Sunday, February 22, 2009

Exuma Land and Sea Park

We are at the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a really special place where everything within the park is protected. For example there are 31 times more conch in the park than outside the park. The conch in the park help the outside population continue to be strong. The same goes for many of other species. On a snorkeling expedition we saw lobster more than half the size of Alistair. Huge guys. Laurel saw her first shark, while in the water ( nurse shark ) fairly benign guys, if you leave them be. There are also excellent trails over sand and old coral, the coral being very sharp. Dakota took a spill yesterday and really did a job to his knee.

One of our walks took us to blowholes, we went with a large group of folks from other boats and everyone had a great time standing over the holes and watching hats fly off and their hair stand straight up, really fun! Above the boys fed these local birds sugar. The park people call them sugar birds, and with a little of the sweet stuff they will come and eat out of your proverbial hand.

Here is Alistair in the ribs of a sperm whale skeleton which is mounted on the main beach. Unfortunately this whale succumbed to plastic, bags and the such.

A local tradition is to climb Boo Boo Hill, so named because of ghosts and make a sign with your boat name and crew. There are literally hundreds, all different styles and some beautifull and creative. Ours was on the spot, so it got ye ol sharpie treatment.

Here are the kiddos over one of the blowholes, notice Dakota's hair standing on end. One of the cruisers we were with even sat on one. I think he was looking to get the full experience.

The above and the following photos are at Norman Cay, were we spent a couple of days. They have beautiful flats with a lot of conch ( we made conch pizza! ) and a lot of life. We saw a baby black tipped shark, a turtle, fish and sting rays, the kids also found shells and sand dollars, the beaches are really spectacular with the many shades of really clear blue that typify the Exumas.

I had lost my hat while at the top of the mast and although Laurel rowed after it we couldn't find it, strangely enough on a walk through Norman Cay later, there was a hat hanging on a tree from a coffee shop in Oriental, NC . So I figured it was serendipity and now have a new hat.
This blue crab was swimming along on the flats, we interrupted his swim momentarily but put him back. He concealed himself by completely burying himself in the sand. I only got him by scooping him out of the sand with a flip flop!

We snorkled this sunken plane in Norman Cay, very cool, it was in very shallow water and so we could get a really good look at everything. At one point I dove to look at the fish under the plane and noticed not two feet from my face a huge stingray buried in the sand. Luckily he didn't move at all, although I steered clear of him after that.
While at Norman Cay we met Kasey and his two friends who were staying with friends on their Catamaran. They were from Germany and hardcore kite surfers and gave us a spectacular show right off our stern. Below is Kasey as he zooms by, they were really good with the kids. Great guys.

The Exumas are truly beautiful, with not only the white sand beaches that you would expect but also beautiful rocky landscape, some of it reminiscent of Maine, it's a bit more desolate out here and less spoiled by man than other places. The nights in the Bahamas have also been superb. With little to no light coming off the Cays the sky is lit with stars, a humbling sight. We've found Bahamians to be friendly and happy to share their land with us, we are gratefull.
The weather has been a bit tough as of late, at a bonfire last night I spoke with a cruiser who's been coming here for 7 years. He said that usually you get 4 to 5 good days a week in the winter and then it blows for 2. Seems that the ratio has been inverted, as we've had many, many days of winds in the 20 knots plus range. We're hoping for milder conditions as the season continues. ( Of course this doesn't compare with 8-10 inches of snow at a time, but is what we're living through here... perspective you know..)
Hope you're all well, C.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We had a great passage across the Great Bahama Bank from Bimini, where we anchored overnight on the banks, then spent a day in Frazier's Hog Cay with an early departure to Nassau over glassy seas. We reprovisioned in Nassau and headed to Allens Cay arriving there on Valentine's Day. ( If this email reads hurried, it is!) We spent some great days at Allen's cay, with snorkling, swimming, spearfishing for me and checking out conch and all the great beaches.

We are now anchored in Norman's Cay waiting out weather so we can move on to the Exuma Park. We are having a great time although dealing with the weather can be frustrating this time of year. I'm keeping this brief because our time is short but will post some pictures. The picture avove is in Norman's Cay, while I was working on our VHF antenna.

Laurel snorkling in Allens Cay

Our passage over glassy seas on the Tongue of the Ocean (9000 ft deep in places)

Sunrise over the TongueLaurel in Allens Cay with the kids in the background.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coming back from Cat Key on our last attempt to cross the banks we caught this Amberjack, apparently also known as "A.J." He put up an incredible fight, taking line of the reel like no tommorow. It took a long time to bring him in but we got him aboard. We'd heard that AJ's can give you Ciguatera poisoning so we threw him back, later we found out that it was only the real big ones 90lbs etc. Regardless it was excting, we used a bucktail that had been destroyed by a fish the day prior, I had cut off the old bucktail end of it and with an old Bahama flag made a new red skirt for it and it worked! ( I have my brother in law Mathew to thank for that type of inspiration)
Back in Bimini all the cruisers waiting for a weather window decided to have a party and bonfire on the beach, was a lot of fun with quite a lot fo young cruisers, many sore heads in the morning but all had a great time.

A few of the other boats had gone walking on the flats looking for conch and came back with 10 plus, we were invited to partake in the cleaning of them. Not easy! Almost an art form but we all had some knowledge for the future after our session.

Yesterday afternoon we had a small window to cross the banks again and opted to give it a shot. Our friends Ken and Diane aboard Annie 2 opted to cross with us. We left North Bimini late afternoon and anchored in Nixon Harbor on the South end of S. Bimini. The plan was to leave at midnight and arrive at Chub key around 4:00 PM, giving us a daytime arrival. The arrival in a new port being important to do in daylight.
At around 10:30 Laurel heard voices outside and thought she was dreaming, she got up to have a look and Ken and Diane from Annie 2 were just alongside us. Laurel thinking that she'd overslept and we'd missed our departure asked "Oh is it time to go?" to which Diane replied that they had snapped their anchor chain and could they raft with us. We of course agreed. Scrapped our plans to leave, so we could search for the anchor in the morning. Unfortunately the weather was up and our rafting situation got very loud and uncomfortable, so at around 2 AM we lent them our 2nd anchor and rode and they anchored a few hundred yards behind us. Luckily Ken had marked his anchorage spot with a waypoint, something we've also gotten in the habit of doing and we were able to recover it first thing. With Laurel spotting it, Ken diving for it and Diane handling the boatside operation. Fortunately all worked out, we are all back in Bimini and now looking forward to a possible Thursday departure when the winds are forecasted to finally moderate. Has been a long wait. We hope all is well with you all, shoot us an email if you get a chance as we currently have access to Wi-Fi and should have it until our departure.
Best, C.

Monday, February 2, 2009


We are currently anchored behind a shoal on the east side of Cat key, our plan had been to cross the Bahama Bank last night at 3:00 but a last minute check of the weather showed subtantially enough increasing winds in the afternoon (about the time we crossed the NW channel, notorious for ugly seas & chop) so opted to hold out for a better window. Though that may mean a longish wait.
We'll sail back to Bimini later in the day and hope to catch some fish on the way. We had one on yesterday, he felt like a big lad but he managed to get off, after totally destroying the lure. ( A large chartreuse bucktail)
We stopped at the Bimini museum the other day, was very cool to see pictures of Hemingway beside huge Tuna, Marlin and other billfish. There were also pictures of famous fishing guides and of Martin Luther King who had been in Bimini writing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. There were also movie scenes filmed in Bimini including the last scene of Silence of the lambs, the one where he does his beans and chianti thing.
Although we're learning a lot about the island and are not unhappy we are really ready to move on and make our way to the Exumas, where we really have our hearts on being but alas nature requires some patience... another lesson.


Sunday, February 1, 2009


After arriving in the Bahamas on Thursday, the kids hit the pool and were thrilled!! We then headed out for a celebratory dinner for Dakota's birthday and our sucessful crossing.

The next day we helped our neighbor Ken with his dinghy

Pile of conch!

This shipwreck is amazing to look at and not an uncommon sight here!

The beach and cemetary are beautiful.

Our second day here we went for a long walk to the beach and then around town. The beaches are beautiful and strewn with conch shells. The wind had been blowing and the waves in the gulf stream were visibly huge!! The towns here have one main road about one car width, most people walk or ride golf carts.

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There was a birthday party at the marina where a fellow cruiser helped the kids make conch horns which they blew on for hours and now we have restricted conch blowing times! Don't worry forlk we're making them for all your kids too!! =0)