Lucky to be in the Bahamas

We feel blessed, prepared, thankful, and happy to be living this naturally isolating lifestyle on our boat in the Bahamas during this global pandemic with COVID-19. Of course, we are also concerned and hopeful that family and friends everywhere are taking the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Lone Star anchored at Crab Cay looking toward Stocking Island

In late February and early March, we spent a week in a Long Island anchorage and two weeks exploring three remote and quiet anchorages on Cat Island. We thoroughly enjoyed beautiful sails between these idyllic and remote islands. The fresh baked cinnamon swirl coconut bread purchased on Cat Island is the best we’ve found so far! The locals have been kind and welcoming.

Lone Star in Ruins Bay, Crab Cay

There is always something to do on our boat so life afloat is not boring. As you can tell we enjoy remote areas and each other’s company. We often write about projects and chores, but we have play time too. Like swimming, snorkeling, listening to books or podcasts, watching movies, playing games, reading, walking on shore, often on a beautiful beach or a trail on a deserted island like Crab Cay near Great Exuma. Anita enjoys finding new recipes and Tom likes eating!

Tom rebedding chainplaits under new awning Anita made.
New rope clutch covers to protect from sun damage

We were lucky to return to Georgetown on March 16, the day before the virus related curfew began in the Bahamas. We met up with friends who borrowed a car. It was very quick to drive to our favorite stores to stock up on fresh and frozen food. The pantry is still well stocked so no need to purchase food with a long shelf life. I almost took a picture of the well stocked shelves; no sign of hoarding here. Freight is still moving into and around the Bahamas. People are restricted to the islands they occupy and are required to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary to obtain food, fuel, or medical assistance. The Bahamas were also early adopters, instructing all to wear masks in public, wash hands thoroughly and often, and maintain physical distance at all times.

Beautiful Sand Dollar beach

The Bahamas have done a very good job in slowing the spread of this virus through curfews, and weekend lockdowns which mean: stay at home as nothing is open. As of May 21; there are no known cases of COVID within 100 miles of us; in the Exuma chain of islands.

Rain squall approaching Param, Georgetown in background

In early April the Prime Minister released a new protocol for pleasure craft. All boats needed to register their intentions: go home or stay on their boats and shelter in place. We chose to continue to shelter in place. They took a survey of all the boats in Elizabeth harbor to establish a starting point of our self-quarantine. For nearly five weeks we were not allowed off our boats (we did do a lot of swimming). Water, fuel, and groceries were delivered to us and trash was picked up weekly. We were so blessed to have a handful of locals and businesses cater to our needs and ensure we were doing okay.

Never tired of the view, neighbor is Little Sister

The cruiser community here is so positive and uplifting. We have actually had a lot of fun learning about our neighbors who have sailed or motored here from all over the world. The morning VHF radio net includes weather, news, departures, arrivals, upcoming VHF radio community events, boaters needs, and concludes with a joke or final thought for the day. At least six nights a week; except Sunday, we have volunteers host evening VHF radio events. Local Bahamians are encouraged to participate as well. Tom has hosted three events so far: a couple discussions on ‘boat hacks’; changes we’ve made to our boats that others might want to try, and a very detailed discussion on multihulls for cruising. Tom talked so much the radio over-heated. We put a fan on it and asked others for input to allow it to cool. Other topics we’ve enjoyed on the VHF radio: Night net: cruiser interviews and psychology discussions, book discussions and multi-character readings, discussions on diving, fishing, hurricane preparedness, cooking on a boat, Trivia night, joke night, and interactive murder mysteries. Tom has been an adlib actor in the latter five times. He was the nasty secret murderer in at least two. There are actually a lot of laughs in these quirky mysteries with fantastic accents to entertain as well. Here’s a link to a fun video of what Georgetown cruisers did on their boats during or just before this lockdown. Emily is a genius at making videos! We are in this one three times, can you spot us?

Pavilion on deserted Crab Cay

Tom has been a net relay all winter on the morning Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) single side band radio net. He has communicated with boats all over the Caribbean, Central America and out into the Atlantic.

Celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with this. Delicious!!

We’ve enjoyed our warm seven months in the Bahamas. It will soon be time to head to sea and return to New England for the summer. We sure hope the pandemic is in the recovery phase soon. We need to move north for hurricane season. Looking forward to a smooth moonlit passage!

Sailing Bahamas Out Islands – Long & Cat

On Thursday, February 27 we used a rare weather window to motor/sail east to Long Island, home for nearly 3000 Bahamians. We sadly left our fun friends on Pegu Club, though they were thoroughly enjoying our remote anchorage in Red Shanks. After seven hours and 35 miles we anchored in Salt Pond, Long Island right in front of the prominent cell tower. There are 26 boats here versus the 333 in the Georgetown area. We ventured ashore Friday for groceries and happy hour with cruisers at Sou’ side Bar and Grill. We then set an alarm Saturday morning in order to get to the Farmers Market early. It worked! We found delicious cinnamon buns, honey wheat bread and pineapple tarts. All exquisitely delicious! We moved the boat to the protected end of this large harbor called Thompson Bay, as we expected strong winds for a couple of days.

By Tuesday, February 25 there were 35 boats in the harbor and the wind had abated enough for a cruisers gathering on the beach.

Sharing appetizers, chatting,
Listening to cruising musicians
and Admiring the view

The next day we decided to explore a new-to-us Bahama Island and embarked on an all day sail to Cat Island, sixty-six miles away. We raised the sails and left before dawn at 6:00 am. What a fabulous sail we had! A beam reach, gorgeous sun, a slight swell, just enough to provide a comfortable easy rocking motion any baby would love! We both commented on the soothing sound of the water rushing beneath our hulls. We averaged a very comfortable 6 knots for this eleven hour passage, though the afternoon winds of 15-18 knots, drove the boat faster.

Now there are only five boats in New Bight harbor on Cat Island. We went ashore the next day to visit the bakery and hike to the Hermitage, Father Jerome’s final home and resting place. Here is an official description of this famous highest peak in the Bahamas. We were awed by it.

Yes, these islands are relatively flat!
Entering
Easy gradual rise
Beginning of the Stations of the Cross
Continuing up the path
Steps made the steep parts easy
So reverently hand-crafted
Almost there
Our rest stop
Last station before the peak

The hermitage itself is a three-quarter scale, designed for a single person. We did not have to duck as we are short by today’s standards, less than 5’6”.

Tom in archway, near bell tower
The view
A single bedroom with windows on three sides
Handy sundial

Our return to sea level was easier by a gradual path.

Lone Star to right of center of photo

And those clouds foretold our future. We will have six days of winds in the 20 – 40 knot range. It would be a wet ride to get to shore. So we occupy our time on board with projects, cooking, writing, and reading. Can’t wait for the wind to abate so we can explore some more!

We Love Exuma

What a fantastic place to spend the winter! Temperatures in the 70’s day and night. Many lovely anchorages to choose from, no crimes against yachtsman that we’ve heard of; hitch hiking on shore is encouraged, convenient, and sometimes educational! Beautiful aqua marine clear water and helpful, friendly, caring cruisers surrounding us.

Hiking Sand Dollar with long time friends Steve and Helen on Miles

Many people have commented on the numerous weather fronts and reinforced trade winds since early December. We are thankful that this weather encouraged us to explore additional sheltered anchorages in the Georgetown area. This enabled us to spend quality time with new friends for sun downers, hiking, snorkeling, shopping excursions that included lunch out (yum!), or fun new games on board. Life is good here! Note: Sundowners include bringing an appetizer to share and your own drinks of choice to a host boat to watch the sunset and swap sea stories or ask for advice on a nagging boat problem, or to discuss the next port of call. Fun event to host as well!

Thanksgiving potluck at Sand Dollar beach
Hiking a newly groomed trail to Lumina Point from Sand Dollar via the eastern shore beach that included…
Some wading and …
A swing at the top edge of a cliff overlooking the beach
Christmas potluck Volleyball beach with all the cruisers
Hike to the Monument with cruisers
Enjoying the view and each other
Beach walking
Exploring some plantation ruins
Touring Crab Cay by water
Sundowners with friends
A nearby water spout, luckily no one was hurt though it went right over a friends boat.
Learning a bit of history about Junkanoo courtesy of Exuma Ministry of Tourism

We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon recently at a reception for cruisers and international home owners on Exuma. They offered a wonderful buffet of Bahamian food, raffle prizes included gift certificates for local businesses, a dance demonstration and a brief history of Junkanoo. We learned the tradition was started by a Bahamian slave named Jon Kanu on Boxing Day which was the one day off per year that plantation owners allowed slaves to have off. They chose to begin their celebration of freedom one minute after midnight and beat their drums all day long. Each year they have a theme and their costumes and music represent that theme. This years theme was under the sea, costumes show waves, sea life, and the color of the sea here. Music included “Wade in the Water”, for example. A newer meaning of the word is “Junk made new”; as there costumes and instruments are made from recycled items. Pretty neat!!

Bahamian dance demonstration

We continue to work on projects to improve our floating home. Completing the water maker, a desalinater system has saved us from having to lug and pay for water this winter.

Beautiful sunset!

Love Exuma in winter!

On Schedule to Escape Winter

Last year we arrived in Beaufort, NC on November 21st and left for the Bahamas on November 29th; the temperature was 31 degrees. It felt like winter. This year we arrived on October 23rd with plans to head for the Bahamas around November 1st. Daytime temperatures were in the 70’s and lows were in the 50’s. Only two boats in the anchorage when we arrived. More yachts populated the docks and anchorage on the weekend.Bird landing on the water atThe public dinghy/fishing dock, directly across from the anchorage.

We are very impressed with our new super quiet Torqueedo long shaft electric outboard motor. The driver can feel a slight vibration in the tiller. However, it is SO quiet it is difficult to know if it’s turned on! Listen to this short clip:On Saturday we walked up to the Farmers Market. They were celebrating Halloween a few days early.Many of the vendors wore costumes and had candy for the children. Yummy Bacon twist!

Delicious meat pies and farm fresh fruits and vegetables!!

Although we did a lot of provisioning in CT before we left; it was time for the final stock up before heading to the Bahamas. We rented a car for two days, rather than borrow an hour at a time from the local marina. No rushing through the stores this year.First run to Walmart, hardware and pharmacy.

The first half-day of having a car we made the first shopping run. Then Anita picked up our nephew Brian at the bus stop 4 miles away. He flew in from Germany and had been traveling for at least a day and a half. Brian wants to sail to the Bahamas with us and experience an ocean passage. We arrived on Lone Star just at sunset and the insects were feasting on us! After a good nights sleep, a big breakfast and a cup of coffee; Brian spent hours going through our three medical supply boxes and compiled a shopping list to bring them up to snuff. We threw away a lot of old stuff that was no longer sterile or usable. After a light lunch, Brian and Anita went shopping for another round of provisions and filled the small dinghy again. Meanwhile, Tom worked on replacing the electric autopilot motor with our spare and preparing the deck for the replacement rope clutch. He found the old electric autopilot motor had three bolts that were all very loose. It still worked but squealed a lot before the bolts were tightened. Therefore, we still have a working spare, yeah! Unfortunately, once again the shoppers returned right at sunset and again got caught feeding a variety of insects. Guess this is the down side of being here early. No frost yet to reduce the insect population.

The final half-day with the rental car Anita shopped to top off the freezer and refrigerator. Before leaving she put all home-made frozen food for the passage in the cooler. She was satisfied when all the groceries neatly filled every available cold space. We are provisioned to the max! And the black boot stripe at the waterline is still visible; not over loaded.Picture courtesy of Brian

Our weather window was originally Friday, then Saturday. It finally settled into a firm Sunday morning departure. This gave us time to do our remaining chores slowly and enjoy Beaufort a bit more. Like going out to eat at a local barbecue place and doing laundry one last time. Brian volunteered to go up the mast to lubricate and inspect the mast track and rig.He wore our GoPro camera; so cool to see what he was seeing remotely on the iPad. We could snap pictures from the iPad! Pegu Club is featured in the center of this next photo from the top of our mast.Despite our busy days we really enjoyed playing Hearts with 5 players for a couple evenings. So glad Jeff and Kimberly could join us and see a bit of Beaufort, NC.

On Saturday afternoon we started our last project before the passage south: making the Portland Pudgy into a lifeboat and storing it on deck.We are so blessed and thankful to have Brian’s help these last four days of preparation. He was very quick to pitch in and do just about anything and he’s a great cook too. Chicken jambalaya, is on the menu during our passage. A big pot of chili has been made, so it must be time to sail away.

On Sunday, morning November 3rd we raised the anchor and headed out to sea. We did it; left America without running the diesel cabin heater!

Next up; Passage to the Bahamas.

Countdown to Sailing South

Last year we only had two and a half weeks after Tom retired to settle our affairs, load the boat, and head south. It was fast paced with long days to get everything on and off the boat as needed. It was also exciting to be following our dream of going south and cruising full time once again. This year we planned for specific maintenance and upgrades to be done during our July haul out. Sure, some boat projects have kept us busy this summer. However, we’ve taken the time to enjoy ourselves and even sail a little.

This year September was all about spontaneity. In the last blog I mentioned that we have been looking for a life raft. An emergency device we might need, but hope and pray that never happens. Tom suddenly found the perfect lifeboat for us. It is NOT an inflatable raft people sit in and hope to be rescued. A concern we have about these expensive and heavy rafts are that only qualified inspectors can and must service them every 2-3 years. Our lifeboat is a Portland Pudgy rigid dinghy. Checkout the link to see more details. This well designed short boat can be used as a row boat, motor boat, sailboat and most importantly to us it’s a lifeboat. We hope that by using it every day we will also be more familiar with how to use it in an emergency.

Tom found a slightly used 2016 Pudgy in Eliot, Maine for a decent price. Soon we were driving to Maine to inspect and purchase it. Yeah, it fit easily in the back of the van! Phew, that’s a relief. We were not looking forward to trying to hoist 125 pounds on to the roof.

We continued driving north to visit Anita’s sisters in Newcastle and Nobleboro, Maine. After all, we were less than an hour away. I can’t believe I have no pictures of our visit. How disappointing! Fun dinner hosted by Eva, with Linda and Janet and all our spouses too. Tom had a few days to catch up on computer work while Anita pitched in to help Linda get ready to move to a cottage in Nobleboro.

Next stop was Portland Pudgy itself in Portland, Maine. We met with the owner and filled out an order for the remaining equipment needed to fully outfit our Pudgy as a sailboat and lifeboat. We actually decided to leave our Pudgy there to have the sailing hardware installed by them.

In the mean time, we drove to the middle of New Hampshire for a last visit with Tom’s Dad. A generous helping of chili and corn bread was welcome after a walk around Wellington State Park. Thank you Ilse for the fresh Blueberry pie, blueberry crisp and jelly too!

We then returned to Portland, Maine to pick up our dinghy and accessories and drive back to Connecticut in the same day.

On our over night voyage from Block Island to Delaware Bay we carried the lifeboat upside down on the port bow.It fits well on our Davits and has a clever harness under the dinghy for added support and security.And it passed the test of carrying our first grocery run with our Burley Trolley. A versatile folding hand cart or bicycle trailer.A week later than last year, we saw a weather window for our first passage south. Similar to last year we were on shore when we saw the end of a rainbow over our home. A good sign it’s time to leave!Our sail to Block Island on September 28th was fast and fun; 26 miles in three and a half hours. We met with Steve and Helen on Miles and we both planned to leave for Cape May early the next morning. So happy to be heading south again!

Cruising in the Abaco’s

Cover photo: sunrise in Marsh Harbor.

We tried to leave Spanish Wells, following Pegu Club out of the harbor one afternoon. We had the main sail up and the anchor bridle off. When Anita turned on the key and pushed the button to start the engine nothing happened. Tom tried too, still nothing. We thought about sailing off anchor, but decided to drop the sail and trouble shoot the problem instead. This happened around 2PM. Tom had spent the day rigging the steering lines for the WindPilot self-steering out in the hot sun. Then he had to dive in the airless engine room. We took apart the engine control panel in the enclosed cockpit as well. Buffing wires and rerouting a few made it work, but the real problem is a couple broken prongs inside a wiring harness. No spare on board so we connected the wires directly and will complete the repair once back in the states this summer.

The next morning we left before sunrise at 6:00 AM to sail from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera 65 nautical miles to the northern Bahamas island group known as the Abaco’s. We had light winds, but were able to sail most of the way, only turning on the engine in the late afternoon. We crossed paths with this container ship…and Pegu Club who left from Egg Island at sunrise. Their towed dinghy is hiding behind a wave.We both anchored in the Lee of Lynard Cay shortly after entering Great Abaco Sound via Little Harbor Cut. It was an easy off the wind 11.5 hour sail and the WindPilot self-steering wind vane quietly and competently accomplished all the offshore steering! Yeah, another successful project completed!

The next day we sailed 20 miles northward to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco. This is one of the larger settlements on Great Abaco. We visited both a large hardware and grocery store, both the biggest we’ve seen all winter with the exception of Nassau. Then back aboard to enjoy the sunset.The next day, we stayed aboard and celebrated Kimberly’s Birthday by grilling steaks and hamburgers on the grill accompanied with parsley potatoes and carrots and brownies and chocolate malted milkshakes for dessert. So happy to have sailed so much with Kimberly and Jeff this winter. We wish them well on their return trip to CT. The next day they headed west, while we headed east for a nostalgic return to Hopetown on Elbow Cay. We cruised here nearly thirty years ago. We had a great walk to On Da Beach restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing and delicious lunch. Thanks for the tip Marcia!We had to wait out some nasty weather at anchor near Eagle Rock…Enjoyed more pretty sunsets …Explored the still operating kerosene historic lighthouse and the amazing view from the top…And a two mile walk on the beach, love the sound of crashing waves on a beach…We enjoyed our six days in Hopetown. Then we motored to Man of War Cay about six miles away. It was low tide when we left. Easy to see how shallow the water was; 4-6 feet deep for a mile or so. Interesting that the water color in this part of the Bahamas is a deeper green, some people call it emerald green, rather than the bright turquoise in the Exumas. This is looking straight down into six feet of water with a sandy bottom while sailing…After one rocking night with south winds; we decided to move back to Marsh Harbor for our final stock up before heading to sea, and north toward New England for the summer. There are other cruisers getting ready for their crossings as well. Always fun to compare plans and swap sea stories. On our walk to Maxwells, a large grocery store, we spotted a cruiser on a folding bicycle with a Burley Travoy trailer holding two ten pound propane tanks. Tom stopped him by asking a question so we were able to see what we purchased online last month. He said, it’s the best purchase he ever made! We’re looking forward to getting ours!

On Wednesday afternoon, May 8; we decided to get the boat ready for sea as we had a weather window to go offshore. We rigged safety lines on deck, disassembled the dinghy, secured a lot of loose items, bought fuel and water. We left at first light on Thursday, and listened to Chris Parker on SSB for a weather update as we sailed out of Marsh Harbor. We also checked a few apps we use to predict weather. Unfortunately, our weather window had diminished. We chose to abort this attempt rather than sail into a gale near Beaufort, NC nearly 500 miles away. We anchored on the south side of Great Guana and enjoyed another new beautiful Bahama anchorage. The next day we had a leisurely sail to Green Turtle Cay. Tom dove over the side to check the anchor as this is a grassy anchorage; labeled poor holding. He also scrubbed and inspected the bottom of the boat. The next day we went ashore to walk around this historical loyalist settlement. It is very neat and clean. It had the best new dinghy dock we’ve ever seen!How’s this for a front yard tree?After a couple days anchored here we moved into quiet Bluff Cay cove on Green Turtle Cay. We were the only boat in this small nearly enclosed harbor. The only sound here is the twitter of birds. The view includes sea turtles and beautiful houses hidden in the trees. One morning some locals were out for their morning swim and stopped to say hello.

We continue to enjoy sailing in the Bahamas as we prepare our boat and ourselves for the voyage back to Connecticut (CT) for the summer months. Yes, we plan to sail south again to avoid a cold winter and we love to sail year round. Looking forward to connecting with family and friends in CT.

Nassau and Eleuthera

We were a bit skeptical about sailing to Nassau after hearing that 80% of the Bahamians live there and the crime rate is high. However, we were pleasantly surprised at how friendly all the local people we engaged in conversations were. The majority of the Bahamian people are very kind and friendly. It is, more importantly, an international airport hub from NY and the reason we decided to go there.

The day after Alex and Jenna left we bagged all the laundry and took the dinghy to Junkanoo beach. We hauled our 10 foot Porta-Bote way up beyond the high tide mark and locked it to a railing where local merchants hawk their wares later in the day. It’s also where the taxis hang out waiting to give tourists a tour. The mile long walk to a very large laundry facility was up a long gradual hill. Tom commented that this laundry was well thought out for its purpose. It had great ventilation, large aisles, and hundreds of machines, all in working order! We enjoyed a much easier walk back although the bags were still heavy. That afternoon we moved the boat a mile east to be closer to the big grocery store we walked to and from. Once again loaded down with too much to carry. We seriously need to find a cart with big wheels! We walked more than five miles today and carried a fair bit; our arms and necks are weary.

Has anyone heard of cruisers midnight? Many cruisers adopt the clock of the sun, like farmers we rise and rest early. Consequently, 9PM seems like midnight. By moving a mile east, we had escaped the throbbing musical entertainment at Junkanoo beach which ends at 1:30AM, half-way into our sleep cycle. Now we were anchored in front of Atlantis Park to the north. They had an easy listening live band that started playing in the early afternoon. Around cruisers midnight, that was drowned out by a dance club on the south side of the river and, you guessed it the noise blared until 1:30 AM. Who needs sleep?

The next morning we hoisted the anchor at 7AM and left Nassau. We sailed close to the wind for 11 hours; hand steering for the first 4 as we were too close to the wind for the electric auto pilot. We were so relieved to get out of the rocky seas by entering Alabaster Bay. Unfortunately, we were greeted by all too familiar loud Bahamian head banging music complete with a lot of foul language this time. Thankfully the entertainment ended at 9:30 PM. Ah, finally a good night sleep!

The next day Pegu Club sailed into the harbor from Rock Sound. We gathered on Lone Star for a fun game of cards and cruise planning as we are both heading north.

We enjoyed a two hour walk the next afternoon with Jeff and Kimberly. We wandered across the island and around the remains of a World War II military base and to this beautiful pink sand beach.Then back to this view of our snug and beautiful harbor. We shared a slow-cooker beef stew and biscuit dinner followed by fresh brownies (thanks to K&J) and a good sailing spy movie: “Riddle of the Sands”, on Lone Star.

The next day we sailed in company with Pegu Club from Alabaster Bay to Royal Island Harbor at the north end of Eleuthera. It was real nice to get a first hand report about the conditions in Current Cut from Kimberly via VHF radio. It was much easier than we anticipated! She even took pictures of us right after we came through the cut.We stayed aboard our boats, visiting each other occasionally, in the nearly enclosed private island harbor of Royal Island for four days. South winds above 20 knots were prevalent throughout this time. Luckily, only the last day had rain squalls. The south winds would have been great for continuing on to the Abacos except for the accompanying waves. The early morning when the wind was at its peak Anita got up several times to check our position. At 4AM we had 3 boats in front of us, at 5 we had only 2. One had dragged their anchor and ended up well behind us. No idea how it didn’t hit us, but very thankful! There was no one on board that boat or 2 others anchored nearby. We did meet the owner two days later, just as we were hauling our anchor to head to Spanish Wells for a few days. He asked us,”Who moved my boat?” We told him the wind and a dragging anchor. He and his family were staying with a friend on a nearby island for the storm. He was very lucky he sustained no damage.

Spanish Wells is a lovely, well decorated, colorful and clean town. On Easter Sunday we walked the beautiful north beach for miles.

A couple days later we spotted these dolphin as we entered the harbor.How’s this for a front lawn?Tom is enjoying the challenge of installing the used WindPilot self-steering. He disassembled and cleaned everything before installing. Rigging lines and tuning to ensure it will steer in any weather. Haven’t attached the wind or water blades yet.We mentioned wanting a cart to Kimberly and she suggested the folding versatile Burley bicycle trailer/hand cart. Tom found one on eBay and we won the bid! It will be in CT waiting for us. We have decided to go back to SYC this summer. We plan to arrive in June. Anita’s current project is restocking the freezer with homemade meals for the upcoming passage.

Next up: heading north to the Abacos.