Saturday, 25 January 2014

If you haven't gone aground, you haven't sailed the Bahamas!

We were told "if you haven't gone aground, you haven't sailed the Bahamas". So we decided we'd better go aground, at least once - and on our way to our mooring, this was our final chance. And go aground we did - mightily! Stuck in 4 feet of water at high tide - a sand bank with some coral - right on our path to the mooring at Kavali House - the boat's Southern home. What to do ....

Before we knew it, there were at least six dinghies and an Australian fellow on a paddle board - all coming to our rescue. "Go forward, back up, heel the boat, throw us a line, here - take ours - we'll pull you, push you, go right, go left ....". Sheesh - no one seemed to be in agreement, and we had no idea what to do. But somehow, we started to move, and were floating again - whew! With heartfelt thanks to all, we followed our host, Bob, who had also come to our rescue, right up to the mooring.

Now we're safely tied up, having earlier filled the boat with fuel and water, and we're doing our final packing to leave tomorrow morning. It's been a busy, eventful trip, and we can't wait to come back in March, when we can really enjoy just sailing Sea Change around these beautiful islands. So this is the last blog entry 'til then - thanks for following us, and we hope you enjoyed it.

One last sunset to end the trip ...

Friday, 24 January 2014

If this is Friday .....

Well - we had a big, pleasant surprise today! We were listening to the cruiser's net this morning at 8:00 a.m., and we kept hearing the announcer say that tomorrow, on Saturday, there would be various events. The thing is, we though TODAY was Saturday. We were all set to do a final cleaning and get the boat to its mooring so we could board the plane on Sunday (tomorrow, we thought). Surprise - we have an extra day! What a gift, and an indication of how far gone we are in relation to the real world! (No, no THIS is the real world :).

In any case we have an extra day to get things done in a relaxed way, while we sway at anchor just off the mainland. Last evening we braved big waves in our dinghy to get back to George Town to meet up with our sailing buddies, Therese and Denis, for one last bar-b-que together at the Club Peace and Plenty. After a lovely dinner, we got into our respective dinghies and braved even bigger waves back in the dark - and got totally soaked! But we did manage to find our boat (in question for a while) - all part of the fun.

Here are some pics from our stay at near-by Stocking Island, and one of Sea Change's home-to-be ...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Hi from Marilyn - just to let you know that we're still here.

We're now at the dock at Exuma Yacht Club in George Town, with many minor (and not so minor) repairs to do (mostly electrical), before we leave the boat for the month.

We went to see Bob at our hurricane hole the other day, to locate our mooring, where we'll be tomorrow night. The wind is howling, and the temperature has dropped yet again - looks like we're leaving just on time! So we're getting some practice at wearing warm clothes, for when we arrive in chilly Toronto (ha-ha).

We look forward to seeing some of you very soon!

Monday, 20 January 2014

We did the whole thing!

(Written on January 19th, as we arrived at our destination)

Marilyn here – on a cold, windy, cloudy day in paradise (not!). We did the whole thing – and without once going aground!!

Yesterday we were floating at anchor in Cave Cay Bay, having a “day off”. We headed out in the morning, intending to leave – but the wind and waves at the cut from the Bay were so wicked, we called it quits, and dropped our anchor right where we were – good call. We spent the day hanging out, dinghying to a beautiful near-by beach, and watching a brilliant red sunset, which I painted.

This morning, we had a decision to make – either “gunk-hole” through the Bahama Bank towards George Town (probably a 3-day trip – what with shoals, coral heads, etc., and requiring much more attention to navigation), or take the Bahama Sound route – a 5-6 hour trip, but on huge waves in much more open water.

We chose the latter, and here we are at 3:00 pm, sitting at anchor in front of the “Chat ‘n Chill beach bar on Lee Stocking Island – right across from our reserved hurricane hole mooring. Another good call, despite the 6-foot rollers we surfed on all day (We actually sailed at 8 knots at one point – broke our own record!). We’re so glad to finally have arrived, and we’re a week away from our scheduled departure back to Toronto. So we have lots of time to clean up and prepare the boat for its stay on the mooring in February.

Tomorrow it’s laundry, provisioning, etc. – but for now we’re reveling in the success of this trip – no small thanks to captain, my captain. Here’s one for you!!

Pics below are from yesterday’s stay in the anchorage at Cave Cay. The posts will be more infrequent now, as we prepare to leave the boat ... see you soon!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A Texas Tall Tale

Marilyn here, with a Texas Tall Tale for you …

OK – so we hear there’s a wicked cold front on the way, and we’ve been bouncing at anchor all night. “Let’s find a hurricane hole for tonight” we agree. (Even sailors get tired of the constant motion at times). Jeff locates a place called Cave Cay, and I call to reserve a slip at the marina (no anchoring there).

“Wai shor y’all” responds the decidedly Texan voice at the other end of the VHF radio. So off we go – 14 miles, and we enter this gorgeous little harbor – protected on all sides, and sidle up to a set of brand-new floating docks – the 5th boat there. Two large trawlers belong to guests from the southern states, who motored in together. Turns out the other two large power boats belong to the Texan owners – Steve Senior and Steve Junior – the only residents on this deserted Island, along with their five German Shepherds.

Steve Senior, complete with Texan cowboy hat and accompanied by the 5 dogs crowded into a dune buggy-type vehicle, greets us and shows us around. “That there’s the airplane runway … you can walk along it to the beach, but stay to the side in case a plane wants to land” he warns us. “But don’t worry, it’s mostly our own planes that come here, and I don’t expect one today”. Then he starts his vehicle with a screwdriver and putters off to continue to develop his resort-to-be.

I check out the laundry room – 4 washing machines, and no dryer; the washroom and showers (not too bad …), and then we walk the airstrip to the beach – an iconically deserted, white-sand picture perfect little strip on the turquoise ocean, sparkling in the setting sunlight. That’s it – the whole island – except for the several buildings under construction for the last 8 years, which will eventually provide expensive accommodation for those seeking complete and utter isolation.

So tonight we sit at a dock, with not a shred of movement, in this perfectly protected marina. I really hope we get a whale of a storm – it would make the outrageous docking fee here worth it!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Staniel Cay

Marilyn writing …

We spent a lovely day and two nights at anchor in Staniel Cay harbor during the last cold front. The only challenge was docking at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club to fill up with fuel, water and provisions. The wind was blowing us hard against the dock, so negotiating docking and cast-off was difficult – while below us swam a school of nurse sharks – some 6 feet long. They’re supposed to be harmless, but neither of us wanted to fall in the water to test that theory! I got some good pics though (below).

Staniel Cay and its harbor are absolutely beautiful spots – with two small grocery stores (one pink and one blue), a pretty church, gorgeous white-sand beaches, and a charming little yacht club where we had the best conch fritters I’ve ever tasted. This is one of the places to which we’d like to take guests, if any of you ever join us down here.

There’s a great snorkeling cave (called “Thunderball” – where the 007 film was shot) just off where we were anchored – but we never made it there, as we decided to leave today, ahead of yet another cold front due tomorrow. We’re having Bahama’s version of Toronto’s winter right now. Much more tolerable, but disappointing, nonetheless. So we’re headed to Cave Cay – a hurricane hole – to sit out the next cold front, before we make a run to George Town, our final stop for now.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Hello, again - Marilyn here ...

We've been disconnected for the last two days, while we hung out at Hawksbill Cay - it felt strange but liberating! Though I have been anxious to get back to this blog.

Hawksbill is a completely empty little island - the only sign of life we saw on it was a small curly-tailed lizard (pic below). He smiled for the camera, and then scurried away. This was during a crazy climb that Jeff and I undertook up a small but treacherous mountain. It was treacherous because, like all of the land on these cays, it seems to be formed by old coral heads with jagged, sharp edges that would cut like razor-blades if you lost your footing. So why are we climbing them? Because they're there, of course. Besides, what else is there to do, except lie on powdery beaches and admire the gorgeous scenery? The last pic below is the view from our boat as I write.

Actually it's not always that relaxing (yeah, sure, you're thinking ...). During the night the wind came up, and we rocked like a bucking bronco - and continued to experience that motion all the way to the next Cay (Staniel), where we're now anchored in a very protected harbour, sitting out a cold front that's supposed to come in tonight. As the waves crashed over the bow of the boat today and all the way back to the cockpit, we wondered who of our friends would be willing to do this with us! But don't worry, if you decide to join us down here at any point, we'll make sure we sail in calmer places.

Only two more short sails to our destination, and then home to the February cold ... hopefully the memories of this trip will keep us warm!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Marilyn in heaven here ....

We spent a delicious day hanging out at anchor on beautiful Allen's Cay. The day started with a swim off the back of the boat, French toast made on the bar-b-que for breakfast (Jeff now finally has the stove working again at 6:00 p.m.), and a dinghy ride and hike on a near-by beach. The craggy rock (which we think may be old coral heads), combined with drifted-ashore conch shells, made for challenging walking, but the hike was worth it. The view from the top, with Exuma Sound on one side, and Allen's Cay on the other was spectacular, and we were treated to three jumps by a dolphin on the sound side!

The afternoon was spent with Jeff napping and me painting (pic below) - and now we're about to cook dinner on our newly-functioning stove. It doesn't get any better than this!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Rush Hour in the Exumas

Rush Hour in the Exumas

So now picture this …

We’re surrounded 360 degrees with the most crystal-clear turquoise blue water I’ve ever seen. In front of us are the 6 boats we paraded into this little cove with and the 4 more that followed us in (“rush hour in the Exumas”). To my left as I write from the boat’s cockpit is our own private little beach populated only by large, ugly iguanas, that apparently bite. A moment ago, someone from a near-by boat yelled – “there’s a six-foot shark under your boat”. And Jeff just came into the cockpit after a swim – fortunately, intact! I don’t think these sharks are eating people – there’s lots of other stuff to nourish them.

We’re finally floating at anchor in the place we’ve been heading towards for the last month - the gorgeous Exuma Cays – this is beyond paradise! A 5-hour sail on crystalline water at 6 knots on a close reach (aided by the motor at times) brought us here, on a beautiful blue-sky day. Now we will wend our way down the Bahama Bank to the hurricane hole where we’ll leave Sea Change for a month ‘til we return in March. Then we’ll really explore this area – right now we’re still just getting the boat to its southern home. But this finally feels like vacation time … it’s been a fair amount of work to this point (poor us!).

The day ended with an invitation to a “sundowner” on the beach with the iguanas and about 20 other people, almost all Canadians, from the other boats in the harbor. Everyone brought their own drinks and snacks to share – a sort of tradition here at sunset.

Here are some pics of our last day and evening in Nassau (on anchor overnight), and a few of our first day here in Allens Cay in the Exumas.