BV10: Magic Moments at Powell Cay

It’s the little things.  That’s what makes this cruising life so magic.  Sure, we’ve sailed in big seas, when our boat is pitching and yawing but holding her own impressively, and that’s a heart-pounding, exciting moment.  And, yes, we’ve found ourselves struggling mightily to undertake a rather difficult but critical repair while underway.  And, that, too is a stressful, nerve-wracking moment.  Navigating vicious reefs while coming into a new harbor is what we call a “pucker” moment.  Many elements of life aboard while traveling to new places can raise your blood pressure and test your mental acuity and reaction-time, but not all of them.  Some days may feel like one big headache when you’re hot, tired, and sweaty, walking miles around a dusty, little town and can’t seem to find the right part you need to make a repair, or the beat-up washer at the laundry facility went kaput right after your clothes got wet and soapy, or the fridge goes out again, or the bilge needs cleaning again, or whatever.  There are plenty of those frustrating, infuriating moments too.

But, my favorite—because there are hundreds of them—are all of the little magic moments.  When you’re sitting in the cockpit alone, reading, and a turtle pops his head up and looks at you.  “Turtle!  Turtle!  A turtle!” you hear your own voice cry, giddy as a five-year old.  But he ducks back down just as fast and your partner doesn’t see him, which is almost better because that turtle moment was meant just for you.  I saw a turtle!  And another, when you’re diving down again and again, scrubbing the hull of your boat and a fish shimmies up to you, stops as if he’s tilting his head and asking a question (probably “Why are you wiping all of that yummy food off instead of eating it?”) and—absent an answer—he shimmies away and you have the distinct feeling you just had a conversation with someone with gills.  Did I just talk to a fish?  Or how about when you’re holding the helm alone at sunset and you swear (on your life!) you saw a green flash glint over a wave on the horizon just as the sun went down.  No one was there to witness it but you, so no one can say it didn’t happen.  I saw the green flash!  Moment like these steal your breath for just a second, and when you let it back out again, in a content huff, you realize you are in the exact place that you want to be, doing the exact thing you want to be doing—headaches, heart-pounds, contented huffs and all.

Powell Cay was one of those moments.  In fact, each island in the Abacos was one of those moments.  One of the very cool things about the Abacos is not only that each island is just a short 1-2 hour hop from the other, but each island also has something unique to offer.  Phillip and I had to start calling them by their “magic moments” so we could remember them.  Pensacola Cay became the “Signing Tree Cay.”  Manjack Cay became the “Stingray Cay.”  And, ironically, Hog Cay became “Snorkel Cay,” while No Name Cay became Hog Cay, or “Piggy Cay” to be exact, as that’s where the swimming pigs in the Abacos live.  Yep.  Stingrays and swimming pigs are coming your way.  As well as each of our little magic moments in the Abacos.  Today, we want to share with you Powell Cay, a.k.a. “Starfish Key,” where we found the biggest starfish we have seen in all of the Abacos.  What was intended to be a simple ride to shore to explore around the island turned into something magic and memorable, as did everything it seemed in the Abacos.  The smallest moments and simplest adventures brought us unforgettable pleasure.  Want a little taste?  Join us!  At Powell Cay, for a magic dinghy ride!  Where a trivial jaunt to shore brought us sightings of a sea turtle, a nurse shark (which GoPro was able to get a glimpse of underwater), a massive, mesmerizing starfish (which Video Annie thought might be an alien that would suck her face off), and another stunning Atlantic shore.  I’ll bet you find yourself singing along by the end: “This magic moment … ”

Posted in Bahamas Bound, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BV9 (VIDEO): Spanish Cay, “Zee Plane, Boss! Zee Plane!”

“I’ll bet seeing that from the air while making a landing on the runway wouldn’t be a very comforting sight,” Phillip mused as we motored our way over to it.  The dock master at Spanish Cay had given us some very good advice insisting we dive the sunken airplane on the other side of the island before leaving Spanish Cay.  “It’s just a few hundred feet out from where the runway ends,” he said.  Can you imagine being a pilot coming in and seeing the guy who came before you sunken in the water?  While that’s probably not how this plane got under the water (our guess is it was sunk as a fish and tourist attraction), I don’t think that would make me pucker any less seeing that sight from the air while coming in for a landing.  But, I’ll bet you would prefer to see it from under the sea.  So did we!  Take a trip with us folks, and dive a sunken airplane at Spanish Cay!  It’s an octopus’s garden in the sea!

Spanish Cay was certainly a fun stop.  This was the next place we stayed after our “holiday on the hook” at Pensacola Cay.  We stopped at Hog Cay, which is in between Pensacola and Spanish Cay (primarily because Pam Wall, love that gal, said “You have to see Hog Cay!) because Phillip had a hunch it would be a good snorkel spot.  And, boy was it.  I hope you all enjoyed our video from last week — Under the Sea at Hog Cay.  Pam Wall also said she and Andy wanted to buy one of the islands there.  And probably live forever on their boat with the palm trees.  I could totally see that!  Unfortunately, I had to send her a selfie with the main Hog Cay island I’m guessing they wanted behind me showing it was already happily occupied.  “Someone must have beat you to it, Pammy!” I texted her that day.

But I can see why Pam wanted to buy it.  Hog Cay was a beautiful little group of islands surrounded by shallow, shimmery water and it was the perfect day-stop before we made our way over to Spanish Cay.

When you first dabble into the northern Abacos, it’s difficult to decide where to go when and how long to stay.  Every island has a unique vibe and beauty to offer.  While Phillip and I try very hard to not cruise on a schedule, we are not full-time live-aboards (with no more work/home ties) yet, so we did need to spend just a day or two or four at whatever islands we stopped at to keep making way.

We were actually inspired, by another couple who had been anchored out at Pensacola Cay near us, to stop at Spanish Cay.  They left the day before us, on Christmas Day, and shouted across the water as they weighed anchor: “We’re headed off for a spa treatment.”  Meaning, they were planning to stay at the marina.  In cruiser-speak, that is spa treatment!  Give the boat a good wash down, fill the tanks, give ourselves a good wash down, eat out on the town.  That equates to spa in our salty book!  So, Phillip and I planned to pull the hook early the following morning, on December 26th, toodle over to Hog Cay and spend a few hours snorkeling, then make our way over to Spanish Cay for our spa night at the marina.  And Pam was right.  Hog Cay did not disappoint!

But, as with every other island we have visited so far in the Abacos, Spanish Cay was definitely memorable as well.  For many, many reasons: the perfectly quaint little marina, with crystal clear green water (it was hard at times to believe our keel wasn’t touching!).

The little tiki-hut bars around the pool area and other resort amenities (fun restaurant, bar, ping-pong, golf-carts for rent, etc.).

Lots of walking trails that allowed you to traverse pretty much the entire island shore to shore and get some great “just taking it all in” exercise.

Stunning shorelines on the Atlantic side!


That unmistakable Bahamas “putty sand” (or at least that’s what I call it).  It was funny how it’s so different from the sugar-white, crystal, quartz sand we have at home in Pensacola.  The sand in the Bahamas almost feels like play-doh.

Fantastic little sunset seating where we watched the sun go down (and enjoyed coffee and a little “work time” the next morning) … when the flies and gnats weren’t eating us alive.


Perfect view of the sunset from our cockpit (the view is always the best from the stern of Plaintiff’s Rest).

Not to mention the super-scary “marina watchdog” at the marina office.  Her name was actually Lady Elizabeth (or something equally regal) and she would grunt and scuttle her way over to anyone who walked in the door and looked capable of giving her a belly rub!

And the actual-scary nurse shark that patrolled the marina daily, zipping in and out under our boat, looking for dinner.  He was definitely on the hunt!  And, he was definitely not getting any belly rubs from this shark-savvy sailor.   I know they don’t want anything to do with me, but I’ll leave them to patrol their waters without an edible Annie in the mix – ha!

And while the sunken airplane—which we motored over to, anchored near, and dove the next day before heading off to Powell Cay—was definitely a highlight of Spanish Cay for us, I can easily say it was not the single memory that sticks out.  Donnie does.

As we motored up to Spanish Cay, checking our charts and looking at the landmarks to make a safe entrance into the marina, we noticed this triple-decker, white mega-yacht docked at the marina.  We literally saw this big white boat on the horizon well before we could actually make out that it was the marina, and it was the last big, white blob on the horizon that we saw as we left Spanish Cay in our wake the next day.  That white water mansion could be seen for miles.  Once we docked at the marina and got a look at her we could see it was a multi-million-dollar, three-story super yacht parked at the end of the dock at Spanish Cay.  Status Quo it was called.

Phillip and I mused that it must be some mega-millionaire who keeps his boat there and flies in once a year to spend a few weeks in the Bahamas, leaving the rest of its time on the water to the hard-working crew.  We had seen this a lot.  Massive, luxury yachts that are handled, cleaned, cared for, and prepped by captains and usually a handful of staff to make sure every surface of the boat gleaned, and every locker and fridge was filled with the finest wines, liquors, and foods, for when the owner and friends arrived.  After Phillip and I cleaned up and eyed the yacht while walking up for dinner at Wreckers, we wondered whether the owner was in the Bahamas and on-board now or whether the captain and crew would be “playing owner” tonight just for fun.

We had asked earlier that day when we checked in about making a reservation there at the marina restaurant that night for dinner, and the gal at the front desk replied, “Let me see if she’s planning to cook dinner tonight.”  While this might seem odd in the states—a restaurant that is seemingly open but they are merely debating “whether or not to cook tonight”—this was a perfectly reasonable explanation in the Bahamas.  Everything runs on island time there.  Stores are not just open every day 9-5 like they are at home.  Grocery stores don’t always have all the food items you want.  The water does not always work.  The restrooms and laundry facilities don’t always work.  But, it is always beautiful and the people are always (open, stocked, working or not) super friendly and glad that you’re there.  What is always guaranteed is a good time and usually a good island story to boot.  This was ours from Spanish Cay

I believe her name was Nita, but don’t hold me to that, or any Bahamian cruiser reading this, feel free to correct me, but she was the wonderfully joyful cook at Wrecker’s Bar and we were in luck.  Because she was agreeable to coming to cook for us that evening at the restaurant.  But, that meant Nita was going to have to come back that evening by boat and she needed to wrap up dinner and get back home where she lived (it sounded like Little Bahamas Island) again by boat at a decent hour.  Trying to accommodate this (as Phillip and I would normally eat dinner around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.), we made a reservation for 6:00 p.m.  The marina gal wrote it down, but caught us later while walking around the resort and asked if we could “do 5:30” to make it easier on Nita and we said “Sure.”

“Guess we’ll be getting the early bird special tonight,” Phillip joked as we made our way back to the boat to get cleaned up for our big night out.

Now, I have mentioned this here on the blog a time or two and it’s no secret—Phillip will readily admit it—but between the two of us, he is by far the Shower Diva.  As you can clearly tell from our photos, Phillip is a polished, put-together, quite-stylish guy and that just doesn’t happen by magic!  He has a pretty extensive shower routine he likes to indulge (particularly when we’ve opted for “spa treatment”).  It always reminds me of McCauley in his one-hit wonder where he claims to have “cleaned very nook, every cranny.”

My shower routine is more along the lines of an elephant going through a carwash.   “I’ll take the scrub and shine, with the buff at the end.”  As a result, I usually get back to the boat well before Phillip does even though we leave at the same time to head to the marina showers.  That day was no different, but as I was passing the marina office, the office gal stopped me again to let me know Nita was there and ready to cook whenever we could join for dinner.  It was 5:17 p.m.  I hadn’t even had my two happy hour cocktails or my usual happy hour snack yet.  But, I didn’t want to hold Nita up since she had come all this way just to cook us a dinner, Phillip and I being the only boat (other than the monstrous Status Quo at the end of the dock, seemingly sitting empty) at the marina at the time.  But, as I sat and waited for Phillip to come back from the shower, Nita sat, as well, and waited quite visibly for us.  She appeared to be a jolly, older black woman, and she was sitting on a bench seat in front of the restaurant facing our boat.  Just sitting.  Watching.  Waiting on us.

I decided to take my first drink below while Phillip made his way back.  I pointed Nita out to him through the cabin windows when he arrived and told him I thought we should probably move our little spa party to the restaurant as soon as possible.  “Fine by me,” Phillip said throwing on some flops.  “I’m ready for a Nita feast anytime.”

The minute we stepped off the boat, Nita popped up off her bench seat and made her way around to the back of the restaurant.  When Phillip and I came in and pulled up some stools at the bar, Nita was quick to hand us some menus and ask us what we would like to drink.  While she poured us our first round of white wine, Phillip and I watched a catamaran make their way into the dock (because as we all know, the most entertaining thing to do at a marina is watch other boaters come in) and started to get curious whether we’d soon have two other cruisers joining Nita and us for dinner.  As Phillip and I meandered around the little bar, looking at all the pennants, signed t-shirts, old photos from fishing tournaments, and other nautical trinkets you often see pinned around marina bars (well not just specific to the Bahamas, but anywhere, really), we heard a booming voice erupt from the kitchen.

“Well ahoy, sailors!” a jolly middle-aged fella said, coming up from behind the bar and pulling the cork out of the wine bottle Nita had started for us and topping our glasses off.  “I like your sloop,” he said.  Ours being the only sloop sailboat (and the only boat of three actually) at the marina, this wasn’t too wild of a stretch that he knew we were the sailors on the Niagara.  “Donnie’s the name,” he said as he stuck out a pink meaty paw to shake ours.  This, too, was not unexpected in the islands: bartenders introducing themselves.  Everyone introduced themselves: dockhands, waiters, charter boat captains, dive boat captains, marina staff, the guy making you a conch salad on the side of the road.  That’s one thing we love about the islands.  No one is in a hurry, and no one is too busy or important to extend a hand and give yours a shake.  And, boy did Donnie have a good shake.

“So what you looking to get for dinner?” Donnie asked, and we both just assumed he worked the restaurant, or just the bar perhaps.  You could never tell.  But, it was clear Nita was now getting things ready back in the kitchen and Donnie was now here to happily serve us.  We started to poke down through the menu as the other couple from the catamaran made their way in and bellied up to the bar, an older couple (as is often the case with Phillip and I) but they seemed more at home at the Wrecker’s Bar and Donnie obviously recognized them and welcomed them in as old-timers.  Donnie watched as Phillip and I eyed the menu and started food bartering as we often do:“Do you want to get two salads, and we’ll split an entree or are you wanting a whole entree to yourself?”  “Okay, one salad, now the blackened grouper or the fish sandwich?”  And it seemed Donnie then could no longer hold back:

“You want my advice?” he asked with a grin.  He seemed a wise, long-time Bahamian local type, which is always the kind of advice we want.  “I’ll just go ahead and admit it,” Donnie said with a smile and no hint of an ego.  “I’ve got the best conch fritters in all the Bahamas.”  Phillip and I probably smirked a little, because that was a pretty bold statement, but it did not deter Donnie.  “Yep.  All of them.  And I can easily say that because I am a meat master.  I know what makes conch fritters good.  Do you?”  Phillip and I sat completely stumped but excited to hear more from the charismatic Donnie.

“They gotta be tender, see?” he said, making a kind of pulling motion with his fingers, like he was pulling strings apart.  “Conch, when it comes out of the shell, is tough as shit.  And, while beating it with a hammer,” Donnie said while re-enacting a vicious hammer beating on the bar, “can help, it’s not going to really tenderize it.”  Back to the pulling motion, “No, you need a machine that cuts into the meat and pulls it apart, that can make holes in it, so you can fill it with juice and batter.  That’s how you make good conch fritters.”  Donnie let just enough silence sit in the air until I—ever the curious one—asked the question it appeared he loved to get and loved to answer.”

“What kind of machine?” I asked, and that kicked off the entire thing.  Donnie began a rather colorful, entertaining diatribe where he described he and his family long-standing operation of raising and selling chickens out of west Texas.  Donnie said while they used to have a “whole hut of Mexicans” who would spend their day knifing and pulling and tenderizing the chicken meat, Donnie and his brother eventually invented a meat tenderizing machine “with hundreds of tiny teeth” Donnie described, his hands propped up on his generous belly looking like little claws going at each other.  He and his brother would then run the chicken breasts through their nifty meat-tenderizing machine and they would come out fully-tenderized on the other side, perfect for breading and frying.  As Donnie told his colorful tale, he was often topping our wine glasses up, taking down both our order and that of the catamaran couple across the way, who were equally caught up in his chicken tenders story.

Donnie also happily served us our meals when they came out.  Phillip immediately ordered the cracked conch when Donnie said his was the best in the Bahamas (I mean, why doubt him?) and I ordered the grouper which was coated in what the menu said was “Spanish Cay sauce” which Donnie promptly told me was “a stick of butter, white wine and lemon.”  Sold!  And boy was it good.  Donnie took great care to make sure we, only the four of us in the entire restaurant that night, had whatever napkins and cutlery we needed, topped-off our water and wine glasses, and even offered us free dessert in the form of Nita’s special “raisin cake.”  I would say it might be one regret of the evening that we didn’t take him up on the cake, but we were so stuffed from the conch and grouper and wine.  Donnie was right.  Phillip and I have since had cracked conch four or five times in the Bahamas, and Donnie’s is still easily (hands down and miles apart) the best.  It is tender and soft and the batter, very light, seems to be literally a part of the meat.  It’s not conch surrounded by batter.  They become one and the heavenly-same.

But, as Donnie continued his story about the meat-tenderizing machine and what they used it for, I started to sense his machine had been a much bigger, national hit than he was letting on.  Words like “Dairy Queen, Wal-Mart, and Tyson,” started to slip out as his main purchasers.  As we finished up dinner and Donnie could see that Nita had pleased us all and could get back home at a reasonable time to her family (it was probably just a little after 7:00 p.m. at this point), he then cleaned away our dishes, ran our cards, and handed both couples our checks.  He bid us all a wonderful evening, told us to enjoy our stay at Spanish Cay and he then came around from behind the bar, with the remainder of the third bottle of white he had just opened for us in his hand, said he had to get back to his “little boat,” and walked out the door.

Phillip and I started to chuckle with the other couple, exchanging equal sentiments about what a fun night it had been and what a memorable experience.  I then made a comment that he was one of the best bartenders we’d had so far in the Abacos and the other couple laughed.  Apparently the catamaran couple had been stopping here often in Spanish Cay during their usual three-month visit to the Abacos each year and they knew Donnie.  “Oh, he’s not just the bartender.  He owns the whole place,” as they waved their hands around the bar.  “Runs it like he’s serving family.  And he lives on Status Quo out there.”

And, sure enough, as Phillip and I were meandering down the dock back to our “actual little boat”—our heads swimming a little from the wine, the succulent conch and butter, and the congenial atmosphere that had immersed us at Spanish Cay—we saw Donnie walking toward his “little boat,” drinking straight from the bottle and singing to himself.

All night long, we’d been sitting at the bar and Donnie, the mega-millionaire, who lives on a three-story monster, luxury yacht, had been happily waiting on us.  Bringing us dishes and napkins and repeatedly filling our glasses.  He didn’t even charge us for half the  stuff, just a glass of wine each.  I guess technically it was just one glass each, but he kept refilling it.  The world needs more people like Donnie.  That’s about the happiest, humble millionaire I’ve ever met.

And that was our wild night at the Wrecker and a most memorable evening at Spanish Cay.  Just one of a dozen others we are piling up each day.  Now this crew is off to dive a sunken airplane right off the edge of the tarmac!  I’ll bet that wouldn’t give any pilot flying in the sky a good feeling about landing there.  But, we were excited to see what awaited us beneath!  Hope you are all enjoying the content and videos.  The Bahamas, and Donnie and his meat-tenderizing machine, have definitely been treating us right!

Posted in Bahamas Bound, Good Grub, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BV 8 (VIDEO): Under the Sea at Hog Cay

“Time to go explorkeling!” shouts Scuba Annie!  Yes, Phillip loves cruising with me.  This was our first stop after we wrapped our “holiday on the hook” at Pensacola Cay.  I could write about what we found at Hog Cay but this footage encompasses a thousand words.  The beauty of coral and marine life speaks for itself.  Some very awesome underwater footage for you guys here, from our first snorkel in the Abacos, at Hog Cay!  A very awesome underwater soundtrack, too.  Phillip chose the music: BØRNS 10,000 Emerald Pools.  “You’re all I need to breathe.”  Ahhh … perfect!  Enjoy!

Posted in Boat Projects, Fish Tales, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BV 7 (VIDEO): Christmas Kiting at Pensacola Cay

I mean, with the name “Pensacola,” we had to at least stop and see.  And then we decided December 25th it shall be!  Merry Christmas in blog time followers!  I hope you all are enjoying our Bahamas Voyage vicariously.  Fun video and blog post for you below from our   “holiday on the hook” at Pensacola Cay!

It is always so fun to go back through our photos and footage and share these stories with you.  Pensacola Cay.  We were destined for it, right?  And boy what a beautiful little stop it was.  Each island in the Abacos offered something unique and memorable.  Pensacola afforded us the first stretch of clear beach and enough wind for kiting.  So, it was the first time we kited on the Atlantic ocean.  That is not something I’m likely to forget for a long, long time.  This was our first kite spot!

For us, kiting is not just a hobby, it is a sort of freedom.  As with the sailboat, you are moving, propelling forward actually, by the sheer virtue of the wind.  You steer by skillfully working the kite and board together just as the boat does with the wind, keel, and rudder.  It’s a powerful, sometimes frightening, but more often freeing, exciting feeling to know you are harnessing the wind.  There’s no rumbling motor.  No stinking fumes going into the air.  Nothing but nature is moving you along.


Time for a jump-off!  Annie …

Man, did you see that mega-hop?!  I cleared like a foot and a half!  Okay, now Phillip …

I think we have a clear winner!  Man, Phillip can really fly.  I’m still working on jumping.  It’s just not something that is coming naturally to me.  So far I can either launch and land a mega-hop (yeehaw!) or launch a huge leap and yard sale it at the end.  I hate to say that kiting, just tacking back and forth and maneuvering the board without jumping, is so fun to me that I often don’t practice jumping as much as I should because it might mean I’ll lose my board, crash my kite, potentially end my session.  “Over a silly jump?” my mind screams.  “Nuh-uh, not this kiter!”   But, I love that I can push myself to that goal anytime I want to and it’s always there: a fun, challenging reward if I attain it.  This—the challenge, thrill, peacefulness, and simplicity, i.e., harnessing the wind to maneuver—along with, of course, the high-flying jumps and flips, is what draws us to kiting.  And to look out the opening of that beautiful little cove at Pensacola Cay to see the Atlantic ocean!  An enormous body of water that we crossed in a boat not much bigger than ours only one year ago, was a really cool feeling.  Like everything is connected together—time, places, and people—by water.  This was us on that same body of water, not so long ago!


The water in the Bahamas, however, while warmer than Pensacola’s mid- to low-sixties winter waters, was still a little chilly.  Likely seventy degrees if I had to guess, along with air temps in the high sixties and low seventies.  Definitely nice and cool for a day on the boat, but a little chilly to get wet and windy in just a bikini alone.  Oh, you’re right, Phillip doesn’t always wear the bikini – ha!  But we had brought all of our wet gear for this reason, so we donned what I call our “platypus suits” and didn’t let it stop us!


High fashion.

It was so “cold” there, Frosty came to join us!

I was kind of surprised by the landscape as well.  Many of the cays in the Abacos are formed solely on limestone, so in some areas the only walkable shore is a jutty, jagged patch of very unforgiving limestone.  Didn’t stop us from traversing it, but you definitely wanted to tread carefully!


We also often stumbled upon what we began to call “conch graveyards.”  I, a very naive and silly Bahamian cruiser to begin with, thought all those conchs must have decided it was “their time,” so they huddled together and crawled to shore, a heaving pile of shell and slimy innards drying under the sun.  I mean, how else would they all end up piled together in a collective, crumbling heap?

Yes, I know now (after the patient and kindly Phillip told me) they’re there because that is likely where a local fisherman harvested and cracked them.  Ahhh … that makes more sense.  A concher left them there.  Yes, “conchers” are real in Annie Land.  So is the blonde hair!  Phillip is rather nice to put up with me.  But, my very silly questions about all the intriguing things I always seem to find when we’re exploring definitely keep him entertained.  As do these beautiful views.  Just walking around the islands, making footprints in the sand, and picking up shells is one of our favorite pastimes.


I had thought about keeping this guy, but after holding him five minutes (which left a hand that stunk for five hours!), I decided he was never coming near our boat.  Do you see that little brown dribble coming out of the bottom?

Yeah, he seemed empty when I picked him up.  I mean there definitely was not a live squirmy conch in there when I peeked inside.  But every time I sloshed water in and swished it out, more of this brown goo would come out and I’m sure it was his poor decaying body, but my God that stuff was potent.  Sorry little man, but you’re staying with the other stinkies!  We do not bring stench aboard Plaintiff’s Rest!

With “dollars” everywhere, we felt mighty rich!  : )

It was also great to see our boat anchored out in the Sea of Abaco.  After all the planning and prepping and work it took to get her there, it was like you could feel how happy she was to finally be floating in these beautiful green waters!

And, just our luck, a few billowing, beautiful clouds rolled in and brought us a refreshing rain storm.  That’s right, for Christmas, we gave Plaintiff’s Rest a much-needed, well-deserved, indulgent freshwater rinse.  I listened closely and could hear her singing during the storm.  Do you know what she sang?

“Siiiiinging in the rain.  I’m just siiiiinging in the rain!  What a gloooorious feeling, I’m haaaaaapy again!”  (That’s what she always sings when it rains ; ).

It was a well-timed, rather-welcomed rinse for the boat and all of our kite gear stacked up on the deck.  And, the storm left behind a crystal clear sky for the sunset.  It’s happy hour on our boat.  Cheers!


And you know you’re living right when you watch the sun both set and rise every day:

I know, I know.  Sunrises.  Sunsets.  Cocktails and bikinis.  Yes, it really is just like that many days.  When we’re not changing the oil on the boat, or cleaning the dinghy, or on a gas and provision run.  It is paradise.  Dozens of times over with each little cay you stop at in the Abacos.  But, as I mentioned, each cay seemed to offer something unique that made it stand out in our memories and distinguish each cay from the other.  Do you know what our favorite thing about Pensacola Cay was?

That’s right!  The SIGNING TREE!!  It was something Phillip had read about before we even got to the Abacos, some big tree on the back side of Pensacola Cay where boaters leave old buoys, or life rings, or pieces of driftwood (all kinds of creative nautical trinkets) often with their vessel name, the crew and the date written or painted on it.

It reminded me a lot of the sea wall at Azores which is covered with colorful paintings left behind by cruisers who have been there.

Some of the items hanging from the Signing Tree were very creative.  One had a message in a bottle.  Another, a carved silhouette of their boat.  One, a toilet seat!  I’m not kidding.  And, from s/v Plaintiff’s Rest?  Your very own signed copy of Salt of a Sailor, another one of my “traveling books.”

Phillip and I like to occasionally leave a book behind in a port or place where we hope one cruiser will read it then pass it along to another and another and another, so that the book gets to meet a lot of different people and see many different parts of the world.  ”Go little book, go!” we often cry as we leave her behind.

“All you have to do is be a little brave and really resourceful.  Happy cruising!” I wrote inside.

Then we triple-bagged her and hung her from the Signing Tree.  I hope someone, somewhere, someday tells me they found the traveling Salt of a Sailor that we left at Pensacola Cay.  What if the little books is still there when we go back?  That would be fine too, but I’ll have to open it to see if folks are taking it to read, then putting it back!  I put a little log in the front where people can leave a note with their vessel name and crew.  So, it’s kind of like a “signing book” too.

We’re making some fantastic memories along the way.  Hope you all enjoyed Pensacola Cay!

Next time, we’ll take you underwater on our very first colorful snorkel in the Bahamas!  Stay tuned!  glug, glug, glug … : )


Posted in Annie's Books, Atlantic Crossing, Bahamas Bound, Kite-Surfing, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

BV6 (VIDEO): Great Sale Cay “Like Motoring Across a Swimming Pool”

Ironically, it wasn’t a great “sail” at all to Great Sale Cay, but it was one of the most memorable trips Phillip and I have made on our boat.  Visually, the most striking, for sure.  As Phillip put it: “It was like motoring across a swimming pool.”  AND IT WAS.

Hello followers!  We sure hope you guys are enjoying the tales from our Bahamas Voyage.  And, some pretty cool videos to boot!  Last time, we took you from our check-in point at West End, through our first tricky inlet into Little Bahamas Bank at Memory Rock (we made it!  Whew!), and then on to Mangrove Cay—the first cay (pronounced “key”) we stopped at in the Bahamas.  It was also our first time diving into those crystal green waters and—albeit a little bit chilly—it was very cool to look down and be able to count almost every link of the chain.  The water was just so clear!  But, we had no idea what was still in store.  After a beautiful night on the hook at Mangrove Cay, Phillip and I weighed anchor at sunrise again the following day, early because we wanted more time before sundown to venture off the boat and go exploring, and the passage from Mangrove to Great Sale Cay turned out to be one our most memorable legs of our entire Bahamas Voyage.  Enjoy!

Everywhere I looked, it was mesmerizing.  My eyes couldn’t travel fast enough to take it all in.  Over the toerail, the water was a crystal, shimmering green.  The sand at the bottom, a blinding white.  Up ahead, the sky a blaze of pink.  The water ahead of our bow mirroring it perfectly.

I hate to say it, but after a while, with every moment looking something like this, we were almost numbed by the beauty.  After a few weeks in the Abacos, with a dozen stunning Bahamian shorelines under our belt, Phillip and I would sometimes poke our way through thick, mangrove-laden trails, step out to the shoreline on the other side and say, “Oh just another beach.”  When it, in every way, was NOT!  Every beach was unique.  Every shoreline is beautiful in a different way.  See?


But, we encountered views like this so often, they somehow started to become the norm.  This is just what life looks like over there.  I had to slap myself sometimes to try to bring back that “first time” feeling of our first day in Little Bahamas Bank when it stole my breath away.  Christmas Eve Day, 2017, Phillip and I made our first trip cay-to-cay across the Little Bahamas Bank, and I will never forget the feeling when I saw the bow of our boat gliding over shimmering green waters.  While the day before motoring to Mangrove Cay had been stunning, our view to the bottom, while still very pretty, was a little more shimmery and disturbed:

Now, without a wisp of wind in the air and water so still you could count blades of grass on the bottom, our view on the way to Great Sale Cay looked like this:

Believe it or not, that boat is moving.  We are underway.  But even then, you could make out just about every sand dune on the bottom.  Hell, every grain.  The clarity was alarming.  And I felt like I could feel the boat’s excitement, too.  She was looking down, looking left then right, then left again and saying to us: “Can you see?  Can you see?  Look what I’m swimming in!”

It was just … stunning.  My words can’t do it justice.  Neither can these photos, but they can at least give a sense of the “swimming pool” effect we experienced that day.


Try to guess how deep that is.  Seriously.  Take a moment.  Really look at what you’re seeing: little dunes in the sand, grains of sand, the very texture of the bottom.  Now close your eyes and give it a mental guess.

What number did you choose?

If you said thirteen you would be right.  But, that’s just the water depth.  Though you would never guess it, including the freeboard, our bow, as you see it right there, is about eighteen feet from the bottom.  Eight.  Teen.  Crazy, right?  Water so clear it even reflected our bow in the water.

And completely melted the water into the sky.  Can you find the horizon?

Amazing, right?  While I knew the Bahamas would be beautiful, the things that seemed to strike me the most were phenomenons I couldn’t have imagined.  Like seeing to the bottom in 13 feet of water.  Seeing a crisp shadow of ourselves waving in water.  And not seeing the horizon.  It was about a six-hour motor from Mangrove Cay over to Great Sale Cay and Phillip and I spent the day on a lavish, sun-soaked passage—reading, napping, and lounging on the deck.


Oh, and eating.  We love to do that, too.  Phillip made French Toast from the fresh-baked Bahamian bread I had bought from the lovely lady who came by our boat selling it out of a dock cart back at West End, and it was nothing short of scrumptious!

Phillip took his plate topside, held it out with arms open wide and shouted “I’m Phillip and THIS is my world!”

It’s an often-repeated rendition we like to do of the famous Johnny Walker, who crewed with us, under our esteemed Captain, Yannick, when we helped Yannick deliver his 46’ Soubise Freydis Catamaran from Pensacola to Roscoff, France across the Atlantic Ocean in 2016.  I believe it was day two or three after we had shoved off, when Yannick, Johnny, Phillip, and I were motoring across the Gulf and Johnny threw his arms out side-to-side and shouted: “I’M JOHNNY, AND THIS IS MY WORLD!”

That Johnny Walker (his real name by the way) was quite the character.  Well, Johnny, if the Atlantic Ocean was your world, we’ll claim the Little Bahamas Bank as ours that day.  And what a helluva way to spend Christmas Eve Day!

Not to mention, we were only half-way through the day, too!  After one of our most exquisite passages, Plaintiff’s Rest dropped her anchor around noon that day and the crew immediately set off exploring.  We jumped in for a refreshing rinse, then Phillip blew up our SUP to paddle to shore.  We had read in the Explorer Charts and Steve Dodge’s Guide to the Abacos (we cannot recommend those highly enough) that there was a part of Great Sale Cay so narrow it’s a walk-over cut-through to the other side.

Phillip, ever the adventurer, wanted to paddle to shore to check it out and see what he could find on the other side. Off you go Paddington!


“I have a little surprise for you on the GoPro footage,” Phillip told me, an hour so later, when he came back.  Do you know what he found over there??  Can you see him?

Yep!  Our first stingray!  But, boy was I surprised to see Phillip had got this close to him.  Watch that tail.  Eek!

Here you can see Phillip’s reflection on the stingray in the water.  Right after he’d stirred up the sand to lay a nice coating on himself for camouflage.  So cool how they can do that.  You’ll see in the video!

“Alright let me at it!” I told Phillip after I’d seen the footage and he told me where he’d spotted the stingray.  Time for this sailor to go exploring too!

While it was a bit of a haul to shore (as cautious Bahamian-cruising newbies, we had anchored way, way out), with calm, glassy waters and beautiful views, it was definitely worth the trip!


And, I was surprised that I was able to find the very stingray Phillip had.  He was probably still sitting in the very same place!  First Stingray Selfie!  Heck Yeah!

With the sun just starting to set, however, and our boat now sitting still and calmly anchored, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Watching the sun sink slowly while I’m twirling, spinning, and hanging from silks is one of my favorite things to do.  And, it doesn’t hurt that the photos and footage that come from it are pretty darn stunning, too.


A fabulous silks-at-sunset session for you all in the video below.  Some of my favorite silks photos on our boat yet.  Life is so good.  Hope you all are enjoying the Bahamas blogs and videos.  Next up, we make our way over to spend Christmas Day at Pensacola Cay.  (I mean … our namesake!?  We had to!).  And show you what we decided to leave there at the “Signing Tree.”  Stay tuned!

Posted in Aerial Silks, Bahamas Bound, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

BV5 (VIDEO): West End to Mangrove Cay “First You Start Wit da Coconut Rum”

“What’s in the Goombay Smash?” I asked the our dark-skinned Bahamian bartender.

“Well, first you start wit da coconut rum … ” she started in.  When she finished, Phillip piped up:

“What’s in your Bahama Mama?” he asked.

“Well, first you start with da coconut rum … ” she rattled on again.  Every drink it seems, in the Bahamas, “starts with the coconut rum.”  And you have to say that with an “Island accent, Mon.”  You can also probably guess Phillip and I said it plenty during the entire trip.  Every happy hour began with us concurring: “First you start wit da coconut rum.”

Heck yeah!  Cheers!

Ahoy followers.  In HaveWind time, we have just entered the Bahamas.  How cool is that? Last time we took you along on a beautiful, glassy passage across the Gulf Stream.  Thankfully, we had a wonderful window open up for us which allowed a smooth two-day passage all the way from Key West to West End with winds of only 5 kts or less (albeit north) in the Stream.

Our decision to explore the northern Abacos first was both weather- and wind-dependent. We knew, right off the cusp of hurricane season, in December and January, that frequent north fronts pop up which are usually brief but intense, but the “Christmas Winds” (often 15-25 kts) definitely blow.  Fellow cruisers (shout-out to BaBaLu if you see this Bob! : ) had told us the barrier islands in the northern Abacos offer many good anchorages and marinas, that could provide reliable protection during those frequent fronts.  For this reason, rather than choosing to shoot straight across the Great Bahamas Bank first and head first for the more remote, spacious islands of the Berries and Exumas, we decided to ride the Stream as far north as we could (to West End) so we would enter the Bahamas near the Little Bahamas Bank and begin our exploration up north in the protected Abacos.

Here are some of the various routes cruisers often choose to traverse the Bahamas:

We also knew the first thing we would want once the winds started to blow, would be a nice stretch of beach on the Atlantic shore to allow us to tear up some ocean surf on our kites.  The fact that we like when the wind blows 20-25 kts was one very big advantage for Phillip and I, because we did experience many, many, (many!) windy days in the Bahamas in December and January.  If this was typical of a winter season there (which the locals seemed to say it was, albeit a bit colder and windier), then plan to have your wetsuits for winter water activities because the water was a bit cold (around 68 degrees once we got further north and into the Atlantic).  And, as far as the wind goes, either make sure you have enough books and games to occupy you for those days spent on the boat or … just a suggestion … but you can always pick up kitesurfing!!!  It’s never too late!  Phillip and I had some wicked sessions in the Bahamas, that we cannot wait to share with you!

But, first, we must check in!  There are only about two dozen places you can check in (i.e., clear customs) in the Bahamas.  We chose West End because it was the furthest north point of entry.  We were pleased to find the channel to West End was well-marked and easy to navigate.  As you guys already probably know, Phillip and I always try to plan to enter a new port during the daytime, and we came in around 8:00 a.m., well after the sun had risen, so the channel was easy to spot using our Explorer Charts and Steve Dodge’s Guide to the Abacos.  Highly recommend those.  If you are planning a trip to the Bahamas, they’re the first thing you should buy and start studying.

The deck hands at West End were really nice, too, helping us get docked safe and sound and telling us everything we needed to know about the check-in process.  It was really exciting to see our baby girl docked in the exotic (okay, exotic to meee) Bahamas for the first time!  Just look at her!

The cruising permit for the Bahamas is $150 and allows the boat to stay in the islands for one year and you (the cruiser) are permitted to come and go for 90 days, then you have to renew if you are planning to stay longer. More info about the customs process and cruising permits if you are interested here.  We found the check-in process to be super easy.  They opened at 9:00 a.m. and it was just a quick 15-minute run-through, then we were stamped and official!

Our next chore (as it always is when we dock up after an offshore passage), was to wash the boat down.  Even at $0.35/gal for the water at the marina, it was well worth it.  Our baby was salty.  But once clean, she was ready to proudly don her new colors!  The brilliant yellow, blue and black of her Bahamian courtesy flag!  See you later “Q!”

We really knew nothing about West End and found it to be a fantastic little quaint resort with a tiki bar and restaurants, beach games, poolside cabanas and music, surfboards and paddle boards all lined on the beach for you to play with and use on the stunning Atlantic coast.


What was the most important “toy” on the beach, though?  These huge hammocks for napping!

Because boy did we.  One goombay smash and a belly full of conch salad and this team was out!

“First you start wit da coconut rum … ”

“Add some tasty conch salad, yum … ”

“Then you’re out for the count, Mon!” ; )

That siesta will probably fall up there in one of my Top Ten favorite naps.  Man, I may need to recount those some day, as a few are whirring through my mind right now.  That would be a fun blog!  Do you think you could recount your Top Ten siestas?

Our next big treat in West End was something we had both been looking forward to, you could literally say, for years.  I’ll never forget Pam Wall’s energetic little booming voice when we first saw and heard her speak at the Miami Boat Show in February, 2015.  “Go to the Bahamas!” she squealed.  Visions of green waters, sea turtles and palm trees instantly filled my head.  And Pam chimed back in with “Fill yourself with their fresh Bahamian bread!”  Mmmmm …   Phillip and I had been talking about that Bahamian bread ever since.  Pam probably mentioned it 8-10 times in her speech.  They should make it a drinking game.  Go to one of her Bahamas seminars and each time she mentions “Bahamian bread,” you each take a shot of rum.  I can promise you’d be a happy sailor after that speech.  *hiccup*

But, I didn’t know where we were going to get the bread initially.  Did they only serve it at restaurants, or perhaps in bakeries?  Or only the locals baked it for themselves and you had to know someone who knew someone who could buy a loaf for you?  I had no clue, but that’s what makes it an adventure.  I had just wrapped my first “spa experience” of the trip (this is what Phillip and I now call a nice hot marina shower, thanks to some friendly cruisers in Pensacola Cay who coined the term for us).

Ahhh … a whole new person!  Post-shower selfie to send to the (other) Captain!

And, I was setting up our cockpit table on the boat with a perfectly-chilled bottle of wine that we had been saving for this specific event: the day we made it across the Gulf Stream and had finally docked in the Bahamas.  I was waiting for Phillip to finish his “spa treatment” to join me.  I don’t know if you know this, but Phillip is a bit of a shower diva.  If he is craving a luxurious long, hot shower, he’s going to get it.  Trust me!  I’m usually back from the showers before him, but I was perfectly content to wait.

Just then I saw a cheerful-looking elderly black woman with what appeared to be her granddaughter happily walking the docks, her granddaughter heaving and pulling a dock cart that was about twice her size behind her.  I didn’t know what she was doing, but I watched for a bit as she and the adorable little girl walked the cart down our finger pier and the woman began to look eagerly at each boat, I sensed looking for people aboard.  I also sensed she may be trying to sell us something that I figured I wasn’t going to want.  I’m not much of a souvenirey-type person and I didn’t know if the locals would try to panhandle a bit or sell you their wares.  I had no clue and I was prepared to politely decline and send her along so Phillip and I could enjoy our celebration alone.  But, then she said those magic words.  Words I could in no way turn down.  Words that would have prompted me to invite her right down into our cockpit and pop the bubbly with her myself.

“Would you like to buy some fresh-baked Bahamian bread?” she asked.

A little stunned, I struggled to answer at first.  Thinking to myself, ”Oh, so this is how you get it?  They just come dockside and sell it?  How freaking convenient!”

“Yes!” I practically shouted.  “I want two!”  And two I got.  A fresh white loaf (I figured you have to try the original) and, upon the woman’s expert recommendation, a cinnamon raisin loaf as well.  Only $5.00 a piece for those heavenly loaves.  Phillip and I then enjoyed a true Bahamian feast.  Crisp popped champagne  to celebrate all the months and prep work that went into our voyage to the Bahamas with fresh Bahamian bread to boot!  Still warm from the oven.  Pam, you would have eaten the whole thing!  (We almost did!)

Definitely a memorable moment worth celebrating.  Cheers!  The celebration continued with our first night out on Bahamian soil at a glorious, decadent little restaurant right next to the marina where we indulged on even more Bahamian bread and lobster tail.  Mmm-mmm-hmmm!

While West End was a very cute little place, Phillip and I had already made our mind up that we wouldn’t stay long.  It was just for us to check-in, clean the boat, fill the tanks and get ready to toss the lines the following morning to make our way into Little Bahamas Bank.  Our study of the Explorer Charts in the many months before our departure date told us there were essentially two routes you could take from West End into Little Bahamas Bank.  One is known as the “Indian Cut” and–we were told–this route could be, in some places and depending on the tide, a “very skinny six feet.”  Leery of this option, particularly as it would be our first trek into the Bahamas, we opted for the longer route up north to Memory Rock, where there is a well-known inlet right next to Memory Rock that, albeit narrow but if followed closely, allows a good 10-12 feet of clearance into Little Bahamas Bank, even at low tide.

“Yeah, that one,” I remember telling Phillip many months ago.  “The ten foot one.”

We do not like skinny water.  Some more info on those two different routes, Indian Cut and Memory Rock, for you here.  While our time in the Bahamas has definitely made us (because you just have to get used to it) more tolerant in shallow depths, we still do not opt to risk depths that are too shallow for our boat if we can avoid it.  With many Bahamian cays and harbors now behind us, I can now say we have traveled in depths of 5.8’ and we didn’t touch bottom.  While our manufacturing specs on the Niagara claim we have a draft of 5.2′, that’s a testament to the boat when it is dry.  Not when it’s loaded down with the many, many bags of wine, booze, canned goods, water, oil, engine parts, sails, etc.  All that stuff that is necessary for cruising, but that brings the boat down lower in the water.  Well, we can now safely saw we are least not 5.8’.  But how close we were to hitting bottom at that point in time, I do not want to know.  Thankfully we knew it was soft, so we were clenched and braced for a sandy bump or two.  But we’re thrilled it did not happen!

Phillip and I had also decided to leave West End as early as light would allow so we could navigate Memory Rock in the bright, safe light of day as well as make it to our first intended stop, Mangrove Cay, also before the sun went too far down so we would have sufficient light to safely anchor.  Our next intended stop thereafter would be Great Sale Cay before we made our way north into the Sea of Abaco.  Here is a map of our destinations:

I’ll admit, Phillip and I were both a little nervous about navigating Memory Rock.  Much of our work, education and training this past year (particularly my Sea School and Captain’s License courses) were meant to prepare us for encounters just like this–hairy, rocky inlets that would require keen and precise navigation to ensure our prized possession and our ticket to world travel didn’t collide into a reef or rock and cause significant damage.  Following the explicit Explorer Charts headings and Pam Wall’s incredibly helpful and adamant advice to “not turn east into Little Bahamas Bank until you are with 1/4 mile of Memory Rock.  1/4 mile!” she screeched to us via the Delorme (which by the way proved very helpful in making navigation and weather routing decisions such as these).

So we didn’t.  We watched the depths as they dropped from 20 to 15 to 12 ft and did not turn right into the Bank until our GPS coordinates were within .25 of the coordinates for Memory Rock.  Then we turned, watched the depths, which remained between 11 and 13 and carefully traversed our way along the path detailed by the Explorer Charts.  Soon we found ourselves back in a safe 17 feet of water breathing big sighs of relief, so happy we had our first “hairy” entrance behind us.

While planning and dreaming about the Bahamas for many months in 2017, navigating the sometimes tricky and dangerous reefs and rocky inlets was not something Phillip and I were looking forward to.  But it’s something you have to accept and prepare for if you want to travel to places like this.  It’s the “eustress” (I call it) of cruising, the good kind of stress.  And, it was well worth enduring this time, because Phillip and I were rewarded with crystal-clear, lush water soon after we made our way into Little Bahamas Bank.  Both of us could not stop staring.  There were so many shades of jewel-toned greens, crystal blues, pearly whites, all swirling and flowing underneath our boat.  The water was breathtaking!


It was the first time we were watching our boat traverse over the crystal waters of the Bahamas, and I swear it’s like you could feel her perking up, raising her bow, looking around and taking it all in.  Plaintiff’s Rest was just as excited to be there as we were.  We knew when we saw those colorful, can’t-really-describe them waters that we had made it–into the Bahamas!  We motored over to Mangrove Cay just in time to drop the hook, with an hour or two of daylight so we could do our first Bahamian anchor check, which can practically be done from the boat, because you can see down, even to 13 feet and almost make out the anchor exactly.  You’ll see in the video!  But we were ready to get wet!


A quick dip and it was soon time for happy hour, a stunning sunset, and a special Chef Phillippe dinner on the boat.  (I believe it was Cuban-style mojo pork tenderloin with black beans and yellow rice that night, but don’t quote me on that.  We eat so good on the boat, every night is finer than a five-star gourmet feast!)

Our plan was to get up with the sun again the next day so we could make it well within daylight to our next stop, Great Sale Cay, and spend more time playing and exploring there before nightfall.  And while I would have never believed it, the water that day was even more beautiful, easily the most breathtaking of our entire trek through the Abacos.  Just.  You.  Wait.  There’s a little preview of it at the end of the video, and some footage we are very excited to share, coming at you next time.  Can you say a Silks Session at Sunset??

Yeeeessss.  That’s all coming to you next time.  For now go with us!  Check in at West End, down your first Goombay Smash (followed by a hammock crash) and join us as we make our way into Little Bahamas Bank!  Enjoy!

Posted in Aerial Silks, Bahamas Bound, Good Juice, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

BV4 (VIDEO): Across the Gulf Stream to West End

“Never cross with a north wind!”  Can you hear it?  Pam Wall’s little energetic voice?  She repeated this warning many times when we first saw, heard and met her at the Miami Boat Show back in February, 2015.  I had no idea that amazing little enthusiastic woman would soon thereafter change my life.

Love that bubbly little lady!

After listening to her inspiring “Cruising the Abacos” seminar (and finding ourselves in dire hunger soon after for some “fresh baked Bahamian bread,” Pam always squeals when she says it) Phillip and I had originally decided back in 2015 that the first place we were going to cruise our boat to outside of the states would be the Bahamas.  And that decision held firm for a long time until we heard Cuba had thankfully opened up for American cruisers.  Heck yeah!

While the Bahamas were hard to pass up, we knew they would be there waiting for us the next season, and with the tumultuous state of American-Cuban relations, we weren’t sure Cuba would be.  That was when we decided to set our sights first on Cuba, and it was a fantastic decision.  Mine and Phillip’s cruise to Cuba in December, 2016 was a monumental, memorable voyage for us both.  It was our longest offshore passage (five days) just the two of us and it was the first time we had sail our beautiful little boat from the shores of one country to another.  What an incredible feeling!  I still remember when we watched the sun come up over the horizon on the fifth morning.

“That’s a Havana sunrise right there,” Phillip said and he played “Havana Daydreaming” most of the morning as we made our way towards the inlet to Marina Hemingway, singing heartily along as his late Uncle Johnny would have, who had also wanted to sail to Cuba but he unfortunately was not able to do so before he passed away.  I know Johnny was there with Phillip in spirit and I can still hear Phillip’s voice from that morning as he sat on the foredeck and sang.  “Oh he’s just scheming … his life away.”

Thankfully, we’re not just scheming.  We are going!  Our voyage to Cuba was a phenomenal trip and only told Phillip and I that we are ready to travel further and longer, just the two of us, on our boat.  So, in 2017 we decided we would set our sights on the Bahamas this season and enjoy the wonderful pristine patch of islands we have so close by.  It’s amazing to think that jewel-toned paradise is really only a 12-hour sail from the states.  How lucky we are!  All we needed was just a sliver more luck to give us a nice “no north wind” window of favorable conditions to allow us to sail from the Keys and across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

In the months before our departure date from Pensacola, Phillip and I (well, and I will admit Phillip far more than me) spent many hours studying the Explorer Charts for the Bahamas making decisions about where we planned to enter the Bahamas, where we wanted to check in and what islands (called “Cays” in the Bahamas, pronounced “keys”) we wanted to sail to and visit and in what order, although knowing every plan is and will always be weather-dependent.  Having just recently completed my first Bahamas article for SAIL Magazine (thank you again, Peter Nielsen, for requesting more articles from me!) which will focus on preparing and packing for a trip to the Bahamas, Phillip and I both agree an intense study of the Explorer Charts and determinations as to where you want to go in the Bahamas and what route you want to take to explore them is a great first place to start when preparing to travel to the Bahamas.  Much of what you will need aboard will depend on how you are planning to traverse the Bahamas and what you are planning to do there as supplies are readily available in some places, limited and altogether unavailable in others.

After talking with fellow sailors back home who had cruised the Bahamas many times and taking into consideration what time of year Phillip and I were going (during December-January, when we knew we could expect many sudden and intense north fronts, the “Christmas winds,” and some chilly water and weather), we decided to make our way as far north as possible first and check in at West End.

We would then start dotting our way along the Sea of Abaco seeking protection from the northerly islands as needed when storms and heavy north winds were expected.  (And boy did they come.  I recorded 36 kts of wind on the boat one afternoon in Green Turtle Cay.  Just wait.)

With the plan to enter the Bahamas at West End, Phillip and I knew we wanted to “ride” the Gulf Stream as far as we could north before jumping out to make entry into West End.  Initially, we weren’t sure we would get a window large enough to allow us to sail all the way from Key West to West End.  If we did not, our plan was to dot along the Florida Keys to Marathon then perhaps Rodriguez Key while waiting for a good window to make the jump.  But, when we saw a beautiful two-day window blooming on the horizon, we started to top off the provisions and ready the boat to make way.  While we had a ton of fun in Key West (we always do!) meeting the new Geckos and getting to spend some time with them, seeing our old pals Brittany and Jeremiah and getting to watch their beautiful Alberg splash, as well as enjoying the many great restaurants and poolside views, we are always eager and excited to get back underway.

On Wednesday, December 20th, with expected 10-12 kt winds the first day (which would offer us a fun, comfortable sail around the Keys) and light, fluky winds of 5 kts or less the following day (which would allow us to at least motor safely across the Gulf Stream), Phillip and I decided to toss the lines and seize the window!  You’ll see in the video, Annie de-docked like a boss (I tell you I’m getting much better at this), and we then had a fantastic cruise all the way from Key West to West End, just shy of a two-day run.


Man, that’s living … 

So, is that.  With all the work comes all the rewards.  

There’s the entry to West End!

Don’t tell Pam this, but we totally broke the rule because you know what kind of winds we had throughout the entire Gulf Stream?  That’s right.  North!  We crossed with a north wind, Pammy.  I’m sorry!  But, when it’s howling at 3 kts, a north wind isn’t really going to affect the boat that much, particularly when it had been blowing from the south for a short time before.  Meaning, the sea state was just starting to turn around and we essentially crossed on a smooth, glassy lake.  It was beautiful though.  While I always prefer to have wind to sail, there is nothing that can replicate the beauty of a hull sliding through silk at sunrise.  It’s just stunning.

I hope you all enjoy the video.  I have had such a great time filming just for pleasure and putting these videos together for you all, just for pure fun.  Not to make any money from them.  Not in hopes they will get a lot of hits so I can get YouTube ad money.  Just because our views were amazing, so I clicked the camera on occasionally, and because the videos are such a vivid personal scrapbook for us.  I really will be excited to sit down when I’m 70 and watch my Atlantic-crossing movie.  Can you imagine that?  I wonder if YouTube will still be a “thing” then?  Who knows.  If any of you have read Dave Eggers’s The Circle (one Phillip and I both read in the Bahamas), apparently we all will soon be be filming and uploading every moment of our existence for all the world to see.  Heck, with the immediacy of Instagram and Facebook these days, we’re almost there.

But you know where you can truly unplug and get away?  Out there.  On the big open blue.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to be out there, nothing but satiny water all around you and nothing you have to do but eat, sleep, mend the boat and read.  I could sail offshore forever, happily, I do believe.  I hope you all love this bit.  As always, I try to capture the beauty of the voyage, the work and maintenance it requires, and the reward of having your beautiful, strong boat carry you from the shores of one country to another.  Next up, we’ll begin sharing the Bahamas with you, one Cay at a time.  Be ready to pick your jaws up off the floor because it’s breathtaking.  Stay tuned!

Posted in Bahamas Bound, Boat Projects, Equipment Failures, Sail Skills, Videos, Voyage to Cuba | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments