Apologies for being incommunicado for the past month, but we made it to the Exumas!
The last post had us arriving in Bimini, freezing – again, and waiting for a weather window – again. The first major hop was from the US to Bimini, the next major hop is from Bimini to Nassau/New Providence Island across the Great Bahama Bank and then finally from Nassau, over the Exuma Bank to the top of the Exumas – Highborne Cay in our case. These key hops (no pun intended), are a challenge because the prevailing wind is East with either a slight Northerly or Southerly component, and we need to go East in each one of those legs.
We were in Bimini for another two weeks and left on February 1 for Nassau. We settled in with fellow cruisers that were waiting for the same weather window. We got to know many of the locals, had way too much Conch Salad – still haven’t figured out how to make it, but each ‘chef’ definitely has their own subtle differences.
Our crossing window was not ideal, but it would do. On February 1st, we departed at 10am for our 24 hour trip to Nassau. Like we mentioned in the last post, there is something special about sailing at night, but this time, you can start to get into a rhythm for 24 hours. We took 2 hour watches starting at 11pm and then napped in the cockpit. It’s not sustainable for more than one night, but worked very well for us this trip. The girls got their sea legs and woke up to us calling Nassau Harbor Security for permission to enter. It reminded Chris of calling Air Traffic Control to get clearance to land at an airport – it was needed, there were huge cruise ships moving around and we weren’t 20 ft from them (yes – we were a little tired and focused on traffic, so the camera did not make it up – no cool pictures)
On the school front, it was time to get Tali involved in some navigation – she’s been getting the math basics since we left, and it was time to apply them.
While there is triple redundancy on electronic navigation equipment – the basics are still important. Tali is learning to plot a course using our trip from Bimini to Nassau.
During boat school, Chris has been focusing on learning celestial navigation. He was taking his sun sites and showing Tali the ropes – she wasn’t too far off.
Once we arrived in Nassau – Palm Cay Marina on the south eastern side of the island, it was time to wash the boat after the salty crossing, top off fuel and water, and fill the boat up with provisions – from this point on to Georgetown, fresh food was going to be scarce.
The girls were just happy to be some place different than Bimini, but no swimming yet…
We watched the Super Bowl (or at least the first quarter before the kids got a little tired) projected across the pool on a make shift big screen, with stars overhead and waves lapping in the background. Pretty cool way to watch the game – as far as the winner, well there is one Giants fan in the house, so he couldn’t route for either team, and the Pats fan was getting streaming updates from the boat and had high hopes up until the bitter end!!!
We left Nassau on a flat calm day and headed across the Exuma Bank – while we did not get that experience from Bimini, this made up for it.
While the photo does not do it justice – we are in about 15 ft of water, at the top half of the picture, you see the bottom with waves of sand, and the shadow of our mast – truly beautiful. The girls were counting star fish on the bottom!
We made it to Highborne Cay near the top of the Exumas, dropped the hook, and went swimming for the first time off the back of the boat!!!
If you catch a shot like this, you have to post it!
Those smiles make it all worth it!
The next stop was Shroud Cay, a few hours south. This marked our entrance into the Exumas Land and Sea Park – very much like our National Parks, rustic, carry in/carry out, no resources, no cell towers – simply put, off the grid. One of the best parts of Shroud, are the tidal rivers that go through the middle of the island, past the mangroves to the beaches on the other side. Basically, you fill up the dinghy with gas, head out on a rising tide (being careful to take note when it starts falling, so you don’t get stuck in a dry riverbed) and follow the river. We’ve never experienced anything like it!
Tali put on her snorkel and mask and we towed her behind the dingy – she loved it!
Hope the picture captures the colors of this 2 foot deep river we explored…
Family photo at the beach on the other side of the island.
After a couple days exploring Shroud Cay, we were on our way to Warderick Wells – the park headquarters. The natural beauty was amazing. We spent a day hiking the island, another day snorkeling, and a third day relaxing. The cruising community was great here… all too often you pull into an anchorage and either there is no place to congregate, or there is the local bar which some folks come ashore to check out. But here, there was a beach, a canopy, and a nightly potluck happy hour. We met some great folks there that we hope to keep in touch with.
Tali starting to get some solo helm time on the way down – we have to get her ready to take watch on the way home : )
Intermezzo on her mooring – She’s never been in a prettier anchorage!
Tali exploring a cave on our hike….
…and Mom and Savy shocked she went so far down!
Captures the natural beauty of the island – by looking past the two people in the foreground : )
A little side note about the driftwood pile at the top of Boo Boo Hill… as a bit of a rite of passage, as cruisers come to the island, they are to bring a piece of driftwood or shell and put the year they came, boat name, and crew… you’ll see the turquoise shell in the middle – that is from s/v Baila, friends of ours who did the trip last year.
Chris putting our driftwood on the pile…
The final resting place for years to come… Chris told Tali she could bring her family here on a sailboat and show them our driftwood from this trip – she replied as innocent as a child can be – “Of course!”
From here, it was time to leave the park after 10 days at anchor/moored. We were running low on water, and that meant rationing showers, so we were getting a bit stinky. So it was off to Staniel Cay, with Thunderball Grotto and the Pig Beach at Big Majors. We tied up to a slip at the Staniel Cay yacht club, Chris turned off the engine, went down below to get a glass of water and the last tank went dry – perfect timing! We filled up with water, enjoyed a great Valentines Dinner with our friends from s/v Liberator and explored the two landmarks.
Unfortunately, pictures at the Thunderball Grotto did not happen, but you’ve all seen it. It is from the scene in the James Bond movie Thundeball. You swim in at low tide into a cave with a ray of sunlight at noon that shines down on what can only be described as swimming in a tropical fish tank. We have snorkeled at a lot of places in the Caribbean, but this ranks as one of the top.
The next stop was pig beach – honestly we thought it was a ‘check-the-box’ type of thing, but you just can’t explain showing up on a beach in a dinghy with these pigs walking around and swimming out to greet you. It literally felt like you were visiting them, and the were welcoming you to their home. Crazy…
First sighting of the pigs…
I know, you can go to the web and see the same pictures, but it is just simply weird seeing this…
We thought a puppy was in our future… hmmm…
Our anchorage for the night… we’re enjoying the sun and warmth, but definitely missing everyone… stay warm!!!