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!

Time to head back to the states.

After our driving tour of Eleuthera we turned our thoughts towards going back to the states.  We had been in the Bahamas for almost four months, and we were increasingly fantasizing about Publix and other conveniences.  This had been the longest stay of our three trips, and we agreed that next time we would keep it to three months.  That seems to be about when we are ready for a change of scenery.  The beaches and the water are gorgeous, but when it starts to feel like just another beach it’s time to go.

We wanted to cross back to the U.S. from the Abacos so we picked the best day to make the 55 nautical mile trip over from Eleuthera.  Of course “best day” was relative.  We were looking at a solid week of sloppy, rolly, crappy conditions so we chose the day that appeared to be the least sloppy, rolly, and crappy.  We prefer not to have long days in those conditions, but at least if we know that’s how it’s going to be we can be mentally prepared for it. The forecast didn’t disappoint, but we sucked it up and anchored by Lynard Cay in the southern Abacos at the end of a long day. Continue reading “Time to head back to the states.”

Don’t these things usually happen in threes?

After checking in, all we needed to do was answer a short, daily health questionnaire for two weeks and ensure we were somewhere on day five where we could get our follow-up Covid test.  The immigration officer told us that our arrival day was actually day one (we had originally thought it was the day of check in).  Since that was the case we only had two more days before our test.  We could get tested at the local clinic, so we decided it made sense to simply hang around Green Turtle a bit longer.

We decided to treat ourselves and rented a golf cart for the afternoon so we could explore the cay more thoroughly than we had in the past.  It was a lot of fun and we found a fantastic beach for our return visit in the spring.  Green Turtle has made an enormous amount of progress since Dorian.  In fact, with the exception of a handful of buildings in the settlement and scattered throughout the island, you wouldn’t have known it was devastated 15 months earlier.

Loved this beach on Green Turtle. We’ll spend the day here when we come back in the spring.

It seems Dorian didn’t touch the John Lowe house from 1866.


Thursday was test day, but on Wednesday the weather finally settled down so we decided to check out of the marina.  We have a saying on Pegu Club: sometimes you watch the show, sometimes you are the show.  Well, we were the show getting out of the slip.  It was much narrower than we were used to, and the dinghy got snagged between the boat and the piling.  There’s a t-shirt you can buy that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was docking the boat.”  That would have been a good shirt to have on Pegu Club.  Number one.  What does that mean?  You shall soon find out, faithful reader. Continue reading “Don’t these things usually happen in threes?”

The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.

The Bahamas are in the unenviable position of trying to support an economy that is heavily reliant on tourism while protecting its citizens and residents from Covid.  Many of their tourists come from the United States which is one giant Covid hotspot at the moment.  We wouldn’t have been surprised if the government had simply told people with U.S. passports that they weren’t welcome (as so many other countries have).  Instead, they came up with a plan to balance the risks.  So far, it seems to be working well – knock on wood.

Currently (and I do mean currently – there was a period where the rules were changing every 7-10 days), in order to bring your boat over to cruise in the Bahamas you need to have a negative RT-PCR Covid test and an approved health visa.  The catch is that you can’t apply for the health visa until you get your negative Covid test, and with a few exceptions you must arrive in the Bahamas no more than five days after you take the test (test day is day zero).  Winter weather windows for crossing the Gulf Stream can be tight, so the key is to find a laboratory with a quick turnaround time, along with a certain amount of luck.

When we arrived in West Palm we were actually in the middle of a three day weather window for crossing, but we had decided to pass it up.  Our heads weren’t ready for it yet and we wanted to spend a few days checking out West Palm.  We are super-careful with Covid so we weren’t able to see much, but we saw enough to know that we’d like to spend a week hanging out there post-Covid.  There are tons of different restaurants and independent shops, the beach, museums, outdoor concerts, etc.  Hopefully next year.

No matter how big your boat is, someone else always has a bigger one:

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the next window.  We were looking for a solid two days that would get us to Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, with a backup plan to check in at West End (only 50 nautical miles away from the Lake Worth inlet) if the window shrank.

What’s the big deal with taking the test and having the window disappear?  Well, at $180/person for the tests (there are free tests available, but it’s a roll of the dice as to how quickly the results come back), $60/person for the health visa, plus a rental car, we were looking at a sizeable chunk of money if the window didn’t pan out.  That being said, we would never cross the Gulf Stream without a good window so if we lost $500+, so be it.

When we woke up on Monday we saw that Friday was a possibility for crossing.  By Tuesday morning it looked less likely.  But on Wednesday morning not only did Friday look much better, but now Saturday and Sunday were also looking good.  We reserved a rental car for the next day, just in case.

Thursday morning we woke up to listen to Chris Parker’s 6:30 a.m. forecast for the Bahamas and Florida.  The window was still looking good.  Gut check time: were we ready to roll the dice and spend the money?  Telling ourselves it’s only money (yeah, right), we decided to go for it. Continue reading “The logistics of getting to the Bahamas during a pandemic.”

A tale of two passages – part one.

We spent several days waiting out a weather system at our hidey hole by Green Turtle Cay before moving to Great Sale Cay where we would leave for our crossing back to the U.S.  We have spent approximately one week in this Green Turtle anchorage during our time in the Bahamas, and we really do love it.  We have had it to ourselves every time except for one night, and the protection is superb.  Turtles and rays come by every day and we discovered some nice snorkeling on this last stop.  However, it was time to go so we sadly waved goodbye until next time.

Why hello there!

A beautiful sunset.

After many discussions over the past few months, Jeff and I agreed that we were ready to try a multi-night passage.  Up to now we had only done two single overnights.  We had the awful one down the New Jersey coast, and we had a mostly wind-free 20 hours when we crossed from Lake Worth to Great Sale Cay in early February.  We had gained a lot of confidence while sailing in all kinds of conditions in the Bahamas, so it was time to push our comfort zone a bit more.

We set up custom weather routing with Chris Parker who is well-known among cruisers for his forecasting.  Although we wouldn’t have cell service off shore and we only have an SSB receiver, he would be able to send detailed forecasts through our inReach device.  When a good weather window opened up, it was time to go.

Our hope was to go from Great Sale Cay to Georgetown, SC or even Beaufort, NC if the stars aligned, but we agreed that we wouldn’t hesitate to bail out early if we wanted to.  That proved to be a very good plan. 

We left Great Sale on Sunday at 7:00 a.m. and had good wind for sailing all day.  The wind angle was a bit different than forecasted so right away we weren’t going to be able to aim for one of Chris’ suggested waypoints, but we kept chugging along with Bob (our Monitor windvane) steering like a champ.  

Continue reading “A tale of two passages – part one.”

Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.

Spanish Wells in Eleuthera was a charming stop, and a place where we would like to spend more time next season.  It had an abundance of colorful, cute houses which reminded us of a larger version of Hopetown, and there was an amazing shallow beach that seemed to stretch out forever at low tide. Spanish Wells also had a large grocery store where we were able to stock up on more snacks.  Note to self: bring more snacks next time!

Nice view!

Their parking space around the corner was labeled “Parking for Crazy Frank and Margaret Rose.” 

Continue reading “Back to the beginning at Green Turtle Cay.”

We’ve finally decided to head farther south.

We’ve had such a nice time in the Abacos that we repeatedly asked ourselves whether we wanted to stay for the remainder of our time here or move farther south to the Exumas.  On the one hand, we’ve covered a lot of miles over the past six months and it would be nice to stay in one area for a few months.  On the other hand, while Jeff continues to do well, we can’t just assume that we’ll be able to come back again in the fall, so perhaps we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Exumas.  If we went to the Exumas we could finally see our friends on S/V Lone Star, and deliver the chocolate, almond milk, and whey powder that we picked up for them in Lake Worth.  But if we stayed we would see them as they passed through the Abacos.

Back and forth, back and forth.  We literally would change our mind a few times a day.  Every time we decided to stay, we would think that maybe we should go.  When we decided to go, we thought it was lovely here so why don’t we stay?  Finally I decided to put our dilemma on the Facebook Bahamas Cruising group.  The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of going to the Exumas.  With the decision made, it was time to start making some tracks south.

Continue reading “We’ve finally decided to head farther south.”


After enjoying several lovely days in Hope Town, we backtracked to Marsh Harbor for the Junkanoo event.  According to the Bahamian government website, a Junkanoo is a Bahamian national festival with roots that can be traced to West Africa.  Participating teams spend months working on a theme, developing costumes, musical compositions, and choreography.  Judges roam throughout the groups, scoring them on a page-long list of categories.  The Marsh Harbor Junkanoo is on a much smaller scale than the annual event held in Nassau on Boxing Day, but we still very much wanted to see it.

The posters in town said that the Juniors event would be held at 6:00 on Friday, with the Adults the following night at 7:00.  So being typical Americans from the northeast, we showed up slightly before 6:00 on Friday evening.  This being the islands, the fencing was just going up when we arrived.  Looks like we were a little early!  

Continue reading “Junkanoo!”

Moving into the southern Abacos.

On Friday the weather had calmed down and we saw a good opportunity to go through the Whale on Saturday, so we said goodbye to our hidey hole for a welcome change of scenery.

The plan was to anchor at No Name Cay for the day and night, but as we approached I looked over and was entranced by the beach on the southern end of Green Turtle Cay near Gilliam Bay.  Jeff asked if I wanted to go there instead, but I said that we had already decided on No Name so we stayed the course.  I couldn’t stop looking over at the other beach though, which really did look much nicer, so we made a U turn and anchored by the prettier beach instead. 

How could we pass this up?

We had the anchorage all to ourselves, and it was lovely.


Continue reading “Moving into the southern Abacos.”