Back to the Berries: Our Most Isolated and Inundated Stops

I would have never thought I would use the word “inundated” when describing the Berry Islands, but unfortunately, one of them is. Have any of you seen Coco Cay? Formerly Little Stirrup Island, the island was purchased by Carnival Cruise Lines and turned into just that: a carnival. 

We’ll get there.

Thankfully, many of the other islands of the Berries remain untouched and exude the quiet, serene calm that Phillip and I love about the Berry Islands. The one we stopped at first after leaving Warderick Wells Cay on a nice overnight run to the Berries was just that: quiet and picture-perfect Little Harbour Cay. Proof, we had the place ALL to ourselves:

And, it was a place we had never heard of before and likely never would have stopped at had it not been so heartily recommended by a fellow cruising friend (shout-out to Pensacola sailor, BaBaLu!).

That is one of the very cool things about meeting new cruisers: they often help you find new tucked-away little anchorages you might have never found otherwise. So, before I tell you about Little Harbour Cay, let me tell you a little about the sailor who recommended the place to us: Captain Bob Fleege, better known to Pensacola locals as “BaBaLu.” (Seriously, you say that name in cruising circles around here and everyone knows who you’re talking about.) BaBaLu sails on an exquisite Catalina 34, s/v Partager (which means “to share” in French and boy does he!). And, just like the French, he kisses, too! 

This is Bob greeting me in front of his boat at the shipyard. While we knew BaBaLu in passing (as the Pensacola cruising community is delightfully small), we got to know him much better (as you always do) when we were both on the hard in the Pensacola Shipyard back in 2016 when Phillip and I spent a grueling three months re-building our rotten mast stringers and changing our old rod rigging to wire. Whew, that was some serious time on the hill! Bob was hauled out, too, replacing his auto-pilot and some electronics and he was gracious enough to let me film a tour of his exquisite Catalina 34 while we were there. BaBaLu’s was Boat Tour No. 2 at HaveWind!

Bob was cheering there after having just crawled out of this hole … if you can believe it.

Believe it …

BaBaLu also appeared in our Second Annual Boozer Cruiser when we picked him up aboard s/v Partager to dinghy him around for a night of boat-to-boat, boozing fun! Bob had just come out to drop the hook for the night—with no idea that we had a Progressive Boozer Cruiser, costume-required, evening at the anchorage planned. But, that didn’t deter him one bit. As a cruiser, Bob is always prepared. (I couldn’t NOT share this clip with you : ). According to Phillip, the First Rule of Cruising is … 

Good times! Aside from seeing him often in Pensacola out at Ft. McRee, Red Fish, and Pirate’s Cove, we’ve met up with BaBaLu down in Key West in 2014, as well, when he was there when he was down for his annual cruise staying at A&B Marina. 

Bob sails his Catalina down the west coast of Florida to Cuba, Mexico, and often the Bahamas every year. So, he has a lot of great recommendations for anchorages, marinas, restaurants, and (his favorite) tiki bars along those parts. Following and texting us via our Delorme last year, when BaBaLu saw that we were leaving the Exumas to head back to the Berry Islands, he told us we had (“simply had!”) to stop at Little Harbour Cay, drop the hook (“for the day at least!”), and dinghy up the inlet to Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar for “the best cracked conch in the Bahamas!” That’s a pretty bold statement. One Phillip does not take lightly. Or, at face value. We decided we needed to verify Bob’s promise for ourselves. For … scientific accuracy, not because we love cracked conch.

Little Harbour Cay is one of the long narrow islands in the Berries between Chub Cay to the south and Great Harbour Cay to the north.

Phillip and I would likely not have stopped there if it hadn’t been for Bob’s recommendation because we didn’t know there was an anchorage there and we had no idea there was a restaurant. But, after a nice, peaceful overnight from the Exumas across the Tongue of the Ocean, we meandered in to Little Harbour Cay and were thrilled to find this little gem.

It was a beautiful blue-water spot with gorgeous green and navy waters, a protected little anchorage with plenty of depth, and some fun inlets to poke around in on the dinghy. Not to mention Flo’s Conch Bar just a short dinghy ride up the way.

But, I do have to break some sad news to you. We didn’t get any conch at Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar. I know … it was a travesty! But, it was entirely our own faults. Bob had told us in a text to “call ahead and order the cracked conch.” We figured Bob just liked to have his lunch hot and ready when he got there. He’s quite organized like that. Not being as particular—and happy to wait for home-cooked food in a fun, new place—Phillip and I just dinghied in, planning to order when we got there. Well … we can’t fault Bob for it. He tried to tell us. We just didn’t know “call ahead” meant “if you don’t, they won’t have conch for you.” At least for us they did not. We got there around 2:30 p.m. and chatted a bit with this guy in the kitchen who was trying to fix a flashlight with some wire and duct tape. He wasn’t very talkative, but he was friendly and nice enough to let us know they only cooked conch for you if you called it in by 11:00 a.m. Like the Seinfeld soup kitchen, it was “No conch for you!”

But, as I mentioned, that was our fault. Aunt Flo, we’ll be back! And, we’ll call ahead next time! What was really cool, though, was the little surprise I found there on the wall at Aunt Flo’s. Here, I’ll give you a little 360 of the place so you can see what Aunt Flo’s Conch Bar looks like.

There are so many of these little Mom-and-Pop type fried conch restaurants in the Bahamas, and many of them have lots of local memorabilia tacked up on the walls—shirts, boat flags and pennants, signed dollar bills, you name it. And, I was just moseying around while Phillip was sipping his rum drink talking to the Flashlight Fix-it guy and look what I found on the wall!  

BaBaLu’s boat signature that he had left there about a month before us in April, 2019! S/v Partager was here! : )

Little Harbour Cay was definitely a fun little surprise and a nice welcome back to the Berries. Our first time there, back in 2018, we had pulled into Frazer’s Hog Cay, just because it looked like the most protected spot for a blow we were expecting, that was all, but it turned out to be the most memorable stop of our Abacos cruise in the winter of 2017-2018. Why? Because of the people! It’s always the people! That’s when we met the infamous Pat and Steve who I wrote about on the blog and in SAIL Magazine.

Steve and Pat made the Berries an unforgettable special stop for me and Phillip back in 2018, and we were excited to now log a new Berries story in our belt. “Aunt Flo, Conch No” we’ll call it : ). Despite our Flo flub, though, Little Harbour Cay was our most isolated, wonderful stop in the Berry Islands this past year. 

Leaving Little Harbour Cay, however, and making our way north toward Great Stirrup and Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands, Phillip and I encountered the most inundated island in the Berries. We had a nice sail up north that day and decided to get the stainless polished up while we were underway.

I didn’t know if it was the Collinite fumes or the heat, but I thought I was seeing things. As we were sailing on the Atlantic side past Devil’s Cay then Hoffman’s Cay, we were stunned to see what looked to be an alien monstrosity start to materialize on the horizon. I really didn’t know what I was looking at for a while. It looked like a County State Fair right there on the Atlantic. There was a looping, towering structure that mimicked an amusement park ride, a hot air balloon in the air, lots of flags flailing, what appeared to be towers with zip lines. It was insane!

As Phillip and I began to make our way closer, we realized we were seeing exactly what we thought we were seeing: a carnival on the water. Carnival Cruise Lines bought this island and converted it into exactly what you would expect a Carnival island to look like. I’m sorry, but as a purist and fan of natural Bahamian beauty, I felt like Coco Cay was an absolute monstrosity in the Bahamas. 

I’m sure it’s fun. I’m sure the drinks are tasty (and pricy). And, I’m sure many people have a great time there. But, it’s all so … concocted. It’s taking American ideas of “fun” and “vacation” and imposing it on what was once a beautiful, pristine island landscape. Little Stirrup and Great Stirrup are now private islands that you can’t event dinghy up to and simply step ashore and enjoy, which is sad. I honestly thought a good bit about Terry Jo Duperrault and her mesmerizing Alone: Orphaned at Sea story (which I had read during our passage over to the Bahamas that year) because her family, while cruising the Bahamas in 1961, had stopped at Little Stirrup Cay, when it was an untouched Bahamian gem of an island. If only Terry could see this now, I thought. Coco Cay is quite shocking. 

Phillip and I circled around Little Stirrup and headed into the inlet on the Atlantic side of Great Harbour Cay to drop the hook for the evening. Unfortunately, the anchorage did not offer the same serene charm as Little Harbour Cay with all of the Coco Cay “excursions” that were running about. We had jet skis circling us all afternoon and power boats zipping from island to island, chock full of Carnival cruisers. But, Phillip and I were there for a reason. We needed to scrub the bottom. We had been doing the bottom on our own while cruising in the Bahamas, which proved to be a rather easy, gratifying project. We only have to do it once a month or so. It only requires a couple of Scotch Brites and some healthy lungs. Or our Mantus Snuba set-up, which gives us each 15 minutes on either side to scrub the bottom and is a great portable little dive rig. We call it “snuba” because it’s a nice hybrid between scuba-diving and snorkeling. Thank you Mantus for another great product!

Scrubbing the bottom ourselves also gives us comfort laying hands on our own hull and making sure she’s in good shape, i.e., there are no blisters forming, or big paint patches chipping off. I honestly rather enjoy it. And, I knew it would be a while before we would be doing it again, so it was kind of like giving Plaintiff’s Rest a little love pat on the bottom before leaving her. Phillip and I were scrubbing the bottom that day because we knew our next stop was going to be Plaintiff’s Rest’s home for hurricane season and we wanted to park her with a clean bottom. 

Yep, you read that right. We did not sail our Niagara 35 back to Pensacola this past summer. While it was hard to do and a tough decision, it ended up being the right one for us and our boat. Thankfully … Next up on the blog, we will tell you all about the protected little hurricane hole in the Bahamas where we kept our baby girl this past season, where she weathered a massive storm that ravaged the Abacos only sixty miles to the north of her (Hurricane Dorian – uggh), and where she remained in incredibly-capable hands and under the watchful-eyes of amazingly gracious cruising friends. New ones at that! Cruising is most definitely all about the people. We have much to share about hurricane season this year. Stay tuned!

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Turtle Tales from Warderick Wells

Boo Hoo Hill, blowholes, a greeter shark … oh my! Warderick Wells was definitely our favorite stop in the Exumas this past spring. We only had time to visit a few Exuma islands before we had to move to get our boat back to safety before hurricane season began, but Phillip and I both are so glad we stretched our Exumas visit enough to let us enjoy this stunning Land and Sea park at Warderick Wells Cay. Here is where the island is located.

The natural deep channel that snakes through the harbor makes for some of the most stunning neon-streaked water views I’ve ever seen.

The snorkeling here was also some of the very best we’ve done to date. Being a Land and Sea Park it is a “no-take reserve” (meaning no fishing, poaching, or harvesting) making it a fabulous ecological preserve and wildlife refuge. 

The whole island really is breathtaking. I felt like a super model when I saw the photos of myself walking out of the water. It’s amazing what a beautiful Bahamian backdrop can do. Bo Derrick look out!

But, the island had so much more to offer than views:

The legend of Boo Hoo Hill, with its haunted howls from the souls that perished on a long-ago ship lost to the reef is a fun hike up the island and offers a signing tree with an amazing view. 

Emerald Rock gifted us with exceptional snorkeling just a short dinghy ride from our boat. I saw a baby puffer fish, a white speckled stingray, funky sea cucumbers, and a lion fish all in one dive. Sorry not sorry for the lack of underwater photos. I was living that moment! Not filming it. 

A friendly (I’m going to assume) nurse shark comes to visit every new boat that hooks onto a ball in the mooring channel. It was a little unnerving at first, knowing we were about to go snorkeling. But, when we saw him swim up to every other new boat that came in, we knew we were safe. It’s just a new breed of shark they have in the Exumas: a greeter shark. : )

There is also a sunken boat near Mooring Ball No. 10 that was really neat to dive. While the channel graciously offers enough depth for 20+ boats to cruise in, grab a ball for a few nights, and enjoy all the island has to offer, it is still only around 15-18-feet deep allowing for easy free-water diving and snorkeling. You can see the channel here that curves around, kind of like a fish hook.

Underneath the sunken boat, Phillip and I saw the biggest grouper and lobster we had both ever seen. The grouper had to be about four feet long, from nose to tail, and the lobster’s body was bigger than a basketball. Antennae to tail, he was probably longer than the grouper! We had to dive down 3-4 times to fully take them in. And, it was fun to learn from other cruisers who were there, as well as the Land and Sea Park staff, that the grouper and the lobster are apparently long-time friends who have been living under that boat for years. I wonder if they get tired of the lookie-loos … 

This is all just the tip of the Warderick iceberg. I could go on. But, when I was reflecting back on our time there—as Phillip and I are right now gearing up to kick off our cruising season this year, beginning again in the Bahamas—three distinct memories came back to me. One, I sent to Bob Bitchin in a fun “Annie-dotal” story he requested at the Annapolis Boat Show. Be on the lookout for that. It’s called They Don’t Answer Stupid Questions in the Bahamas. The other two I’ve written up for you below: 1) We Dropped the Ball; and 2) Our Time With a Turtle. : )

We Dropped the Ball

This was easily mine and Phillip’s biggest ever complete mooring ball FAIL. If you’ve ever felt like you have been “the show” in the mooring field, with everyone watching you miss the ball, lose a boat hook, trip on the deck, miss the ball again, curse, throw things, etc., don’t worry. We’ve been there, too. This was definitely our day to entertain the other boats already safely on their balls in Warderick Wells Cay. And, it was my day (of course!) to be Captain. 

Since I got my USCG license in 2017, Phillip and I try to share all roles on the boat equally … well, except when it comes to contorting into lazarettes and engine spaces. I seem to be more suited for that. But, when it comes to helming, navigating, sail trimming, deckhanding, etc., we try to keep it equal so we always have a good understanding of what the forces on the boat are doing and what the other crew member is experiencing or dealing with. It has been a very fruitful, eye-opening exercise for us as we continue to learn the obstacles and challenges unique to the traditional roles we use to play where Phillip always helmed, and I always ran around on deck like a jackrabbit on cocaine fending off and catching/tossing lines. While the mere role of Captain does not (on our boat) make one responsible for any snafoos, I will just go ahead and admit our epic fail that day was 100% my fault. But, thankfully, there was absolutely no damage, 0%, so it is now just a fun docking debacle story we get to share. As Bob Bitchin will tell you: The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is what?  Attitude. Love that guy!

So, after an unnerving exchange with Radio Lady, the Exumas Land and Sea Park gal at the headquarters who guided us in and assigned us our ball (you’ll read about her in an upcoming Lats and Atts issue), I was navigating our Niagara 35 along the narrow channel that I mentioned snakes through the harbor. It really is a fantastic, natural deep channel that—thankfully—allows us, on boats with a deep draft, to come in and enjoy this amazing place, but it was still a pretty tight little channel with a strong current pushing us toward our ball that did not have me feeling comfortable about turning around in it.

If I could avoid turning around in it, I was sure going to, which is why I told Phillip as we were approaching our ball to “Grab it at the bow.” My thinking being he would secure the ball to a bow cleat, the current would push and whip us around in a nice, tight little circle leaving us safe and latched on the ball once the boat got turned in the right direction. A great plan, right? Many of you more experienced helmsmen probably had the same reaction Phillip did.

“I think we should pass the ball, turn around, then try to get the ball as we’re approaching it, against the current,” Phillip said.

That would have brilliant. That’s not what I did. I told you I did not want to turn around. 

“Try your best to get the ball at the bow as I come up on it,” I told him. And, he did, but the current proved to be too much for him to hold it. After Phillip dropped it, I saw the ball coming up near me at the stern, and my inner deckhand/jackrabbit took over. I left the helm and grabbed the ball. But, oddly, with the ball saddled up on our port stern and the current streaming by, it was just the right cocktail of forces to park us. The boat was just sitting. Happily stopped. Only problem was we were backwards, and not secure on the ball. I gave Phillip a funny “What now?” look when he made it back to the cockpit, and he gave me a “Well, you’re the Captain” look in return. Or maybe it was a “this was your idea” look. Yeah, that was probably it. And, he was right. This was my mess. So, I decided we would walk the ball up to the bow together and secure it. A great plan, right?

Wrong again, Captain Annie.

I could just feel all eyes of the anchorage on us. Rightfully so. If I were them, I would have plopped down on my bow with a drink in hand for the free show! Cruising is full of them! As soon as Phillip and I got the ball near the bow and the boat started to turn around, she had somehow gathered the force of a thousand horses. When the current caught her stern and slung her around, it was so hard and fast that the rope loop from the ball jerked out of both mine and Phillip’s hands at the same time (leaving me with blood blisters). Suddenly we were drifting back to the edge of the channel with no one at the helm. It’s deep in the middle of that channel, but it is super shallow on either side. There’s not much room to avoid running aground.

I flew back to the cockpit to grab the helm and throw her in forward to stay in the channel. Phillip was absolutely right. It became immediately clear to me that approaching the ball using the current as a pushback was the best way to do it. It’s like docking with a head wind, much easier than with wind that is shoving you into the slip. I just did not want to turn around in that tight spot with the current.

Funny thing is, I got my wish. Because I didn’t turn us around. The current did! Along with our masterful ball-handling. (Sure, go ahead. Make all the jokes you want to right there.) While we were thrilled to finally be safe on the mooring at Warderick Wells Cay, it was clear that Phillip and I had definitely dropped the ball. 

Our Time With a Turtle

To date, this is still my #1 turtle experience ever, although I’m eager to collect more. Phillip and I were diving that sunken boat near Ball No. 10 that I mentioned, when he spotted a turtle on the bottom. Our entire time in the Bahamas, we had not yet had a good turtle spotting. They are just so fast … and shy. The minute they sense you are looking at them, the head pops down, and the turtle takes off. We chased many in our dinghy, but chase was all we did. By the time we had gone through Bimini, Andros, and Nassau, to make it to the Exumas, I was dying for a date with a turtle. And, boy did I get it! 

This little guy was munching sea grass on the bottom, minding his own business, enjoying his lunch, when Phillip pointed him out to me. Well, and I say “little,” but he was the biggest one I’ve seen that close-up. His shell was probably 2.5 feet in diameter. A decent-sized turtle. I stopped kicking and wading, thinking surely he would high-tail it out of there the minute he noticed me, like most other turtles always did, and I watched him in complete still-mode for a bit. It was cute to watch his little head extend out from his shell as he would turn it to the side and get a nice big sea grass bite. I could even hear him chewing! I watched him munch and crunch for about two minutes, then he started to make his way to the top for a breath of air. 

Phillip was about 5-6 feet away from me, watching the turtle and other things swimming around the sunken boat when the turtle stated to rise between us, putting him about 2 feet away from me, and 2 feet away from Phillip. Either one of us could have reached out and touched him! But, Turtle Guy was just slowly swimming up, not paying us any mind. Phillip and I were struck still with saucer eyes watching him. Then, a few feet shy of the top, the turtle stopped and waved his little turtle arms in a pattern to hold him steady. He turned and slowly looked at Phillip, holding his stunned gaze for a few seconds, then paddled his arms some more so he could slowly turn and look at me. The turtle and I locked eyes for another few seconds, then he kept on his path, making his way to the top, and we all broached the surface together to take a breath: me, Phillip, and Turtle Guy. Like we were some happy trio snorkeling together. That was a surreal moment we shared with a turtle. 

The turtle kept his head above water in between us for five seconds or so, then he slowly swam on down the same path back to the bottom to get back to his munching. He did this two or three times, heading down to munch for 3-4 minutes then swimming back up to take a breath and the three of us would all broach together and breathe together. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had while cruising. Phillip and I decided later—when we were giggling and falling all over each other in the dinghy re-living our turtle experience—that when he turned and looked at each of us, he was just taking us in, deciding if we were enemies or friends. Phillip and I both decided he saw us as friends, which is why he was fine to keep doing his thing and letting us tag along. I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever gotten the nod of approval from a turtle, you feel just about as “one with the earth” as possible. And, even had my underwater GoPro been working, and had I captured a shot of him, I don’t think it would have done it justice, and it probably would have hindered my enjoyment. It felt nice to just be one with the turtle without the blinking red light. I will never forget that moment. 

Hope you all enjoyed the Warderick Wells tales! I would encourage any cruiser heading anywhere near the northern Exumas to plan to pull into Warderick Wells Cay and stay on a ball for a few days. It is a “must-see” place.

Next up in blog time, we’ll head back to the Berries, to gunkhole one of our favorite groups of islands, before we tuck into a new marina to stash our boat for hurricane season. Stay tuned!

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Our Annapolis TOP TEN

Whew! We had to give it a week to let the dust settle (and our lungs settle). The day after Phillip and I got back from Annapolis, my chest turned into a raging, burning battlefield. I can’t imagine there is anything left in my head and lungs to hack up, but it somehow miraculously keeps coming. Phillip and I both got monstrously sick after we returned from Annapolis. Did anyone else get walloped with the cold/flu last week? Man, it makes me appreciate my health! The good news is we are on the mend this week (with at least one lung each still in tact), and I’m eager to share some of the awesome highlights from our first trip ever to the Annapolis Sailboat Show!

While the entire week was jam-packed with events, talks, boats, and beers, ten very fun memories seemed to bubble to mind when Phillip and I reflected back on our week in Annapolis. From #10 down to #1, here they are!

10.  Seeing Bob With His Bitchin Award (the Sailing Industry Distinguished Service Award, a handsome Barometer from Weems & Plath)

While I was going to say “getting a bitchin hug” was number ten on this list, Bob’s goofy, happy face when he showed me his award was even better than his massive bear hug.  The moment after he let me out of his grip, Bob tugged me into his booth and started telling me about the award he had been given just that morning.  

“Only Gary Jobson, Alastair Cook, Peter Harken, and Olaf Harken have got this award in the past,” Bob told me. “I guess the world went crazy this morning and decided to put me up there with the lot of them.” Ever the humble one. But, Bob was so cute holding his award (a stunning Weems & Plath barometer engraved with his name) up high and pasting on a goofy smile to pose with it.  I was proud to snap the photo and be able to share the moment with him.  His genuine humility and excitement from it were infectious.  Well done, Bob!  No one deserves it more! And, seeing Bob and Jody at the boat shows always brings a smile (and a hug!).

9. Watching the Show Flood Out

This was not so much a highlight as a shock. On Friday while Phillip and I were walking around the show, we watched as many of the entrances and exits from the show began to fill with flood waters, making it difficult to navigate our way out and back to the Calvert House on State Circle where we were staying.  (That is also where a portion of Cruiser’s University was held.) On Saturday morning, we were told that the combination of seasonal high tides, a full moon, and Tropical Storm Melissa, which stalled off the eastern seaboard, caused flooding throughout downtown Annapolis, leading city officials to close Spa Creek Bridge and Compromise Street, among other streets. 

While walking around the boat show on Saturday, we began to see water creep up to a foot or more around many of the booths. Flooding forced visitors to trudge through water when making their way to boats and between booths. Unfortunately, we saw an older gentleman trip on a pallet and fall into the water near one booth. As attorneys with our red liability flags definitely up at that point, Phillip and I were sure they were going to cancel the show any minute to avoid injury. It was sad to see some vendors suffer damage to their goods, although the running joke was that Gil and the other foul weather vendors were killing it selling boots and waiters left and right. Bob Bitchin even caught a video of a guy paddling through the show. It was wild! 

Studies show between 1957 and 1963, Annapolis averaged roughly four floods each year. That jumped to nearly 40 floods each year between 2007 and 2013, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can read more about these stats and the flooding during the boat show here.

8. Knowing No Matter How Many Fancy New Boats We Stepped On, Ours Is Still the Best!

It’s true! In our minds anyway. Every new boat we toured made me appreciate the simplicity, capability, and comfort of our 1985 Niagara 35. The perfect boat for me and Phillip. Perfect because we made it that way, and perfect because it has only the bare necessities and only the necessary luxuries, and nothing more. No matter your boat preference, I found it hard to swallow several myths like these which were touted as truth at the show:

New Boat Myths (Do NOT Fall for These!):

  • Newer means better.
  • Catamarans are always more spacious, more comfortable, and faster.
  • No heeling means no seasickness.
  • Two helms and a wider cockpit make for smoother, drier sailing.
  • Handholds and fiddles can be sacrificed for a pretty interior.
  • Natural ventilation can be sacrificed for AC.
  • The more AC, gen-power, and thru-hulls the better. 
  • In-mast furling mains are a good idea.

Call me a purist, but I thought 59-North’s Swan 59, Ice Bear, was the most capable offshore boat I stepped on at the boat show. The minute I saw a boat that had a dumbwaiter from the galley below up through a hole in the deck to the cockpit, I knew I had stepped into some alternate universe where boats are designed more to entertain than perform.

That’s not to say all of those shiny fiberglass beauties wouldn’t be fun to travel and live on, I just bet an older, 35-footer would out-perform many of them in an offshore sail. Hands down. And, that was a good feeling to have while tip-toeing around on many million-dollar boats: a complete lack of envy or desire knowing the best boat for us is already ours.  Plaintiff’s Rest, you rock!

7. Honor, Courage, Commitment: Touring and Jogging the United States Naval Academy

Phillip had his eyes set on the United States Naval Academy from the moment we booked the trip. While I believe the Marines don’t like to say it out loud, they technically are a branch of the Navy, so, as a Marine himself, Phillip was really excited to see the campus and learn more about the history and traditions. The USNA offers tours on the hour every hour, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. weekdays for only $12.00 and it was well worth it. Even without a military background myself, I was still very impressed with the rich history of the buildings and the many monuments inside that are testaments to great battles and achievements of the Navy and its many sailors.

The Statute of Tecumseh, which faces Bancroft Hall, the dormitory for 4,400 midshipmen attending the USNA was a highlight. Tecumseh has become not only the “God of 2.0” — the passing grade point average at the academy — but also the idol to whom loyal midshipmen give prayers and sacrificial offerings of pennies. Midshipmen offer a left-handed salute in tribute to Tecumseh, and they toss pennies his way for good luck in exams and athletic contests. We also learned about USNA Heisman trophy winner Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach and saw many of the impressive athletic records held by USNA students dating all the way back to the early 1900’s in a dizzying array of sports from wrestling to swimming to football to soccer to diving to lacrosse to golf to tennis. The USNA students spend approximately two hours each day in rigorous physical activity, which is why they feed them 3,500-4,000 calories a day in the Mess Hall. 

Two things about the USNA stuck out for me: 1) the tradition of capping the Herndon Mount; and 2) our morning jog around the campus on Andy’s recommendation. The Herndon Mount tradition marks the end of “plebe year.”  All freshmen entering the USNA must spend the summer before their first school year at the academy in rigorous training where they wear the traditional sailor whites (think the Cracker Jack guy) complete with a white dixie cup hat.  At the end of their plebe year, the plebes must work together to rush Herndon Mount (a monument on campus, that is greased to the nines for the occasion), scale the statute, and replace the dixie cup hat on top with an upper classman’s hat. Seeing the images of the plebes working together to build a human pyramid to accomplish this was really something. (We won’t mention the fact that it’s a pile of ripped, sweaty men – that had nothing to do with it for me … nothing at all : )

And, my second favorite memory of the academy was the bright early morning jog Phillip and I took around the campus on Friday morning of the show. We had just met Andy Schell from 59-North (more on him below) the previous day and had mentioned our tour of the USNA. If you know Andy, you know he’s a pretty fit dude (and he knows we pride physical fitness, too). I mean, health and time are really the only commodities worth protecting and stockpiling. So, Andy recommended Phillip and I jog the USNA campus in the early morning, right at sunrise. While I figured it would be refreshing, I did not think it would be so transformative. These was just something about running with all of the other young Navy students who were out that morning in the crisp fall air as the sun rose above the Chesapeake Bay that made Phillip and I feel strong, young, and connected to something bigger than us. I imagine many USNA midshipmen feel that way often when they work together to accomplish something momentous, be it an offshore sail, a football game, a swim meet, or a capping of Herndon Mount! Our hearts pounding and our lungs filled with cool, crisp air that stunning morning, I think Phillip and I got just a tiny sliver of what the team spirit of the Navy must feel like. The Naval Academy definitely rubbed off on us.  

6. Getting Front “Row” Seats for Our Best Meal of the Trip

And, let me say first of all picking a top meal was exceedingly difficult in a place where everything starts with fresh, Chesapeake Bay crab. I think ate a total of four crab-themed omelets in the course of three days, then there were the lobster rolls at Mason’s, the breakfast bowl at Iron Rooster, the hot Nashville cornmeal fried-oyster sandwich (that Phillip devoured) at Miss Shirley’s Cafe, the Senator breakfast at Chick and Ruth’s Delly. Lord, stop me now. I’m gaining weight just thinking about it again. The food in Annapolis was jaw-dropping, and I don’t regret a single bite. 

But, our favorite meal of the trip—as it almost always is every time we travel, the one that has that special je ne said quoi—was the one we had aboard a friend’s boat who was anchored up in Spa Creek for the Boat Show. I’ve mentioned Russell Frazer on this blog several times before. He is a long-time delivery captain and he and his wife, Lynn, are exceptionally capable and knowledgeable sailors who Phillip and I have had the pleasure of knowing for several years now through the blog. Russell and Lynn gave us some great advice on how to rig our whisker pole and about swapping to a composting head, both of which I have written up here on the blog. So, when we learned Russell and Lynn were going to be aboard their boat, a gorgeous Kelly Peterson 42 s/v Blue Highway in Spa Creek for the boat show, we knew we we definitely wanted to meet up. What we did not know is that Russell and Lynn were going to invite us for a fantastic Moroccan lamb dish (Lamb Tagine) and Key Lime Pie aboard their boat (the cockpit is always the best seat for dinner), complete with a chauffeured row from the dinghy dock on the end of Market Street in downtown Annapolis. That meal was such a treat! Thanks again, Russell and Lynn, for the invite and superb job hosting!

5.  Meeting Long-time, Online Friends for the First Time Face-to-Face

Andy and Mia with 59-North

That’s right. All these years emailing and chatting with Andy and Mia from 59-North online, following their offshore travels, and listening to Andy’s exceptional podcastsOn the Wind and How I Think About Sailing, and Phillip and I had never before met the two in person. Meeting Andy and Mia was something Phillip and I had been looking forward to for months before the show as we really admire Andy and Mia, both for the adventure and offshore education they offer and the mutual passion for offshore sailing that we all share. Andy’s serious side, his philosophical nature, and his respect for all aspects of boat-building, maintenance, and handling, in particular, speak deeply to Phillip, and I know Phillip was eager for the chance to shake Andy’s hand and thank him for the incredible knowledge he continues to share with sailors all over the world. 

For me, meeting Mia was a real treat as I have admired her tenacity and courage in jumping on a boat with Andy to sail the world (much like I did with Phillip) and for pursuing her Yachtmasters license while showing the world you don’t need formal training (or testosterone) to be a good sailor, and more importantly, a good captain. You just need a level head, good instincts, and listening skills. Mia was also much more bubbly and giddy in person than I would have expected, and she brought out my inner girl, which was really fun!  Proof: Girls rock.  They just do!

Rob and Liz Miller

Remember when I was on Patreon, using the crowd funds to give several lucky winners the Gift of Cruising?  Well, Rob and Liz Miller were our 3rd Gift of Cruising winners, and I partnered with Andy Shell of 59-North Sailing to send Rob Miller on a 10-day cruise along the Leeward Islands from the BVIs to Grenada and back.  

Rob and Liz have been long-time followers at HaveWind and have followed mine and Philip’s travels from the beginning, finding inspiration in our content to fuel their own cruising dreams.  Rob has been working on renovating a beautiful Slocum 42 boat and rig it out so he and Liz can shove off on their own cruise through the islands next year!  Having emailed and spoke with Rob and Liz for years, it was wonderful to finally put faces to names (and big bear hug arms around them) when we got to meet in person at the boat show!  Ironically, we had so much fun chatting we forgot to snap any photos of the four of us, but Rob and Liz joined us on the sail on the Woodwind that Andy and Mia hosted and we had a fantastic time!  I took this photo of Liz and Brian Trautman – what a great one!  : )  

Rob, Liz, it was such a treat to finally get the opportunity to give you two a hug and share a drink (or five!).  We can’t wait to see where your own cruising dreams take you. Phillip and I hope the next time we meet up it will be out on the water on our boats!

4. Getting a VIP Top-Down Ride to Weems & Plath for a Personal Tour

That’s what happens when you travel with Pam Wall. That lady can open some doors, I tell you! Weems & Plath sponsors Pam Wall on her talks and boat show presentations, so she is always eager to share word of their fantastic products and encourage many boat show attendees to stop by their shop in Annapolis for the “dent & bent” sale they host every year during the boat show. Pam wanted to take Phillip and I by so she called the Weems office and asked for a ride and what would you know: a convertible pulls up to take us there in high style!

We got a personal tour of the facility by Drew and learned a ton about what they are doing with OGM lights. These things burn for 50k+ hours and can be seen for miles. They are phenomenal safety devices with technology in the LED field improving every year!

I also picked up their Road Rules and Light Rules sliding rulers which are great nav aids to keep in the cockpit to make sense of all of the different light combinations you can see on passing ships at night, as well as buoys and markers and rules of the road. They were half-off at the sale! I was also impressed with their CrewWatcher product: a bluetooth device the crew member on watch can wear around his or her neck. In case they go overboard, it sounds an alarm on a phone on the boat with GPS coordinates to easily find and retrieve the man overboard. What a (literal) life-saver!

3.  Sailing on Woodwind with 59-North, Delos, and Sailing Totem!

We didn’t even know Delos was coming to the show until a few weeks before the event. While Andy and Mia had been planning to host an informative, fun presentation on Friday night as a “happy hour” event with a talk, we were totally down with them deciding to cancel that when they learned Delos was coming so they could host an afternoon sail and joint YouTube sailing panel discussion instead. What a treat! Andy and Mia hosted a large party on the schooner Andy used to crew on in the Chesapeake Bay, the elegant s/v Woodwind, and invited Brian and Brady from Delos, along with Behan and Jamie from Sailing Totem aboard for two wonderful hours out on the water with a stunning view of the boat show in our wake. While I had met Brian earlier in the week (do NOT miss #1 on this list ; ), this was my first time meeting Brady, and they were both beyond chill, just great guys who love to sail and have a good time. It was a real honor getting to hang out with them, as well as Andy and Mia and Behan and Jamie. The boat show was my first time meeting Behan as well, with Pam earlier in the week during Cruiser’s University, and she is an incredibly sweet, knowledgeable sailor. Phillip and I both felt like we were having mini star-struck moments all week, and our sail on the Woodwind was the explosive finale!

2.  Speaking with Pam Wall

This just warmed my heart. Hearing Pam step up time and again to share her story, her sailing background, how she met Andy Wall, how they built the most beautiful Freya and sailed around the world with their two darling kids, Jamie and Samantha. I never get tired of hearing it; which is great, because Pam never gets tired of telling it! Bless her sweet, salty soul! Pam is committed to helping any person with the dream to go cruising to shove off tomorrow and make it happen. She is an abundant wealth of information (frankly, it shocks me how much she can remember with all of the world-travels and adventures she has packed into one lifetime) but also a humble, kind, caring friend. I will cherish forever the day I met her (and took her to lunch!). We are bonded for life, and I cannot thank her enough for allowing me the honor of standing on the stage with her and sharing what little, but important, lessons I have learned the last six years sailing with Phillip. Speaking with you, Pam, was a real honor.

1. Getting Recognized Right in Front of Delos! : D

This was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me in my “HaveWind” career (if you can call it that – I just call it one helluva good time!). So, we all know Brian Trautman from Delos, right? He’s like a mega-celebrity in the world of sailing. (And boy you should have seen the lines that formed around him and Brady day in and day out at the show! Yet, they were always so humble and patient; they shook every hand and smiled for every photo – thousands of them!) Like many of you would be, I was super star-struck when I saw Brian for the first time. It was when Phillip and I were touring Andy and Mia’s Ice Bear, and Brian just happened to be aboard. Phillip and I both spotted him but he was talking to another gentleman at the time and we didn’t want to barge in, so we both waited (I was in the galley talking to a very interesting Ice Bear crew member and Phillip was in the saloon).

As soon as the man Brian was talking to seemed to be wrapping up and getting ready to head topside, I started to mozy toward Brian so I could meet him and shake his hand (and gush like a little girl). But, suddenly, they guy he had been talking to turned around and shouted “ANNIE DIKE?! The Annie Dike?!” Right in front of Brian, the Captain of s/v Delos … this guy has an Annie fit? What would you do? I tossed my hair over my shoulder, giggled and said “Why yes, yes it’s me!” while hugging the man and giving Brian a hilarious this happens all the time look. I couldn’t have asked for better timing. Thank you fan dude, wherever you are, for giving me that Delos-worthy ahhhh moment. I felt just a bit famous! Phillip said Brian looked like he recognized me without the spotting; I’ll take his word for it. But, after I finished with fan-man, I got to give Brian a big hug and meet him, too. That was probably our favorite moment of the trip! Star-struck!

Was I holding on to him too tight? Maybe just a little! : ) Wouldn’t you?

What a wonderful time we had in Annapolis. It was so much fun meeting both our “sail-ebrities” and feeling like some ourselves when folks would stop Phillip and I with a “Is that HaveWind?” look on their face and tell us how we inspired them. Phillip and I were humbled time and again and had a great time meeting so many diverse and entertaining sailors. We all have a story, and we all have dreams ahead. Life is about living and sharing them, and Annapolis really solidified that for us. We hope you’ve enjoyed the recap. We’ll return with some more Exumas wonders next time! Stay tuned!

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Notorious Norman’s Cay – Home of Ill-Fated Legends and the Fyre Festival Fraud

You can’t blame the notorious for coming here.  I mean, look at the place.  

Norman’s Cay in the Exumas is nothing short of stunning.  It’s that unparalleled pairing of enticing tan sand, shimmering jewel-blue water, kissing a deep blue sky.  

So many of the islands throughout the Bahamas, and particularly in the Exumas look like this.  Yet, Norman’s has some impressive but ominous history.  I’ll have to consult with my lawyers, but I think I can rightfully say this: The island was once owned by Pablo Escobar.  

Norman’s Rule by Drug Giants, Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder

Unfortunately, in Florida, we are all too familiar with the Escobar name.  But, you cannot deny his craft and cunning as a pure business man.  Escobar saw, seized, and subjugated an opportunity that made incomprehensible millions.  But, a man cannot run an empire like that alone.  In the last 1970’s and early 80’s Norman’s Cay was primarily operated by Carlos Lehder, a fellow member of the Medellín cartel, as a transshipment base for smuggling cocaine from Columbia into the U.S.  Lehder hooked up with business partner George Jung during a stint in prison where he learned Jung had been smuggling marijuana into the U.S. via plane. Lehder, however, convinced Jung it was in his and the cartel’s best interest to begin smuggling cocaine via plane instead.  At the time, Lehder was one of Escobar’s right-hand men.

Lehder eventually constructed a 3,300-foot (1,000 m) long runway for his fleet of smuggling aircraft. To protect the island, he planted armed guards and attack dogs all along the beaches and runway, as well as radar to identify and fend off any pilot foolish enough to try and land there. The island was a strategic point for Colombian drug flights to refuel and rest before proceeding to the United States.  

And, as a drug hub, the island, not surprisingly, became a location for some serious partying.  With Lehder allegedly pulling in over $300 million a year off the operation, some partying stands to reason. Norman’s Cay was described as a “ … playground. I have a vivid picture of being picked up in a Land Rover with the top down and naked women driving to come and welcome me from my airplane,” one of Lehder’s men was quoted saying.  

The remnants of Lehder’s party palace on Norman’s Cay

“And there we partied. And it was … drugs, sex, no police… you made the rules… and it was fun.”  I’ll bet.  That’s probably the reason Norman’s Cay was chosen as the location for the fated Fyre Festival—the greatest party that never happened.  

The Fyre Festival Fraud

Did any of you hear about this or watch the documentary? The Fyre Festival was touted as the most luxurious, wild island party to ever occur, with intoxicating promo videos, models running all over the island titillating viewers, with promises of the best music talent in the industry performing at an island-wide nonstop music fest for days.  Go on, watch the trailer.  See what they promised:

Without spoiling the movie, I can at least say an all-out magnificent party did NOT happen, but the tale behind the hype and fall-out is mesmerizing.  Thousands of people bought tickets, costing thousands of dollars each.  Millions of people followed, commented, and shared.  It was an insanely successful … promotion.  Here is the official trailer for the official Netflix documentary – definitely watch it:

Interestingly, much of the Fyre Festival’s collapse centered around the marketing team’s forbidden statement that the island was once owned by Pablo Escobar. Apparently that name ignites certain feelings (and legal ramifications).  Ironically, it turned out in trying to capitalize on the legend of Escobar, Lehder, Jung, and the like, the Fyre Festival suffered the same fate: eventual demise. 

After an impressive five-year run dominating Norman’s Cay exclusively for the cartel’s cocaine trade, the Bahamian authorities began to crack down in 1982, allegedly in response to pressure from the United States, and Lehder was eventually arrested in Columbia in 1987.  His property was confiscated.  He stood trial in the U.S. and was convicted on all counts in 1988.  A fitting fate for a drug dealer. But, in another nod to their notorious past, Hollywood decided to commemorate their epic venture through Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in the 2001 movie, Blow, which was based on the cocaine escapades of Jung, Lehder, and Escobar.

While Norman’s Cay is now a wonderful addition to the Exumas, offering idyllic strolls on the beach, and fantastic rum drinks, island food, and waterview cottages for rent at the long-standing MacDuff’s Cottages and Restaurant, there is one icon on the island that stands out among others: the (alleged) drug plane that sunk in the shallows of Norman’s Cay’s cut. While much speculation circles this plane, surmising it must have crashed because it was weighed down by too many kilos of cocaine, or because the pilot and crew were blitzed out of their minds, I found this seemingly honest account from the mouth of Jack Reed, Carlos Lehder’s first pilot and resident on Norman’s Cay during the late 1970’s. This paraphrased excerpt comes from the book ‘Buccaneer: The Provocative Odyssey of Jack Reed, Adventurer, Drug Smuggler, and Pilot Extraordinaire’ by Jack Reed & Maycay Beeler and was posted at https://www.outislandlifebahamas.com/2017/03/the-plane-wreck-of-normans-cay/.

The Iconic Sunken Plane

During Lehder’s reign over Norman’s Cay, an old C-46 World War II aircraft appeared piloted by one “British Andy.”  As a large twin-engine transport plane utilized to carry troops and cargo, Andy thought it would serve as a good transport in Lehder’s fleet.  While Lehder did not end up buying the plane, Andy left it there as a memento anyway. 

Legend had it, British Andy had a drinking problem (not surprising), and had been known to take along a six-pack for company on many of his flights (a bit surprising). Being on a short vacation seemed like a reasonable excuse for starting his favorite pastime first thing in the morning, even a morning he decided to drop by the airport, being a bit tipsy, to “fire-up the old sled and shoot some touch and goes” which is pilot language for practice take-offs and landings. An unsuspecting Columbian lad joined Andy on his venture and off they went.

As Andy made his approach for the first landing, he miscalculated the beginning of the runway and touched down short. Realizing his error at the last moment, he gave the old girl full throttle to execute a go-around. To his great dismay, he clipped an earthen berm, tearing the left landing gear loose from its housing, leaving it dangling from the aircraft by cables and hoses. The plane then dipped low enough for the propeller on the left engine to strike the runway – bending it – and rendering it useless. With the right engine roaring and straining to keep the plane airborne, a bit of altitude was gained, but it was only enough to clear the runway and make a slow settling arc to the left.  The plane ran out of flying speed and altitude about a block offshore of the marina in front of the hotel and belly-flopped to a splashing spectacular halt in shallow water, leaving roughly half of it submerged.

Many allegedly witnessed this fiasco. A boat at the marina made a quick trip to the site of the crash and rescued the two survivors, neither of whom had a scratch. Lehder furnished transportation for the embarrassed pilot back to the states, but the plane has sat in this location for decades, deteriorating, and being slightly repositioned by passing hurricanes. 

Here are the Fyre models snorkeling around the plane. I’m sure I looked just like that when we dove it. Even in my platypus suit.

Our Visit to Norman’s Cay

After spending a fabulous, indulgent night at Highbourne Cay, wining and dining ourselves silly at Xuma’s restaurant, Phillip and I weighed anchor the following morning and sailed over to Norman’s Cay. We were excited to spend the day exploring the island, snorkeling the famous sunken plane, and ending the full-day adventure with a filling meal and drinks at MacDuff’s restaurant.  And that is exactly what we did! Norman’s Cay, despite its ominous history, still offered a beautiful, bright sunny day on exquisite beaches followed by a fun, atmosphere at MacDuff’s and a chance to fill our bellies with a fresh catch.

While there were no sightings of Lehder’s ghost, we did spot a massive barracuda (easily four feet long) who lives in the sunken plane and eyes you menacingly if you swim too close.  Come to think of it, his eyes kind of reminded me of Lehder … 

All of these wonderful islands, with their legends and local treasures await!  We hope many of you are already planning your trip to the Exumas this coming year!  Help rebuild the Bahamas through tourism.  Next up, we will take you to our most stunning stop in the Exumas, and our favorite destination during our entire Bahamas voyage last year: Warderick Wells Cay. Stay tuned! 

References:

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/business/cay.html

https://www.britannica.com/place/Normans-Cay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blow_(film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman%27s_Cay

https://www.coastalliving.com/lifestyle/fyre-festival-normans-cay

Some great photos of the cartel remnants in Norman’s Cay – http://abnf.co/BAH-Norman%27s%20Cay%20Island.htm

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Our First Taste of the Exumas: Living Large at Highbourne Cay

While I feel very lucky Phillip and I cruised the Abacos last year when they were still intact, I feel even more lucky that in “blog time” I am now able to share the wonderful islands that still remain.  I don’t mind saying it again—remember: The best way to help the Bahamas rebuild, is to continue to visit the islands that were spared.  And, why would you not?  When this awaits!

This was mine and Phillip’s first introduction to the Exuuuummmaaas: Highbourne Cay!  If you recall our stop into Morgan’s Bluff on the north tip of Andros was an unexpected, but highly-rewarding, detour.  We had been getting our teeth kicked in sailing into some rough winds coming out of the Northwest Providence Channel that were unexpectedly more southeast than south, the exact direction we would have to sail if we wanted to go directly to the Exumas from Bimini (which had been our original plan).  But, go where the weather takes you, right?  And Andros really wowed us, even with just a short overnight stay.  As I mentioned previously, we are definitely planning to spend more time there this coming season and fully explore all that the Andros Barrier Reef has to offer! Our goal this past season, however, was to get to the Exumas.  Phillip and I had not cruised them yet, and we had heard from so many other cruisers how enchanting and unique they are.  So, we said “See you later, Andros!”  It was Exumas or bust. 

And, wouldn’t you know it. Those winds that were bashing us around the day before laid down and shifted more to the south, allowing us to sail … for a bit … until they completely died.  

You know there are only three kinds of wind, don’t you?  What are you gonna do?  We spent a wonderful day motoring across the Tongue of the Ocean, however, with the trolling line out, mind you.  Thinking surely we would catch another nice whopping fish (now, when it was calm and we had nothing else to really do).  But, no, the seas have quite the sense of humor.  I’m starting to think there are only three types of fish, too: 1) the monsters that bite at the worst time; 2) the even bigger catches that would impress all your friends that never bite at all (or take your lure if they do); and 3) the little ones you catch often but they’re too small to keep.  Would you agree?  Phillip and I definitely would have loved to have another guy like this to have bitten when we were crossing the deep blue!

But, fish.  What are you gonna do?  You’re going to eat wine and cheese instead!  That’s what you’re going to do.  

We have plenty of that on-board, and a nice easy passage made for a nice wine, cheese, and book session.  I believe I was reading Where the Crawdads Sing at that time.  Could not put it down.  Any of you read that one?  Or let me know what your other favorite read has been recently.  I absolutely devour books when we’re on passage.  It’s my favorite time to read!  : )

We eased into sunset and around the east tip of Nassau, where we really had to watch the AIS traffic. When we spent those three torturous months in the Pensacola Shipyard with Brandon at Perdido Sailor back in 2016, we installed AIS on the boat.  Man, life on the hard. Those are some hard-earned, well-worth-it memories!

Although we only receive AIS transmissions, we do not transmit, Phillip and I have found it to be a fantastic addition to the boat.  I love (love, love!) that when it’s completely dark out, cloudy, with no moon or stars to light the horizon on a night passage, that at least AIS is looking out and showing me where the boats are.  It is also immensely comforting to have AIS tell me how big the other ships are, which way they are going, and what our CPA (closest point of approach) is.  Phillip and I will never regret the decision to install AIS.  Also, this may sound silly to admit, but it is rather entertaining at night.  Phillip and I hold two-hour shifts on and off and sometimes those two hours can tick by rather slowly.  It’s kind of fun to click on AIS and see who else is out there, what is their ship name, how big is it, and even hale them on the radio if you need to communicate a safe passing.  I was sure glad we had it, too, on my shift that night, as this is what Nassau looked like when we rounded the bend.  A web of ships!

We had set our sights on Highbourne Cay, one of the most northern of the Exumas and a good “dive in” point for the Exumas as they have a little marina there with fuel and a few sparse provisions.  

It would be the last marina we would see in the Exumas for a while, so we planned to drop the hook on the lee side of Highbourne Cay and spend a fun day exploring Highbourne and the surrounding islands. And the Exumas immediately began welcoming us with a glistening, dazzling show! As we started to near Highbourne Cay, the dark, deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean began to shallow and transform into this crystalline blue.  It was absolutely stunning.  Hard to believe our boat was swishing and swaying though such a breathtaking jeweled surface.  

Phillip and I both couldn’t stop staring and taking pictures.  Well, okay I was the one taking the pictures.  It’s tough being the ship’s historian.  Someone’s gotta take all the selfies to prove we were there!  : )

The folks at the Highbourne Cay Marina were super helpful and friendly and got us all topped up for our planned passages further down into the Exumas.  We arrived fairly early in the morning with an open day ahead, which Phillip naturally filled with wonderful plans to dinghy a bit to the north up to South Allan’s Island and Iguana Beach.  That man is the best trip planner; he always picks something fun, interesting, active, and usually delicious.  I am one lucky gal I will tell you that.  

On the way up, we found a beautiful little reef to snorkel and threw out our trusty Mantus dinghy anchor.  That thing is such an asset on the dinghy.  Very well-designed, super functional, and—once dug in—mighty strong. 

The anchorage there at South Allan’s was stunning.  Staying the night on the hook in there would feel like you have the world to yourself. 

Well, you and the lizards!  There were plenty of them on Iguana Beach.  

Are iguanas lizards?  Maybe not.  Hopefully I didn’t offend them in my squeaky “I want a lizard selfie” run to the beach!  : )


There is a lizard back there, I promise. I don’t like to get too close to things that can leap and claw my eyes out.

Dinghying back to our boat is when I took this famous shot of our stern. The water in the Exumas was definitely of another caliber.

For dinner that night we decided to dinghy ashore and eat at the Xuma restaurant the guys at the marina had told us about, which from a quick stroll-by earlier that day, looked fabulous.  So, Phillip and I made the absolute perfect decision to blow our load there that night and splurge on an insanely-indulgent fine-dining dinner at Highbourne Cay.  Besides, we had to celebrate and cheers our first stop in the Exumas.  It took years of planning, hard work, saving, and some rather grueling boat projects to get our boat this far.  It was worth every cent, every calorie.  Some meals just are.  

Next up, we’ll take you to Norman’s Cay with its sunken drug plane and the famous MacDuff’s Restaurant.  Cheers!

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The Best Dorian Relief: Go Visit the Spared Bahamian Islands!

I’ve been struggling to write this, or write or post anything actually, here at HaveWind in the tragic aftermath of Dorian.  I can only imagine what it is like right now, boots on the ground, with fresh water and supplies running low, people injured and unable to get medical help, not to mention the heartbreaking decimation of so many beautiful houses, marinas, and restaurants.  Although Plaintiff’s Rest was mercifully spared, how can I post photos of us smiling, out on the boat, saying, look at us: “Just another great day sailing” [happy face] when so many others have lost so much?  I just can’t.  To be honest, other than sharing relief effort links and donating and contributing ourselves, I didn’t know what else to say.  Hence the recent silence and the last photo I posted anywhere:

But, thankfully, this is why I have Phillip.  My idea guy.  This is what he said:

“Tell them the best thing they can do to help the Bahamas recover and rebuild is to continue visiting the islands that were spared.”

Brilliant.  You can see why I love that man.  

I realized how insightful he was and how right.  Phillip was so right.  Many of the Bahamians who lived and worked in the Abacos are going to start migrating down to Andros, Nassau, the Berries, Eleuthera, and the Exumas and surrounding islands in hopes of rebuilding and finding work.  And, the economy in the Bahamas is supported almost entirely by tourism.  If we don’t continue traveling to the Bahamian Islands that were spared and continue to contribute to their tourist economy there, they will likely not be able to survive. While the loss of the beautiful Abacos, which—up until Dorian—Phillip and I had been planning on cruising again this coming season, is a tragedy, there remains so many places south of the Abacos that are equally breathtaking and that need our support.  This was a message we recently received from the Association of Bahamas Marinas:

Immediate relief efforts are imperative now to save lives and get people healthy and safe, and thankfully many people now are sharing various resources to help do that. Although it is exceedingly sad to know there are humans on the earth that prey on people trying to help in a time of tragedy like this, it is simply true, so please research relief organizations before donating.  Also, many try to go straight to the hurricane site right after the storm to bring supplies, but that can put them in a terribly dangerous situation fraught with the potential for injury, disease, and crime. Donations to the organizations that are providing supplies to Bahamians in need or helping them evacuate is crucial right now. But, I agree with Phillip that—long-term—to help save the Bahamian economy, tourism must come back.  If you had ever just fancied the idea to visit the Bahamas, please make it a priority to visit the spared islands in the coming years as they will need our tourist dollars to survive and rebuild.  

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you all some previews of the other wondrous places south of the Abacos that Phillip and I visited the last time we were in the Bahamas, that were thankfully spared from Dorian and that we look forward to sharing in more detail with you in upcoming blog posts (full of fun travel stories) because I feel we have to continue focusing on that, too: the excitement and wonder of travel. Hurricanes are horrible, but they cannot be stopped or controlled.  How we choose to spend our time, despite them, however, is something we are all able to control.  Our collective decision to continue to bring tourism to the Bahamas can help bring the Abacos back. My good friend Pam Wall, whom I will be speaking with at Cruiser’s University at the upcoming Annapolis Boat Show (please sign up if you want to attend our “Old Salts, New Systems” talk and haven’t already! : ) initially inspired Phillip and I to travel to the Abacos back in 2015. Thankfully, we did in 2017-2018 and got to enjoy those wonderful islands before they were decimated.  But, I will now join the chant Pam said so energetically to us to hopefully inspire you all this coming cruising season to: 

GO TO THE BAHAMAS!  

Andros, Nassau, the Berries, Eleuthera, and the Exumas and surrounding islands still have so much to offer and they desperately need your support.  Tourism is their lifeblood.  Keep it pumping!  Here are some of the breathtaking sights, scenes, bites, and drinks that await.  Phillip and I hope to see some of you there!  

Andros

I wrote extensively about Andros last time, showcasing all of the wonderful tucked-away treats that often skipped-over island offered up for us.  I’m so glad it was spared as we have plans to go back and stay in Fresh Water Creek and dive and spear-fish the great Andros Barrier Reef. The cost for cruising there (water and food) is much better as it is a bigger island, able to obtain and preserve more food and supplies.