so much as to reference a voyage she experienced years ago where she was so sick for 9 days she vowed never to set foot on that particular sailboat ever again. She spent most of her time on the floor of Velocir waiting for the voyage to be over.
Luckily it was a fast transit with our spinnaker up. We made it into Highborne Cay with plenty of daylight and anchored among quite a large fleet of mega yachts and cruisers.
If your mega-yacht is high enough, at least four stories, you can attach a huge slide to it and trail four jet skis behind! We are not used to being around so many other boats after our secluded weeks in Eleuthera.
We have to admit that we are a little wary of the Exumas. We know it is that sought after paradise of cruiser’s lore. The place to be. But it seems this is a resort and marina based island chain catering to the wealthy mega-yacht elite. If the island is not private it is owned by a resort and marina. After being spoiled in the secure friendly harbors of Eleuthera, the popular Exumas Land and Sea Park which covers a large area has filled their anchorages with moorings they charge you for. To sum up—the Exumas is not for the poor. It is extremely crowded with cruisers and there is a charge for everything. Despite this, I think we are still going to love it here and in the end not spend very much at all because we provisioned so well in Florida.
We sailed for Norman’s Cay the next day to find a more protected anchorage. This island is popular because it has the remains of an airplane that crashed into its sandy shores during the 70s when the island was used for drug smuggling.
Our first day here was one of the most beautiful and relaxing we have had. We roamed the beaches, snorkeled the sunken plane, hunted for conch, watched a huge beautiful ray gracefully inspect our empty conch shells, ate conch fritters and watched an impressive fireworks display and a glowing full moon. It was Disney magical. Perhaps there is some truth to the lure of the Exumas.
Shades of blue and green water in the shallows of Norman’s Cay.
Huge conch bed opposite our anchorage. The best we have seen!
A halo around the sun adding even more beauty to our tranquil setting. We hope to explore the Land and Sea Park in the coming days and see even more sea life!
After resting for a couple of days whilst waiting out a lightning storm, Blake and Grant motored and sailed, as the wind allowed, to Spoil Cay off of Great Guana Cay near Baker’s Bay. Sadly, there were no lobsters where there had been lobsters before. Grant signaled to Blake, who jumped in and swam to him, whereupon Grant told Blake that he was signaling him to not jump in because there were no lobsters but there was an overly curious 4 ft bull shark. Blake said we should really work out a better signaling system.
While on his way back to the boat, Grant speared a skate for use as fish bait. Foreshadowing.
The next day, at their next anchorage not more than a couple miles from Spoil Cay, the brothers Howerton happened upon a den of lobster. They speared four lobsters and saw many more. And there was much rejoicing.
Grant decided the occasion was worthy of some of his coveted warm beer.
The brothers enjoyed their feast of baked beans, lobster with melted butter, and warm Maryland beer.
Their bellies still full of lobster, the boys threw out the genoa for an easy hour reach to Guana Cay harbor where they anchored in the lee of a tall rocky peninsula.
They sipped rum and enjoyed a picturesque Bahamian sunset.
Later that night they paused their game of cribbage to go look at the stars when all of a sudden the quiet calm of the night was shattered by the whine of 150 lb. monofilament line peeling off the fishing reel. Grant sprang into action and soon subdued the beast from the inky deep. Blake administered a lethal gaffing to the jugular and thusly was their prey dispatched. Grant filleted their catch, then the brothers asked the internet what kind of fish they were going to be eating the next several days. The fish turned out to be a lesser amberjack, the biggest catch of the trip so far.
Who would have guessed that they would catch their fish after dinner, and on the evening before the Nipper’s Sunday Pig Roast (all you can eat); an event they had planned to attend all week. So they went to shore and got a huge bag of ice.
Nippers is the most famous beach bar in the Abacos and no visit to the area is complete without tasting one of their signature Frozen Nippers and/or attending a Sunday Pig Roast.
They had a great afternoon enjoying the view and eating more than they should have. On the way back to the boat they found a fresh coconut.
Not only is a coconut harder to get into than ever imagined, but the meat of a fresh one is delicious and a better movie snack than popcorn.
During the night, the wind picked up considerably and shifted more east, meaning the poorly placed rental boat that had arrived that afternoon was right on top of Velocir. To make a long story short, the rental boat drug their anchor onto Velocir just as Grant arrived from a trip to town. Blake and Grant scrambled up on deck and did their best to fend off the runaway boat while the rent-a-captain looked shocked and ineffectively tried to drop fenders between the boats.
Blake and Grant scrambled to get their engine on and ready as they thought the rental boat would snag their anchor. As they looked up the offender was setting sail and heading for Marsh Harbour. A nautical hit-and-run! Attempts to contact the boat via radio were ineffective. Fortunately there was no fatal damage, only a bitter taste in Grant’s mouth.
After the eventful morning, they sailed again for Man-O-War Cay to wait out a predicted storm. While there was no thunder or lightning, the wind was up something fierce. With reefed sails, the boys still made record time. Even with a great anchorage, the boat rocked and wind howled all night. Blake still feels like he is rocking even if he is on land.
Seeking refuge in the cabin, what else could they do but make some tasty amberjack burritos?
The next day they went to shore and wandered down the one golf cart street that runs that section of the cay.
Local calls only. 25 pence.
After more amberjack burritos, Blake and Grant set out under reefed sails. They were on a reach in 25 knot winds for Marsh Harbour. Grant was much more confident in the near gale conditions than Blake, who had not yet fully experienced the sailing prowess of Velocir. Twenty minutes after this photo was taken two rain squalls came through. Each time, the heavy rain silenced the wind and the boat rolled helplessly, waiting for the winds to fill the sails once again.
The weather became more moderate in the protection of Marsh Harbor. Blake and Grant cleaned the boat and ate conch fritters at a nearby waterfront bar and grill. Blake schemed on ways to not leave the Bahamas, and enjoyed Haitian rum and a Cuban cigar during his last Bahamian sunset as turtles swam around the boat.
Amelia’s parents reluctantly left the Bahamas and Amelia is off in cold Seattle visiting family. Well, cold for her, locals in t-shirts give her a double take when they see her bronzed face peaking out from underneath a wool hat. Grant and his brother Blake are now moseyin’ around the Sea of Abaco. The brothers bought their first boat together and sailed it around the chilly, windy waters of San Francisco Bay. This is an improvement.
Monday after they said goodbye to Amelia they sailed down in a nice and easy 10 knot easterly breeze to Tilloo Pond, a cozy anchorage surrounded by, well, nothing.
They stopped to check out a sunken barge, saw a big nurse shark and whole bunch of other fish. Just on the other side of the hills above is the Atlantic ocean and a weird moonscape of rock formations.
After bravely retreating from the very pointy rocks they did a little fishing trip to a nearby jetty. Several fish were chased, no lobster was found, but a couple good sized conch were gathered. Grant did, however, come nose to nose with a very curious young sea turtle. There was an incredible red to pink sunset that night.
The next day they had a 2 mile an hour spinnaker ride to their next anchorage at Snake Key. Despite some nearby construction, it was a beautiful spot.
A nearby shallow area protected by islands made for a great dinghy adventure. There were a lot of young sea turtles zooming around in the shallow water, but only one fish was hooked and lost. The remnants of some sort of building, seen on the way over, turned out to be some sort of factory barge. Inside of the rust pile were two monstrous engines, 12 feet tall and 17 feet long each.
They each had what looked to be an 8 cylinder flathead engine for a starting motor and were just incredible.
Grant was especially interested in the 4 foot tall capstan on the front of it.
The next day up goes the anchor again as they set off for Man-O-War Cay. With a brisk wind out of the Southeast they worked their way around points and sandbars, sailing all the way to the harbor entrance.
They had a great lunch and walked around the island a bit and then bought a couple of lobster tails for $8 and had a wonderful dinner. So far, baked lobster is better than grilled lobster.
Today was a lazy day involving swimming around the boat, reading in the hammock, and going to shore to get lobster for dinner, again. The rain and 15 knots winds forecast for the day turned into a sunny flat calm. Sailing San Francisco Bay together was a lot of fun and made a lot of great memories, but its got nothing on this.
It was a calm day with no wind and no waves, so we ventured in our dinghy out to the reefs of Great Guana Cay with our spear and snorkeling gear. It took us a while to spot any lobster, and when we did, even longer to catch them. But with a little bit of practice and teamwork we caught four. They are super-fast and the first few slipped from our grasp!
Our catch was four big lobster and two beautiful conch. We were so excited!! The lobster were not easy to catch but Amelia used a spear to trap them and then Grant grabbed them from the the bottom. A lot were pretty curious and made it easy for us by coming out of their rock ledges quite a bit. Amelia tried a few times to strike them, half-drowning under water, and after a few attempts quickly got the hang of it and was able to predict their reactions better. Grant was always there to quickly grab their sharp bodies with his gloves and throw them in our mesh bag.
We cut the tails lengthwise and added butter, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. We decided to grill them and they were delicious.
The meat came right out of the tails and Grant devoured his!
The conch were easy to catch– they move at a snails pace. The trick is finding them, and we finally did! Amelia always feels bad for the conch because she likes quirky creatures and these have little eyes. It’s the eyes looking up at you that make it hard!!! Anyways, Amelia opened the first conch by using a hammer and chisel to puncture its shell near the top. (There is a precise spot but it is hard to describe).
Then, you jab a knife in the punctured shell and basically cut the muscle the conch is using to hold itself in the shell. Amelia’s came out pretty easily.
Grant’s conch put up a good fight but Grant won in the end. After getting the conch out you cut away their brown skin and insides until you are left with the hard white meat. To get the brown skin off we used a sharp knife, but some people like to “bark” it by using their teeth to peel the skin off. (Seriously I am not making it up). We used a hammer to gently tenderize it a little and then cut it into small pieces for conch fritters.
The batter for the conch fritters includes 3/4 c. flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp. Old Bay (would add more next time), 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 c. milk, vegetable oil for frying and some powdered sugar to drizzle on top. I also added some green pepper bits and onion, you could also add corn or another vegetable.
Then, fry them in oil, turning, until done. It was like cooking a pancake, when I saw the little bubbles in the batter it was time to flip it. Very filling! It made a little too much for two people. After many days of hunting, searching, and close calls, we finally lucked out and had two days of feasting!
Our 20-hour crossing from Lake Worth, FL to Great Sale Cay, Bahamas was “pretty good…” We left at midnight with a mega-yacht sailboat named Meteor. She was gorgeous in the moonlight, a brand new, high-end 150 foot ketch. It was a good sign that we had picked the right time to go out the inlet. Slack tide AND when the pros were doing it.
The waves were pretty large but spaced far apart, so Velocir could glide over them instead of crashing into them. It was a motor ride the whole way with little wind. The moonlight was pretty and being in the open ocean again was soothing. We were dodging freighters by the miles instead of the feet. Amelia took the first watch and we rotated every 3 hours or so. We both get seasick, last time it was Amelia, this time Grant. He stuck it out all night though.
In the morning hours we entered the “banks.” As we crossed the reef, the deep ocean depths became a steady 14 ft. deep, and the ocean blues turned to a bright caribbean blue green. Visibility in the bank was clear 30 feet down.
We made it to our anchorage in Great Sale Cay just after dark, other boats anchor lights the only other light besides the stars; and anchored just inside, moving up into more protected waters the next morning. There were a few boats there, some had checked in at West End (a spot farther south) others like us were still waiting to go into a port. We raised out yellow Q “Quarantine” flag that says we have not yet cleared customs.
Our boat fared well on the crossing. Our Christmas tree got pancaked. Grant put on his sad face for the photo. We relaxed our first day in the Bahamas with a Star Wars marathon, unable to go onshore until we cleared customs and happy to rest and relax.
Our first beautiful sunset in the Bahamas! We miss sunsets, unable to really see them on the East Coast. The next day we headed for New Plymouth in Green Turtle Cay to check in. The wind was very choppy head seas and we could not make much ground so we anchored in Allans Cay.
Finally we got to Green Turtle Cay on Tuesday and are now cleared in! Amelia went into town as the “Captain” to clear us in. The customs agent was very hot and cold. While Amelia was there two people came in bearing food gifts for her and she was extremely friendly to them. We were hassled because Grant was not there even though the rules say that only the Captain may come in. She said Amelia could not sign for him on the customs form and withheld his passport. She insisted that “couples” should always come in to customs but not larger groups because “her office was only big enough for two people.” (We are unclear on who signs for everyone on larger groups???). It was very strange and hard to believe that husbands do not sign for their wives every day. Everyone we know who has cleared in has sent in the male spouse as “Captain” and never had a problem. She even told Amelia she had committed forgery by signing him in. Grant came in and flashed his smile and we went on our way. That, coupled with her lack of fishing knowledge (we read to have our fishing permit endorsed for spear and cast net but she didn’t know what a cast net was so she wouldn’t include it, end of story), made it a strange and confusing check-in.
The town of New Plymouth was very small and quaint. The buildings were very traditional and colorful, though many were abandoned. Everyone was very friendly and said hello to us. The town and everyone’s golf carts are all decked out for Christmas. We walked around for a while and then had a delicious dinner of Conch Fritters and Rum Punch at Pineapple’s Bar and Grill while we watched the sunset.
Today we went to the beach. It was windy so we read books, tried some fishing and played with a bunch of hermit crabs we found running around. A cool, windy day here is still a great day!
For our first night in the Bahamas, Amelia made some One-Bowl Pizza to use up our cheese. It is easy to make the dough and sauce, then just add the cheese and toppings. First, the dough is made by adding 1 c. water and 2 1/4 tsp. yeast to the bowl and letting sit for ten minutes. Then, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, 3 1/3 c. flour (sometimes I use 1 c. wheat) and 1 tsp. salt. Mix together in the bowl. The knead in the bowl or on a counter (if you have one) until smooth. Press into the pizza pan and bake at 350 degrees while you are making the sauce (about 15 mins). The bowl is then used for the sauce. Mix together 1 6 oz. can tomato paste, 4 oz. warm water, 2 tbsp. honey and 3 tbs. parmesan cheese with as many of these spices as you have: 1 tsp. garlic, 1/8 tsp. red pepper, 1/4 tsp. basil, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 3/4 tsp. onion powder, 1/4 tsp. oregano, 1/4 tsp marjoram.
Once the sauce is ready, take the crust out, add the sauce, cheese and toppings and bake for another 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and pepperoni is crisp!
Tomorrow we are going to head to a secluded anchorage for some snorkeling and fishing!