Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Big Major Spot - Highbourne - Chubb


After Lee Stocking, it was back to Pig Beach and Big Major Spot. Big Major is far less scenic than Lee Stocking, but it is very well protected from winds coming from the north and east – and that is exactly the directions from which we expected the winds to come over the next several days. They weren’t supposed to be terrible, but bad enough so that we wanted some protection. So we went to Big Major and waited.

Waiting at Staniel

Staniel Cay is right next to Big Major and the closest and coolest island around. Although all we were doing was waiting, I learned something while at Staniel. Sitting and waiting is not as inexpensive as I had thought. You see, I have a Nook, from which I can order and read Barnes and Nobles e-books. Since I am a fairly fast reader, I have to download a book maybe every other day. At $10-$15 per book, that can become kind of costly. Just a thought.

Watermakers

Bored people also give lessons on watermakers to people who probably don’t really care about them. It was also at Staniel that our watermaker came even closer to giving up the ghost. As you may recall, we use reverse osmosis to produce fresh water. Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water by trapping contaminants on the membrane and allowing pure water to flow out. It can remove 98 to 99% of most contaminants including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, sulfate, nitrate, arsenic and a plethora of other chemical and organic contaminants. In its basic form, reverse osmosis requires a very high pressure pump and a special filter (membrane). Ours also has a simple sensor to tell us when the water is pure. Newer, more modern watermakers have all sorts of cool gadgetry, but ours is pretty old fashioned.

Before we left the States, we had our high pressure pump rebuilt. You may remember that it was difficult to find someone to rebuild it because it is a pretty old pump. Since we have had it back, though, it has performed like a champ. I knew our membrane also needed to be replaced, but simply did not have enough time after getting back the pump. Since we have been in the Bahamas we have flushed the membrane twice with fresh water – essentially trying to get those trapped ions, molecules, and larger particles out of the system. We are now at the point where she is just not going to flush anymore.

Anyway, the EPA recommends a TDS measurement of less than 500 PPM (parts per million) for tap water. When our watermaker is working correctly we can get 200 – 250 PPM easily. However, the sensor in the watermaker seems to shut the system down if it is making less that 450 or so – and because we apparently are producing water outside of its parameters, it currently wants to shut down the system. Since we are going to be in the Bahamas only another week or so (more about that later) we are not going to be able to find, buy, ship and replace a new membrane. Instead, I just turned off the sensor. I can hear you now, “Hey, Brown, what are you doing? Trying to get sick?” Well no. Actually, we have a gadget that measures TDS and it says we are producing water with 450 or so PPM. Moreover, we run all of our drinking water through a Brita filter that reduces the PPM one more time. In short, we are confident we will be all right until we get back to a marina and eventually the States.

Stateside Bound

I mentioned that we are headed back to the States a little early this year. My mother, who lives in Arizona, is not doing particularly well and we thought we ought to go out to AZ to see her. My sister, who is constrained by having to w-w-work (I hate using four letter words), is going to visit her at the end of March and we thought it would be great if we could all be there at the same time.

Anyway, by the first week in March we were actively watching for an opportunity to get to the States. From the northern Exumas, we have to travel about 220 nautical miles to Lake Worth. Try as we might, that is an absolute minimum of three days for us – roughly 75 NM per day. As we study the various weather prognostications, all we can see is two nice days together, then a space of four or five days before we can get a third day that might be good enough to cross the Gulf Stream.  For those of you who know the Bahamas, here is our initial plan: get to Highbourne Cay, wait until Monday the 11th, then put the pedal to the metal and go all the way to Chubb Cay, anchor there for a night, then head out for Bimini early the following morning. We will end up staying in Bimini for several days (at least until Saturday the 16th) before we can launch for home. We have looked at various alternatives but given the weather windows we have it looks like the Highbourne to Chubb to Bimini to wait ton then make our run to Lake Worth is our best bet.

I also calculated our fuel usage. After the 240 nm trip, we would have almost 20% reserve which was plenty. Most captains are willing to go with about 10% reserve, but even though I am more chicken than most, I figured 20% would be fine.

Highbourne – Chubb - Bimini

We have been to Highbourne a number of times over the years and have traipsed pretty much all over the island. We had missed one beach, however, which we promptly walked. We also, of course, needed to go to Xuma, the best and most expensive restaurant in the Exumas. Rather than go for the pricey dinner, however, we decided to go for the slightly less expensive lunch. To give you an idea of the cost, Ann almost ordered a hamburger until she noticed that it cost $25 – that is not a typo, $25 for a burger. Now I know burgers can be delicious, but $25 delicious? I don’t think so. Instead we ordered some conch fritters which were very good and a seafood pizza which was decidedly mediocre. Next time, we’ll go for dinner.

Then we waited for the weather.

And we waited

We had intended to leave shortly after 6:00 on Monday the 10th, but I had forgotten that we had just “sprung our clocks forward.” So, when we got up at 0600 it was still dark outside. We waited until 0700 when we could see the anchorage and launched for Chubb. It was easy weather and easy-peasy cruising as a British friend of mine would have put it. The only problem was that we ended up going a little faster and using a little more fuel than I had intended. Hmm. Would that come back to haunt me? Maybe.

When we got to Chubb, I plotted our course for the next day. Yikes! I had made a mistake. I had thought it was a little over 80 miles to the marina, it turns out it was a little over 94. That’s about an hour-and-a-half difference in travel time. Also, I realized that my fuel calculations had been a little optimistic. With the extra distance and the speed we made the day before, we would only have a little over 10% reserve, which might have been enough for the ICW, but not for the Atlantic Ocean. We now had a little problem. If we left at first light, we would arrive in Bimini at 1700 at the earliest – about the time everyone closes. Who would assign us a slip? Who would pump our fuel? You can see the problem.

Complicating everything was the fact that we could not raise the marina where we wanted to stay on the telephone – their number was disconnected – or on the internet. It was also one of the two places in Bimini that sold fuel. So we had to make reservations at a different marina, Brown’s, and decided we would figure out how to get fuel later.

I lay in bed thinking about the problem until I came up with the obvious solution. We had to leave before light. I woke Ann up at 0430 and told her the new plan. We would depart Chubb shortly after 0500 and arrive in Bimini by 1500. We could then stop at our preferred marina for fuel and ask if they had an overnight slip. If yes, we would refuel, call and cancel our reservations at Brown’s, spend the night at Bimini Sands and all of our problems would be taken care of. If not, we would refuel and we would still have a place to stay a little way up the Bimini channel. Ta Da!

OK, my preference would be to stop here and jump forward to tell you how everything worked in Bimini. But I am afraid my darling wife would give her version of events which just might be decidedly less favorable to yours truly. Now, before I begin, you have to realize that nighttime travel on a boat is very, very different than daytime travel – especially when you are trying to maneuver in tight quarters. This particular night was dark. I mean it was black. It was as black as a witch’s heart, as black as a thousand foot hole, as black as a coal pit, as black as … well, you get the idea.

On the way out of the anchorage there were two sets of lighted markers. One set was working perfectly. We could see red on one side of the channel and green on the other. They were right in back of us and I knew exactly what I had to do to get out of the anchorage. The other set of markers were about 300-400 meters away and they had only one light burning, the green light was lit, but the red light was apparently burnt out. I remembered coming in that I thought the markers were pretty close together, so while we wouldn’t have to squeeze to get through them we would have to pay close attention.

This was the boat immediately abaft our port 
beam when we  made our starboard turn. 
You can see how dark it is. But at
 least he had his running light on!
I turned on minimal lights for the interior, turned on the running lights, then turned on the radar. After I lined up the various radar targets with markers on the chart and the anchored boats, I put us in forward and we were underway. Slowly, very slowly we moved through the first set of markers. No problem. I lined up on the far green marker and headed directly for it. My plan was to head for the green marker, then turn away as we got close. That way I figured that I could make sure that I missed the unlit red marker. I sent Ann forward and asked her to guide us between the poles with hand signals. My plan worked – well, almost worked. Ann kept telling me to move away from the green pole, but I was more worried about the red one, so I kind of stayed on course – until the last minute second fraction of a second when I realized how close we were to the green pole. Instead of coming about 5-10 feet from the marker, I came within about 5-10 inches (or maybe .5 – 1.0 inches). It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the green marker coming up, it is just that estimating distances at sea is very difficult. At sea AND in the dark, well, forget about it.  I kept the starboard engine in forward and put the port engine in reverse to turn the boat to the left, and then I threw the steering wheel to the left. I was happy when we did not hit the marker dead on and ecstatic as we squeaked by the pole and didn’t touch it anywhere along the side. I guess I was lucky that night.

Once we got beyond the markers, it should have been simple. All I needed to do was turn hard to starboard and set forth. However, before I could turn the boat I got soooo disoriented that I almost turned the boat in a full circle before I realized what was happening. I looked outside and realized that wasn’t going to help, so I focused on my chartplotter, lined up the course and headed out. This was not my finest hour.

As we proceeded westward we came across a few boats going our way or going eastward that did not have any lights whatsoever. We generally picked them up on radar, but nor having running lights on is not only illegal, it is stupid and irresponsible! I just don’t understand how and why people could do that. They are not only risking their boat and lives, they are risking ours as well. Also, there is a pole marking the Northwest Channel. It sticks up about ten feet from the water and is supposed to be lit. As is so often the case in things for which the Bahamian government is responsible, the light is burnt out and the marker is a major hazard to navigation. I had timed our arrival at the marker to occur at first light because … well … lighted markers are often burnt out in the Bahamas. As you can tell, I get a bit upset about things like this. 

Ann’s Notes. As you all know I am the one who proof reads the blog before it goes out into space, or where ever blogs go to be read.

The very welcome sunrise.
I had to chuckle when Michael made his confession. I have a pretty low resting heart rate, however, that dark morning on the bow, staring into the darkness and with a green light marker quickly approaching, the heart monitor on my FitBit almost had a flipping heart attack. So why, Captain Oh Captain do you send your only crew member and wife of forty five years into the darkness, with one simple mission. Signal me if we are getting to close (he said) OK..I can do that. The catch is you have to listen to me. As all of you know from previous statement about going to restaurants at night and than having to come home in the dinghy…I HATE MOVING IN THE WATER AT NIGHT…PERIOD…DOT.

 Michael is an excellent captain of Traveling Soul and can become laser focused in a nano-second, and responds quickly. He is like a Zen master; he becomes one with the boat, and chart plotter.

Then to top it all off, I see behind us three lights off to our Port side. We have a rather large 50 foot-ish sail boat that wants to pass us. We made contact with him on the radio, and he took the lead, followed him from a distance until we got onto the shallow water of the Bahama Bank and he veered off in another direction.

I have been doing a lot of reading also, if I am not cross stitching or cooking for fun, I read. I have a box of books , some at left behind by Dave and Joan, some I exchange with friends and then recycle and some I get from exchange libraries at marinas. A take a free book, leave a free book.

We are actually on the last part of this Bahamas trip, we have lots to do when we get back…it will be great to have my cell phone again.

Spot update, she is pretty much her sweet feline self, she needs to gain some more weight and she will do that on her own schedule. Dave and Joan have been by her side with loving care. We are blessed to count them as family.

Traveling Soul …OUT

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Emerald Bay to Conception Island


About 25 miles from Emerald Bay and about 30 miles from our destination at Conception Island I saw two white birds flying about ½ mile dead ahead off our bow. It was a little unusual to see such small birds this far from land, but I really didn’t think too much of it. Of course, I had heard the tale that when you see birds in the ocean that means that fish aren’t far away. In the Chesapeake that usually meant a lot of birds diving on the water. But only two birds? Who seem to be just flying from one point to another rather than fishing? I wasn’t so sure. Then I spotted five more white birds which seemed to be just sitting on the water in almost a straight line about a mile off our port bow. I thought for a minute about altering course, just in case they were watching a school of fish, but decided that was kind of silly. Five little white birds after mahi-mahi? I didn’t think so. Instead, I called Ann’s attention to this little oddity. I said, “Hey, Ann, take a look at these birds off our port …” Then it happened. Whirrr! Yes, fish on!
Black Fin tuna. MMmm Mmmm good!


Ann and I have worked out a set of procedures for what to do when we catch a fish. Since, however, we had not even had a single bite this year, I was concerned that we might be a bit rusty. The procedure is simple: I turn off the synchronizers, put the engines at idle, put the transmission in neutral, then rush to the stern, reel in the non-fish line and get to the rod and reel with the line.  Ann, meanwhile, takes over the helm, and responds when I tell her to move “forward” or shift to “neutral.” Even though it had been a year since we had practiced, it all took place flawlessly.

Initially, he took out quite a bit of line, but I wasn’t concerned. I still had him and, after a few minutes, found that I could reel a little line periodically. He didn’t seem to be fighting as hard as a mahi and wasn’t jumping at all – which mahi usually do – so I began to think that might be a tuna and that maybe I should bring him a bit faster, so I could get the line back out of course and catch a mahi. I remembered, though, that last year I brought in a mahi faster than I should have and once he got within maybe a hundred feet of the boat, he found enough energy for one final flurry of activity – and got away. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. Anyway, when I brought the fish to within about 50 feet from the boat I could see “color.” Now I don’t know how many of you fish or watch fishing shows, but as the fish gets closer to the boat and closer to the surface you can see color – even though you cannot make out the shape of the fish. Because the light rays are refracted by the water you can’t tell if it is a ten foot long mahi or a one-footer long barracuda. When I saw color this time, I could not tell how big or what kind he was. But it looked like it could be a four foot mahi. Well, it wasn’t; in the event, it turned out to be a tuna – a good sized tuna to be sure, but a tuna nonetheless. He will give us several decent-sized tuna steaks. Of course, it wasn’t a mahi. But at least it was something and I will not be skunked this year.
Some of the sharks waiting for the offal from ONE tuna.
We waited until we were anchored that evening to clean him. And, while I won’t get overly graphic, I am sure it comes as no surprise that we do cut off the head at some point. Well, I cut it off and threw it overboard. Before it hit the bottom there was a five-foot nurse shark scooping it up. As I threw away more of the offal, more sharks came. Now this was only the leftover parts from a single tuna – but at one point we had five sharks ready to take anything else we threw overboard. This to me is amazing. Okay, maybe the first shark just happened to be close enough to see, smell or hear the head hit the water. But the others arrived in the space of less than a minute or two. How close could they have been? I have just read a little bit about sharks’ senses – but what I saw still doesn’t compute. Needless to say, we didn’t go swimming that night.


We didn’t have the tuna for dinner that night; we had already decided on lobster instead (we eat well on Traveling Soul). Instead we had it the following day. Now last year when I caught a tuna, Ann admitted she really didn’t know what to do with it, so she found a Thai recipe that had peanut butter. Now, I like peanut butter, but not with fish. Anyhow this year she had a new and different recipe. OMG!!! It was fantastic. I had a bite or two and was telling her how good it was. She told me that I should try it with the dipping sauce. I did. Man oh man, it was doubly fantastic. I still want to catch a mahi, but another tuna wouldn’t be too bad either.

Conception Island is part of the National Land and Sea Park system administered by the Bahamas National Trust. The entire area is protected; visitors are welcome but should take nothing and leave only footprints. The park here was established in 1964 and has not seen human habitation since the very early 1900s. It is on the migratory path of several bird species. In fact, when we woke up one morning, we could actually hear birds calling to one another from the interior of the island. This is unusual in that we very seldom see, let alone hear, birds on most of the cays and islands. Finally, A few people believe that Conception was the original landing point of Columbus. Others believe it was one of the first three landing sites. Personally, I am pretty sure it wasn’t the original landfall, but it could have been one of the other islands where he went ashore – it just depends on how you read the evidence.  

The first day we were there, we took a long walk on the nearby beach. It was good enough, but not the best beach we have seen in the Bahamas. It had very nice sand, was about 50 feet wide for most of its length, and was about two miles long. I guess the biggest problem was that it was pretty steep. Moreover, once you got into the water, there was a drop off that put you chest deep or more when you were least expecting it. Plus, there were very, very few shells. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have become a beach snob.

One of the magnificent birds we saw at Conception. 
He doesn't have the "Zorro Mask" of an osprey and doesn't
have the white tail feathers of an eagle. 
What kind of bird is he?
Later that afternoon (we had to wait for high tide) we went to the creek that ran through the island. It looks like a very shallow river with mangroves on either side, and it almost bisects the island. It is in these creeks and mangroves that the young of many species of fish, birds, turtles and others spend their early months away from predators. As you ride through the mangrove creeks, you have to wind from side to side steering clear of the many sandbars in the area, but if you continue to the end you will be rewarded with sightings of a number of sea creatures. We saw probably 20-30 sea turtles of various sizes, a couple of birds (one of them was of a species about which we are still arguing), and what I think are some baby flying fish.

The weather reports showed about 3-4 days of good weather as we prepared to leave. Although Chris Parker (one of our weather sources) though there might be a little higher wind and waves than the other two on whom I rely, we were pretty sure it was going to be pretty good weather. Boy, were they wrong.  Windfinder (a website we use) specifically predicted waves between 1.3 and 1.7 feet high. The waves we saw were 3-5 and were getting even bigger. We believe one of three things happened: (1) There were “dark waves.” Some of you may recall my “dark wave theory” that attributes the difference between weather predictions and reality – specifically with regard to wave height – to dark waves. Dark waves are an analog to the notion of “dark matter” which is the physicists’ fudge factor between their predictions and reality. (2) A low, a high, or a medium front moved into the area surreptitiously, wreaked its damage and left without anyone knowing anything about it. (3) Chris Parker is a better meteorologist that I gave him credit.

The Columbus Monument at the northern tip of Long Island.

At any rate, about an hour into our trip, we decided to take a detour and finish our journey the following day. That may have been a mistake. Since we decided to hide on the northern tip of Long Island, we had to turn almost due south, which put the waves almost directly on our beam. And did we pay for that! Okay, maybe not the worst hour-and-a-half we spent on Traveling Soul, but pretty close to it. I’d say it was easily in the bottom 10 and maybe the top 5. In short, it was not a pleasant ride. We did get some shots of the Columbus Monument on Long Island and finally got some respite when we reached Calabash Bay.

The next day, the weather was perfect. Go figure.

How perfect was it? It was so perfect that YES, I caught another fish – a MAHI-MAHI. It wasn’t the biggest I have ever caught; in fact, it was fairly small. I am guessing it was 2 ½ feet or so and maybe fifteen pounds. Ann had the helm and I had just laid down for a power nap when Whirr! Again! We went through our procedures, I sat down with the rod and up in the air he went. It wasn’t a big jump and he wasn’t a huge fish.  But this time I was sure he was a mahi. I reeled him in expertly and voila, mahi for dinner.

Two years ago, the first time I caught a one of these magnificent fish, I tried to filet him. I had my book, I had watched a video and I had my friend Russ. Unfortunately, what we did to that fish can be better described as butchering than filleting. This time, though, I didn’t do too badly if I say so myself. So, even though he is a bit small, he will give us at least two-and-a-half meals. (The half meal is a couple of fish tacos, which we had a couple of days after I caught him.) Ann doesn’t want me to catch anymore fish and since I cannot do it without her, I guess that will be the end of my fishing adventures.

That evening we spent the night at Lee Stocking Island. There is nothing special about Lee Stocking, other than the fact that it is one of the most beautiful, and quintessential Bahamian locations in the islands. It is one of those spots where you can look around 360 degrees and see nothing but myriad shades of blue interspersed by picturesque islands, many of which are at least partially rimmed by sandy beaches. In 1967 John Perry bought the island for $70,000. He turned it into a first class marine research center, which he hoped would be self-sustaining through medicines and technologies which its scientists would discover. Alas, it was not to be. As we reported in 2016 (or so) the center was closed in 2011. In classic Bahamian style everything was left in place: filing cabinets, paperback books, kitchen equipment, beds, computer screens, everything.

On that happy note, let me turn it over to Ann.

Mike fileting his last mahi.
Ann’s Notes:  

I have to say our dinghy ride in Conception was wonderful, I have never seen so many turtles in one area. The last time I did see a lot of turtles was in Little Harbor in the Abacos, and that was three or four years ago.

The weather has been a real mix, a few days of beautiful, light wind days, than no breeze at all (those are the ones I dislike, A LOT) I would rather have bounce and wind than dead calm.

I have been distracted by events happening at home and have not been as supportive as I should be. Thus Michael’s comment about not being able to fish. I do react when the fish struggles when caught and that takes the fun out for Michael. However, I do like fresh fish and I am getting better at cooking tuna the way it should be cooked. I will work on being more positive and supportive, we only have a few more weeks left in the Bahamas and I know he wants to fish  some more.

An update on Spot, she is on the mend, still not completely well but in the loving care of Dave and Joan. I know in my heart she will be her usual spunky feline self soon.

We are slowly heading north and back to the States.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Thursday, March 7, 2019

George Town (2)


I closed the last blog before we left George Town because it was getting to be a bit long. We stayed in George Town for a few more days, though, and have had a couple of memorable occurrences that I need to report. The first was the Dinghy Ride From Hell. As I explained last time, we are anchored near Sand Dollar Beach. We generally like this particular anchorage because it is close to the various beaches and because it is close to “Chat and Chill” the quintessential beach bar. Now don’t get me wrong, the cooks at Chat and Chill have no idea how to cook a hamburger, French fries, grilled fish or BBQ (theoretically their specialty) and quite honestly I would not ask them for a cup of boiled water (in part because I do not think they know how to boil water and in part because bottle of water with ice costs $3.00). The only thing they do know how to do is to get a cold Kalik out of the fridge … that is provided you are willing to stand at the bar for 5 minutes while the bartenders chat with their friends and flirt with other cooks and wait staff. That part is it is classic Bahamian behavior, but I digress.

One of the downsides of anchoring at Sand Dollar is that it is on the other side of the harbor from the settlement at George Town – nearly two miles. Now in the best of times George Town is not a booming metropolis. The Bahamian population is only 2500 and the shopping opportunities are fairly limited, but that is where the grocery store (with all those luscious sardines), the liquor store, the hardware store and the gas station are. To get to the settlement, of course, you have to take your dink through Elizabeth Harbor. The harbor is normally very calm, somewhere between sea state 0 (calm and glassy) and sea state 1 (calm and rippled) as it was when we first arrived. When the wind starts picking up, however, there is a little more action on the water, maybe somewhere between sea state 2 (smooth, wavelets) and sea state 3 (slight wavelets). Now in the grand scheme of things sea state 2 is nothing; in the big boat we wouldn’t even feel it. Sea state 3 is a little bumpier, but even Spot could take it. Unless, that is … unless you are in a dinghy.

We had already made a run to George Town while the Harbor was in sea state 1. After the wind picked up we were smart enough to wait. But the wind continued for several days and we decided we had to give it a shot, we were running out of gas for the dinghy and even more importantly we were running low on half-and-half for our coffee (yes, we really rough it when we anchor out). The trip over really wasn’t too bad, only one or two rogue wavelets made it into the dinghy and neither of us had any more than few splash marks on our clothing. That was because the wind and wave action were behind us, pushing us in our desired direction. After shopping we turned around to head home – that was when we learned that the “wavelets” of sea state 3 can be a bear.

You may recall from our last entry that I have become quite the (self-proclaimed) poet. Although my poem “Black Point”)in the last blog) may not win the Pulitzer, I think you will understand why I believe “The Dinghy Ride from Hell” has a real chance.

The Dinghy Ride from Hell
Elizabeth Harbor was not very kind
But we had to get groceries, especially some wine.
This leads to the story that I, here, will tell,
Of a ride on a dinghy – a ride straight from hell.

As we watched from our boat the wavelets looked small,
We thought we could make it – not e’en a close call.
Though when we embarked and started across,
The sea changed our minds and we learned who was boss.

We bumped and we thumped and we bounced all around.
The only good choice was to really slow down
We were moving so slowly I can’t fathom how
The water kept coming right over the bow.

Closer and closer to our boat we drew
As the salt water drenched both captain and crew.
When we finally we reached Traveling Soul
We felt we had been in a large mixing bowl.

The lesson my friends is really quite plain,
We continue to learn it again and again
Though you may think you have figured it out,
Mother Nature’s in charge -- of that there’s no doubt.


The day after the above noted dinghy ride, we were due to meet Russ and Lori for lunch across the Harbor at a place called February Point. You can probably understand why we were approaching this particular luncheon with some trepidation. We went back and forth on whether or not we would go, until about 1130, when it was time to move out. In the event, Ann donned her foul weather gear and we took off. The winds had definitely died down and the seas were not nearly as hellacious. Barely a drop of saltwater made it into the dinghy.

The next day we set out for the Marina at Emerald Bay. The marina is owned and operated by Sandals and, as a consequence tends to be pretty high end – both in operation and in price. It has, however, been just over three weeks since we had been to a marina and I wanted to flush our watermaker again, to fully charge the batteries and to let the generator and various electronic systems rest. I must admit, although I know it doesn’t make much sense, I tend to be a bit anthropomorphic with regard to Traveling Soul. Just like people need rest and relaxation once in a while, I think boats and their systems occasionally need time for rest, refit and recuperation.

Although the car was generally in surprisingly good shape, 
if you look closely, you can see that the 
hubcaps were held on with zip strips.
The first full day we were at the marina, Ann got up very early to work out at their fitness center and to start several loads of wash. Although laundry at the marina is free, unless you get up early it can be nearly impossible to get hold of a washing machine. When you go early – and I mean very early – though, there usually isn’t a problem. In fact, by about 0900 she had completed her task and we were preparing to enjoy the rest of the day.


On Wednesday, again with our friends Russ and Lori, we rented a car from the resort and took a trip south.  As we drove from the marina I noticed that there were a couple of medium sized resorts, several small resorts and a number of vacation rentals. What I did not see – and you usually see in the out islands – is any partially finished homes. I am not sure why. Maybe Great Exuma is wealthier than most of the other islands.

The salt marker showing ships 
where to anchor for their load of salt.
On our way south we saw three things of interest. One was the salt ponds and the salt marker. In the Old Days, Little Exuma, like many of the out islands, had salt ponds. They would get the water in the various ponds, dam it up, wait for the water to evaporate, then load the salt in barrels for transport to Nassau. That we all knew and we had all seen before salt ponds before. What we did not know was that in Little Exuma they had to put up a large marker (30-ish feet) at the top of a hill marking the salt ponds. The marker was so the ships coming in from the ocean side of the island would know where to anchor. I also learned that the salt these ships carried was very valuable, so much so that they would occasionally send Royal Navy ships to escort them and that they mounted a cannon near the marker to protect the salt from the Spanish and from pirates. Interesting, No?

The next thing we saw was Santanna’s. Santanna’s is one of those bar and grills in the Bahamas that has achieved near legendary status. While making the move “Pirates of the Caribbean” Johnnie Depp not only ate at Santanna’s, but apparently raved about it. Russ and Lori had been coming to George Town for at least six years and have always wanted to eat at Santanna’s but had never made it this far south. Well the four of us finally made it. The grouper I had, and the lightly breaded lobster Ann had were certainly good, but I don’t know if I willing to call it the second best restaurant on Great Exuma as Trip advisor does (besides, it is on Little Exuma). Would I go back again? Absolutely, especially if someone else were pays the bill. It was about $70 for the two of us – for lunch.

The line marking the Tropic of Cancer at (surprisingly enough)
Tropic of Cancer Beach
Finally, the real reason we rented the car was to see the ruins on Little Exuma. As most of you probably know the modern history of the Bahamas began in about 1783 when the American colonists who had supported Britain in the Revolutionary War found themselves in a difficult situation – their fellow countrymen wanted them tarred and feathered, dead or out of the country. Most chose the latter. Many of these former Loyalists were given land grants in the Bahamas by the Crown. A certain Baron Rolle was one of those loyalists. He moved with his family and his slaves to Little Exuma and established a plantation to grow cotton. Well, anyone who has been to any of the out islands of the Bahamas knows that you are not going to grow much. Rolle’s enterprise failed and he left Little Exuma, but not after freeing his slaves, many of whom took Rolle as their surname – hence the number of Rolles throughout the Exumas today. Anyway, a set of ruins, purportedly from this era, exists on a hill on Little Exuma.

Ann, after one of our many walks to the edges of the marina.
In this blog I have very seldom said anything negative about the Bahamas, the Bahamian people or the Bahamian government. That isn’t because I have nothing negative to say, it is just that I am a visitor and generally keep those opinions to myself. But there comes a point when even I can’t keep my mouth closed. The Bahamas practically depends on tourism for its existence as a nation. You would think that if they had a set of ruins, to which they refer as a “Bahamian Heritage Site,” that they might put just a little effort into taking care of it. Okay, maybe the Bahamian government doesn’t need to put up a sign explaining the importance of these particular ruins, maybe they don’t have to point out that parts of the house are not original – like the cistern with modern rebar, or the garage with a couple of wrecks inside, maybe they don’t even want to mow the grounds or maintain the property, but you would think they might want to haul away the 1960’s-era toilet and bathtub which are in the middle of the house. Apparently the Ministry of Tourism is spending its time and budget on the swimming pigs of Staniel Cay. I just can’t decide whether the government of the Bahamas is terribly inept of horribly corrupt.

Okay, now that I have vented, let me turn it over to Ann.

Ann is falling behind in her duties and can’t write this time. Send her an e-mail and encourage her to write next time.

Traveling Soul … Oops. Wait a minute
Wait! Wait! I will do my part..
Ann's Notes..
OK...there has been a lot going on in the States that I will not bore or burden you with right  now. I have been distracted by those events, I will admit.
I do want you to  know that I did enjoy my time in Georgetown very much, well...the dinghy ride not so much. 

Lori, on the first day at anchor, showed me a path across Stocking Island to get to the Atlantic side of the island. The path is used so much that you can walk it in your bare feet, at the end of the path you have the most beautiful beach to walk. Miles of white sand beaches with very little plastic on it. Michael and I tried to walk the beach at least once a day, it is good to get off the boat and enjoy your surrounding as much as you can. 
Our time together with Russ and Lori on Twin Sisters is always great. It is a blessing to find fellow cruisers that you can spend a lot of time with, relax and do some island exploring with. Thank you Russ and Lori for sharing some time with us.
Russ and Lori also introduced us to one of their friends, Erin and Chris on their boat Barefeet. They were anchored next to us in the Sand Dollar anchorage. They are real adventurers, on there first boat, a 43 foot sailing PDQ catamaran, they started their journey from Boston and it took them five years to circumnavigate the world. I went over one morning to just talk to Erin and ask questions. We also had them over for dinner They have a wed site if you want to read about their trip
NotAllThoseWhoWanderAreLost.com
Also I need to update you on our little Spot, she is going to be fine but right now she is not a well little feline. Keep her in your thoughts and send her good vibes. We love and miss her more than we can express. Dave and Joan continue to love and care for her, such a gift to have friends and family in our life that we can count on for unconditional love and support.
Thank you for following us..
Traveling Soul...OUT








  



Thursday, February 21, 2019

Black Point and George Town (1)


One of the famous "swimming pigs" near Staniel Cay.
I know we have already left Staniel Cay, but there is one observation I need to make. When we first started our Bahamian adventures; there were some wild pigs on Staniel Cay and there had been for quite a while. Over time, people had learned that if they took some food to the beach that the pigs would actually swim out to them to get the food. I guess that was kind of fun and interesting. Since then, however, the Bahamian government has taken control of the pigs, and tourists in Nassau and George Town have started coming to Staniel to see the pigs. The pigs now have their own hut and their own water trough (which they really need and I would not begrudge them). Moreover, since there are not many costs of entry into the swimming pig market, there is at least one other island (in the Abacos) that has introduced its own swimming pigs. It just seems that when people try to improve the cool and kitschy they take all the coolness and kitschy-ness out of it, and make it kind of institutional. Oh well, enough bellyaching.

Black Point

After Staniel, we went south about ten miles to Black Point. When we moved the wind had subsided somewhat and we thought it would be a relatively calm few days before we headed even further south. Well, the weather gods didn’t agree with our assessment. Although Black Point is known as a fairly well-protected anchorage, it certainly was not for us! The first night we stayed was the worst with the wind changing directions slightly and giving us a washboard night. The second night wasn’t as bad, but “good” it was not!

So why, you may be asking, did we go to Black Point in the first place. Good question. Black Point is hardly a tourist Mecca, but it is a “must” for cruisers. It is kind of like the “Chicago of the Exumas,” the city small settlement of big medium-sized shoulders that provides the necessary industrial support to cruiser-dom. Ida’s Laundry, for example, is certainly the best known and most widely used in the Exumas and perhaps the out islands of the Bahamas. Mama’s bread (made and sold in her house, just behind Lorraine’s Café) is some the best around – and her coconut bread? Magnifico! In Black Point they also weave the straw into bands that eventually become the baskets and straw hats that are sold in the straw markets around the country. And, of course, there are some cafes and bars-and-grills in Black Point – but these aren’t the fancy schmancy restaurants that have French sauces and Italian herbs, -- they serve regular old fashioned blue-collared food like pizza, hamburgers and cracked conch.





As I thought about Black Point I realized that I had to do something – like write a poem. Some of you may recall that, in high school, you had to memorize – or at least read – the poem “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg. Now Sandburg won three Pulitzers and I have yet to win my first … though I am sure it is only an oversight by the Committee. Still, I have taken a few liberties and written what should be an award winning poem called, “Black Point” which I kind of patterned after Sandburg’s masterpiece. I am only going to show you the fist stanza of each because otherwise this blog would be too long. I have posted the stanzas below. I will let you decide who deserves the Pulitzer. (P.S. I promise chocolates with every vote for mine.)

Sandburg’s Chicago

Hog Butcher for the World,

   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

   Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;

   Stormy, husky, brawling,

   City of the Big Shoulders:



    Blah, Blah, Blah …





Brown’s Black Point

Straw Weaver for the Bahamas,

Launderer, Folder of Clothes,

Sailor of boats and the Island’s Bread Maker;

Windy, skinny, dusty,

City of the Medium-sized shoulders.



And there is more to this brilliant poem.



George Town

After Black Point we decided to go south to George Town. We knew that the first half of the trip would be a little bumpy as the winds were predicted to start fairly high on Thursday and to diminish over the course of the day – and they were generally coming from the southeast, smack-dab into our direction of travel. To try to miss some of the nastiness, we left a little later than normal and we traveled inside on the “Bank” for the first part of the trip. (The Exuma Bank is no more than 20-25 feet deep and is generally protected from waves, if not winds, by the chain of islands. The Exuma Sound, on the other hand, is on the other side of the islands and basically part of the Atlantic. It can get very, very deep out there and much, much wavier and choppier.) After staying inside for about an hour, we exited into the Sound via Farmers Cut out and found that the weather people were very correct – it was not particularly calm on the Sound side. Again, we have been through worse, but it was kind of rough. Over time the seas calmed down as the forecasters said they would and I eventually dropped a line off the transom – to no avail, I might add – but by the time we reached George Town the seas had pretty well reasonably smooth.

George Town is quite a place. For some cruisers it is Mecca; they come here at the beginning of winter and stay for the entire season. There is a regatta which lasts for about two weeks that includes dinghy racing, volleyball, sailboat races, softball and many, many other events. In the past there have been as many as 300 or more boats in the harbor, though this year I think the number is nearer 280. It is difficult to tell how many boats are here at any one time because, in addition to the stalwarts who spend the whole season, there are a lot of people like us who pop in for a few days then pop out again.

Anchoring at George Town
With 280 boats you can imagine that it might be difficult to find a good spot to anchor. True, Elizabeth Harbor is pretty big, but everyone wants to anchor in places with the same general characteristics: they want a place where the holding is good (generally meaning a sandy bottom), that is close to the various attractions in the area, that will have some kind of protection from the wind as it shifts from E-W-N-S, and that is deep enough (6-ish feet) without being too deep (15-ish feet). As a result, about 2/3 of the boats anchor near one of the beaches: Honeymoon, Monument, Chat and Chill or Sand Dollar. Once the captain and crew have decided the beach at which they want to anchor, though, the fun really begins. Since everyone is looking for the same kind of spot, the captain has to make sure he has enough swing room. Basically, he has to make sure the precise spot at which he drops his anchor allow the boat to swing 360 degrees at the end of whatever length of rode (chain/rope line) he has chosen to deploy and his neighbors have chosen without bumping in to anyone else. Because every boat swings differently and because every boat has differing amounts of rode out, it can get tricky.

Traveling Soul at anchor on Valentines Day in George Town, Bahamas. This
photo was taken by our friends Chris and Erin.
The way Ann and I handle this is to observe the anchorage as we are approaching. Then we try to identify a “hole” in the layout where we think we would fit. Because we are a big boat, we usually try to locate “our” hole near the perimeter of the anchored boats. Now here comes the tricky part. Let’s say we have identified the hole that we want to fill and the location where we want our boat to rest. Now, based both on the existing wind and current AND on the wind and current we expect over the next several days, we have to identify the exact spot where we want to drop the anchor so the boat will settle in to our chosen location. That, my friends, is much more difficult than it sounds. But we are still not finished.

Let’s say we have done all the above, dropped our hook, looked around after we have settled to make sure we are not violating anyone else’s space, and grabbed a cold one to celebrate another successful anchoring.  Now we have to defend our territory. Whenever someone comes anywhere near Traveling Soul with the intent to anchor, I continue what I am doing – reading, writing, eating, drinking, etc. – but I keep an eye on them. If they anchor a goodly distance away, all is good. If they start coming a little close for comfort, however, I will often go out front on the foredeck, sit down and just observe them. This is basically sending a signal, “Don’t you think you might be getting a bit close?” If they continuing anchoring, I will get my camera, take a picture and use my laser rangefinder to check the distance. If they get really close, that is the time for the “bitch-wing” stare. I stand on the boat, hands on hips, staring at the intruder. Very few boaters can withstand the bitch-wing stare. By the way, this isn’t a Brown invention. There have been one or two occasions where, after dropping the anchor, our boat has drifted too close to another boat – and we have been the subject of the same process.

In George Town we generally anchor at Sand Dollar Beach. It is far enough way from the hubbub of the Chat and Chill Bar, with fewer boats than the other anchorages and usually with more of the larger power boats (like us). From there we often take our dinghy ashore and walk some of the trails that lead to the other side of Stocking Island.

Enjoying George Town

One of the beaches on the Exuma Sound side of Stocking
Island. we walk here almost every day. You are right. There
are no footprints but ours.
Generally, I think it fair to say that George Town is not our favorite place. Everybody is trying to organize everything, especially during the regatta). This year, though, we have had a good time primarily because of our friends Russ and Lori aboard Twin Sisters. Russ and Lori are among the folks who spend a lot of time in George Town. As a result, they know just about everything there is to know about the place and everyone worth knowing. Lori, for example, showed Ann the location of the trails that lead from the beaches on one side of Stocking Island to beaches on the other. Russ and Lori have also guided us to some of the better local eating establishments (they are kind of semi-foodies like we are). They came over for dinner for Valentine’s Day and went to the Cruiser’s Variety Show with them. All in all they have been very good friends.

We also met Chris and Erin aboard Barefeet, a Selene trawler. Before buying their current boat they owned a 44’ sailing catamaran, also called Barefeet, on which they accomplished a circumnavigation. We had them over for drinks once and will try to have dinner with them another night before we go. We want to hear the stories!!

Hundreds upon hundreds of cans of sardines. Nirvana!!
One thing people do when they stop at George Town is re-provision. They have free water (very unusual in the Exumas) for those without a watermaker and a pretty good grocery store. Now, very few of you know the peculiar direction my lunchtime culinary preferences have taken recently, but several months ago Ann asked me if I liked sardines. I don’t think I have had them for three or four decades, but as I recall I used to like them. So we bought a can. OMG I fell in love. Okay, I would rather have lobster, conch, salmon, grouper, trout, snapper, shrimp, crab, or many other types of seafood, but for an inexpensive lunchtime seafood-in-a-can, it is pretty darn good. Moreover, you have several choices; there are sardines in mineral water, olive oil, soya, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, Louisiana Hot Sauce, and in sriracha. There are sardines with green peppers, jalapeno peppers and red peppers. And there are many, many others. When I find one that I haven’t tried, I automatically buy it just so I can taste it. We have found that Giant Supermarkets in the States has a pretty good selection, as does Safeway and surprisingly, Piggly Wiggly. Equally as surprising, Publix, Florida’s main supermarket, does not. As you can see, I have turned into kind of a sardine gourmand. I say all this so you can understand how astounded I was when I looked for sardines in George Town. Good Lord, it was a sardine lover’s dream. There were hundreds of cans on display of all different kinds. I was expecting to hear music in the background. And while one normally does not take photographs in the grocery store I couldn’t contain myself.

Ann’s Notes:  So…I will only add a few more things…

A lot has been happening on the home front while we have been away and the most recent one is about our sweet little feline Spot.

As you all know Dave and Joan are taking care of her while we are in the Bahamas, damn Bahamian government for denying her entry permit. It may have been a blessing in disguise.

For some reason Spot has a history of getting UTI’s. If you recall we had to make a beeline to Belhaven NC to get her to a vet for antibiotics. I now carry antibiotics with me on board, just in case.

Last Monday I got a facebook message from Joan saying that they are taking Spot to the Vet because she had a UTI. Before we left Spot, in that night mare of a trip in one day from FL to VA, in a snow storm, I found a Vet in Woodbridge, close to Dave and Joan’s house. They made an appointment a few days later just to meet the Vet and the Vet to examine Spot just in case his services were needed. I am glad that I can be over organized at times,

Spot assisting Dave in wrapping presents
So back to the Spot story, Dave and Joan took her in, the Vet was concerned, she had a pretty bad UTI and kept her over night. They gave her an IV, an injection of antibiotics, and sedated her to do some X-rays of her kidneys to make sure she did not have any kidney stones. While being x-rayed the vet did a chest x-ray.  Now at this point D and J are beside themselves, just leaving her over night was hard on them.

They picked her up the following day as soon as the office was open and then got more bad news. The chest X-ray shows a tumor near her heart. It must have been so very hard to make that phone call to us, they explained and repeated what the Vet said and let us decide what to do next.

Needless to say it was a shock…some tears on my part and lots of conversation between Michael and I.

Spot in is no immediate danger, she is acting like her sweet feline self, jumping up to high places, chirping at birds and squirrels, eating, drinking, using the litter box and demanding that her staff pay attention to her. She is in no pain or discomfort.

The plan is once we get back to MD, we will have a specialist read the X-rays, get a second opinion, get another set of X-rays to see if the tumor is growing, what kind of tumor it is and what the course of action should be to reduce the tumor or remove it is necessary.

D and J are more than friends, they are more like family. Joan sends at least one picture a day of Spot doing something, like helping Dave wrap a package for mailing. They are a blessing.

Thank you for following us…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Monday, February 11, 2019

White Cay, Nassau, Highbourne and Staniel Cay

White Cay.
After Great Harbour Cay our intention was to head directly to Nassau. However, when we looked at the weather forecasts it appeared as if there were going to be two, count ‘em, two days of good weather. We decided we would divide our trip to Nassau into two. In Phase I we would stop at one of the beautiful anchorages of the Berry Islands and spend the night. Phase II would be from the Berries to Nassau. Oh, by the way, on both phases of the trip we would have a chance to drag a line and see if possibly, maybe, we could, you know, catch a fish.
I am writing this part of the blog after the first phase. We are now sitting just west of White Cay, north of Devil’s Cay and to the east of Fowl Cay. It isn’t a perfect anchorage in that there is a bit of roll (we’ll see how bad it is tonight), but the holding appears adequate and the view is spectacular. There are three beaches within dinghy range so we downloaded our dinghy and visited them. On one, we actually went ashore. Imagine, exploring a deserted Bahamian Island. OK, maybe we weren’t the first people there, but you would hardly know it from the environs. There was hardly anything man made on the island, other than the remnants of an old aluminum chair that someone left behind years ago.  I wonder if the chair has a story. Nor were there any human footprints – a few birds had left tracks and maybe a lizard or two but nothing else. It was cool. We wanted to visit the other islands, but we didn’t arrive at the anchorage until 1400 and I wasn’t going to miss happy hour at 1700. Moreover, we kind of got stuck at the first beach.
One of the beaches at White Cay. You
 can also see some of the many variations on the color "blue."
It was really kind of embarrassing. Normally when you approach a sandy beach, you turn off the engine, lift your motor out of the water and coast into the beach. The lifting mechanism on the dinghy has been giving me problems lately, so we couldn’t get it all the way up. We still got in to the beach and did our exploring, but when we got back to the dink, the motor was dug into the sand.  I know, I know, the answer is easy. All we have to do is lift a 25 horsepower Yamaha motor (about 150 pounds) out of the sand in which it is stuck. Not so easy when you are waist deep in water. Anyway, after about 10 minutes of twisting and turning we got it out and went back to our boat.
Our embarrassment, however, was nothing compared to one of the sailboats that came in to the anchorage., Two buddy boats had come in, dropped their anchor and appeared to have had either had dinner or drinks with one another. About 1830, just as its visitors were leaving, one of the bots starting moving backwards. We knew right away what was happening – their anchor was dragging. One of the oddities about a dragging anchor is that captain and crew do not necessarily realize they are dragging unless they have set an alarm or they are watching your surroundings. Anyway, as soon as we realized what was happening we tried to call them on the radio. Most people, though, turn off their radio as soon as they are set in an anchorage – as did the crew of Starry Night. Luckily, they only dragged about 100 yards before they realized what was happening and got their engine started; they were only about 50 yards from the beach. You can imagine what would have happened if they would have dragged that night when all were asleep. It would not have been pretty!
We departed the next morning with fishing lines deployed. The depth water in the Northeast Providence Channel varies, but in places it is over 8000 feet deep – certainly deep enough for mahi-mahi and Wahoo. So … where the hell are they? We covered about 60 miles of ocean and you can’t tell me that zero mahi-mahi saw our lures. I mean, come on, I have been skunked before but never quite so badly! (Ok, maybe that’s not technically true. I have been skunked before just as badly … but never worse!!)
Nassau
You know you are in Nassau when you see the Cruise Ships!
We pulled into Nassau Harbor Club Marina about 1500. We joined our friends Vic and Gigi aboard Salty Turtle as well as our friends Stephen and Jill aboard Jillaroo. We had Vic and Gigi over for drinks Thursday night and we regaled one another with boat and Bahama stories – some of them actually true! Salty Turtle is on its way back to the States to replace a generator (and lordy, lord, lord do we know how THAT feels). Vic and Gigi are kind of half-Bahamian anyway, so even though they may not make it back this year, we are sure to see them next year.
We have been at the Nassau Harbor Club before, but it has been several years. Amazingly, many of the dockhands and workers remember us and our boat. Dudley, the dockmaster, and Peter, the owner, are two of those who we remember well and both seem to remember us also. Two of the guys we remember, however, have recently passed away, Smitty, who used to clean our boat, and Clark, one of the dockhands. I am wondering if the marina has some bad juju. Yikes!
 I have several tasks to accomplish while we are here, some of them are big and some very little. If they are checked off, I have finished them.
ü  1. I have to get Ann to Starbucks – and fast. She may go into some kind of a frenzy otherwise. “Our Starbucks is right across the street from the marina. Needless to say, the afternoon that we arrived in Nassau, Ann had her first Starbucks since leaving the States.
ü  2. I have to find a heavy duty float switch to replace the one we currently have that sticks. Then, of course, I have to physically replace the current switch. Found it and it cost $72.50. It went in pretty easily, however. AND it seems to be working.
ü  3. I have to try and figure out why it is so difficult to adjust the angle of the dinghy motor. Ok, I have figured out how the motor raises and lowers. I have figured how it stays in place. But for the life of me I can’t figure out why it won’t stay in place when raised or lowered. All the pieces seem to be working individually, but when put together they don’t accomplish their mission. ‘Tis perplexing. 
ü  4. I have to flush our watermaker. Over time, the membrane in the watermaker accumulates salt. Flushing it with fresh water once in a while improves the quality of our RO water and extends the life of the membrane. I have flushed the watermaker several times. It seems to be working -- most of the time. Today, though, the alarm went off for seemingly no reason.
ü  5. Ann and I have to change the oil. We try to change it every 150 (or so) hours. That means once before we leave the Chesapeake and once while in the Bahamas.  Lord, changing oil in a big Detroit Diesel is a messy job. The engines take 5 gallons each, so for our two engines that is ten gallons in and in and ten gallons out. Plus, 0f course the oil filters.
We had a couple of windy days in Nassau, but by Saturday afternoon the wind subsided and on Sunday morning we were out of there and on our way to the Exumas. Highbourne Cay was our first stop.
Exumas
The Exumas are an archipelago of 365 cays and islands, of which 20 are inhabited – with barely 7000 people. Moreover, 2500 of these folks live in George Town. As you can see, there are a number of deserted and uninhabited islands in the chain. For cruisers, the Exumas are THE place to go in the Bahamas. There are a few marinas (four, and one “kind of” being built. In the Bahamas, you can’t count on anything being built until it is finished.), but there are hundreds, maybe thousands of decent anchorages. 
The evening view from the restaurant at Highbourne Cay. 
The food is even better!
The real call of the Exumas, however, is not the islands, it is the surrounding seas. It is everything you have seen on a postcard and more. If I were a religious man I would be willing to swear that the day God invented the color blue he created the Exumas to show off His creation. From some anchorages, you can look into the distance and count a dozen different shades of blue. And looking down, you can see 20, 30 or more feet into the water. In fact, on an earlier trip, we could look into the water and literally see starfish crawling along the bottom. The Exumas are really something.
After heading south from Nassau, one of the first of the Exuma cays you run across is Highbourne Cay. Highbourne has a very nice beach that faces the Atlantic – which is basically the other side of the island from where we anchor – but that is not why we go there; it has a nice and surprisingly well-stocked general store, but that isn’t why we go there either. We go to Highbourne because it has what we consider to be the best restaurant in the Exumas. It has a magnificent view, but what sells the restaurant is the food. I had Shrimp Linguine and Ann had a  lobster Mac and Cheese with Beet Salad. Both meals were scrumptious. This year there was a second reason to go to Highbourne. It was Superbowl Sunday. We sat next to two young German couples, the males of which were both American football fanatics and knew more than we did about football.
Highbourne was only an overnight anchorage. The next day we were off to Hawksbill Cay, an island within the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We had been to Hawksbill before, but didn’t really get a chance to explore it. Last year there were some significant winds and we spent most of our time hunkered down avoiding the gale-like conditions. This year we got a chance to explore inland a ways, and noted the peculiar geology, but we did not make it to the ruins.
One of the famous, spoiled swimming pigs at Staniel Cay.
The ruins belonged to the Russell family, who were Loyalists during the American Revolution. After the War, many of these loyalists were being driven out of the new United States by revolutionaries who condemned all loyalty to Britain. Particularly in the south, Loyalist plantation owners were driven off their land, often tarred and feathered, even raped and murdered. Some got out with their families and possessions, and some were cast nearly naked to the winds of fate. Many headed for the Bahamas to make a new start in life. In 1785 the Russell family was given a grant to settle on Hawksbill Cay. They tried to make a go of plantation living until 1830, when they finally departed. There are rumors, however, that the last member of the family did not leave the island until 1900.
After Hawksbill, we needed to get some internet service so we headed to Staniel Cay. Staniel is outside of the Park and has a BTC tower, so we get extraordinarily good telephone and internet reception. Staniel is also the home of the renowned Staniel Cay Yacht Club. In the past I have described the Yacht Club as a kitschy, ex-patriot kind of facility where you kind of expect Sidney Greenstreet or Humphrey Bogart to be looming in the background. It still has some of that feel, but things are changing. A couple of years ago they built a new dining room and have since shrunk the old one. The new dining room looks … well … like a dining room, not like the Club with the old fashioned pictures and aging memorabilia of a few years ago. There is, however, one oddity. On a wall next to the TV the Club has hanging the flag that Secretary of War Stimson used at the Yalta Conference during WWII. I wonder what the story behind that flag is.
Well, here we are at Big Major Spot, the anchorage off Staniel Cay, waiting for some weather to pass so we can go to Black Point, just down the chain a little. Until next time …
Ann’s Notes
 Michael has pretty much covered our adventure so far. I have my own list of “To Do” while in Nassau.
First is Starbucks, Michael was correct in saying it was on my priority list every day that I could walk across the street. I even got my ice coffee the morning we departed. And an extra bonus was they refill my Venti cup I use when I am back home. YES…I take my starbucks cup with me to the Bahamas when there is a possibility of stopping in Nassau.
Second, there is a wonderful grocery store, Fresh Market owned by the Solomons food chain. It is like shopping in a normal USA store only most of the items are higher in price. For example a box of Triscuts is seven dollars.
Third the grocery store has a juice bar and they make the best pineapple mango smoothies ever, all fresh fruit, a little ice and no milk…beyond yummy, I had a few of those also.
Fourth there is a beauty salon in the shopping center, so it was girl time for me and I got a pedi. So nice be pampered
Lastly…I like Nassau, not for a long visit but three or four days is good and a bus ride downtown is always fun. Just to people watch, have some lunch and buy a few things.
It was good to see Vic and Gigi, they gave us their latest boat card which is actually a CD of their favorite music. We have been collecting one a year since 2012. They spend almost their whole winter months in the Exumas and have been doing that for many years. They both know most of the local Bahamian on the Exuma islands. He is even the official photographer for the school children on these small islands. One school has only eight children and since their RO water maker broke, the school has no fresh water. Vic takes the pictures, prints them and gives them to the kids and their family, all at his expense and the goodness of his heart. He truly loves the children, such a kind and generous soul.
While in Nassau I had time to do a daily walk, my new friend Jill came with me and we had a great time getting to know each other better.
All I can say about the restaurant Xuma is YUM, every meal we have had there has been delicious. The three things you can count on in that restaurant are:
1 The food is fresh and delicious
2 The view is breath taking
3 The check will always be higher than expected
We love to anchor at Highbourne, the holding is good and the cell tower is close. The down side is when you go to the restaurant in your dinghy for dinner it is still light outside, than after dinner you need to get back into the dinghy and it is DARK, like pitch black…ok..there are anchor lights on the boats but they are tiny, compared to the darkness of the sky, the water, and the reefs we need to pass through to get back to boat. Thank heaven Michael has a better sense of direction than I do. My job is to scan the horizon with our spot light and look for the edges of the reefs until we are in the open water of our anchorage. It is a white knuckle experience for me, however I trust my captain to get me home safely. In case you did not understand, I don’t like dinghy rides at night.
That is about all I have to add…Just I still miss our little feline Spot.
Also I want to thank Dave and Joan, Joan sends a daily picture of Spot to us..
Thank you for following us.
Traveling Soul…OUT