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.
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.
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 weather has really calmed down (finally!) so we decided to make our way south to Farmers Cay on the Ocean side, taking the opportunity to do some fishing. We went into the town of Black Point and optimistically bought a bag of ice in case we caught fish (a deal at $3) and stopped by the grocery store one last time to find lettuce and some local tomatoes (also reasonably priced). Produce!!! So far so good!
We motored out the cut with some heavy current and made our course along the 80 foot ledge, that drops to about 150 feet—beyond that our depth sounder couldn’t tell us. It was a nice calm day out. As soon as we got out Amelia saw some fish activity in the water, we motored over but no luck. Grant had two reels and a hand line out. A little while later he saw some activity in the water, we went over and a Mahi Mahi picked our nice reel that we had put 150 feet back!!!!!!
Compared to a Barracuda he didn’t put up much of a fight. They are smart and he actually tried to swim towards and under the boat to escape. Unfortunately that made him easier to reel in and Amelia just moved the tiller to make Velocir move every time he tried to swim under the hull.
As soon as Mahi Mahi are caught, they turn from a brillant Green-Blue coloring to yellow, to green and finally grey. It is very sad and beautiful!
Coming in the cut at Farmer’s Cay, we anchored next to a little sandy bay. We went into town quickly before dark to see if there was any produce. Nothing and no boat for at least a week. We stopped by the local bar. Everyone was watching Whitney Houston’s “private” funeral on CNN. That is when we realized we have not seen or checked the news since we left Florida. Even when we have internet we have not even thought to look. As a news junkie, this was a big realization for Amelia. We are changing little by little. Life is slowing down.
We thanked the fish a lot for being our dinner, and then baked him up with a seasoning Amelia’s mom made us. It’s a combination of paprika/garlic powder/black pepper/onion powder/oregano/thyme and cayenne pepper and is especially good on swordfish. Amelia also made Homemade Potato Salad, (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/worlds-best-potato-salad/) which was delicious. Making it from scratch really forces you realize how unhealthy it is!! Better than baked potatoes on a hot day though. With the ice we bought, we’ll even be able to have cool potato salad tomorrow!!! Cold food is a novelty.
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.
Before we left Norman’s Cay and entered the legally protected waters of the Land and Sea Park, Grant tested his luck at spearfishing fish for the first time (not lobsties). Amelia watched from the dinghy as Grant swam around some coral heads he had found near the cut. He was going to practice his skills on slow lionfish that are an invasive species people are encouraged to spear.
As Grant looked around the coral for lionfish he came across a black grouper trapped between him and the coral. Without hesitation he speared it his first try! We had expected to spend at least an hour practicing on using the spear for fish. Instead, Grant had dinner in five minutes!
The next day we motored with a light unfavorable breeze to Shroud Cay, one of the northernmost islands of the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Shroud is known for its mangrove canals that run across the island. The Park allows boaters to traverse the northernmost canal. It was a fun ride through the island with a bit of heavy current. As we began the current was against us, then it switched and we turned off the engine to for a slow ride. The current started to pick up quite a bit and swirled us out into a sandy beach.
It was soft silky sand. We walked along and onto the sandbars exploring.
When we returned to Velocir the wind had shifted and we moved to a more protected anchorage for the night. (Finding an anchorage protected from swell in the Exumas has proven to be a challenge. Even with an East wind West swell seems to emerge.) The anchorage was part of the Park’s mooring field. There were a few boats anchored but only one on a mooring. We hiked up the path of the anchorage’s small beach to an old well Grant found referenced in a vintage cruising book we brought. It said the well was used for fresh water for boaters (we took a little for showers).
A short blog with not as many adventures. We are relaxing a little and taking long walks on the beach, followed by good books in the evenings.
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.
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!