Happy Easter! We decorated some eggs and ate a bunch of candy.
After our busy social scene in St. Augustine, we headed to an anchorage we like on the Ft. George River in Georgia. It is by one of America’s oldest plantation homes. The windy weather ended, making for some good surf (we hoped!)
We took the dinghy Raptor and surf board to an inlet south of Little Talbot State Park, where to our surprise the beach was easily accessible. The surf was wrapping around the point perfectly. Grant used his bisecting longboard we keep in the v-berth. It has two sections that clip together with a rod in the middle for support.
Grant got a few good rides in. Amelia took a few tries for fun, but still can’t seem to stand up yet!
Grant also had a close call with the authorities this week. After his surf session, we were back at our anchorage. We were the only boat in a remote river, so Grant commenced showering in the cockpit. Minutes later, a Sheriff’s police boat zoomed up. They started shouting about how Velocir was dragging at anchor. Then, they realized Grant’s precarious position and yelled, “Hey man, you got pants on?” Grant replied, “no, you guys have perfect timing” (Note: extremely effective tactic to keep law enforcement at a distance…also true in this case).
Amelia came up from below and saved Grant. “You were way over there this morning,” the police boat insisted, pointing up current from Velocir. “Yes, but we have out some good scope and as the current moves our boat will too,” explained Amelia. (Just to clarify, we were not dragging). Then, they asked where our boat was registered, where we were going and where we came from. All simple questions, and soon they were on their way. Grant finished his shower with no more interruptions.
We headed the next day to Fernandina Beach, a cute beach town. On the radio we heard someone calling Sandpiper. It could have been anyone, but sure enough it was our friends from Georgetown! We walked around town and had dinner with them. It was fun to catch up on where we had both gone since Georgetown. They have been ambitious, sailing offshore quite a lot.
The next day we visited Cumberland Island, one of our favorite stops last Fall. This time the beach had even more shells!
We saw two groups of wild horses for the first time on Cumberland Island!!
Now we are trudging through Georgia. Six days of motoring, with a little genoa every now and then helping us keep our speed up in the current. It’s a lot of marshland and curvy rivers. Every inlet we see at least one US Border Protection boat is zooming around, but they never seem to bother anyone.
Thank you readers and commenters, we are overwhelmed by all the supportive and positive comments we have received recently. It is a special experience to have this blog and share it with others. We wish you all the best on your adventures and would love to follow your blogs as well. We could go on and get really mushy, but know we are just really really really thankful and grateful at all the wonderful people reading our blog and watching our videos! We feel the love, thank you!
Just this Friday we had a delicious dinner in St. Augustine with Carlos and Steph who love sailing and had found our blog. The next day we took them out on Velocir for a morning sail. They have a Flying Scot and are interested in cruising one day. It was so amazing to talk with them about cruising—there is so much to talk about! They said they felt like they already knew us from our videos, but that we were much taller in person!!
We also met Richard and Charlotte who are sailing their Albin Vega Alpha Lira to the Bahamas from Charleston. They were so excited to begin their trip and had already done a few successful voyages offshore on the Vega. “Alpha” means brightest star, and the star “Vega” is the brightest star in the constellation “Lira”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vega) Such a cool name!
Really it is somewhat difficult to say “Velocir” and have someone understand what you are saying (bridge tenders, other boats). Basically, Amelia and her cousin thought it was a cool boat name when they were younger, and it stuck! The only person who has really gotten it without explanation was a 10 year-old French boy we met in Little Farmer’s Cay. He had lived cruising on the boat his entire life. When we said Velocir he went to the front of the boat for a minute and came back with a book of papers. He took one and carefully unfolded it, revealing a poster of dinosaurs. He found the Velociraptor and pointed at it with a cute grin on his face.
Now we are motor sailing our days away on the ICW, taking in all the wildlife and sunsets. Above is a Osprey eating a huge fish!
Downtown St. Augustine.
The kitchen of the “Oldest House” in St. Augustine.
Video #22: We enjoy some sunny and rainy weather, and at one point get offended by another cruiser who is very vocal about not waiting at a bridge for the "small and slow" Velocir.
Steps from our marina is the Androsia Factory in Andros Town (not really a town). It is a Batik that has been made here in the Bahamas since 1973, and is the top export of Andros island. At our wedding we used Androsia fabric on our tables. So, Amelia was very excited to see more of the beautiful fabric in person.
Here is the official website on how the fabric is made: http://www.androsia.com/Factory.html
In the waxing room, hundreds of different designs hang on the walls and line the floors. They are hand-carved foam with wire and very intricate.
A lot of them are custom for different resorts, companies and restaurants all over the world.
The floor and everything around was covered in wax. While we stood there looking at all the designs, a couple came in with an employee and he started a demonstration. Soon, they were creating their own Batik. We asked if we cold join in. Even though we weren’t from a certain hotel he let Amelia make two panels of Batik.
The stamps are dipped in melted wax and then held down on the fabric for three seconds. It is hard not to get drops of wax everywhere!
There is also a writing utensil that holds wax. Amelia used it to draw and write on the fabric. Cursive came in really handy. (Still hard not to drip wax everywhere!)
When the designs were complete we headed to the dye room and picked out Periwinkle on the color chart. (Amelia had to compromise on a color and the other woman referenced this as her children’s favorite color so really Amelia had no choice. But the color turned out really nice!)
The fabric is dyed in these bins for about two hours, then they are washed many times at a high temperature to get rid of the wax.
Finally, the beautiful fabric is hung out to dry in the back of the factory!!
At the store, you can see the results of the various patterns and colors.
The next day, we picked up our Androsia that Amelia had created. What a great keepsake from our trip to Fresh Creek, Andros.
Fresh Creek has been a nice place to spend time. We walked a path out to an old lighthouse and climbed the rickety ladder to the top.
We also took our dinghy Raptor for a ride up Fresh Creek and came across a large mangrove stand on the South shore about thirty feet high. As we approached, we noticed someone had strung up parachutes and a cargo net to make it a play fort. What a comfortable hammock cargo netting makes!
Despite the lack of anchorages, Andros has been a nice surprise for us. It may have been different if we hadn’t stumbled upon the Batik lesson and Mangrove Fort, but Fresh Creek was by far our favorite stop in Andros, and you can see why.
Our current Velocir plan is to sail north tomorrow to Morgan’s Bluff, located on the north end of Andros. Then a calm weather window is coming and we plan to make it back to the States. It took us 80 days to get down here, and we want to get back to Annapolis in 45 days. Here we go!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last time Amelia was in Georgetown, Exumas was 1996. Cruising felt like a vacation every day and playing with friends on volleyball beach took up most of her time. Here are some glimpses of how things looked back then, and now 16 years later in 2012.
Still lush and sandy, Amelia’s family brought home a bag from the straw market. Later, we tried our talent at making baskets for Easter.
The market is still there today, only with different designs than her mom’s decorative cloth lady—more colored straw and animal print and many knick knacks for sale too. Amelia picked out a small basket laced with two colors of Androsia fabric (from the Bahamian island of Andros).
The dinghy dock was always soooo crowded! Sometimes it was hard to find a spot. It was fun to climb over dinghies to get to the dock, passing groceries or clean clothes to one another. Sometimes we would count then just to see how many people were in town!
2012- The dock is not as crowded. Instead people spend their time at Stocking Island on the other side of the harbor and just come into town for a few hours to run errands. It has free water so you can fill your jerry cans without even lifting them from your dinghy. Of course, now I have to worry about things like water!
Ice cream and a popular ring game were among my priorities (let’s be honest, ice cream is still up there). My parents would get the groceries from Exuma Market while we played and ate coconut ice cream—my favorite.
2012- no ring game. Now we sit on the benches with a free wifi connection and eat our ice cream. Then we get the groceries ourselves!
Lots of snorkeling from the dinghy!! Tons of beautiful fish everywhere.
2012- There are still some good snorkeling spots inside the harbor, but some places people say not to swim due to years of pollution from boats in the harbor.
A hike through palm trees and scrub to the monument on top of the tallest hill was a fun day activity. Then down the hill to the beach on the ocean-side.
2012- Still a beautiful hike with a breathtaking view of the harbor (if you know where the path starts)! Now, notice my friend on the left wearing a pink regatta t-shirt? Well, cruisers design and vote on the shirts every year. I remember in 1996 your design could only have three colors. Here was the 2012 t-shirt, in pink of course!
Winning or chairing a regatta event earns you a flag. There are many events to be a part of over the two weeks of festivities. It is all organized by the cruisers, mostly those who return year after year. Think of it as a summer camp (or student counci).
2012- The flags are still much coveted. We didn’t get any though!
Sitting in town with our straw purses.
Cruising Regatta Kid’s Game: finding change in the sand. This year I’m not sure what the kid games were like. We competed in the Adult Coconut Challenge (see previous post).
Regatta games. What a fun place to be a kid. Today there are many more resorts and bars built where cruisers used to play. This new atmosphere has slowly grown on us, and just being around so many cruisers you feel part of a community is fun and unique.
The 32nd Cruising Regatta has begun! We signed up for the Coconut Challenge and Regatta Races (as crew on catamaran Deja Vu). Our Coconut Challenge team is Sand Raptor—a combination of team members from Sandpiper and our boat Velocir (our dinghy is Raptor).
The first part of the Coconut Challenge is dinghy coconut collection. Coconuts are let loose in the harbor and the challenge is to collect them. The rules are taken very seriously—you must have one fin per person, a bucket and lifejacket. We didn’t feel we needed the bucket but ooooh, not an option!
Our awesome team!
The start whistle went off. Our dinghy Raptor is the first boat out of the gate!! You can just make out Amelia in her yellow life jacket pushing the dinghy into the water and Grant running behind. Amelia got a little ahead of herself, making it hard for the team to get into the dinghy! We were among the first to a pile of coconuts by the far beach and having a great time. Then, we looked back at some houseboats moored in the harbor and saw organizer boats dump bags full of coconuts into other team dinghies. It was a disappointment to see they were unable to make it fair after all the silly rules. On our way back to the back we got “attacked” by pirates, it was a lot of fun!!
Our haul was 23 coconuts. Other boats who knew where to be had upwards of 150 coconuts!!! (Maybe next year they will dump them all into the water before the start!)
The next challenge was a toss game. We did pretty well, Amelia was only slightly grazed on the head with a coconut. Lindsay who threw the coconuts did a great job! We caught 10 in a bag in 30 seconds! Ultimately we finished mid-fleet but it was great fun. We would like to thank the many people who put a lot of time and effort in to organizing the events, we just got to show up and have a great time!
Later this week, we crewed on Déjà Vu for the in-harbor race. They were nice enough to take us aboard and give us the experience of sailing a big catamaran.
It was a beautiful day for a race. We had an amazing start, port tacking the fleet when a catamaran next to us stalled. The course was 4.4 miles and we went around twice. Some boats pulled ahead but we stayed right with another catamaran and had fun racing them.
A beautiful sunset at Volleyball Beach. Georgetown is starting to really grow on us.
There are about 250 cruising boats here. It is considered a low year. Past years the count was 500 boats. People have said this is because not many Americans are here due to the economy.
We woke up at dawn, listened to the weather on our SSB (single side band) receiver and then headed 38 miles south to Georgetown from Little Farmer’s Cay. We began sailing under genoa and main sail. By afternoon we were passed by some Norwegian friends on Adela, so we rose the spinnaker but still couldn’t catch them! A cold front was closing in behind us, and as we entered the harbor the sea went still, so we motored into the anchorage by Monument Hill just as the front brought gusts of wind from the north.
The next morning we introduced ourselves on the Cruiser’s Net, a hour-long VHF program of weather and announcements. We plan to do some more socializing and have already met a few people to hang out with.
Volleyball Beach, the cruiser’s headquarters, is owned by the restaurant/bar Chat and Chill. They do not allow you to bring food or drink onto the property anymore, but otherwise the cruiser’s seem to still have a separate clearing in the trees where they can play volleyball, do yoga and read books.
Across the harbor is the entrance to town. Through the bridge is the dinghy dock- connected to free water, the grocery store (Exuma Markets) and a wonderful library with the best selection we have seen in the Bahamas! It is nice to have this convenience all around us again. We look forward to spending a month here relaxing, visiting with family and participating in the the Cruising Regatta!
The winds at Pipe Cay subsiding, we sailed for Staniel Cay and anchored at Big Major Cay which is home to Pig Beach. “Wild” pigs actively live on the island, and their favorite hang out spot is this beach. (This is likely because tourists go over and feed them multiple times a day.) Amelia was excited there were five piglets— super cute! We motored over in the dinghy to see them up-close.
We didn’t have any food for them, so when one started swimming toward the boat Amelia wanted to keep our distance. Thoughts of the pigs jumping into/capsizing the dinghy and getting bitten flashed through her mind. Grant thought it was funny how nervous Amelia was about the pigs near our dinghy. When we got back to Velocir other cruisers went over to feed the pigs. Amelia’s fear of them jumping into the dinghy was not unfounded!
The next day we walked around Staniel Cay, a quiet town. Instead of paying $5 at the marina, we walked 10 minutes to the dump to get rid of our trash. Then we treated ourselves to lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It was the most popular place in town, festively decorated with flags and swarming with cruisers (as well as people from private planes who fly down for the day from Florida). The food was really yummy (we had a Club sandwich and fish burger with onion rings) The waitress even gave us free Pina Colodas because she was practicing for the bar!
Walking around town later in the afternoon, we went in search of fresh produce. None of the islands we have visited have had a produce boat in weeks, which we are told is strange. We walked up to the first store we came by and workers were moving in boxes of fresh produce, just arrived by plane! We thought we’d lucked out, as we were among the first to arrive. The prices even seemed reasonable. We picked some things out and went over to the counter. Waiting, we heard the cashier tell the couple in front of us that the prices would be more than marked, because it was flown in. The couple said, oh yes, we had thought as much, it doesn’t matter to us (we have heard this “rich” attitude ruins it for other cruisers). When it was our turn Amelia said, how much is this bag of celery? We don’t even like celery that much, but it is usually cheap and keeps well. It was $5! If celery was $5 ($1.50 on the tag) we could not afford any of the other food we had gathered up. Grant put it all back while Amelia purchased some eggs and a small bag of carrots. Looking back, our lunch was pretty cheap in comparison!
The next day was very busy. We got up early at low tide to snorkel Thunderball Cave, made famous in an older James Bond film. It was very beautiful and fish followed us around everywhere we went. To enter the cave, we swam under a shallow ledge. At high tide, this ledge is submerged and you actually have to dive down and then up into the cave. It was early in the day, so the sunlight wasn’t shining directly in through the holes above the cave, but we could still see some beautiful coral and fish!
Some of the best coral was outside the cave!
We waited until high tide and then took the shallow route south to Bitter Guana Cay, home to endangered Iguanas. They are said to live up to 80 years old and are one of the most endangered Iguana species in the world.
Their home was on a strip of beach with white cliffs towering overhead. We anchored right off the beach and went to visit the Iguanas.
There were a lot of them! They had interesting reddish coloring, and some were as large as a cat. The way their skin hung off their bodies, their limbs looked like stuffed beanie toys.
Their tail-streaks lined the beach.
Our anchorage by the Iguanas was a bit rolly, so we went farther south to Black Point a small “local” town, crowded with cruisers. It had a small grocery store (no fresh produce), a cute cafe and a very nice laundrymat (a little pricy but popular). It was the weekend, and a lot of local men were coming to the town pier by boat with their fresh lobster tails. They started a fire and grilled them on the rocks.
We went back to Velocir and ate some more canned food for dinner, enjoying a beautiful sunset!
The weather was calling for a pretty bad Norther and squalls. Winds 20-25 knots from the NW and N. Accounting for swell, and swell wrapping around islands, the most protected spot we could find on the chart was Pipe Creek/Cay. We motored 20 miles to seek shelter here. It is an interesting Cay covered with sand bars. As we entered our anchorage we found one other boat there— a couple we met in Beaufort, NC! It has actually been really hard for us to meet people so it was fun to see a friendly face.
We had trouble finding a spot among the sandbars and scoured channels. We didn’t get a good hold on our anchor (something we don’t experience a lot) and found limited space. We nestled up to a sandy spot with good holding, putting out two anchors so that we didn’t swing into a shallow bump at low tide. Grant swam all around the boat to see what the bottom was like. A low tide he was standing next to Velocir!!
That night the NW winds started to fill in and unfortunately we were still getting swell wrapping around to our SW anchorage entrance! It was a rolly night with no sleep to be had. That morning at high tide a man from a nearby private island (everywhere are private islands with a fancy houses) offered us his empty mooring in a more protected spot. We were extremely thankful and took the offer. It was like night and day. Super protected from the weather we took some naps. Many thanks for the mooring, however, if the protected channel had not been full of moorings we would have anchored there to begin with!
Velocir in her little channel protected from the swell. We went on a walk of the sandbars. When we got back, Velocir had edged herself sideways in the channel and was aground! Only a little bit though, within an hour we were back afloat and tightened up on the mooring to give us less swing room and it wasn’t a problem again.
The sandbars had the most vibrant and beautiful conch we had ever seen! It’s like there are different “conch family” species in each area that carry distinct colors and traits. These were the most spindly and had the most vibrant pinks and oranges we have seen.
We hiked westward on Pipe Cay to an abandoned DECCA station noted on the chart. It has a huge cement pier with bollards, a cement boat ramp, a large cistern and several buildings. It had been abandoned for at least 20 years based on the graffiti.
As we approached the larger abandoned building we were startled quite a bit by this propane-man watching TV at his table. When you are traipsing around abandoned buildings alone, catching a glimpse of someone out of the corner of your eye, even a fake person at a table is quite frightening.
Inside the building was demolished. We headed back to the boat and waited out the heavy winds for three days. We each read three books! We also did some organizing, cleaning, installed a new fan and serviced the genoa winches. Amelia even made pumpkin pie when it got cold to heat up the boat.
The winds began to moderate but the weather was still very cold. While Grant was doing dishes in the cockpit he accidentally threw Amelia’s favorite knife overboard in a bucket of dirty dishwater. He jumped in to retrieve it and found the water was warm, so he went hunting for conch.
Grant didn’t find any conch but he did see some sea turtles and coral so Amelia went snorkeling too and saw two sea turtles!!!! Then, we heated some water up on the stove, mixed it into our sunshower water and were warm again!
Angry weather brings beautiful sunsets. We look forward to exploring Pipe Cay more as the weather improves.