Twinkle Twinkle

As Mitchell and I pulled into Elizabeth Harbor on Tuesday, we were awestruck at the number of boats anchored in the harbor.  We knew there would be a lot since George Town (southern Exumas) is a very popular spot, but had no idea that we would see close to 300 boats anchored here.

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At night we have come to love sitting in the cockpit, watching the 300 anchor lights illuminate the horizon and reflect in the water like little stars.

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Once anchored, we found our way through the maze of boats, to the “entrance” of George Town’s Lake Victoria.

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This little lake has a dingy dock (with a water spigot!) and is surrounded by the main road on which you can find a gas station, marina, grocery store, phone store (BTC), hardware store, bakery, a bunch of restaurants, gift shops, hotels, a park, the school, a library and the straw market.

We spent a decent part of Wednesday and Thursday doing boat chores/provisioning since George Town has just about everything you need.  We filled the water tanks, got gas and diesel (all with jerry cans = not fun), bought groceries, stopped at the BTC store to get a new data card, and got our propane tank filled.

The propane truck stops in the parking lot across from Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant every Wednesday morning.  Super lucky for us since we had arrived Tuesday afternoon and listened to the Wednesday morning cruisers net to find out about the truck!!

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In between boat errands, we got to watch a few minutes of a school performance at the park.  Some classes were singing and others had little speeches they were reciting.

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The Straw Market

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Super cute little café where we stopped for a coffee

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Yesterday, we dinghied over to the other side of the harbor to check out Stocking Island.  We beached Sea Minor and almost stepped right on a snake.

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To ease our nerves, we were forced to order a conch salad and a couple of beers which we enjoyed at the picnic tables next to the volleyball courts.

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We ended the evening yesterday by going to see our first Rake and Scrape band at the hotel/restaurant, Peace and Plenty.  The outdoor patio was filled with people, BBQ and music.

The next couple of days will be spent here (stuck on the boat) as we wait out some squalls.  I’m not complaining though – our decks are covered with saltwater so it will be a much needed boat/Mitchell bath.

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Here Fishy Fishy Fishy

Having not caught any fish yesterday when we went out for what turned into just a day sail in the Exuma Sound, Mitchell decided to give night snorkeling a try.  Armed with a waterproof spotlight and his pole spear, he saw tons of little fish, caught a small squid and didn’t get eaten by a shark.  Mitchell is planning on jumping in again tonight; determined to catch a few more to use as bait for when we head to Georgetown tomorrow. 

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Mitchell found a crab in a bottle while snorkeling during the day! 

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Journey to The Exumas: The Curse of the Green Dolphin

After leaving Eleuthera, Mitchell and I set sail for the Exumas.  This island chain is midway through the Bahamas and includes the 22 mile long Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.  The islands of the Exumas are the remains of a giant underwater mountain range of limestone.  Since most of the islands are uninhabited or private it is suggested that you stock up on food, water and fuel before coming to the Exumas.

Leaving Eleuthera, we had to cross Exuma Sound.  Mitchell was trolling two lines; a green and black skirt and a deep diving 8” Rapella lure.  We had just hit the 3000 foot depth contour on the chart and line was being stripped off both rods!  It was too deep for the cudas and before the first fish broke the surface we could see the yellow-green hues of the dolphin through the gin clear water!  Yes, Mitchell has sunk so low in his fish catching that he is resigned to eat dolphin.  But before you make that call to PETA, be advised that these were dolphin fish (aka mahi mahi – aka delicious)!  To top off the count, Mitchell hooked into one more mahi mahi before we reached the shallows of the Exuma Bank.  [Can you guess who really wrote this paragraph?]

Once through the Exuma Sound, our first stop was Highbourne Cay.  It was there that we ran into our good friends on Journey.  After spending the afternoon snorkeling with them, JR and Drena came over for a fresh, not-off the boat, fish dinner and we caught up on the past three weeks since we had last seen them in Bimini.   

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Sea Minor found a friend! 

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Reluctantly leaving Journey, we made our way to Norman Cay.  Once there, we hiked a good portion of the dirt road that ran the entire length of the island.  Other than a bar (which was closed – and yes we are absolutely sure), a few houses and an airport, the island is pretty much deserted. 

The airport at Norman Cay (I swear). Image

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The following day, Mitchell and I made it to Warderick Wells Cay.  This island houses the headquarters of The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.  This is a 176-square-mile land and marine protected national park.  We picked up a mooring ball for the night since anchoring isn’t allowed at this area of the park and headed to land.  After paying the mooring fee, we ran into 3 couples that we had met along the way in Vero Beach, Bimini and Great Harbor Cay.  One of the best parts of this adventure is running into people who we’ve spent time with in the past.  You feel as if you’ve run into an old childhood friend! 

The north mooring field at Warderick Wells Cay

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Mitchell got swallowed by this whale.

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After leaving Warderick Wells Cay, we stopped at Black Point Harbor on Great Guana Cay (still in the Exumas).  This little town is famous with cruisers for its laundromat (yes- you read that correctly).  Any time that you mention Black Point, other sailors ask you if you are stopping to do laundry!  Having spent the afternoon at Rockside Laundry, Mitchell and I (along with the 35 other boats in the harbor) can now attest that yes- it does have the best view of any laundromat in the Bahamas! 

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The laundromat also has a wall of boat cards which keeps you entertained while waiting for your now salt-free clothes to dry. 

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Next stop … Georgetown; referred to as Adult Day Camp by cruisers! 

Mitchell joke of the week…

Q. What does a Bahamian rooster say?

A. Conch-a-doodle-do!

Tarpum Bay

After being delayed with boat work and crazy weather, we finally made it to Tarpum Bay yesterday afternoon!  It had been a hope of mine to be able to stop here in order to see where my teaching friend, Jennie, grew up.  As I’ve written previously, Jen’s parents were missionaries so she and her 2 siblings spent the majority of their childhood on Eleuthera Island. 

Today Mitchell and I spent the day wondering around the small town; meeting people that knew the Couts family.  They all had great stories to share about Jennie and were very welcoming to Mitchell and me! 

A picture walk through Tarpum Bay … this one’s for you Jennie Couts-McDonald!

The beautiful church right on the bay.

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 Unfortunately the Conch Stop wasn’t open.

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The Elementary School that Jen and her siblings attended.

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They had a ‘Lady Nathalie’ sailboat out back!

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The store and gas station that the Carey family owns. 

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The really cool castle near the school.

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A super creative use of conch shells! 

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We got to have lunch at Barbie’s Restaurant and met Jen’s good friend Keva. 

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The government dock … it was here that a handful of kids were jumping into the water as Mitchell and I arrived in Sea Minor.  

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A lot of the houses and buildings in The Bahamas are painted with such pretty colors. 

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The Tarpum Bay Library and Computer Center … being run by Davern (a wonderful lady that grew up with Jen and her siblings). 

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The Beach Inn and Mr. Ingraham (He was like a second father to Jennie and her siblings.)

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The Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center – This building was rebuilt about 3 years ago by volunteers.  Now it provides the community with tons of classes, ranging from dance and exercise to quilting and painting.   It was a beautiful building and seemed like such a wonderful resource for the people. 

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The stairs were made of concrete, recycled glass and conch shells!  Brilliant 🙂   Image

If we followed Mr. Ingraham’s directions correctly, we think this is the house in which Jen grew up.

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Jen’s front yard … absolutely amazing!

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Taking a rest after a long day of walking around town! 

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Thank you Tarpum Bay!  It has been a pleasure seeing you and meeting your friendly people!

Busy Little Beavers

Food Project: Sushi

To finish off the stone crab that we had purchased the other night, Mitchell made California rolls for dinner.  Yum!!!  Good thing I brought along my chopsticks and soy sauce bowl from Japan.

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Sewing Project: Throw Pillows

The other day, Mitchell was complaining about how many pillows we have onboard.  So what did I do to console him?  Make more, of course!!!  Before leaving Ohio, I had printed out a pattern for throw pillows that would use up some of the scrapes from the quilt that I had made (see Quilting post).

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Food Project: Bread

Ever since Mitchell discovered the super easy bread recipe, he has been baking nonstop.  Today’s special was cinnamon raisin bread with homemade cream cheese icing.

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Cleaning Project: Laundry on the boat 

Since we have access to free water, Mitchell decided to fill up the Home Depot buckets and do some of his dirty laundry (once the sun had almost set mind you).  He then attempted to ring it out with an old fashion clothes ringer without much luck.  That’ll teach him to try to do my chore!

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Even though it is time to move on, we will miss the sleepy little town of Hatchet Bay with its roosters that cock-a-doodle-do all hours of the day, its kittens that roam the streets and its super friendly people.  Thank you for a wonderful week Hatchet Bay!

Hatchet Bay

Having spent almost a week working on the decks of Sea Major, Mitchell and I decided that it was time for a day off.  So instead of inhaling toxic dust we decided to do something a little more dangerous.  We had heard that there was a cave 3 miles north of Hatchet Bay so Mitchell and I set out early yesterday morning to explore it with another cruising couple (Dena and Myron-their website).

Once past the hornets nest, we climbed down the wobbly wooden ladder (put there God knows when) into the darkness of subterranean depths.  [Rule No. 1: don’t trust wooden ladders put in place by Atlanteans.]  The four of us were impressed with the stalactites and stalagmites, the veins of iron oxide on the ceiling of the cave, the graffiti dating back to the 1870s, and the lower level reached by another ladder from which Mitchell plunged into knee-high water.  It was near this underground lake that Mitchell found a golden ring someone must have dropped.  After traversing the mile long cave, we came to a rope ladder that led us out of the cave and into a field of chest-high brush which we walked through to get back to the road.

Hatchet Bay Cave is the most extensive cave system discovered on Eleuthera thus far.

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Iron oxide or a Jackson Pollock on the ceiling of the cave, you decide.

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Mitchell climbing the 20 foot rope ladder out of the cave and happy to have his precious. [Rule No. 2: don’t trust rope ladders built by Atlanteans.]

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Safely back in town, we replenished our electrolytes with some coconut water given to us by a local who was cutting a bunch of them open on the side of the road.

Dena drinking the coconut water.

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A banana tree growing outside of someone’s house.  Take note of the direction in which the bananas grow (and you thought they were just happy to see you)!

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A few nights ago, Mitchell and I purchased some stone crab right off of the boat after it pulled into harbor.  Once tied to the dock, the men boiled the crab legs in a HUGE pot of water on the boat and then dumped them into ice water.  We walked away with about 7 pounds of crab legs for $40 dollars.  (That would have cost us $350 in Ft. Lauderdale.)  For the third night in a row we will be eating crab.  Mitchell is putting it in a pasta dish to go with the homemade bread he made this afternoon.  Thank God he likes to cook!

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Yesterday evening, we were invited to a cruisers’ happy hour on the dinghy dock.  We gathered with about 15 other couples (5 of which were our age) to enjoy drinks, appetizers, and music (guitar and banjo) while watching the sun set.  Mitchell and I enjoyed meeting all of the other sailors and hearing where they were from and where they are headed.  It was a great ending to our day off and a nice start to a long night of storms and no sleep!

Big Doggy Birthday

We are officially done scraping the Treadmaster off of the decks!!! 

After 4 excruciating days of using the SUPER loud Multimaster tool, Mitchell and I have finally finished phase 1 of the deck project.  Now all we have to do is: sand with 80 grit; sand with 220 grit; apply the special cleaning solution; prime; paint; sprinkle the non-skid sand stuff; vacuum up the loose sand stuff; and apply a final coat of paint.  This boat work is turning out to be a full-time job that doesn’t pay a cent (and sucks up all your money).  Who signed me up for this? 

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When not scraping, Chef Mitchell has been baking homemade bread.  He found a super easy recipe online that doesn’t require kneading and since we don’t have a dutch oven onboard, Mitchell baked the bread in the metal mixing bowl and used foil as the lid.  It turned out amazing and reminded us a lot of the bread that Alex and Jessica brought to Friend Thanksgiving. 

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Mitchell has also become quite proficient at Mahjong on the computer in his spare time.  He plays it every time I let him take a break from the deck project.  [Loretta Etzell- please tell your friends that Mitchell wants to join your Mahjong club when we return!]

In my spare time, I have been making homemade guacamole out of guavas!  Well, I thought it was a guava when we purchased it at the Potter’s Cay market in Nassau.  Turns out, it was a gigantic avocado- surprise!  Good thing I packed some Tostitos Scoops! 

The one-room grocery store where we had purchased the tomato that I used in the guacamole.

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We are still in Hatchet Bay, hanging out on one of the free mooring balls.  As soon as we finish phase 2 (sanding with 80 grit) of the deck project, we will (weather permitting) head to Tarpum Bay!!! 

The man-made opening in the rocks that we had to go through to get to Hatchet Bay.  It was only 90 feet wide- yikes!  [map– We are inside of the thing that looks like a pond to the SE of point A.]

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This guy (and the ferry from Nassau) had to fit through the same 90 foot opening in the rocks!  

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What is a pirate’s favorite letter?

Mitchell: R

Natalie: Good guess but nope.

Mitchell:  I give up.

Natalie:  P cause it’s a R with its leg cut off! 

We have officially made it to Hatchet Bay on Eleuthera Island.  Our motivation for stopping here is due to the fact that this is where one of my teaching friends, Jennie McDonald, grew up.  The majority of her childhood was spent on this island while her parents worked as missionaries.  When I found this out a few years ago, I was absolutely fascinated and knew that I wanted to visit the island once Mitchell and I decided that we were going to embark upon this sailing adventure. 

In preparation for coming to Eleuthera, I emailed Jennie to ask for some information.  She replied with a bunch of interesting information about her hometown (Tarpum Bay- where we are headed next) and some random facts about the areas north of where she grew up. 

We are currently attached to a (free) mooring ball in Hatchet Bay [which is just south of Gregory Town (Amy K. – tell Gregory it made me think of him)] and according to Jennie …

“The town of Gregory Town has a cove like bay, where legend has it that Black Beard would pull his ship into the Cove, and then be undetected from the other pirate ships.  Then, between Gregory Town and Hatchet Bay, there is Black Beard’s Cave, which is a cave that is completely underground.  When you enter the hole in the ground, it goes underground for about 1/4 mile.  Legend has it that Black Beard and his crew would hide out in the cave if they thought they were in danger.”

Mitchell and I hope not to run into Black Beard while here (but wouldn’t mind seeing Johnny Depp!!!).  We are planning on staying here for a little while and working on the decks since the harbor is so well protected and super cute.  

Nassau In Pictures

In between boat chores and route planning, Mitchell and I took a final walk through downtown Nassau today.  While there, we went to the Quilt Show at a local church and got to vote on our favorites.  Afterwards, to cool off in the air conditioning, we stopped at the bank around the corner to see the masks and costumes on display from Junkanoo (their New Year’s Day parade).  On the way back to the boat, we made a stop at Potter Cay’s market under the bridge for lunch and to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables.  This time Mitchell decided to step out of his cheese-burger-ordering comfort circle and tried the conch fritters; while I had the conch salad (which is a finely cut up mixture of conch, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers in lime juice – all of Mitchell’s favorite foods).  After properly fed and hydrated, we purchased some local produce from the market stand.  The friendly lady who was selling the produce even let us try a sapodilla (it tasted like a caramelized pear but looks and feels like a kiwi on the outside). 

Picture time…

The police lady is directing traffic from the middle of the intersection in a rolling box.

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This quilt got my vote!  The image is of a Japanese lady who was preparing for a tea ceremony.  It made me think of my visit to Japan with Gogo and Sylvia. 

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A set of masks and a costume used in the Junkanoo parade. 

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Lunch – conch salad, conch fritters, and a Bahama Mama drink.

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We leave tomorrow morning to work our way towards Eleuthera.  (Sorry for the lack of googlemap links – the internet here just can’t handle it!)  

Have you…

ever wondered what it feels like to be one of those blow up penguins with the sand in the bottom that stand right back up after you hit them?  Well, hop on a plane and come visit the Sea Major … we will show you! 

Three times this past week, Mitchell and I have spent the night rocking from a 45° angle all the way (passing through 0°) to a 315° angle.  Sounds soothing right?  NOPE.  It just makes you want to throw up even when you are laying in bed staring up at a plethora of beautiful stars in a moonless sky.  The good news is that Mitchell finally figured out that the rocking is probably due to the fact that we have 50 gallons (about 400 pounds) of water on one side of the boat and not the other since he closed the value that would let the two tanks equalize.  (In his defense, Mitchell was trying to make sure that we had a back-up supply of water in the event that something happened- like a leak or water contamination.)

Since the constant rocking from side to side for the last few days wasn’t enough fun for one week, Mitchell decided to find the bottom of the boat a few days ago while pulling into an anchorage at White Cay (in the Berry Islands).  Apparently he grew tired of going to the bow and setting the anchor, so this time he “anchored” us real good with the keel (bottom) of the boat in 5 feet of water (when we need 5.5 ft to float the boat).  The next 3 hours were spent throwing out anchors and trying to kedge us off the sandbar.  To do that, Mitchell had to get in the dinghy and take each anchor away from the boat and drop it in the water.  We then put the rode (anchor rope) around the winch and tried to pull Sea Major off of the sand bar.  To make things even more exciting, the wind and current were pushing us towards the rocky shore of Fowl Cay on the other side.  Not having much luck kedging ourselves off of the sand, we were fortunate enough to be turned loose once the tide rose. We quickly motored to deeper water and threw out our main anchor for the night in hopes of a relaxing evening and a good night sleep.  Not the case … it turned out to be a current vs. wind battle almost all night with the boat rocking from side to side (because of the water tank issue that we hadn’t figure out yet).  Mitchell spent the night in the cockpit; babysitting the anchor/chartplotter while I lay awake in bed hoping that we would make it through the night without the anchor dragging.

You can see the anchor rode (rope) wrapped around the winch in this picture.

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The following morning we headed to Nassau (the capital) and treated ourselves to a couple of nights at a marina (with a pool but no WiFi).   The town is a busy city on Providence Island with 2/3 of the Bahamian population living within its borders.   On our walk this morning, it was interesting to see the economic difference between the normal areas of town (where we are staying) and the part located next to the cruise ship docks.

The men at these stands were taking the conch out of the shells in the market.

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After finishing our boat chores today and tomorrow we are planning on heading to Eleuthera to see where my friend Jen grew up.