Thursday, March 20, 2014

Still here

Been off the net for awhile. We spent two weeks in George Town, the cruising hub of the Exhumas. Probably over 200 boats, lots of people meet and lots of activities. Beach volleyball got the better of us, and dune surfing was big with the kids. Above picture was taken by a friend, we're the furthest boat in the shot. Just a short update this time.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Staniel Cay to Great Exhuma Island

> Lets see, where did we leave you last? Ah yes, on our way to Staniel Cay, home of the famous Thunderball Grotto where "Thunderball" was filmed some 50 years ago.
> We arrived at Staniel after lunch, and our usual operation for arriving at this time involves dropping the anchor, the dinghy and then finding lunch as quick as we can. Which we did at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Cheeseburgers, fries, local fried fish sandwiches, salads..... oooohh was that heaven after two weeks at anchor and not eating out. Stuffed, to say the least.
> We found local food stores at Staniel, and stocked up on supplies. However, the local boat with fresh produce was not to arrive for another day. No problem, we'll head back in tomorrow for fresh veggies. It turns out this was the plan of every other cruiser there ( at least 40-50 boats) so we battled it out to get what was available the next day. It took 2-3 hours to get to the store, wait in line till they opened, grab some good eats and then checkout. Exhaustion but jubilation that we had bananas, lettuce, eggs, carrots, etc.... it seems food is a general topic of this post eh?
> We snorkeled Thunderball Grotto to see the cool site where the film was made, went over to the island where the pigs swim out to greet you for snacks, and had a great time at Staniel Cay
> Our next stop was Blackpoint, on Great Guana Cay. What a nice place. All locals there, very laid back and the food was excellent... again the food theme.
> With an impending front coming through, we were set to leave the next day just as it arrived. Only it arrived in the middle of the night, so we spent a very rolly, bumpy night at anchor and left early the next morning. Destination was Emerald Bay marina, home of the Sandals resort. Time for hot showers, laundry and cool drinks at the bar. All that was accomplished over a 4 day stay, and we're a stone's throw from Georgetown, our final destination. We'll depart for Georgetown and spend a few weeks there with several hundred other cruisers. Next post will be from there, home of good wifi, ice cream and boat supplies. What else could a cruiser ask for?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exhumas, the Bahamas

Since we las left you much has happened. All good I assure you, and all is well.
To begin, we had a straight-forward trip from the Berry islands to the capital city of Nassau. The cruise ships and high rise casinos greeted us miles before we saw land, and approaching the harbor was a bit daunting with the traffic. Not too bad, but we knew we were in the big city with the hustle and bustle. Once settled into a local marina, we investigated to local area with a keen eye for good food. Heading to Potters Cay, we found the locals serving up fresh seafood and traditional dishes that exceeded expectations. Conch salad, conch fritters and fresh-caught snapper filled us beyond capacity. All washed down with the local brew or soda, age dependent.

Filling up on overpriced food for the journey to the Exhuma island chain at the grocery store sped up our desire to get "out there" and see the islands. We departed on a beautiful day, had a nice sail and motor across the Yellow Banks to Allan's Cay. A fairly well protected anchorage, the cay had iguanas on the beach that were not afraid to announce their desire for any scraps of food.
We stayed at Allan's for 5 days due to an impending cold front that did not disappoint in its excitement and promise for gusty conditions. The front chose the usual 2 in the morning time to pass through, to include a boat next to us that was not prepared and dragged anchor right next to us. A few choice words with the skipper convinced him that it was he and not us that was dragging anchor and he moved on. Up the rest of the night to assuage any other fears, and needless to say we were "pooped" by sunrise. Part of the exchange with the offending boat claimed that we were dragging anchor which is not possible (you can't drag upwind) as well as the claim that he would not move because he was in four feet of water to which I replied "how can you be in 4 feet with a five foot keel (depth of his boat which he told me earlier in the day)?" No answer to that one, and soon he moved on. Fun times.
We did have excellent reef snorkeling that included our first lobster speared by Alex. Nice job and a great dinner, thanks Alex!
We departed Allan's Cay for Normans cay, home of the infamous drug lord that operated from the island until the 1980's when the DEA put him out of action. Great beaches and snorkeling on the plane that crashed approaching the island to pick up the next batch of coke destined for the US.
We are now in the Exhuma land and sea park, with amazing anchorages , hiking trails and nature walks. We'll move on to Staniel Cay soon for fresh veggies, ice cream and good local food before setting out again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Frozen Cay, Berry Islands

We've spent the last 3-4 days off the grid, enjoying the remote islands of the Berry chain. Since leaving Great Harbour Cay we stopped at White Cay to see the blue hole. It's an enormous sinkhole about 600 feet deep in the middle of Hoffman Cay. I stayed with the boat since the previous night we had anchor holding issues due to the swift current which led to a sleepless night. The rest of the crew did a quick trip to see the blue hole, then we headed south about 3 miles to find a better anchorage.
That anchorage is Frozen and Alders Cay. Beautiful beaches and 3 private houses. The islands are private too, so we could not venture ashore so we practiced our fishing. One small lion fish caught, followed by two mutton snapper. Actually, the mutton snapper were caught by local fisherman who we traded cold beers for fish. A catch is a catch. The crew pitched in to clean fish, peel potatoes and prepare a feast.
We're off to Nassau to enjoy the city. More to follow.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Great Harbour Cay

It's only hours till kickoff time for the Super Bowl and you'd never know it here. The laid back atmosphere means we don't get too excited about anything, just enjoy the moment. As promised attached are some beach pics. It's a perfect half moon beach, 3 miles long and not a soul on it spare the crew of Quartet. The walk to the beach includes a bit of "rat pack" history as you stroll by the old hang out of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and crew. A slowly fading piece of history, complete with a golf course, giant club house and tiki bar.
We've really enjoyed our stay here and each new place we stay wraps us deeper into the cruising lifestyle. So tightly wrapped it may be difficult to pull away. We are off tomorrow to Whites Cay to see the blue hole, a giant sinkhole in the middle of the island. We should be in the big city of Nassau by the end of the week. We'll reprovision (ohh, nice nautical term to mean grocery shopping) there before heading to the Exhumas chain of islands. Now, pass,the guacamole and chips, it's game time!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Great Harbour Cay

We are docked in Great Harbour Cay, preparing for the Super Bowl. Because that's what every good American does, and most of the rest of the world it seems too.
Here's a recap of how we totally unexpectedly ended up here.
We have learned that watching and respecting weather forecasts is paramount in this business (can we call cruising on a sailboat a business?). So,with that in mind we stayed a day in Bimini to have good weather. But more importantly to find that conch and Kalik beer dinner. And we found it at a perfect hole int the wall type joint called End Of The World bar. Sand on the floor, local tunes playing, and some good Bahamian atmosphere. Dinner for four of lobster, conch, baked potato and carrots for 40 bucks. Mission accomplished.
We swam and snorkeled that afternoon, finding lots of shells and enjoying the clear blue water.
The next day, it was time to depart to cross the Grand Bahamas Bank. Roughly 70 miles across and only 15-25 feet deep, it promised good sailing and a night anchored out on the bank with nothing in sight. Which is what we got. Its a very strange feeling to drop your anchor in the middle of nowhere, nothing but stars and perhaps a single distant ship far off and nobody knows you're there.
We arose at 4 am the next morning to a slow rolling current which we guessed must have been the massive amount of water that enters and leaves the bank with the tides. This is also the reason for the super clear water, kind of like natures toilet flushing the banks twice a day to clean it. If only I had to go twice a day.
As we approached the northwest channel, the idea was to go another 5 or 10 miles and anchor for some expected strong easterly winds. We noticed another sailboat heading opposite our direction and then turn north. A quick scramble of the charts and we deduced that they were headed for the Berry islands and Great Harbour Cay. Our proposed anchorage outside of Chubbe Cay offered nothing since there was no town and the marina was expensive and private. Do the math folks, and Great Harbour Cay offered some protection from the coming winds, a town and perhaps one of the best beaches the Bahamas has to offer. Yep, you guessed it. We did a 180 turn in the narrow channel and headed around the Berry bank for this new destination. A lot of cursing, sail changes and chart plotting occurred in 4.3 minutes as we figured out a new plan on the spur of the moment.
Turned out to be a good thing. We had a nice sail with a beam reach to the cay. As we approached the anchorage next to the town we noticed the winds remained whereas we'd like to have them desist and thus assist in in a good nights sleep, seeing as we were up at 4 that morning. Oh look, there's one of the best protected marinas in the Bahamas by the town, and what a nice flashy picture in the cruising guide to boot. Well, who said advertising doesn't work. Again, a quick radio call and abrupt course change and bada boo-bada bing we ended up in the marina, who happened to have a special on their dockage rates and a Super Bowl party for all you can eat for $20. Ok, we're in.
Above is a map of our travels in the Bahamas so far, with a beach pic to follow.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Arrived

video
Video of the Captain
We've made it to the Bahamas. All bets are off, the rules have changed. We may not come back. It is absolutely excellent here. A beautiful sail across from Florida, with perfect weather. Finally, after months of northers blowing in a messing with our travels.
Checking in at customs and immigration was painless. The laid back atmosphere of the island reaches to the officialdom as well, and it works well. A customs office with six check in windows but only one being used due to a permanently rotating lunch schedule. The extra windows did supply ample counter space to eat said lunch.
Let's talk about about sharks. Anybody who says that word has to do 25 push-ups. No questions. Today however we saw two 8-10 foot sharks in the marina and s word was said a lot. No fines were levied as we were in awe of their, well....sharkness.
We're off to find a conch fritter and Kalik ( local brew) dinner. Not sure when we'll leave. As we said, all bets are off.