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North Bight to Fresh Creek, Andros-Mahi Mahi-Velocir aground-Marina $tay

We traversed the east coast of Andros another full day from South Bight to North Bight.  Still wide-open anchorages with no protection but nice beaches on-shore.  And still no fish!!

We kept going north, headed for the town of Fresh Creek.  Velocir started inside the reef, motoring up through the shallows now that the wind had shifted unfavorably.  We kept getting bites on our spoon lure but they escaped each time.  Grant reeled it in to see that the hook was so rusted and dull it had actually broken off on one side, so he replaced it with a new hook.

Before the inshore route got too shallow, Velocir headed outside the reef.  Here our other lure, a 6 inch green fish for Mahi Mahi, comes into play.  Just off Green Cay (a different one than we’d just visited) we got a bite!!

Mahi Mahi by Velocir

Grant struggled with all his strength to reel it in.  It was Amelia’s turn on the reel, but with the fight this Mahi was putting up she didn’t volunteer to trade jobs.  It took about 20 minutes of hard work to get the fish in.  As soon as it was alongside, Amelia gaffed it perfectly and brought it aboard.

Mahi Mahi by Velocir

It was a beautiful male Mahi Mahi.  You can tell because the head is more blunt than the female.

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

We entered Fresh Creek’s narrow channel a few hours later.  It is a larger town (comparatively) and has an old lighthouse, Androsia factory and beaches.  According to our chart, guidebooks and other blogs, there are three mooring balls in the harbor.  Anchoring is not possible due to the scoured bottom and very heavy current.

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

We went past the marina towards the mooring balls.  Two were taken by a trimaran that is permanently there.  The other one was free, so we slowly motored towards it….and ran aground.  It was low tide, so we would be okay.  But we were so tired from the past few days we worked as hard as we could to get unstuck. 

After various tactics probably totaling 30 minutes, Grant jumped in the water and rotated Velocir 180 degrees.   He could see from the contour of the sand that if he moved Velocir about 5 inches over she would be free.  Amelia shifted the weight of the boat by moving forward and aft as Grant rotated the boat.  (Only possible on a boat Velocir’s size!)  He then grabbed the pulpit, pulling himself into the boat and shouted “go.”  Amelia knew he was now safely out of the water and put Velocir in gear.  We were free! (On the upside, we are now intimately familiar with our depth sounder’s readings.  3.3 is AGROUND.  3.5 is AFLOAT  Good to know….)

Fresh Creek Andros by Velocir

Between reeling in the fish and pushing Velocir off the sand, Grant was sore all over.  It was time to dish out some money for the only marina, Lighthouse Yacht Club- something we have only done one night our entire trip.  What a relief!  Protection from the sea, steps away from land, internet, showers and free ice.  Not a bargain, but not a choice.

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We’re Going the Distance- Hello Andros

But we’re not going for speed.  In a little less than 24 hours nonstop we transited from Georgetown, Exumas 99 miles to Green Cay, a small island in the middle of nowhere.  After a few hours on the beach and snorkeling we continued 28 miles to the South Bight of Andros island.

Sailing Albin Vega Velocir

We departed Georgetown at 0715 after listening to the weather report on our SSB receiver.  The wind was still blowing a steady 15 knots from the SE, but it was the first weather window we’d seen in weeks.  And it was forecasted even lighter over the following days.  We headed out of the harbor with four large catamarans and one monohull.

Sailing Albin Vega Velocir

Our route was conservative:  Travel 15 miles offshore (3 hours) from Georgetown, Exumas to Square Cay Cut and then stay in the protected waters inside the banks and “south-side” Barreterre of the Exumas.  This led us through some shallow areas on our chart, but it was high tide and we never saw less than 6 feet.

Sailing Albin Vega Velocir

One “shallow” area on the chart through Pudding Cut by Brigantine Cays was actually 12 ft deep and we passed a local cargo ship using the route.  Inside the banks the weather was much calmer.   It was less physically exhausting to have Velocir’s motion decreased.

Sailing Albin Vega Velocir

Still too much motion to sleep through.  We took 3 hour watches and used the NAVIK windvane to steer the entire way (except the shallows of Pudding Cut).  This gave us the ability to adjust sails, do navigation and get snacks down below without calling up one another for help.

Sailing Albin Vega Velocir

We sailed through the night, using jack-lines (heavy duty webbing that runs around the deck) clipped in to our harnesses and life jackets for safety.  At 0537 the next day we arrived at Green Cay.  The westward anchorage (protected from the weather) is navigable at dark with no hazards according to the chart.  We had never seen it ourselves though, so we were hoping it was as good as it seemed.  Using our spotlight at night, Grant stood on the bow and did a peripheral search on our way in.  Amelia watched the GPS and depth sounder to make sure they matched up.  Everything seemed right so we dropped the anchor and went to sleep.

The next morning we awoke to a little more swell coming around the island and tossing Velocir about.  Velocir was anchored in a fine spot- the GPS, paper charts, depth sounder and spotlight had served us well.  We got the dinghy, Raptor, in the water and headed over to the island to explore.

Green Cay Bahamas by Velocir

Ashore, the only signs of life were some goats making sounds in the distance.  We walked the rocky beach and then went snorkeling. 

Green Cay Bahamas by Velocir

There were yellow sea fans called “Venus Sea Fan” that we had not seen before and many many fish. 

After about 20 minutes in the water, Amelia looked out into the deeper water and spotted a reef shark swimming towards her.  Grant was about 20 feet away so she yelled to him and swam towards the dinghy (which was close-by).  The shark was curious about Grant and got within 15 feet of him, so Grant waved his spear at it, and it started to swim away.  That was a clear wrap-up to snorkeling, so we hauled up the anchor and set our course for the South Bight of Andros Island (29 miles).

South Bight Andros by Velocir

Andros is three islands with large rivers running through them.  It has one of the largest barrier reefs in the world (good fishing!) and bone fishing in the bights.  It also runs along the Tongue of the Ocean, where just outside the reef there is literally a wall that plunges down thousands of feet, but inside the reef is very shallow.  This shallow wide-open landscape makes it only navigable in fair weather for cruising boats.  When entering South Bight, it was much larger and open to the weather than we realized.

South Bight Andros AUTEC by Velocir

Because of this ocean wall is so close to shore, Andros is home to AUTEC.  AUTEC is a US military establishment that had about four bases on the island (now only two).  As we have learned, they test submarines and sonar.  South Bight, our first stop in Andros is home to one of the abandoned sights.  It is located on Golding Island at the entrance to South Bight.

South Bight Andros AUTEC by Velocir

(Note to Cruisers:  (pictured above) There is an extremely well-marked deep water entrance to their deserted basin and concrete pier, protected from E-S.  We did not try it but would recommend and spoke with a former employee who said it would be a great spot.)

South Bight Andros AUTEC by Velocir

Now, the AUTEC site is home to sheep (that should be sheared) and the buildings have been gutted.  Such a large facility abandoned last year.  There were still horse shoes in the sand pit.

Sono Bouy by Velocir

One item we saw was this sono-bouy.  According to its writing it contains a lithium battery and other chemicals.  We found a few of these on the island and have seen many washed up on beaches throughout our trip.  Nice to finally figure out what they are.

Driggs Hill Settlement Andros by Velocir

Next, we visited the small settlement of Driggs Hill.  It had seen better days.  We saw about four men walking around and three children playing outside.  There was a huge gas station and government dock with no activity.  Homes looked abandoned.  We didn’t linger.  (The three islands of Andros are not connected and the North side is more inhabited.)

After such a long journey we are very exhausted.  We didn’t catch any fish and are not anywhere protected enough to spend much time, so we will continue north up the island.

And, if this blog post isn’t long enough for you, here is a video about baking pizza on the boat:

Fun with Family! (Velocir alone time)

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.

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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.IMG_0885

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.

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Luck was with us and we had beautiful weather to explore the town and islands all through the week.

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We spent some time on the boat doing a little sailing, exploring, and motoring through the cruising fleet.

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We went sailing on Velocir around Elizabeth Harbor.

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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.

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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.IMG_0840

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.

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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!

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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!

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We feasted on lobster and organic beef from Uruguay sold at the Driftwood Café, one of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots in Georgetown!

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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.

Reaching Georgetown- A Cruiser’s Mecca

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.

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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.P2220185

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.P2220202

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.P2210178

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!

Thunderball, Pigs, Iguanas- much to do!

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.

Pig Beach by Velocir

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!

Staniel Cay Yacht Club by Velocir

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!

Thunderball Cave by Velocir

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!

Thunderball Cave by Velocir

Some of the best coral was outside the cave!

Sailing Velocir

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.

Bitter Guana Cay by Velocir

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.

Bitter Guana Cay by Velocir

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.

Bitter Guana Cay by Velocir

Their tail-streaks lined the beach.

Black Point by Velocir

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.

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We went back to Velocir and ate some more canned food for dinner, enjoying a beautiful sunset!

Cruising’s Holy Land–the Exumas

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.

Fish Tacos by Velocir

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.

Mega Yacht Slide by Velocir

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.

Sailing Velocir Albin Vega

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.Normans Cay by Velocir

Shades of blue and green water in the shallows of Norman’s Cay.

Normans Cay by Velocir

Huge conch bed opposite our anchorage.  The best we have seen!Sailing by Velocir Albin Vega

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!

Unhappy Barracuda, Laundry and Water

The weather has been very very windy.  It seems like the wind hasn’t calmed down for weeks.  We had a favorable breeze so we sailed from Hatchet Bay to Governors Harbour.  It was a wet and windy sail, but we made it in a few hours.  Governors Harbour is an old city that was once intended to be the capital of the Bahamas.  There are a few beautiful old churches and a nice government building right along the water.

The government building is home to a monument/spicket with a plaque commemorating the city water of Governors Harbour.  Free city water!  We took our collapsible water jugs and hose to fill up our water tanks.

Velocir holds about 80 gallons of water.  We have the original 30 gallon plastic Albin Vega water tank forward under the v-berth.  Then, just aft of this we put a soft plastimo water tank.  It is 40 gallons but with the limited space of that compartment we estimate having filled it about 30 gallons.  Our third water tank is a plastic 20 gallon tank located in our starboard cockpit section, giving it easy connection to the sink just feet away.  The two forward tanks are separated but also joined by a Y valve.  One hose is run aft to the sink to another Y valve that joins the cockpit tank.  This way if one tank becomes contaminated, springs a leak or has a problem we won’t loose all our water, just one tank.

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After filling our tanks in four runs, we had extra water for doing laundry.  Amelia used our bucket for washing and a collapsible plastic basin for rinsing.  Then, everything was hung up with clothespins to dry.  There was a lot of laundry in the pile!

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The next day another sailboat came into the harbor—the Schooner Liberty Clipper from Boston.  On our way out of the harbor headed for Rock Sound, we motored by and said hello.  We had some friends in common and it was nice to see another tallship again!

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The sail to Rock Sound was much calmer….it could even be described as relaxing and fun!!!  Grant caught a mackerel and a barracuda and Amelia caught a big barracuda!  Coming into Rock Sound its namesake became clear—there were quite a few rocks underwater (but clearly marked on our chart).

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After we anchored in Rock Sound the wind picked up again.  We settled into the boat down below playing card games, cribbage, reading books and making homemade bread.  (The price per loaf has exceeded Amelia’s max of $3.50 a loaf she is willing to pay).  Favorite bread making recipe site is, coincidentally, called:  www.cookingbread.com and their joint blog www.thekneadforbread.com.  All photos are amazing and I chose the Farmers Bread recipe, substituting maple syrup for molasses.  Very good!

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The next night we did something out of the ordinary.  We went on a date!!!  It was nice to have a special evening, watching the sunset together overlooking the water.  Grant picked the restaurant and it was great.  We were the only patrons there and ate conch quesadillas and shrimp pizza—yum!

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We came back to Velocir just before another squall went through.  The weather will improve tomorrow according to predictions and we will sail onward to the Exumas!

Spanish Wells, Hatchet Caves, Governors Harbour

We left Royal Island for a nice short sail to the island community of Spanish Wells. After several weeks of being out in the more rural islands, Spanish Wells’ bustling industry and community were a welcome sight. The island supplies most of the conch, lobster, and fish for the Bahamas, so it has a huge fishing fleet and vibrant economy. The community stems mostly from a settlement of English Royalists that fled the US during the Revolutionary War and has become a very close knit community with a friendly small town atmosphere.

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We picked up a mooring as there was no good anchorage nearby and explored the town. We found a beautiful beach with silky sands and those wonderful Caribbean water colors.

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It was Grant’s birthday so we ate lunch at a local diner where we thought we were in the middle of a family reunion (seriously, we asked someone if there was an event going on). We went to the grocery store and splurged to get Grant a steak and mashed potatoes birthday dinner. After the groceries were put away we headed to the beach again, this time by dinghy. Amelia wished Grant a Happy Birthday Bahamas style.

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We read books in the shade of a palm tree and walked the beach for the afternoon. After a relaxing afternoon we had a wonderful dinner. Grant said it was one of his best birthdays ever.

After Spanish Wells we sailed down through current cut’s swirling waters and into the sounds on the leeward side of Eleuthera. We headed for Hatchet Bay, the most protected anchorage on the island. It boasted free government moorings and, as we learned from the internet, a huge historic cave with a mile of underground meanderings.

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What did we do our first day there but head straight for the caves.  We could not find a map of its location, but took our GPS along with coordinates. A long 3 mile hike along Eleuthera’s only highway we got an unsolicited ride from a nice young woman and were there in no time. Eleuthera is all limestone and has many caves and rock formations. The indigenous Lucayan people buried their dead in the caves and early settlers lived in them.

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We brought multiple flashlights and began wandering down through the caves. There was over 100 years of graffiti along its walls. Many from the 1890’s and turn of the century when this was apparently a popular destination. We loved walking around through the history and the natural beauty of it all.

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We traversed 2 of the 3 levels to the cave, not wanting to push our luck by exploring the lowest level with a couple feet of water in it. We decided it was worth coming to Eleuthera just to explore the cave. After we hiked back to the boat, we decided to go for a swim and salt water bath. The 30 foot cliffs along along the coast made for a wonderfully protected boat ride with lots of sea fans along clumps of rock washed from the cliffs. We saw many reef fish, a surprising number of jellyfish, and found a sea cave we could dinghy 40 yards into.

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The next day the expected North wind blew with some rain squalls in the morning. We did some chores on the boat and Grant went to explore some of the wrecked boats he saw piled up on the shore from a recent hurricane.

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Grant, tainted by his time at a wonderful used and consignment marine store: Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies, was surprised to see thousands of dollars worth of boat gear sitting in the sun on these wrecks. Hatches, winches, cleats, a wind generator, stainless gear, engines, and much more. (Grant took nothing)

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He also found the burned out shell of an old powerhouse with much of its equipment rusting in place.

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With no drop in wind expected for the next several days, we decided to head for Governors Harbour while the wind was still blowing 20 knots, but from a better direction than it would be later in the week.

Check out episode 4 of our “Day in the Life” video series:

04 A Day in the Life- Cruising Albin Vega Velocir 1-29-12

Onward to Eleuthera- sailing southward

A really interesting site about Eleuthera history, ruins, caves and wrecks:  www.projecteleuthera.org

Back to work getting ready to sail southward to Eleuthera.  We filled Velocir up with food, fuel and propane.  We have been sailing to different places based on the wind and have not really used any fuel since we got here!!  But we did get some for the dinghy.

The produce boat had just come in and our fresh food was a treat.  We had lamb chops (from New Zealand) and fresh strawberries.  The next day we worked on the boat and waited for the right weather to sail to Little Harbor, our jumping off point for Eleuthera.Velocir

The sail to Little Harbor was relaxing and felt like a day sail.  We caught two barracuda.  One was huge—the other tiny!Beach Debris by Velocir

In the anchorage of Little Harbor, Abacos there is a sandy spot with a few trees ornamented with a collection of “treasures” washed up from the ocean beach on the other side—a short walk away.  Old floats, a diesel can and plastic bottles in as many shapes and sizes as you can imagine.  We took the path to the beach and looked for ourselves at what a modern beach strewn with plastic bottles and nets looks like.   There is so much trash that it is not trash, it is a scavenger hunt of lost items, only sadly they will never decompose.

Beach Debris by Velocir

Of particular interest was a ??????? At first it looked like a plane because of the window, but on closer inspection it has a giant hook on the end of it and Amelia decided it was a rigid life raft from a cruise ship or something.  Hopefully she is wrong because, well…..this is all that was left of it.

The weather was holding up in the reports for our crossing at E 10-13 kts, moderating throughout the day. We left the next morning at sunrise.  The conditions were a little more choppy than anticipated but acceptable.  We don’t want Velocir to take on too much or else her foredeck is awash with water and she is plowing into the waves all day.  This was good enough that she wasn’t getting wet, and wasn’t losing boat speed.  Instead we were flying at 7-8 kts of speed with our main, reefed jib and engine on.  We were happy to motor and get there well before dark.

During the crossing our inflatable dinghy, Raptor, which was deflated and lashed to the shrouds, jumped ship after overcoming it’s ties and slipping through the lifelines.  On its way overboard it made a small thump Amelia didn’t think much of, but Grant looked back and saw what had happened.  (Possibly some expletives followed)  Luckily it was during the day and we could see!  We quickly brought in the jib and put the engine in neutral to slowly sail around and come up to windward of the floating blob.  Amelia was at the helm and couldn’t make it to windward, but got aside just downwind of it.  Grant reached over and grabbed it but it was so heavy and slippery he could not get a good hold.  We could see it was slowly sinking and taking on water.  Grant let the main sail down and Amelia revved up the engine, once again getting just downwind of it.  This time both Amelia and Grant reached over and were able to get a good hold.  It was tremendously heavy!  But we managed to drag it into the cockpit.  Luckily our boat is low on enough on the water that we were physically able to do this.  We are glad this story has a happy ending.  We love our dinghy and need it.  It will make us think twice about how we tie it down next time.  Just before we left Marsh Harbour in the Abacos a boat had lost their dinghy (towing it behind them) in the small Sea of Abaco and weren’t able to find it.  It could have easily been lost.

We anchored in Royal Sound, which is a protected anchorage just west of the popular town of Spanish Wells. It was earlier than we could have hoped, so we happily had dinner and went to bed.  The next day we went to explore the abandoned mansion on the island.  Getting our dinghy inflated was a bit more difficult because we first had to drain the tubes! Abandoned Mansion on Royal Island by Velocir

The mansion has a worn jetty that we tied up to.  It is very overgrown, but we could see that the steps leading up to it had long trellised gardens on one side.  The story is that the mansion was pretty spectacular, but sometime about 50 years ago the caretaker left and locals looted it.  Literally everything was taken from the buildings except for the blue tile throughout.  Not sure how true the story is of course.

Abandoned Mansion on Royal Island by Velocir

It was an open layout with many buildings.  The bathroom was separate from the living room, and there was a separate building with a bar table.  The doors had been taken off their hinges and the windows ripped out.  It must have been quite something once.  A large paved driveway and road led down to a larger jetty on the other side of the island.

Royal Island by Velocir

It was fun to explore, and we are looking forward to seeing Spanish Wells and other parts of Eleuthera.  A lot of cruisers don’t come here.  The protected anchorages can be few and far between, and in general we realize it is not as protected sailing as the Abacos.  With a limited schedule we would probably be in the more popular Exumas.  (A couple on a trawler randomly came up to us and asked if we wanted to buddy boat to the Exumas and when we said we weren’t going there they actually tried to pressure us!!)  But luckily we can travel where we like, and we’ve heard Eleuthera has some pretty spectacular beaches (even some with good surf) so we will be exploring here for a little while.Small Hermit Crabs by Velocir

Grant and his handful of mini-hermit crabs!

Moseyin’ Part Duex

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.

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While on his way back to the boat, Grant speared a skate for use as fish bait.  Foreshadowing.

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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.

Blake Lobsties

Grant decided the occasion was worthy of some of his coveted warm beer.

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The brothers enjoyed their feast of baked beans, lobster with melted butter, and warm Maryland beer.

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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.

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They sipped rum and enjoyed a picturesque Bahamian sunset.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Seeking refuge in the cabin, what else could they do but make some tasty amberjack burritos?

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The next day they went to shore and wandered down the one golf cart street that runs that section of the cay.

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Local calls only.  25 pence.

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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.

Bow Spray

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.

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