Happy Place

We are in our happy place.  We stayed two days at Great Sail Cay waiting for the winds to let up before moving further.  Actually we stuck our nose out the next day and turned right back around-sound familiar?! We had never really got ashore here before as we’ve only used it as a stopping place to stage for a crossing so we went exploring.  Our friend played tour guide. It’s a rather large island and uninhabited except for the wild pigs.  It used to be home to a US missile tracking station.  The foundations and bases for some tanks are all that are left. There is a long secluded beach so Kai was thrilled. Two days later we poked out again, it really wasn’t much better so we had a sporty ride down to Crab Cay.  We enjoyed the sail more than expected.  From there, you guessed it…….Manjack!  Our happy place!

 

We arrived at Manjack just in time for the weather to turn delightful and to help welcome the two newest inhabitant of the island, Daisy and Mae, two girl goats.  You know I just adore goats and was thrilled to lend a hand.  Actually I didn’t do much but escort them from the boat to the tractor to the new pen and tell them how sweet they were.  Keith, who actually used to have two pet goats, Dollar and Mischief, took one look at the pen and said they are were going to jump out.  The little one did. They have new and improved quarters now.

^^Any fresh fruit over here is a treat, getting a chance to pick some star fruit has to top the list.  Per a recommendation, I am planning on an upside down cake with a few of mine.  

On the topic of cooking, we of course got in some diving and have found the lobsters to be plentiful at the moment.  We keep saying we don’t care for lobster, but while in Florida we had lobster hot pot and changed our minds.  Lobster hot pot, the best as I can describe it, is like a Chinese fondue but with a spicy, chili broth for both veggies and lobster-and other meats.  You dump your veggies and meats in, let them cook in the boiling broth and then retrieve them back out with chop sticks to eat over rice. Friends had us over for dinner for this amazing experience and I can’t wait to have it again! Unfortunately it is an involved meal and quite a production so I decided to finally find some recipes that worked for the everyday and decided to experiment while we were not trying to serve guests. My undertaking has resulted in our own version of Bubba Gump on board. We’ve had: lobster and grits, lobster Mac-n-cheese, steamed lobster, lobster egg rolls, pan seared lobster, lobster buffalo dip, fried lobster with four dipping sauces, and lobster salad. All in the last 2 1/2 days! To be fair (and so you might not judge so harshly) I did reduce all the recipe sizes by half or more. We still prefer conch but the egg rolls and fried lobster are keepers.  We will leave the lobster Mac-n-cheese and pan seared.  I wish I had taken some photos of our experiments-you would have seen one messy galley in the background! Tonight Keith asked for anything but lobster for dinner.  We had grouper piccata.

Besides diving and cooking, we’ve been enjoying the beaches, trails, and mangrove creeks filled with baby sea turtles.  The plan had been to shoot threw the Abacos quickly this year, but why-it’s our happy place.  We are going to give ourselves a few more days of the diving we know we will want for later and then we will start putting some miles in.  The water is already cold so it’s time to get south.  Besides we are eager to go beyond the Bahamas this winter.

 

^^baby turtle in the turtle grass.

  

 

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Crossing

 

We are back in the Bahamas!  

We spent several days creeping our way from Satellite Beach south, spending a few nights in Sebastian and a few more nights in Vero.  True to Vero Beach’s alternative name of Velcro Beach, we stayed one night longer than planned but we got to see good friends one more time, it was a good few days. The plan was to keep slowly working our way down to Lake Worth (Palm Beach) and wait for a weather window to cross, there wasn’t one forecasted for at least several more days, but when we got the report Friday afternoon it surprisingly showed a calm as calm can get crossing starting that night! After some deliberating we decided to go ahead and take it before it closed out.  We went from mosey mode to mission mode pretty quick!  We spent probably at least an hour going over everything to make sure everything was secure and wouldn’t go flying after everything else on our pre-departure checklist was complete. We don’t necessarily have full faith in forecasts.  

The extra care in stowing everything extra securely was for no reason.  We left at about 2:30am under a bright moon and barely a wisp of wind and a flat sea-which became even flatter as the day went on.  It was more like a car ride than a sailing trip, we just sat there and drove.  Keith had a large white bird come land on the dinghy while I was napping and toward sundown we had two curious little finches join us and provide us entertainment. They had no fear and fluttered and hopped on and in everything including climbing down into the anchor locker and inside the cabin.

At sundown we were treated with a spectacular full moon rising on our bow. A treat, indeed.  At about 2:00am and still a good mile away from Great Sale Cay, where we planned to anchor, we called it “close enough” dropped the hook and dropped into our bed.  In the morning we were greated to clear waters as far as we could see–felt like coming home.  We carried on after coffee and tea to the un-inhabited cay of Allens-Pensacola.  We had the anchorage to ourselves and took a long awaited for swim around the boat.  We didn’t go ashore since we hadn’t cleared in yet, not that there would be anyone to know or care. We didn’t want to clear in on a Sunday so sailed to Manjack the next day and anchored again so that we could sail over to Green Turtle Cay first thing on Monday morning.

I’m glad we waited until Monday, we had the nicest Customs officer who had the discretion of charging us either $150.00 or $300.00 for our cruising permit based on the length of our boat.  Under 35 feet is $150.00, over 35 feet is $300.00-we are 35.1 feet.  Sometimes we’ve gotten charged the lower amount, but recently they have been asking us for the larger.  She chaharged us the lesser so it was pleasant way to start the morning.

Once we were cleared in, we stopped in to say hi to some of the shop owners, got our cell phone data topped up, and put the final touches on our hurricane plan for this area.  Then it was back on the boat, back to Manjack, and out to the reef! Keith had a hogfish for us after being in the water for less than three minutes.  I am serious. I love being married to my Aquaman!

^^ The Gulf stream about as flat as it gets.

^^ Kai usually has to stay in the cockpit underway but it was so calm we let him enjoy the extra breeze on the deck for a bit.  Still tethered in of course.

^^ I was wrong, it can get even flatter.

^^ I see a beach!!!

^^ Relaxing after a long, uneventful crossing.

 

^^ Beer-battered fish tacos in the making.

^^ The other morning I almost stepped on this little crab.  I was not on the beach-he was inside our boat! He is now back swimming in the ocean.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

The Boys are back in ‘Breasted!!!!  Welcome John, Johnny, and Tom!  I said it in the last post, Double Breasted and friends just go together.  We sure were happy to see you sail over the horizon!!!  

Actually Keith was so anxious to see his friends he took the dinghy over to Grand Cay with the excuse of taking in the trash and buying a loaf of bread so he could be there as they pulled in to clear customs.  Both boats were given a labored clearing in procedure, something we have not experienced in the Bahamas before.  They had to bring the boats to the dock and were boarded, it took them several hours to clear in.  It took us less than 15 minutes when we cleared the last time and have never been boarded.  The customs lady that boarded the boat told them they were only allowed 1/2 case a beer per person.  Uh Oh. News to us!!  In the end nothing was done about the cases stacked up in the boats and they eventually got their permits.  Time to play!

The weather has cooperated in ways we had forgotten were possible and it has been a couple days of paradise.  Paddle boarding, bone fishing, diving, bonfires, and simply hanging out together.

 

^^They boys came over loaded with exotic provisions like fresh fruit, American beer (as already noted), paper towels, and the rare box of Cheese-it’s!  That is an entire bowl of fresh fruit on the table 🙂

^^ Hey, John, where’d you go?  Thought you were bringing us some cardboard?

^^ Sundowners on Nessa.

^^ I finally speared my first mutton snapper and my biggest fish yet. (Does my goofy grin give away that I was happy?) That fish took every breath I had and one more that I didn’t think I had to bring up.  I got a poor shot on him and he swam off with my spear around the corner of the coral head.  I caught my breath and dove down to grab him and he swam off again into a crevice going so deep my entire spear disappeared into the reef.  It took a while to find him again in a hole on the other side of the head.  I had to reach in a hole and pull him out (I really don’t like reaching into things, too creepy).  I sure was happy to share him at dinner, though.

 

 

Playground

A friend commented that even though we have talked a lot about all the weather we saw the past few months, all the pictures showed sunny calm water.  I flipped through our photos, and sure enough they all look pretty calm.  

So here you go:  the storm clouds building and the eerie calm before the storm in Green Turtle last week. 

^^Then the squall.  

Captured the first rains we saw in months in this pic.  The far boat started dragging his anchor seconds after I took this photo so it was time to put the camera away. That one boat caused a lot of stress to all the others in the harbor.  Even though this squally weather was very expected, the owners anchored in a grassy part of the harbor with little scope and upwind of several boats that had attained moorings in preparation of the winds.  He had been approached earlier and given suggestions of where he could find better holding in the harbor but did not head them.  Instead he got off his boat and went to shore for dinner even though we were expecting winds upward of 30 knots and thunderstorms to 40-60 knots.  He, and the nearby boats, were lucky that when he dragged through the anchorage his boat did not hit another.  We hailed him on VHF to let him know his boat was on the move but by the time he finally was able to dinghy out the anchor grabbed, thankfully before he hit the rocks behind us.  The owner then went and re-anchored in the same exact bad spot with the same amount of insufficient scope played out.  He then started to get in his dinghy to go back to his dinner.  He got hailed on the radio by multiple other unhappy boat owners who firmly asked him to at least stay with his boat!  For good reason too, as they anticipated he was on the move again a little while later.  It is frustrating when you have done what you can to secure your own boat and another boat owner either carelessly/ignorantly/arrogantly/whatever-ly makes it all for not.  Unfortunately we run into this scenario over and over. It is tiresome. It’s also why there are so few pics of the crap-o weather.

After this triple front system moved out of the way, we headed towards Double Breasted to wait for our friends on Nessa, Happy Healer, Anywhere and Raven.  After a long afternoon of shimmying our way into the anchorage on an especially low tide we enjoyed it all to our selves….well, for a little while.  About 7:00pm we see a charter boat heading into the anchorage.  Not good for two reasons: “A”, charter boats approaching always command our attention (and evoke a sense of dread) and “B”, it was way too late in the day to be able to read the water depths and the current was still ripping.  It was not a smart time for any boat to be trying to navigate around what we call “creepy corner”.  Not surprisingly they ran aground.  When they finally got off they came into the anchorage and anchored with only one anchor.  Double Breasted is one of the very few anchorages where two anchors, in a Bahamian moor deployment, are required to keep you centered in the narrow channel during the tide switches.  They were far from us and they did make it through the night without event. The next day, though, they learned why two anchors are strongly suggested.  By then there were five boats in the anchorage and they were two boats away so we were not too concerned with them until we peeked out the hatch before going to bed and found that they had dragged down the channel and were now between us and the boat in front of us.  Fortunately they ran aground before running into us. Keith got in the dinghy to see if  they needed help to get off the beach and reanchored.  They actually asked if he would come on the boat and just re-anchor the boat for them, they didn’t know what to do.  “NO” When they got off the beach and did reanchor they chose a spot that is nearly dry at low water.  Oh well.  Probably safer for both them and us if they are sweetly and securely sitting on the sandbar.  We were relieved to see them move along the next day (after they got them selves ungrounded-for the third time).  People, you stress me out!!

Enough whining.

This is where we are right now and I don’t want to be anywhere but here!  Double Breasted is a breathtakingly gorgeous little gem made up of nothing more of a few craggy rocks and spit of sand and shallow water in the middle of them.  Our closest friends brought us here 16 years ago, it was their special spot. Over the years we have shared a lot of memories with a lot of different friends in this spot.  Being here makes those memories more vivid, for that reason no other island can ever be as special.   Prettier? maybe/maybe not. Better anchorage? Well, yes, there are better anchorages out there.  But more special? No. We are quite happy to hang out here for the next few weeks.

^^The anchorage is in a narrow channel.  One side is rock the other side is sandbar (out of view in the picture as it was high tide)

^^Those rocks look much closer after the sun goes down 😉

^^ My boys, just chilling on the beach

^^ Keith cleaning up a conch for us for dinner.

^^Just a little tiny spit of sand, but so perfectly so.

^^ The entire anchorage looks out to clear shallow water and sandbars that materialize as the tide falls.  Little pockets of warm water pools settle in between the bars.  Natures pretty playground.  Yep, not in a hurry to head back to Florida just yet.  

Oh, not sure if I made our plans known on the blog; here they are…  We are hoping to hang out here with several friends for a while, then head to Florida for a few weeks for a much needed reprovision stop and to install the new water maker (so excited about that), from there it depends on the hurricane season. We may rent a mooring ball in George Town in one of the hurricane holes as a safety net and head back to the Exumas or, we may investigate getting clearances to Cuba or, might stick to the US until fall (not my first choice!).  We aren’t sure yet.  After hurricane season, if not before, we will head back to the Bahamas to see some of the places we didn’t get to see before heading on “down island”.  At least that is the plan for today.  Right now I’m not going to worry about it too much and go for a swim.

 

Green Turtle and Manjack

We are back in The Green Turtle / Manjack Cay neighborhood.  It feels a little like coming home-in a sweet way.  Almost immediately we reconnected with our friends Gregory and Lucie from Pushkar and got busy catching up and swapping stories about how windy the winter was.  We went to town and Martha and Scott, the owners of Sid’s Grocery, waved us in when the saw us walking past their storefront.  We had missed their sweet, immaculate little store.  And them.  We talked to them about the stores in the Exumas and they asked if it had been as windy down there.  Keith got his hair cut at the same little hair salon that is hidden behind a white picket fence and overgrown tropical plants as the last time, the owner remembered what he asked for and asked about our winter and where we had gone.  He told us how windy it had been there.  At Manjack we went diving on some of our favorite little coral heads and Keith came up with a hogfish for dinner within the first few minutes.  We haven’t even SEEN a hogfish since we left here a few months ago so it was pretty exciting for us.  Hogfish and conch for dinner, even our old Abaco routines returned so effortlessly.  We stopped by to say Hi to Bill and Leslie, the property owners at Manjack, and were invited in for key lime and coconut rum drinks served with Nutella on freshly cracked coconuts from their beach as an afternoon dessert.  (I think I’m going to have to start implementing an afternoon dessert on the boat, it’s quite delightful.) We talked about where we planned to go next and their plans for a new dock facing West to watch the sunsets on. And, of course, we talked about how windy of a winter it had been.  I guess  we weren’t the only ones who had noticed!

Sometimes it’s really exciting to sail into a new anchorage for the first time and explore a new town and search out new dive spots; and sometimes it’s just as nice to be somewhere that feels as comfy as a favorite pair of pajamas. 

^^ We love the trails on Manjack.  This is the beach on the anchorage side of the island, the pictures below are of the beach on the Atlantic side of the island.  They are both too beautiful 🙂

We also love taking the dinghy and exploring up Turtle Creek att Manjack.  It is appropriately named as at any one time you can probably count five or six baby turtles scooting about.  There is usually some small sharks and rays enjoying the shallow mangrove creek as well.

 

‘Twas a Merry Merry Christmas

Simple and splendid…if I had to describe Christmas this year.

For Christmas Eve we anchored outside of Hope Town, just below the candy cane striped lighthouse.  In the morning we played tourist and walked around the tiny town.  The little colorful painted cottages here all look like like decorated gingerbread houses already (minus the snow).  I have a crush for shuttered windows and picket fences, if I could have them on the boat I would, and Hopetown has some of the cutest I’ve seen anywhere.  While walking around we got invited to crew on one of the traditional Abaco boats, Abaco Rage, for the Boxing Day races, the bow man saw us taking picture of the boat in the harbor and stopped us as we walked around town.  I’ve never raced before and was feeling a little too intimidated to commit.  I’m trying to say “yes” to all opportunities that come our way, even ones outside of my comfort zone but I had a feeling that his idea of “not too competitive” was probably a whole lot more competitive than mine! We declined, maybe next time.

The afternoon was spent snorkeling, Keith got us a little hogfish for Christmas Eve dinner to go with our beans and rice and corn bread.  We then headed to the southern tip of Elbow Cay to Tahiti Beach to let Kai run free.  There were seven other pups for him to play with.  His favorite Christmas gift this year!  On the way we stopped over to Lubbers Cay and passed along a “hello” to a friend of a friend.

At night we dinghied into the harbor under a full-looking moon to see the Christmas lights on the lighthouse and all the boats that had strung up a light or two.  At the end of the day Keith and I said to each other “that was a good day”.

I had packed two small boxes of Christmas ornaments on the boat and last week had dug them out of the bottom of the deepest locker and hung them up on a strand of garland. I had to laugh at myself a little for having packed a string of lights. Yes, they can run on the inverter, but it wasn’t like we would run them considering our power shortage issues as it is. For the tree, Keith and I took a walk on the beach and came home with a baby casuarina tree. Close enough.  The branches were too tiny to hang anything on but it still did the job. (We did end up turning on the lights Christmas Eve and Christmas morning anyway)

Christmas morning, after Kai opened his goodies (tissue paper shreds everywhere), we sailed back down to Lynyard Cay. We only lost a few ornaments when it got kind of active sailing pass the ocean cuts. The “Christmas tree” rode it out safely in the galley sink.  Our friends on the cat invited us over for Christmas dinner when we got anchored and within just a few minutes a meal was planned.  I will have to say, I think we surprised ourselves with it-they cooked a beautiful turkey breast and between the two boats we pulled off a proper holiday meal with potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, cranberry sauce, fresh rolls, and wine.  I made a cherry pie for dessert.  Everything was splendid, the food, the company, the setting. ‘Twas a Merry Christmas.  

 

 

^^Kai playing with his new Christmas present, a floating frisbee