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.

 

 

 

 

In the Future…

Our recent U-turn brought us face-to-face with a reality that we have only taken fleeting glances at in a rear-view mirror the past few years. That reality being we have to work again.  We are not retired and our current lifestyle is one that is not self-sustaining.  While we haven’t been in denial and we are in no more urgent need to figure out our next steps than we were a month ago when we were still sailing East, as soon as our bow (not our stern) was pointed in the direction from where we started the feeling of needing a real plan for the future sort of whomped us both in the face.  If not careful, we would, by default, end up exactly where we started from.  While not a bad thing, and we even considered it a possibility, we want what we do in the next few years to be a conscious choice.

Although we’ve been unwavering in wanting to find a way to work and live in the Bahamas for years, we haven’t been able to figure it out once we remove Nassau from the equation.  And Nassau is most definitely removed from the equation. Our second long-standing desire has been to work 6 months and spend 6 months sailing.  We haven’t been able to crack the code on that one either.  What secret do the Canadians know that we can’t figure out? With those two plans not blooming any viable solutions, it was time to start considering all options and we had 13 hours of undisrupted sailing time to begin working it out. Let the conversation begin. Where did we want to live, where did we want to go, what did we want to do?  What is important? How?  When?  Is that even possible? We started throwing out every idea we’ve ever had-anything that flitted through our brains- no matter how outlandish or improbable.  We only gave each other a funny look a few times.  Sometimes the lines blurred between whether we were talking about where to travel vs. where to live.  Same between what we wanted to do for fun and potential for future incomes.  We just threw it all at the wall hoping something would stick.

A couple hours into this exercise, we were feeling out a new idea of me working with a medical travel/temp agency (think: travel nurse…except I am not a nurse).  We didn’t know much about how that worked but in one of the most rare sails ever we actually had internet between islands and a quick Google revealed that Alaska seems to have a boatload of seasonal Med Tech positions available for the summer.  Alaska? Keith’s eyebrows went up and he said “I want to go to Alaska.” Alaska is on my bucket list too. However I was thinking more of a 5-day summer cruise or something. We’ve never considered living anywhere cold. Ever. We moved along and kept up the brainstorming.  We also kept coming back to Alaska.  Each time we came back a tiny detail added to the little nugget of a plan.  By the end of the day it was clear, Alaska was the thing that stuck.

We even had it ALL figured out.  Okay…we might find a detail or two overlooked, but here it is:

Nothing changes for this Spring/Summer/Fall- we keep cruising as planned.  We are feeling good about that. Sometime next winter we will take the boat to Florida and buy a Toyota Highlander and one of those adorable teeny-tiny 13-foot travel trailers that look like an egg. Have you seen them? They even come with a shower in them! Ours will certainly have a little heater too. We then hit the road and do a road-trip from Florida to Alaska. I don’t even know how many miles that is yet. Alaska seems pretty far from Puerto Rico right now. We are assuming that there are a lot of nifty things to see between here and there. Every single one of our vacations for the last 20+ years had been a boat-based destination so this idea is really something totally new and different to us! There are so many places neither of us have seen yet so we might as well do all we can do in one fell swoop.  In Alaska we still get mountains, volcanoes, clear water, big wildlife, and lots of fishing.  And lots of space. We just wont be doing all of this in our bathing suits anymore! I will, hopefully, have arranged a 26 week long position in a medical laboratory for the summer, thus, checking the required box for “income”.  Housing will be provided or at minimum supplemented by the agency which is good because we are not planning on living in the wee travel trailer for the whole summer. Thirteen feet is not much bigger than our dinghy, we are aware of that fact. Keith is an A&P with experience with small planes and running maintenance of a small airport.  There seems to be a lot of those up there so hopefully he too will find a summer gig. The final important detail is to bolt before winter arrives, besides, I am sure we will be ready to see a palm tree or two by then.

Oh, and somewhere in there I buy a mountain of long underwear and a collection of fur-lined boots because my definition of cold is anything under 75 degrees.

See, ALL the details figured out! Wait….Did we finally figure out how to do the 6 months on/6 months off thing?!? Maybe???

Now, with that all figured out we can get back to enjoying the islands in front of us. This cruise is far from over.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico! Finally breaking away from the congestion of St. Thomas, we retreated to Culebra and her little sister Culebrita for a little quiet time.  We stayed two nights in a flat calm anchorage looking straight out over the Caribbean Sea but protected from the swell by a shallow reef.  It felt glorious to stop rolling after so long in St. Thomas!  During the day we left our peaceful anchorages and ventured over to the rolly anchorages by Culibrita to go exploring. It was squally and since we were on a mooring that we didn’t fully trust we stayed very close to the boat but did take a walk up to the crumbling lighthouse, saying hello to lots of wild goats along the way.  We snorkeled the reef right under our boat to cool off (We did no spear fishing here-the ciguatera risk is too high for our comfort), but we passed on the bubbling pools when we saw a couple boat loads of tourist disembarking and heading that way.

The sail from Culebra to Salinas, Puerto Rico was a long, but very productive one. Keith set the poles as soon as we came up to the drop off and almost immediately we spotted a boil that we altered course for. TUNA!!! And we got one! As Keith was bleeding it we got another hit, at first we thought a shark because of the blood but it was just a pesky barracuda.  Boo. Before we could get it all the way in to release it the other line went zzzzziinngggggg! Now we have one slippery, bloody tuna, a fillet knife, and a half reeled in pest all going on on the aft deck at the same time all while lumping around in the waves. I keep saying I should mount the GOPRo to capture the chaos as we try to fish (but if I did that we, of course, would not catch anything).  We thought the next fish was another bigger barracuda…until we saw the stripes.  Our first Wahoo!!! Fish tacos for dinner-yum! It feels SO good to have fresh fish on our boat again.

With more than enough fillets onboard we pulled in the lines and the rest of the sail we spent trying to figure out just what we wanted to do with our lives, where we wanted to go, live, work, all that stuff……the outcome of that looooonng daylong discussion will have to be another post. (Spoiler: we’ve got a plan!)

Salinas reminds us of Florida with its mangroves, river-ish water, and even manatees.  Except they are very friendly towards cruisers and have mountains in the background so we settled in for a couple days.  Unfortunately the water had a distinct port-a-potty smell and we were happy to escape it by renting a car for two days and checking out the rest of the island. 

Puerto Rico cannot be seen in two days.  Add in the fact that we also needed to do all of our provisioning for the summer in the Bahamas plus hit up a list of stores like Wal-Mart, West Marine and Home Depot we had to do some major prioritizing!  The rental car  situation was a weird mess.  The marina by the harbor can arrange a car but we learned it was just a private guy with his personal car so we passed and arranged with a major provider.  They couldn’t pick us up (after saying they could) and we couldn’t find anyone who would so we were delayed a day. In the end we wound up using the marina’s guy.  He said he would bring all the paperwork and it was fully insured blah, blah, blah….  The morning of he handed us a brand-new car-only 121 miles on it- and we handed him $120.00 cash.  No paperwork.  I don’t even think he knew our names.  But, he promised over and over full coverage. No worries!  It’s not like they drive insane here or anything. Yikes. Hope so.

First priority and first stop was a small winding road in the town of Guavate. It is known for the Lechonerias that line the road all selling spit-roasted pigs.  Both Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman have featured this drive on their shows so I was worried it might have turned touristy, while there are several food trucks and souvineer vendors when you first turn onto the road they quickly disappear after the first few yards.  It is advised to go on a weekend at lunchtime when it is lined up and traffic slowed to a crawl with locals.  We had the car on a Wednesday and it was closer to breakfast time than lunch but it would just have to do.  No traffic jams and a few of the places were not open, but we had no problems finding a juicy pig!  Best. Lunch. Ever.  Including that crispy slice of skin.  Oh boy, so good.  In fact, we re-arranged our schedule just to eat here both days. Plus we had enough leftovers for a dinner too on the second day.

Next touristy stop was Old San Juan.  We wandered through the colorful streets and down the brick roads but didn’t need lunch and it wasn’t the kind of shopping we needed to get done that day so we spent most of the time checking out the fort.  It’s a pretty impressive fort. We hit Walmart and the other stores on the drive home.  I was way too tired to pull off a major provisioning run properly so meals might get interesting in a few weeks. Our last stop of the night was Keith’s choice.  We didn’t want to eat out because we wanted to get back to Kai, but having only eaten our very early pork lunch we were starved.  He pulled into a boat storage yard by the harbor.  I had no idea why.  In the back there was a bar with blinking disco lights, loud music and some guys playing pool under a canopy. We got ice-cold drinks and he ordered some chicken empanadillas to tide us over till we cooked dinner. They were pretty damn delishious!  Just as I was wondering why one of the tough-looking guys kept looking over at us he approached and introduced himself.  He asked where we were from and and welcomed us to the neighborhood-let him know if there was anything we needed while we were in the area and we talked with him for a while. It was a perfect ending to our long day! So how did Keith know about this place?  He found it walking to the grocery store earlier in the week.  (No wonder he didn’t mind going to the store each day even though it was a couple miles walk)  He hadn’t told me about it because even though he had bought an empanadilla to bring home for me, each time he had eaten them himself before he arrived!  After having one-I can’t even blame him.

Day two of touristy things was all about the rainforest (and more chores).  The El Yunque park is a legit rainforest and since going to a rainforest is on my bucket list it was non-negotiable.  I absolutely loved it.  Since we did the full-immersion waterfall experience in DomRep we stuck to the just looking experience.  Because of time restraints we didn’t take any of the long hikes or even see the big, big waterfalls but completely enjoyed the experience we did have. I loved the huge, lush, dripping-wet leaves everywhere.  I’d go back in a heartbeat! By far, this was my favorite part of Puerto Rico.

Goodbye Puerto Rico.  You were tasty and gorgeous!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Have Bought Butter

For the most part we don’t have schedules with this lifestyle.  One exception is needing to get our immigration Visas extended every few months.  We find it odd how they do they do they do it here.  You can’t request an extension until a few days before yours runs out.  Some offices make you wait until the day before.  I’m not sure what would happen then if they did reject your request then, it’s not like you could leave before it was up if that happened.  The timing is about the most stressful part of the process.  It was time to request ours so off to Rock Sound, Eleuthera we went.

Unfortunately I was looking over the weather as we sailed and noted that our current pleasant weather pattern was going to come to a screeching halt the next day and there was no sign of the winds dropping again for over a week.  Had we not needed to go to immigration we would have sailed to the Exumas that day.  Not an option.  I wasn’t very keen on spending a week plus in Rock Sound, nor was it where I had envisioned spending Christmas.  I had my heart set on Warderick Wells in the Exumas.  I got to calculating.  The trip would take about seven hours, the weather wasn’t supposed to turn for another twenty or so.  We were about two hours away from Rock Sound.  How fast can we get our passport stamped? Hmmmm….  Keith and I talked it over, if we did a night crossing instead of the normal day crossing we would make it to the cut about sunrise, the winds would be starting to pick up but would be from behind us, that means the seas should be nice and calm for the trip. The plan all hinged on whether we could get our extension in time.  We also had to get gasoline and we really needed to run to the grocery store too.  

As soon as we got anchored we got fancied up and headed to the immigration office.  Too bad the road we had to walk down was about eight inches underwater.  Our wet feet squished in our shoes as we walked across the polished white tile.  We were hoping that they wouldn’t make us come back tomorrow.  The Customs lady made us sweat it out, but did stamp our passports.  Now, hurry, to the gas station!  We stopped by the boat to change and grab the fuel cans, when I did I got the latest weather report from Chris Parker (the weather service guy).  His latest report was calling for higher winds and for them starting during the night. He consistently reports on the conservative worse-case-scenario side but we started doubting our decision.  About this time we found out that the herd of boats we were watching file into the harbor had just sailed from Warderick Wells and had come here for the upcoming winds.  Do they know something we don’t?  We don’t make decisions on what other people are doing, but still….  I just really wasn’t wanting to stay in Rock Sound for an extended period of time or for weather.  Remember that crazy doracio storm we experienced last year?  This is where that happened.  Not that I was worried about a repeat experience, but I don’t have fond memories of this place either.  We got gas, but by the time we went to the grocery store we had decided not to cross that night and only picked up some bread and tomatoes for BLT’s for dinner.  Around dusk we started having the should we go discussion all over again.  The arguments were still valid. The rest of the reports looked like we could make it in before it got above 22 knots.  Even if we didn’t and it was higher than that, it was from behind and the cut we were going to was wide. If we wanted calm seas, this was the time to go because they would get kicked up over the next week of wind for sure.  We were back on!  One problem, we thought we didn’t need to do the grocery shopping so hadn’t.  We are headed to the land of no grocery stores unstocked with anything fresh and only one stick of butter. Oh well.  We have plenty of cans on board. 

We left by midnight with a nearly full moon and a gentle breeze.  It was calm and beautiful and we were thrilled to see our friend Craig had made the same decision.  As expected it slowly and steadily increased through the night and we were making great speed.  We were sailing directly downwind.  (I know-that is twice now!) The seas began to build unpropotionally large from the wind, not sure where the unexpected swell came from but Keith took over for the autopilot around 5am because as we surfed down the boat would slip out causing the sail to collapse then snap back open which is hard on it. I think it is his surfer skills, but he did a great job of steering the boat and we didn’t have to change course. It was just starting to get sporty but we could see our cut. Kai got sea sick for the first time. Poor guy.  We were all happy to sail through the cut to the settled waters of the sound by 730 am. Just a few more miles left to our anchorage and we are glad we made it in the cut when we did.  The wind is still increasing (as expected).

Finally, we are headed to Warderick Wells.  We’ve never been and it’s a place I have been anticipating going to for years!

Bye-bye Eleuthera we had fun, Helloooo Exumas!

From Moonset to Sunset, I Loved This Day

I woke up this morning to the moon setting into an invisible horizon.  Not a bad way to start the day….and it got better from there.  We were escorted from the anchorage by two mama dolphins and their babies.  Not as baby as we saw last week, but still young.  They swam with the boat for a long time taking turns rolling on their sides to get a better look up at us.  The mom with the smaller baby kept it a little farther away from the boat while the other pair played under our bow. 

^^ It was a no wind day, our favorite kind.  Never did see the horizon out to the west. 

We were anchored near an abandoned US Naval Base so we went for a walk. You know we love abandoned things. I also wanted to go see the pink beaches again and the base was apparently overlooking one.  The base was built in the 50’s and deserted in the 80’s.  Not much is left, nature is doing a good job of reclaiming the territory. 

^^ I’m not usually inspired by resorts but this one looked inviting and we were anchored right in front of it so I thought I’d check it out, it wasn’t open helping make today a free day.

^^ This bulldozer was not part of the naval base, we just found it on the side of the road on the way.  Keith could not control his inner child and just had to sit on it.

^^ The guard post.  I suppose they are not supposed to look cute, but I thought it did.

^^ this building was one of the better conditioned ones.

^^ the Bahamians are trying to salvage and use these old water tanks.  I don’t think you can see from the picture, but they have leaks everywhere-even under the duct tape.

The real star of the walk, sorry navy base, was the pink sand beach on the other side. 

^^ I don’t think I will ever stop being amazed by how clear the water is. If we had brought more than one bottle of water I could have stayed on that beach all day.

With the island being only 1/2 mile wide at this point, I didn’t understand when the chart said it was a 2 1/2 mile walk to the beach and dismissed it as an error.  I don’t think it was.  The roads were not straight and looped around a pond.  Add in two wrong turns, exploring the base, walking the beach and we were pretty tired by the time we got back to the boat.  We took a swim to cool off and lounged for the afternoon.

^^ In the evening we took a dinghy ride and let Kai play on the beach. Still looking for the missing western horizon.

We came home and the topped off a perfect day with a perfect sunset from the cockpit.  And finally found the missing horizon.

Eleuthera, you are beautiful and we are thankful.  We couldn’t have enjoyed today any more!