George Town – Great Exuma

George Town – Great Exuma
April 2006

Anchored in Elizabeth Harbour between the community of George Town on Great Exuma Cay and Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island we are positioned to have a first class view of the The National Family Island Regatta which goes through this week. This regatta is one of the biggest annual events in the Bahamas, drawing in crowds of Bahamians and others from the world of yachting. The Family Island Regatta began in 1953 and has become a fierce tradition in the islands where the participating racing sloops represents their home island. The 14-28 foot boats are all handmade with masts up to 60 feet tall. They carry a crazy amount of sail on that giant mast with 40 foot booms that extend well beyond the stern. For ballast while under way the crew sits on a pry, a board that sticks out off the side of the boat. When the skipper tacks the sloop up to nine crew members have to slide themselves and their pry across the boat to balance out the new point of sail. In preparation for this highly anticipated event locals have set up business along a waterfront road in quickly constructed plywood shacks serving food and beverages. Kind of like the Western Idaho Fair, only these very small kiosks are all connected and all offer any kind of spirit and conch fritter. Betting on your favored boat also seems to be a common activity in this neighborhood. There are three classes (A, B, C) for the different sized boats and while there is a good amount of prize money in store for each of the winners, the real goal is the glory of first place. The A class (largest boats) winner will receive approximately $7000. Not bad, until you consider that a main sail alone for one of these boats costs somewhere around $5000. It has been exciting to watch the preparations and now be a part of this spectacular event.

Prior to arriving in George Town, population 1157, we had been in some very remote locations. We ended up staying at Warderick Wells a full week because a low pressure system developed and stayed over our heads for 4 full days. The resulting squalls kept us on the boat and yes, we started going a little stir crazy. We ate, read, ate, listened to the radio, read, ate some more. The lack of physical activity that week definitely put our calories in/calories out in a state of imbalance. The positive effect of the heavy rainfall during this time is that we were able to fill our almost-empty water tank. This was a very good thing because there was no other source of drinking water at Warderick Wells. To fill the tank, Rod first scrubbed the side deck of the boat as the rain began. Once sufficiently clean we were ready to capture the water by simply opening the 2 inch diameter cap to the water tank on that deck. We knew that we had to be down to our last few gallons of water in the tank, given our typical usage and the time that had elapsed since our last fill. So we were amazed that in just 25 minutes the 80 gallon tank was full! That is how hard it was raining. Over the next three days we were able to perpetually keep the tank full with the rain water! Pretty exciting since we have been paying 50 cents a gallon for water in the Bahamas!

As soon as the weather permitted we were more than ready to be on our way. We left Warderick Wells on Friday, April 16th. Not something that Rod was completely comfortable with given the lore of bad luck befalling those who leave port on a Friday. We escaped any unfortunate events and enjoyed an exhilarating sail to Big Majors Cay near Staniel Cay. And since we took our chances with leaving on a Friday, we were able to have dinner out with Greg and Cindy aboard Day Dreamer at Club Thunderball on Staniel Cay that evening for their Friday night BBQ ribs, which are prepared on an outdoor backyard BBQ. Delicious! This was our first meal out in three and a half weeks and the same amount of time since our last trip to a grocery market so we were running quite lean on our fresh stores. Especially after eating nonstop during our extended stop at Warderick Wells!

Our three days anchored off of Big Majors Spot near Staniel Cay were highlighted by snorkeling the famous Thunderball Grotto, Rod giving himself a haircut, and a trip to a beach to feed the pigs. Yes, pigs. These are not wild boars that you would expect to find on a deserted island, but these are the big pink pigs you would see on a farm. Years ago someone placed a breeding pair on the island and they have been busy ever since. These pigs run out of the island shrubbery as they hear your dinghy motor approaching, just like the iguanas at Allan’s Cay they associate people with handouts. I came prepared with a bag of stale bread but I was unprepared for just how enthusiastic they would be over our arrival. They immediately charged toward us and one pig started to jump in our dinghy! I couldn’t throw the bread at them fast enough!

Thunderball Grotto is a must-see if you are ever in this part of the world. At low tide you can swim into the cave/grotto and frolic with all kinds of fish that make this protected area their home. There is an opening on the opposite side of the common entrance so it’s best to explore at slack tide to avoid the strong current that rips through here as the tidal change picks up speed. And yes, this is THE Thunderball Grotto from the James Bond movie “Thunderball”, as well as where parts of the movie “Splash” were filmed.

It had been six weeks since the haircut Bryan gave to Rod, and Rod was starting to make comments that it was time for another one. If we had been near a phone we would have called Bryan to ask for his barber skills, but instead Rod just pestered me to do it. When I had put it off longer than he liked he got out the clippers and did it himself. Win-win, if you ask me. He got his haircut and I didn’t have to do it. And it turned just fine. The downside to his new number-two-all-over-do was that he proceeded to sunburn his scalp that afternoon while he spent 4 hours in the water cleaning the waterline of Lucky Peek. It had been a couple of months since the algae growth had been scraped off and according to Rod we had quite the eco-system developing on the bottom of our boat. When he emerged from this lengthy task he actually had itty-bitty teensy-weeny little shrimp clinging to his neoprene shirt. They were the size of tiny ants and as he scraped away their condos they were trying to set up a new life on him. The haircut/bottom cleaning day was Easter Sunday and we ended the beautiful day with a nice dinner of canned Danish ham, scalloped potatos, and green beans. We talked about how we missed our family and friends and how impossible it is to describe what we are experiencing on this adventure. As the sun started to set we laughed at the sounds from the nearby shore of the little goats bleeting as they moved into the cave that we were anchored just off of for the night. On a night where we were experiencing a bit of homesickess there was some surprising comfort in the sounds that were less island-like and more like the mainland of home.

From Staniel Cay we sailed down to Little Farmers Cay. After some uncertainty over where to anchor for the night we finally decided on a spot that was just behind Day Dreamer off the shore of the tiny settlement of Farmers Cay. Greg and Cindy greeted us on our arrival and once our anchor was settled into the sandy bottom we dinghy-pooled with them over to Great Guana Cay (not the same Great Guana from the Abacos) to explore in hopes of finding a cave that we had read about. After searching the island for over an hour, which at some times meant bush-whacking our way through since there was no apparent trail, we backtracked and took a different route. Voila! This cave descends some 90 feet into a cavern which offers two fresh water pools at the bottom. Cave divers actually hike in with their gear to dive the 70 foot deep pool which then branches out over 700 feet. We all agreed that would take bigger cajones than any of us had. The day was hot but the cave was cool and sometime in the distant past someone had put a bucket in the cave to catch the refreshing fresh water that drips from one of the many stalactites. The bucket has become completely consumed in the calcification from the water and is now a permanent part of the cave. A cup hangs from the bucket for the benefit of the thirsty explorer. Rod took a drink and proclaimed it quite good. I thought I’d give it some time to see if the water had any ill-effects so I just poured the water over my head. Hey, if it does happen to have some fountain of youth magic to it then maybe I’ll get some benefit from the dousing. The hike back to the dinghy on shore was a quick 15 minutes now that we knew the way. Greg and Cindy were going to the Little Farmers Yacht Club restaurant to celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary that night so Rod and I decided to give them some romantic space and go to the other dining establishment, the Ocean Cabin. We tried to hail the Ocean Cabin on the VHF for dinner reservations but when we didn’t get a response we just decided to show up. Point of clarification, the reservations are not required so that you have a table, they are required so that they have food ready to feed you. When we arrived unannounced it was uncertain whether Ernastine would be able to serve us or not. She didn’t want us to see the menu because she knew she wouldn’t have all the ingredients at such short notice to make anything we wanted. So we settled on what she had available. One order of cracked conch and one order of lobster. Homecooking, Bahamian style. It was wonderful! I should also note that when we first arrived there was one table of six customers (other cruisers) already eating and by the time our dinner was ready we had the whole place to ourselves, except for the friendly bartender with an impressive head of dreds and his visiting girlfriend. It was a very warm, inviting place for a tasty dinner. And for an extra special treat we ordered a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dessert. What would seem to be a simple request caused a series of activity. First the search for a key. A key for ice cream? Thankfully, the key was found and the outside shed that housed the freezer could be unlocked. Two scoops of heaven and we were heading back to Lucky Peek with very satisfied tummies.

We spent only one night at Little Farmers Cay and were on our way to George Town at 7am the following morning. We would travel the 44 miles on the Exuma Sound, on the opposite side (eastern) of the islands on which we had been traveling since arriving in the Exumas. It was a beautiful day and the winds were close to ideal. Along a good stretch of our course we were traveling along a steep drop-off, where the depths drop from 50 feet or so to over 5000 feet. This is a prime fishing zone. Rod selected the cedar plug for our first attempt at catching dinner. This fishing lure is supposed to look like a flying fish swimming through the water and therefore attract a dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi, not Flipper). We were pretty excited when something hit the line and by the bright green and blue color flashing in the water behind us we knew we had indeed landed a three and a half foot dolphin. We reeled it in (yes, we’re still using our caveman hand line) and got it up to the side of the boat, up to the side deck, and when his tail brushed past the life lines he flipped and flopped himself right off the hook. Bye-bye dinner. Again, while I didn’t like the prospect of the fish being in pain or the gruesome reality of what Rod was going to do to end his pain, I was really looking forward to the delicious fillets. Not to be deterred, Rod put the line back in the water and added another makeshift handline so we could double our chances. But the lucky guy that got free must have spread the word that there was a flying fish imposter in the neighborhood. We didn’t get another bite the rest of the day.

Since arriving in George Town we have made the one mile dinghy trip from our anchorage off of Stocking Island over to the settlement of George Town many times which depending on what the winds are doing can be a days worth of excitement just in that single activity. The harbor is quite large therefore the winds can create quite a fetch making the dinghy ride a bumpy and wet venture. Rod is perfecting his “George Town Standup”, a term we use for the crazy people around here that drive around in their dinghies standing up. But if you can actually stay in your dinghy while standing up at least you avoid “Dinghy Butt” – a soaked bottom. I am currently using the wi-fi connection at the St. Francis Resort which is near our boat on Stocking Island. Resort is a big word for such a small quaint establishment. I’m sitting on their sunny deck under a shade umbrella watching the Class A boats racing in the Family Island Regatta. Beyond the sounds of the waves lapping at the shoreline below me I can hear the strong beat of the Bahamian music coming from the shantytown kiosks over in George Town a mile across the harbor. There is a nice breeze blowing to keep the temperatures comfortable. It would be a great day to so sailing…

Paradise Found! The Exumas!

Paradise Found!

We’re in the Exumas! First and foremost we are now witness to beauty beyond words. We had been told over and over that the Exumas are the pinnacle of the Bahamas. We now understand.

We left the Abacos, from Little Harbour at the crack of dawn, on Monday, March 27th. We sailed the 54 miles south to Royal Harbour at the northern tip of Eleuthera. We talked about exploring Eleuthera but came back to our initial plan of hopping a little bit further south to the Exumas. So we left Royal Harbour on Thursday, March 30th and sailed the 50ish miles to Allan’s Cays at the northern end of the Exuma chain. We had been warned, and our charts confirmed, that we would be sailing through coral heads that are dangerously just beneath the surface of the water. We had intentionally planned our departure from Royal Harbour so that we would be transiting through the heaviest coral area with the sun directly over us for the best water visibility. Also important to have someone up on deck looking for the tell-tale signs of coral heads and relaying back to the helmswoman on which course to take. This was not an area where one of us could go down below to make a sandwich or take a nap. We had been told that the coral heads are obvious and that in the right light you can see them from perhaps 100 yards. Until we saw the first one with our own eyes it was difficult to imagine just how clearly we would be able to spot them. We soon learned that when sailing on a turquoise sea they are like big black beacons on the surface! Black as night round patches in the water that were usually ringed by brighter turquoise water, indicating shallower sand around the coral. We were relieved to see how obvious they were to spot. It still wasn’t a relaxing tour through this coral garden, but it was an amazing experience. One that boosted our confidence in our abilities to read the water – a necessary skill in these waters surrounding the Exumas. We were sailing on the west side of the island chain in the shallow waters of what’s referred to as the Exuma Bank or the Great Bahama Bank. The eastern shores of the hundreds of cays that make up the Exumas face the body of water known as the Exuma Sound – very deep water of the Atlantic Ocean.

As we approached the small anchorage between Allan’s Cays and Leaf Cay we were worn out from the long day from Royal Harbour and our first practical experience with sailing through coral heads. We were looking forward to getting the hook set and relaxing in this picturesque location for the evening. The other part we were looking forward to was visiting the beach at Leaf Cay where there was supposedly a large population of “Bahamian Dragons”, the local iguana. As we pulled into the anchorage we could see the beach fill with the iguanas who came out of the brush to greet us and possibly coax us to their shore. From anchor we could get a pretty good look at them but the following day we dinghied ashore to get a close up view. Wild! They are certainly prehistoric looking. If we sat still on the beach they would come out and join us in the sun. We didn’t have anything to feed them but it quickly became apparent that they were accustomed to being fed by curious humans. Making an arm motion like we were tossing food to them would cause a stampede of iguanas in our general direction, searching the ground for invisible food. They were so entertaining that I think we left with approximately 52 pictures of these large lizards!

At Allan’s Cays we met Cindy and Greg aboard “Day Dreamer”, a 42 foot Privilege catamaran. They too are taking some time off to sail about and experience life outside an office for a while. We have much in common with them and have really enjoyed their company as we’ve continued down the Exuma chain.

Rod continues to hone his spearfishing skills and speared a trigger fish and a small grouper at a reef near Highborne Cay, which was our next stop after Allan’s Cays. Those two fish were supplemented by a gift of a large batch of fresh caught mahi mahi from a fishing trawler anchored near us. They had spent the day on the other side of the island in the deep water and finally had to just stop fishing because they were catching so many dorado (mahi mahi)! Fresh fish for dinner was delicious! We were joined in this beautiful anchorage by “Highlander” – the Forbes yacht. This particular yacht had its own helicopter on top, which the following morning we watched take off. Pretty cool! Somebody must have had an important meeting to get to. Poor soul.

Norman’s Cay is notorious for its history as a hub for drug trafficking through the Bahamas in the ‘80s. Carlos Lehder, connected with violent Columbian cocaine smugglers, purchased the cay in the 1970’s and proceeded to run out most of the island’s residents with his armed thugs. He built a landing strip on the island and set up shop, so to speak. Carlos subsequently spent some time in prison for his business activities and is supposedly now in the US witness protection program for testifying against Manuel Noriega. Norman’s Cay is now a quiet stop, still has charter flights using its airstrip – but those planes now carry tourists and the locals that have returned since Lehder’s demise and departure. We were disappointed that McDuff’s, a famous spot among cruisers to stop for a cold beer and a burger, was closed. Ownership has changed and they’re getting ready to reopen. We just happen to be a month or so too early. We did have a nice chat with Stephen, who is running the property for the new owners, and he shared a cold beer with us from his personal cooler. Stephen is a 14th generation Bahamian and was a wealth of knowledge on these islands. It was a real delight visiting with him. And, not to leave out this important detail, Stephen had a 6 month old yellow lab named “Salt” that was a spitting image of Moon when she was that age, except maybe a little smaller. I loved on Salt and thought of my puppy girl back home. Since we missed out on cheeseburgers at McDuff’s, Rod went spearfishing and provided 4 fish for our dinner that evening!

A stop at Shroud Cay, which is where the photo in this posting was taken, gave us an opportunity to explore the beautiful salt water creeks that run from one side of the island to the other. When we reached the other side of the cay we were awestruck at the perfect beach that lay before us. And not another person in sight. We hiked to the top of the hill to leave a momento (“Lucky Peek” carved into a found coconut) at Camp Driftwood, where other boaters leave messages on various items. One message left on an old water jug was left just the day before our visit from a group from Sun Valley! After the hot hike back down the hill we took a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters. We couldn’t imagine it getting any better than this. A new bar has been set.

We’re now at Warderick Wells Cay, in the middle of the 175 square miles of protected islands and seas of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. This small island is home of the park headquarters and its warden. We are connected to post this update via the headquarters internet. Rod won’t be doing any spearfishing here but we will enjoy seeing all the sealife that make these protected waters their home. We plan to do some hiking on this cay along its 4 miles of nature trails.

From here we plan to stop at Staniel Cay and perhaps some other cays between here and Georgetown. Did I mention how beautiful it is here? Breathtaking.

Guests, the “Rules”, and “Barefoot Man”

Bryan and Allison Mann Visit – March 2006

On February 28, after much anticipation, Bryan and Allison arrived! They were brave souls to use their precious vacation time to come stay with us aboard Lucky Peek for 8 days and we were very excited to have them aboard. When they arrived right on schedule at 10:10am Bryan hailed “Lucky Peek” on VHF channel 68 from the taxi in route to the planned pick-up spot, The Jib Room at the Marsh Harbour Marina. We were anchored in Marsh Harbour so we dinghied over to the Jib Room to pick them up – a detail that we probably didn’t clarify well enough beforehand is that visitors, hosts, and all luggage would have to go for a short dinghy ride to reach vessel. Sizing up the luggage we thought we may have to make two trips, but we were able to fit in one snug trip. The amount of luggage was not due to heavy packing visitors – well, kinda, but most of what they brought was for us! After a quick tour of Lucky Peek for Allison (it really only takes about 10 seconds to tour a 37 foot boat) it was like Christmas for us as we unpacked their bags which contained more guide books and charts for the islands, a good stash of novels to add to our dwindling library, lots of beef jerky, and what Rod was most looking forward to – Ritz crackers!

After settling down just a bit from the rushed excitement of reuniting with friends, unpacking gifts, and having a celebratory glass of Rod’s special “RodRum” punch (said with a quick double bend of the index finger), we pulled up the hook and set sail for Treasure Cay. Under way we had a light lunch of cheese and crackers, with little squares of SPAM, of course. Another detail that may have slipped when describing what a sailor’s diet includes. They were courteous, or perhaps it was just food deprivation from traveling for two days to get here, and ate the SPAM and cheese crackers enthusiastically. With enough RodRum anything tastes pretty good. (Side note on safety: Captain and Co-Captain were not drinking while under way.)

The weather was still warming up from the most recent cold front that had just passed so our trip the following day to the Treasure Cay Beach wasn’t as tropical as we had hoped. We had a typical Bahamian lunch of Conch burgers at the beachfront bar and grill and then enjoyed a lazy afternoon of visiting in the chaise lounge chairs on the beach in the powdery soft sand. Temperatures in the low 70’s with water temps equal to that were not enticing enough to draw us into the sea this day but it didn’t stop us from taking in the beautiful view.

By this time, day two, Bryan and Allison had been well briefed on the Rules of Living Aboard Lucky Peek. There really aren’t that many rules, but Rod liked to reinforce the lesson by repeating the rules as he deemed necessary, which seemed quite frequently to this author and I believe also to the guests. By the end of their stay we were referring to Rod, with affection none the less, as the Energy Nazi for his fervent monitoring and enforcement of the Electricity Usage/Conservation Rule. That rule, along with the other Rules of Living Aboard Lucky Peek are below:

Head Usage (This means Toilet for you landlubbers)
Overview: Lucky Peek has a Raritan PH-II Manual Head. In simple terms Manual means than when you want to flush you pump a handle that on its upward stroke pulls sea water into the bowl and the downward stroke discharges the waste either into the holding tank or directly overboard.
Rule #1: No TP, or anything else that has not first been eaten goes down the head. TP is disposed of in a bag in a wastebasket that is removed from the room regularly. This is to help prevent the head from clogging and thus having to be unclogged by the Captain.
Rule #2: Flush, flush, flush, flush, flush. And then flush some more. Especially if Rule #2 is flushing a number two.

The Head Overview and Rules were the first set of rules discussed with our guests. Not only does everyone need to know how to use the head but nobody wants to be the possible cause of a clogged head. Also, it was very important to have a frank discussion about… well, um… poop. This is a relatively small boat and it’s hard to get away with anything without other crew members knowing about it. So we agreed that it would just be best if we fully disclosed our intent when entering the head – possibly making a suggestion that everyone move to the cockpit, if we weren’t already there. We also discovered that Bryan’s IPOD came with a great selection of marching music that became the most requested music for these “moments”. I’ll never be able to listen to a marching band again without thinking of… well, um… you know.

Update: The head clogged 7 days after the Manns left. It was nothing they did or didn’t do. It was inevitable given the condition of the hoses when we removed them and we were soooooooo glad that it didn’t happen while they were here. As you can imagine this was a nasty job. We had read that it is a common problem on boats and that you can expect to have to remove the septic hoses every few years a clean them of the salt and ureatic (pee) crystals that build up in the lines over time and eventually plug the hose. The state our hoses were an indication that they had never been cleaned, but we’re not sure of their maintenance history. The unsavory highlights of solving this problem include removing about a 7 foot section of septic hose (while working in a space approximately the size of a dorm refrigerator), draining the waste from the plugged hose into ziplock baggies (extra sturdy freezer kind, of course), then beating the hose against the piling (of the marina that we had coincidentally check into that morning to begin work on another project) to break lose the clogs of salt and ureatic crystals. We were trying to nonchalantly do this (however nonchalantly you can beat a septic hose against a piling) since we were in a nice marina. This job took us two full days to complete, interspersed with about 10 showers each. It’s all put back together, functional, and the stench has abated. Doesn’t cruising sound fun!

Water Usage/Conservation
Lucky Peek has an 80 gallon water tank with no modern way, such as a gauge, to monitor its level. We know we’re low when we run out. Lashed to the side deck are two 6 gallon jerry jugs of emergency back-up water. Water is precious – conserve.
Rule: Never leave the water freely running as you are using it. And when in use turn it on to the minimum flow required for the task at hand. Brushing teeth? Turn on trickle of water, wet toothbrush, turn off water. Use water sparingly to rinse. Similar routine for washing hands, dishes, etc. Showering? Hmmmm…. Do you really need to shower? If so, then same routine. Sometimes a sponge bath is just as refreshing! We introduced the Manns to pre-sudsed disposable wash cloths which allow for a nice soapy sponge bath. Again, they were courteous in their response to them.

When we were in Treasure Cay we topped of the water tank expecting it to last about another week with four of us on board. Three days later we ran out of water. No, it wasn’t due to willful abandonment of The Rules, it was due to a serious leak in the water heater. At the time the exact location of the leak couldn’t be determined but we could see in the back of the engine compartment water pumping out from somewhere at a furious rate. A new rule was added… The Water Pressure Pump breaker must be kept off at all times until the use of water was needed. Now when someone went into the head someone else would keep an ear ready for the “Water!” request for hand washing. Breaker on – wash hands – breaker off. Marching music volume had to be turned down a few notches.

Update: After the Manns left Rod removed the water heater but attempts to repair the leak in the stainless steel tank were futile. It was cost prohibitive to have a replacement unit sent to the Bahamas so we elected to reroute the plumbing around the water heater and live without it for now. The sunshowers get plenty hot so we use those for showering (the hose reaches from the sunshower’s outside location through the head port so we can shower in the normal shower location) and we heat water on the stove for doing dishes. We can leave the Water Pressure Pump breaker on again!

Electricity Usage/Conservation
Overview: At the time of the Manns visit, our battery bank consisted of the following: Four 100 amp batteries configured into two battery banks of two batteries each, which with a switch could be combined to “Both” banks. This battery bank was used for the house power as well as for the power needed to start the engine. It had a crude monitoring device that didn’t tell the whole story of how much power was being used and how much remained (important to know so you can be confident there is enough juice to start the engine when you need it). These batteries are kept charged by both the running of the engine and by the two 125 watt solar panels that have similar limitations in their monitoring abilities. The biggest consumer of amps on Lucky Peek is the refrigerator, which runs four times a day for 45 minutes consuming about 15 amps during each run. That alone depletes the batteries enough that every few days whether we like it or not, we need to run the engine to recharge the batteries.
Rule: Other electrical items are used sparingly or not at all. No blowdryers, no coffee makers, no toasters, etc. We use very few electrical lights in the evening with oil candles supplementing as necessary. Some nights the Energy Nazi would nervously try to decipher what the crude battery monitors were telling as he muttered something about amps and volts. With a Lights Out order we would then strain our eyes through the remaining candlelight to see each other as we visited.

Update: We (Royal We) have since reconfigured and vastly improved our battery/power situation. Rod installed a separate starter battery, combined the existing four batteries into one house bank, and installed a Link 2000-R monitoring system which actually tells the whole story of how much power we’re using and what is remaining. He still looks at the amps/volts/whatever meter an obsessive number of times a day, still muttering numbers, but he is overall much more relaxed and happy with the new system. Ahhhh….

Days 3-8 of the Mann visit were spent sailing about, snorkeling, beachcombing, and just generally enjoying each others company. We went from Treasure Cay to Bakers Bay on Guana Cay, then to Hope Town on Elbow Cay and back to Guana Cay (Fishers Bay this time) for the Barefoot Man concert at Nippers. Bryan and Rod were joined by six barracuda and a five foot black tip reef shark as they spear fished the outer reef of Guana Cay with James while Allison, Virginia, and I perused nearby Shell Island. Allison snorkeled and found an interesting (and later very smelly) shell. Hope Town provided it’s candy-striped kerosene lighthouse, quaint streets, and beautiful beach for strolling and relaxing. Then to Nippers for the free Barefoot Man concert. This highly anticipated concert is a once a year event here and is attended by approximately 2500 island fans. By far this was the most people we’ve seen in one place since arriving in the Bahamas. The weather was cooperating for this beachside concert and we enjoyed the warm sun and perhaps a couple Nippers, the trademark beverage of Nippers. Check out The Barefoot Man at and listen to a sample of a couple of our favorites: “She’s Got Freckles on Her Butt She’s Nice” and “If You See Kay”.

The eight days that Bryan and Allison were aboard went too quickly. I think we all wondered before they arrived if we would still speak to each other after spending a week together in a small space. Quite the opposite happened and we became closer friends. They occupied the forward cabin/V berth (at our insistence) and Rod and I slept on the two settees in the main cabin. This worked out great because Rod and I are typically up making water for tea/coffee in preparation for the 6:30am and 8:15am weather reports and we didn’t want our vacationing guests to have to get up before they were ready. Besides our daily activities together, the days and evenings were filled with enjoyable conversation and much laughter. We talked about things, like poop, that we’d never had an opportunity to discuss before. You can see how we laughed a lot. Poop can be a pretty funny topic.

One unplanned activity that was entertaining to watch and in the end turned out great was Bryan giving Rod and much needed haircut. I had agreed to cut his hair (and end the nagging) but since Bryan had just received a haircut we determined that he was better qualified for this task. Never mind that he had never actually given a haircut before. Bryan didn’t hesitate when I offered the hair clippers and so we set up shop in the cockpit. Bryan had to stop the clippers a few times as he couldn’t see straight from laughter but Rod wasn’t unnerved at all. He was just tickled to be rid of all his extra hair – that was now everywhere in the cockpit. I admit there were times during the session that I was skeptical on what the end result would look like, but when the clippers turned off the final time Rod looked like a new, younger man. If not a little bit like a new Marine recruit. He looked great!

We returned to Marsh Harbour for the last day of Bryan and Allison’s stay. We went ashore for a nice dinner and the evening was definitely more subdued than usual as their departure the following morning was on our minds. It had been such a wonderful 8 days and we all hated to see it come to an end. They had adjusted fantastically to life on a boat – even with all the rules – and they were willing crew, ready to help with any task while under way or at anchor. The weather had warmed up nicely during their stay which allowed us to enjoy the beaches and the amazing water. We had made it the entire 8 days without inclement weather which meant we always had relatively dry dinghy excursions. However, the morning of their departure another cold front was on approach and the wind and seas had kicked up as a result. Rod and I exchanged knowing glances as we looked out at the choppy water between us and the dock that we were to take them to meet their cab. We tried to gently warn them that there was a 100% chance that they and their luggage were going to get wet on their last dinghy ride ashore. It was worse than even Rod and I expected. We gave them our foul weather jackets to wear (which initially they shrugged off, but then quickly realized what a good idea that was), but that wasn’t enough. We needed full foul weather gear for this ride. Our destination required us to go directly into the wind and waves, and those waves were crashing and splashing into the dinghy after first hitting Bryan and Allison square on as they occupied the front part of the dinghy. We had traveled less that 100 feet and we were all drenched. Allison, unprepared, took a wave right in the face which soaked her head – salt water in the eyes and dripping from the end of her nose. She had what we refer to as “pirate eye”, when the stinging of salt water in the eye causes you to scrunch your eye closed. Allison, being the good sport, let out a mighty “Arghhhh!”. This sent me into a fit of hysterical laughter. I was apologizing for the situation, for laughing, but I could not stop laughing. In fact I laughed so hard (and with all that water splashing about) that yes, I peed my pants. We made it to the dock, apologized again for this very memorable ending to hopefully a memorable trip, stopped laughing long enough to hug goodbye with tears in our eyes. Or was it salt water?

Thanks, Bryan and Allison, for making the long trip to see us and using your valued vacation time to do so. Thanks for being our pack mules on your journey here and bringing all the goodies, and then leaving your Crocs behind that we coveted when you arrived. They continue to leave your footprints on many beaches.

Touring the Abacos, friends, and fish!

February 2006 in the Abacos

The last couple of weeks of February brought warmer temperatures as we continued to tour the Abacos. We island hopped between some of our favorite spots including Hope Town on Elbow Cay and Bakers Bay on Guana Cay while touring some new places – Treasure Cay (which really isn’t a cay, it is part of the island of Great Abaco) and Man O War Cay. Treasure Cay is famous for its stunning beach, having made the Top 10 list of beautiful beaches in the world. The shallow waters that stretch out from its silky shores reflect magnificent shades of turquoise that beg to be photographed. But as we’ve learned, the resulting pictures never seem to fully capture the beauty.

Our visit on Saturday, February 18 to Man O War was synchronized with the “Boater’s Swap Meet” – a huge yard sale that stretches throughout the settlement in which anyone can lay out their spare wares to earn some extra cruising funds. We didn’t have anything worth hawking but we enjoyed browsing the eclectic selection and visiting with the friends that we’ve met while here in the Abacos. That afternoon, after returning to Lucky Peek with our purchase of the day – an ice bucket – we caught up to James and Virginia on Windspirit and Mike and Jan on Imagine a few miles away at an anchorage known as Crawl Bight. They had called us on the VHF to invite us for dinner aboard Imagine. Fresh caught conch, mutton snapper, and slipper lobster. It was a feast! The following day we dinghied around Crawl Bight to snorkel the reef between Guana Cay and Scotland Cay. One of the highlights of the area was the school of large rays that swam ahead of us through the shallow bay as we entered. We noted this as a spot to revisit with Bryan and Allison Mann, who were to arrive in just 10 days!

If this journal entry contained nothing else but the following update, Rod would be completely satisfied. Okay, more than completely satisfied. After we left Crawl Bight we went to the beautiful Bakers Bay anchorage (one of my favorite spots). After setting the hook we dinghied out to the old ship’s channel with Mike and Jan from Imagine in hopes of collecting a few conch for dinner. After an hour or so and only one conch Mike and Jan decided to head back in. Rod was intrigued by the shipwreck that was at the bottom of the ship’s channel, about 25 feet down. He was especially interested in the large fish that had made this their home. I stayed with the dinghy while the mighty spearfisherman (whose dismay over not yet spearing a fish was growing at a rate proportional to every fish James speared) dove down with his spear. His persistence and lung capacity paid off – he surfaced with a 32 inch yellow jack on the end of his spear. His eyes a bit wild with excitement and a large grin escaping the sides of his snorkel. I’m sure he will at some point amend this posting to fill in all the adrenaline laden details since I’m only hitting the most summarized points of the event. I will add that I did not do very well on this fishing adventure. I cried for the speared fish. A hunter I am not. But neither am I a vegetarian. We had two fillets (grilled on our Magma BBQ grill that is connected to our stern rail) that night for dinner. The following night we prepared the remaining 10 fillets and had a dinner party aboard Anejo, with Candy and Les, Terry and Peggy of Attitude, and Robert and Carolyn of Gypsy Common. Two left-over fillets fed Rod and I the next night. It was delicious! Of course Rod could not wait to show James the picture(s) of his bounty and he brings it up in casual conversation every chance he gets.