Heading Home

Welcome back to the BEAUTIFUL Bahamas!

After everyone left, life went back to normal on the boat for us.   A reality check came when we anchored just outside of Hope Town to make water.    It was hot, and a swim sounded tempting.   But we had hardly settled down when we had a visitor!!   He was at least 8’ long and he lazily circled our boat five or six times, checking us out with his beady eye.    Now we think that some of the fishing boats stop somewhere around where we were anchored and clean their catch – he was probably trained that food tidbits arrive along with boats.   We didn’t want to be that food!!!

Back into the harbor and a more friendly visitor said hello.

We had to wait for about ten days before there was a suitable weather window to do the crossing from the Abacos to Eleuthera.   About 50 miles, but this boat is very sensitive to wind and waves on the beam.   When we first set out, the weather wasn’t at all what had been predicted and we felt as though we were in a washing machine.    But after about an hour (and almost turning back) things calmed down and we had an easy time the rest of the way.   

Two boats that we passed along the way – opposite ends of the spectrum!!   The big boat is Ulysses, 116 meters long and worth $275 million!!    Oh to be a guest aboard that!   Check out the helicopter and the launch (40′? 50′?) tucked into the side!! But the sunsets look just as good from the deck of the traditional boat, and in fact from our deck too.   And if their anchors ever come up loaded with sand and mud as ours sometimes does, I wouldn’t like to be the person cleaning those off!

We spent two days in Spanish Wells – we were still travelling with Mel and Gary.   We again rented a golf cart and explored the island  (which means that we went back and walked our favorite beach and went to the Sand Dollar restaurant for lunch! Amazingly good food).   This starfish is actually in about 8” of water – it is so clear!   The sand makes amazing patterns as the tide goes out, leaving sculpted hollows.    And a picture of Garth on a bench, taking it all in.    We searched for the wild papaya trees that last time had pendulous, ripe papayas for the taking (which we did), but sadly couldn’t find them this time.  

I became very lazy with carrying my camera around as I had photographed so many of the places on previous trips.   But we did find this beautiful plant, bursting with shiny red seeds.   According to Mel, who has vast knowledge of all things, it is a cycad.

We did see so many other incredible plants and flowers – including this beautiful golden bromeliad and these spiky ones that I wouldn’t like to brush up against!

We left Spanish Wells and went down through Current Cut – two vast areas of water all rush through this narrow gap each time the tides ebb and flow.   You have to time your passage to go through when the tide is with you!   But on the other side it was like silk, and we headed down to Governer’s Harbour.  

As we got to the dinghy dock there were these tiny little fish swimming around the concrete blocks – I just love what water and sunlight do together.  

In the islands, restaurants come in all shapes and sizes.   We passed Matty’s and I couldn’t resist the sign!!

That night we had a spectacular sunset and a great night’s sleep!

On to Cape Eleuthera Marina, which is another must-stop for us.   It is right at the southern end of the island, and the jumping off point for the Exumas.   They have wonderful facilities and it is very easy to stay another day, and another, if conditions for crossing aren’t perfect.    We spent the afternoon sipping cocktails in the pool, lounging on the chairs and then had an excellent dinner in the restaurant while we watched the nail-biting playoff game between the Buffalo Bills (Gary’s team) and Kansas City.   The game never lagged for a minute but sadly the Bills were beaten in overtime.  

While there we did a tour of the Cape Eleuthera Institute (google it!).   It is a teaching and learning facility focused on conservation of the marine environment.   They have developed aquaculture and when we were there had tanks full of tilapia in various stages of growth (my pictures were a bit frightening!), as well as lots of green produce.   The campus is self sustaining for all staff and students.   I love that the dining hall waste gets almost completely recycled (sign should be placed above the containers) and who else outlines their veggie beds with conch shells?!?  

As there were no students on campus at the time, they were very generous to us and gave us lots of coveted papayas, lettuce, radishes and even cilantro – CILANTRO!!!!!!!!    They rotate semester long classes of students from the States and locally, at different grade levels.   I love that when the kids are collected at the airport, they have a big basket and all cellphones and electronics have to be handed over until they are returned again at the end!    They study the local and US curriculums, but have so much added – for example, they are all dive-certified by the time they leave.   For a mere $28K per semester you too could let your child have the Island School Experience!!! 

One of the things we were determined to do on this trip was go to Shroud Cay in the Exumas.   When we were there previously, the weather was never favorable for us to anchor at Shroud.    We left Eleuthera and crossed to the Exumas and Shroud was our destination.    For us, this was the highlight of the trip.   It was just incredibly beautiful.  

There is a passage through the mangroves where you wind along in your dinghy and eventually come out on the ocean side of the island.    As you come around the corner, this is what you see:

The reality is even more beautiful than the pictures can show.   The crystal water!   It has to be amongst the most breathtaking beaches in the world.  

A big front was forecast so we scuttled to our favorite hidey-hole – Waderick Wells.   We were lucky to get a mooring ball and rode out five days of horrible winds, safe and secure.   Mel and Gary as well as our Canadian friends Steve and Jacquie and their group of friends were also all there and we had cocktail hours on the beach each evening (despite the weather!) and shared incredible sushi on Second Sojourn – which Gary made with a Wahoo that he had caught the day before.    We have not been living the simple life, that’s for sure!!   

We were visited by a regiment of rays who hung out in formation behind our boat and another beautiful turtle.  

From there to Black Point which for some reason we love – none of our friends seem to have the same fondness for it.   We saw the finished Bahamian dinghy which had featured as a framed skeleton in one of our earlier blogs.   The paint job was world class!   Unfortunately, because of Covid, the annual First Friday in February at Farmers racing weekend was not held for the third time in a row, and Raging Bull sits, waiting to be tested.   Black Point also offered one of our best sunsets – sometimes the view from behind is softer and more beautiful than the blaze in front of you.

Despite there being no racing, we made our way down to Little Farmers and supported the local effort that had been made for the cruisers.  Pig roast, live music etc. Always lots of dinghies ashore at Ty’s Sunset Bar – a great gathering spot.    There is an air strip right behind it.   Although we saw a number of planes (two) land, drop people and take off again, the condition of the wind sock and the abrupt end of the runway would make Garth very leery of landing there!!

The rest of the gang were all heading down to Georgetown and that had been our original intention.   But given the propensity for Westerly winds this year (there are very few places in the Exumas that offer protection in a Westerly) we thought it was time to turn around rather than bash our way all the way down to Georgetown and then have to turn around and bash our way back again.   Sad to leave our friends, but we were happy with our decision.   

We made our way to Sampson Cay and took advantage of our 2’6” draft to tuck ourselves right into the top of the anchorage.  

At low tide we walked the sand flats and, another highlight, came across this little guy right on the edge of the ebbing tide line.   His color disguised him perfectly.   He was CUTE – about the size of a saucer.   Garth put my sunglass arm near him and he shot off for about two feet, showing us all of his octopus acumen.   Once settled, he again disappeared into transparency with his surroundings.   What a privilege to see him.

We had heard about Pipe Cay but never been there because it is shallow.   On the way we passed the house I would like (as long as it came with “staff”!), and one that Garth would prefer.  Couldn’t see his house, but the seaplane and hangar was all he needed!

The water through that area is too brilliant to be able to capture on film, but I did try.  

We went into Compass Cay, where they feed the sharks.   I took a good one with my big camera but someone quickly came over and said no “big” cameras allowed – they had to protect their visitors from the paparazzi!!    Hardly me, but I guess they had to protect their rich and famous.   None of whom were there that day, as I snapped a few with my cell phone, which was allowed!  Not really our cup of tea, but we checked the box.

We stopped at Cambridge Cay – Bell Rock in the late afternoon and early morning sun, then crossed back to Eleuthera and Spanish Wells – gorgeous rainbow and a truck that Garth says had great “patina”!

(A note here – I feel as though this blog is going on and on a bit.   Sorry; I left it too long and have too many photos to share.   As this is a diary of our trip for us, I don’t want to really leave sections out, so if you need to take a break and come back another time, that’s just fine!)

Crossed back to Abaco and then we were “home” in Hope Town.   There was a big celebration at the lighthouse – there had been a grant awarded by America for the maintenance of the Hope Town Light and the Bahamian Prime Minister and American Trade Attache were there with lots of pomp and ceremony.   It’s a big deal because the lighthouse is the last manned one in the world where the kerosene is pumped up every two hours to fuel the light and a weight is raised and then drops to turn the lens, which floats in a huge bowl of mercury.   It needs a lot of work to keep it going.

Earlier in the year Garth and Will Heyer had restored Scully, a 14’ Abaco dinghy which hadn’t been sailed for years, had survived Dorian but needed a whole lot of work.   When we came back he was rewarded by being able to take it for an afternoon sail around the harbor.  

This ‘beauty’ was in the harbor at the same time – talk about opposite ends of the spectrum!

We said our final sad farewell to Hope Town, stopped at Green Turtle for steak night, a last visit with Yvonne at Pineapples and a few groceries, then on to Manjack where we walked the 1 mile trail through the forest to the other side.   

After Manjack we went to Allans-Pensacola Cay for the first time.    Where Garth swam with the sharks!   Funny story – he wanted to change the propeller zincs while we were still in clear water.   He got everything ready and dived down.   Took the first one off, came up and got the new one and had put it on finger tight but needed to come up for air.   When he lifted his head he was eyeball to eyeball with a shark on the other side of the rudder!!!!!    You’ve never seen anyone get out of the water so fast!!    There were actually two of them – black tips – and they too circled the boat for a while before disappearing.    The problem was, the zinc was only just hanging on and had to be tightened.   What to do?   We waited until the next morning and once the sun was high enough to see clearly through the water we circled the boat a few times but saw no sharks.   With allen key in hand he slid into the water, did the necessary tightening and was out; probably 15 seconds.   And guess what – we looked down and the two sharks had arrived!!!   I believe sharks can smell blood in the water from three miles away, so a potential interesting Garth snack had brought them right over.    Needless to say, the other old zinc remains exactly where it is!!!

Allans Pensacola also has a forest walk over to the ocean side of the island and we did that too.   On the ocean side is a tree called The Naming Tree and visitors leave beach flotsam and jetsam with the name of their boat to mark their visit.   We weren’t prepared, but enjoyed seeing what was there.   Pyxis are good friends of ours, so it was fun to see their float.  

On the way to Cave Cay, our last stop before clearing out at West End, we were privileged to see a huge loggerhead (? I think) turtle ambling along.   His shell must have been at least 5’ long and he had his attendant remora fish swimming along with him.   I was lucky to get the picture because as soon as he became aware of us behind him, he dove down deep and disappeared.  

And in crystal clear water we had some dolphins swim alongside us for a while and I can finally let the dolphins swim in peace, now that I have my full length picture!  Did you know? – sharks have vertical tail fins; mammals’ tail fins are horizontal.

WE spent two nights at West End, did our customs clearing out paperwork and crossed back over to the US on Saturday Feb 26th.    Much earlier than anticipated.   But friends who had also wanted to be heading up the waterway in March but couldn’t leave when we did are still waiting for a suitable crossing day, so we are pleased that we took the gap that we saw.

I’m posting this from Beaufort NC on a cold, blustery, rainy day.   We knew this weather was expected so pushed to get into the marina here.   Glad we did.   I have taken a camera break for the trip home – just enjoying watching the scenery go by.    So this will be the last blog of this trip.    We’re so excited to be getting home.   We have loved our journey, but missed our house, friends and neighbors.  And Kate, Will and Penny! Our boat has become a part of us and we look forward to enjoying the Chesapeake waters in the months ahead.   I’ll end with two pictures – two fellows who were hanging out with us at an anchorage in Crescent River GA, waiting for the fog to lift so we could get our day started;  

…and a picture of the beautiful bridge that you cross under going past Vero Beach. Wish I had caught it a few seconds earlier so that the symmetry was perfect.

Family

Let me apologize in advance to those that don’t know us that well – this is a self-indulgent post and full of photographs of family and what we did in the two weeks that they were down here.   For me, it was one of the best times of my life, with all of us together, perfect weather (which so seldom happens here) and lots of laughing, bonding and closeness.

It all began when we realized that our 70th birthdays were coming up at the end of the 2021 (Garth’s on November 16th, mine on January 1st and Kate celebrating her 40th on Christmas Eve).   A plan started formulating.    In March I called Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour (they laughed at me!!) to make sure that we had reservations for their New Year’s Eve dinner.  We decided to book a charter on a sailing catamaran for the family (ours is definitely a drink 6-10, feed 4 and sleep 2 boat!)   They also laughed at us – but offered us a nice discount for being their first customers to book for the 2021/22 season.   In June I booked flights; I know how they sell out over the holiday period.  It was easier and cheaper to get Dave and Kat from Italy than to get flights from the States for Kate’s family!     All good.   

A hiccup happened when we called the charter company in June as we hadn’t heard from them regarding deposits etc.    The owner had been taken ill shortly after we had spoken to him and was hospitalized in the States for three weeks.   Our booking had fallen through the cracks and the boat we had been promised wasn’t available any longer.    Hiccup turned into Godsend as I found a most charming cottage on VRBO, right in the heart of the settlement in Hope Town for half of what the charter would have cost!    Having proper beds, two bathrooms (actually three, as there was one outside which was invaluable when coming back from the beach) wifi, tv and a full size, fully equipped kitchen was perfect.   (A plug – it’s called The Boathouse, it’s on VRBO and is managed by Elbow Cay Properties – I would recommend it highly if you’re thinking of coming down to Hope Town).  

Of course we also didn’t know that Covid would be causing havoc with flights being cancelled left, right and center.   I spent many, many hours on our trip down the waterway making good friends with airline customer service agents (based in India I think) while they struggled to get through to the airlines to find us alternative flights.   Kate eventually re-booked their entire flight via Southwest and now has airline credits with American and United for her and the kids to use this year!!    Even that flight into Nassau was horribly delayed and our planned sunset trip from Marsh Harbour back to Hope Town turned into pitch black, grit your teeth and hold on journey.    But the stars were spectacular!!!   And day after Christmas, Kate, Mike, Will and Penny were here at last. 

The next day was the start of two weeks of perfect weather.   With the wind from the south-west, the beach could not have been more perfect.   Everyone was in their element – and slathered with sunscreen!   

That night we went over to the Hope Town Inn and Marina for delicious frozen drinks and an excellent meal.  

Kate put her back out on Monday (we think it was the cartwheels on the beach – yes, she can still do a cartwheel at 40!) but it didn’t stop everyone from going back for another perfect beach day on Tuesday.    Off to Bingo at Captain Jacks in the evening.  Garth and I went over before 4.00 (Bingo only starts at 6.00!) to get a table as it was first come first served – we got the last table available!!   Kate and Mike left before the end as it was overwhelmingly noisy – but the gambling bug kept the others of us there until the end – but as with most gambling, no luck!   Will and Penny came and slept on the boat with us – grandparents’ dream!    They are 11 and 9 now and such fun to be around.  

Dave and Kat were getting in at midday on Wednesday so we left early and headed to Marsh Harbor.   The others climbed the lighthouse – they took pictures of us leaving, and we took pictures of them.   We stocked up with fresh food at the big supermarket and came home with Dave and Kat!   After unpacking and settling in, we celebrated Kate’s birthday together and had a wonderful ribeye barbeque.

Thursday was a big day.   Up early and skimming along glassy seas to Fowl Cay where we anchored off the little island and had it all to ourselves.   Will and Penny had their first snorkeling experience – it wasn’t on a reef or anything, but there were fish and shells to see and they gained a good degree of confidence without being out in the ocean (where there are sharks!!).    I think what I really liked is that although we had plans, there was no timetable and we stayed as long as we were still enjoying ourselves

From there we went on to Guana Cay and up to the famous Nippers Bar.   It had opened the previous week for the first time since Dorian so our timing was perfect – they had been completely, completely destroyed by the hurricane and it had taken all of this time to get up and running again.   It is not completely rebuilt, but what a pleasure to share a frozen Nipper with Dave and Kat (first time in the Bahamas) while the kids swam in the pool and on the beach.

We rolled back down to Grabbers, as you do, for more frozen rum, lunch and we enjoyed their water activities. 

We hoped that a beach massage might help Kate’s back – I think it helped Kate, but not so much her back as she battled with that for the whole time here.   

Back home to a little R&R and a very early night for all.

Again with no rush or pressure (my very best thing) on Friday we got ready, made sandwiches for the boat and set off to head down to Little Harbour for New Year’s Eve.   Fortunately they had reserved a mooring ball for us so there was no urgency to get there.   Once more we had glassy seas and a great boat ride.

Lots and lots of photographs – if you think there are a lot on this blog, you should see the folder that I had to choose from.   But how often is it that you have the whole family together in paradise?   The kids were very happy playing ring toss – Will became the expert, even mastering the throw-around-the-nearby-pole-and-let-it-unwind-and-see-if-you-get-it-onto-the-hook technique!!  Penny was pretty good herself too.  

They had to limit their numbers because of Covid, but Pete’s Pub did a spectacular job of a five course meal – Seared Wahoo; Lobster Chowder; Green Salad; choice of Ribeye Steak or Lobster with sides; and a selection of pies for dessert.    Their signature rum drink is excellent and there was much to occupy us during the wait for midnight.

Midnight brought a wonderful fireworks show – and lots of hugging and kissing!   David borrowed the DJ’s mic and announced my 70th birthday – everyone sang and I was made to feel very special.

Next morning I made scones and Mel and Gary brought Kate and Mike back to our boat.  All 8 of us were originally going to have to sleep on our boat for the one night (!!!) but Mel and Gary’s friends who were supposed to be with them had to postpone because of Covid and their back cabin was empty.   Thank you Mel and Gary!!

My birthday gift touched the deepest place in my heart.   I won’t post any pictures, because I was blubbing my eyes out the whole time!    My children penned the most beautiful words for me and set them to the music of “Watch the Rain”.   For those that don’t know, our nephew Craig Hinds has a band called Watershed in South Africa – (another plug, look them up on iTunes – LOVE their music!)   The have an album called Watch the Rain.   The title song was written largely at our house when the whole family was over in the US for Kate’s wedding in 2009.   It has always been my favorite, and has been the closing song at their gigs that I have been to while in South Africa – which has added even more significance to it for me, as those are such special family memories.   They sent him the words, and he went into the studio and recorded MY SONG which they played for me on my birthday.    Even as I write this, my eyes get teary and I choke up.   What a special, special morning.  

I eventually stopped crying and we set off from Little Harbour over to Lynyard Cay.   There is a walk from the beach over to the ocean side and there are amazing shells and seaglass to be collected.   I don’t know what brings it all in there, but you never come away empty handed.   A bit more swimming, sand-castling and then we were on our way back.  

We stopped at Tahiti Beach on the way back to make water.   A new feature down there is a floating Tiki Bar which is moored in Hope Town but goes down on weekends and you can dinghy, swim or walk up to buy food and drinks.   Dave and Kat drew the short (or long?) straw and got themselves a drink – came back to the boat with hot chips – just what the doctor ordered after the previous night! 

Back to our mooring ball and little house and we had yet another surf and turf feast – the leftover steak from Pete’s and a lobster extravaganza that Gary had caught and given to us to share with the family.   How lucky are we?

On Sunday we all went back to the Marina for a last breakfast all together.   Then to the clinic to get the required negative Covid tests – success!!    The Dawsons were booked on a very early flight on Monday so we left Dave and Kat alone at the house (peace! quiet!) and spent the night at anchor in Marsh Harbour.   The taxi picked them up at 6.45am and sadly that part of the vacation was over.

It was the day of the big snow in Annapolis and Kate’s picture says it all!!

That night it was Dave and Kat’s turn for Bingo.   It was less boisterous (drunk?) that night and a lot of fun – made more so when Dave won the second round!!!    $248.00 in his pocket – not too shabby!

We had choices to make for the rest of Dave and Kat’s time.   Stay here and relax, or show them Green Turtle Cay.   The seas were quite large on Tuesday, but we all opted for the adventure.   We decided to try going through the “Don’t Rock” cut – it’s called that for a reason.   It was a bit of white-knuckle stuff, especially for Kat who was not used to boats and what they can and can’t do, but we made it.   We’ll never do it again, despite our shallow draft.  You have to go very close to the rocks and with large ocean swells on our beam; it just wasn’t worth it.    Now we know.  

We rented a golf cart to explore the island.   We have a favorite beach called Gillam Bay but with the strong winds and high tide it wasn’t the best.   Drove through the town (which was very quiet) and so headed to Pineapples.   It remains our favorite bar.   Frozen drinks, delicious food and lounging in the pool.   We had to drag ourselves away. 

Green Turtle Club has a steak night on Wednesdays and it didn’t let us down.  The bar there is papered with dollar bills with people’s names – Will and Penny’s were still there from 2018, despite the hurricane.   When we came to Green Turtle with the Beneteau Group in 2007 we had pinned up our flag – it also is still there and we added another dollar bill to it with ours and Dave and Kat’s names – we will be back!! 

Another night on the boat for Dave and Kat (she was becoming quite the old salt by now!) and we headed back towards Hope Town.   We stopped at Marsh Harbour so that Dave and Kat could get their Covid tests for the States and we decided to get tested as well as both Pete’s Pub and Capt. Jack’s had closed down after New Year with the staff having Covid.   Fortunately we were all negative – great peace of mind.  

The next morning, after another great breakfast at the Marina, Dave and Kat boarded a ferry to start their long journey home.   It was sad, but yet not as we had all had such a fabulous time together and so many good memories were made.    That night there was the most magnificent sunset – as though to close the chapter on the best vacation ever!

BAHAMAS!!!

After settling down in Hope Town for a few days, we took the boat over to Marsh Harbour to sort out a WiFi plan and to shop at the mega grocery store Maxwells.   It is like going into Giant – except for when you go to pay!!!   

Marsh Harbour is still unrecognizable.   By all accounts it was the worst hit by the hurricane.   Walking along the waterfront which used to be full of marinas, restaurants and stores, there is – nothing!   It was hard to recognize where we were and even imagine what used to be there.    So many buildings reduced to rubble piles, now with weeds growing through it all.    I couldn’t even take pictures.    We had to take a taxi to the phone place (used to be right on the waterfront) and we asked our driver where we might get a cup of coffee (Garth’s raison d’etre) and possibly a breakfast sandwich.   She took us to the only place that served breakfast.   We found a bench around the back amongst numerous burnt out generators to sit and eat.   But full credit to Miss Love – it was absolutely delicious!!!

Next on the list was to make water.   We have a 75 gal tank, which lasts us about 8 days.  Yes, we only shower every second day – you got a problem with that??  We bought a Rainman water maker which Garth installed in the front locker.   We had avoided testing it until we were in really clean water – now was the time.   It worked perfectly, making about 30 gals an hour.   We could relax.  

For me, there are two things that spell Bahamas – water and clouds.   I wish I could put sunglasses onto my camera and capture the incredible water colors which show up so well in polaroid – but I also love the cloud formations.  The small ones are puffy and fat with flat bottoms, but then you get the huge towering ones that I remember so well from when we were flying Garth’s plane.    Throw in a bit of sunrise or sunset and it is just heavenly.

We took a trip down to Little Harbour to go and see Pete’s Pub where we plan to celebrate New Year.   It wasn’t open yet, and we were the only boat in the harbor.    But the foundry was open and we were able to walk through.    In the 50’s artist Randolph Johnston and his family arrived in the harbor on a sailing boat.    They initially lived on the boat and in the caves while they built a home, and eventually the brass foundry which is still operated today by the third generation of the artist family.

Then it was Thanksgiving.   Who would have believed that we would have had a full traditional turkey meal here in the Bahamas?   Will and Muffin and ourselves were graciously invited by Barry and Marcia Talley, Annapolis friends who have a house down here, and with a little contribution from each we had a FEAST!!!   Even Sophie the Dog was included.  

Barry and Marcia are making the most of a new waterfront view – you can see the slab left behind where the house in front of them was blown away.    They will enjoy it, but are looking forward to their friends being able to rebuild.  

Mel and Gary were held up in Stuart FL for a couple of weeks (they were not able to make the zippy exit that we did as they had some appointments set up).    When we heard that they were crossing over we decided to go back north and meet up with them and do the slow trip back, stopping at places we missed.    First stop was at No Name Cay – one of our favorites where Will and Penny had bonded with the wild pigs last time they were here.   Well that’s a thing of the past – the deserted island is no longer deserted with a Big O resort having been built there.   There are still pigs, but they are lethargic and we didn’t see any babies.   So glad the kids had the experience while it was still real and not commercial.   BUT, the restaurant makes excellent conch fritters, so there’s that!

From there to Black Sound in Green Turtle Cay (with our shallow draft, we can finally go there).   We went for a long walk around New Plymouth, the main settlement, and although they have made great strides, we were still saddened by the delapidated state of so many of their previously proud buildings.  There is no criticism, only heart wrenching sadness for the people.   Rebuilding in the islands isn’t easy – a supply ship was in town and this is how everything has to come in.    Also a picture of the fuel ship that was delivering to Spanish Cay, our next stop.   A strutting rooster and amazing mural brightened our day.

At Spanish Cay we met some lovely people and shared dinner at the restaurant, after a tranquil sunset.   The heron was hopeful until almost dark – and a picture of the same rocks in the sunrise the next morning.  

We met up with Mel and Gary at Double Breasted Cay the next day.   What a breathtaking place!!  The tides going in and out exposed and hid white sand banks and the colors of the water were spectacular – even without sunglasses!  

But the highlight was that Gary had been diving and caught lobster for dinner!  I don’t think a meal has ever tasted as good – they have got the prep down to a T, and Mel even serves melted butter in butter warmers.    I will never forget that first bite – heaven!  They went again the next day and Garth caught two, which are in the freezer waiting for our children to arrive.  Since then, pickings have been slim, so the feast was even more memorable.

Two nights at Double Breasted and then we went to Grand Cay which is very close by.   It is a fishing town with no frills but an authentic local feel.   Glad we went.  

The next morning dawned with not a breath of wind – the sea was like glass.   There seemed to be no horizon – we took pictures of Second Sojourn and they took pictures of us.    And I took a million pictures of our wake making patterns on the silky water.  

Back to Green Turtle Cay and White Sound this time – welcomed by a beautiful rainbow.   We rented a golf cart and toured the island – first a drink at the Tranquil Turtle, then a walk on the beautiful long beach at Gillam Bay where we were joined by the friendliest dog who must have lived in a house on the beach – she walked with us for the whole time, but when she saw we were getting ready to leave, trotted home.  

We ended up at Pineapples, a beach bar that probably tops our list of all bars in the Bahamas.   Their food is simple but outstanding, their drinks affordable (and two for the price of one during happy hour!) and the bartender Yvonne is just the best.    On any given day, she will apply her over-the-top makeup to suit the occasion – green, yellow, blue – and at Christmas one eye green and one eye red!   She was pretty low-key the day we were there but assured us that her 1” eyelashes were all her own (bought and paid for!)  

There is a crystal chandelier hanging from a tree on the beach (!?!) and I tried to get the sunset reflected in the crystals.   Not so successful, but it was beautiful.   After the hurricane, the opposite shore had apparently burned for more than 6 months.   You can see the burnt trees on the horizon and it looked as though the setting sun was the fire again.   A great evening and a very cautious golf cart ride home!

On another perfectly calm day six of us set off for Lynyard Cay and the Bight of Old Robertson to explore the mangrove shallows and visit the blue hole.   Garth and I stole over to Man O’ War Cay first – he had heard that the coffee shop was open.   It is a completely dry island and is where the Albury dinghies are built.  Sure enough – his first latte after reaching the Bahamas!  The water was calm and crystal clear – starfish from the deck of the boat through about 12’ water, and a turtle sunning along in the shallows.

Lynyard Cay is fantastic – there is a path through to the Atlantic side of the island with all kinds of shell and seaglass treasures to be found.   They seem endless.   I filled a bag for the kids as shelling is not so good in other places, and seaglass is hardly found.   We had sundowners on the beach (chased from the donated picnic table by a very cute but very hungry rat who just wouldn’t give up his quest to share our cheese and crackers!).

Next morning we all met in our dinghies and Dan led us through the mangrove lagoon – lots of turtles and rays, but they were too quick for my camera (that is – me!).   We stopped at the beach for a swim and then onto the blue hole.   The others snorkeled around it but we were not tempted.  

We’re now back in Hope Town – some very windy and rainy weather is forecast.   We are so excited to have our children coming to join us after Christmas and for the New Year and to celebrate our big 7-0 birthdays with us down at Pete’s pub.   Our grandchildren call Garth “P” – so he posed for a Christmas picture especially for them.    An announcement is put out on the Cruiser’s Net in the morning and everyone is invited to go to the beach at 4.00, dressed in red and white, for the annual Hope Town Christmas Card.    A drone takes the pic and the cards are sold to raise funds for the Community Center.  

So we’ll leave you with the Christmas Card which brings our wishes to everyone for a happy, peaceful and Covid-free Christmas.  

Florida

After leaving Fernandina we noticed two couples in Hawaiian canoes lurking on the side of the waterway.   As we passed they zipped out into our wake !   Having one of those canoes himself, Garth adjusted our speed to give them the perfect wake and they stayed with us for quite a long while – they were stoked!

After the beautiful marshes and natural scenery in Georgia and the Carolinas, we find Florida to be long straight stretches of houses and bridges!   Opulent is a word that quickly comes to mind.   I’m a little fascinated by the mosquito screen cages that they build around their pools and outdoor living areas, but having experienced the mosquitos and no-see-ums I fully understand.  

We love the stop in St. Augustine and were excited that Roy and Nicky Todd drove down from Jacksonville to have dinner with all of us.    We got good exercise walking all over town and had a feathered boat visitor too!

You may have heard the expression that “it is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”?   In the old days they used to stack the cannon balls like this on the deck, and they were contained by a brass ring called a monkey.   When it got really cold, the brass ring would freeze and contract – and all the balls would tumble out.   Nothing to do with primates!

Next stop New Smyrna and Gary and Mel showed us an anchorage we had never been to before.   Perfectly calm and protected (the clouds and wind were still around).   They came to our boat for a drink and  suddenly this flock of grackles swooped in and made a home in their rigging – it looked like they had dressed ship!    Garth couldn’t stand thinking about all the bird poop on the deck so he jumped in the dinghy and went across and was banging on the hull – nothing budged them (but he probably succeeded in scaring the daylights out of Hobie the Cat downstairs!!!)    Then he found something and banged on the rigging with it – success! – they all flew into the air.    As he was heading back to our boat, we saw the whole flock had simply done a big circle and they landed right back where they had started.   We were falling about laughing!!!

The morning brought a beautiful sunrise and wonderful bird life. 

This guy looked as though he was trying to disguise himself as the tree stump next to him!

On the next stretch from New Smyrna to Cocoa Beach we saw lots of dolphin.   I have finally conquered my quest for a dolphin picture – they normally duck below the water the minute I get my camera.   Not great shots, but enough for me to feel as though I have shaken the bad dolphin-karma that was beleaguering me!!

The Haulover Canal is where you normally see Manatees – none this year.   But some cormorants drying their feathers and always a gathering of pelicans. 

It had been a very cloudy day and so we were not hopeful of seeing the SpaceEx launch at Cape Canaveral taking four astronauts to the International Space Station – both because of the clouds and because we were anchored about 15 miles south.   But we went up onto the flybridge at the appointed time with the live commentary playing and were treated to an amazing spectacle.   The sky was dark but the clouds were completely lit up on takeoff.    Fortunately Mel had her phone on her and managed to catch it – the red glow is when the first stage was jettisoned.    It was eerily quiet for a while and finally the noise caught up – we all had goosebumps!   What a treat and a privilege!

The next day we headed to Vero Beach and had a huge storm along the way.   (Another check mark for our PDQ – we could drive from warm and dry down below).   But even with windscreen wipers the rain was so heavy we could literally not see a thing for about ten minutes.   Thank goodness for our instruments.  

At Vero Beach on Thursday night we were checking for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.  We planned to visit our good friends Dick and Carol Tuschick in Stuart and Garth wanted to spend time talking all things PDQ with them.   They were PDQ dealers before they retired and their daughter Beth has taken over their business – we bought our boat through her and there was so much we wanted to share and learn.   We needed to  re-provision, get our Covid tests done and expected to have three or four days there at least.   The weather gods decided otherwise and presented us with the perfect crossing day – on Saturday!!!    So Friday saw us racing to Stuart, tying up at Camp Carol (Dick and Carol’s house pictured below) and they were just wonderful and took us to the health center, supermarket, liquor store, West Marine as well as providing us with wonderful food and advice and friendship.   We couldn’t have done it without you guys!  

Saturday morning saw us leaving their dock at 6.30 am (getting caught by the railway bridge being down so we could have taken more time!) and heading out into the ocean  before 8.00am.    A beautiful sunrise and then deep blue sea and no-one else in sight.   We only saw one freighter the whole time.  

It was the perfect day – benign seas and glorious weather.   And being able to travel at 14 knots very comfortably for much of the way, we reached West End, Bahamas at 1.30pm!!!!    You know you’re getting close when the water gets shallower and turns that beautiful turquoise blue.   

After clearing customs we headed for the restaurant at Old Bahama Bay and had a Goombay Smash (a delicious rum and pineapple drink) and some cracked conch.    On the way back one of the fishing boats had their underwater lights on and I saw these little squid pillowing about – never seen them before!

Heavy weather was forecast so we moved quickly and spent the night at Grabbers Beach Bar on Guana Cay. It had been totally destroyed in Hurricane Dorian but they have done a great job of rebuilding.    Another rum drink on the beach and then we headed the next day to Hope Town, which is our home away from home and happy place.   

Garth quietly turned 70 on November 16th (we are saving the big celebrations for when the family arrive after Christmas) and we had a lovely dinner with our friends Will and Muffin Heyer.         

Getting There ….

Charleston was the best of the best!   It was wonderful to see our friends Ben and Sallie Du Buisson again and we were very lucky that they managed to get us a slip at Carolina Yacht Club.    The marinas in Charleston were totally full – there was a huge storm that came through on Thursday night and all the transient boats were ducking for cover!

Charleston is a magical city.   Despite many visits, there is always something more to see.   They do Halloween in style!

Our friends Di and Terry Clarence came and joined us for five days to get a taste of the Waterway.   They also go back a long way with Ben and Sallie and we have a great time reminiscing about the old days (are we codgers or what?!?)  We ate spectacular food, as you do in Charleston.  We took a horse and carriage tour and then walked around the city – thank goodness for digital photography as there is no end to beautiful photo opportunities.

After Charleston we anchored out for the night and Gary and Mel had us all over for a spectacular rack of lamb dinner – no pictures sadly, we were having too good of a time!   After that we headed to Beaufort SC (Bew-fort, as opposed to Beaufort NC, Bow-fort)   and then to Hilton Head.    We hadn’t realized that the South Carolina Yacht Club was closed on Mondays, so we Ubered to a restaurant on the water and ate fish and chips watching a most spectacular sunset.

This “house” (mansion?) overlooks the lock at Windmill Harbour where we stayed in Hilton Head.  

Leaving Hilton Head and heading to Savannah GA we noticed a lot of birds feeding.  Looking closer, we saw that among them were Roseate Spoonbills, which you don’t often see.   I was very happy that one of my photos featured a stork, an egret and a spoonbill together!   (I’m a point and shoot photographer – later I enlarge them to see what I captured!!

A spit of land with major erosion, and then we came across this dredger and we got a lesson all about balls and diamonds – how Garth remembers this stuff is beyond me!

More birds and then we were in Savannah for a sad farewell to Terry and Di.   It was wonderful having them with us and sharing what is so special about the trip south.

Anchored out that night – another glorious sunset and then more gorgeous scenery.   We took a side route down to St. Mary’s Sound (another score for the shallow draft PDQ) and it was idyllic!   Not a soul around and just natural beauty.

Then you get to St. Mary’s sound which is where the submarine base is.   Nothing natural about what happens around here.   A big sub in for repairs (we thought), the degaussing pen which removes magnetism from the subs, and a brightly painted workboat.

The current rips through the sound, and fortunately it was with us.   Garth wanted to record this speed (top left) for posterity!   Our normal high speed is about 14 knots with max at around 16.  

Crossing the sound took us into Fernandina Beach FL – recognizable by its paper mill as you arrive.   Another big front was coming – we stayed there for three days with rain and wind blowing solidly at 25 knots with gusts of up to 50!!   We were glad to be safely tied up and managed to get some cleaning done, as well as braving the weather to make it to a coffee shop for breakfast and a wonderful prime rib dinner at the Rusty Pelican.   We were given the ultimate cruiser’s treat when we were picked up by Graeme and Nicola Nichol, South African friends of Jonathan and Anne who told them we were in Fernandina.  They took us to a grocery store and then to their home where we did laundry and they spoiled us with delicious sous vide salmon while we shared stories and found so many common threads in our lives.   It is a tradition that is appreciated so very much – in fact, they are paying it forward from when it happened to then when they started cruising and were embraced by cruising folk in Fort Lauderdale.   Who, it turns out, were South Africans Lorraine and Rob Miller!   We knew Lorraine and Rob when we were in the Caribbean sailing in 1978/79!!!!  What a very small world.    

The next blog will cover Florida and our crossing to the Bahamas – this morning (Friday 12th) we find ourselves in Vero Beach, rushing to our friends Dick and Carol Tuschick in Stuart where we will get all of our last minute provisions, covid tests, beer and wine and be ready to take advantage of a hopefully perfect crossing day to the Bahamas tomorrow.   It will be close –    will keep you posted!!

We’re Off Again!

After our last two trips down to the Bahamas we were both hankering to do it again – just one more time. Acknowledging our advancing age, we felt we would be better off on a power boat this time – and wanted a catamaran with a shallow draft so that we would be able to visit many of the places and coves that our 6′ keel prevented us from seeing. After a lot of research and discussion, Garth decided that a PDQ Power Cat was the perfect boat for the job and through our friends Dick and Carol Tuschick and their daughter Beth we were lucky enough to find a really good one in July last year. Of course there was work to be done and Garth spent time upgrading and installing and cleaning and improving – as he does!

We left on October 19th – a day later than we had planned, but I was very grateful for that extra day!    And still there were things I forgot – like pillows!    I had Kate run by the house on her way down to say goodbye. How many groceries do you have to take with you on such a long trip – this many!   It was quite a feat to get everything packed away but we did.    There are still things I forgot, but fortunately the first part of the trip is down the waterway and there are grocery stores along the way.   We will stop and re-provision at Stuart FL before we cross, so now it is list-making-time for the things that we overlooked.  

Saying goodbye was so hard – how are we going to live without these two?