Bahamas interruptus.

After finally escaping George Town it was time to head back to Lee Stocking for some more hiking, snorkeling, and lazing about on Boneham Beach. The Cruiser’s Regatta had finished so we joined an exodus of about fifty boats on a fantastic day for sailing.

We had a great, rollicking sail and joined about 25 other boats in the anchorage. Hmmm. Not what we had in mind, given that there were 8 or less the last time we were there. However, we figured a large number of the boats were on their way back north to head home. Since we weren’t leaving the Bahamas until late May, we decided to wait them out and let the crowds get well ahead of us.

Our strategy worked with more boats leaving each day, so that by the end of the third day there were only four of us, well spaced out. Ahhh. Much better. We needed to renew our immigration in a few weeks, so we decided we’d stay in Lee Stocking for the rest of the week, move north a bit, and then if the weather permitted we’d head to Barreterre and rent a car to drive to the immigration office in George Town, saving us a 25 nautical mile beat into the prevailing wind.

Enjoying the view from another hike on Lee Stocking.

We keep up with the news online while in the Bahamas, and as each day passed in Lee Stocking the increasing restrictions resulting from COVID-19 resulted in repeated discussions each day regarding whether we should consider going back to the U.S. early. Staying in the Bahamas meant a reduced risk of exposure (which is a concern given Jeff’s CHF), but there are only two hospitals in the Bahamas – both requiring an airplane flight to get there – and the quality of medical care in the U.S. would be better if it was needed. If we stayed in the Bahamas we could keep enjoying the beaches and the pretty water, which we couldn’t do in the U.S. We balanced the risks and decided to stay for now.

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February by the numbers.

It’s easy to keep the spending down when there isn’t much to spend money on. In fact if it wasn’t for paying our taxes this month we would have been under $1,000. As it is, we were certainly fine with this month’s totals. We are already kicking around a few upgrades for this year so a month like this helps to ease the sting of those future purchases!

February saw us arriving in the Exumas. While we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time waiting out cold fronts, we did manage to finally make it down to Georgetown where the wind protection is better.

Here we go:

Continue reading “February by the numbers.”

Changing our minds.

As long as I can remember, I’ve never had a problem with changing my mind. Fortunately, Jeff doesn’t have a problem with it either! As a result, we’re not going to Luperon this summer.

Everything is fine. We simply decided that we don’t want to go deeper into the Caribbean. The more we researched sailing to and cruising in the Caribbean, the less the positives outweighed the negatives for us. The Bahamas are relatively close, the water is gorgeous, the air is warm, the Bahamians are friendly, the islands are safe, and the sailing is fantastic (once the winter winds settle down). We really don’t need anything else right now.

Once we decided that we didn’t want to sail to the Caribbean, going to Luperon made less sense for us. I’ve really been disliking the fact that there’s so much we keep missing as we travel north and south, hurrying along to outrun the cold weather or make it to Connecticut before it’s time to turn around again. There’s so much of North Carolina we’d like to explore, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the Chesapeake or New England beyond Connecticut and Rhode Island.

So what’s our plan? Assuming that fate doesn’t decide to overturn the card table, we are going to stay in the Bahamas until mid-to-late May before making the jump to the Florida/Georgia border, or perhaps the Georgia/South Carolina border. From there we are going to S L O W L Y work our way north, sailing along as much as we can, even if it’s only 10 miles in a day.

The goal is to be back on the ICW by October 1st, so we won’t go any farther north than the Chesapeake this summer. In fact, I won’t be surprised if we don’t make it north of North Carolina. Of course if it’s simply too hot and humid for us we can be in Connecticut with the right weather window in under a week.

Once we start heading south we are going into delivery mode, aiming to get to Georgetown by Thanksgiving. We’ll stay in that region, including the southern Bahamian islands, until late February or early March, at which point we’ll work our way north again through the Bahamas with a plan to cruise in New England in the summer of 2021.

Occasionally on the various cruising forums it feels like some participants are in a competition with others. Like you aren’t really cruising if you never leave the ICW, or if you don’t go to the Caribbean, or to Europe, or around the world. Before we cut the dock lines, I’ll admit that I felt a bit that way myself. But now that we’re out here it’s obvious there are so many different ways to cruise. From blitzing around the world in an organized rally to moving 20 miles every six months. The most important thing is to cruise it in a way that brings you the most satisfaction.

It’s taken us a while to get there, but I think we’re finally starting to figure it out. The East Coast and the Bahamas, not too fast, not too slow. It works for us, and we’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun – or until we change our minds again!

Same cay, completely different experience.

There are some people who return to the Exumas year after year. It’s not surprising given how beautiful it is, but last year part of me wondered if they didn’t get a little tired of revisiting the same cays. Now that we are repeating some of the same spots ourselves, I can see why they do it. We’ve discovered that simply by anchoring in a different area in the same cay it can be like going to an entirely new island.

This really became clear when we finally arrived at Lee Stocking. After two aborted attempts to get south of Staniel Cay (a steady 18 knots+ dead on the nose with accompanying chop had us turning back – no need to beat up ourselves or the boat if it’s not necessary), the third time was a charm on a windless day. Yes, we would have preferred to sail, but at this point we were beggars who weren’t going to be choosers.

Continue reading “Same cay, completely different experience.”

Experimenting with George Town.

The wind this year has been relentless – in fact, if last winter had been like this one I honestly don’t know if we would have come back. From what we understand, winter in the Bahamas can be a crap shoot. Cold fronts regularly move down into this region, and it’s a given that the farther north you are the windier it will be. Some winters if you are far enough south (for example, Georgetown in the Exumas), the fronts won’t reach you, Other years there is no escape. This is one of those years.

What does that mean? It means that since we arrived we have typically had about a day and a half of decent weather and five days of winds in the 20’s. A front blows through but instead of the wind relaxing after it passes, ridges cause high wind to stick around for days. Repeat week after week.

A few people have said “Screw it” and gone back to Florida. I’ll be honest, it’s crossed our mind once or twice. Others have debated throwing in the towel all together and selling their boat, realizing that full-time cruising isn’t what they thought and hoped it would be. What about us? We decided to move down to George Town to get better weather protection and revisit it with a critical eye.

Continue reading “Experimenting with George Town.”

How do we provision for the Bahamas?

We had read many posts about how expensive groceries are in the Bahamas, so when we left last year we made sure we had three months of non-perishable food and other household goods.  We realize that people eat everywhere, but we wanted to be prepared until we could see the availability and prices for ourselves.

By the end of our first winter there we knew that, yes, some items are incredibly expensive.  Snack food in particular was very pricy.  For example, a small package of Dove chocolates were $10, a normal size bag of potato chips was $5 or more, and a box of brownie mix was $5.  Some items were from foreign countries but subsidized, so they were cheaper than comparable U.S. products.  We ended up buying Nabisco Club Social crackers from Peru (which we referred to as Peruvian crackers) which we prefer over Ritz, and I love the Hill Biscuit chocolate cream cookies from the U.K.  At $2/sleeve, what’s not to like?

Continue reading “How do we provision for the Bahamas?”

Hiding out in Pipe Cay.

The water in the Exumas is unquestionably gorgeous, and it feels like you could spend months here in a different anchorage each night. But one thing it lacks is an abundance of anchorages with good all-around protection from the wind. As a result, you will generally find yourself sharing one of the decent anchorages with a bunch of other boats. Not a big deal if nobody drags, but as we witnessed in Norman’s Cay, you can’t necessarily count on that. So with those events fresh on on our mind and another front coming in, we decided to head to Pipe Cay.

Pipe Cay was one of our favorite anchorages last year. A quick five mile hop from Staniel Cay, we decided to head over there just before high tide to see if we could sneak into the back on the northwest side of Little Pipe Cay. Last year we had seen one boat anchored there, and it looked skinny but doable on the charts.

It was a cloudy and windy morning and we were keeping an eye on a big squall heading our way as we motored over. Fortunately it dissipated before arriving, but by the time we were entering the Pipe Cay channel I was out of sorts.

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January by the numbers.

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We arrived in the Bahamas on January 7th and true to form, our spending has started to drop considerably.

We didn’t have too many unusual expenses in January.  We picked up a few last minute spare parts before we left Miami, spent a week in a marina in Bimini (which will be our last marina stay for quite some time), and filled up the diesel tank and jerry jugs in Staniel Cay for $5.20/gallon (which will be the last time we need to do that until we leave).  The only other outlier was the $300 in entry fees which allows us to stay in the Bahamas for a year.  Practically speaking, however, we anticipate leaving the Bahamas around the middle of May.

Here we go: Continue reading “January by the numbers.”

Motoring into 18 knots when the engine dies. Great.

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Rainbow upon leaving Norman’s Cay.

We do seem to be in the midst of a streak of adventure.  Hopefully it’s almost over and I can go back to more boring posts (we swam, we snorkeled, repeat) complete with pretty pictures.

The cold front had finally passed and we decided it was time to get out of Norman’s Cay and move to one of our favorite anchorages last year, Pipe Cay.  We were down to slightly over a half tank of diesel and our reserve tank of water, so it was time to make tracks down to Staniel Cay where we could replenish both.  The plan was to stay in Pipe Cay for a few days, wait out a mild front with westerly winds, move to Staniel, and then backtrack north and spend some time in the Land and Sea Park.  Well you know what they say about plans.

Continue reading “Motoring into 18 knots when the engine dies. Great.”

It was a dark and stormy night at anchor.

After several days of traveling in sportier conditions than we prefer, we were more than happy to wait out the next cold front in Norman’s Cay.  The protection was o.k. and the holding was very good, so we spent a few days relaxing and playing in the water before the front moved in.

The cold front was predicted to arrive in the evening bring steady winds of 25-30 knots with gusts up to 40 for around 24 hours before “dropping” to 25-30 without the 40 knot gusts for another 12-18 hours.  There aren’t many good options for protection from westerly component winds in the Exumas, so as the day progressed the anchorage steadily filled until there were 23 boats that had joined us.

Boats were spaced apart pretty well so we were feeling pretty good until just after sunset when we took one last look out of the cockpit.  Where the hell did he come from?  A sailboat had parked himself a bit too close for comfort off of our starboard bow.  Hmmm.  Well, we had been there for two days and had gone swimming over our anchor earlier so we knew it was well dug in.  The anchorage had a reputation for good holding and the sailboat’s chart plotter was still on so we figured he was paying attention.  We decided to take a calculated risk by not moving.  Nevertheless, given his proximity we were going to keep a close eye on the situation.

Around 11:30 p.m. the winds really started picking up, so I got up to take a look around.  The latecomer was definitely closer and I could see someone on the bow with a flashlight.  O.k., he’s dragging but he knows it.  After nothing changed for a few minutes, Jeff shined a flashlight on his boat to get the boat name and I called him on the radio.

Continue reading “It was a dark and stormy night at anchor.”