Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 295- Black Point, Exumas, Bahamas

I know that sometimes our adventures seem like a walk in the park, but this is not always the case.  We have faced some adverse conditions of late.  No sun and drenching rain for several days!  We had to use our foul weather gear, bail the dingy more than usual and live with wet, stinky clothes hung all over the inside of the boat.  It made us realize how little rain we've seen for months.
We've been exploring some of the many Cays of the Exumas.  We're learning new skills as we navigate through the cuts (in the reefs) in search of anchorages that are deep enough for us, ideally with not too much current roaring by.  One of our guide books told us about shy, pink iguanas "peeking through bushes" on Leaf Cay.  Sounded interesting.  They weren't shy enough for my taste, though!  As the picture below indicates, there were a lot of them on the beach waiting for us and they were fighting over who would get to us first.  Pablo thought they were just looking for snacks.  I wasn't interested in hanging around to find out if it was true.  After dropping me off on the boat, Pablo and the kids went back to explore.   Somehow they survived the iguana stampede and got some great photos.

Exploring Rat Cay

Leaf Cay sunset

A few of the pink iguanas waiting for us on the beach

The girls named this one "Big Dude"

An interesting spider on Leaf Cay

It is hard to capture the "adverse" conditions when the water is so beautiful

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 290- Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas

We’ve been watching the preparations for the Bahamas National Family Island Regatta, the major sailing event for Bahamians only, held here annually.  The beautiful all-wood 15-30’ sailboats were delivered from all over the Bahamas by various methods.  For example, the mail boat decks were jammed with boats and fishing boats came in towing multiple boats behind them.  Activity started several days ago with the construction 20 or so plywood shacks, each with slight variation of drink menu, transforming Regatta Park into a mini downtown.   
Georgetown is known as a gathering place of cruisers, in fact, where many American cruisers congregate for the entire season (and longer).   Not sure if the end of the season has slowed things down but there is less activity than we expected and only a handful of kids.   The girls however are really enjoying spending time with the other cruising kids that are here.  They play volleyball, climb trees, swing on rope swings and in general spend entire afternoons just romping around.
We’re planning to head out in the next few days to start exploring the smaller, less populated islands of the Exumas.

The local Best Buy

Unloading racing boats off the mail boat

The boat anchored behind us prepping for the Regatta


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 287- Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas

Friends from our hometown of Stow, MA happened to be vacationing in the Turks and Caicos while we were in the area so we made an effort to get together with them. After we (and especially Mia) got caught up on all the happenings with friends back home we headed toward the Bahamas. As we were leaving the Caicos Bank, I spotted something bright pink flying low on the horizon. It took several moments to realize that it was a flamingo. It was a memorable sight, the bright pink against the turquoise water was wonderful. We arrived in Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas after an overnight passage. The harbor has very clear water, is expansive and surrounded on all sides by white sand beaches. After clearing customs we started exploring inland. We found Dean's Blue Hole, the deepest saltwater hole which plunges to a depth of 663ft from the surface. Free divers have set depth records there. The girls and friends from Alexina, a British sailboat, enjoyed swimming to the ramp in the middle of the picturesque cove. Our next stop was Calabash Bay off Cape Santa Maria beach, another very scenic and serene spot on the northern end of Long Island. We are now exploring Georgetown, the hub of cruising activity in the Bahamas, and are especially looking forward to the local Regatta to be held here starting in a few days.

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Exploring Clarence Town

Clarence Harbor

Dean's Blue Hole

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 280- Sapodilla Bay, Turks and Caicos

We successfully crossed the shallow Caicos Bank  (miles of white sand bottom with numerous uncharted coral heads) without incident.  In fact, we anchored for the night out in the middle of it.  It was a very bizarre feeling to just throw out an anchor without having land in sight.  No arguments about the best spot, or whether it was too close to another boat.  The currents shifted during the night, against the wind which caused funny conditions but otherwise it was uneventful.  I now feel more confident reading the water ahead of us in shallow conditions .  The bottoms of the clouds are sometimes aqua from the reflection of the beautiful turquoise water.  It is hard to capture on camera but captivating live.  The walls at the edges of the shallows are supposedly spectacular for diving.  We watched the depth sounder go from 10ft to over 300ft in a matter of a few minutes as we left the Bank.  The depths actually drop into the 1000's of feet but our sounder maxes out at 300ft. 
Thus far Provo has been interesting.  In addition to being a major tourist hub, it seems to be a good place to provision.  Much more is available here than we've seen for a while.  Although we're not serious carnivores, Pablo and I have been dreaming of steaks lately and found some in the grocery store here.  We stocked up on two fairly big packages and decided to cook it all at once so we would have left-overs for lunch.  All the meat was devoured in minutes, mostly by the kids.  Guess they were missing it too. 

Caicos Bank

On watch for shallow spots

Borealis and the kids in Sapodilla Bay

Exploring the limestone ledges in Sapodilla Bay

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 275- Long Cay, Off South Caicos, T&C

We're cooling our heels, waiting for the winds and swell to calm down before we head out on our next adventure. We're in an isolated, fairly protected anchorage on a prime conch fishing spot. Tomorrow we're planning to cross the Caicos Bank toward Provo, the biggest town of T&C. This is new territory for us in several ways, it is very shallow and we have a relatively deep draft (6.5 ft) boat for this area. Here we have to navigate more by reading the water color for depth and coral heads than by relying on charts. Pablo chose a path that is deeper than others, for our first experience. This means that we won't be quite skimming the bottom at the 7 ft spots but will hopefully have a full foot below us at most times for the next 2 days. Once the winds are lower and swell is down, we're hoping for a nice sunny day for ideal visibility. The water is incredibly clear here. By far the clearest of the trip, not only can you see you bottom but Pablo says horizontal visibility is amazing even in these rougher conditions. Pablo saw a ton of conch all along the bottom during his anchor inspection.
Pablo bought lobster from local fishermen yesterday. At first I thought they were messing with him when I saw what he came back to the boat with... "Flipper lobster". They turned out to be Slipper Lobster. It is mostly tail, the most delicious part! After my initial concerns ("That's not a lobster!") subsided we had a wonderful dinner. Will post photos as soon as we have decent wifi again, which may be a while.
On a more sour note, we had our first cockroach sighting on the boat. For those who are not boaters, cockroaches on a boat is a total nightmare, we go to extremes to avoid them. As you can imagine, they are prevalent in many of the places we travel. This particular one was about 3 inches long and had most of us screaming and scurrying like little girls. At this point we are operating under the assumption that it was a lone soldier and had not yet had a chance to invite his buds onto our little cockroach oasis. I'm not ready to consider any other scenarios at this point!
Check out our position report on Google maps (at The water color is just as amazing as the satellite photos indicate. I have read that astronauts say that the Turks and Caicos, in particular, look spectacular from space, not surprisingly.
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The "flipper lobster"
Hanging with really curious local kids at a home made kite festival

A barracuda patrolling around the boat

Borealis anchored on the Caicos Bank

Remi goofing off

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day 272- Big Sand Cay, Turks and Caicos

We arrived in the the Turks and Caicos after a very nice passage; one of the calmest we've had on the entire trip. We stopped to take a break at Big Sand Cay, an uninhabited island in the very southern part of T and C. The water is very clear and a beautiful turquoise color. Unfortunately the anchorage is too rough for swimming in current conditions. The girls are very eager to get in a play, hopefully tomorrow. Our next stop is the island of South Caicos for customs.
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Anchored off Big Sand Cay

Dodging squalls

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 271- Dominican Republic to Turks and Caicos

We left Samana Bay, DR early this morning and are underway to the Turks and Caicos. So far a really nice downwind passage, with just enough wind to keep us moving 6 knots. Everyone is enjoying the easy conditions. We've seen 6 or 7 ships in the last couple of hours. It feels like we're on a tanker super highway. I don't think we've seen this kind of ship traffic since New York City.
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Easy sailing off the coast of DR

Sunrise off Mouchoir Bank

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day 270- Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic

Exploring the Samana peninsula of Dominican Republic has been a great adventure. The country is absolutely gorgeous and the people are kind, sincere and seem genuinely happy. It is by far the poorest country we've visited but very functional. The primary mode of transportation is motorcycle. It is not unusual to see a family of four on one motorcycle or a mother with newborn in her arms or a refrigerator or basically anything that you usually wouldn't imagine on a motorcycle. There are few resorts on the Samana peninsula, most are small mom and pop hotels on the very scenic beaches. We did manage to find what seemed like most of the tourists (mainly French, Spanish and Russian) in the area at El Limon waterfalls. Remi loved the hour long horseback ride up to the falls and Mia would of swum under the falls all day. We haven't seen or come across other American boaters or tourists. Not sure if they don't come to the DR or just not to this part of it. Most of our information about places to visit in the DR has been by word of mouth from people we've met, rather than guide books; Los Haitises Park is one of these places. It is only accessible by boat with rugged, steep mountains rising from the beach. There are mangrove rivers to explore and caves with Taino Indian drawings. Will post photos once we have access to wifi again. We're reluctantly leaving the DR tomorrow to catch a good weather window for a passage to the Turks and Caicos. We aim to make landfall either at Sandy Cay or South Caicos on Saturday.
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Family with infant passing us

Samana market

Gasoline in wine bottles for sale at a roadside stand

The very popular El Limon Falls

Mangrove river in Los Haitises

One of the many crevices to explore in Los Haitises

Borealis in Los Haitises

Early morning fishermen near Los Haitises
Beach near Las Galeras

Scenic Samana coast