Little Farmers Cay

Little Farmers Cay was settled by a freed slave from Great Exuma who moved there with her two sons and daughter.  Apparently her children did not have any hobbies other than creating children of their own, the plentiful Nixons and Browns.  The English Crown willed the cay to her descendents as a generation property.  We paid our twenty dollar a night mooring fee to the hard working, friendly, eighty years plus, Roosevelt Nixon.


It was good to be back in the Bahamas of its people rather than with the taint of tourists.  I realize that I am a tourist too, but I am starting to feel Bahamian.  Ya mon, whas da hurry?  Farmers Cay Yacht Club is my kind of yacht club, laid back, good bahamian food (fried snapper, chicken, lobster or ribs with peas and rice) and with a happy hour that pulls in our fellow sailors with rum punch (the key is coconut flavored rum) and conch fritters.


Fortyish people, mostly Nixons and Browns, live on this three and a half mile island which has two very small grocery stores, one church and five bars.  Captain Saynomore wanted to “see” all five.  We have attached ourselves like desperate octopuses to Soul Divers as they are fantastic cooks, have wine (which I, GASP, am out of), are most excellent underwater tour guides and they have a snarky cat I love, Toby.  Soul Divers often sets sail before sunrise and forgets to tell us where they’re going but we are clever at tracking them down (I have a nose for wine) and then we anchor right next them.  Hi de ho neighborino!  The four of us began our bar to bar hike around the island.  We only found three bars but found island charm times five.


A comfy hammock made with a mattress in a fishing net

We visited a wood carver with a fruit tree garden.  He gave us a tour of the pomegranate, almond, sarsaparilla, and odd fruits I’ve never heard of.  The walk made us thirsty so we stopped at a restaurant.  Read their hours.


There was a sign in the bar that said no swearing so we needed to remove Captain Tellsdirtyjokesregularly quickly.  Removing Captain Onemorelastone from a bar is like removing a Remora from a Sea Turtle (I’ll explain later.)  Especially when he has a new friend who thinks his ancient, worn out jokes are funny.  But we finally managed by promising him there were more bars on the island.


See Speedy the hummingbird resting in the top right of the picture?

We walked into one of the small grocery stores which had less food in it than I had on Echoes but had the most glorious smell.  The proprietors were sitting in the shade out front.  I told them the smell of their store brought me back in time to my grandmother’s most wonderful kitchen.  That would be my coconut bread, she replied.  Is this coconut bread for sale?  I asked.  Five dollars.  I bake right here, and she pointed to a kitchen attached to the store.  Five dollars bought me a fragrant, warm loaf of golden, spongey bliss.  I dreamt that night I was sleeping on a bed made of warm coconut bread.


By far, for me, the bestestest part of Little Farmers Cay happened below the water.  There is a turtle and fish sanctuary right in the center of town.  There is no fishing or hunting in these Green turtle breeding grounds but you are welcome to swim with them.  The turtle man will give you conch to hand feed them with.


The turtle nemesis under Michelle Turtle is a Remora fish.  Our family calls them Shoe Heads because the top of their heads are flat and have a shoe tread like texture to them.  They have suckers on their front dorsels and attach themselves to anyone they think might bring them a free meal with a free ride.  Ramone Remora took the conch that I am feeding Michelle in the above picture out of her mouth.  Michelle slapped him up silly on his head with her fin, took it right back and gobbled it down.


Sadie is feeding Squirtle.  These awesome shots are from Soul Divers’ gopro.   I have now added a gopro to our never ending wish list of purchases for the boat next year, right below wine cellar.  Who needs a bilge?  Green turtles get their name from the green tissue under their skin.  They can get over five feet long and weigh over seven hundred pounds.  These guys were smaller but still breathtaking.


We also saw rays and puffer fish.  Puffer fish have a permanent smile of their faces.  When they are agitated or scared they can puff up to more than twice their size.


There were about ten turtles swimming around looking for conch handouts.


After swimming with our new hard hat friends we had conch salad ceviche that Carselle made for us on the spot right on the dinghy dock.


We had previously seen locals fighting over the conch penis and pissel when fisherman were shelling conch in Great Harbour.  Both the pissel and the penis are said to be Bahamian Viagra.  Captain Courageousanddofeelsorryforme ate them both.  The little brown doodle is under the spoon and this is the pissel (also called a pistol).  The pissel is a part of conch anatomy used in digestion.


The conch ceviche was spicy and out of this world.  And this was the scenery as we waited for our ceviche to be made.  There were Browns and Nixons returning from from fishing.


There were Nixons and Browns catching bait fish with a net.


Our turtle friends would visit.


Even puppies!


I called this day Princess day because the princess was very, very happy.  There was no B.P., no smelly meat juice in fridges, no roly polys, no yuckified sausage, no full waste tanks or hungry no see ums feasting on my every inch.  Instead there were the many hued, turquoise waters of painters’ dreams, friendly turtles, spicy conch ceviche sprinkled with laughter and cold beers to wash it all down with.


And the next day wasn’t too shabby either.  The next day we went lionfish hunting…oh my!


Photo credit Dr Googlesearch and Wickipedia

Lionfish are venomous and extremely invasive.  They are prolific breeders and have very few predators.  Their sharp spines are poisonous and they hang hidden upside down in crevices protecting their soft underbellies.  They eat juvenile reef fish like pigs on a beach.  They are dangerous to marine life balance.  Most people do not hunt or eat lionfish because of their venomous spines but Matt and Sadie are both scuba dive instructors and are both experienced hunters.  Equipped with sling type spear guns, thick gloves and a container called a zoo keeper to keep the fish in after its killed, we went lionfish hunting.  Or at least they did, we just went along for the fun of it.

There was a dancing Sea anemone.  Sea anemones are animals that use their tentacles to catch their prey.


Then we saw a gorgeous pufferfish partially puffed up.


And finally, Sadie and Matt found a lionfish hiding in a hole.  They speared it and put it in their zoo keeper.  Did I tell you lionfish is delicious?  You just have to know what you are doing to clean one. Sadie filleted the small beauty.


I had never eaten lionfish.  That evening Sadie brought over lionfish ceviche and I will never forget its succulence as long as I live.  I declared it Princess day 2.  It was a very good day.


The parts for our broken solar regulator have finally reached Fort Lauderdale.  Next they are to be flown on a small plane to Staniel Cay.  We will begin to make our way back up north to pick up our parts and end the arguments of battery use priorities.   I’m tired of living in the dark but I do look my best.  I miss my fan at night.  However, these experiences are most definitely worth it.




Staniel Cay, Part 2


Soul Divers dinghy, Trikke

Soul Divers haled us on VHF to catch up after a few days.  I lamented about our broken solar regulator and some long nights bobbing around our anchorage.  They had it worse.  As they were bobbing around on their anchorage, their boat started taking on water.  They were up all night pumping one gallon of water every twelve minutes out of their bilge and figuring out where the saltwater was coming from.  Apparently there is a leak coming from their anchor locker into their boat.  These are the people who have been through hell getting their boat fixed after Irma beat it up.  It is not a cruise stopping leak but it is not good news or easily fixed.  However, if you are going to be stuck with problems somewhere, Staniel Cay is about as good as you could ask for.  We made the most of it by fitting in some fun.


I am completely humiliated to admit this, but I love the reality TV show, The Bachelor.  It is so lame and so ridiculous and so unreality that I simply can’t help myself.  In one episode of The Bachelor the young stud looking for “a wife” went with several candidates blessed in the bikini top region but shorted in the brain region to Pig Beach on nearby Big Major Cay.  Much to Captain Whywouldyouwantoswimwithafilthypig’s dismay, this was a must on my list.  I had to see this with my own eyes.  The pigs greet you on the beach and swim up to your dinghy at your arrival.  You are encouraged to them feed vegetables and bring them fresh water.  Unfortunately, it was another tour boat, crowd cringing, attraction.  There were so many bikinis that Matt said, Pigs?  What pigs?  I haven’t seen any pigs.


You are to throw the veggies in the pigs mouths but never turn your back on one.  They can be assertive, jump up and knock you down.  I brought a huge bag of carrots and Sadie had a variety of vegetable and fruit goodies.


There were adorable piglets.  The tour boat guests would pick the piglets up for pictures and the poor piggies would squeal with disdain.  Watching piglet pee run down a disgusted bikini girl as she manhandled a squealing piglet was a true highlight for me.


They liked grapes best.


I got tired of feeding pigs so I started feeding Asians.  (I was actually sharing my carrots with these polite visitors.)


And since we had pork on our minds, Soul Divers invited us over for homemade pork tacos.  They even made corn tortillas from scratch.  It was a feast of piggy proportions and wonders.  We were so excited we forgot to take a picture.  Sadie pointed out to Matt that he forgot to add avocado and all the good fixings to his first taco as he dove in.  Matt said, I am so hungry I had a premature etacolation.

We returned to Thunderball Grotto a couple days later with Soul Divers purposely choosing a higher tide and stronger current to avoid tour boats.  We practically had the place to ourselves.   It was truly beautiful.


Photo credit Dr Googlesearch and Tamarisk

We have been at Staniel Cay over a week waiting on parts.  We have gotten to know the island and the store owners fairly well.  We have our favorites but one of the best is Ruth.  Ruth’s brother owns the combination laundromat, liquor store, tiny bar.


Ruth did our laundry for us.  That was her first in.  But best of all, she gives Captain Rarelyspeechless so much shit that I am sure he has met his match.  We have often gone to the laundromat simply to hang with Ruth and have a beer.  I call her, Ruth the Truth.


Ruth is saying, Hurry up with the picture!  I can’t suck it in any longer!

We skipped the St Patrick’s day whoop it up at the Yacht club to relax on the boat.  First Captain Creativebait caught a fish on old chicken skin.  We identified the fish in our scuba diving fish book and then googled it to see if it was good eating.  It was not.  It is called a Sand Tilefish and is referred to by  locals as Slippery Dick and the Haitian Hot Dog.


And then Captain Welldonesir caught our dinner on old steak gristle.  This was a most delicious Yellowtail Snapper named Yummy.  Captain Tookatripdownmemorylane said Yummy was quite a prize but not even close to the monster lunker of a walleye he caught with his childhood friend, Timmy, on Pine Lake in Crandon, Wisconsin.


The Solar Regulator company we paid second day air shipping rates to made a mistake and sent our regulator USPS ground.  It isn’t due to arrive Fort Lauderdale for another four days before it can be sent to the Bahamas.  We will leave Staniel Cay tomorrow making due with limited power and return to pick up our parts as soon as they arrive.  It is time to head north again so this delay is frustrating.  We are heading south to Farmer’s Cay where we will hopefully catch a mooring ball before the crowd arrives to ride out another blow.




Staniel Cay, Part 1


Someone who is not especially good at details, but not too shabby at helping you pick out the right wine to accompany your meal, did not screw the fresh water caps on the deck properly the last time they filled up the water tanks.  Two of the three tanks took on salt water as Echoes’ nose crashed through big waves in heavy seas contaminating the water.  Plus, we were almost out of store bought water as someone had been drinking it because of tummy issues.  Cerulean filled up some drinking water for us before she left Warderick Wells and Soul Divers filled up ten gallons of water that we carried to our boat in a jerry jug to top off the largest of three tanks.  But we needed to head to Staniel Cay where we could water up and provision.  Bad weather was coming and Staniel is a good place to hunker down.


This is Staniel Cay’s racing sloop, Tida Wave

Staniel Cay is the second largest epicenter in the Exumas for cruisers.  There are three small grocery stores (think convenience store), laundry, cell service, a hardware store, an airport, fuel, water, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club with a fun restaurant and there are several must see attractions nearby.  There were nearly 100 boats within a mile radius from us waiting out the foul weather.  We found a protected anchorage, snuggled in between several boats and looked over to find Cerulean within our view.


People petting and feeding the Nurse sharks at Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Previously, someone who is not especially good at details, but is not too shabby in the galley, did not give enough power to Echoes as they left autopilot to assist getting the sails down.  Someone else was up on deck tending to the sails as they dropped.  Auto lost his GPS signal because he did not have enough speed and waves tossed Echoes willy nilly.  The sail flogged horribly and the Dutchman monofilament broke along with a Dutchman sail puck that holds it in the sail.  These dutchy thingamabobs help in stacking the huge, heavy sail as it comes down.  Someone needed to do some sail repair work.  We also had been out of data and cell range for over a week so we had bills, emails and calls to make.  We settled in for a few days.  Also, weather was coming.


We were working on emails during a stormy morning when the wind began its haunting howl and Echoes began testing B.P.’s hootspa.  The rain came down in sheets.  Captain Someoneisquiteimpressivesometimes let the rain wash the deck for a good long while, changed into his swimsuit and went up on deck with two winch handles and two clean hand towels.  He opened the two empty tank water caps (we used the tainted water for showers and dishes), wrapped the winch handles in the clean towels and laid them aft of the freshwater openings creating a dam.  He also got a free shower out of the deal.  Then he dried off and went back to his emails.  Thunder crashed and lightning hit so close that I shot out of my seat with a yelp of a sailorly nature.  We checked our tank levels after the storm blew through and the rain stopped.  Captain Raintamer filled both tanks to the brim accumulating fifty gallons of rainwater in less than forty minutes.


B.P. had drug a bit.  You can’t blame the girl as Echoes was swinging hard in almost three hundred sixty degree spirograph patterns.  We were closer than we liked to be to a craggy,  hull busting shore.  It was a crowded anchorage so we did our best to reset B.P. but she was tired and uncooperative.  It is difficult to find the appropriate sandy bottom needed to set B.P., not crowd those around you and compensate for enough anchor chain to keep you safe in blows and not swing into your neighbor.  I think we set and reset B.P. eight times until we were finally satisfied.  Then we had a princess pleasing lunch with Christopher and Robin, got a tour of the island and made plans to snorkel with them the following day.


Captain Samehatandclothesineverypicturefortwentyyears with Robin and Christopher of Cerulean

We woke up the following day to no power.  That means no fridge, no lights, no instruments, no charging cell phones, zip, zilch, zapped.  The solar panels were doing their thing but the solar panel regulator and charger were dead.  The lightning must have fried them and we wore down the batteries with the windless setting B.P. the day before.  We’ve heard many stories of lightning taking out all of the electrical and navigational equipment on boats so we were grateful for just this problem.  Long story short, Captain Resourceful ordered parts from the states to be second day aired to an airport hangar in Fort Lauderdale to then be flown to Staniel Cay airport.


The terminal at the Staniel Cay Airport

Having that wrapped up, we went snorkeling with Cerulean’s humans.  Gorgeous Staniel Cay has been the set of several movies.  One of the most famous filmed here was a James Bond Movie, Thunderball.


There is a scene in Thunderball where James Bond fights off bad guys while scuba diving in a grotto.  This cave/grotto is where we went snorkeling with Robin and Chris.  It was absolutely stunning.  It was also here where our trusty, heavy duty camera, which has provided you all of the previous pictures, gave up its life.  I truly hope someone who is not especially good with details, but not too shabby with coming up with Captain names, didn’t break it by hitting the wrong underwater setting.  Let’s go with the lightning.  And then tour boats came by a disturbing number flooding the water with hordes of swimmers leaving a suntan lotion sheen on the water.  I am quite unaccustomed to crowds after these months at sea.  Please exit my quiet Bahamas at once!


Photo courtesy of Dr Googlesearch and Robert’s Island adventures

We enjoyed our time with Cerulean very much and bid them farewell as they ventured south.  About the time that Cerulean left, Soul Divers found their way to Staniel Cay.


Warderick Wells Cay


Warderick Wells is the headquarters for the Exuma Cays land and sea park and is a spectacularly magical place.  The park location was chosen for its rocky bluffs, sand dunes, salt flats, mangrove creeks and beautiful reefs.  We were blessed to score a mooring in the coveted north channel right next to a well known snorkeling site.  As we pulled in we saw our buddies on Cerulean were moored there as well.  We settled in, put the engine on Tip Sea and headed to land.  You are greeted on the beach by the reconstructed  skeletal remains of a 1953 Sperm whale who died from eating a plastic bag.  Our friends from Joy rebuilt it after a hurricane knocked it down several years ago.  The small park office is just off the beach and as are trailheads to over seven miles of hiking.


We headed to the most famous of these trails, Boo Boo Hill.  There is legend attached to Boo Boo Hill.  The hill is famously haunted by missionaries who went aground on a reef and parished just below Boo Boo Hill.   You can hear their singing on the nights of full moons.  I think these parished missionaries are what makes this place so magical.  It is a tradition for cruisers to appease King Neptune and the sea gods with an offering of driftwood with your boat’s name on it at the top off Boo Boo Hill.  We didn’t bring any driftwood and you are not supposed to remove anything from the park so we put Echoes’ name on a shell from my shell collection and left it with the driftwood pile.  I figured this was appropriate because you can hear the echoes of the sea and its ghosts if you put a seashell to your ear.


We continued hiking through beautiful, rough terrain.  The earth beneath our feet felt wonderful and the sights were soul quenching.  We hiked for hours.


When we came off the trails there was a large sundowner happening on the beach.  All the cruisers grabbed their cocktails and snacks and dinghied to the beach to mingle and sip.  There we found our good friends Christopher and Robin from Cerulean.  They introduced us to people in which we had something in common.  There were maybe twenty boats moored at the north end of Warderick Wells.  Unbelievably, three of the boats there were from our home town of Stillwater, Minnesota, population of less than twenty thousand.


We made plans to have our friends from Cerulean over for a sundowner the following evening.  The next day we hiked on snaking trails beneath the palms and across craggy, sandy cliffs.


Warderick Wells is a mystical place of no such thing as coincidences.  Christopher and Robin came to our boat for a sundowner.  We had been on their boat before but this was their first time on Echoes.  When Christopher stepped aboard he said, Oh, is this a Catalina MKII 42?  I’ve been on one of these before.  Remember Selah, Robin?  Captain Areyoukiddingme? said, This is Selah!  We bought the boat from someone who only owned the boat a little over a year.  That guy bought the boat from the people of Selah.  They were sailing instructors.  Christopher and Robin did their ASA sailing training living aboard our boat for a week.  They have been good friends with the instructors ever since.  Have you seen the movie, The Red Violin?  It is one of my favorites.  It is the story of a magnificent, soul filled violin and the lives it touched all along its way.  I brought up the movie about a week before and said to John, I’d like to know about Echoes’ story and her people.  It turns out there is quite the story about Selah and her owners, Bob and Ana.  In fact, Ana wrote a book about it.  You can buy the book on Amazon.  Bet you know what I’m reading just as soon as I have enough wifi to download it.


These adventurous sailing instructors had to sell Selah because tragically, Bob was hit by a car and hung on to life by a chafed sheet for quite a while.  I’m pleased to say he is doing much better now.  I was sad to hear the circumstances of selling Selah but am happy to be connected in this unusual way.  Christopher sent their friends an email with our picture and said, The new name is Echoes, which seems very appropriate given the circumstances of our meeting.


The next day Cerulean went on her way south and Soul Divers came in to take Cerulean’s exact mooring.  We had sundowners (well, the sun does set every day!) with Soul Divers and made plans to go snorkeling the following day.


The Eagle Ray gets its name from its beak like snout

Matt and Sadie are both scuba instructors.  It was a blast to snorkel with them as they have a sixth sense to the whereabouts of all living sea creatures within possible eyesight and even those that are not.  We popped in the cold water on a cold day directly off of Echoes.  Within ten minutes we saw eagle rays, sea turtles, a large variety of fish and colorful coral reefs.  Have I mentioned Warderick Wells is a magical place?  We watched four Spotted Eagle Rays swim in circles around our neighbor’s boat.  It was like watching an underwater ballet in graceful timelessness.  But the highlight of the day was Grandpa the Spiny lobster.  Matt noticed a tentacle waving out of a cavern in a reef.  He freedove down and rooted its occupant out of its hiding place.  Out came Grandpa.  I screamed in excitement through my snorkel.  I had absolutely no idea lobsters could get this big.  Everything appears twenty five percent larger under the natural magnification of water.  Grandpa looked like the size of a well fed labrador but Matt guessed him to be a little over three feet in core body and around twenty five pounds.  DSCN3390

I will never forget the enchantment Warderick Wells land and sea park.





Shroud Cay

DSCN3312We left Norman in unsettled seas to go about eleven miles south to Shroud Cay.  We crossed into the Exuma land and sea park boundaries and entered area that you are not allowed to fish or remove anything at all from the land or sea.  You can be fined $500.00 per person on board, have your boat confiscated and given forty eight hours to leave the Bahamas if you fish or poach in these protected marine breeding grounds.  There is no cell or data service.  It is the divine fish tank that you imagine God gazing upon after a hard day.  We picked up a park mooring ball and went gunkholing in the mangroves and beach combing nearby.


The land protected mangroves were peaceful, still and teaming with restorative energy.  We stopped the engine and floated in serene silence after a rough four days of howl and bounce.  Turtles paddled by and waved at us with their fins.


Tropical Acrobats, a sleek white bird with eighteen inch long tail feathers, dove through the sky like, well, acrobats.  We were instantly rejuvenated.


I did not take this picture.  Photo credit Dr. Googlesearch

We met up with some friends on Soul Divers who we have been talking about this trip with for years.


This is our new friend Curly, not one of our friends from Soul Divers

Soul Divers’ Matt was our listing broker when we bought Echoes.  Three years ago on our very first night picking up Echoes to move her to Marco Island, Sea Alice’s dinghy engine quit working at 1:30 am leaving us adrift.  We had to call Sea Tow to come get us and bring us back to the boat.  Matt drove us all over Coconut Grove for the next few days to get engine parts and help us sort out our problem.  (He did  not sell us the dinghy.)


We met his wife, Sadie, and an instant friendship was solidified over a crazy dinner where they were filming a latino soap opera at the restaurant and couldn’t have staff running around during filming.  It took an hour for our first drink and three to get our dinner.  Matt got the whole meal comped for us.


We have kept up with each other through the yrears and planned to meet in the Exumas.  They had planned to cruise months before us but Irma beat up their beloved boat and permanent home something terrible.


They finally set sail with their second mate, (their cat) Toby, after over four months of boat repairs, insurance wrestling and living with a kind friend.  We met again after three years in the middle of a mangrove on Shroud Cay.  It is a crazy, small and wonderful world we live in.


Captain Hasanewnickname can’t believe I have not told you the story of how he go it, so here we go.  We chatted with a couple at a marina, bid them farewell and went our separate ways.  The gentlemen stopped me as I returned to our boat.  He asked me, Why is your husband called the potato man?  Excuse me?, I said, Come again?  He explained, When your husband said goodbye earlier the last thing he said was, I’m the potato man.  I’m the gin man would have made sense, but potato?  I stood on the dock locked up and blinking like a dolt.  So he went on, It is so unusual because I met a sailing potato farmer from Idaho just the other day and it’s weird that I met another potato man.  I was still blinking and wracking my brain when it finally hit me.  John has a heavy northern, Minnesotan/Canadian sounding, accent and this guy had a strong southern accent.  The last thing John said to him was, I’m going to go pay the man.  And that is how Captain Potatoman got his new nickname.



Norman Cay, Exumas


The Exumas are an archipelago of three hundred and sixty five islands and cays.  It is a popular cruising ground because of its famous, many hued, turquoise waters, a humongous land and sea park packed with marine life, anchorages to get lost from civilization on and several islands on which to fuel and provision that are packed with fellow cruisers whooping it up.  Reaching and exploring the Exumas is cashing in our golden ticket.  We crossed the Exuma Sound on a calm and bright day with the seas a color of a mermaid’s tail.


Our friends from Joy suggested we wait out the weather in Norman Cay as it has protection from many angles and the winds were changing and changing again.  They said the anchorage could hold probably seven boats, maybe more.  We were the eighth to show up.   Captain Eyeballsfallingout almost crashed into a boat as he first went past someone undeniably feminine who must have put her bikini in the hot water cycle and then on the next boat, his dream come true, a golden goddess from his boyhood fantasies laying on her foredeck in nothing at all.  It was a slowww trip to find our spot.  We set B.P. and settled in between the two.  I think I’m going to like the Exumas, said Captain Wherearethebinoculars.


The currents had a strong and forceful personality, but the winds were still tame and the weather warm.  We waited on Echoes to see how she sat and until the ladies went below deck and then we went gunkholing to see the beautiful waters and beaches.


There was a plane wreck visible in the shallows.  Apparently enterprising individuals purposefully crashed a plane filled with drugs into the shallows.  Waiting boats quickly came in to unload the drugs and rescue the pilot who parachuted into a large pile of money.


The moonrise that evening far out did the sunset.  It was a marvelous night for a moondance.


During the night the winds began to howl and the waves began rocking.  Echoes swung in patterns I had yet to experience.  The next morning we were awakened by a, Hello?  We had one hundred feet of anchor chain out and when we went to bed we were facing the opposite direction almost two hundred feet away.  We had spun very close to shrunken bikini boat and, for reasons due to a schizophrenic current and angry wind, we hadn’t spun in the same way.  I love the politeness of what bikini’s man said to Captain AndIhaven’tevenhadmycoffeeyet, Are you comfortable with how close we are?  If he only knew.  The boats shortly found a similar drag angle but we re anchored in a location where we had plenty of swing room but not quite the view.  There we bounced for three days listening to the cold north wind blow and feeling the boat swing with the current and rock in the white caps.


We got off the Echoes one time in three days when we bucked our sloppy, wet way in Tip Sea to shore where McDuff’s came and picked us up in a Jeep and brought us to their restaurant.  It took mere minutes before the bartender started referring to me as Your Highness because I felt like the princess I am with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc and cloth napkins sitting on a stable chair.  Lunch was superb.  They closed for a break before the dinner set otherwise I would have never left.


Back at the boat we rocked and swung some more.  I must compliment the lovely B.P. for holding on as well as she did.  The last night I counted seventeen boats packed in the anchorage to tuck in and away from the crashing seas.  Very few sailors ventured off their boats into the white caps with their dinghies during these cold, unsettled days.  There were no naked beauties on fore decks.  We read, napped, fixed things and caught up on blogs.


Captain Allergictosilence cannot be quiet for more than five minutes at a time.  Perhaps there was brain damage from an accident he had as a child after a bad bike landing while playing Evel Knievel.  I’m writing now, I announce.  But he cannot, even if his life depended on it, keep his thoughts to himself.  He is not looking for comment or conversation as 97% of the time I completely ignore him.  I may on occasion look up with a complete neutral expression and then look back down to what I am doing.  For instance, …I did some calculations and a new jib sheet will be a thirtieth fractional quotient of our retirement savings so if I project my numbers on today’s donut market average and multiply it by the planet Pluto which actually is not a planet we can make up for the purchase in two and eight sixths of a year with interest.  I make brief eye contact and go back to writing.  Sometimes I play a game just so I don’t burst out in foul language at the constant interruption.  The game is, how long until the next random comment?  Two minutes later …The pork we had last night was a little disappointing.  I think I over grilled it.  I do not even look in his direction at this.   Four minutes, oooh, a new record for the day…I am going to fix the broken strap on my fin with a homemade bungee cord.  Excellent, I think.  That will probably gain me five minutes of silence.  …Man, I’ve got to pee.  Nope, I was wrong.  Two minutes later….Ah, much better!  I now know why novelists go to out of the way and deserted locations all alone to write.


Cape Eleuthera


We provisioned to the max in Rock Sound and headed to Cape Eluethera Marina for diesel and water before crossing over to the Exumas.  The marina was beautiful and Captain ByGeorgeIthinkhe’sgotit scooted into the fuel dock and backed into the marina slip like he’s been doing it all his life.  We spent two nights there.  The first night our friends from Windsent and Everafter were our neighbors and Joy took a spot next to us after they left.

We had unpleasant jobs to do.  Captain Betterhimthanme converted our front head to a sea water flush rather than continuing to use our precious fresh water, which I am told far too often that I flush far too often.  We argue about head use above all things.  I had the pleasure of discovering the recently bought chicken thighs leaked blood and eeeww all down the densely packed food and all over the fridge and its innards.  I got to take apart the fridge, including the insulation, to clean it out and defrost it.  I cleaned the boat, did laundry and since we had wifi, we did bills and taxes and annoying practical things that take ten times, no, twenty times longer than they do at home.  I read an email; I hope you are relaxed and pampered on your vacation.   They don’t read the blog.  I relayed the message to my cabana boy with doo doo on his hands.

We were walking down the dock when I noticed a man approaching us with a Leo’s t-shirt that could only be from our hometown of Stillwater, Minnesota.  In fact, his son is the town mayor and his wife is a well known local real estate agent.  It is a small world.


I noticed a group gathered at the end of the dock and a lot of activity in the water.  It is not unusual for fisherman to clean their catch and toss the guts to the waiting fish.  I wandered down to have a look.  In fact, they were young marine biologists trying to catch and tag bull sharks.  The nurse sharks were getting in the way so they were trying to separate the sharks by way of fish scraps.  The idea was to hook a bull shark with a huge piece of fish attached to a huge hook and a long line with a buoy on the end.  The shark takes off once hooked and a chase boat follows it by way of the buoy and then they tag it on the side of the boat once it has worn itself out.


They didn’t catch a bull shark but it was sure fun to watch them try.  I learned that nurse sharks and bull sharks look a lot alike.  The way to tell the difference is that nurse sharks have two dorsal fins and bull sharks have a V at the end of their tails.


We had a sundowner on the beautiful boat Joy with her people, Diana and John.  We gained lots of information about our next destination as we were leaving the following day for the Exumas.  There was a big Northerly blow coming that was to last three or four days.  They helped us choose a place in the Exumas to wait out the wind.



Rock Sound Harbour


We moved further south along Eluethera and sailed as pretty as a digitally enhanced picture to Rock Sound harbor.  We left Governor’s Harbour at the same time as our friends on Joy and Cerulean.  All three boats are Catalinas, theirs being our bright, modern, big sister, dream boats.  All of us had full sails out.  They gained a lead on us and faded gently into the horizon.  We threw out a line.  Captain Slipperylure caught a Mackerel but lost him as he tried to land him in the boat.  Remember our dear friend Dick who sailed around the world for ten years and is working towards beating a world record in swimming when he turns ninety?  He follows our blog and sends us emails with extremely helpful information.  He told us the best way to land fish while sailing is, first of all, use a thick leader and then let the fish wear itself out for five or more minutes before trying to get him in the boat.  Then, get this, poor some cheap booze on his head or in his gills as you bring him into the boat.  This knocks him out, kills him and then he doesn’t flop blood, guts, sharp teeth and scales all over you, your cockpit and your bimini cover.  Genius!  Captain Growingimpatient said, Surely it is time for another fish to bite.  Not a minute later he had a strike and using Dick’s advice landed a second and larger Mackerel, Big Mac.  He threw him in our sink until we reached Rock Sound Harbour.


We were using a technique called visual navigation as we headed through some shallow and reefy water into the harbor.   A person stands on the bow and directs the helmsman away from possibly grounding sandy shoals or hull damaging reefs.  I was helming and Captain Sharpeye was on the bow.  We have a vocabulary of hand signals we use while anchoring or navigating as we cannot hear each other and it is not prudent to be running back and forth to talk.  The one up forward simply points in the direction they want the helmsman to steer and then they give a sign that it is clear and ok to go back on course.  We cleared several hazards with no problem.  Then Captain Brilliant spots something and shoots his hand pointing sharply to port.  I turn the boat as quickly as possible and he keeps pointing and pointing.  I turned over ninety degrees as did my insides.  He continued to point as he moved back to communicate with me.  Did you see that butterfly way out here?! he asked.  I replied with something along the lines of, What in darnation, you silly billy!  as I spun us back on course.  I didn’t even get to see the butterfly.  He laughed out an apology.  What a role reversal!  Maybe we are rubbing off on each other.  Captain Goeschasingbutterflies will soon be naming his favorite underwear, Comfy Ken, Athletic Al…it’s your day Fun Frank!  And I will start fixing unbroken things and doing math equations for the simple elegance of it.  …Naw.

As we have been leap frogging our way down the Eleuthera coast we have ran into the same boats and their people.  Everyone is moving with the weather and looking for similar anchorages that are suitable for the conditions.  Sometimes you get familiar with a boat by way of VHF as you ask each other for information or you just happen to be anchored near them or run into them here and there.  Familiarity starts to build and next thing you know you are having sundowners (sunset cocktail hour) with them on the boats.  It is really fun and let me tell you, sailors are awesome human beings.  Rock Sound was a celebration of many of these new favorite people.


We walked to a strange large source of water in the center of town called the ocean hole.  No one knows what or where the source is that leads the ocean to this hole in the middle of the land.  Many locals jump off the cliffs here and feed the large quantity of fish.  Some will not go in the water because they do not know where the water comes from and are afraid of dark, mythical creatures lurking at the bottom or of being sucked through its mystery never to return.


It was here that we met Lawrence and Sue from England.  It was Sue’s birthday and a perfect excuse to stop at a pub for a beer.  You are used to my wandering stories by now so let me switch gears on you.  Our boat, Echoes, was named after a Pink Floyd song that we listened to as a family whenever we sailed….laying on the deck, looking up at the stars.  It is a long song about the ocean, whales and about being a decent human.  It is an obscure song off of a somewhat obscure album.  Captain Itsonlyfunnytohim always says when asked our boat name, Echoes, like the Pink Floyd song.  To John’s great pleasure, it bugs me.  I say, John, that nice Bahamian woman over half your age has no idea who Pink Floyd is and the chance of her knowing the song Echoes is one in ten billion.  Pink Floyd fans don’t know that song.  Just say Echoes!   So, of course, he says it every single time and smirks at me sideways while he says it.  Okay, we’re back in the pub now.  So Birthday Sue said, What is the name of your boat?  And Captain Nevertiresofteasing said, Echoes, like the Pink Floyd song.  And Lawrence said,  Right, the last song on the album Meddle.  Wow!  This was a first.  After we sung the lengthy praises of Pink Floyd they, not me, they brought up Neil Young.  Say.  No.  More.  We had dinner plans with our Catalina friends on Joy and Cerulean.  Our new friends from Pentesilea joined us, too.


Dinner was a fun and delicious.  Captain Inhiscups repeated practically word for word, with the help of Christopher from Cerulean, all of the lines from Monty Python’s Holy Grail and then The Life of Brian.  Cerulean’s Robin pre ordered us an apple pie and it tasted like childhood.  I didn’t realize until the next day I wasn’t charged for it.  Generosity is rampant.  Robin has written a cruising guide on the Bahamas which she gives away for free.  I pour over it every time we head to a new destination.  I picked her brain on the Exumas and other sailorly mysteries.  Joy’s Diana and John gladly accepted a dinghy ride from the others rather than returning to Joy in Tip Sea with tipsy.


Governor’s Harbour  


My faith in humanity has been restored by the magnificent people of Eleuthera.  It is the friendliest and most genuine place I have ever been.  It has been said that the people of my home state of Minnesota are “Minnesota nice” but whoever said that has not traveled its freeways or dealt with a Minnesotan in any capacity in which they can remain anonymous.  They can be kraken in dolphin clothing.  The people of Eleuthera ooze dolphinness.  People on the street wish you a glorious day and often stop to chat.  Locals and tourists hitchhike everywhere and the locals are happy to stop and pick you up and want nothing but a thank you for their kindness.  They told us, Don’t worry, there are no weirdos here.  You can hitch a ride anywhere.


We ran into some new friends at the anchorage who told us about the Friday night fish fry in town that evening.  The profits are donated to the local school, to elderly in need, or towards an ambulance ride fund.  Every Friday locals and cruisers attend this festive and social fish fry complete with their famous Rumbumbas.  There was great food cooked in big vats and large grills.  Music was blaring in the street with an MC directing a limbo contest with flexible, swaying people of all ages and nationalities waiting in a line over a half a block long for their next backbend.  We made some new friends and chatted with the locals. It was a memorable night.


The following day we had a yummy lunch at Buccaneer’s.  I had homemade tuna salad made from locally caught tuna surrounded by bright red tomato slices sitting on top of crisp greens.  Captain Ineedaburgerwiththisbeer had an enormous bacon cheeseburger.


Our friend’s from the sailboat Joy told us about a large botanical preserve a couple of miles away.  We asked our waiter about it and if it was in walking distance.  No mun, he said, you will be walking for miles in the park.  He then went up to previous customers and asked them to give us a lift to the park.  Absolutely!  Hop in!  and so we did.


The Levy Preserve is twenty five acres of beautiful Bahamian wilderness with narrow canopied paths weaving through it.  There are well maintained and labeled botanical gardens of native plants organized by medicinal purposes, industrial purposes, poisonous, etc.  There was a lookout tower to climb with a three hundred and sixty degree view of tree tops and aqua water.  There was an old cistern that they converted into a freshwater pond complete with turtles who begged for bread scraps.  We walked for miles and miles.  It was soul reaching and I grew new roots into the celebrated land.

Behold, I am the anchor lion trainer!  I still have a healthy fear of B.P.,  which is prudent for all anchor lion tamers to have,  but I can yank her back into submission by my mighty arm.  I shall now call her Bitch Pussycat!  We have heard plenty of stories from fellow sailors of lifting electric cables, rocks and a myriad of odd things as they retrieve their anchors so I keep a careful eye on B.P. as she and her chain come up.  I noticed something dark and unusual on the chain as I retrieved B.P. to move on from Governor’s Harbour.  Slowly, as it came into focus, it became clear it was a navy shirt wrapped around the chain.  I unwrapped the shirt to find it was a new, long sleeve rash guard with the map of Eleuthera on it.  It is just my size., now properly brought into submission, has given me a gift from the sea.



Alabaster Bay


The winds were to blow a stink for several days, the highest we have encountered.  Fortunately, we were in the lee of Eleuthera, in the protection of the land, but we needed to find an extra safe anchorage and hunker down for a while.  We picked our destination some fifteen miles away and took off hoping to sail instead of motor.  The wind on our nose and bucking seas just belly laughed at us.  In fact, it was so raucous that we shortened our destination two times, or at least tried to.  It reminds me of my favorite quote from a book I am reading aloud to Captain Bedtimestorytime.  “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

We decided to tuck into the safe harbor of Hatchet Bay but the entrance to the bay was a narrow and rocky seventy feet.   There was a freighter anchored out in front of it waiting for calmer seas.  The cruising guide strongly suggests you do not enter this cut in unsettled seas.  These seas weren’t just unsettled, they were downright disturbed.  But Captain Ilaughinthefaceofdangerhahaha said, Ah, we can make that.  So we circled it once to check it out.  A large kraken popped up and grinned at me.  We tried our first attempt.  Echoes spun on bouncing seas and couldn’t get her footing.  We circled again.  The kraken laughed and pointed his tentacled arms to the crashing waves, the jagged coral walls in the cut and the shoals you needed to avoid on the other side.  We made a second attempt.  The closer we got the less control we had.  The kraken licked his lips and made multiple fist pumps.  We abandoned that attempt and circled again.  We tried a third time from another angle.  Echoes’ stern skidded starboard with the cursing current.  The kraken howled with laughter.  I heard his belly rumble and saw the blood shot veins in his eyes.  We abandoned that attempt a lot later than I would have liked.  Captain Holyshit circled and asked me my take.  Get me the hell out of here, I replied ashen.  After a tiring day, we ended up in a safe and beautiful anchorage called Alabaster Bay.


We spent three nights in Alabaster Bay letting the winds and waves tire themselves out.  There were miles of desolate beach to get lost on.  My feet touched land after a long four days on the water and I walked until I had blisters.  I had not been feeling well as there was a fencing tournament going on in my gut.  I’m not sure if all the excitement had caught up to me, if it was dysentery or if I accidently swallowed a tiny kraken who was trying to punch his way out.  I longed for the toilets on Chub Cay and my big, stable bed at home.  But it was good to be in one place for a while and rest.


US Navy Experimental Facility    Someone shoot that thing!

We took a walk to the Atlantic side of the island where there were the ruins of an abandoned naval base used in the cold war.  It was a bazaar site to take in.  We got semi lost exploring the labyrinth of roads and dilapidated buildings.


The base was built in 1950 as a Sound Surveillance System

We snorkeled, swam, fished and slept.  Captian Catchingonandcatchingfish caught a Nassau grouper for a nice reprieve from yicky icky processed meat and canned veggies (which we will do without and never buy again.)  The grouper puked out newly eaten crab and Captain Recycle used them as bait.


After dinner we typically sit in the cockpit, listen to music and watch the stars.  One particular Alabaster night Captain Ginhead was in rare form.  He was playing Bob Marley’s “Jammin” but instead of singing “We’re Jammin” he sang instead, “I’m German,” complete with a German accent.  Captain Lederhosen is indeed very German as his mother’s maiden name is Neustedter and our last name is Braatz.  He was dancing around like you might picture an SS officer trying to imitate a Rastafarian.  He swung his bald head as if he had dreadlocks and moved his arms like he was a robot.  “I’m German.  I’m German.”  He staccato squatted up to me and bent down real close.  “And I hope you like Germans’, too,” he sang with the same mischievous smile that sunk me almost thirty three years ago.