Hands down my favorite Cay in the Bahamas – so far.

One of the things we wanted to do this season was to spend some time in the Bahamas Land and Sea Park. We had spent a few days at Shroud in the past, and anchored once by Warderick Wells for one night, but we had never spent any extended time exploring the hiking trails and snorkeling.

The Land and Sea Park is a series of protected areas within the Bahamas, and it’s strictly a no-take zone. No fishing, no shelling, etc. If you see it there, leave it there. We had heard the snorkeling is outstanding and the coral was in very good shape, so we were excited to check it out. You do have to pay .50/foot to anchor or $30/night for a mooring ball (for our size boat), but it’s a reasonable price to support an NGO that is doing very good work.

We spent a few more days in Staniel after getting our outboard, and of course it’s impossible not to take pictures of a such a pretty place:

One of the dinghy landing areas at Staniel Cay.
Staniel Cay has some of the most amazing blues in the Exumas.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club rents mooring balls now, but you choose them yourself so you need to know if there is sufficient depth for your boat at that particular ball. This guy learned a good lesson about the tides.

But eventually the weather was cooperating so we were off to our first ever visit to Cambridge Cay. We spent four nights there, and by the time we left, I knew it was my favorite non-settlement cay in the Bahamas (at least of those we’ve seen). I could have spent all winter there.

The water was so still when we raised the anchor to head to Cambridge that we could see the marks in the sand from our chain as the boat swung back and forth. By the way, this is 8 feet deep.
No wind for sailing on our way to Cambridge, but it’s hard to complain when you can see the bottom so clearly at 15 feet of depth.
The water color – it NEVER gets to be ho-hum!

Cambridge has a few hiking trails that we thoroughly explored. The longer one is the Ridge Trail which offered up wonderful views. Jeff and I didn’t go all the way to the end – it was hot and we had only brought one water bottle each – but that just gave us a good reason to go back again next winter.

There typically isn’t much elevation in the Exumas, so it’s a nice treat to find a trail that gives you a view from above. The anchorage and mooring balls are on the top right.
With the exception of the water color, some of the trail reminded me of the scenery when we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway last winter. I feel very fortunate to be able to travel like we have. Memories to last a lifetime, for certain!
I was teasing Jeff by singing “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music as we walked up the trail. Now that song goes through my head every time I see this picture.

The trail to Honeymoon Beach was shorter and flat, but it led to a gorgeous beach that we had virtually to ourselves. The only other couple there had arrived on a small power boat and were on the opposite end.

Our dinghy on the beach that leads to the Honeymoon trail.
You can’t miss the beginning of the trail!
Honeymoon Beach – stunning.

We also took full advantage of our bigger outboard and went to Rocky Dundas in the dinghy for some snorkeling. Our friends Lyn and Ken will be bringing our Olympus Tough camera when they arrive (we had it delivered to their house), so soon I’ll be able to add underwater pictures to the mix. I sure wish I had it when we were snorkeling the Rocky Dundas. There were TONS of fish everywhere and they were following us. I suspect people feed them.

An added bonus was seeing our friends Marc and Nancy on Mer du Jour, who joined us in the mooring field on our second day. We had a great time playing Euchre each night and laughing a ton. Nancy and I even went on a girls hike on the Ridge Trail.

It’s always so much fun when Nancy and I get together!

Since Mer du Jour has a much larger outboard than we do, we all went snorkeling together at a spot called the Aquarium where we saw plenty of fish and a turtle. We also snorkeled the sunken plane where there were a ton of fish and a nurse shark sleeping on the bottom. The current was so strong though that we had to keep kicking our fins just to stay in place. Marc stayed in the dinghy to keep an eye on all of us.

Finally, although we didn’t get a chance to get together for sundowners with them, we were also able to see and chat with our friends Chuck and Helene on Aurora. Their trip to the Bahamas was a bit shorter so our paths never did cross again for those sundowners, but hopefully we’ll see them again this summer. In the meantime, Chuck snapped this fantastic shot of Jeff and I are in our dinghy as the sun went down one evening. Thanks again, Chuck!

Next up: Warderick Wells.

Holy blog break, Batman!

Just when I get caught up, I fall behind again. Ah well, such is life when you’re blogging for fun. But now it’s time to start catching up before it’s too late. Prepare for many posts over the next few weeks!

So where did I leave off? Oh yes, the new outboard. We have been cruising with our trusty Honda 2.3 hp outboard since we cut the docklines in 2018. While it didn’t have a ton of power, it was reliable and light enough that even I could remove it from the stern pulpit and hand it to Jeff down in the dinghy.

When we were in Big Majors, however, we were thwarted from going to shore for the first time. There was a good 20 knots of wind on the nose, the fetch was substantial with the dinghy slamming into each wave, and we weren’t even halfway there before we were thoroughly soaked. It was at that point we started kicking around the idea of a slightly larger outboard.

The pros: we could explore longer distances; when we had farther to go to shore we’d get there faster; and it would be quieter than the 2.3 hp which is air-cooled. The cons: it was heavier than our 2.3; likely less fuel efficient; and the cost. We hemmed and hawed over it for several days.

We always knew if we bought a bigger outboard it would be a two-stroke because they are substantially lighter than the same-size horsepower four-stroke. Yes, you have to mix the oil and gas but big deal. However, you can’t buy a new two-stroke outboard in the United States. But guess where you can buy one? Yep, the Bahamas.

We e-mailed Harbourside Marine in Nassau to find out what a four hp Yamaha two-stroke would cost and how to go about getting one. When we discovered that it was the same price as a four-stroke at Defender and there was no VAT on it, it was a no-brainer.

When we were ready to leave Prime Cay and return to Big Majors, we gave Harbourside the go-ahead and they delivered the outboard and a one liter jerry can to the mailboat. Of course, this being the Bahamas, they didn’t know exactly what day the mailboat would arrive. “Could be Wednesday, could be Thursday.” I tried to call the harbormaster in Nassau but she said she didn’t know and to call back later. Well alrighty then.

On Thursday we couldn’t see any mailboat, and there wasn’t one on AIS. We radioed the Staniel Cay Yacht Club who told us that it was already there. Shit! We jumped into the dinghy and took off with our mighty 2.3 hp outboard, concerned that the mailboat would leave with our outboard still on it.

But this is the Bahamas man. No hurries, no worries. We rushed for nothing. When we landed the dinghy half an hour later, I took off running for the government dock only to find the mailboat slowly being unloaded. I gave the guy with the clipboard my name, and he pointed to the outboard and jerry jug – no identification required. After signing for it and paying him $42 for the shipment, we had our new outboard.

We already had a cruiser lined up in Staniel Cay to buy our Honda, so once we had the Yamaha up and running we dinghied to their boat and sold them the Honda in exchange for some much needed cash (the only ATM in the Exumas is in Georgetown).

Jeff was very pleased to discover that we could hook up an external fuel tank (that wasn’t an option on the Honda), so we priced out the tank and hoses at $180 from Defender for when we returned to Connecticut. Then, about a week later when I was anchoring the morning Cruiser’s Net, a fellow cruiser said he was selling a three gallon external fuel tank and hoses for a Yamaha for $40. It was exactly what we needed!

I decided one of the benefits of being the anchor was that I get first dibs, so we jumped on it. Not only was it $40, but it included 2 1/2 gallons of gasoline (which runs around $6/gallon here)! We were thrilled!

So now that we’ve had the Yamaha for over a month, how do we like it? Well, we don’t like it – we love it. It’s SUBSTANTIALLY quieter than the Honda. It has a shifter so we can choose forward/reverse/idle – the Honda had one direction – forward. If you wanted to go in reverse you turned the outboard around. The fuel efficiency is much better than we expected (unless you go wide open throttle, in which case it drinks gasoline like a thirsty man drinks water in a desert). And it’s MUCH faster than the old one – easily 30% faster, and that’s not even at wide open throttle. We can actually plane on the Porta-Bote in the right conditions, and if either one of us is solo it can plane in any condition.

As we expected, the heavier weight is a drawback. The Honda was 30 pounds and this is 46 pounds, but the same Yamaha in a four-stroke is 59 pounds so it’s a lot better than that. We though we’d have to rig a block and tackle to hoist it on and off the dinghy, but Jeff is able to take it off the stern pulpit by hand, and I lower it down to him once he’s in the dinghy. Maybe if I actually did some push-ups, I’d eventually be able to take it off the pulpit myself.

Bottom line, it’s an excellent upgrade for cruising life!

A first-time visit to Prime Cay.

One of the many anchorages we’ve been meaning to check out in the past is Prime Cay. We didn’t even know about it our first year, but on our second trip we read about an anchorage that is only accessible for our draft on a rising tide. Once in, you are rewarded with very nice protection, several beaches, an abundance of marine life, and some hiking. For various reasons we weren’t able to explore Prime on our second or third trip. This trip, the fourth time was going to be the charm.

We had a lovely, lazy sail from Staniel to Rudder Cut Cay where we anchored for the night. Once again, there were 14 boats anchored by the Active Captain anchorage, so we went around the corner and had the anchorage to ourselves. Go figure.

The next day we did some calculations to figure out when we could leave for Prime Cay, knowing that we were going to be navigating through some skinny water. We added a buffer but should have added more, because the trip was a bit of a pucker-fest. We didn’t find the bottom, but there were more than a few occasions where we had less than a foot under the keel. No big deal under calm conditions, but with a steady 20 knots of wind it was choppy so it was stressful. However, the color of the water was stunning, and after a tense few hours we successfully slid into the anchorage.

The shade of blue in the deeper water on our way to Prime was gorgeous…

And the varying shades of blue were also jaw dropping. The picture doesn’t do it justice.

The arrow shows the route we took to sneak into the anchorage. The depths are in meters on the chart, and we tend to stay away from anything under 1.5 at low tide just to be safe. But mid-tide gave us enough extra depth to get in and out without any issues, and the anchorage itself is deeper than charted.

We ended up staying for five nights, sometimes having the anchorage to ourselves, but never sharing it with more than one other boat. We saw plenty of turtles and rays from the cockpit, and we enjoyed snorkeling and checking out a different beach for every day we stayed – beaches we had all to ourselves.

At low tide the area next to the anchorage drained of virtually all water, creating an extremely large sand flat. We enjoyed exploring one day, looking at the small fish waiting in pockets of water for the tide to return, and doing a bit of hiking.

Looking out towards the anchorage.

The water was as warm as a bathtub in the shallows.

There was this random wall made out of coral rock on the cay. We didn’t see any signs of a former house.

After a very enjoyable stay, it was time to tear ourselves away from Prime and head back up towards Staniel. Once again we had a very nice sail – cruising the Bahamas is fantastic if you like sailing the vast majority of the time!

Wing and wing for a bit while we navigated around the shallows near Big Farmers Cay.

After dropping the anchor south of Staniel to try a new spot for one night, it was time to go back to our anchorage at Big Majors. We had an outboard being delivered on the mailboat!

White Point near Jack’s Bay on Great Guana Cay. Disappointing snorkeling, but very scenic.

After four trips, we’ve found our Exumas winter base.

The Exumas offer beautiful cruising grounds, but they aren’t perfect. Protection from westerly winds when winter fronts arrive is hard to come by. More than a few cruisers base themselves in Georgetown or Red Shanks and do what’s known as the “Georgetown shuffle”, moving as necessary depending on the wind direction. But long-time readers of this blog know that we have spent enough time in Georgetown and Red Shanks to realize that those spots are not for us.

I forgot to put this picture in my last post – the big boat towing the little boats (they remind us of ducklings) – is always so cute to see.

In the past we’ve kicked around the idea of basing ourselves out of Staniel Cay, but always found ourselves being sucked down to Georgetown (“Maybe this time it will be better!”) and getting pinned down there. This time, my best friend and her husband were going to be vacationing in an Airbnb in Black Point in mid-March, so we decided to avoid going farther south than Lee Stocking until after they leave. And that’s how we discovered that Staniel Cay is definitely the winter base for us.

But before we arrived in Staniel for the first visit of the season, we upped anchor on our second morning in the Exumas and spent several lovely days at Shroud Cay, even sitting out a mild cold front.

We love Shroud – it’s so scenic.

We would have stayed longer at Shroud but the trash situation was getting critical, and we needed to replenish the snacks and the booze which was even more critical. So off we went on a beautiful sail to Staniel.

Staniel Cay is a regular stop for us, and typically we anchor right by the settlement. But since we were last here the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (i.e. marina) has installed moorings along our preferred anchor site, so we decided to round the bend and try Big Majors Spot – a place we had previously stayed for one night.

This nurse shark came by to say hello as soon as we dropped the anchor at Staniel.

Being sure to anchor far away from Pig Beach (too many go-fast power boats with tourists who want to swim with the pigs), we tucked ourselves close to land and were VERY well protected from the strong easterly winds. Yes, there were more boats than we prefer and it was a wet dingy ride into town (more on that in another post), but it was comfortable and had a good “feel.”

Having several boats in the anchorage isn’t as bad when you’re in the front row.

Between the number of boats in Staniel and nearby Black Point, I was surprised that there wasn’t a cruiser’s net. So I took the script that I had from Vero Beach and started one up, which was a lot of fun.

The first morning I was concerned I’d be like the person who invites everyone to a party and no one shows up, but to my surprise there was good participation. Encouraged, I kept it up for the next 8 days, including while we were tucked away in Rat Cay for a cold front. I had a lot of fun with it, and by doing it we met several cruisers.

It was when we moved to Rat Cay for the cold front that we were convinced that Staniel would be our winter base in the Exumas. While Rat isn’t the PERFECT spot for a cold front, it’s good enough. Great holding, and it’s a short hop from Staniel.

A beautiful view from our anchorage in Rat Cay.
And we only had to share it with one other boat.

While we waited for the weather to improve, we relaxed, baked bread, and even had a visit from Joyce and Matt who we met at Shenny back in 2017 when they bought their first cruising boat. We hadn’t seen them since New Year’s Eve in Miami, right before Covid hit, so it was wonderful to catch up.

English muffin bread has become a breakfast staple on Pegu Club.

But once the front passed it was time to go explore. I couldn’t get any volunteers to take over the net, so it went silent until we planned to return. But we were definitely planning to return – we had to pick up our new outboard that was going to be delivered on the mailboat! More on that in the next post.

Scooting down to the Exumas.

Our strategy for this trip was to get down to the Exumas as quickly as possible. Typically the water is a bit warmer and the air temperatures are a bit higher than in the Abacos, and ideally the cold fronts don’t make their way that far south quite as often. Of course as we’ve seen, that doesn’t always pan out, but we were willing to give it a try again.

Towards that end, we had a great sail from Green Turtle to Marsh Harbor where we stocked up at Maxwell’s and picked up an Aliv card so we could finally have reliable internet again (yay!). We spent a few days there waiting out a cold front, meeting with cruiser friends and making new ones, before we had another fantastic sail down to Lynard Cay.

Our anchorage at Lynard. Several hundred yards to our starboard were at least 15 other boats, but we had this area all to ourselves. I just don’t understand the herd mentality when it comes to anchoring.

We spent one night at Lynard and then motorsailed across to Royal Island in Eleuthera where we connected with cruiser friends we had made in Marsh Harbor. Two nights later, we were up with the sun to the Exumas!

Our anchor chain in about 8 feet of water at Royal Island.

Typically we go down Eleuthera and leave for the Exumas from Rock Sound. We’ve shied away from dropping down from Royal Island because the chart makes it look like you have to dodge a minefield of coral heads. After talking to other cruisers though, we decided to go for it.

The + marks are deeper coral heads. The + marks with circles are shallower ones. No way were we taking any route other than the one with the green arrow. People that take the other two lines are braver than we are.

The lines on the Explorer charts are usually bang-on for avoiding obstacles, but in this case we did find ourselves having to dodge the occasional coral head that was right on the line. But, they were easily seen with a lookout on the bow (they look like a black puddle of oil on the water).

Courtesy of Google Images, a coral head on the bank heading to the Exumas.
Starting to see that beautiful Exuma blue water!

It was a bit stressful, and we wouldn’t take the route again in anything but settled weather and sunny skies, but we WOULD do it again. That’s because before we knew it, we had the anchor down in Highborne Cay and we were basking in that beautiful, gin-clear Exuma blue water!

A week in Green Turtle – a great start to the trip!

We typically check in at Green Turtle and stay a few days at a time, but this year we changed it up a bit and stopped for a week. It wasn’t our original plan, but checking in turned out to be a bit of an unexpected saga.

Check-in at Green Turtle used to be in the center of town. Unfortunately, the office was destroyed in Hurricane Dorian so the location was switched to the Green Turtle Club once the Club was up and running again. However, this means that there isn’t a full-time customs and immigration officer on the island any more. She comes on the ferry, ostensibly daily. More on that later.

The Green Turtle Club is a marina and resort on the other side of the island. We’ve stayed there once before, but the docks are fixed and it’s difficult to get on and off the dock at high or low tide, so we decided to stay for two nights at Donny’s Marina. It’s a 10 minute walk into town, which we prefer over the more remote location at the Club. We rented a golf cart for the day, and I drove over to the Club on Thursday to check in.

Don’t forget to drive on the left!

Green Turtle Cay is pretty small, so these signs above are usually sufficient to find your way to where you want to go. Of course I made a wrong turn the first time I left the Green Turtle Club, so I stopped to ask directions from a resident who was walking down her driveway. She asked if I could give her a lift to the trash drop off – no problem! – and sent me on my way with excellent directions. By the end of our stay, we were driving around like a local and didn’t even need the signs.

Now, one key to happy cruising in the Bahamas is to remember it’s not the United States. Island time is a very real thing here. If you come over and expect things to happen immediately and start getting impatient, it’s not going to be a happy experience for you. You have to get your chill on. The ATM is out of money? Try again in a a few days. The store isn’t open despite the hours saying otherwise? O.k., check back later. No hurries, no worries.

So when I drove over to the club and the office staff wasn’t sure if the customs and immigration officer was going to show up that day, it was no big deal. If this had been our first year, I would have been stressing out because I’m a rule-follower, and technically you’re supposed to stay on the boat (except for going to check in) until your paperwork is approved. But now, on our fourth trip? No hurries, no worries.

The office staff tried to call the officer on the phone, but she didn’t answer, and they didn’t know when she would back. So I texted her that I needed to check in and drove back over to Donny’s. I told Donny we hadn’t been successful and he said not to worry about it. Just try again later, and in the meantime take down the Q flag so we don’t draw any attention. LOL! We love the Bahamas.

We had only rented the golf cart for one day, but now we obviously needed it for a second day. It was all good though, because we were starting to get into major chillax mode.

We asked Donny if we could switch to a mooring and stay for a week. Donny thought about the logistics and then asked if we would want to stay at the dock for the mooring rate. Otherwise he was going to have to move an unoccupied long-term boat off the mooring to the slip, and he said he just didn’t want to hassle with it. No problem! We extended the golf cart rental for a week, and started to settle in.

I loved this sign on the fence. People have helped out from many different nations to aid in recovery for Green Turtle and other Abacos communities.
The Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden in the center of “town.”

Ultimately, checking in took three trips to the Green Turtle Club (or maybe it was four?), but it was all good. It was a fun ride in the golf cart, and everyone knew we were trying so we weren’t stuck on the boat in the interim. By the second-to-last trip the staff was letting me hang out in the air conditioned lounge for the afternoon while I waited to see if the official would come. I had good wifi, caught up on blog posts, and chilled. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t giving a fist pump once we were finally, officially, checked in! And since by then everyone at Donny’s knew about our saga, we got some cheers when I came back and announced we were official.

We’re official!

Our stay at Donny’s Marina and on Green Turtle for the week was fantastic. The boaters at the marina were the friendliest we’ve ever met, and there were several happy hours on the lawn during our stay.

We had an unexpected thrill when we arrived, and the happy surprise just set the tone for the whole stay. Our first year in the Bahamas, our friends on SV Minx met a Canadian couple who were cruising the Bahamas on a Bristol 29.9, SV Quick Sticks. Minx passed their boat card to us, and I sent them an e-mail to say hello. They said they were planning to leave the boat in Green Turtle that summer.

Fast forward three months and Hurricane Dorian hit the Abacos, virtually destroying Marsh Harbor and severely damaging Green Turtle and other communities. I immediately thought of the other Bristol 29.9 and was curious how it had made out, but I figured it had been destroyed and didn’t want to add salt to the wound, so I didn’t send an e-mail.

As we pulled into Donny’s, I said to Jeff, “That looks just like a Bristol 29.9.” Then I saw the boat name and said, “It is! It’s Quick Sticks! The boat survived!”

We were so happy to finally meet SV Quick Sticks and spend time with them. Their boat had been damaged but had since been repaired, and they are spending the winter cruising the Bahamas once again. We toured each other’s boats, hung out at happy hours, and really hope to run into them again this winter as we bop around.

When we weren’t hanging out with fellow cruisers at Donny’s, we were roaming around the island on the golf cart and plugging into the community.

Marilyn runs the golf cart rental business that we used, and we greatly enjoyed chatting with her. She found out that Jeff used to manage a bicycle shop and mentioned she had two bicycles in the back that needed new tubes and tires. She had the parts but no way to put them on, so Jeff and I went over one morning with some tools and he got the bikes up and running again.

Jeff left the bikes in better condition than he found them, one of the qualities I love about him.

Another evening we went to go get ice cream with Donny at the local shop, and hung out listening to residents shoot the breeze. It was there that we discovered that people greet each other after dark with, “Good night” vs. “Good evening.” It’s those little things that I love about traveling around.

We went to various beaches during the week so Jeff could go metal detecting and I could chill with my Kindle.

Someone more creative than me left this sculpture on the sand.

Jeff is very methodical about where he puts things, and I am more haphazard. I thought this day on the beach captured our different styles perfectly:

We found this really large brain coral half buried in the sand!

We also went to Island Greens for the first time for fresh produce. The gentleman who began it several years ago passed away within the last few months. His son has decided to try to keep it going, and we are VERY glad about that. Everything is grown hydroponically and it was all SO fantastic. It’s hard to source extremely fresh produce in the Bahamas because most of it comes over from the U.S. on the mailboat.

We truly had what may have been overall our best week ever in the Bahamas. I wouldn’t be surprised if we book a month at Donny’s and Green Turtle in the future, and we’d be VERY happy to do it.

In the meantime, our week was up, and it was time to start making our way south to the Exumas. But we knew when we left that we’ll definitely be spending another week at Donny’s when we come back north later this spring!

Hello, Bahamas!

Typically we cross to the Bahamas from Lake Worth and anchor at Great Sale Cay, then check in at Green Turtle (our friends on SV Cutting Class used that route for over a decade, so we copied them). We like leaving from Lake Worth because the current sets us north to enter the Little Bahama Bank at Memory Rock. Once we left from Miami and checked in at Bimini, but we didn’t like that route and won’t do it again.

This time however, we were in Vero when the Donald Ross Bridge north of North Palm broke down, preventing us from going inside to Lake Worth. We don’t have any problem with going outside between Fort Pierce and Lake Worth, but the closer you get to Lake Worth the more you start fighting the Gulf Stream which is a pain. With weather windows being what they are, often it’s easier to just suck it up and make the run inside – not an option with the bridge not opening and no sign of it re-opening for at least two weeks.

So now we were looking for a window that wouldn’t involve bashing into south winds so we could head south to Lake Worth before crossing. Amazingly we got it pretty quickly, so we waved goodbye to Vero Beach with a plan to head out the Fort Pierce inlet.

We got lucky and timed the Fort Pierce bridge perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. We had a little help from a patient bridge operator. But thanks to her we didn’t have to wait an extra 30 minutes. We were on our way with a plan to head south until we started fighting the Stream, then hang a left.

It’s always fun to finally start seeing ocean-colored water on the ICW as we approach Fort Pierce.

While we were motoring south, I commented to Jeff about how confident we’ve become over the past four years. We’ve gone from our first overnight being a huge deal of 120 nautical miles with great trepidation to “Eh, let’s see when the Stream starts pushing against us and then just go for it if we feel like it. It’s only 145 nautical miles from Vero.”

We had very calm conditions as we motored south down the coast.

Another thing that has changed for us is to start our watch system right away. We used to both stay up all day and then each take a four-hour shift for a single overnight, but that left us pretty tired. Our friends on Lone Star told us they start their watches immediately, so we tried it when we did our overnight to skip Georgia. What a difference! We both were substantially less tired in the morning, so we did it again this time with equal success.

It was an uneventful crossing, just the way we like it. The clear skies gave us plenty of stars to see by, and the bioluminescence kicked up by Pegu Club as she chugged along was so cool to see.

The crescent moon rose when Jeff was on watch, and he told me when I got up to switch shifts that he had forgotten all about it until he saw an orange dot on the horizon. At first he thought it was a ship, but as it was rising it got bigger and bigger, and he thought “What’s on fire over there??” Then the other point came up (because the crescent was at an angle) and he thought, “Duh! It’s the moon!” LOL!

Sunrise on the Little Bahama Bank.

We dropped the anchor at Great Sale around 30 hours after leaving Vero and grilled a celebratory boneless ribeye that we had bought specifically for this occasion before falling asleep around 7:30 p.m.

Absolutely gorgeous colors as the sun came up on Great Sale Cay.
The Q flag is up!

The next day we anchored at Crab Cay for the night, then we were off to Green Turtle so we could check in. Our season in the Bahamas had finally begun!

So would we cross from Fort Pierce again? Ideally, no. We were fighting the Stream quite a bit to make the necessary southing to go in at Memory Rock, and that’s not something we need to do when we leave from Lake Worth.

We could have entered the Little Bahama Bank a bit farther north, but we were coming in at night so we weren’t entirely comfortable doing that. Our route via Memory Rock is tried and true for us, so we didn’t mind entering at night that way.

Bottom line, leaving from Lake Worth works for us and it’s our number one choice. But if the Donald Ross bridge (or another bridge between Ft. Pierce and Lake Worth) breaks down again? Then we’d definitely leave from Fort Pierce vs. waiting the extra days for a repair. Under those circumstances, it’s definitely worth fighting the Gulf Stream for awhile!

What a sunset off of Crab Cay in the Abacos!

Our Florida home away from home – Vero Beach

We’ve only skipped Vero once – on our first trip north when we went from the Abacos straight to Jacksonville. I was adding it up and realized that we have spent more days in Vero than any other single location (except for Groton) since we started cruising. So it definitely feels like our home away from home, and even more so when we were able to get “our” ball in the mooring field – #1.

An early start on a Sunday morning resulted in our disturbing these thousands of birds on the water. We weren’t sure what they were as we approached, and then they all took off. It was pretty cool!

This time we stayed in Vero for around five weeks. We spent a week loafing around, then drove to Rochester, NY for Christmas – JUST missing the major snow storm that impacted a great portion of the East Coast. Fortunately Rochester didn’t even get a fraction of the snow that Buffalo did (which is only 70 miles to the east.). Same wind and cold temperatures, but no snow.

I told Jeff that my plan was to go from the car to the house when we arrived, and I wasn’t going outside again until it was time to get back in the car to drive back. And with the exception of going to Jeff’s sister’s house for Christmas breakfast, that’s exactly what happened. LOL!

Once we arrived back in Vero, more loafing occurred because Jeff had caught a cold (not Covid), but after he recovered we went back to doing our Vero things with a few twists – the Farmer’s Market, going to the beach, Publix runs, provisioning for the Bahamas, visiting cruising friends, a few boat projects, and even a few more rocket launches!

Pegu Club on “our” ball number one on the far left. We were rafted up to SV Sails Call, a super-nice couple from Georgia that we’re hoping to see again somewhere on the water.
Jeff doing a bit of boat yoga while he installed our single side band radio.

Vero has a morning Cruiser’s Net on the VHF radio, so I volunteered to take a segment. Eventually I found myself anchoring the Net every day until we left, which was great fun. I met a few people through it, and really liked picking out a morning song to open the Net – just a 30 second snippet of course (the Net runs around 15 minutes max). Song choices included everything from “Monday, Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas, and “Good Morning, Good Morning” by the Beatles, to “Wake Up Stop Dreaming” by Wang Chung. I’ll definitely volunteer again when we’re return in November.

Our view from our mooring ball.

One morning we had a surprise phone call from a fellow Shenny member who spends the winter at his home about 20 minutes away. He invited us and two other cruisers he knows to a dinner at the Vero Beach Yacht Club, which is right next to the City Marina. It was delicious and the company was wonderful – thanks, Bill!

We had planned to stay in Vero until late January or early February before crossing to the Bahamas, but we were getting tired of the noseeums (Vero Beach’s only negative for us) so we decided it was time to get a move on. We figured if the weather was lousy in the Bahamas, we’d get a ball in Green Turtle or Hope Town and hang out there.

Lucky for us, a few days after we made the decision a weather window opened up. It was time to return to the beautiful blue water of the Bahamas!

Double the launches, double the fun!

When we were in St. Marys we discovered that there was a SpaceX launch scheduled for Tuesday. While we’ve seen parts of a launch from St. Augustine, New Smyrna, and Vero Beach, it has been a bucket list item of mine to watch the whole thing while anchored in Titusville.

A quick check of the calendar showed us we could make it if we skipped stopping in St. Augustine. The decision caused a bit of hesitation since we had several people we wanted to see while we were there, but this looked like the perfect opportunity between the weather forecast and the launch schedule, so we decided to do it.

We’ve read that Fernandina Beach has a cute downtown despite the proximity of the paper mill. Maybe we’ll check it out sometime.

After being set free from St. Marys, we stopped at the Sister’s Creek free docks near Jacksonville for the night. The current between Jacksonville and St. Augustine is strong, and it was going to be firmly against us on the ICW. But a check of the tables showed we could ride the current out the St. Johns inlet, then ride it back in at the St. Augustine inlet. We’ve heard horror stories about St. Augustine’s inlet and had always shied away from it, but the forecast was going to result in perfect conditions. It was time to rip off the bandaid and see how it really was.

We should have left the free dock a bit sooner, because by the time we untied the dock lines the current was ripping which resulted in a bit of a clusterfuck getting away from the dock. But with the help of two fellow cruisers, we were soon off with no damage to anything but our pride, and we shot out the St. John’s inlet at over 8 knots.

It was a beautiful day to briefly hop outside.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind to sail, but we were traveling at over 5 knots while using our AIS to keep track of the boats going down the ICW. There was a similar-sized sailboat that was slogging away at between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 knots for over 10 miles, and we were SO glad we had decided to go outside. Speeds like that are incredibly frustrating.

Our timing to enter the St. Augustine inlet was perfect, and like most things, it proved not to be nearly as intimidating as the stories we had heard. Sure, you absolutely wouldn’t want to do it in a wind against current situation, but if the conditions are right we won’t hesitate to use it again. As it was, we arrived five minutes before the Bridge of Lions opening and continued to ride the current all of the way to our anchorage at Fort Matanzas. It couldn’t have been a more perfectly-timed day.

Pay no attention to the breaking surf and the sunken sailboat near the St. Augustine inlet!

The next day we were heading to our regular anchorage in New Smyrna (riding the current again), when we saw the launch had been cancelled. Damn! We skipped St. Augustine for nothing! But the following day it was on again with a one-day delay. Okay. We’ll hang around in the Titusville anchorage for an extra day.

When we anchored in Titusville we saw that it had been delayed another day. Doh! Now we were going to be boat-bound for two days. This was starting to test Jeff’s patience, so we came to an agreement. Any more delays, and we were going to move along and try again another time.

A beautiful full moon with the launch pad lit up in the background.

Keep in mind, the weather we were experiencing is nearly unheard of for December. Typically, cold fronts drop down every few days bringing higher winds, and while our anchorage was great for watching a launch, it wasn’t great for hanging out unless the conditions were calm. We were in the middle of a huge lagoon without any wind protection, but clearly the stars were aligning because we were looking at several days of 5 knots of wind in the forecast, so it was completely fine.

The lagoon is WIDE open.

It was finally launch day, and even if I had been able to convince Jeff to wait another day in the event of a further delay, the weather wasn’t going to let us. The winds were going to pick up to 15 knots the next day, so it was tonight or nothing. And it ended up being well worth the wait. We watched the rocket launch, watched the booster return to the launch pad, and had a double sonic boom which startled literally hundreds of birds that had been hanging out on the lagoon. It was SO MUCH FUN!

A friend said we were like two kids on Christmas morning!

We were up early the next day to head to yet another new destination for us – Cocoa Village. I have no idea why it took us so long to stop here to begin with, but we will definitely be returning.

Cocoa has an amazing hardware store called S.F. Travis. It was established in 1885, and I’d say it’s the size of a city block with aisles filled from top to bottom. If they don’t have it, you don’t need it.

Jeff could have spent hours poking around in here.

Cocoa Village has countless independent shops, restaurants, and breweries, and we had a great time walking around and checking it out:

The Village Idiot Pub.
We saw this in the Bugnutty Brewery and thought it was hilarious!
During our stops in Florida, we don’t often run across architecture like this community theater building.

There was an an abundance of VERY cool classic cars:


While we were there, the Christmas boat parade and land parade were on the events calendar, and those were both fun to see. The boat parade had over 40 entries (it went right by Pegu Club), and while the land parade was smaller, it had a classic small-town charm.

Town officials rode on a classic fire truck.
It’s always fun to see the Shriners.

Of course being on the Space Coast, there were several space-themed floats:

And every Christmas parade ends with Santa, this time on a bulldozer:

To top it all off, there was another launch while we were there. I set my alarm for the middle of the night and watched it light up the sky (getting up at 3:00 a.m. wasn’t Jeff’s idea of a good time, so he kept sleeping).

It was interesting to compare the difference between the two locations. We weren’t that much farther away, but the noise was much quieter. Perhaps it also had to do with the wind direction.

There was no mistaking it when ignition occurred.

All in all, we had experienced several days of fun and adventure. But now it was time to point Pegu Club towards Vero Beach, our Florida home away from home.

Literally stuck in St. Marys.

We’d heard nice things about St. Marys and always meant to check it out, but until now it hadn’t happened. For some reason it seemed like it was too far off the beaten path from Cumberland, but it was actually only around a 20 minute detour. After our stay, we knew we would return – despite our difficulty leaving. But more on that in a bit.

St. Marys is a small, friendly town, and it’s well-known in the cruising community for having a great Thanksgiving celebration for cruisers. The night before Thanksgiving there is an oyster roast and pot luck social. On Thanksgiving day, local volunteers bring the turkeys and ham and cruisers bring all of the side dishes. Everyone helps to set up the tables and chairs while enjoying free coffee and donuts. Then on Friday there’s a swap meeting and book exchange.

We haven’t been to their Thanksgiving because in our perfect world, we’re a bit farther south. But now that we’ve been to St. Marys, if we are in the area for the holiday we will definitely go.

There are gorgeous live oak trees throughout St. Marys.

Our first night we heard Christmas music coming from the waterfront. A quick Google search showed that it was the annual St. Mary’s Christmas parade (on a weekday – odd), and lighting of the Christmas tree festival. We couldn’t hop in the dingy to watch because we didn’t have our Porta-Bote assembled yet, but a little while later we heard cheers. I poked my head out of the hatch and saw to a large Christmas tree lit up with silver holiday lights, so that was a nice introduction to the town.

Even the elementary school is pretty. West Hartford doesn’t have any school buildings that compare to this one.
One of the largest and oldest live oaks in town.

St. Marys “downtown” is tiny, but the district was filled with lovely houses and gigantic live oak trees. The welcome center even had a walking map that showed you where the larger trees were, listed by diameter. The waterfront park was very nice, and there was a submarine museum and one of the oldest cemeteries in Georgia, neither of which we got around to seeing. There’s always something saved for next time!

As a huge Hamilton fan, I found the plaque on this house particularly interesting.

On departure day we planned to head out the St. Marys inlet and back in the St. Johns inlet. It’s only about 20 miles, but the timing was such that we could ride the current both ways. This would let us avoid fighting the current for part of the way on the ICW. To our surprise though, when we started raising the anchor we raised about five feet of chain and that was it. We were caught – hard – on something. Well this was a first.

We tried the usual things we had read about. Circling around, putting the boat in forward and reverse, but our options were limited since we could only raise the chain those five feet. After 20 minutes or so, we knew we needed to call TowBoat. Hopefully he could get us off without our needing to hire a diver.

It was 7:00 a.m., but fortunately there was a TowBoat operator in Fernandina Beach, so he arrived about an hour later. He let out a ton of line, drove wide circles around our boat until the line caught on something, and then he started pulling on the “something.”

It took his two 150-hp outboards awhile, but eventually something gave and a stanchion came up. He told us to start raising our chain, and shortly after that a metal pole for a cabin top light came up. Apparently our chain had gotten caught on the remains of a sunken power boat. No wonder we hadn’t budged during our three-night stay! LOL! Luckily we hadn’t dropped the anchor on the boat, or I suspect we would have needed a diver.

Without our Towboat operator, we’d still be in St. Marys.

We were free about an hour after he started, but it was enough to lose the timing for hopping outside to Jacksonville. We waved goodbye to the TowBoat operator after thanking him profusely and giving him a tip, and continued motoring down the ICW.

Despite our difficulty actually leaving St. Marys, we’d definitely return. We just won’t anchor in that spot next time!