Monthly Archives: February 2016

There’s talent in Great Exuma.

It’s Sunday morning and we are in Georgetown, Great Exuma.  Yesterday we headed the 1.5+ miles across the harbor and made our way around town.  It was plenty windy and bumpy with that long fetch so we were happy that we had invested in a dink with a high bow.  Without a high bow we would have gotten soaked.   When you are cruising the dink is like the family car and we have a good one.

As promised in my last post, we attended the talent show associated with the Cruiser’s Regatta held in Regatta Square, a sort of town green where the Bahamas Sloop Regatta is headquartered every April.  That event is one of the biggest in the Bahamas and draws sloops from all over the Bahamas for several days of racing.  Sloop racing in the Bahamas is revered on the level that baseball is in the U.S. and everybody shows up for the party.

Anyway, the cruiser’s regatta is held here each year in late February and they tie in with a number of Exuma Bahamas community events.  One of the more collaborative efforts was held yesterday, a talent show.

There were loads of acts and the entire event began shortly after noon and continued until well after dark.  Brenda and I enjoyed watching a good portion of it and it was a lot of fun.  As mature cruisers we had to head back while it was still light.  Besides, if we had stayed to the end we would have run the risk of missing our bedtime of “cruiser’s midnight”.  For the landlubbers among you, that’s 9pm.

The show as great fun and I’d say that about half of the acts were by local Bahamian groups including a particularly cute one that included some local scout groups.  The group was quite “age diverse” and very cute.  I don’t who was cuter, the little ones or the very enthusiastic adult leaders.  It was a fun show. There were also a number of dance numbers by local girls.  Very entertaining. One of our good friends, the always shy and retiring,  Cathy (the second from the right) from Five and Dime was part of a very funny spoof song about couples anchoring foibles.    Brenda and I can tell you from our own experience, there’s no shortage of material in “couples anchoring”, perhaps among the best spectator sports afloat.   They were even in matching costumes.  You know about retired “A types” with time on their hands, right?  They have plenty of time and energy to come up with the tune and words and between them they have plenty of “experience” to draw on. There were also a number of numbers that drew on popular songs including this dance number, set to the words of These Boots Were Made for Walking.  I guess anyone remembering this number is dating themselves and there were plenty in audience singing along.   I guess the lead singer planned ahead as there aren’t many places locally to buy thigh high boots.   Yes, very well organized and as provocative as a group of women of a “certain age” could make it.   Love the high kicking and “sea boots”. The audience was very enthusiastic and appreciative.   And what a crowd it was, all settled in for the duration with their lawn chairs. And, all those lawn chairs mean a lot of dinks.  It was tough to find a parking spot. Today the wind has picked up a bit more out of the east to about 20kts so getting across the harbor to town would make for a very wet ride so we’ll stay on board or perhaps go for a walk on Stocking Island later today.  Tonight we are having our friends Phillip and Joanne along with their very cute tiny dog Cricket aboard for dinner.  That will be fun.

Oh yeah, there will be a Caribbean sailing session on the beach nearby where some cruisers who have spent time in the islands will be talking about their experiences.  Brenda and I plan on being there next season so that should be very interesting.

For now, we are thinking hard about Cuba and any last minute details.  We may need to get a few last minute vaccines on Monday for Hep A and Cholera. Oops, missed that.

Over organized or not, it’s fun to be here and it’s clear that there is a lot of talent in the cruising community and they have plenty of time to show it off.

I guess that’s about it for now.

Georgetown, winter home of retired “A types”.

It’s Saturday morning and we are now in Georgetown, Great Exuma.  THE place that cruisers hang out in the Bahamas.  And, there are a LOT of them, around 350 boats at last count.   In fact, some have been here since November, to be sure that they get the best anchoring spot.  Saved seat!!!

On Monday the BIG EVENT happens here, the Cruisers Regatta, when all those cruisers that have not moved for months head out to race against each other.   “Quick, Alice, eat the heavy stuff, I’ll drink the rum, that’s heavy too.  We want the boat to sail faster. ”

And, with so many boats crammed into one harbor, surprise, anchoring spots are coveted.   And, those boats that are moving, if only for a day or racing, put down a temporary anchor to “hold their spot”.    Go ahead, make their day.  Take their spot at your  mortal risk…

And, as you would imagine, with all these cruisers (AKA: retired A types) jammed into one place, for months at a time, things are pretty well organized.  Ya think?   Actually, “think Regatta”, now that’s ORGANIZED.

Each morning at 08:00 there is a “net” on the radio when everything, and I mean everything, is discussed.  There are community announcements from local businesses as well as a rundown of who’s arrived and who’s leaving.  And, if you have something you need, or want to unload, there’s an opportunity to do that too.  There is so much to cover that it takes nearly 45 minutes to get through it all.  As you can imagine, Brenda particularly “loves” the constant click of mikes, the hard (for us) to understand accents and folks that seem to be chewing on their mike so you CANT UNDERSTAND A SINGLE WORD THEY ARE SAYING.  Let’s just say that “Static” isn’t her favorite.  I guess I bring enough of that to her life. But I like to think that I do it with a smile.  Yes, I am sticking with that.

With the biggest event of the year,  “regatta”, beginning this weekend (it runs a whole week) there is a veritable frenzy of events leading up to the races .  And, guess what, committees have been formed for just every aspect and  whatever you could wish for, or not.   And, there’s even a “talent show” today.  That should make for a great post.

And, rain or shine, and it just about never rains here, you can participate in yoga on the beach, church on Sunday and there’s even water exercise, a sort of low impact for the “mature” among us, which would be just about EVERYBODY who’s here, present company included.

Anyway, it’s an interesting place, in “appropriate” doses.  I expect that our “dose” this year will be about a week as we re-provision for our run to Cuba and wait for a good weather window to move south.

Yesterday we made the 60+ mile run here from Staniel Cay with a good wind.  And, as usual, Pandora moved right along and we completed the trip at an average speed of nearly 7 knots with only a moderate wind, on a deep run.  We only had the main up as it’s tough to run the jib on a deep reach and it just doesn’t fill well and tends to bang around a lot.

We were glad to get underway as the prior night had been really rolly in the anchorage.  I made the mistake of anchoring to close to the cut leading to the ocean and waves coming in from the ocean wrapped around, causing a very uncomfortable rolling all night.  We both slept in the main cabin as it was just too bumpy up forward.  Oops.  Bad anchoring spot.  Brenda said, “it wasn’t my favorite”.

However, we had a great few days, prior to that, with the always wonderful sunsets.  No green flash but beautiful. There isn’t much rain here in for much of the year so vegetation is sparse.  And, the “soil”, well there isn’t any to speak of, is on a bed of porous limestone.  Pretty rugged though and beautiful in the late afternoon light.  This is our third visit to Georgetown and we are anchored near “monument beach”, opposite the town, about one mile away. This was the view from Pandora.  It’s very pretty in the morning light. The first time we visited here, three years ago, Christopher, Rob and his now wife Kandice came to town for a week and we hiked up to the top of the hill for a “monument moment”.  That was a wonderful time together.  Not the “I wish I was jumping with them” part, the “having them here” part.Well, if I don’t sign off and head for town I won’t  see what the “in” cruising crowd does here for the winter and won’t have anything for another post.   Yikes, that just wouldn’t do.   Keeping busy is what us retired “A” types must do… Right?

Quick, quick, gotta go Brenda, we might miss something.


Turning our thoughts toward Cuba.

It’s Wednesday morning and we are anchored off of the “pig beach” here in Big Major Spot, near Staniel Cay in the Exumas.  This island is famous for it’s resident pig population.  How odd is that?  Pigs?  We have been here before and I wrote about one of those visits.  Another front is headed our way, although it’s not going to be a particularly strong one, unlike some of the ones that hit earlier in the season with such annoying westerly winds.

Our plan is to hang out here until Friday when  the winds shift to the north so we can have a good sail for the 55 mile run down to Georgetown where we will begin our preparation to make the jump to Cuba by mid March.

Although the front isn’t going to be all that strong, it will bring a westerly component wind for a day or so until it shifts back to a northerly component later in the week.  As we don’t want to be on a lee shore, with those westerly winds, we will be moving behind the island nearby to get shelter and also be in a convenient spot to begin our run south to Georgetown.

Once we are in Georgetown, we will be able to do some re-provisioning prior to leaving for Cuba.  As there are so many boats in Georgetown, more than 350 at last count, I expect that we will find some folks that we know.

We are also hoping that we will be able to hook up with another boat or two that are headed to Cuba so that we can “buddy-boat” with them on our run south.  It will be nice to have some company on our long run south.

I know that Brenda is anxious about our multi-day run south to Cuba so by extension, I am too.  It’s important that I make this as comfortable as possible for her as the run of 350 miles is about twice as long as her furthest run to date.

It’s nice to be back on the hook again as the boat rides much more comfortably when she’s pointed into the wind as opposed to being blown onto a dock by wind on the beam as was the case at Over Yonder Cay.  However, it’s tough to have left behind the comforts, and great WIFI of Over Yonder Cay.  This photo of the pavilion where we had our last lunch prior to leaving a few days ago certainly is a good illustration of how beautiful the spot is.
Oh yeah, I should mention that when we left OYC the other day we did so at dead low and promptly ran aground as we headed out onto the banks.  It’s amazing how much of a difference 6″ of draft makes when compared to our “old” Pandora.  Being stuck on the bottom for about two hours as we waited for the tide to come up was an ample reminder that we were indeed “not in Kansas any more” as we left OYC in our wake.

And even though it took almost three hours to go the 5 miles from OYC to where we are now, with 2+ hours stuck on a sand bank, we were rewarded with a nearly full moon rising spectacularly as we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit. Oh yeah, when it comes to running around, there are two types of boaters, one that runs aground and those who lie about it.   Me, I  don’t lie…on a regular basis.

So, while it’s a week or two until we head south to Cuba we are both looking forward to the trip with a mixture of anxiety about the unknown and excitement about the possibilities.

And, boy, do I ever wish I had taken Spanish when I was in highschool.  Perhaps Brenda’s study of Latin will help.  Hmm…

Well,  I guess that’s about it for now.  Time to move to a more sheltered spot.   Along the way today we hope to have lunch at the newly renovated Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  They have a very nice addition to their dining room and that will be fun to enjoy.  No, it’s not a “yacht club” by U.S. standards but it’s pretty nice never the less.

Heading yonder from Over Yonder. It’s hard to leave.

It’s Monday morning and it looks like it’s time to move on from Over Yonder Cay where we have been for several days.  Ethan has been a terrific host during our stay and has made us feel welcome and very much at home.

This island, very much the vision of Ed, the owner, is a really remarkable island and I now have a much better feel for the complexity of what went in to developing it and in keeping a place like this running smoothly.   About 20 of the 30 employees that are working here on any given day are brought to the island from nearby Black Point Settlement by Ethan who shoves off from the marina dock at about 6:30 to make the hour round trip and then takes them back at the end of the day.

Along with the day to day trimming of plantings and general cleaning on the island, there are constant upgrades to infrastructure equipment.

I can’t imagine how complicated it is for Ethan and the staff to keep up with everything but they do.  In just the last few weeks, the solar system was upgraded and a new reverse osmosis plant was put into operation, just to mention two large projects.

Ethan was kind enough to share some construction photos with me that give a pretty good idea of the scale of what went into putting this facility together.

This photo is from early in the construction process when there wasn’t much on the island.  The round cut in the top center was the beginning of the dredging of the harbor, carved out of solid limestone.    It’s a lot different now.
Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, had to be brought in by water including really heavy stuff like this tractor.  And, when it breaks, and yes, everything breaks in this harsh environment, Ethan had to find a way to fix it “in the bush”.   No simple feat.   I am sure that Ethan would agree that when it comes to keeping a remote island running smoothly, “it’s always something” as Gilda Radner’s character Roseanne Roseanadana once famously said.
Where there are now perfect paths made of millions of cement pavers, there was nothing but sand.
The beginnings of a totally “green” island.  If they didn’t have the solar and wind farms, the cost keep the lights on would be in the millions of dollars per year in fuel alone.    And that doesn’t even take into account the carbon footprint of an island powered by diesel generators.  Not many islands in the Bahamas have embraced alternative energy but they should as it just makes sense. Unlike most construction in the Bahamas that is primarily cement, the buildings here are primarily of frame construction.   Just getting enough skilled labor to put up these very complex structures must have been a daunting. When Brenda and I were here for our last visit two years ago, Ethan gave us a half day tour of every inch of the island.  I wrote about it in this post.  It’s worth checking out to see just how far they have come in creating a near perfect oasis  “over yonder” in the Bahamas.

Have a hankering to visit?  Here’s the Over Yonder Cay site complete with some amazing video footage, so you can contact them yourself.

Brenda and I hate to leave and sure hope that we’ll be invited back soon.

I guess I’d better get ready to head out so I’ll leave it at that for now.


Here is Over Yonder for us.

It’s Saturday morning and Brenda and I are chilling out at Over Yonder Cay.  It’s pretty windy so we are pinned to the dock and couldn’t leave even if we wanted to, which we don’t.

The wind is blowing about 20 from the east but it should ease up in a day or so.  For now, it’s shore time for us.   Tonight we will cook out at the pavilion near the beach,  a beautiful spot with a great kitchen and it’s NOT BEING USED so we can hang out there all by ourselves.   Brenda tells me that dinner will be flank steak, smashed twice baked potatoes and grilled veggies.  Yum.

Last night we were visited aboard Pandora for dinner by Ethan, Jamie and their new baby Levi as well as Jamie’s mother Sherry .   Levi was so good. So was everyone else but you know how babies can be when grownups keep them out too late.  Brenda doing her thing practicing at being a grandmother when Levi finally decided to cry a little.  I expect that he saved his full wail for when his parents finally decided to go to bed.   Better them than me.    Been there, done that.  Such a good baby.  Love the camo pants.  Ethan gave me a tour of the island today.  I was particularly interested in the new RO system that they just installed last week.  It’s just huge. This is the flow meter showing that it is producing 48 gallons per minute.  Amazing. That means that the capacity of the system is 70,000 gallons per 24 hours.   No need to ration water here.  No kidding.   The system aboard Pandora only generates 6 gallons per hour.  Actually, that’s more my speed and a lot more pocketbook friendly.

And, all of the power for the island comes from solar and wind.   There are three huge turbines and about 1.5 acres of solar panels. While most of the power comes from solar, I personally just love the turbines. They make a gentle (well, gentle for something two hundred feet tall) whooshing sound. They have backup generators but they only get used a few times per year.   But hey, when you need em, you need em. The island also consumes a great deal of manpower with about 30 people working on most any day.  Each morning at about 06:30 someone from the island takes a skiff over to the local settlements, Black Point and Staniel Cay to pick up about 20 day workers.  And, as an added bonus, if you work here you are fed breakfast and lunch, compliments of OYC.  Such a deal.

I took a run to drop off some folks last night.  What a ride.  And I thought that 9kts on Pandora was fast.   Can you say white knuckle?When we stopped at the dock everyone scrambled off in an instant.  In spite of the bumpy ride and 40kts boat speed, everyone (but me) just casually sat on the gunnels, checking their e-mail and looking at Facebook.   Dressed in only shorts and a t-shirt, I immediately realized that I had made a mistake when everyone else showed up in hoodies and wind breakers.   It was pretty brisk with the 40+ kt apparent winds as we blasted along.  I have noticed that when Bahamians get behind the wheel of a powerboat, the only speed that they know is “full out”.    In this case, all 500 horses screaming.I guess it’s like just about like any other commute.   However, for the “big kids” this is the preferred mode of transportation.   I can’t say that I blame them.  What a ride.  And, there are two of them available at all times.   It’s sort of like Enterprise Car rental for the .01%.  “We pick you up.”  And, they do, and in style. I understand that the plane was painted yellow by the previous owner because he flew all over South America and he wanted to have a plane that would show up as much as possible if he ended up ditching in the jungle.   Good thinking.  It looks just awesome.  My dad would have “gone bonkers” (as he used to say) over this one.

And the pilot Scott, carefully washes down every inch of the plane (with part of that 70,000 gallons of RO water) after each flight and wipes it down with a special anti-corrosion liquid.   So, what kind of anchor does a sea plane carry?  Fortress aluminum, what else?  You probably didn’t even know it carried an anchor anyway.

The views from the plane must look like this but from WAY higher up. I took this shot from one of the highest points on the island.   Not a terribly crowded anchorage.
One of the local “residents” was quite curious as I passed by. Pandora looks just wonderful on the dock all by herself in this morning’s light.  Well, by herself if you don’t count the yellow plane.  What a combo. Perhaps I’ll close with an Over Yonder Cay sunset, hopefully not the last we will enjoy before we head south next week. Lots to do and explore today so I’ll sign off for now.   If you feel like heading “Over Yonder”, this is the place to go.

Blasting along to Over Yonder.

It’s Friday morning and we are tied up the dock at Over Yonder Cay.  You may recall that we had visited this private island once before about two years ago.   The island is private and available for charter.  Fortunately, we are friends with the owner Ed, so visiting on Pandora is possible.

We were particularly excited about seeing Ethan and Jamie who work on the island.  They were newly weds when we visited last time and now have growing family.  Very exciting.  We will be having them to dinner aboard Pandora tonight.  It will be a fun to catch up.

The run from Nassau here is a bit over 75 miles, a pretty good distance, but we did it in a single day on Pandora with a stiff breeze that peaked at near 30kts as we arrived yesterday afternoon.  I  was so pleased to have the bow thruster as I maneuvered up to the dock in such strong winds.

The wind was from the north so our run was a beam to broad reach the whole way.  We were blasting along at nearly 10kts much of the time.   What a thrill.   This video gives you a feel of now stable Pandora is at speed, even with a pretty good chop on the banks.
What the heck, how about another short piece of her speeding along. Love to go fast but it’s a bit unnerving to see the bottom through the clear water. At a few points along the way we only had a few feet under the keel and as we crossed the Yellow Banks, we had to dodge the coral heads that come pretty close to the surface.  Fortunately, they show up well and look like black ink spots on the water.   I don’t want to think would have happened if we had hit at those speeds.
The wind here on the dock was pretty strong last evening and is sill nearly 20kts today.  Pandora is being pressed hard against the dock.  Good thing I have lots of big fenders.

Take a look at these numbers?  Not a huge amount of apparent wind to be going this fast.  And, she hardly heeled at all, perhaps 12 degrees.    Wow, fast boat.    We passed another boat of similar size that left about an hour before we did from Nassau.  It didn’t take long till she disapeared over the horizon behind us. Our average speed for the run, including about 90 total minutes of motoring in and out of harbors was nearly 9kts.  We were running at a pace that would have clocked between 220 and 240 miles per 24 hours.

Early today the mail boat came into Over Yonder Cay marina to deliver supplies to the island. It’s a pretty busy island so they need a great deal of supplies to keep things running smoothly.  To see the mail boat come by Pandora and tie up to the dock was an impressive display of seamanship.  This was the same mailboat that brought the sloops to Little Farm’s Cay a few years ago when I was able to get a spot aboard one of them as crew.  I wrote about that amazing experience in this post.

I was able to find my way onto the bridge to meet the captain today.  Very nice guy. He recalled the race I was in and specifically remembered the crazy experience when one of the boats sunk and an enraged owner showed up and rammed the sloop that I was crewing on.

The Captain “C” was built in Louisiana back in 2002, I think.   This was posted in the wheel house.   Everything is unloaded by hand but they do have a crane on the foredeck for really heavy stuff. Over Yonder Cay has a large staff and a good number of regular paying guests.  It takes a lot of supplies to keep the island running smoothly.  This is only part of the delivery and I was told that the supply boat comes several times per month.  After bring on the dock for about an hour they shoved off.  The wash from the props danced Pandora around at the dock and stirred up quite a bit of sand. Over Yonder Cay is a remarkable place and we are very luck to be back here again. We hope to stay for a few days and there will be lots more to tell so stay tuned.

It’s great to be back and to have friends Over Yonder.


Saying Good By to Great Harbor Cay. And it hurts.

It’s Tuesday and we have not yet left Great Harbor Cay Marina. When I spoke to Chris Parker, the weather router, yesterday he thought that we could get going from here to head part of the way to Nassau around mid day today after the strong southerlies had let up and the squalls had passed.

However, when I spoke to him again this morning. He felt that it was best if we waited until Wednesday and left early in the morning to make the 65 mile run to Nassau in a single jump when the winds are calm.  While it would be nice to have wind to sail, it is preferable to motor in flat calm conditions than to pound our way against the wind.   To leave today, in addition to some strong squalls, would mean motoring into a moderate southerly wind and plenty bumpy seas left over from the very upwards of 30kt winds that hit us last evening.

However, all is not lost as it looks good for a sailing run to Over Yonder Cay from Nassau on Thursday.  The wind is going to be a bit “sporty” though with 20+ forecasted to fill in from the northeast.  Yes, that sounds like a lot of wind but it’s not nearly as much as we will face if we leave a day later as the winds will be up near 30kts for a few days, beginning on Friday.

As I sit here, shortly after noon, some particularly nasty squalls have come and gone reinforcing that we made the right call to say till Wednesday. Thank you Chris.

It’s going to tough to leave here and the simplicity of being at a dock with easy access to showers and plugged in to shore power. However, when I check out and get the bill or two weeks of power at $.75/KWH, it will probably seem a lot less convenient.  However, electricity is very expensive in the out islands so I guess that’s par for the course.

I will also say that the crew here at Great Harbor Cay Marina is just great.  Always willing to help.

Samantha in the office is always ready with a smile.  Need a plane reservation?  She’s ready to take care of it or call ahead to the market to be sure they have what you need in stock. Of course, it’s the detail oriented management style of Hans, always ready to roll up his sleeves, that keeps the place running and make it such a pleasant spot to be.
It’s a rare cruiser who stops to visit and leaves as planned. Once you are here you just won’t want to EVER leave. In fact, some boats don’t and end up here for the entire season.

As just one example of their attention to detail, every boat in the marina received a Valentine gift of candy delivered right to their boat by Ramone.  What a nice touch and a great job to have, delivering candy to all the ladies.    “Hey little girl, want some candy?”Every Monday there is a pot luck dinner gathering and Trameco makes sure that there are fresh flowers on each table.  Nice touch. And, he even plays drums at one of the local churches. You can see from this shot just how neat and tidy the place is. And the showers? They are spotless and cleaned multiple times a day.Yes, it’s going to be hard to leave but if we don’t get on the move, we will never make it to Cuba.

On another subject, our boys Rob and Chris have never seen Pandora so they asked us to put together a “video tour”. Just for fun, I’ll share both here.

Yesterday, Brenda did a guided tour down below. I hope that you enjoy her great narration. Good job Brenda.Today I did a video of some of the highlights “topside”.   Yes, I know that I am a poor substitute for Brenda and not nearly as charming in my delivery but you should be able to get some of the highlights.Well, think of us in the next few days as we begin moving south again and underway finally.   However, we won’t likely have as good access to the Internet so I don’t know if my posts will be so “media heavy” for a while.

Don’t forget to check out “Where in the world is Pandora” on the home page.  Yes, you can track our ever move, if you just can’t stand not knowing.

Details to come, as always.

Another day in paradise. Road trip!

It’s Saturday morning and we are getting ready for yet another cold front that’s headed our way.  Happily, we are well secured in one of the “inner” slips here at Great Harbor Cay Marina in the Berry Islands Bahamas.    Cold front or not, it’s going to be a beautiful day and the strongest winds won’t arrive until Sunday.

Yesterday Brenda and I joined a number others who took a “road trip” by dink, from the marina to the other end of the island for some exploring through the mangroves in an area known as shark creek, on the southern side of the island on the ocean side.  The water is very clear there and there are loads of turtles.We zipped at a high speed down the coast about two miles and then turned into the mangroves and down passages that were impossibly narrow.  And then “way” narrower still.  Can you say “African Queen narrow?”Once we emerged from the mangroves, it was just spectacular with many colors of blue. When my brother Bill was with me we visited Shark Creek and saw a load of turtles as well and I had wished that I had brought my GoPro video camera. Well, gentle reader, I brought it with me yesterday and got some great shots, including this video of a large ray, perhaps 4′-5′ across.  What a sight.  We also captured some turtles in the same video but you’ll have to watch closely to see all the action.  Brenda did a terrific job of steering the dink as we zigzagged in pursuit of the best shots.I don’t normally include many videos in my posts when I am in the Bahamas as it’s hard to find a place with sufficient band width to upload them to YouTube.   However, the service here at the marina is pretty good so there will be videos for now.

As we headed back to the marina we stopped to survey a wrecked fishing boat that had been swept two miles onto the flats during a hurricane a few years ago. Perched on a sand bank it almost looked like a Disney movie set.   We also spied this wonderful flock of American Oyster Catchers, a shore bird that like so many of us “flock” from north to south and back again with the seasons.  However, Brenda might want to diverge from their particular routine  as they are found as far north as New England in the summer (check) and all the way south to Argentina in winter (check? NOT).  Anyway, what cool birds. Not to beat a dead oyster catcher, but how about Oyster Catcher photos from various angles.  First, a “fly away” shot?And a “fly by” shot. There aren’t all that many birds in the Bahamas so when we see them it’s quite a treat.  As we head further south toward Cuba, we will undoubtedly see many more birds as Cuba is much more lush than the Bahamas.

Not sure what today will bring but for sure it’s going to be a beautiful day.   Of course,  EVERYONE knows that I just love sunsets so I’ll close with a view of our view from our “new” slip.   I guess I’ll sign off for now.  It’s another beautiful day in paradise.

Oh yeah, we hope to begin heading south mid week after the next front.   Details to come.

That’s all for now.


Getting in touch with my inner guppy

It’s Thursday evening and we are still here at Great Harbor Cay Marina in the Berry Islands.  Currently between Cold Fronts, we are enjoying a few days of light winds.  It’s amazing how quickly things change when a front comes through, the wind picks up and the temperature drops 20 degrees in a few hours.  And no, I won’t talk about the “before and after” temperatures as it will just piss off my “northern” friends.  Did you know that you can wear socks with sandals?

Today we changed slips here in the marina so that we wouldn’t be so exposed to the winds when the next front comes through.   Now that we are in the “inner harbor” the WIFI is much better, which is nice.   It’s actually strong enough to make some calls on WIFI to avoid toll charges.  That’s a good thing as we will soon be leaving here and probably won’t have WIFI strong enough for the rest of the trip for that sort of luxury.   I had quite an audience as I backed into what seemed like an impossibly tight slip between a sailboat to port and cruiser to starboard.  Not a hitch.  Go me.  I won’t talk about how much a bow thruster helped.   Big tide, about 4′, nearly twice what’s normal. Pandora looking very low on the dock. Quite a few boats left the marina today to take advantage of the good weather and moderate winds and head south to the Exumas.  We opted to wait until after the next front comes through, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday to begin our run.

In spite of the delays so far, I expect that we will still probably head to Cuba by the first week of March.  Let’s hope that the weather cooperates.   Actually, if we can’t enter Cuban waters by around March 4th or so, we will have to re-apply to the USCG for yet another permit.   The one we have now is only valid if we leave the Bahamas between February 28th and the beginning of the first week of March a five day window.  In order to change the dates we will have to reapply and do so at least two weeks in advance of our departure.  And I need to know when I am leaving at least two weeks in advance, as that’s how long it takes the “new” permit to make it through the system.  Talk about red tape.

Anyway, for now, we still hope to visit Cuba.  However, with all of the strong cold fronts, we will have to see if the weather conspires against us.  Details to come, I guess.

Yesterday was such a windy day that a group in the marina opted for a “craft project”.   Hey, want to make a coconut fish?  Hmm… I can’t say that I have ever given it much thought.  Ok, why not…

It will come as no surprise that you begin with a coconut.  Someone actually asked “where can I get a coconut?”  Answer:  Under a coconut tree.  Good tip. Here’s a shot of some of the “crafters” hard at work.  The whole process brought back memories of grammar school, or a nursing home to be completely honest.   Actually, I am a lot closer to the latter than former.  Sad but true.  I don’t know if I should be depressed or happy with the image of myself with brush in hand crafting a fish out of a coconut.  It was actually fun and I can say with confidence that, unlike some of my earliest craft experiences, nobody cried and I am pretty confident that there was very little hair pulling or biting.  Pretty mature, wouldn’t you say?  Not surprising as most everyone involved was “very grown up” with an emphasis on the “VERY”.

“So, how long does it take to make a coconut fish Bob?”   Actually, it took about five hours, including a lunch break.  The “break” was prophylactic in hopes that my blood sugar wouldn’t drop so low that I’d revert to the sort of behavior that I was inclined to the last time I was painting a “project” on a picnic table.  And, I was the last to be done and as the organizers were cleaning up around me I became very anxious that there was a real risk that they’d take my favorite colors and my “special” brush.  “Don’t touch my paints!!!”   However, I kept my cool through it all.  So, not bad for a “tween” crafter.   ie:  Not in child day care or a nursing home. You know “tween” the “highs and lows” of craft age.    It was fun.  You might say that I was able to get in touch with my “inner guppy”.    “Bob, Bob, that was so lame.”
Brenda’s also being quite creative and has been doing some projects of her own although with a more “adult” bent.  In particular, she warped up one of her tapestry looms with a new project that will undoubtedly keep herself busy for longer than we will be aboard this season.  Check out her post to learn more.    She has also been doing some tatting.   Wondering what in Hell “tatting” is?   You’ll have to follow her blog in the next few days to find out for yourself. It’s good to have her feeling creative and happy.   Happy wife, happy life.

On a completely different topic.  We had some excitement today when a family of manatees showed up to “play” off of Pandora’s transom.   Did you know that manatees love having a hose sprayed on them and will hang around and drink their fill of the “sweet” water.   Just how cute is that?Mother and cub sharing a drink of fresh water.They also love the feeling of having water sprayed on their tummies and roll over to get the full effect.   Bliss…After a while my fridge cycled and they were attracted to the water coming out of the transom.  Surprise!  Not fresh. Mom smiling for the camera.   So adorable, especially for a 1,000 lb big girl. How about a short video of the pair that I took today too?I also took a photo of an oddly shaped fish near one of the pilings in the marina. The photo doesn’t show how neat the coloring was.  The fish just hung there.   Brown with bright blue spots. Crazy looking. \But wait, there’s more.  Brenda and I went for a walk to the grocery.  We even got a head of lettuce, one of only four left and the mailboat just came yesterday.

I thought that this snail on a palm frond made for an interesting pattern. Well, that’s about enough excitement for one day here on Great Harbor Cay. Perhaps I’ll close with last night’s sunset.  So, there you have it, a post with a coconut fish, a real fish, a snail, a family of hose sipping manatees, some “boss” boat handling, a great sunset and a happy wife.  And best of all, no hair pulling or biting.  I just love this place.

shopping in the Bahamas. You eat what they have.

It’s Monday morning here in Great Harbor Cay and there is a lot less wind than yesterday.  A front came through early yesterday morning and with it came sustained 25-30kts of wind out of the west and northwest.  While Pandora is tied up to a dock in a protected harbor, we are on the most exposed slip and with a 1/4 mile fetch behind us, the wind kept us straining at the dock all day long.  The wind was humming in the rigging, no make that full throated singing, all day long and I worried that we might chafe through one or more of our lines.   I see from the weather report that a repeat performance is in the cards for Tuesday so we had better enjoy today’s lighter winds.
Yesterday’s front was a particularly strong one and added some extra “excitement” to yet another challenging weather season here in the Bahamas.  Our friends Maureen and Bill, who are in the Caribbean say that this as additional evidence that we should just give up on the Bahamas and take Pandora further south to the Caribbean were the winds are much more consistent and fronts are not as threatening.  I guess we will just have to see what the future brings.

Our thoughts have begun to turn toward when we will be leaving Great Harbor Cay Marina to head south to the Exumas, the central Bahamas.  Brenda and I have been invited to visit Over Yonder Cay again, the private island that we visited two years ago and we want to be sure that we leave plenty of time to fit that in on our way south.

I expect that we will leave here next weekend or so after our two week stay is up here at the Great Harbor Cay Marina and head to Nassau to re-provision and then jump down to Over Yonder Cay.   With all the fronts that have been coming through, it would be nice to time our arrival when another front is forecast to take advantage of the perfect protection that OYC’s private harbor provides.  Our friends, Ethan and Jamie, who work on the island, have a new baby boy so it will be very nice to see their growing family.  Of course, Diesel their dog is a draw too.

One big part of coming to the Bahamas is preparing for the much more limited provisioning options available, especially in the out islands.   Everything that comes here arrives by “mail boat” that stops once a week.  In the case of Great Harbor Cay, that’s on Wednesdays, weather permitting.

Living in the U.S., we have become accustomed to near instant availability of most any consumer item one could wish for so a visit to the market in the Bahamas can be a sobering experience.  No Amazon Prime in these parts.

This is the local market, liquor store and bar all wrapped up into one.  Not exactly a Walmart Superstore.The selection of produce.  Let’s just say it’s somewhat limited.  This is the entire produce section in the market with the exception of a few items kept in the fridge, such as lettuce.  I think that they had four heads of romaine, actually. How about the refrigerated section?  Lot’s of eggs, butter and oddly, Snapple.
Interestingly, as a past British Colony, some of the most reasonably priced items are biscuits from the U.K. and most places carry a pretty good selection.  Don’t plan on buying cereal as it’s about $10 per box.  PopTarts?  Try $8 a box.  There is a 40% duty on imported goods and a new 15% VAT on top of the cost of shipping the items in.  There’s no income tax though.  I wonder how many accountants there are in the Bahamas.  Not many, I expect. Wednesday night is pizza night at the marina and this is what a $30 calzone looks like.   However, $30 or not, it fed us for three meals.  After finishing off the calzone on the third day, Brenda and I needed a walk., several actually.  Along the way we crossed a bridge.  The water is beautiful where it runs under the road.  This is the view toward the mangroves.  Because of the rushing water it’s scoured out quite deep near the bridge.You can’t tell from here but on the other side of the bridge the current really rips.Today we plan to head to the beach and lunch at the beachside cafe.  Like most every other place here, the menu is pretty limited.  However, they do make a mean hamburger. And, the view of the ocean there is terrific.

And that’s my report.