Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Au Revoir ...

This will be my last post for this trip – tomorrow we go to the marina dock to pack up the boat, and then on to the hurricane hole to put Sea Change on a mooring for the season.

We’ve spent the last two very windy days in one of our favorite harbors – Red Shanks. I’ve been waxing the chrome against rust, wiping down all surfaces below decks with vinegar and water against mildew, and generally cleaning up. My captain, meanwhile, has been busy with a multitude of boat repairs (never-ending).

We made friends with an American couple from South Carolina – Gary and Sharleen, on a Beneteau 37, and have had “sundowners” (drinks at sunset) with them twice, at two different harbors. Lovely people … it’s interesting how easy it is to make friends here – we all have so much in common, and everyone has sailing stories to tell. It turns out that Sharleen also paints in watercolor, and was able to give me some useful tips.

And so ends another wonderful stay in Paradise … with its ups and downs, but mostly a positive experience.

See you back home very soon!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Swimming With a Dolphin!!!

We’re almost too stunned for words – this was surely one of life’s peak experiences.

After a gorgeous gentle sail all the way from Emerald Bay to George Town, and a great conversation with our grandkids, we dropped our anchor in the harbor, and were getting settled in. Suddenly, Jeff shouted – “a dolphin – right there beside our boat!”. And there it was - a seven-foot dolphin, in all its glory, circling our boat for at least an hour.

We took dozens of pictures and some video of this amazing creature, swimming, surfacing, blowing and diving again – as if he was inviting us to come and play. So in we went, with snorkels and masks, and swam with that dolphin diving under and over us – sometimes no more than two feet away!!

The couple on the boat next to us were watching all of this, and I shouted “come and join us” – so they also donned snorkel gear and swam with the dolphin. Finally, the current got stronger, as the tide was changing, and we were finding it hard to not be carried away – so we reluctantly boarded Sea Change, while the other couple swam back to their boat with the dolphin now following them! As I write this, s/he is still circling – their boat.

We’d been wishing for a dolphin sighting all through this trip  - but never could have imagined what happened today. We feel so blessed!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Catching our Breath

Well, just another 9 days left here, and we're getting into packing up mode - slowly, so we don't trigger another bout of CFS in Jeff!

We're currently in a very safe, quiet harbour (Emerald Bay Marina), 10 miles from our home port in George Town. We'll probably leave tomorrow or the next day for our final leg of the trip.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying this lovely respite from wind and waves. Yesterday we rented a small car and toured the entire Island – all 69 miles of it! We ate a lovely lunch at famous Sanatana’s, right on the beach, took hokey pictures at the sign for the Tropic of Cancer, refilled our propane tanks, reprovisioned the boat with food and drink, and are now set for our closing story here. After all of our adventures in the last week, including sailing here on big wind and huge rolling waves, this is feeling like a great break!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Piece of Cake!

I conquered two fears today, and have learned to blow a conch shell successfully, after practicing for a week. J

One of the fears was the result of having overturned our dinghy (with me in it) last year, when I tried to stop behind someone else’s boat. I’ve been a little nervous about driving Small Change since then. But today, we needed food, and Jeff was too busy with other tasks to leave the boat. So off I went on my own to Little Farmer’s Cay – a fair dinghy ride away on a slightly rough sea.

I landed the boat successfully at the dock, and was rewarded by sighting stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, small fish and larger grouper – all around the boat! And the best part was meeting a local fisherman, who had been attracting these creatures with the remains of red snapper that he was cleaning, two of which he sold to me for our dinner tonight (see pic below). That trip ended with another successful docking at our boat on the way back – so now I trust my ability with the dink!

The second fear conquered was related to our miserable experience in crossing a cut the other day. Both of us took that wake-up call very seriously, and have been researching cut crossings since. Today we negotiated two different ones – leaving Little Farmer’s Cay, and entering Rat Cay – both a piece of cake, because we planned for the right timing of wind and tide.

In between, we had a delightful sail, and then motored for about 4 fours on fairly big waves to our current anchorage – where I managed to get a decent sound out of a conch shell (like blowing a trumpet – which I’ve never done). The tradition here is to blow your conch at sunset every night – resulting in a cacophony of somewhat eerie sounds bouncing around the harbor.

All in all, a very successful day, which ended with a gorgeous dinner of whole fried red snapper and a glorious sunset – what more could anyone want?

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Navigating Through a "Rage"

Well – today was one to remember, and learn from! We had spent four days resting up in Staniel Cay, as Jeff recuperated from a bout of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Yesterday, I rented a rickety bike, and toured the Island on my own, and then bought fresh grouper from the returning fishermen for our dinner.

Today, Jeff was feeling well enough that he suggested we sail north to Black Point – only about five miles away. The wind was on our nose, so we tacked, close-hauled (for non-sailors, zigzagging back and forth to keep the wind in our sails) in about 15 knots of wind – a wonderful 2.5 hour trip!

Wonderful, that is, until we entered the “cut” that takes us from the Exuma Sound on the Atlantic side, where we were, to the shallow Bahama Bank, where we wanted to anchor.

Bad idea! Before we knew it, we were in what felt like a washing machine of 10-15 foot waves, churning in all directions, splashing water over the side of the boat into the cockpit, and scaring both of us to death L.

My captain held the boat steady through it all, while I held on to the boat – both of us terrified. We made it through, but agreed that in 25 years of sailing together, this had been the scariest experience we’ve had. And we also agreed that we need to learn much more about navigating these cuts safely – a good wake-up call. The pic below of the inside of the boat shows the devastation created by all the rolling around we did.

I spent the rest of the afternoon calming down in the laundry, while Jeff rested. Another day in Paradise.

Thursday, 24 March 2016


007 we’re not – but today we finally snorkeled the Thunderball Grotto (where Thunderball with James Bond was filmed, in Staniel Cay) – after three years of trying! The conditions need to be perfect – low, slack tide, no wind, lots of sun to provide enough light to see the gorgeously coloured large and small fish, and the overhead dome pierced with dramatic shafts of sunlight slicing down into the water. Otherwise, the tidal current can be very strong inside the cave, and each year we’ve tried, that’s been the case, until today J.

On Monday, our NB guests left, and since then we’ve been hunkering down, waiting out the cold front that just passed through. It’s a bit like a rainy week at the cottage – cloudy skies, cool, continuous, too-strong wind – keeping us mostly below decks.

But we entertained ourselves with photography and reading (Jeff), painting, baking and practicing choir music (Marilyn), and generally “kicking back”.

Now that the sun is shining, we’re provisioned, and our tanks are full of diesel and water – so tomorrow we’re off again, this time to Black Point to do laundry and maybe find some gluten-free bread from the bakery there for Jeff.