Have any of you ever wondered this? “How do they change their oil when they’re sailing around the world?” I’ll be honest, when we were first boat-shopping, I wasn’t even entirely aware the boat had an engine, much less one that had oil that needed changing, or that we (Phillip and I) would be the folks to do it. I was so clueless in the beginning! When I finally did start to ponder it, I thought we would just pull into one of those 10-minute oil change places, like you do with your car, and have it done. Yeah, ‘cause those exist on the water. It’s amazing Phillip has put up with me all these years. The blonde is real people.
After our beloved boat, primarily under the power of our engine, a Westerbeke 27A whom we lovingly call “Westie,” took us to fourteen stunning Abaco cays, it was time to change out his oil. A few years back, we found this nifty manual oil pump that allows us to do it ourselves right in the saloon. I put together a detailed, informative video for you all here from our “Maintenance in Marsh Harbour” and some photos below showing you how we change the oil on our boat, as well as the primary fuel filter and zinc. I also included one way, in particular, how NOT to do change the oil on a boat. You’re welcome! Watch and learn and we’ll hope an oil spill on board never happens to you. “Better get some towels,” the captain said. *gulp*
Ahoy followers! I hope you love boat maintenance as much as we do! While we’re not the best at it, we certainly strive to keep our beautiful baby ship-shape and in top Bristol fashion. Mainly, we feel very lucky to have purchased our boat from a previous owner who loved her just as much as we do and took exceptional care of her for twenty-eight years. WWJD: What Would Jack Do? is a running joke on our boat. We just try not to mess up what he started. One of the upgrades Jack made to our Niagara 35 was an ingenuous shift of the oil filter from a horizontal position (which forced the dirty oil to spill out of it during an oil change) to a vertical one, where it at least gives us a chance to catch the oil that will spill out when we swap the old with the new by placing a bag underneath. Thanks Jack!
We also found this great plastic oil pump kit (with a pump bin, hoses and fittings) a few years back in St. Pete (from a very interesting marine vendor, fun story for you here) that we stow on board in a big Rubbermaid bin that fits in our hanging locker. I’m not certain of our particular brand, but West Marine seems to have a comparable version of it here. We previously had a dirty old metal one, but the plastic one is much lighter and cleaner. Thank You Backdoor Marine Supply Guy!
We also feel very fortunate to have great engine access on our Niagara. The galley sink and cabinets simply pull back (we prop them on the table with a pillow) and we have instant access to all the major checkpoints on the engine. We can also remove the stairs for more access and I can crawl into the hatch in the aft berth and get behind the engine too, if need be. So, we can accomplish 360-degree access for major projects. Westie isn’t safe from our grimy hands anywhere! Ha!
Jack also installed a tube drain from the oil reservoir in the engine with a hose attachment that has a shut-off valve. The tube (currently capped and sealed off) is laying on the engine floor to the right of the transmission in this photo.
We connect this hose Jack put together for us (you will see the red shut-off valve) to that fitting by the transmission and then place the other end of the hose in the oil pump to literally suck the oil out of the engine and into our plastic oil pump.
Before we change the oil, we always crank the engine and let Westie run for about ten minutes to let the oil warm up and get viscous. Then we shut him down and rig up this pump and hose set-up. Once connected, we give the oil pump 15-or-so pumps to create the vacuum suction, then Phillip or I turn the red valve to the open position and you can literally see the black oil coming up through the hose into the oil pump. We can also hear it (a whooshing sound) and feel the heat of the oil going into the pump. We repeat this pump-and-release process about three times until there is barely any oil that comes through the hose upon release (meaning the oil reservoir in the engine is mostly empty).
In this photo, you can actually see the oil about halfway up the hose, about to come up over the bend and down into the pump near my hands. Phillip is watching that to make sure the oil is draining.
Once Westie is drained, we set to taking off the old filter (which Phillip is doing here with multiple Ziplock bags beneath), and I begin filling the new filter with oil. We put about a quart into the new filter and lube the gasket with it before putting it on the engine. We have also learned to wipe where the old filter was mounted and check to make sure the old gasket did not stick to the engine.
Once the new filter is on, we set to filling Westie back up with fresh, new oil. He loves that! We usually put about 2 – 2.5 quarts into the engine (plus the quart in the filter which equates to about 3- 3.5 quarts total. We have over-filled it before so we try not to do that. Our goal is to shoot a little low (plenty of oil for Westie to run and stay lubed, but definitely under the “full” mark on the dipstick) as we have found the new oil tends to expand a bit when we first run the engine after an oil change.
“While you’re down there,” I can just hear our buddy Mitch saying now. He was the friend who helped us deliver our Niagara when we first bought her back in 2013 from Punta Gorda up to her home port in Pensacola and all 6’3” of him didn’t seem to enjoy the process of climbing up and down our “little toy stairs,” which meant every time I went down to grab something, it would be immediately followed by a request from Mitch that started with “While you’re down there … ” So, while we were down there, with the engine all opened up and in our grease suits, we decided to also check on the sacrificial zinc in our heat exchanger and the primary fuel filter.
The zinc actually looked pretty good. We’ve pulled this guy out before to find just a little grey nub. We also try to occasionally (I’d say once a season) drain the heat exchanger and clean out all the little leftover zinc bits in there. It usually looks like a zinc graveyard, and those guys all tumbling around can restrict water flow. So, a little bit of maintenance in that regard can go a long way.
The fuel filter did not look near as good. All that black grime around the bottom means it’s time to change it out.
Thankfully, that’s a rather easy job on our boat, just pop the lid off of the globe, pull this piece out, dump the old filter, and put a new one on. The only tricky part is making sure the two (2) spaghetti size o-rings on the globe wiggle back into place before you tighten the lid down.
We are also lucky in that our engine is self-priming. When we turn the key, it starts to bleed the air in the system (that we allowed in by opening the globe). We wait about thirty seconds for it to do that (and you can see the globe filling while it does) before engaging the glow plugs then turning him over. He cranked like a champ. Way to go Westie!
Now … about this oil spill. I share here because I hope this never happens to one of you. While we are definitely pleased with our plastic oil pump, it does have one drawback. One we were not in any way aware of when we bought it. Apparently, when dumping the old oil out, if you tip the pump more than 90 degrees, oil will fill the pump chamber and it ruins the pump. Not only will it no longer be able to suck oil in, the awesome side effect of doing this causes the pump to actually shoot oil out of the handle when you engage it. You’ll see at the end of the video above this is what happened to us. Not knowing this “90 degree dump” issue, I had taken the pump to an Auto Zone for proper disposal of the oil and the guy behind the counter dumped it for me. I saw him, and he definitely tipped it completely upside down, I just didn’t know that would cause any kind of a problem. But, the next time we had to change the oil and we set the pump up, oil shot out of the handle on both sides when I pulled the handle up. Fantastic. “Get some towels,” Phillip said.
You can see now why we lay so many sheets and towels down when we change the oil on the boat. If any of you use one of these types of pumps to change your oil on the boat, I hope this tip helps an oil spill aboard from never happening to you!
Best of luck out there grease monkeys! Keep those diesels purring!
What’s that old saying? There are only three types of wind: too much, too little, or in the wrong direction. While that is fairly true, thankfully, for us, no matter what speed or direction, we can usually bust out one of our many “wind toys” and do something with it, either go sailing, kiting, or silking! We had wind for all three during our stay at Treasure Cay, a beautiful resort-type island in the Abacos with our favorite stretch (three miles!) of stunning white beach on the north shore. Fun video, story, and photos for you all below from our colorful stay at Treasure Cay!
It really is a treasure! Treasure Cay was one of our favorite stops in the Bahamas. It had a very secure, protected marina (they pull a chain across the entrance and lock the harbor at night to make it extra safe) and the staff at the marina were all very attentive and helpful. Plus, that beach on the north shore is just jaw-dropping. We saw many locals who walk it every day, one end to the other, which would be six miles total, and which also comprised their complete workout for the day. Can you imaging your daily exercise routine being so relaxing and beautiful? Life on the islands is really a breath of fresh air compared to life here in the states.
We also had a fantastic time kiting on the north shore. Because it curves around on either side, it offered us kiteable (that’s a word in Annie Land) wind from so many directions. Anything from the north, east, or south was do-able there, which is why we got so much kiting time in. I literally thought I was too exhausted to give it another go by day three. I was suffering from “T-rex” syndrome, where your forearms are so tired from steering the kite that you they’re practically useless … much like that of a T-Rex. And, memes like these always bring me a big T-rex smile. : )
And my personal favorite. This one always makes me feel better! You’re welcome!
But, aside from the magnificently-exhausting kiting we did at Treasure Cay, we also had one common theme that seemed to run through every memory. It’s this little pint-sized ball of cruising energy who originally inspired Phillip and I to travel to the Bahamas in the first place when we heard her talk about her beloved Abacos at the Miami Boat Show as far back as 2015. Do you know who I’m talking about?
That’s right. This wonderfully-inspiring woman: Pam Wall. She had a huge impact on us from the start because I could literally see and hear her passion for cruising each time she spoke about places she has been and her gallant boat, Kandarik. It amazed me when I learned Pam’s full story some of the horrendous heartbreaking things she has had to endure yet, despite it, she still brings others joy and inspiration and shares her passion for cruising. And, apparently, I’m not the only who feels this way because we met, independently, three separate cruisers at Treasure Cay who had a connection with, and fond memory of, Pam Wall. Turns out, she, is the real treasure.
Meet John and Gayle!
This trashy couple. Ha! This was a fun moment where we all shared a laugh at what “dirtbags” cruisers are. The minute we dock at a new place, the first thing we bring with us off the boat is our trash. We’re real stand-up folks like that. The minute I sprang on John and Gayle, I caught them in this treacherous act and decided to help! So, how did we meet John and Gayle and make the Pam Wall connection? Ironically, not in the way Pam Wall thought we would. Both while Phillip and I were in the Bahamas-planning stages and when we were actually out cruising in the Bahamas, Pam and I exchanged many emails where we would share with her how much we were enjoying her “Beloved Bahamas!” just as she said we would and she would always, always (if any of you know Pam, you will agree with this) share her many connections and tips on places to go, things to do, good stuff to eat, and people to hug for her. When I told her we were thinking about going to Man-o-War cay, this was the short list of suggestions she sent me:
I know. A lot of people to find and hug, right? That Pammy. She is so cute. The funny thing was, we did not end up stopping at Man-o-War Cay but as we were walking the docks (who doesn’t love to do that?) in Treasure Cay, Phillip actually spotted, on his own, a beautiful boat he wanted to point out to me.
“Man, look at that Hinckley!” he said and pointed. I turned my attention to where he was pointing and it was, sure enough, a magnificent, beautiful boat, but something else stuck out for me. The name, Ciro. That’s a pretty unique boat name and I felt like I had heard it before. My mind started rattling and I thought maybe it had been one Pam mentioned in one of her many Bahamas emails. I searched around in my Gmail and, sure enough, found that one. Notice her mention of a Hinckley named Ciro and a lovely couple on it named John and Gayle. While she had recommended I do that “Gee it’s great to see you again” bit to a different couple, I decided to do it to John. Phillip and I meandered around and waited for them to step off the boat (carrying their trash of course, cruisers after my own heart!) and I walked up to John, whom I’ve never met before, and said “Hey John! It’s so good to see you again! We had such a great time the last time we were together.” Both John and Gayle gave me a priceless stumped look, and Gayle actually started to give John an even funkier look, and that’s when I cracked and told them my good friend Pam Wall told me to hunt them out and do that.
We instantly connected. They are lifelong sailors, part-time live-aboards, and John has extensive knowledge in Hinckley boat building and repair. They were delivering this particularly Hinckley, Ciro, to the Bahamas for the owner and had actually stayed at Pam’s dock in Ft. Lauderdale before making the jump to the Bahamas. We all had so many wonderful Pam stories to share. And, we ended up doing “pizza night” with John and Gayle at the Treasure Cay Marina the following night (absolutely delicious) and had them and another fellow cruiser over the next night for happy hour goodies.
Tim is single-handing the Bahamas on his Endeavor. He had actually saw Phillip and I as we were walking toward Ciro and shouted out: “Hey, I know you guys from YouTube!” Ha! Small world. He’s been a long-time HaveWind follower, so it was fun for him to get to meet us and join the party. It’s always a party on Plaintiff’s Rest!
So, is this where the Pam Wall connections end? Heck no! Meet Steve and Anike!
They had just walked up the beach while we were kiting (it often draws a few curious folks) to ask us about our kite gear and how it all worked and this, of course, lead to a conversation about “What brings you to the Bahamas?” We found Steve and Anike were actually long-time cruisers. They used to cruise with their children aboard in the Caribbean on a Tayana 37 and are now on a beautiful Shannon. When they asked us the same question, “What brings you to the Bahamas?” my answer often starts with Pam Wall, because she is the person who first lit our fire about cruising to the Bahamas and Steve immediately said, “Oh, Pam, isn’t she great? She helped us get our Tayana ready for the Caribbean. She may not remember us. It was back when she was working at West Marine, but please tell her how helpful she was.”
Won’t remember you … Pam doesn’t forget a thing. Seriously, I can’t remember half the places we’ve been and I’ve only been cruising part-time for five years. Pam can still tell you every single stop she and Andy made on their many Atlantic circles back in the 80s-90s. And, she remembered Steve and Anike. It was starting to get comical sending her texts from Treasure Cay saying “Found another cruising couple who knows you!” But it did not stop there. The last one was really a surprise.
I was in the shower room at the marina getting spruced up for a hot date on the town with my Phillip (we ate at the Treasure Sands Club that night …. just fabulous, I gained five treasure pounds that night alone that I am still proud of! ; ). As I was wrapping up in the restroom, Anike came in. We started chatting again about her past travels and other women who have cruised too. And I was telling her a little bit more of Pam’s story when another woman came around the corner to wash her hands and asked: “Are you talking about Pam Wall?”
“Yes!” I squeaked, surprised she knew who I was talking about with such little information, and the woman responded: “Oh yeah, we heard about her through the SailLoot podcast.” (Little shout-out to my buddy, TeddyJ, at SailLoot!) “And I heard your interview on SailLoot, too!”
Turns out it was Kristen from Life in the Key of Sea, another cruising couple I had been following on Facebook for some time. Mutual followers I guess you could call us. I did not know it was Kristen at the time because it was a very brief pass-by in the bathroom and we did not bump into one another again in Treasure Cay, but we did in Eleuthera! And, we got to spend a day dining and hiking with her and Brett. We then found out Brett was one of the sailors who helped TeddyJ deliver his boat (which was Windtraveler’s previous boat, s/v Asante), from St. Thomas to Florida this past summer. Fun podcast Teddy put together talking about that passage here. It is such a small cruising world out there I swear! Here are some fun photos of Kristen and Brett on s/vLife in the Key of Sea!
I actually took this one of the two of them when we were hiking at Harbour Island:
And Kristen took this one of me and Phillip:
I forgot to get a group shot (we were having too much fun) but this is Phillip, Kristen and Brett looking out at our anchorage where they had dropped the hook right next to us at Harbour Island!
So, you ready to go cruising yet? Want to meet all kinds of new friends, old friends, re-found friends in all sorts of beautiful little islands scattered out in the sea? If you’re struggling with how to start, Pam Wall Cruising Consultant, might be a good one! Love you Pammy! You’ve influenced and inspired so many!
Some very fun photos for you all from our beautiful stay at Treasure Cay. Hope you all have been enjoying our Bahamas posts! Do you feel like you’re there with us? We do!
Winds of 25 plus! Crazy moments with party-people all 25 and under! Eddie the nipping Nippers cat. Bucketlusters, kite-surfers, Vladimir Platypus (my winter, wet-suit alter-kite ego) and “Bahamas Boys” looking for some cheebah? Or bitcoin crypto … I believe they’re the same. If anyone knows what those are, feel free to chime in below. We’ve got it all for you guys in this very fun video from the stunning island of Great Guana Cay, along with my favorite photos below. It was so hard to choose any, though, they were all so beautiful. Guana Cay offered us great kiting on the Atlantic shore, never-ending entertainment at Nippers, a chance to star-gaze at the many stars who allegedly own houses on Baker’s Bay (think Cher, Beyonce, Sting, etc.), a beautiful sunset anchorage, and fantastic fine-dining dinners at Sunsetters at Orchid Bay Marina. We loved it! Hope you all enjoy the video!
Photos from our sail through Whale Cay passage. It was, according to one of the fellow captains we talked to who did it that day as well, “not peachy, but passable.” It was a bit lumpy out there (4-6 rollers) but with winds of only 10-12 out of the NW. Doable, not daunting, and, to be honest, a very fun day sailing on the Atlantic! That is the furthest east Plaintiff’s Rest has ever been! It was a big day for her, and she nailed it!
Making our way toward the cut. We followed very strictly along the lat-and-lon points in the Explorer Charts. Boy, are those things life-savers.
Ironically, the cRaZy Bucketlusters who bombarded us at Green Turtle Cay decided to make the Whale Cay passage that day as well (after they terrorized the piggies at No Name Cay, that is). We could see all of the catamarans anchored at No Name at the same time and I can only imagine what the Bucketlusters were doing to those pigs … riding them, spanking them, trying to kiss them. Who knows. Poor pigs! But it was awesome for us to be able to make the passage surrounded by thirty catamarans. It’s like we had our own rather-large tenders out carrying us through. I just stayed in the middle of them, on course, hoping if anyone hit the reefs, it would be the party-people on the outside – ha! And boy did they party through the entire passage. Up on the decks dancing, singing, drinking. Those guys are non-stop.
I was really excited about Guana Cay. Clearly …
I will say, whoever does the marketing for Nippers is genius. There was a sign about every five feet telling you how to get to Nippers, guys running around in golf carts all over the island willing to take you, at any time, to Nippers, and most of the people that live and work on the island are wearing shirts just about every day that say … Nippers. And boy was it a fun beach bar place. Great food. Fantastic setting overlooking the Atlantic with a staircase straight down to the beach and great goombay smashes. Yes, please!
The view from our cockpit. It was a beautiful anchorage.
This was wild. So, Phillip and I were getting into the dinghy with all of our kite gear about to head to shore to make the trek over to kite behind Nippers on morning, and Phillip saw something just randomly floating by in the water. He cocked his head to the side and eyed it suspiciously, then found out it was the black “anchor gate” that goes on our Mantus. (Mantus came out with this supplemental gate that snaps over the chain to make sure, even with Mantus’ pretty savvy chain-lock system, the chain does not come out of the hook.) And here ours was, just floating by in the water at the VERY time we were getting into the dinghy. Phillip went down to check the Mantus and found, sure enough, it had somehow wiggled and vibrated enough (it was very windy those days we spent at Guana Cay) to loosen the pin in the shackle that holds the Mantus hook onto the snubber. Thankfully the water was so clear, Phillip could literally see from the top our Mantus hook sitting on the bottom. And, when he dove down he was also able to find our pin and shackle. Whew! And, all because of timing when the gate was floating by. Our boat always tries her best to let us know something is wrong at the exact right time where we can fix it. Way to go boat. A note to fellow Mantus-users, we decided to throw a zip-tie (seizing wire would also work) in the shackle pin to prevent this from happening again. All lessons are free today!
Anchor fixed. Disaster averted. Time to get back on the kiting!
That Eddie. The “wild” cat that lives at Nippers. Careful not to pet or pick him up. He’ll nip ya!
This is the view at Sunsetters on the other side at Orchid Bay Marina. Just stunning!
Green Turtle Cay was a quaint, picturesque resort … until 34 boats came to the marina, bringing 340 party people. We were bombarded by Bucketlust, and no amount of foul weather would stop their non-stop party. These people were WiLd, sporting different-themed costumes each day (think WWF Spandex, Unicorn tights, fuzzy vests, fanny packs, you name it) while drinking, dancing, and drinking some more from sun up until … well, sun up again during a wicked 3-day northern front. Bucketlust is a private boat charter/group vacation (primarily for the young wealthilites who have a smooth 10k to blow on a vacay), and boy were they entertaining. Tiring, filthy, and loud at times, but still entertaining. We also had a fantastic time feeding (and dodging) the rather aggressive Abacos swimming pigs at No Name Cay, celebrating Junkanoo with the locals at New Plymouth for New Years, even getting in on a little hand-stand throw-down at the Tipsy Turtle. Fun video for you all here, with photos below, from our colorful stay at Green Turtle Cay. Enjoy!
The entrance into White Sound at Green Turtle Cay was one of our most shallow, boasting a tide as low as 6 feet at low tide. For this reason, we weighed anchor before dawn at Manjack Cay to take advantage of the high tide when coming into the White Sound entrance around 8:00 a.m. And, thankfully, our planning and worrying paid off when we found we had a smooth 10 feet under our hull all the way through the channel.
A nice walk or jog fresh off the boat is one of our favorite ways to explore a new island.
Dinghying over to No Name Cay to check out the swimming piggies!
We got a real kick out of these guys. While they definitely weren’t the cuddly, fuzzy, friendly pigs I had imagined (most were caked in dirt with matted eyes, with patches of lost fur), but they were sweet and hungry! They hated selfies with Annie, though. It got to be comical, every time I pulled my camera up in selfie mode, they literally would snort, groan, and turn away. Every time. No pig selfies for Annie. : (
You’ll see in the video how these porkies nipped and clawed at us. You really had to be careful when feeding them. I started throwing huge chunks of bread at them to make them go away while Phillip got trampled near the dinghy!
Finally started cracking those coconuts we got from Manjack Cay! I busted out our “fancy tools” for the job.
Happy 2018!! We spent New Years Eve dining at the Green Turtle Club restaurant there near the marina. It was fabulous! And a very fun, intimate venue for the celebration!
Check out the moon!
Welcome to the Tipsy Turtle Bar! We got a little tipsy in there on several occasions. You gotta love a bar where the only “decor” is sailing pennants and dollar bills.
Getting Eddie the Rock’s fresh conch salad over in New Plymouth. I was fascinated by this long-time conch harvester who could shell each conch in less than 10 seconds. The first time I tried it (although I’m much better after our stay in the Berries), it took me five minutes. But, I did get that little squirmy alien out without macerating the shell, which I’ve heard is better than some. Can’t wait to share my first conch shelling with you guys. Coming soon!
The Junkanoo menu at The Wrecking Tree. Just our speed.
Pineapples is a tucked-away, quirky little bar that our buddy, Don, who lives on the huge m/v Status Quo on Spanish Cay told us about. Honestly, it reminded us exactly of Paradise Inn out on Pensacola Beach back home.
These two are ready for a Junkanoo parade! Junkanoo is an annual celebration in the Bahamas commemorating the three days the slaves used to be given off each year and they would sing and dance in colorful outfits and host an annual parade. It was so cool to be there (inadvertently) at the same time they were all celebrating such a unique, local holiday.
The Bahamas in a blow. Still beautiful.
Time to tuck in for some dinner at the best restaurant in all the Bahamas: s/v Plaintiff’s Rest! I seriously am so lucky to live and travel with such an excellent chef. Phillip rocks the galley.
Beautiful little beach on the north shore.
It was a drizzly, wet, windy couple of days at Green Turtle Cay, but we had been watching that front building and coming for about a week and were more than happy to be tucked in safe in White Sound for protection … and entertainment. Green Turtle Cay Marina, as well as the restaurant there and the wonderful staff, did not disappoint. GTC is a great place to spend a week in the Bahamas.
But, just remember, while we’re dressed like this … the Bucklust yAhOoS are dressed like this:
God love ‘em … We hope you enjoyed our stay at GTC. Next time we’ll take you out into the Atlantic through the notorious Whale Cay Passage over to Great Guana Cay for some wicked kitesurfing behind Nippers on the north shore and great food and walking trails on Guana Cay. Stay tuned!
Like wet silk perhaps? Or running your fingers along the top of a pan of jello? No, it’s softer than that. I’m trying to think of how to describe it. The silky smooth belly of a stingray. While I’m not sure any words can quite capture it, I’m proud that I can say, now, I have experienced it. And, it was all because of the “Stingray Whisperer.” Ahoy followers! We’re back on Bahamas blog time, having just wrapped our “magic moments” at stunning Powell Cay in the Abacos and weighed anchor headed for Manjack (pronounced Nunjack) Cay where we kitesurfed, chased turtles and stingrays, and cracked our first coconut (and I honestly can’t tell you which was more fun). Fantastic video and photos for you below. Enjoy!
Ahhh … sailing! Boy, were we thrilled that day to be sailing again.
Honestly, in the Abacos, each of the islands are so close (2-3 hours, usually, at most), and there often wasn’t enough wind or too much wind to comfortably sail, so we would just motor from one to the next for the first 5-6 cays we visited. While this was great for kite-surfing and glassy snorkeling once we got to each island, Phillip and I LOVE to sail. So, when our plans to weigh anchor mid-morning and head from Powell Cay over to Manjack Cay also afforded us perfect winds of 12-14 kts over the starboard stern to spend the day sailing there, we were thrilled! We took the long way and spent the day happily jibing our way slowly to Manjack Cay.
Jackets? In the Bahamas?! We’ve had folks ask us often what the weather and temps were like in the Bahamas in December and January. Honestly, a little chilly. When we first got into the Little Bahamas Bank and the Sea of Abaco, the sunny days allowed us to snorkel and dip in the water without our wet suits, but if we were going to be underwater for any period of time (snorkeling or diving) you would definitely start to go numb if you didn’t wear a wetsuit. Then, as the fronts started to come in and the days were often cloud-covered and windy, the water got way too chilly without our full wetsuits. That also meant jackets and layers when we were sailing in the chilly wind. Once ashore and protected on the leeward side, bikinis and board shorts were fine. But most of our time in December and January was spent in a hodgepodge of layers ranging from full wetsuits and booties to string bikinis.
Here’s Manjack (not sure why, but it’s pronounced “Nunjack”) Cay. Just east of Powell Cay and a very short hop from Green Turtle Cay. We were definitely watching the weather very closely when we were in the Abacos as the northern fronts build quickly and can sit on you for days, with bitter winds of 25-35 kts. They also clock around so you have to make sure you are protected from winds coming at you from different directions. All of that wind is great for kite-surfing, which was awesome for us, but we always wanted to make sure we found good protection from the wind directions we were expecting. We spent a beautiful two blue-sky, sunny days at Manjack, with the plan to scoot over to Green Turtle Cay (playing the tide because the inlet reportedly got down to 6 feet at low tide, thanks for the intel www.ExplorerCharts.org) to hunker down for a nasty storm that was coming. We decided to stay at the marina in White Sound because it was so well protected and it would allow us to tie up secure, top off the water and give the boat a thorough wash-down. Wait till you see that footage. We got 36 kts of wind on the boat, even tucked there in the sound. It. Was. Windy.
And, what do we like to do when it blows?
Get our kite on baby! But, as I mentioned, the water was chilly (probably around 68-70 degrees) and with cloud cover, you definitely wanted your wetsuit. We dawned our shorties that day and my winter alter ego, Vladimir Platypus, makes a cameo in the video. Enjoy!
It was a full day of surfing which left us happily exhausted and hungry. You know you’re living the good life when you watch (from the cockpit of your boat) the sun not only set …
But also rise!
Day Two! Time to go exploring!
The island at Manjack Cay is really stunning, with lots of little trails and walkways. You could easily spend the day walking the island and lounging on the stunning shores. Pack a picnic and a book and you’ll spend the day in heaven!
The north shore on the Atlantic side (and this was true for most of the islands in the Abacos) was the most breathtaking, with a half-mile stretch of Bahamas brown beaches, butting up to jewel-toned green waters that roll and lap the shore. The sound of the water churning is therapeutic.
This little log, poised perfectly before the rolling ocean, provided the perfect backdrop. Phillip called it immediately: “PHOTO OP!” he said, as I squealed and shed my cover-up for an impromptu photo shoot!
Man … island life is rough.
During our walk back to the dinghy, we found this post with a log-splitter-type blade sticking out of it and a hammer where it appeared locals (or perhaps vagabonds like us) cracked many of the coconuts that were lying around. It was the first time I had ever cracked a coconut and saw the husky, stringy interior. Man, are those husks hard! I didn’t know the actual coconuts were little hard balls in the center. Boy, are they pretty too. A glossy jet black exterior, with white as snow coconut meat inside. We also got to drink the coconut milk (still warm from the sun) right as we cracked them. Even that small experience, brought immense pleasure and was definitely a highlight for us. Not to mention the amazing toasted coconut oatmeal I made for us the next day. YUM. Life sure is tasty.
So, the stingrays. How did we just happen upon a pod of five pretty-domesticated stingrays that will swim right up to you and let you pet them? Because we’re the most interesting people in the world and we travel with a miniature giraffe! We don’t always pet stingrays, but when we do we do it with a GoPro in hand. Ha! I’m kiiiidddiinngg. This actually worked out as many very cool things that we are lucky enough to experience and do: because Phillip was following his Paddington the Bear hyper-active sixth “travel sense.” I’m telling you that man just starts wandering, looking at maps, talking to locals and literally following his nose at times to truly immerse us in an environment that’s new to us and it often takes us to places where the locals hang out, ends up bringing us into the fold of some very knowledgeable locals who take us under their wing and show us around. All I can say is he’s just the absolute best person to travel with. Most days I have no idea what my day is going to look like, where we’re going to go, what we’re going to eat or do or see and I LOVE IT. I absolutely love it.
This day we were initially dinghying around to a specific lat and lon spot a fellow cruiser (who had done the Bahamas the previous season) told us about where he had seen a ton of sea turtles and had swam with them. While we didn’t find any turtles there, during our rather long dinghy ride home, Phillip saw in one of the coves this center console power boat up on the shore near a dock with several people standing in the water. It piqued his curiosity, and he threw the tiller over and steered us in that direction. As we got closer, you could tell the people were all looking at something down in the water and I immediately got excited. “Turtles!” I shouted, just because that’s what we’d been on the hunt for all day and I had turtles on the brain. But I was thrilled to find when we got there, that they were stingrays. Five of them! And they were all swimming around this man on his knees in the center. He was like the Stingray Whisperer. I eased up to the group and he was nice enough to let me in on the action and kneel down near him so the stingrays would swim up to me too and let me feel the underside of their bellies.
It was like a soft satin blanket, fresh out of the dryer, only wet. It’s very hard to explain, but I think it just might be the softest thing I have ever felt. And ever will. And, where the folks on the boat had paid (probably a pretty penny) to be taken out here to this spot where this captain knew how to conjure the stingrays, here Phillip and I were, cruising bums, getting the same mesmerizing experience for free. I had no clue when I woke that morning that I would be petting stingrays that afternoon, but that’s the absolute beauty of cruising and a life of travel. I find it immensely exhilarating not knowing where my day will lead.
But, I know who I will be following! Love you babe!
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 … ”
“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!
“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!
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!
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 … : )
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!