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!

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.

Christmas Winds & New Years in Georgetown Bahamas

Picture: Stop to admire the view and a wind surfer on our walk around Lake Victoria in Georgetown.

On Christmas Eve we baked white and sweet potatoes and mixed up the innards to make twice baked for the Christmas day potluck. Tom is a master at the white and Anita used a simple recipe for the sweet, just add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and butter, dash of salt & pepper and then garnish with a pecan half and bacon bits. Both were a big hit and delicious!

Anita also made a pull apart party bread that came out a bit too dense, but was still tasty.

Christmas Day was the beginning of a five day stretch of strong east winds; over 20 Knots and often gusting above 30. The first couple of days were also rather wet with scattered rain showers. The organizer of the potluck decided to cancel the beach part of the potluck due to the probability of rain. Plan B was to have the small groups meet on host boats. Our group met on Boatel I a 65 foot trawler that is a top-rated bed and breakfast in Toronto Canada in the summertime. Note the picture of the trawler was not taken on Christmas Day, although the picture of us was.

We are not like most other boaters in Georgetown, though there are some like us who move their homes or mothership to the locations where events will happen and plan on short dinghy rides. Most have large tenders/dinghies with big outboards. The change of venue was made after the wind had picked up. Our group had a brief radio discussion about meeting time and location (more than a mile away) for our potluck and we mentioned a concern about our dinghy range into the strong winds. Bill on Charisma offered to pick us up in his dinghy on his way by. This turned out to be a rather wet and very bouncy adventure! Cruisers here have a habit of steering their tenders while standing up and holding the tiller in one hand and the bow rope (called a painter) in the other. Passengers either stand, kneel or hide in the bottom of the boat. We did the latter trying unsuccessfully to keep the hot potatoes and insulated bag on the bow seat. We dried quickly and at least the water is warm! The return trip back was downwind and much drier though still a bit of spray.

Sorry to say I did not take pictures of the wonderful array of food we had. Everything was absolutely delicious: grilled turkey, cold baked ham, green bean casserole, orzo salad, cabbage salad, two kinds of stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce plus the twice baked potatoes and dinner rolls! Topped off by dessert bars and Christmas cookies and candy canes.

The next day is also a holiday here, Boxing Day. So all businesses are still closed. However, we decided to move over to the town anchorage as we had hoped it would be more sheltered. We soon learned it was not at all sheltered. We stayed aboard all day Wednesday and Thursday as it was too rough to attempt getting in the dinghy. Nights were restless due to bouncing and the heat with hatches closed due to rain showers. By Friday we were anxious to get our feet on terra firma, yup we are gonna get wet coming back to the boat, prepare!

We were on a mission! We spent three hours at the BTC mobile office. We first purchased a SIM chip for the iPAD and later a data plan. We will use this as a hotspot when we need faster service than we get with T-Mobile. Then we found a corner to plug in 2 devices at a time and began doing updates on systems and apps on phones, watch and iPAD.

Then we took a walk around lake Victoria to stretch our legs and see the Far side of town. We checked out a few other places for lunch, but decided to go back to a favorite for charcoal grilled jerk ribs, so tasty and served with a small piece of corn on the cob and baked macaroni and cheese.

One more stop at the Exuma Market for groceries then a wet dinghy ride back to the boat. This was one time I should have used plastic grocery bags; my cloth bags were soaked in salt water. Here’s a 10 second video of Tom’s new and improved water transfer system which he did right after returning to the boat. You can see how bouncy it was!

Thanks Dan on Cutting Class for the picture and idea to make this task easier! Tom still plans a few more modifications to prevent the hose from kinking.

Tom started the next boat project: installing an electric anchor windlass. The hole is cut in the deck, foam core routed out, and reinforced with epoxy and filler. He still needs one more finish coat of epoxy and to design, cut and install an interior backing plate. Then the windlass and foot switches can be installed! The electric wires are already in.

We made one more quick trip to town on Saturday morning to use the WiFi in front of the closed BTC office to update computer software, buy those sweet little bananas, and fill the water cans one more time.

Then we raised two anchors; we had dropped a spare when the winds were over 30! And motored back over to Stocking Island. This time we found a really nice anchorage next to the moorings in the channel toward the three holes. The music from the Chat and Chill was not as loud here and we were around the corner in more protected waters.

After beach church on Sunday we moved Lone Star a couple miles down island to Sand Dollar beach. We joined about 60 other cruisers for an early New Years sunset celebration, blowing into conch shells and a bonfire on the beach with lots of appetizers.

We plan to sail to Long Island, Conception, and perhaps Rum Cay as soon as we finish installing the windlass.

Fun in Georgetown

We’ve been here for almost a week. Yes, we still think this is heaven on earth!

Both our passage problems have been repaired. Tom put out a request on the morning harbor net for the size and type of bolt we needed to repair our helmsman chair. A nearby boat, Angela D, gave us the bolt that used to hold up their mast! They have converted their former motor-sailor to a power boat. Cruisers often help each other out like this. Harold would not take anything for it. Today we took a lot of stuff out of the aft cabin so Tom could work on re-centering and pinning the rudder. It seems to be working much better now!

We brought Lone Star over to Georgetown on Monday, December 10 to checkin with Customs and Immigration. The boat can stay for 12 months. We will need to renew our immigration visas after 90 days.

We also did a walk-through of the local Exuma Market. It is small, but packed with a lot of foods. Prices for staples like fresh vegetables, frozen meats or vegetables, and rice or flour seem to be comparable to the states. As expected, luxury items like Marie’s salad dressing, chips, cookies and chocolate bars are twice the price. Bananas at a roadside stand were $3 for about 14 six inch bananas. These are the sweetest bananas we’ve ever had! I’ll be making banana bread soon. We had one for the passage that was excellent.

Although there is a laundry mat in town, time to be a real cruiser and do it by hand! Ouch, I forgot how much it hurts the hands to wring out clothes. The Mr. Wringer didn’t do a very good job, still needed to squeeze more water out!

Line dried clothes are so crisp!

Another cruiser chore for us; self filling the tank by dinghy water barge. The Exuma Market recently added a Reverse Osmosis-RO water spigot to the cruisers dinghy dock behind their business. Tom threw the first set of jugs on board, then rigged a block and tackle to hoist them aboard. Much easier, although another cruiser said he uses a pump to offload the water right from the dinghy. We’ll have to look into that improvement!

Finally, we attended a musical jam session on shore yesterday. There are some very talented musicians here! Really fun to meet folks and sing along.

We plan to stay here through Christmas.