BV12: Green Turtle Cay: Handstands, Hogs & One Helluva Party

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!

Posted in Bahamas Bound, Good Grub, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

BV11: Fly Like an Eagle at Manjack Cay

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.

Nice coconuts!

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!

 

Posted in Bahamas Bound, Kite-Surfing, Landlubber Outings, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Third Place in the Boating Writers International Writing Contest!

Errngh, errngh!  We interrupt your regularly-scheduled Bahamian program for this important announcement.  Peter Nielsen with SAIL Magazine submitted an article of mine to the 2017 Boating Writers International Writing Contest and I won third place in the “Boating Adventures” category.  Thank you Peter!  Sitting in the cockpit one morning on Plaintiff’s Rest in Marsh Harbour, harvesting a sliver of wifi, and I never dreamed the email I would find in my box.  Peter Neilsen saying: “You won!”  Won what?  I thought.  Unbeknownst to me, Peter had submitted one of my articles from 2017 in for the contest and I took third place!  I’ll take third place any day!  I’ll take any place any day!  I didn’t even know anything about BWI or the contest but I was so excited, when I Googled it, to see two of my favorite sailing/world-traveling idols grace the cover of the webpage.  Little ole’ Annie Dike up there with the likes of people I have looked up to since I started sailing and writing: Tasha Hacker and John Kretschmer.  WHOA.  More info about the contest and my prize-winning article below!!  Thank you, Peter Nielsen, for believing and betting on me.  I couldn’t be more humbled and proud!!

http://www.bwi.org/contest/

Want to know which article of mine placed?  Feel free to take a blind guess in a comment now and see if you get it!  One hint … it had a bit of a racy title.  Those are always attention-grabbing and, apparently now, contest-winning!

Announcement of my contest placement in the “Boating Adventures” category: http://www.bwi.org/best-boating-journalism-recognized-for-25th-year/

Link to view my article on the BWI website: http://www.bwi.org/bwicontest/files/3005-firsttime2.pdf

I remember when that article first came out in stores!  I was so excited!

Want to be the judge?  Feel free to read my article and let me know your opinion of how my story performed according to these BWI criteria:

  • How complex is the story? Does the author use solid knowledge of the subject or information from multiple sources to craft a balanced and informative piece?
  • Is the lead effective? Does the introduction draw the reader into the story?
  • Does the story flow well? Good transitions?  Good structure?
  • Is it well researched? Accurate (or has the writer relied on press releases)?
  • Is there a distinctive personality? Or voice?
  • Effective use of language, metaphor, imagery, sentence structure?
  • Beyond the basics of reporting the story, is there originality? A fresh approach?
  • Is the story fair?
  • How well does the story accomplish its intended mission? Does it entertain? Educate? Inspire?
  • Finally, how well did the judge like it personally?

Seeing this article again, and the photos included in the layout brought back about a thousand memories.  Crossing the Atlantic on a 46-foot catamaran … what an adventure.  And timely to reflect on that just as Phillip and I recently made our way back across a portion of the Atlantic, crossing the Gulf Stream from the Bahamas back to Florida.  We were just texting Captain Yannick via the Delorme while we were out there, telling him it reminded us of the many, many memories we made with him aboard his boat, Andanza, the first time we traveled in those blue waters.  Below are all of the photos I submitted to Peter Neilsen for the article.  What an incredibly challenging, rewarding, and unforgettable adventure!  And now, a monument in the BWI archives!  Go little French Story go!

         

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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 , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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!

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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!

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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