"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain
In honor of Shark Week, we’re showcasing our experiences with some of the best Bahamas’ shark spots.
Feeding a nurse shark in Compass Cay
From friendly to fiercesome, you can find a range of species making their home among the 700+ Bahamian islands and cays. We’ll give you a glimpse of our experiences with them at Compass Cay, Conception Island, and in the Jumentos.
The best place to get up close and personal with dozens of relatively harmless nurse sharks is located 65 miles southeast of Nassau. Compass Cay is home to a large population of these bottom feeders who prefer crustaceans, stingray and the steady flow of marina scraps over humans for snacks. Toss out a few pieces of stale bread from your boat and they’ll be swarming around in no time. You can pet them, take pictures, and even join them in the water if you’re feeling adventurous. Their skin feels like wet leather and even though they’re benign, their beady eyes and slithering motion still make them seem ALL SHARK.
Nurse sharks at Compass Cay
Up close and personal
You can read more about our time at Compass Cay here.
Only accessible by boat or seaplane and mostly surrounded by a maze of coral reef, Conception Island offers unparalleled snorkeling and fish spotting. Which, also means unparalleled amounts of shark food. This “out island” is surrounded by deep Atlantic waters (as opposed to the more shallow sandbanks of the Exumas) that run right up to the shore of the island, which provides an attractive habitat for the sharks.
It was among these reefs that Christie set a new speed swimming record when she spotted a shark less than 50 feet away. A blacktip reef shark, about four feet long, was hovering near a reef as she rounded the corner and locked eyes with it. Most likely the shark was searching for small easy-to-snag reef fish (not a skittish swimmer) so we respectfully changed our direction and continued taking in the majestic underwater show.
Snorkeling the reef at Conception Island
For more about our time at Conception Island, click here.
The Jumentos are the southernmost islands of the Bahamas. They’re pure wilderness with only a few small settlements that are home to the hardiest of islanders who share their waters with the largest and fiercest of Bahamian sharks.
Down there, you’ll likely spot large hammerheads, bull sharks, black tips, tigers and nurse sharks in abundance. And often times they’re swimming right by your anchored boat as the sharks are lured into the shallow waters by all the fish scraps tossed overboard from the plethora of fisherman in the area.
While there, we spotted a hammerhead behind Kaleo and swam with a few aggressive reef sharks who wanted the fish Matt had speared. He graciously obliged their demand and swam away from his catch (i.e.; their snack). If you’re ever that far south, be sure to keep your eyes peeled while in the water as you’re sure to be sharing your playground.
Assuming all fuel and water are topped off, the evening before any significant passage is spent prepping the boat and ourselves for safety and ease underway.
This involves, but is not limited to, securing the dinghy outboard motor on the stern rail, deflating and storing our dinghy on deck, checking the main engine oil, alternator belt and fuel filter, inspecting standing and running rigging, uncovering the main sail, running our jack lines (safety straps that run the length of the boat that we clip into when going forward of the cockpit), preparing meals that we’ll have underway, organizing and securing all movable things inside the boat and laying out the clothes and PFD’s we’ll wear.
And here’s how we spent the 30 hour crossing from Green Turtle Cay, Abaco to Ft. Pierce, Florida.
6:30 – Matt wakes up to tune into Chris Parker’s weather forecast. It confirms favorable conditions for a smooth Gulf Stream crossing with winds 5-10 knots from the east, southeast and two to three foot swell on the ocean.
Kaleo pointed toward the homeland
7:00 – We pull up the anchor with Matt at the bow and Christie at the helm. The chain rapidly clanks up over the bow roller, most likely alerting everyone in the anchorage that a boat is leaving.
7:02 – Scooted past the sleeping “Honu Lele” and entered White Sound Channel toward the Sea of Abaco. 55 miles to Great Sale Cay, our intended staging anchorage for the crossing.
7:30 – Christie makes egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast while Matt programs the day’s waypoints into the chart plotter.
10:00 – The wind picks up so Matt rolls out the jib to motorsail.
10:09 – The wind dies so Matt rolls the jib back in to stop it from flapping against the shrouds.
12:00 – Lunch is served, salads with summer sausage and crackers for Matt, grilled Veggie-cheese for Christie.
14:30 – The wind picks back up and Matt rolls out the jib again.
16:00 – The wind has held and Kaleo glides along at 6 to 6.5 knots with only the rumble of Mr. Beeker (our affectionately named engine) to disturb the peace of the island we’re floating past.
17:30 – We arrive at our intended staging anchorage of Great Sale Cay. Feeling good and decide to sail on through the night and get to Florida by Saturday afternoon. About 110 miles to go.
18:30 – Christie heats up premade foil packets of Quinoa stuffed bell peppers which we enjoy in the cockpit as the beginnings of sunset beckon nightfall.
19:00 – We get cell reception from a lone island tower and use our last $8.00 of Bahamian cell credit to call AT&T and have our U.S. cell phone taken off vacation hold and call family and friends to let them know of our adjusted plans.
19:15 – Matt goes below for his sleep shift while Christie takes the helm.
20:30 – Our fishing reel starts to click, click, click signaling fish on! Matt jumps up to bring it in while Christie goes for the gaff hook and gloves. Much to our dismay, the fighting fish is nothing more than a large Barracuda which we unhook and release. At least we didn’t lose a lure.
Fishing false alarm with a barracuda on the hook
21:00 – Christie scans the horizon as a few twinkles turn into a comforting blanket of stars in the pitch black sky.
23:30 – A bright flash wakes Matt up. Turns out it’s lightning about 10 miles off our stern, not Christie taking pictures in the night. Matt joins the storm watching party in the cockpit and eventually takes over for the admiral to get some rest.
24:00 – The storm passes well to our stern with strobing flashes indicating its location.
2:30 – A silver quarter moon rises and gives lighted dimension to the waves around us.
3:00 – The engine mysteriously lugs and dies, leaving an eerie silence in the night. We sail on at 4 knots while Matt opens up the engine room to start diagnosis.
3:20 – The motor cranks and starts back up after Matt traced the problem to a drained starting battery which didn’t have enough power to run the electric fuel pump, starving Mr. Beeker to silence. After hot-wiring into the house batteries, it was back to full steam ahead at 7 knots.
5:30 – Streams of sunlight begin to pierce the sky signaling the approaching sunrise.
7:30 – Breakfast is again served, this time it’s cereal.
8:00 – Our speed increases to a near 8 knots as we’re pulled northward into the strong currents of the Gulf Stream.
9:30 – Christie crafts notes to fill a couple message in bottles and we toss them overboard in the ripping current of the Gulf Stream.
Casting message in a bottle #1
Tossing over message in a bottle #2
10:30 – Matt lowers our tattered and torn Bahamian flag as we sail back into U.S. waters.
Kaleo has seen many Bahamian isles under this flag
11:00 – Looking over our stern, we realize there is a fish on our line. We reel in a bluefin tuna, which was a little too small to eat so we cut it up for bait.
11:20 – We were welcomed into Florida by a pod of about a dozen dolphins and a double rainbow. Our playful friends escorted us in for about half an hour, some doing synchronized leaps and dives that were so well timed we thought they had escaped from Seaworld.
Welcomed under double rainbow
And escorted in by playful friends
12:30 – We motor through the channel entrance into Ft. Pierce Inlet and quickly realized we were making our grand entrance into the coast of southern Florida on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend! Boats big and small swarmed the waterways buzzing around at speeds that shattered our laid back island pace. It was an abrupt annoucement that we were back stateside.
1:15 – We dock at Harborview Marina to treat ourselves to A/C, a freshwater bath for Kaleo and a long night’s rest. First stop in the U.S. was “A Touch of Brooklyn” pizzeria where we overindulged in a gooey fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil Pizza Margherita.
1st stateside dinner, classic Pizza Margherita
A clean Kaleo resting after returning us safely stateside
6:30 – Matt finishes washing the boat, and Christie wipes the last surface inside clean. After long showers we crawl into the V-berth and are asleep before we can say goodnight.
After a brisk and beautiful sail from Treasure Cay, we weaved into White Sound, a protected lagoon on Green Turtle Cay, to make it our home for a few days.
Birthday wheels to tour the island
Shortly after dropping the hook, we spotted “Three Penny Opera,” whom we met in the Jumentos. They had just sailed in from Cuba (they’re Canadian) and we dinghied over to hear about their experience. Soon thereafter “Honu Lele” joined us in the anchorage and met up on “Three Penny Opera”, making for great conversation as the sun set.
After dinner, we and “Honu Lele” headed into the Yacht Club Pub at Green Turtle Cay Resort and Marina to check out the local Rake ‘n’ Scrape band. This was an old world yacht club in the truest sense of the word – rich paneled walls, overstuffed ornate furniture, burgess and flags from every corner of the world. And every inch of the walls (and most of the ceiling) were covered with dollar bills (both Bahamian and American), each signed by yachtsmen leaving their mark along their travels. We, of course, decorated our own Bahamian bills and pinned them next to “Honu Lele’s.” The evening ended dancing to Green Turtle Cay’s own, Gully Roosters Band under the buttonwood tree on the deck at The Club.
Decorating our dollar bills to hang in the Yacht Club Pub
Neighboring bills in the Green Turtle Yacht Club Pub
Thursday was the captain’s birthday and we had a full day of celebrating ahead.
The morning started off with unwrapping a few gifts and cards that had been hidden throughout the boat from the admiral and her family. The celebrating continued with a visit from Owen and Ana bearing a shell necklace, bracelet, bookmarks and pirate treasure maps they had made for Matt.
Birthday morning treasures for the captain
Birthday treasures from our little friends, Owen & Ana aboard “Honu Lele”
Ashore we all jumped on our golf cart rental and set out to see the island. The first stop was scouting a pristine Atlantic beach then it was off to explore the historic New Plymouth Settlement. As the only town on Green Turtle Cay, New Plymouth was one of the first islands settled in the Bahamas by Loyalists from the United States who wanted to remain loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution.
New Plymouth Settlement on Green Turtle Cay
In this quiet, 18th century village by the sea, we browsed quaint shops, passed by Ye Olde Jail and enjoyed an air-conditioned lunch at a Harvey’s Island Grill.
Checking out Ye Olde Jail
Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
Before carting out of New Plymouth the captain requested that we stop into Vert’s Model Ship Shoppe to see the handcrafted models made by a Green Turtle Cay legend. Vert Lowe, a master ship modeler who has family roots that run deep on the island, hand builds ships modeled after sailing craft of old. His masterpieces reside on the mantles of kings, executives, and world leaders. Though Matt mentioned it would be a great birthday gift, the prices that reflect the time needed to create these works of art helped us decide to hold off, at least until the next time we pass through.
Master ship modeler Vert Lowe’s model ship shoppe behind his home
Listening to the grand stories from Master ship modeler Vert Lowe
Admiring the craftsmanship
Rumbling down the skinny winding road, we turned off toward a beach that looked far too inviting to pass by. For the next few hours, we hunted for beach treasures, swam, snorkeled and enjoyed the cool ocean in the heat of the afternoon.
Trail to Gillam Bay Beach
Gillam Bay Beach
Water-soaked and sun-kissed, we migrated from the ocean to Lizard Bar and Grill at the Leeward Yacht Club & Marina. With great snacks, drinks and a freshwater pool it wasn’t hard to spend the rest of the day there. This is a hidden gem for anyone voyaging through Green Turtle! Matt played Marco Polo and “Treasure Hunt” (tossing Bahamian coins throughout the pool for them to find) with the kids, we all talked boats, Texas, and life while lounging our way through the captain’s big day. After we could swim no more, everyone piled back on the golf cart for a leisurely ride back to the Green Turtle Club where we had left our dinghies.
Birthday celebrating at the Leeward Yacht Club & Marina
After showers, we stopped by “Honu Lele” to visit and say “see you soon” as we were heading out early the next morning to stage for our crossing back to the states. As we dinghied back to the boat Matt reflected that he was so blessed to have celebrated his birthday island-style, and that it would be pretty hard to top it next year.
We sailed into the protected yacht basin of Treasure Cay, Abaco on Sunday afternoon and dropped the hook in calm emerald waters as turtles peeked above the water to check out their new neighbors.
Sailing from Great Guana to Treasure Cay
Monday morning we sauntering around the small resort-style village, stopping into a very well-stocked grocery store and small bakery before heading for the beach.
Treasure Cay Marina
From the deck of Coco’s Beach Bar we stepped down onto a seemingly endless crescent beach that is unrivaled in the Abacos and easily one of the top five beaches we’ve seen on this trip. Powdery white sand beckoned us down to azure waters that stretched into the horizon. There we drifted along the shoreline in conversation and discovery of tiny sand dollars dotting the tide line.
Playing on the beach
After playing at the beach, we returned to Coco’s for lunch and met back up with some fellow Kemah cruisers aboard “Stray Cat” who recommended frosty mango daiquiris to compliment our cracked conch and grouper sandwich.
Just after a mid-day siesta, our favorite cruising family from Austin joined us at the beach and the boys spent the rest of the afternoon digging a sand fort while the gals floated in the ocean.
Lounging under a Tiki Hut overlooking The Sea of Abaco
A dip in the marina’s freshwater pool, long land showers and a glass of wine over sunset wrapped up our evening.
Tuesday we woke up with a healthy to-do list and a full day of plans. Before we could head to Coco’s traditional Tuesday night beach bonfire and BBQ, we needed to knock out some boat chores to start preparing for our crossing back to the states. We topped off fuel and water, though making water should hardly count as a chore since installing the Cruise RO watermaker. While the CruiseRO made a quick 75 gallons of water, Matt refueled the boat and jerry jugs, then cleaned the bottom.
For our non-boating friends, “cleaning the bottom” means donning snorkel gear and grabbing a 4″ wide plastic paint scraper to remove all the fuzzy marine life that grows on the underwater part of the hull. After two and half hours of methodically scraping every inch, Matt had cleansed “Kaleo” of her slimy beard. With the fresh “shave”, she should glide through the water a little faster and look better while at it.
After chores were wrapped up it was off to “Honu Lele” for appetizers before heading into the beach BBQ. Though the landscape was a bit different, the BBQ style was straight out of Texas. Oil drum barrels cut in half hosted bellies full of charcoal briquets that roasted ribs, jerk chicken and pork, steaks, burgers and hot dogs. After overindulging on the medley of meats and sides and sipping a few mango daiquiris, it was time for the live music.
“Kaleo” and “Honu Lele” at Coco’s Beach Bar & Grill
Matt dancin’ it up in a game of adult musical chairs
To bring the dance floor to life the DJ and singer launched a game of adult musical chairs. Games set to some local live music? Matt was immediately front and center. With the crowd rolling at the antics, Matt was the third to last person standing before he was outpaced by a local for the chair he was eyeing. Other than a break to watch the bonfire be lit, we all danced to a varied playlist of favorites from Rake ‘n’ Scrape to “YMCA” to “New York, New York.” We lived the night up, finally laughing and dancing our full bellies back to our boats to get some rest.
Ms. Florance making breakfast in her cafe
Wednesday morning we were out and about early to enjoy Ms. Florance’s must-have warm cinnamon rolls before setting sail for Green Turtle Cay. We’re slowly savoring our last week in the Abacos as each new destination brings us closer to our crossing back to the states. What a ride!
Since Thursday we’ve been enjoying the beaches of Great Guana Cay, Abaco, Bahamas.
Poolside at Nipper’s
With Kaleo secured in Fisher’s Bay, it was a short walk into the settlement. Located at the center of the Abacos Islands, Great Guana Cay features miles of pristine white beaches and is home to the legendary Nipper’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, perched on a forty-foot sand dune, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Nipper’s overlooking the Atlantic
Nipper’s is a cruising crossroad with visitors from around the world stopping in for the view, pools, lively conversation and frosty signature drinks. Another draw to Nipper’s is its close proximity, just a few stair steps away to the world’s 3rd largest Barrier reef that can be reached by swimming right off the shore.
Matt doin’ a little island farming on the way to Nipper’s
Enjoying a signature Nipper
Friday, we headed to Nipper’s to make a day of the beach, pool, and restaurant. Surprisingly uncrowded, we had our pick of a “dune front” table overlooking the Atlantic where we spent lunchtime enjoying grilled Mahi ceasar salad, a chicken Waldorf Salad wrap, signature Nippers and visiting with fellow cruisers. We spent the heat of the afternoon swimming in the ocean before heading back up to lounge poolside.
Swimming in the Atlantic at Great Guana Cay
Enjoying the Abacos
While at the pool, we met a family vacationing on the island that we would soon learn we have a lot in common with. Their daughter and son-in-law (our age) live in Dallas, not far from where our townhouse was in Lakewood. Christie also went to the University of Texas at the same time as their son-in-law AND their son is a copywriter at an ad agency in North Carolina with a guy Matt used to work closely with at The Richards Group. Small world.
And to add to the camaraderie, our friends from “Honu Lele” walked up the path to the pools at about the same time. With so many great people hanging around, we tabled our plans to sail to Treasure Cay that day and stayed another night in Great Guana to continue the fun well into the evening.
“Honu Lele” dancing the night away
We returned to the beach on Saturday afternoon to meet up with Honu Lele and to snorkel the Great Abaco Barrier Reef. An easy swim out brings you atop a well-developed reef system that starts less than fifty feet from shore, and rises from a depth of about forty feet to within inches of the surface.
Diving the world’s 3rd largest Barrier reef
Tossing the football with “Honu Lele”
Amidst swimming, snorkeling and sunning we made plans for a taco dinner aboard “Honu Lele”. On the way back to our boats in Fisher’s Bay, we all stopped into Grabbers, the other beach bar and grill on the island, for snack time appetizers and a dip into their pool before returning to “Kaleo” to cook up our contributions for the Mexican Fiesta dinner.
Aboard “Honu Lele”, we dined on ground turkey and pulled chicken tacos and sipped Mojitos in the cool breeze. After a radiant sunset, the kids brought out glowsticks to light up the night and Sheri baked delicious chocolate chip cookies. We laughed over the light show performance in the cockpit and indulged in the warm cookie treats.
Our neighborhood from the porch of the dinghy dock
Sunday we watched an excellent Lifechurch.tv message titled, “I Quit Living in Fear” and lazily prepped the boat to head for Treasure Cay. After sailing off the anchor, we drifted by and briefly visited with our friends aboard “Fishhead” who had just arrived to explore Great Guana. We waved good-bye to them with plans of our courses crossing again in Green Turtle in a few days and to “Honu Lele” with plans to meet back up in “Treasure Cay” the next day.
We’ve been livin’ it up marina-style over the past couple of days on Man-O-War Cay.
Dock & Dine Restaurant at Man-O-War Marina
Man-O-War Marina was offering a special dockage rate of two nights for the price of one, a deal that fit it perfectly into our anniversary week celebration. Deep water with easy access into the slips, beautiful freshwater pool overlooking the marina, clean spacious shower facilities, well-kept laundry room, on-site Dock & Dine Restaurant … done deal. Bonus: Within minutes of securing our docklines, a young cruising family hailing from Austin, Texas that we briefly met in Marsh Harbour, pulled into the slip next to us.
Texan neighbors in the Abacos
With plans to meet up later, we set off to explore this quiet, picturesque settlement. Home to Abaco’s finest boat builders, and to the famous Albury’s Sail Shop tote bags, Man-O-War (named after the bird) retains strong influences of its Puritan past. Full of hardworking, Christ-centered residents, the streets and homes are immaculate and the island is “dry” (though we were allowed to bring our own dinner wine to the restaurant).
Hand-built Albury sailing skiff
Albury’s Sail Shop and Studio
Yes He is!
We spent the afternoon winding our way through golf-cart-sized streets, stopping into local shops and boat yards, over the hill of the island and past a baseball field with the best view of a peaceful Atlantic-side beach. After the tour of the town and a stroll on the beach, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in and around the marina pool.
Lounging poolside at the marina
Tuesday evening we hung out with our new friends aboard “Honu Lele“. Their cruise began out of Kemah not long after ours, so we enjoyed laughs over shared situations and favorite stops along the way. We shared many treasures between our boats. From us, sea beans and an empty bottle for the kids to create a message in a bottle. From them, freshly caught Blackfin tuna sushi for dinner. It was incredible! Thanks Scott.
The next morning, we met two missionaries who were on the island for a conference hosted at New Life Bible Church. They invited us to come by for lunch and meet the other missionaries who were in for the conference. We had plans to drop off Fellowship Church Elevate Kids materials at the church anyhow so our visit worked out perfectly. We were able to share several sets with not only the church in Man-O-War, but with the far reaching hands of the missionaries who were attending the conference.
Later that afternoon, we hung out at the pool and then took advantage of long showers before having dinner at Dock & Dine with the crew from “Honu Lele”.
Dinner with “Honu Lele” at Dock & Dine
Dinner turned into a gathering aboard Kaleo where we visited and gave the kids sailing books we had on board for just such an occasion.
Thursday we awoke to a dreary sky but the morning was brightened by gifts from the kids on Honu Lele. Their daughter made Christie an anklet with a seashell and beads and both kids shared a couple of their pristine white sand dollars for our collection.
Thanks for the stylin’ shell anklet, Anna!
Just before lunch we untied the docklines and headed for our next island destination of Great Guana Cay. Shortly after leaving and right after unfurling the jib, it started pouring rain and we had a short but soggy motor sail over to Great Guana. The weather cleared as we picked up a mooring and we set off to explore this new-to-us cay.
We spent the beginning of this week celebrating our second anniversary in the quaint village of Hope Town on the beautiful island of Elbow Cay,a boomerang-shaped barrier to the mainland of Abaco in the Bahamas.
Kaleo resting in Hope Town Harbour
With Kaleo secured on a mooring ball in Hope Town Harbour, we dinghied over to the lighthouse dock and climbed 101 spiraling stairs up to the top. After crouching through the Alice In Wonderland-sized doorway leading out the observation deck, we were greeted by a breathtaking, 360° view of the deep blue Atlantic ocean, the turquoise and green Sea of Abaco and the lush cays dotting its surface.
Elbow Reef Lighthouse
Probably the most recognizable landmark in Abaco, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse was built in 1862 and is one of only two manually-operated kerosene-fueled lighthouses left in the world. Towering at about 120 feet tall, its light can be seen from 23 nautical miles away. And every two hours each night the lighthouse keeper must climb to the top to hand crank the weight and pulley systems that maintains a sequence of five white flashes every 15 seconds. Click here to take your own video tour up through the lighthouse courtesy of a fellow Hope Town visitor.
Towering at 120 feet tall, its light can be seen from 23 nautical miles away.
Looking out over Hope Town Harbour from inside the Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
Crossing out of the lighthouse chamber onto the outer observation deck.
Enjoying the view of Hope Town Harbour from the top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse.
After taking in the gorgeous views, we returned to our dinghy and putted over to the town side of the harbor. There, we strolled the narrow, flower-lined streets past brightly decorated cottages and into small (air-conditioned) gift shops. Naturally, after spotting the ice cream shop, we stopped for a cone of “Carmelicious” and to take refuge from the heat of the day.
Hope Town Harbour Lodge overlooking the Atlantic
Overlooking the Atlantic from the patio of Hope Town Harbour Lodge.
Later that evening, we dinghied to the waterfront deck of Harbour’s Edge Restaurant and chose a cozy table overlooking Kaleo resting in the harbour with the lighthouse stately standing in the skyline behind.
Harbour’s Edge Restaurant
We treated ourselves to a dinner of lobster and BBQ ribs with a variety of classic Bahamian sides and then ventured over to another recommended restaurant’s deck, Capt’n Jack’s, for an after-dinner drink and a decadent piece of silk chocolate pie.
Under the light of a radiant full moon, we motored back to Kaleo with gratitude for such an adventurous year of marriage and excitement for what the next year will bring.
Over the past week we’ve made the jump from Eleuthera to the Abacos enjoying the company of fellow cruisers on the same route.
Dinner aboard “Fishhead”
Tuesday evening we staged in Royal Island Harbour to make the 55 mile jump north to the Abacos. While there we enjoyed a feast hosted by Cindy and Michael of “Fishhead” and were joined by Sherry and Wayne from “Wine Down”. A full roasted chicken dinner with a multitude of sides filled the cockpit with hunger-inducing aromas.
“Guiding Light” also happened to be staging in Royal Island for a trip to Nassau. Delighted and surprised to see Shane and his guest Micheal, we stopped by after dinner to catch up on all their adventures since we last saw “GL” at Rum Cay.
Wednesday we had a long and somewhat uneventful motor sail toward the Abacos. That is until we were about a half mile from the Little Harbour cut entrance into the Abacos. We saw a rainstorm on the way and prepared the boat but were welcomed with a 40 knot squall. Within 15 minutes the wind escalated from a mere 10 knots SW to a raging 40 knots N. Since the wind was simply too powerful on our nose to make headway in, we turned the boat around and ran downwind until it passed over us. About 15 minutes later, we turned back around, raised the sails and continued on our way. As Captain Ron says, “It’s just a little squall. They come on you fast and leave you fast.”
Entering Little Harbour in a 40 knot squall
The following day we anchored off of Tilloo Cay and had “Fishhead” aboard for a spaghetti dinner. As it was Michael’s birthday, Cindy baked a celebratory banana cream pie for us all to enjoy. Thanks for having your birthday dinner aboard Kaleo, Michael!
From Tilloo, we sailed into the “big city” of Marsh Harbour, the hub of the Abacos. We were able to get laundry done and more importantly, met up with “White Pepper” whom we met at boat church back in George Town. We also bumped into “Mango Groove”, a really lovely and fun cruising family we met in GT.
The giant Maxwell’s grocery store
On Saturday morning we did chores with “White Pepper” by walking to the bakery for fresh coconut bread, to the bank for the ATM, and to the grocery store. A grocery store is an understatement after months of cruising the lightly-stocked markets of the Exumas. With a parking lot the size of Costco and the actual need for a shopping cart, Maxwell’s is the equivalent to a full-sized Publix or Kroger. We bought fresh fruit and veggies, organic pasta, chips, salsa, cereal and even a watermelon. The only very minor downside was that Matt had to tote the watermelon in our backpack back to the boat.
Hanging with some mermaids
Later Saturday afternoon, we set out to check out the 1st Annual “T’ings Bahamian Craft Show”. With cold Kaliks and crispy conch fritters in hand we browsed tents filled with a variety of artisan crafts such as sea glass jewelry, local paintings, Androsia fabric purses, and mirrors framed in shells. I found a really fun bright orange Androsia catch-all bag that was perfect for helping relieve Matt’s pockets of our camera and water bottle.
1st Annual ”T’ings Bahamian Craft Show” in Abaco Town
Amidst the live Bahamian music, ten contestants from “Miss Teen Abaco” paraded through the show introducing themselves along with the islands they represent and then modeled some of the local wares for sale.
“Miss Teen Abaco” contestants
Later, “White Pepper” joined us for watermelon aboard and then we all headed into Snappa’s for happy hour. As the evening settled in, “Fishhead” joined us at Snappa’s for dinner and we relished mouthwatering grilled Mahi-Mahi with caesar salad and baked potato.
Entering Hope Town, Abaco
Kicking back during our first Hope Town sunset
On Sunday we wrapped up our time in Marsh Harbour by watching a LifeChurch.tv service and then motor sailed over to the beautiful Hope Town to kick off our anniversary week!
Harbour Island is located just off the tip of Eleuthera and is home to a colorful New England-style community and a world renowned pink sand beach stretching over three miles across the entire length of its eastern shore.
From Spanish Wells, the only way for Kaleo to reach this alluring island would be by traversing a treacherous and twisting route through coral reefs and shallow banks known as “The Devil’s Backbone.” Some boaters take the risk, others hire a local pilot to come aboard to drive them through, and many leave their boats in Spanish Wells and hop aboard a fast ferry for a trip over. Since hiring a guide is about the same price as two roundtrip tickets on the fast ferry and the ferry being less than a quarter of the time to get across (45 min. vs. 4 hours), we opted to hop aboard, kick back and let someone else be the captain for the day.
So, Tuesday morning we boarded “Bo Hengy II”, a giant 396 passenger catamaran, for an exhilarating ride through the Devil’s Backbone. Looking down from the towering top deck, we felt the boat almost lift out of the water as it lunged for its course. The captain expertly jetted through the backbone at upwards of 35 knots! as we could feel the slight maneuvers and see the unusual course he took. At one point, we hugged the shoreline so closely that we could have tossed our own message in a bottle right onto the beach.
After docking, we hopped off and headed up picturesque flower-lined streets eventually bound for the famous pink sand beach. Meandering through a maze of brightly colored cottages, shops and restaurants, we noted how built up and polished this island is compared to the rest of the Bahamas.
Soon enough we found ourselves traipsing down a sandy path that opened up to the powdery soft pink sand beach. A few visitors lounged in nearby chairs and the surf rhythmically lapped up on the beach. The pink beach was, as claimed, not a bright pink, but a gentle hue made up of bits of coral and broken shells.
After walking along the beach, we made our way up an inviting staircase to explore the grounds of the Pink Sands Hotel, a gorgeous beachside campus with bungalows, pools and two highly-recommended restaurants. The menu and the view from one, the Blue Bar, was enough to convince us that we should come back to enjoy lunch overlooking the ocean.
We spent the next few hours wandering the paths and small streets crisscrossing the village to see more quaint villas, the local all-age school, and “Uncle Ralph’s Aura Corner” where dozens of foreign license plates and signs have been hung by island visitors. Back at Blue Bar, we chose a quiet corner table shaded by sky blue shutters and cooled by the cresting ocean breeze. First up were a frozen mango daiquiri for the admiral and a Heineken for the captain. Soon to follow were 1) Blue Bar’s famous fish tacos with seasoned local Mahi, cabbage slaw, fresh guacamole, pico de gall salsa, and fresh fruit and 2) blackened red snapper served alongside crisp Arugula salad filled with sweet peppers, tomatoes, and red onions with a lemon vinaigrette. It was one of the most mouthwatering meals we’ve had in a long time and was capped with the traditional Bahamian dessert of Guava Duff (a guava flavored plum pudding in a rolled pastry and drizzled with a brandy sauce).
Fighting a strong urge for a beachside nap, we strolled the pink sands to the far end then winded our way through local neighborhoods. We casually drifted along the waterfront street, admiring island founder’s original homes and the local conch bars as we made our way to the ferry dock.
Often times, people ask us where they should vacation in the Bahamas. Until now, it’s been difficult to pinpoint a particular island as we traveled here in our floating home and have no experience with the local hotels. Harbour Island is now our recommended destination for those seeking a comfortable, restful stay in the beautiful Bahamas. It offers a Bahamian experience among luxurious hotels and bungalows that many people want when going on a beach vacation. Harbour Island has superb dining, beautiful beaches, local flavor and easy airport access.
We would have liked to experience more of Eleuthera but are grateful for our stay in Spanish Wells and Harbour Island. Next stop … The Abacos!
Saturday marked the first time in a long time that we were sailing somewhere as a fleet of one.
Kaleo and crew’s shadow on the ocean floor
Having left “SYL” in Hawksbill, we headed to Ship Channel Cay, a long rock in the northern tip of the Exumas. It was a 20 mile motor sail up to a wide open spot of shallow sand on the ocean floor where we set the hook. In front of us was the low-lying rocks of the cay and behind us open ocean. There wasn’t another boat to be seen, further proving we were in transition between the cruising grounds of the Exumas and Eleuthera.
Taking in the fresh air and clear water
After a short swim and quick dinner, we spotted a yellowfin tuna hanging around the boat. It seemed to be attracted to the spaghetti scraps we had thrown overboard. And, always looking to fill the freezer, we baited a hook with a small meatball and tossed the line over. Moments later it went taunt as the tuna swam away unspooling yards of line from the reel. After a brief tug of war on the line, we had the large tuna right up to the boat. With gaff hook in hand (a large hooked pole used to pull a fish onboard) it bit clear through the wire leader on the line and escaped to freedom. It returned soon thereafter, much wiser to our fishing attempt, and circled us (possibly in mockery) waiting for another course in its dinner.
Just before sunset, we were treated to a figurine-sized fireworks show on the clear ocean’s horizon from the Atlantis Resort in Nassau almost 40 miles away. Over the distance, the colorful explosions looked about the size of a quarter and the boom made its way rumbling across the water to us about a minute later.
Backyard sunset over the Tongue of the Ocean
At sunrise on Sunday, with the wind gauge reading 0.0 knots, we motored for Eleuthera cutting through the ocean’s glassy surface along our way.
The trade-off for no wind was the spectacular and unique view down to the ocean floor at depths up to 50 and 60 feet. With no wind to create ripples or waves, we felt like a toy boat being pushed along an aquarium’s surface as we peered overboard to take in the magic of the exposed sea world below. Within it, we caught glimpses of radiant starfish resting against the white sand, colossal-sized sea turtles lazily cruising by, sea cucumbers vegging in their ocean gardens, and our lone sailboat’s shadow clearly trailing our progress.
By late afternoon we sailed into Royal Island Harbour in northern Eleuthera and set our anchor in a protected cove for a good night’s rest.
Kaleo amongst neighbors in Spanish Wells
Spanish Wells, Eleuthera
Monday morning we moved Kaleo a few miles over to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera to grab a mooring ball and to meander about the town. Spanish Wells is quaint well-kept settlement with many boat yards and an industrious waterfront. It’s also the stopping place for the Bahamas Fast Ferry, which we planned to take to Harbour Island the next day.
The past week has been punctuated by the sweetness of revisiting some of our favorite Bahamian islands and the inevitable departure of good friends.
The sands of Hawksbill beach
Over the past week, we’ve:
Sailed with “SYL” up to Little Farmers Cay and met back up with “Morning Glory.” We hiked across the island to walk along the Atlantic beaches, went to boat church and explored Oven Rock Cave.
Set the hook at Castle Beach near Black Point, where we first met “Morning Glory” a few months ago. Ranking as one of our top anchorages on the trip, we swam off the back of “SYL”, snorkeled and spearfished the nearby rock walls and conversed well into the night over highlights of the trip so far.
Docked for the day at Regatta Point in Black Point to do laundry and visit Lorraine’s cafe for Internet, home-baked bread and above all, her famous cracked conch.
Glided up to Staniel Cay on Thursday for groceries and more snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto. It was just as spectacular as before but this time the water was much warmer. In the afternoon we moved the big boats over to pig beach at Big Majors Cay to anchor for the night and see our grunting swimming friends one more time.
A colorful reef fish in Thunderball Groto
These folks didn’t know the pigs were hoping for a dinghy ride
Hugged goodbyes with “Morning Glory” as Friday made their departure for Florida.
Sailed with “SYL” up to Hawksbill Cay as Rusty radioed sail trim tips over to Matt. He was ecstatic at having Kaleo sailing so sweetly and grateful for Rusty’s advice.
Marveled at the most magnificent oceanside beach we’ve seen yet. A long hot hike over Hawksbill led us to a vista overlooking electrifying turquoise water with a powdery white sand beach that can not be done justice through pictures or words. Rusty even found a message in a bottle from a 5-year-old Bahamian boy named Truman. That’s two message in a bottles found on this trip so far!
The crescent beach at Hawksbill Cay
Reminisced with “SYL” about first meeting them one cold November day back in Kemah. Over dinner and Mexican Train we laughed at all the trials “SYL” encouraged us through as we made our way down the Gulf Coast, Bahamas bound.
Motored away from “SYL” on Saturday morning as we made our way north for Spanish Wells, Eluthera and The Abacos.
Overall, it was an enjoyable way to wrap up our time cruising throughout the Exumas. And while we will dearly miss “SYL” and “MG”, plans to meet back up while cruising the east coast have already been discussed.
Newly Salted is a project created by fellow cruiser, Livia Gilstrap to showcase a series of interviews with cruisers who’ve been out less than two years. She reached out to us to answer a few questions about our journey so far and we were happy to participate, especially given all that we’ve learned from more seasoned cruisers sharing their stories on the companion site, Interview with a Cruiser.
A quick background:
Matt was born in San Diego and spent his formative years feeding cattle and mucking stalls on the family farm in northern Idaho. After graduating college Matt migrated south to Dallas to start his career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, he met an explorer like himself and that’s where this story truly began.
Christie grew up in a small town near Houston, Texas where she discovered big dreams and a lot of spirit can take you pretty much anywhere. Following grad school, Christie immersed herself in exploring other cultures by traveling worldwide. After which she landed in Dallas to start her career in advertising. Where as fate would have it, she met an explorer like herself and that’s where this story truly began.
Along the way they fell in love with each other and with sailing through adventures aboard a little Fireball Skiff, a week aboard friends’ cruising boat in the Chesapeake, and as part of a local race team. Soon thereafter they bought Kaleo, a 1984 Aloha 34, with a dream of cruising and were married 2009.
Early last November they took sabbaticals, cast off the dock lines and cruised down the Gulf Coast bound for somewhere warm and tropical.
Kaleo has since carried them across the Gulf Stream, throughout the Bahamas and as far south as the remote Jumentos islands. You can read more about their travels and contact them on their website.
What did you do to make your dream a reality?
We woke up and went for it. The fastest way to make any dream happen is to take action. So we started turning “what ifs” into “what’s next”. We made a plan, set dates, worked hard, made sacrifices and celebrated along the way.
Our advice for any dreamer (unless you’re independently wealthy) is to get your finances in order. Before we were married, we lived like most people, with some debt and no significant financial plan. Regardless of going sailing or not, neither of us were content with our financial situation. So, we changed that by following the financial principles laid out in the Bible which were made easier by using Crown Mvelopes Software. The biblical principles helped us pay off all debt, empowered us to be more generous with what He has provided and save enough to live this dream.
Why cruising now?
The notion of breaking free, living simply and exploring the world in our floating home captured our imaginations. Since we decided to go now, we haven’t had time to acquire much. In fact, that’s part of the point of this adventure, being liberated from stuff and free to enjoy experiences and life at a different pace.
What’s cruising been like for you so far? Christie:
It’s humbling and exhilarating. Incredible and intense. Vivid and scary. It’s punctuated by exceptional highs and lows and all very real. It is not easy. And it is not for everyone, but we’re grateful to be experiencing it.
I guess with a dream you tend to only envision the good parts. But cruising is just like living any lifestyle. There is a balance of good and bad. The boat doesn’t magically fix itself and the wind isn’t always blowing the direction you want. But the feeling of actually living something you’ve dreamed of makes the challenges worth it.
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
That there will be days that your heart melts at how much you miss the presence of family and friends but that your heart will be equally filled with the joy of new experiences and connected with amazing people along your journeys that will touch your lives forever. Bonus is that Skype will bridge the miles to loved ones while you’re taking in these new adventures.
What do you miss about living on land?
- Family and friends
- Our home church
- Our own washer, dryer and dishwasher
- Instant connectivity
- Access to organic, fresh produce
Tell me your favorite thing about your boat? Christie:
How we’ve made it our home. All the little modifications that make it as livable as it is functional. From adding a large double sink with modern home-like faucets in the galley and refinishing the head countertop with granite to resting more soundly on a custom v-berth mattress and sheets.
Kaleo is very forgiving. From running aground to having up too much sail. No matter the situation she gets us through it despite our steep learning curve.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear on your boat and why? Christie:
- Bullet 2HP WiFi booster – Internet access on the boat when there are unlocked signals within about five miles
- Honda Generator Eu2000i – nearly as much shoreside power without having to be shoreside
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – more leisurely showers as often as we’d like, no worries when the tattletale water pump kicks on
- Lavac electric toilet – no looking, pumping or flipping a valve from wet to dry bowl. Just lowering the lid and pressing a button takes the guesswork and campingness out of going to the bathroom.
- Adventure Medical Marine 1000 Kit – the ideal cruisers’ first aid kit designed for short offshore adventures. Well stocked to tend to the crew if medical care is 12 – 24 hours away.
- Autopilot – other than anchoring or docking, R2-D2 pretty much pilots us everywhere
- SSB receiver – thanks to this and Chris Parker, what to expect for weather is rarely a question
- Handheld VHF radio – in the cockpit, in the dinghy, on the bow or ashore, this is like a cruiser’s cell phone
- Forespar Dinghy Motor Crane – I can’t imagine having to lift the dinghy motor up on the rail each time without the help of this device
- Cruise RO 20 GPH watermaker – freedom from the dreaded blue jerry jugs
What are some little things that made a big difference in your cruising experience?
Albeit not critical gear for cruising, these are a few things that we didn’t know to bring when we tossed the docklines but got as we were underway.
- Waterproof backpack – great for packing a change of clothes or the laptop on a wet dinghy ride
- Platypus PlusBottle – great for toting water on the go. It clips on a backpack and rolls down when it’s empty
- Lookie Bucket – a clear bottom bucket used for checking the anchor or looking at reefs without getting wet
- Hawaiian sling – a slingshot type of device used for spearfishing
- Clear dome umbrella – an easy way to stay dry on a wet dinghy ride while still being able to see in front of you
- Jump drive – for sharing photos and other resources with fellow cruisers
- MSR Packtowel Personal XL – Ultrasoft, compact, quick-drying and Anti-Microbial towel makes drying off easy in humid enviroments
- Smith Polarized Sunglasses – they look good and cut the glare on the water, making it easier to spot reefs and fish
- Canon Powershot D10 Waterproof Camera – known as the cruiser’s camera, it takes beautiful shots and stands up to the hard life of living in saltwater
What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?
Cape Horn Windvane – This is a superb piece of self-steering gear built for sailing around the world. Since we’re not crossing oceans during this cruising season, it’s underutilized and we could easily live without it.
How are you giving back to the communities you visit?
Kids have a big place in our heart. So, we’ve volunteered as tutors at a local all-age school and have taught kids’ church in the community. In addition, we connect with local churches to share resources that support children’s Christian growth. Our home church, Fellowship Church, donated DVD’s with lessons, songs, bible stories and kids’ gear for us to give out and so far they’ve been warmly received.
What are your plans now?
With hurricane season approaching, our route has taken us as far south as we will travel this season and we’ve now pointed the bow north. We plan to continue exploring the Bahamas until the end of May, then sail back across the Gulf Stream to Florida. But, we’re not ready to end our voyage just yet. From Florida, we’d like to sail up the east coast for a few months before stepping back into land life. And probably start planning our next cruise.
The best sailors from every major island in the Bahamas converge to compete for the “Best in the Bahamas” title and a year’s worth of island pride.
The frenzied A Class starting line
Racers hiked out on the prye. Notice the name?
Criss-crossing the course
We’ve met many of the locally-built sloops’ crews and were cheering for the No. 5 boat from Long Island, “Running Tide” and the No. 18 boat from Black Point, “Red Stripe”! Along with these fiercely competitive races is a built-up Regatta Point with brightly-colored booths serving delicious local food, frosty rum drinks, and DJ’s pumping lively music, all Bahamas style!
Intently watching for No. 5
The Black Point favorite, “Red Stripe”. Go Lundy!
“Barbarian”, a little off course
A few of the days, we anchored Kaleo in the thick of the action near the finish line. It was close enough to Regatta Point that we could literally feel the music and smell the BBQ roasting. Hot and sunny afternoons were spent meandering through the huts at Regatta Point with throngs of Bahamians and the ever fun crews of “Storyville,” “Morning Glory,” “Pipe Muh Bligh” and “Palaola.”
A race boat heading out to the start line. Up close and personal with “Kaleo”
The market with hand-woven straw baskets and batik fabrics
The streets of Regatta Point
Que romantic race moment
In the evenings, we would move “Kaleo” to a more peaceful anchorage on the east side of the harbor and unwind from the frenetic but fun energy of locals still swaying to the music in George Town. Of course, we took advantage of the well-stocked Exuma Market, propane truck, bank and such before leaving the harbour.
Though planning to leave Friday morning, we ended up staying an extra day to catch a few more races and spend more time with Deana and Troy of “Storyville.” With heavy hearts, the time has come for us to take diverging routes but can’t thank them enough for all their friendship, advice and encouragement over the past several months. They have truly become part of our family on the water and we look forward to visiting them somewhere down island soon.
The crews of “Kaleo” and “Storyville”
With fond farewells we prepped “Kaleo” for an early Saturday morning departure bound for Little Farmer’s Cay.
The flat calm of Thompson Bay was a welcome sight after having spent most of Thursday motoring up from the Jumentos at a wobbling pace slower than most people walk.
Long Island Breeze Resort
Exhausted and covered in salt, we anchored “Kaleo” just before the sky opened up with a boat cleansing rainstorm. We took the next day to recover, to catch-up with friends and family on Skype, and to enjoy being “back on the grid.”
On Saturday night Long Island Breeze, a local resort, hosted a pool and pizza party with an invite to the cruisers in the anchorage. Two of the two boats in the anchorage (“Kaleo” and “MG”) dinghied up the dock as the sound of tropical tunes floated from the pool deck.
All cleaned up for the party
While kicking back by the pool, enjoying conch fritters, rum drinks and pizza, we met a couple from Ohio. John and Penny live on Long Island six months out the year in a self-built house overlooking Thompson Bay. We became fast friends and were soon invited to visit their home during our stay.
Easter Sunday we walked to the church that we had attended a few weeks ago. During the opening announcements the paster mentioned that the day’s service would be seven hours long! He then shared that guests should not feel obligated to stay for the entire service but could if they felt led to do so. After two hours, we quietly excused ourselves back to our boats but had to commend their dedication.
Easter Dinner aboard “Morning Glory”
The gals planned and prepared a celebratory Easter dinner of deviled eggs, tomatoes in olive oil, chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, and Christie’s homemade chocolate chip cookies (lovin’ the new Betty on board). With tummy’s full, we lounged around and played a game of Mexican Train. During one particularly quiet moment, the VHF crackled to life with a familiar and welcome voice, “Kaleo, Kaleo, this is Sea Yawl Later.”
Ted and Mili had spoken to them the night before by cell phone and told us of their plans to try and make it to Thompson Bay for Easter but it wasn’t a definite. “SYL, this is Kaleo, wanna go 18?” “18 Copy.” We switched the radio channel to 18 with excitement. The VHF only has a range of 25 miles, meaning that “SYL” was somewhere within 25 miles of us.
Matt: “Hey Rusty, where are ya’ll?”
Rusty: “We’re at Comer West (a GPS waypoint we all know from our charts), trying to decide between going straight for George Town or bashing into the headwinds to come your way.”
Matt: “Well I understand not wanting to bash into the wind, it wasn’t fun for us. But … if you decide to come on over, we have plenty of Easter dinner and warm chocolate chip cookies.”
Rusty: “See you in a few hours.”
Matt: (With a cheer in the background from everyone else) “Alright! We’re looking forward to it. Holler if you need anything in the meantime. Kaleo back to 16″
Rusty: “Back to 16″
Another round of Mexican train, a trip back to the boats to clean up and before we knew it, “SYL” was anchored off our port side. Everyone quickly gathered aboard “MG” for a reunion dinner where we swapped stories until well into the evening.
Monday came with gray clouds and a day of off and on rain. We timed a break in between showers to visit our new Long Islander friends, John and Penny. They opened their incredible home to us as we took in their breathtaking view of Thompson Bay and learned more about living on Long Island.
Later that evening, upbeat Bahamian music drifted curiously over the water to our boats which reminded us of the Easter Monday festival at the nearby Regatta Point. Within minutes, we were on our way to join the occasion. Our ears were filled with dance-worthy Bahamian tunes, our eyes with local Long Islanders enjoying themselves, and our noses with the savory smells of chicken, grouper, steaks, Bahamian mac n’ cheese, peas n’ rice and tons of other side dishes.
Some new friends who gave great advice on what to have for dinner
We ran into some locals we had come to know, sampled our way through the Bahamian fare, and to the entertainment of everyone, Matt jumped on stage to dance to the Rake and Scrape band. A Bahamian woman showed Matt a few moves and he was soon bouncing to the beat with the best of them. We all laughed, cheered and encouraged his dance antics to songs like “The Polka with Juanita” and “Dinga-a-linga-ling.”
A peaceful dingy ride home wrapped up our time in Long Island, as we had plans to sail for George Town the next morning. Tuesday marks the start of the Family Island Regatta, an annual Bahamian sailboat race event, and we have a local Long Island race boat to cheer for! Go No. 5, Running Tide!
In addition to being an exceptional Cook, the Admiral of “Morning Glory” happens to be an excellent watercolor artist. While in the Jumentos, she turned that talent into charming image of “Kaleo” resting at anchor in Water Cay.
Kaleo captured in watercolor at Water Cay, Jumentos
It’s one of our most precious treasures from this trip so far. Thanks, Mili!
We’ve coined those days where we don’t spend any money, “Gold Star Days”. And we try to have as many of them as possible while not limiting our experiences.
We haven’t spent one cent in the past nine days, earning ourselves a whopping “Gold Star WEEK”.
Now granted, there’s been nothing to spend money on in the remote, uninhabited places we’ve visited the past week but we’re celebrating nonetheless.
Since moving aboard “Kaleo”, our typical expenses include fuel (though we sail as often as possible), groceries (expensive in the Bahamas), dining out (local cuisine tastings and date nights are a must), internet (ranges between not available and $15 a day), laundry (anywhere from $2.50 to $12 a load so far), and the occasional mooring ball or marina visit.
We don’t have a mortgage nor rent payments (we fully own our floating home). No utilities (we’re off the grid with engine and generator charging our battery-powered electricity and make our own fresh water from the sea*). No car payments (we sold one and fully own the other that is tucked away in storage). No cable bills (no tv). No retail therapy (what the islands lack in retail, they make up tenfold in beauty and adventure). No gym memberships (would love to start a Bahamas Y). And so on. And so on.
Now that we’re back in Long Island, our spend-free spree will come to an end in the morning as we plan to hit up the grocery store (fresh produce!), top off our fuel (thanks to motoring into headwinds), and will enjoy a pool-side dinner at Long Island Breeze Resort tomorrow evening. It was a good run while it lasted but we’re going to savor the night out tomorrow.
*friends have shared the use of their watermakers until we install our new CruiseRO 20GPH watermaker.
Over the past week we have truly been off the grid anchored in some of the most remote islands in the Bahamas.
Kaleo under sail to the Jumentos
The Jumentos are a short chain of small rocky islands about 60 miles from Cuba at the closest point. There are few protected anchorages around these ocean-exposed islands and we became accustomed to the constant rolling motion of Kaleo being rocked back and forth in the cradle of ocean swell. Most of the time the swaying was tolerable but four times per day, when the tides changed, the motion caused a ceaseless clanging of everything shifting within the boat. Thankfully, the majority of our time was spent off the boat exploring the islands’ rugged beauty and hanging with Ted and Mili aboard their more stable, two-legged cat.
Matt on a quest for coconuts
Our anchorage in Water Cay
For what the Jumentos lack in conveniences and calm anchorages, it makes up for in rugged, untouched territory ripe for adventure. Our daily excursions had us:
Living resourcefully by catching and baking our food, making fresh water from the sea, burning to dispose of our trash, and keeping ourselves constantly entertained with nature and each other
Dingy exploring a large cave on Flamingo Cay
Coming out of Flamingo Cay Cave
Hiking cliffs overlooking the ocean while the gals hunted the beaches for washed-up treasures
The captain and his winged friend exploring
Visiting with “Maggie M”, a boat we crossed over from Marathon with, and meeting their friends on “Three Penny Opera”
Surveying the wreckage of a seaplane along a nearly perfect sandy crescent beach
Spearfishing where Matt speared his first fish, a Queen Triggerfish. On one trip out, Matt speared a fish that got off and hid under a rock. The injured fish quickly attracted two 5-6 foot sharks looking for an easy meal. Matt swam off deciding not to come between the sharks and the meal he had just prepared for one of them.
Hosting a bake-a-thon, whipping up fresh french bread, an apple crisp and vanilla ice cream
Enjoying Sunday boat church service, courtesy of Lifechurch.tv, followed by conversation in fellowship that truly brings home the message
Beachcombing Water Cay for sea beans, tropical shells, and rare colors of sea glass
Sharing hearty meals and meaningful conversations while watching for the ever-elusive “green flash” at sunset
Our time in the Jumentos wrapped up as strong winds and sea states were forecast to move into the area by mid-week. So, we were early to bed on Wednesday night with plans for a 6:00 a.m. departure to make the 40 mile upwind battle back to Thompson Bay for Easter Weekend.
While we were in the remote Jumentos (no stores nor services within a full day’s sail), Mili baked the most enticing apple crisp one afternoon. Only one thing was missing from complimenting her beautiful creation. Ice cream. Creamy, cold, refreshing ice cream.
And that’s when it hit me.
A couple of summers ago, at FC Kids Camp, we taught our cabin of girls to make individual servings of handmade vanilla ice cream. What a perfect treat for cruisers craving this hard-to-keep treat (boat freezers are really small)!
So, I immediately dropped below the companionway stairs and into the galley to find the few ingredients needed to shake, shake, shake up a few batches. Here’s all’s that is needed to make your own.
What you’ll need:
Sandwich & Quart zipper bags
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp rock or sea salt
2 cups ice cubes (1 ice cube tray worth or use the ice when defrosting your freezer)
How to make it:
Fill the large bag with ice, and add the rock or sea salt. Seal the bag.
Put milk, sugar, and vanilla into the small bag, and seal it.
Place the small bag inside the large one, and seal it again carefully.
Shake, shake, shake until the mixture thickens into ice cream, which takes about 5 minutes or so.
Wipe off the top of the small bag, then open it carefully. Enjoy!
A 1/2 cup milk will make about 1 scoop of ice cream, so double the recipe if you want more. You can also dice up and add dried fruit you may have aboard (mango, peaches, pineapple, apple) for flavored ice cream.