CruiseRO, Our Thoughts One Year Later

We have had several inquiries about how we like the new water maker we put in, a Cruise RO system.  It’s been almost a year since we installed it so we have had a chance to really get comfortable with it and put it through the paces so I thought I’d share our thoughts.

The super short story-we love it.  

First, simply on having any large output system onboard:

The water maker is probably the system that has the most dramatic positive effect on our daily living comfort.  We shower whenever we want, and for almost as long as we want, often more than once a day if we go swimming.  We almost always go swimming.  We have a furry little pup who takes great joy in getting as sandy as possible so he gets showers too.  (He, however, might not agree with us about it being a plus.)  Everyday chores are simplified too.  Washing dishes is no longer a struggle to conserve every drop-we just get them clean and move on to something more fun.  We now do most of the laundry onboard too.  At $5.00 a wash and $5.00 to dry here, it is a perk.  The boat and our gear gets rinsed regularly now as well.  It swings the balance from camping to living and this is our life.  The water maker goes a long way in making it a comfortable, clean, un-salty one.  

Beyond just improving daily comforts (which, at least for us, is BIG) it also gives us freedom.  As I write this right now we are in the Jumentos a little island chain in the Bahamas that has only one tiny settlement of maybe 50 people in the whole chain.  There is no water to buy here anywhere.  Making our own gives us the freedom to enjoy these beautiful uninhabited islands for almost as long as we like. It also frees us from being dependent on less than ideal water sources.  And, big perk, we don’t have to find it or lug it!

^^ Pre Bath.  

^^ Post Bath.  Okay, maybe Kai isnt always thrilled that we have so much freshwater.  

Second, how do we like the unit we chose?

Not one complaint.  We haven’t had any issues with the unit since installation.  Keith has been impressed with the quality of all the components, we’ve not seen any wear or corrosion on the pump or any of the parts.  Our water quality is fantastic. Really there isn’t much more to say than we are happy with our choice. (To read more about WHY we chose this unit click here, to read about the INSTALLATION of the unit click here).  Would we do anything different?  Maybe.  There is an option to add a second membrane to the unit we have, converting it to a 30gallon/hour unit and if it were not for money we might add it.  Not that 20 isn’t enough, it is, but we could run it for even less time increasing the efficiency even more.  It also provides you with a built in back-up membrane.  

Jumentos

We’ve had an anchorage all to our selves before, we have had beaches all to ourselves before, we have even had entire islands all to ourselves more times than we could count.  This is a first, though.  We have an entire chain of islands to ourselves!!!  It is the beginning of off season, and, yes, the Jumentos are lightly traveled but we didn’t expect to not see a single other cruising boat our entire time here!  We’ve sailed from one end to the other and back and we are the only cruising boat here! It is the perfect time weather wise to be enjoying this area so we are surprised.  A few times we even remarked that it felt a little weird.  Most of the time we simply soaked up and enjoyed the solitude.  With no cell service our only communication has been SSB radio and even that we haven’t used much beyond getting weather. No news!!!

Now, we weren’t the only humans about- just the only cruisers. Out of a chain of about 26 islands two of them are inhabited.  Buenavista Cay has a population of one.  His name is Edward.  He is building a new home next to the one that his father lived in and before that his grandfather.  Edward hopes his son and grandson will join him on the island soon. He shares his island with lots of goats, sheep, chickens, and even peacocks.  He was a delight to meet.  At the southern most tip of the chain is Ragged Island; it has a small settlement, Duncan Town.  I read the population is about 100.  I’d be very surprised if it was that many.  It’s a sleepy and sweet town.  The town was once much bigger when it was a player in the salt industry.  Now more houses than not are unoccupied, but the island is still warmly welcoming and friendly. Things just run at a different pace here. If you would like to eat out you make arrangements a day ahead for the restaurant to open for you.  The grocery store, also open only upon request-at least this time of year, had a few staple items, but basically you place an order and your groceries will come in on the next mailboat.  The mailboat come 3-4 times a month dependent on weather and barring mechanical problems.  There is no place to buy fuel or water. 

 

^^ The settlement looked surprisingly big, but most building as are empty.

^^ goats were everywhere!  This one found shade in one of the many unoccupied houses.

The shark population continued to demonstrate its healthy numbers to us though. Jeez!  One one of our first dives down here Keith got a grouper; it holed itself up in some coral with the spear.  Just at this time I saw a nice hogfish close by and was thinking about going after it until Keith pointed out a reef shark coming up over the edge of the coral towards us. Not what you want to see with a bleeding flopping fish below you. Keith swam down for the grouper and figured he’d give one good pull if he got the fish yay, if not we would surrender it.  He got the fish and by the time we got to the dinghy the shark was circling where the fish had just been but it didn’t bother with us.  Just as it stated to swim off that same hogfish swam right under the dinghy.  Keith couldn’t resist and dove down and I kept an eye on the shark (that was swimming away).  As soon as it heard the “chink” of the spear it whipped around.  They have learned that sound!  That shark wasn’t aggressive towards us but we called it done after that.  It was pretty much that way for all of our dives here.  Keith surrendered one fish a couple days later-no reason to take the risk.  On one dive we were swimming up against the rock ledge of the island, I was maybe 20 feet away from the rock wall and was thinking that I kind of liked this-I only had to keep a look out on one side of me. Maybe three minutes later a large reef shark swam between me and the wall!  Because I wasn’t looking at the surface or to that side I didn’t even see him/her until he/she was less than 15 feet away and coming towards me. Then it just slid right down next to me-I could have reached out and touched it.  Startled the crap out of me!  A shark at the surface gives me the creepies much more than the ones swimming below me, I don’t like being eye level.  I called it a day when I had one go down the other side a few minutes after that.  Despite having company in the water, it felt awesome to have fresh fish for dinner every night!!!  The water and amount of life was everything we had been dreaming of it to be. 

Our last few days we finally had someone share the anchorage with us, a few of the commercial fishing boats.  One of them was on their day off.  It was funny to see that the guys spent their free time going fishing.  Keith was filleting our fish on the beach- he likes to take the cutting board over to the shallow water and put it on the rocks and just enjoy a beer and the beach while he cleans the fish.  One of the fishermen came over and offered him use of the work tables on the fishing boat, a generous offer for our two fish.  Keith showed him he had a little set up already in place and they enjoyed a few beers and the afternoon together, each getting a chance to talk to someone new.  Keith was happy that the fisherman thought he did a good job on the fillets.

I think these islands allure is equal parts of what they have as much as what they don’t have.  While, perhaps, not dramatic the water, fishing, snorkeling, and wildlife are stunning.  However, what they don’t have may be their biggest treasure. No crowds, no connection, no distractions.  Our weeks have been simple and calm here.  (Obiously, we’ve  found less rolly anchorages)  Our days are based on tides and winds.  Most of the day is consumed with meals-catching, cleaning, cooking, enjoying… Our entertainment has been fish and birds and goats and sunsets and stars.  Walks and snorkels have provided us with more entertainment.  Basically, we’ve been enjoying ourselves. A lot.

^^ Many of the islands were once settled by Loyalist and the ruins and rock walls are still around and made fun exploring.

 

 

 

Jumentos- First Impressions

We finally made it to the Jumentos!! 

The funny thing is, it is not like they are that far away or anything.  The first little island is only a two day sail from the bustle of George Town (only one if you have a shallower draft than us).  But while close in proximity to the Exumas, they are certainly not simply an extension of the Exumas. These two chains are more like at-odd siblings-one is the sweet, mild-mannered one and the other one is the untamed wild-child.  It is not so much the miles that have made it a challenge for us to get here, but finding weather cooperative enough to safely (or comfortably) enjoy these islands.  There are few anchorages that provide protection beyond the prevailing winds and none that would give 360 protection for a front. This mild spring weather is perfect. We heard lots of things about this thin string of islands, and, for a change, it seems that we could see evidence of truth in just the first day. How many times have we let our selves be disappointed be expectations.

I will start with the bad and get it over with.  We heard the anchorages, besides not a single one in the chain providing full protection, were also rolly.  And, Oh, how we can confirm!  We spent our first nights at Flamingo Cay.  It is less than two miles long but it has a few anchorages to offer.  We thought the beautiful beach lined cove at the north end would be perfect for the South East winds we had but as we entered into the anchorage a swell built instead of diminished. I’m not sure why.  There was no North swell running, but unless we were up for an amusement park ride kind of night we knew it wouldn’t work and turned about and went to the second anchorage where, to our surprise, it was flat calm.  Well, it was until it wasn’t.  By morning every unsecured item had rattled and rolled its way loose.  Even a swell bridle did not tame the motion. When the waves began breaking on the rocks behind us we evacuated right back to the first anchorage-which was now flat. It stayed perfectly flat all day, even through a tide change.  We were feeling good until we settled in to enjoy a bonfire for ourselves on the beach and it turned back into a crazy washing machine again.  From the shore we watched the boat flop from one side to the other.  We jumped in the dinghy, ran out to the boat, pulled anchor and evacuated back to the other side.  I don’t think I’m using the word evacuate in an overly dramatic fashion. So, yeah, we will agree that the swell can be an issue.  But the island is beautiful.  And I found pretty shells.

 

^^It went from this to washing machine in a few hours completely independent of the wind.  Swells still befuddle us!

^^ Why couldn’t it just stay like this?!

Now for the good. We heard there was some of the clearest water and most spectacular fishing in these islands.  This, of all the things we hoped to be true, was the biggest.  We jumped in as soon as we got ourselves anchored. The water was, as promised, tap-water clear and Keith had a hogfish on his spear before I had even finished getting my gear on so we have to happily agree. Slip under the surface and there were fish everywhere, both the pretty tropicals and the yummy kind.  Happy little sailors we were.

 

^^ Love a fish in the fish bucket!

Moving on to other rumors.  We heard there were sharks, lots of them.  This is because the commercial fishing boats come into the anchorages and clean their catches tossing the carcasses in the water, thus, attracting them.  As soon as we dropped the hook we had both sharks and rays cruising by the boat.  It happened each time we re-anchored (which, as you read above, was a lot).  So, guess we won’t be swimming off the back of the boat!  Kai caught on pretty quick that we had guests circling below and ran around deck watching them swim.  He has been on the boat since his first day with us and we have always had the netting up around the life-lines.  He trusts it 100%.  He shouldn’t, it is getting sun rotted.  We ended up putting him on his tether fearing if he fell in we wouldn’t have a chance of saving him.  Also, we’ve GOT to replace the netting!  Oh, and to add to the shark population, May and June are mating season and they congregate here.  Are horny sharks more or less aggressive?

 

 

Our first impressions, are, surprisingly, that these islands may just be exactly like what we expected and exactly what we were looking for.  Ok, rolly anchorages and circling sharks aren’t exactly perks but they were fully expected.  The water, though, so densely filled with fish and life exceeded what I hoped for.  I foresee a lot of good days ahead.

 

 

A Cruiser’s Plans…

Oh, Look.  Our plans…they have changed…again.  Just this time not so of our own indecision or wanting.  

As I wrote awhile back, we had made arrangements to secure a spot in the Hurricane Hole in George Town back when we were in the Virgin Islands.  Our decision to turn around hinged on that arrangement. So when we first pulled into George Town a few weeks ago we went straight over to check out our spot and confirm (again) all details were in order.  To shorten a boring story, airlines are not the only ones who overbook and even though we have written confirmation that we had a secure spot (three written confirmations actually) we learned, upon arriving, we did not. Even though our last correspondence had been just the day before we left the Dominican Repuplic it was never relayed to us that it was dependent on another boat to forfeit their already occupied spot for us to fit.  That information probably certainly would have been a big game-changer to our plans.  To say that we were *frustrated* by having just sailed over 700 miles dependent on these arrangements for the season is, well, gentle.  

Oh well.  It is done and now we have to figure out where to spend the hurricane season.  We’ve ruled out turning around and sailing back toward Grenada (1200+ miles), Luperon is not an option, neither is sitting here without hurricane arrangements so we’ve got to figure something out. It is often said a cruiser’s plans are written in the sand.  For us it always seems to be on a rising tide 😛

In the mean time, we’ve been having a terrific time.  We swam with dolphins-how upset can I be! Yes, I am still buzzing over that!  We’ve enjoyed the continued company of our friend Tom and we met up with our friends Gregory and Lucie from Puskar for the third season in a row now.  Yay!!!  We’ve celebrated birthdays on the beach, had picnics, and a lot of just hanging out time.  

All three boats sailed up to Lee Stocking for a few days as well.  Keith and I were in need of a fishing trip and got a Mahi on the sail up, conch in the anchorage, and a tuna on the way back to George Town.  We even got to visit our trusty little hidey-hole to wait out some winds. The familiarity of faces and anchorages has felt welcoming and it has been a relaxing time. (Minus, obviously,  the whole we don’t have a place to go part) 

^^ I love a beach that has no end.

^^ Beach trash. Best. Toy. Ever.

^^ Crack conch and Caesar.

 

^^ This pretty Beneteau just hit the market!

^^ Off season.

** if you just read this, then we have made it back to the world of cell phones and Internet and there will be a backlog of posts making it up in the next few days.  Pics from the Jumentos are coming. Thanks for the patience! 

We Swam With Wild Dolphins!!!

WE SWAM WITH WILD DOLPHINS!!!  A BABY dolphin too!!! My whole world feels complete!  

I can’t get over it-it was AMAZING!  

There were three of them, two adults and a baby.  It was the mom and baby that approached me first, just swam right up so close I pulled my hands in so I wouldn’t accidentally touch them (Any wild momma gets my respect). It was exhilarating how close they, even the baby, would come.  I’ve seen so many dolphins but never close enough to see all the details of their faces.  I loved the little wrinkles around their eyes and the way they looked at us so inquisitively. I was surprised by all the marks and scars on their snout, some quite deep. I had never noticed the markings around the blow holes, and how they were not round.  We just slowly circled each other and checked each other out.  All the while it felt unreal and magical.

Keith got in the water right behind me and they came over to check him out too.

After we all got a good look-over the dolphins started being playful-twisting and diving.  They seemed to like when we dove down too and would come close or swim over top of us.  The baby would dive down then come up and flip his tail out of the water.  Lots of nuzzling between mama and baby. Then all of the sudden they were gone.  We stuck our heads out to look for them.  A second later we saw one swim right under us.  I took a picture and was taking a breath to dive down when Keith and I both stuck our heads out and said to each other “that’s not a dolphin-that is a shark!”.  Same color, same size.  Thankfully not the same inquisitive behavior and it just swam on by.

The dolphins came right back but this time seemed to get on either side of us and instead of diving and playing they swam straight for our boat.  They would circle around get next to us and keep heading that way.  (We were swimming in the middle of the anchorage)  I try not to put human emotions on a wild animal but I swear they were escorting us back to our boat!

A soon as we got to the boat they started playing again.  Flipping on their backs and swimming under us.  We swam under the keel back and forth with them.  We watched them stick their whole nose (do you call it a nose? A snout?) into the sand and eat something.  The whole while they are clicking and squeaking to each other.  Maybe to us too? Their eyes always following us and looking right into ours. I know I’ve said it, but AMAZING!

 

Our friends Greg and Lucie on Pushkar were anchored right behind us and joined in too and we all played.  What a magical experience to share!  Then again we heard loud, fast clicks and squeaks and see momma and baby-snugged up right on her- zoom off.  Mr. Shark made a repeat appearance.  We thought that would be the end of our dolphin encounter but they came right back again.  We played with them for about forty minutes.

I can’t quite wrap my head around it, something so beautiful and playful, so smart and empathetic, an animal so wild and free chose to spend its day playing with me!  I keep wondering why.  Is it like when we humans go to the zoo and hope the monkeys come out of their houses so we can see them?  Did the dolphins swim through the anchorage hoping a human jumped off their boat?

I’ve sat in the cockpit all day today reading a book and looking up at the end of every paragraph looking out at the water in hopes they come back again.

 

 

 

We Are Where We Are Supposed To Be

BAHAMAS!!!

^^ I was too tired for a real swim when we finally got to Mayaguana, I settled for floating behind the boat in our life ring.

^^ Any doubt we had about our U-turn dissolved away in these waters right here.  (Keith’s note: NOT Photoshopped)

^^ It would be boring if it were always sunny, right?

^^ Attwood Harbor, Lady Slipper Cay. Might be my new favorite anchorage.

We are where we are supposed to be.

^^ Pulled into Mayaguana and found a long time friend from home in the anchorage and we get a chance to sail with them for a little while. Love it!!!

^^ Enjoying catch-up time with Happy Healer crew.

^^ found some new eyewear on the beach

^^selecting tomorrow’s snorkle spot.