Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated the blog. We have been so busy exploring our new environment it’s been hard to find time to do much! Here’s a quick re-cap of the past month or so:
We spent a good amount of time in Florida making our way down to Miami as that was the best hopping off point to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini, Bahamas. We got hit by another boat that anchored too close to us (damage to them and luckily not us) and took the trolley to do a massive provisioning in West Palm Beach, Pat fixed a leak in our engine and I finished up the semester in Fort Lauderdale, we saw alligators in our mooring field in Biscayne Bay and had fireworks light up the sky (a good omen I think!). We were a little bit nervous for the crossing just because it meant we were leaving the comforts and familiarity of the U.S.
We chose a very calm day for our crossing which meant we motored the whole way, but that is better than the alternative (9 ft + seas with high winds crossing the Gulf Stream). The sea was like glass, a HUGE fish bit Pat’s line but it got off after a fight, and we rolled into Bimini a few hours before a storm hit that evening. We stayed on the boat while Pat cleared customs and immigration and it was torture for the kids to not jump in the crystal blue water! Lucky for us the storm rolled in as Pat was returning to the boat, otherwise we would have immediately jumped in the water which we later learned is not safe to do as they feed the sharks from the nearby dock and if anything splashes in the water they go for it!
We waited out the storm which dumped rain and produced high winds for several days, so we decided to dock the boat which was a great idea as it was cheap, safer, they had a pool the kids loved, and we met several other cruisers that were awesome. Once we left Bimini we crossed the Bahama Banks on the way to Providence Island. Pat caught a Dorado on the way and although Noah and I don’t eat meat of any kind, everyone else said it was delicious! The Bahama Banks was a swath of ocean that is only 10 feet deep for miles. We anchored in the middle of it the first night and then went to West Bay to avoid Nassau where there is a high crime rate. We thought we would just stay in West Bay for one night, but it had some awesome snorkeling and underwater sculptures, as well as a new kid boat with boys! Pat hitchhiked to the grocery store as he found out it was a 15 minute drive once he was walking on the highway and a woman stopped and told him he was crazy and to get in the car :).
We left West Bay for Highbourne Cay – it’s private, but they have a marina where we could fuel up and a small market that had fresh produce. I bought a few essentials and went to pay – holy sticker shock! I had to go back to the boat for more money – a lot more money – ouch! We anchored there for the night and then started making our way down the Exuma chain of Cays. This is what people talk about when referencing sailing in the Bahamas – these islands are unreal. They are what dreams are made of. Totally secluded, white soft sand, amazing shells – landing on these parts of the islands feels as though we are the first ones to ever set foot there. I’m worried we’re getting so spoiled in the Bahamas that nothing in our future can compare.
We are able to access remote cays that are uninhabited, snorkel and anchor off of the private islands, and we had Christmas in the Exuma Land and Sea Park at Wardrick Wells Cay.. Christmas was really special as 3 of the 4 nights we were there the Park Rangers and police organized a potluck on the beach and they hosted Christmas at their house. There were at least 5 other kids boats there and we met some great people! One of the boats bought 86 presents so that everyone could take part in a white elephant gift party! We hiked up to Boo-Boo Hill and left a sign with our Boat and crew names.
We left Warwick Wells for a place called the Aquarium. It was a reef in the middle of several private island’s and we must have seen at least 30 different types of fish. It was amazing. We had lunch and left for nearby Compass Cay to spend the night. Compass Cay had an area you could hike back to that was on the land side of a blow hole – when a wave hit the splash would go into a pool where you could swim it it would create a natural wave pool with tons of bubbles. Just across the bay from Compass was a cave called Rocky Dundress. The waves were a little high, but a family we had met at the Christmas function did it just before we did and showed us the safe way in. It was spectacular!
We left Compass Cay for Big Major Spot – this is where the famous pigs live. We kayaked/paddle boarded to shore and they were a little aggressive upon a new visitors arrival, but settled down once they were fed carrots. This was one of the things we were really looking forward to, but unfortunately I felt it was tainted by some other boys on the beach taunting the pigs. This anchorage was very crowded so we went around the corner to Staniel Cay and unfortunately this was also a busy anchorage – especially since it was close to New Years and Staniel is the only Cay with services/bar for many miles. The produce boat came the next day so we were first in line to stock up, we finally did some laundry at Ruth’s laundromat, and we took a walk to the dump the get rid of our trash. The islands have to burn their trash so many places don’t accept cruiser’s trash or charge you to take it. We felt lucky to provision as the boat only comes once a week and they had missed the week prior due to the holiday. The produce is sold out within hours of arrival on the island.
We were ready to get out of the busy anchorage – I think we’re used to anchoring out by ourselves or with only one other boat nearby. It’s so nice to have quiet, space, and no powerboat wakes to deal with. We left for Bitter Guana Cay to see the endangered iguanas. We were all alone in that anchorage and it was beautiful. It’s such a treat to find an amazing anchorage that isn’t private so you can utilize the beach and explore. I had no idea before, but many of the islands in the Bahamas are private- during touch economic times this was a source of income for the government.
We left the next morning for a well protected anchorage near Black Point as a strong front was coming through. The following day we left for Little Farmer’s Cay to meet another boat family for New Year’s Eve at Tye’s Tiki Bar. We were the only 2 boats anchored there – spent the day on the beach and had a nice dinner while the kids played. The next morning we dinghied to the other side of the island where we had heard there were lots of sea turtles. One of the local guys has Conch there and he will cut it up and throw it in the water for a few bucks. The conch brings the turtles (sting rays, blow fish, and lots of other fish!) up close. We got to swim with them all within a couple of feet of us. Noah was certain the very friendly blow fish wanted to eat him. I’ve never seen a blow fish up close, but this guy was hilarious. He was constantly right in your face with his huge eyes and a big smile (no joke!).
We then anchored outside of Compass Cay (David Copperfield’s private island). There is an awesome cave we explored, snorkeled the underwater sculpture of a mermaid playing a piano, and found an amazing reef just a hundred yards from our boat where we saw a ton a marine life including a reef shark, baby sea turtle, and squid.
We took a weather window to go outside (the deep side of the islands) and have made it to Georgetown! We will be able to get some mail, provision, and maybe do some boat maintenance there as it is a large town (relatively). Although our cell coverage has been pretty good most everywhere, I want to get to Georgetown before the start of the Spring semester on January 9th to ensure I am able to do my work without interruption.
Whew – so there is our update! We have been loving our time here. We truly feel so lucky. We have had our share of maintenance issues and are still trying to work out our boat registration (long story!), but I think on the whole we are holding our own. Pat has fixed 2 maintenance issues with the engine, which is awesome considering we have no experience with diesel engines.