More Exumas Land & Sea

It has been a long time since a blog update, as we have had almost no internet for about 3 weeks now. Luckily I am keeping track of everything in Ronya’s logbook, and Miss Wilson is doing a great job helping me!

On June 2, we lifted anchor at Blackpoint on Great Iguana Cay to head south to Little Farmers Cay. As we rounded the corner of the Bay, we realized that with the wind direction, we would not be able to sail there, so we headed north and back to Staniel Cay. We had heard about a cruisers’ beach in the Bay of Pigs and had wanted to check that out anyways. After we anchored at Big Majors again, we made contact with some of the other cruisers there that we had met in Blackpoint, and spent a fun evening on the cruisers’ beach with old and new friends.

The next few days, we ran some errands and enjoyed some great company. We had our propane (for cooking and baking) refilled, did some laundry, and reprovisioned some fresh fruit, vegetables, beer and cat food. We had a pizza night on Ronya with some new friends, hung out at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks and bar food, had lunch on “First Edition”, our new friend Peter’s all-electric solar boat, and spent more time at cruisers’ beach.

On June 7, we left Staniel Cay and sailed 5 miles north to Sampson Cay. The next day was a rainy one, so we hung out on the boat, made some R/O water and caught some rainwater, and cleaned the boat inside and out. With the weather nice again, we paddled and kayaked through the Sampson Cay flats and around South Sampson Cay.

We also dinghied back to Staniel Cay for some last provisions on the western channel route, and hiked on the rocks on the western side, where we found a beautiful beach, lots of cliffs, and some impressive saltwater pools.

And, finally, another beautiful sunset, after the clouds had been covering the sunset for days and days!

On June 11, we sailed a little further north to Pipe Cay. We paddled/kayaked over to the beach and explored the Decca Station ruins, then hiked west to Pipe Creek with its impressive sand flats.

The next day, we took the dinghy around the south side of Pipe Cay and into Pipe Creek. The colors of the water inside there are absolutely astonishing! We did a quick drift snorkel on a small reef, towing our dinghy, but the current was so strong it was a REALLY quick snorkel.

On June 13, we lifted anchor to go a little further north to Cambridge Cay, which is the southernmost island of the Exumas Land & Sea Park. As usual, we had to sail a few miles out into the banks to avoid the sand bars, then sail back in to the islands, this time into Conch Cut. The current through the cut is very strong, and the southern approach to Cambridge Cay channel is through a coral head bank in the cut. After turning in there, all we could see were coral heads (and the visibility was not good since it was overcast), so we aborted that attempt (we are sailing our house after all). We went out of the cut to the Exuma Sound and headed north on the outside to check out the norther entrance to Cambridge Cay Channel through Bell Cut. The current was very strong, more that 2 knots, but we managed to get in and finally secured a Park mooring ball in the channel. What a relief!

The next day had us paddling to the beaches at Cambridge Cay and hiking the different trails across the island, east to west. The island is private, but it is allowed to hike if you stay on the tiny trails.

Towards the evening when the tide had gone out, we took the dinghy to the Rocky Dundas, two small islands in the channel that have some cool caves you can snorkel into. The light filters in through holes in the top which makes for a really nice athmosphere.

We also couldn’t miss the snorkeling, so we set out the next day to snorkel the “Aquarium” and another small plane wreck. On the way back to the boat, Anya got to drift snorkel along a spectacular unmarked reef we just happened to notice from the dinghy.

Another sight in this area is “Rachel’s Bubble Bath” on Compass Cay, so that was our destination on June 16. At high tide we left the dinghy on the beach at Compass Cay and walked up the almost dry riverbed to the eastern side of the island.

At the end of this riverbed is a large pool of water that has the waves splashing into it from the sound, which makes for a fun bubble bath every time a wave hits.

On June 17, we left the mooring field at Cambridge Cay to sail further north and back to Warderick Wells. We anchored at Emerald Rock again, and the next day took the dinghy to the Park Headquarters to pay for our mooring days. We also wanted to go back to Pirate’s Lair as there was supposed to be good snorkeling off the beach there, so we took the dinghy and repeated our hike to the eastern shore, armed with snorkel gear this time. Once we snorkeled far enough south from the beach, we found the corals, and they were really nice. We saw some turtles and a huge Caribbean Reef Shark.

We then took the dinghy to some more recommended snorkel spots (Malabar Cays and Emerald Rock), but we were not impressed.

The next day (June 19) we lifted anchor to sail to our last stop in the Exumas, Hawksbill Cay, where we took a park mooring ball.

We dinghied to the northern beach, from where we hiked across the hills to the eastern shore and a beautiful beach there. Floating in the surf was a big inflatable trampoline that looked brand new, so we deflated it, dragged it to high ground, and left it there to dry and see if we could pick it up the next day. The following day started with making water and baking bread, then back to retrieve the trampoline. We actually managed to carry it over the hill and back to the dinghy on the western shore. It later ended up cleaned and folded into a sailbag and stowed in our shower next to our old dinghy motor ;-). We hiked some more, along the cliffs of the eastern shoreline and to the ruins of a plantation from the 18th century. There was just a few overgrown walls still standing, and it was hard to image that people actually lived here so long ago… Towards sunset time, we climbed the hill next to the anchorage for a great 360 degree view. In our selfie you can see Ronya in the background 🙂

Our last day in the Exumas was spent riding the dinghy and trying to find some reefs to snorkel on, but unfortunately we weren’t successful with that. So we just went for a long walk along one of the beautiful beaches on Hawksbill Cay, and Anya climbed to the top of the hill again to get a tiny cell signal to call her mother for her birthday. The evening was spent relaxing, as we were going to get up right at dawn to sail back to New Providence / Nassau Island. Good bye Exumas!

Staniel Cay and Blackpoint

On May 25, Russ and Kelly came over so we could all go to Pig Beach. Although this is probably the most touristy thing in the Exumas, we weren’t going to miss it! Russ had brought some food scraps he was going to feed to the pigs.

The pigs are curious but do not like Russ’ leftovers 🙂
They really do swim over to your dinghy

In the afternoon, we were able to re-provision some vegetables at the Blue Store, and took a walk across the island.

May 26 had us visiting another very touristy place, the Thunderball Grotto. At low tide you can snorkel into the grotto and see the light shine in from above. Although we weren’t the only ones ;-), it was pretty cool.

Later that day we hiked across to the oceanside beach on Staniel Cay to take a walk on the beach, but ended up doing a beach cleanup. It is pretty depressing how much plastic trash washes up on the beautiful beaches here. We had dinner off the lunch menu at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, a nice break for Anya from cooking for weeks on end!

May 27 we had a relaxing day at anchor in Staniel Cay, and made some freshwater with our Rainman R/O system. We got to watch as a seaplane landed, picked up people from the yacht next to us, then taxied around our boat and took off. Very cool to watch!

We finally had a sunset that was not covered with clouds, and it looked like the sky was on fire!

On May 28 (Anya’s birthday), we lifted anchor at Staniel Cay to sail south to Blackpoint. With only the genoa to sail with, we went pretty slow, and had to tack a lot since we were going into the wind. We sailed most of the day to go 9 miles, but we got there at 2 pm. We immediately met some other cruisers in this pretty anchorage, only sailboats here (no superyachts). We walked around this quaint Bahamian village that has kept it’s local vibe. We had a beer at Emerald Sunset Bar overlooking the bay and got some groceries, since the mailboat had arrived that day. We then went to Scorpio’s to meet the other cruisers, and then Rob got Anya her birthday dinner at Lorraine’s. The food was very good, but the waitress was the grumpiest I had ever experienced :-)! Corey and Alisha had invited us to come on their boat after dinner, so we ended the evening with a fun group of cruisers.

Lisa, John, Alisha,Corey, Anya, Rob, Robert, Nicola

On May 29 we started the day with a big breakfast, and finally did our laundry. Since we do laundry as we shower, we can get by for weeks without a laundramat, but it is nice to have fresh sheets every once in a while… In the evening we went back to Scorpio’s with Nicola and Robert, and met some really nice locals. We decided on a sunset dinner at Emerald Sunset, and DJ (the local DJ, go figure) kept us company.

On May 30 we geared up for a big hike to the northern tip of Blackpoint and Gotham Cut. On the way we stopped at the Blow Hole. To take a picture, you had to wait for the “blow” and then run quickly 🙂

Since there was no path where the map said there was one, we just made our way north along the beaches and cliffs. It was great exercise!

Since everybody had left and we were the only boat in the anchorage, it was Rob and Anya and the locals night at Scorpio’s. We ran into the usual suspects and Shiwago made us a fantastic dinner of grilled fresh snapper in broth. What a cool day!

Exumas Land & Sea Park, and a big problem on the way to Staniel Cay

On May 16, we decided to wait one more day before moving on, and took a long walk along the roads and paths of Norman‘s Cay for some much needed exercise.

We lifted anchor the morning of Monday May 17 to sail to Shroud Cay, the northernmost island of the Exumas Land & Sea Park. Shroud Cay is not really an island, it is a cluster of little hills and mangrove salinas with some curvy channels running through them, a great place to paddle, kayak and explore by dinghy. We sailed at around 6 knots with just a reefed genoa, the wind was still very gusty. After we anchored in a nice protected anchorage in Shroud Cay, a sailboat with a German flag anchored just in front of us. Friends! We made contact and it turned out they were with a group of 5 German and 1 Swiss sailboats that all pulled in after them. More friends!

We took the kayak and paddleboard throuch the southernmost mangrove channel across the island and to the eastern beach. What a beautiful beach!

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

That evening everybody dinghied over to a beach for a sundowner, and we had a great time hanging out with the rest of the “German anchorage”.

Photo courtesy of Ingo & Andrea

The next morning we joined the German channel broadcast and everybody decided to take the northern mangrove channel by dinghy and find the lookout point on the eastern side of the Cay. The dinghy flotilla took off from the anchorage and through the winding channel. On the other side we beached the dinghies and walked up all 65 feet of altitude to the 360 degree lookout point right above the “Rapids”.

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking
Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

After a quiet evening, everybody got together again in the morning for a sand bank “walk” through the shallow water at low tide.

Photo courtesy of Ralf Gerking

In the evening, everybody gathered on a new beach for a fun evening of drinks, laughter and guitar singalongs with our star players Jonathan and Jonas.

Photo courtesy of Ingo & Andrea

On Thursday May 20, Rob and I had a leisurely brunch, and then our new friends came over to Ronya for some “sunscreen and body care products on a boat” education and to get some Stream2Sea samples. Everybody is really excited to finally have found products that are truly (tested and proven) safe for our waters and our bodies too!

The German/Swiss dream Team: Wiebke & Ralf (S/V Flora), Natasha & Jochen (S/V Caroline), Janna & Ilja (S/V Thuja), Andrea & Ingo (S/V Easy-One), Leonie & Jonas, Jonathan (S/V Jollity) Mareike (S/V Morea).

Friday May 21 everybody (including us) left. Our new German friends all heading north (some to prep for their Atlantic crossing back to Europe) and us heading further south in the Exumas Land & Sea Park to Warderick Wells. There was much waving and yelling about as we all left the anchorage, and we pulled up sail right after we pulled anchor at 11 am. It was still blowing 26 to 28 knots out of the NE, so we settled on a full Genoa, which moved us along swiftly going 5 to 6 knots. Coming into Warderick Wells we had to tack a few times and motor the rest of the way in, and 5 hours later we dropped our anchor just west of the mooring field at Emerald Rock in Warderick Wells.

The next morning we dinghied in to Whale Beach and checked in at the Park Headquarters to pay for our 4 night anchorage in Shroud Cay and our anchorage in Warderick Wells. We got some great information on the available hiking trails, and decided to immediately hike up to Boo Boo Hill, the 360 degree outlook point where scores of cruising boats have piled up their boat signs and insignia. To us it looked like a pile of trash, but hey, it is part of the experience.

Boo Boo Hill

We then followed the trail further south and ended up doing a succession of trails for 2 hours which led us around the salt pond and back to Whale Beach on a different trail.

East coast of Warderick Wells
A trail
At the plantation ruins
Selfie in Cave
Warderick Wells Anchorage

We meet Heidi and Eric (who were there on their Bavaria 47) on the last part, and saw them again at the (inofficial because of Covid) Saturday night cruisers meeting on the beach that night. Great fun was had by all cruisers attending, and Boccia can easily be playeed while maintaining social distancing :-).

Sunday May 22 Heidi and Eric came over to our boat so we could hike the trails from Bushwackers Beach to Pirate’s Lair together. We set off in our dinghy together (note to self: it will not go on plane with 4 people in it), landed on the beach, and started out on the trail. We soon found Pirate’s Lair, which has another interesting story: Pirates used the channel on the esat side because it could accommodate their up to 12 foot draft, and their masts could not be seen from any side. The “lair” is a hidden area accessible by the beach with a fresh water well, and the pirates would meet there to rest and socialize. Interestingly, with their belongings they brought seeds from distant shores, so there are plants growing in the Lair that are nowhere else to be found in the Bahamas. A fascinating place!

Pirates’ Lair
Crab in freshwater well
Beach at Pirates’ Lair

We kept hiking the trails from beach to beach, and had a wonderful time. The next morning we lifted anchor in Warderick Wells to sail to Compass Key. We had a big problems trying to raise our mainsail since the in-mast furling kept getting stuck. When we finally got it out, the sailing was fantastic with 15 knots of wind on the beam and both sails out fully, doing 6 to 7 knots.

As we got closer to Compass Key we decided to skip that spot and see it on the way back, the sailing was just too good. We sailed to Staniel Cay instead.

Sushi enjoying cockpit time

When we got close to our intended anchorage and it was time to pull in our sails, we quickly realized that this would be a problem. It took us 15 minutes of combined effort to furl in the mainsail, and we were really relieved when we finally got it all the way in. After we anchored, we started finding little metal pins on the deck, and knew that this could not be good. Anya posted a pic of them in the sailors’ forum on Facebook, and we quickly had the answer: our top furler bearing had broken, and we needed a rigger. Needless to say, there are no riggers in the Bahamas (with so many sailboats around, how can that be?). So we had to face it: we are now without a mainsail. Luckily we have a large genoa so we can still sail a bit, but we will probably have to do a lot of motoring to get back home to the Keys. We both agree that this will not make us turn around and rush home – we will stay and make do, just at a much slower pace.

We hopped in the dinghy and went to Staniel Cay Yacht Club, there is a bar that the cruisers meet in. We ordered a beer, looked around, and saw Russ there, who had been our neighbor in Great Harbour Cay Marina for 6 weeks last year when Covid started. What a fun reunion!

Rob, Anya, Russ, Kelly

Nassau to the Northern Exumas (Highbourne Cay, Norman’s Cay)

We spent 3 nights in Nassau at the marina, using their free 2-hour courtesy car to pick up our motor, provision, get some things from the marine store, and have lunch “under the bridge” at one of the food stalls. We picked the right one (“The Burning Spot”), the cracked conch and conch salad were outstanding!

On Saturday May 8 at noon, we left Palm Cay Marina in Nassau for the Exumas. It was extremely tight to get out of the boat slip, and we enlisted a dock hand to help from shore. We had met David from S/V Boom Sharkalaka in the previous days (I had remembered signing him up as a Stream2Sea ambassador, so I walked over to introduce myself), and he was nice enough to come over on his dinghy and help us get out of the slip.

When we got out of the Marina, we went directly into a huge squall with consistently over 22 knots of wind and 5 ft waves. No fun! We went between Yellow and White Banks for extra depth, just to be on the safe side.
At 7:15 pm, we arrived in the anchorage at Highbourne Cay, the trip having taken over 7 hours instead of the projected 4-5. We found a good anchoring spot and finally relaxed.

May 9 found us out and about exploring our first Exumas island. We took the dinghy over to the beautiful beach, and walked and explored. Back to the boat to rest, and a rain shower gave us a free much needed boat wash.

Monday we dinghied into Highbourne Cay Marina to check out the ship’s store and buy some rum. We are loving our Dark’n’Stormies for sundowners!

Parrot at Highbourne Cay Marina

Then we dinghied over to Highbourne Rocks, anchored the dinghy, and went for a nice snorkel over the coral heads there. Fun, fun, fun! The next day we took the dinghy to the east side side of the island, to a 3 mile long white sand beach. The waves were pretty high, and we nearly capsized the dinghy when a wave broke over us, turning us side ways. You should have seen the look of terror on both our faces! We made it, bailed the dinghy, and went for a loooong walk along the beach.

We then had a nice picnic of crab cake sandwiches and grapes, and we had even packed a cold Kalik for the occasion.

In the afternoon, we went over to Oyster Rocks to find some reefs to snorkel on. We just looked into the water south of the rocks to find some dark spots, and hopped in. That way we found 2 beautiful small reefs, teeming with corals and sealife. We same two HUGE lobsters mating, lots of small conch, a porcupine fish with pricks extended, and unfortunately a few lionfish. Too bad we hadn’t brought the speargun to get rid of some lionfish!

On Wednesday May 12, we lifted anchor at Highbourne Cay at 2 pm to head south to Norman’s Cay, our next stop. We were able to sail most of the way although we had to tack. At 4:30, our anchor was down at Norman’s Cay. We anchored pretty far out to avoid the sand banks, and decided to move into an anchorage that is closer to the island tomorrow.

The next day we woke up to overcast skies, and at 9 am the rain started. It poured down until about 10:45, another free boat wash! We left the anchorage at 2 pm to move closer to the beach. Because of the sand banks we had to go around, it was a 6 mile trip to go 400 yards as the crow flies!

Finally closer to land, we went over to the beach to go for a walk and check out Mac Duff’s Restaurant (nice but a bit out of budget). At the end of the beach we found a beach bar, and had a cold Kalik there. Then back to the boat for a nice dinner!

Friday 5/14 was our “explore Norman’s Cay day”. We took the dinghy around the south end and onto a beach there, looking for ruins we didn’t find. Then further west and north around the island, and into a tiny cut the goes into Norman’s Pond, a big lagoon that is inclosed almost like a lake. The caves there that were described in our book were a non-event unfortunately, they were just overhangs, but we zipped around the “lake” until it was lunchtime – picnic time! We found a nice beach and settled down in the shade to eat.

After lunch we took a walk along this beautiful beach with the stunning colors of blue in the water.

Coming around the north end of Norman’s Cay, we rounded the corner and started to look for dark spots again, which usually means there is a small coral reef. We found a really beautiful one and snorkeled it, and when we came back saw the dark clouds on the horizon. We decided to snorkel one more reef, and then it was REALLY time to head back! We made it back onto the boat just in time to batten down the hatches for a big dark squall with strong winds and a big downpour. Had we been 5 minutes later, it would have poured into our wide open hatches!

On Saturday May 15 we took our dinghy to go snorkel the plane wreck. There are a lot of stories about this wreck as it used to be part of the big drug running operation out of Norman’s Cay. What a great snorkel spot, and the Sergeant Majors are so curious the will swim directly up to your mask!

Crossing the Bahamas Banks / Berry Islands Adventures / into Nassau

We ended up leaving Bimini a day later, as it was so windy Monday morning, we couldn’t figure out how to get out of our tight boat slip in the very tight marina without risking being blown into another boat.

On Tuesday (April 20) we motored north towards north rock (we had a south wind) and once we made the turn east, put up both sails. We were on a broad reach, which was perfect for sailing the way we wanted to go.

Sailors (including us) always complain that there is either too much or too little wind, or that if it is the right amount, it is not coming from the direction you want to go. Not this time! With 14 to 18 knots of wind, we averaged 7 to 8 knots all day under full sails. It was sailing heaven!

We anchored out on the banks again because the forecast had called for a relatively quiet night. It was our 3rd time anchoring out on the banks, but we will never get used to being anchored out in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight!

Sunset was cloudy, so we went straight to pizza dinner, a beer and bedtime. It ended up being a rough night after all, and it was still blowing 16 knots when we got up at 7 am. We pulled anchor and set sail again, but needless to say the wind died within 30 minutes. Where was yesterday’s wind ? We were committed to sailing though, and only had about 25 miles to go, so we sailed along doing 3 to 4 knots with just the mainsail in 8 to 10 knot following winds.

We got to Great Harbour Cay around 3 pm, pulled into the basin before the marina, and set the anchor. This is the perfect spot to sit out a northerly blow (there are few of those spots in the Berrys).

We spent a few days catching up with our friends in Bullocks Harbour from last year, and made some new ones, got our 5 day Covid Rapid Test, provisioned, did laundry, and  just enjoyed being in our old “stomping grounds”. We went back to Sugar Beach several times, went for swims, and enjoyed a perfect lunch at the Beach Club. It was so nice to rid the marina bicycles around and see everything open and back to life, church services going on and shops open!

On April 29 we pulled the anchor again, went north around Great Harbor and past Stirrup Cay (the cruise ship island they call Coco Cay, which of course has not been reopened yet) and then south to Soldier Cay.

Stirrup Cay empty cruise ships

We had to beat into a 20 knot wind on the nose with 4 to 6 foot waves, so we only got to sail part of the way. Sushi took to her favorite place on the berth, wher it does not matter which way the boat heels or rocks, it is always comfortable:

We anchored behind Soldier Cay, and we were the only boat in the lagoon, with a beautiful white sand beach and crystal-clear water:

The next day we hiked along the beach and across the rocks, then lifted anchor around 2 pm to go further south to Little Harbour Cay. We met Linda and Allan on the Wildflower Catamaran, a very nice couple that had just run aground coming into the anchorage , fortunately close to low tide , and warned us on the radio as we were coming in. They invited us onto their boat in the evening, and we spent a fun evening over a few drinks and much laughter.

The next day we paddleboarded (Anya) and kayaked (Rob) to the beach, and then to the famous Flo’s to make a reservation for dinner. There is no menu, they just serve what they have, and you have to tell them in advance that you are coming. Back at the boat, a squall with about 20 plus knots blew through, and our anchor dragged, so we had to reset the anchor. Then an ocean bath, and off to Flo’s in the dinghy. Dinner was delicious Conch Fritters, followed by fried Snapper, Cracked Conch, beans and rice, and cole slaw, all accompanied by a cold Kalik:

The next day had us lift anchor again and head back up to Soldier Cay for better protection from the Southeast wind, and to wait for a good day to cross over to Nassau, where we will pick up our new dinghy motor!

The wind was very strong overnight, and we were glad to be in a protected anchorage for some nice sound sleep. Another perfect Monday of relaxing and beaching, and on Wednesday we will be going to Nassau. We already have reservations at Palm Cay Marina on the southeast side of New Providence.

Tuesday waiting out the wind at Soldier Cay, our fridge quit. Rob tried to pinpoint the problem, and it seems our compressor is broken. Thank goodness we still have the portable Engel fridge, but of course we can’t fit everything in there, so we will try to eat as much as we can and the rest will unfortunately go to waste. Cold beer will now be a real problem OMG!, and we can basically forget about provisioning in Nassau. At least we have lots of cans and dry goods on board, but we will miss our daily salads!

Wednesday morning we got up at 5 am and lifted anchor at 6 am. The wind was still blowing on the nose and we had 11 hours to go, so we bit the bullet and motored. It was pretty rough, but otherwise the crossing to New Providence was uneventful, except that the fridge made a miracle halfway recovery to 60 degrees. We will need to find a good ice box in Nassau. Coming in we passed Atlantis on Paradise Island:

We pulled into Palm Cay Marina at 5 pm on Cinco de Mayo, checked in, has some dinner on the boat (lots of food needs to be eaten now with only a tiny fridge working) and then a nice shower. The facilities here are really wonderful! Sushi and Miss Wilson came out right away too, and couldn’t wait to get on the dock to explore.

On a side note, we installed waterflow inhibitors on our faucets before we left, and have only been “showering” in the ocean with a freshwater spritz afterwards, so including our drinking water we have only used 40 gallons in 18 days between the 2 of us. That makes only 1.1 gallons per person per day!

In the Bahamas again!

We got up at 1 am on Friday to make the crossing across the Gulf Stream, and got off the dock at 2 am. The weather was forecasted with a wind we could sail with and 3 to 5 foot waves in the Gulf Stream. We left Key Largo in pitch darkness since there was no moon (can’t have everything!), but fortunately Rob knows these waters really well. We had a few scary moments – it is impossible to tell how far away a light really is when it is pitch dark – and we almost took out a sparbuoy we didn’t see.

Within an hour we were at the edge of the Gulf Stream, and the forecast was wrong again. There was absolutely no wind! We were motoring, and really looking forward to first daylight, so we could see what was in front of us.

Sunrise on “Lake Gulf Stream”

Although this weather was not good for sailing, it did make for a very comfortable motor crossing. We had no idea the Gulf Stream could be this calm!

Approaching Bimini

We got to Bimini around 2 pm and pulled into Bluewater Marina in Alice Town. Anya had prepared all the paperwork and hopped off to do immigration and customs, since this was our last day of a valid Covid test and Bahamian health visa. 1.5 hours later, it was done, and we were allowed to officially change our quarantine flag to the Bahamian flag.

We walked over to the beach and went to CJ‘s, where we meet some fun people to spend the evening with. It was great to be able to hang out, meet new people and have a few drinks!

Saturday we took a walk on the beach, and then went to our favorite Conch Salad place, Stuart‘s. It is right on the water and has been there for over 30 years. We were there 7 years ago and loved it, and were surprised to see that the prices haven‘t changed since then! $8 for a delicious freshly orepared conch salad, and $3 for a beer, What a steal, especially for the Bahamas!

Sunset on Radio Beach

We decided to have another day in Bimini and get some boat things done that we had noticed on the crossing. And we did.

Monday (tomorrow) morning we are crossing the Bahamas Banks to go to the Berries, where we will take our 5-day mandatory Covid test, and then we will sail down the Berries, then make a quick stop in Nassau for our outboard motor, and then off to the Exumas. All without any time constraints!

Another Try

Rob and I have decided to sail the Bahamas until July. We don’t think we can get further into the Caribbean at this time, so we are planning on spending the summer in Key Largo again, and then attempt our big trip again at the end of 2021.

We are finally getting ready to leave the dock again, heading for the Bahamas as soon as tonight!

3 days crossing to Key Largo

Finally our weather window arrived, and we left Great Harbour Cay Marina on Monday morning. The winds were great for sailing, so we went across the Bahama Banks in a straight southwest line averaging 6 knots. Still so many cruise ships anchored out, we counted 23 of them!

Right before sunset, we anchored in the middle of the banks. It was very rough, but not too rough to cook a wonderful stir-fry meal and have a cocktail while watching the sunset.

Sunset on the Bahama Banks

After a bad night with very little sleep, we enjoyed the calmer morning with a nice breakfast burrito, joined by a curious Sushi.

Rob enjoying his Breakfast Burrito
What’s for breakfast?

We lifted anchor and sailed again, only 40 nautical miles left to get to South Riding Rock. The wind was a little lower, and more east, so we had to tack, and we enjoyed every minute of sailing through the clear blue water. We saw a couple of dolphins, too!

The water doesn’t get any clearer than this.

Willy decided that the cockpit was a good place to sleep off her seasickness, so we had to be careful not to step on her!

Willy taking a nap in the cockpit

We made it to South Riding Rock before sunset, picked our way through the rocks, and decided to anchor directly behind South Riding Rock. We found good holding, and now had a protected place to rest before the dark-thirty 4 am in the morning departure to cross the Gulf Stream.

Anchoring at South Riding Rock
Sunset at South Riding Rocks

Even with the extra protection, we did not sleep very well, as the wind was howling all night and we were worried that despite the favorable forecast, our crossing window would not open. We got up at 3:30 am and went outside – the wind was still howling and it was pitch black, no moon. At 5 am we decided to go for it. We had a following wind and could not sail (we don’t have a spinnaker), so we carefully motored out from our anchorage towards the deep channel where the Gulf Stream slowly begins. At 6:30 we started seeing the first light of the rising sun. It took us almost 10 hours to cross the Stream with following 3 to 4 foot rollers, but as soon as we got across, we set sail south to make up for the 20 miles the Stream had carried us north of Key Largo to Ocean Reef. We checked into the USA with the CBP app on the iPad, no problem whatsoever and a really fast procedure. With a 14 knot beam reach and an average of 7 knots, we got into Key Largo before sunset, found our temporary dock at a friend’s house, and prepared to go to Wauchula, where we will be working at Stream2Sea to help Autumn and John make the planet a better place. They are rocking the new earth-friendly hand sanitizer!

Stream2Sea, here we come!

Strange Times in a Wonderful Place

We have been in Great Harbour Cay Marina in the Berry Islands for over a month now. It was not our plan to stay in a marina, and if we had been given a choice, we would not have. However, this turned out to be a good decision overall. The staff is wonderful, and the marina has everything.

It probably sounds great, having escaped the “Rona” by being on a remote island that has not at all been affected, and we feel lucky. During the self-quarantine, we have been getting tons of boat projects done, and read many books. The unfortunate truth is, we have been locked up more than we could have ever imagined, and our dream of cruising the Carribean has been stopped right here for now. The Bahamas did exactly what was needed at the right time, by not allowing inter-island travel when it all started. Yes, they have a few cases on the two main islands with the biggest populations, but the “family islands” aka out-islands (not New Providence / Nassau or Grand Bahama / Freeport) have been spared. The spread of Corona was hindered that way and so far has not reached the out-islands, sparing the locals as well as the cruisers here. The only (for us cruisers) unreasonable measure was the closing of all liquor stores, so no beer, wine or rum to be had…

We made wonderful new friends here, and have had good times with locals as well as other cruisers. Everybody sticks together and helps each other out, and somehow everybody always has mutual friends somewhere. We celebrated Rob’s 65th birthday here, and although we had run out of beer, some of the other cruisers emptied their fridges to make sure Rob had more than enough beer to celebrate! Anya baked the chocolate birthday cake in the instant pot (no propane refills for our stove here), and it turned out yummy! (Anya filled the cake with Nutella, which Rob hates, but he never noticed, and loved the cake.)

A birthday with chocolate cake and beer

Our other reality is sitting on the sailboat under lockdown with no opportunity to walk to the beach or move freely, with only occasional opportunities to take walks ot take the dinghy out on non-lockdown days. When we get the chance we escape on our dinghy to a remote beach, but this has only been possible 2x in the last few weeks, and it is really not allowed (all public beaches are closed, even if nobody lives anywhere near, and all Bahamian beaches are public). And we try to follow every rule to the “T”, being model guests in our refuge!

What a place to have a picnic!

It is stunningly beautiful here, the locals could not be more friendly and accommodating, and there is no shortage of food supplies, so we lack nothing other than freedom to enjoy our surroundings. If there was a chance this could get better soon, we would stick around forever, but given the uncertainty and the fact that we can’t make our sailing dreams come true this season, we have decided to head back home and devote our time to helping our best friends at Stream2Sea in their endeavor to make the world a better and safer place for humans as well as the oceans. So we will tackle the 3 to 4 day sail back west to the Keys next week and then head up to Wauchula in central Florida, where Stream2Sea is located.

There will be a few challenges on the way back, including weather and winds (we want to sail as much of the way as possible), the closure of the Keys (we can’t get back to our old dock as Port Largo Marina is closed), as well as the upcoming hurricane season (we really want Ronya to be in a safe place during that, she is our (only) home, so that needs to be figured out).

We’ll let you know how the sail goes. Stay safe and healthy!

Rob & Anya

A rough start and then a full stop

Here is the story of our crossing to the Bhahamas and then full stop of life on Ronya with the quarantine and now 24 hour curfew.

While still waiting to cross the Gulf Stream in Key Largo, we finally got to go sail, this time with our friends Marijolein and Forest down to Key West on their Lagoon Catamaran. That was great fun!

On Monday, March 16, we finally set off on Ronya to cross the Gulfstream to the Bahamas. The forecast had predicted fair conditions of 2 to 3 foot waves with a 4 second period (the time between waves, the longer the better). And a light wind coming from due East, which meant we would have to go directly into the wind with no sailing, only motoring. We didn’t care, we were so gung ho to go! We left Port Largo Marina at 4:30 am and picked our way through the shallows to get past the reef line and into the Gulf Stream. We had plotted a 71 degree course, taking into account the 4 knots of the Gulf Stream, to get us to Bimini in the Bahamas. By sunrise, we were already in the Gulf Stream:

Sunrise at the beginning of the Gulf Stream

The forecast was not very accurate. We did have the wind on our nose, but it was much stronger than forecasted (up to 22 knots), so we ended up in 3 to 5 foot waves with a 2 second period, very rough when you are heading directly into it with no way to put a sail up for stabilization. The cats were NOT amused!

After a lumpy 13 hour crossing, we arrived near South Bimini with a very salty boat. We really wanted some rest, and found a nice anchorage off the beach which seemed to have pretty decent holding for our anchor (a rarity in Bimini from what we heard). We did not want to clear customs until we got to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, so we put up our quarantine flag and opened the mini Champagne I had saved for so long to watch the sunset and toast to our arrival in the Bahamas – finally!

Anchorage South Bimini

The wind picked up again over night and cost us some well-deserved sleep, but we set out early in the morning to start our crossing of the Northern Bahama Banks. We actually got some sailing in with about 20 knot east winds, but coming around North Rock in Bimini we had the wind on our nose again, so we had to settle in for some more motoring :-(. Again, the wind was stronger than forecasted, and the crossing was much more uncomfortable than we had anticipated. At the end of the day, we were still on the Banks and the wind had settled down, so we decided to anchor on the Banks. We found a spot that was abot 19 feet deep and dropped the anchor. It was strange anchoring in a place in the open ocean where there is no land in sight!

Of course the wind picked up again over night, so we were trying to sleep while Ronya was rocking and rolling, and finally sunrise arrived and we set off on our last leg to Great Harbour Cay.

Sunrise on the Banks

On the way we saw 11 cruise ships anchored out on the Banks as they had been stopped due to the Corona Virus, it was pretty spooky:

“Ghost” cruise ships

We arrived at Great Harbour Cay around noon on Wednesday March 18, and picked our way through the shallows at the Bullock Harbor entrance, as we had to go into the marina to clear customs. Once we had cleared us and the cats with no problems, we decided to stay in the marina for a night to catch up on some much needed rest and find out what the latest news was on travel restrictions due to the pandemic. Talking to some other boaters in the marina, there seemed to be quite a bit of uncertainty, so we decided to stay put for a few days for clarification. The marina has free bicycles, so we started exploring the village of Bullocks Harbour and the beaches, which are absolutely stunning!!!

We spent a lot of time exploring the beaches, swimming and snorkeling, and sharing nice dinners with our new friend Russ who is sailing solo on Frui Vita and happens to share some friends with us from the Keys.

And then the Prime Minister shut down the Bahamas. What now? With no travel allowed between the islands and a stay-at-home order, we were stuck. But – this is probably the best place in the world to be stuck in! We get to go on 90 minutes of outside exercise each day (paddleboarding and kayaking, walking and hiking), we can go to the (very well stocked) grocery store on the bicycles whenever we please, we have shore power so I am working on some more sewing projects, and we chat boat to boat with quite a few other nice sailors that have decided to stay as well. The internet is extremely slow, so it is hard to follow the news or even surf the web, but so far that is quite a nice break ;-).

And Rob and I are getting along great in our very small space living on the sailboat:

Just kidding! 😉