Last leg in Bahamas – The Abacos

I have put this post on back burner, but it’s time to finally catch up.  Our cruising life gets busy with 3 kids, schooling, maintaining the boat and having all the fun, so I often run out of time for blogging. Now (almost 3months later) is way past due.

 Little Harbour, Abacos

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The last time I posted we were waiting for a weather window to cross from Spanish Wells, Eluthera to Little Harbor, Abacos. In the end we left day prior to our original plan. We had some potential bad weather coming our way and, as it often happens, it seemed to speed up our movement. That made us leave beautiful Spanish Wells a day early. We opted to go the longer way through Egg Island Cut instead of the closer option, Ridley Head Channel. Ridley Head Channel cuts through a coral reef and local knowledge is recommended. That said many people take Ridley, but it could be deceiving, so we decided to take the safer route. The day started with a beautiful sail. We were flying for the first few hours, waves were 4-6 feet,  but very comfortable. Then the wind shifted to straight behind us. We have no downwind sail, so we were trying to use our genoa and the mainsail. The waves were hitting us from the beam and we had a hard time to keep our sails full. We tried wing and wing, we tacked back and forth, but couldn’t keep up with our friends on North 45 doing constantly over 6 knots.  We finally gave up and started one engine and motor sailed into little Harbor. To our surprise we learned that our friends were motoring the whole way and were very uncomfortable on the monohull.  So a big shout to Walden! Our boat did great on the 60+ mile sail. Maybe there is downwind sail in our future?

Little Harbour is must see place. The harbor was settled by American Randolf Johnston and his family in 1951. They sailed down on an old wooden boat and actually lived in a cave for a while until they built a house. Later he built a bronze foundry and it is still running today. We took the tour through the foundry and visited the famous Pete’s Bar. Pete is one of the children still residing in the family compound.

Little Harbour was also the place we finally caught up to our friend’s on Summercamp. Together we snorkeled Blue Hole  two miles outside the harbour. It is a deep hole inside of the shallow water. Kind of scary to snorkel over the dark abyss that was over 600 feet deep. The sign on the shore indicated a couple of divers lost their lives here in the depths. We decided to stay close to the surface.

The next day we snorkeled Sandy Cay reef. This was one of the best looking reefs we have seen. Our Gopro footage didn’t turn out good. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the waves were coming from the open ocean and were building up during our snorkel time. We had a limited window, but it was all worth it. Here is Mei with our friends dog Annika.

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Hope Town, Abacos

Our next stop was Hope Town on Elbow Cay. It is a small town filled with Bahamian architecture. This (aside the Chub Cay Resort) was the first place we saw freshly cut green lawns without weeds. Most of the houses were rentals for tourists so everything was super expensive. The main mode of transportation here were golf carts and walking.

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The kids also found a playground and quick friends to play with, all while Dad bought a couple of beers for us to drink while watching our children play.

I took our kids to the Hope Town Light House. Brent had to do some fix on the boat, so he sent us out there. This is one of the last operational kerosene-fueled lighthouses in the world. Some pretty interesting history we learned here.IMG_7153IMG_7164View of Walden with Brent somewhere in the bilge fixing stuff – that seems to be the curse of our cruising life.IMG_7161

Easter in Marsh Harbour

At first we were very apprehensive to go to Marsh Harbour as we read it is a very industrial busy city, but we need to some provisioning (the last one in Bahamas), and ugly weather was heading our way. The bay is protected from all directions and is known as a safe heaven from storms. Most boats are anchored here, but there are few mooring balls available. We always question the quality of mooring balls and in case of bad weather we would rather stay on anchor if a marina is not available or too expensive. We know of plenty of mooring balls that have been broken in the middle of storms with boats slamming into other boats. We have seen boats dragged several times on anchor and the same happened in Marsh Harbour. Out of the approx. 50 boats anchored there, 3 were dragging their anchor while the storm hit the harbor. Luckily all had their owners on them and were able to react. The winds got over 40 knots during one of the blows.

One of the highlights of Marsh Harbor was the Easter Bunny was able to find us. Here is how we do an Easter Egg Hunt on Walden.

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We celebrated Easter with our friends, the Browns, from Summercamp in the nearby restaurant. The Easter bunny here left $20 in one of the eggs! The kids painted some eggs and played games while the parents sipped their beverages.

Not only kids but also us adults have built great friendship over the last few months staying on and off together in beautiful anchorages, sharing meals, beverages, repairing boats, crying over our homeschooling and lots of fun. Much to our dismay they are going back to live on land. We just have to figure out how to go visit them in Rhode Island.IMG_7193.JPG

Fowl Cay Snorkeling

We stopped for a quick snorkel at Fowl Cay Preserve. The anchorage was beautiful but too rough for an overnight stay.

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Swimming with a Manta Ray at Great Guana Cay

Great Guana Cay was our next stop. We visited the well known Nippers. Brent stayed on the boat again making repairs. The kids had a good time playing in a pool attached to the bar. Maybe there should be more of these in the USA? Restaurants, bars with pool or playgrounds. It is common in Europe to have a restaurant with a playground or playroom for kids. I bet families would love to come to these establishments in the US also.

We had a speicial visitor at our anchorage – a huge Manta Ray! Manta Rays are very rare in the Bahamas. We have some pictures from a drone above with me in the water and the kids following it above. What a beatiful creature!

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Here is my footage from under the water. He was massive.

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After Great Guana Cay we headed for Treasure Cay with our friends from Summercamp to spend  a couple of days before we part ways. By this time our kids didn’t believe us that this is  goodbye for us and they were right.

Here I had a episode with a shark that taught me not to be to curious. It wasn’t an aggressive shark, just a nurse shark probably my size. I had the Gopro in my hands while Brent pointed out that there was a shark nearby.  I decided to go and snap some pictures. The picture didn’t turn out well, which was my fault. I didn’t go close enough. But I did go close enough for the shark to turn and go after me.  No he didn’t attack me, but he was probably just curious to see what is this crazy creature following him. The situation drastically changed. Me trying to swim away from him. I turned backwards flipping my flippers in his face. And no I didn’t take pictures, different things were going through my mind. Like hoping if he decides to bite, he should go for my huge yellow flippers. No more shark hunting for me, nor anybody in my family as long as I have say so. Here is my shark picture.InkedGOPR1853 (2)_LI

 

After a couple more sunsets, fishing, playing in the water, our handsome captain brought us to West End – our final destination in Bahamas. This is the place where our friends caught up with us again. We crossed to the US on May 7th to Fort Pierce, Florida!

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On the way home with my boy.

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Eleuthera and Getting Closer to Home

We left the Exumas on April 6th from Staniel Cay and headed towards Rock Sound Eleuthera. It was a 55 mile open water sail so it was our longest in a while. The sail ended up being great as our speed averaged about 7.5 form and we caught a Mahi-mahi en route.

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Our first stop in Eleuthera was Rock Sound. We were able to visit a couple of great local spots including Boiling Hole Caves and the Ocean Hole. The caves were our favorite. It felt like Indiana Jones or the Jungle Book. There were really cool roots growing into the caves from above and there were even bats.

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The next stop was Ocean Hole. After the dusty caves we got to get cleaned up by cliff jumping into a brackish water hole that went down about 700 feet. Glad that we did not drop anything. After the cliff jumping and swimming we fed some of the local fish there and headed back to the boat. After the three mile walk between the sites it was great to get back to a beer and fresh mahi-mahi for dinner.

 

Our next stop was Governors Harbor. The town has been there for over 400 years. We were able to get some groceries ($9 for Cheez-it’s!!!) and had a great lunch at Bucaneer’s. While at Governor’s Harbor we also extended our visas for another 60 days. It was a neat little town and felt more like civilization.

Next stop, Hatchet Bay. We saw that a front was coming so we had to get some better coverage thus we headed north. Hatchet Bay is a near perfectly circular anchorage which is protected from all sides from bad weather. There is one small opening to get into the bay and it is barely sixty feet wide. This is a very scary entrance when the waves were at your back and your boat is 25 feet wide. Upon seeing the entrance Eva said “look through that narrow opening. You can see the bay inside.” I then responded, “that is the opening”. Eva said, “no way”. But we got through O.K.09SRh5G7THeZ713RIR8ZRQ

Once inside it was perfectly calm and we spent a couple of days there. We met another boat with three boys and spent some time playing with them on the local playground. They spoke French and we spoke English but the kids all spoke “play” so they had fun.

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The town was fairly poor and you could see it from the houses and shops but everyone was so nice and happy there we could have stayed longer.

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When we left Hatchet Bay we headed north. We stopped at a day anchorage near the Glass Window. This is a narrow bridge of rock that connects Eleuthera at its narrowest point. Typically there are huge waves going through the window. Since the wind was the wrong direction there was little to see upon our visit.IMG_7145

While at the anchorage we also stopped at the Queen’s Bath. These are natural looking ‘tubs’ on the Atlantic side of the ocean. There is perfectly clear water in them. It was a little chilly but we all did get in. I was able to jump into the ocean side to see what was around but it was too rough for anyone else.

 

We left the day anchorage, passed through Current Cut (this can be treacherous) and went into Spanish Wells. We grabbed a mooring late in the evening and watched the world go by from the boat. This was our largest town in months and it did not disappoint. There was a real grocery store there! IMG_7147

 

There was also a small marine parts store so I was able to get a new slave solenoid on my starboard engine. I installed it and now I don’t have to jump the engine every day.

While in Spanish Wells we also hung out with the families from North 45 and Aphrodite. The kids jumped off the bridge together, played lots of Hide and Seek and even went to a local church fair together.

We had a great stay in Spanish Wells. It was our favorite city thus far in the Bahamas. It was big enough that you had everything, there was very little trash and you could walk the streets as people passed by in golf carts and waved hello.

We are slowly moving north, closer to the USA and will be in the Abaco’s next. That will be our last stop before crossing the Gulf Stream back to Florida. All in all we liked Eleuthera but it was so different from the barren islands that were so common in the Exumas further south.

 

‘Goodbye’ Exumas and ‘Hello’ Eleuthera!

Our last couple of weeks in the Exumas were special for several reason but our visit from the Haramija family was tops. They arrived in George Town towards the end of the March and stayed with us for their spring break.  We showed them George Town and enjoyed their company. Our kids would really like to keep Dylan (their daughter) around for much longer.

We did some hiking to the Monument Hill and to the beach on the Atlantic side.

We also did some boogie boarding on the leeward side of Stocking Island.

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We hiked steep sandy hills and also slid down them.IMG_6968

The smaller ones went up the mast.

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We had the wonderful opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. They spent about hour and half with us and were very playful. Me (mom) was the dolphin whisperer. They started to interact with me by doing little twirls for me, they let me touch them and they tried to communicate with their sounds.  If you told me a year ago I would have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in their natural habitat I wouldn’t believe you.

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And we relaxed, ate a lot and had a good time.

It all had to come to the end and we said goodby to our wonderful friends Darren and April and their daughter.ifeBFELXToCMieorM5S_8g

Their departure also marked our departure North. We are headed up the Exuma chain for a little and then off to Eleuthera. Bittersweet saying goodby to these beautiful islands. So far my favorites for its clear blue water and the natural beauty. Not so much civilization, which was nice break from our prior life.

 

Visitors on Walden

After a week in the Exumas it was time to go back to Nassau to pick up my parents (Eva’s). They visited us for 3 1/2 weeks. While we were in Nassau did lots of provisioning, which means spending too much money on food. Food in the Bahamas is super expensive even for Americans and the quality and freshness is questionable. I can’t wait to come to America or Europe to get some fresh and good food. While living in the US we always disliked shopping in Walmart mostly becuse we wanted to shop in smaller stores. Now what we would give to have the possibility to go to one.

The day of my parents arrival I went to pick them up at airport. We call them Babi and Deda. Babi means grandma and Deda is grandpa in Czech language. They flew from Europe and spent about 40 hours traveling via bus and plane. While Brent and the kids stayed at the marina I took the $40 taxi ride to the airport. Taxi’s are expensive here. Well a lot of things are expensive and I really feel for regular Bahamian people.

After Nassau we went down south to the Exumas. We visited our very favorite Warderick Wells. This time we made the hike to Boo-BooHhill with my parents and brought our Walden sign. Everybody participated in its creation. It is now sitting on top of the Boo-Boo hill with hundreds of other signs.

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We very much enjoyed the beach right below the Park office. Me and my mom relaxed on the beach (possibly beverages were involved) while kids were playing on the beach getting themselves super sandy.DSC_0036DSC_0055DSC_0075DSC_0033Next, down the chain of the islands was the Cambridge Cay. We all made the short trip to the Aquarium, which is place near the Cambridge Cay with a beautiful reef and tons of colorful fish that are used to being fed. My parents went snorkeling with us for some time. This was my mom’s  first experience snorkeling in her life and I am so proud of both of them for doing so.

After snorkeling the Aquarium we were able to also go into the Dundes Caves and check them out. It is recommended to go there with calm seas and low tide. We had calmer seas (not calm) and pretty low tide, but we still had to time our entry into the caves (especially the southern one) with incoming waves. Not much life in the caves, but they were very interesting with stalactites hanging from their ceiling.

From here it was a short trip south to Big Majors anchorage. This is known for the “pigs on the beach”. We anchored right in front of the beach and watched the show first day. The next day we went and brought them some cantaloupe rinds. It looked like they really liked them. One of them even tried to crawl in our dinghy which I wasn’t big fan of it at all.

About a week prior to our visit we saw an online post that some fashion model got bitten in her behind by these exact pigs. After our visit with them we had the pleasure to meet some cruisers that stay in this area long term and they warned us that biting incidents are common. It happens almost every week according to them. We didn’t go back. Some of the pigs were huge and there were also some little piglets. We saw a lot of tour boats coming to visit the pigs and the guides encourage the tourists to pick up the little piglets, which just squeaked very loudly. This part was sad to watch, so no more pigs for us.

Neighboring the Pig Beach is the famous Thunderball Grotto. The grotto is an underwater cave system with a wonderful display of coral on the east side and colorful fish ready to greet you the second you leave your dinghy. We had to time our entry again. We approached the cave in slack tide as there is a pretty strong current flowing through it. Ideal is to go in slack tide and when the sun is high up. Although the sun was not above our heads directly, the the cave was stunning and the colorful exotic fish were plentiful and not shy. Unfortunately our Gopro card was malfunctioning and we didn’t get any pictures, so the one below is not ours. We may have to swing by on our way back to just get some pics because it was beautiful.DCIM100GOPROGOPR7157.JPG

On our way down to Georgetown we also anchored behind the private island of David Copperfield and snorkeled “The Musician – Mermaid”. It is a stainless steel sculpture that David Copperfield commissioned from artist Jason DeCaires Taylor and had it sunk outside of his private island for entertaining exclusive guests that stay in the upscale resort.  We – not so exclusive cruisers – had the opportunity to snorkel this thanks to David Copperfield.gopr7202.jpg

Our final destination with my parents was Georgetown, Bahamas. We spent time hiking Stocking Island, playing on the beaches and enjoying the beautiful weather. Kids enjoyed their B and Deda, so did we.

We hiked the Monument on the Stocking Island also, which provided us with awesome views of our anchorage, Elizabeth Harbour and Atlantic Ocean on the other side.IMG_6784

One of my favorite pictures of my mom overlooking Elizabeth Harbour from the Monument.IMG_6787

My parents departed for their home in Czech Republic over a week ago and it seems a bit lonesome here.  We miss them being here but we already have a trip planned to come see them. We loved them being on our boat although it may have felt small and cramped sometimes, but I wouldn’t wish it any other way.  They had to travel a long distance to come to us and we really appreciate it.

Exumas Cay Land and Sea Park

Warderick Wells Cay

After a 6 hour trip from Nassau to Highborn Cay (which was beautiful) we sailed to the Exumas Cay Land and Sea Park. The park is about 176 square miles and consists of several islands.  The main office is in Warderick Wells and that is where we started. I am not sure if the pictures could even show the beauty of this place at all. The water is perfectly blue and full of life and the beaches are pristine.  This section of the park has numerous hiking trails to enjoy. Here our a few pictures of Walden in the mooring field.

 

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We did the short hike to Boo-boo hill. On top of the hill you can find a pile of signs from driftwood and other scraps of wood showing names of the boats that visited this place. We found some driftwood later and will hopefully leave our mark in few weeks as we come back with my parents. The trail to the Boo-boo hill led us through water and a little palm forest.

Here are the signs with all the boat names; hopefully ours will be there in a few weeks.

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There are also blow holes located near Boo-Boo Hill. A blow hole is a hole in the cliffs overhanging the Atlantic ocean that under certain conditions (high tide and high wind) the will blow water through. It was not that kind of weather for us.

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We did some snorkeling right of the back of our boat. The kids were jumping in and out of this clear water all the time.

We had a small coral reef behind our boat and since the kids were tired from swimming we went by ourselves. On the way back to the boat we found a surprise visitor in the back of our boat near the sugar scoops where our swim ladder is located; a nurse shark. I scrambled up the ladder pretty quickly. Luckily he went to the other side of the boat while we were climbing up on it. The shark came right back and was waiting for hand outs. Nurse sharks are not usually swimming on the surface like this one did. He hung out with us for the next couple of hours.

We had also reunited here with Summercamp and INNTW (If not now then when),which are two kids boats. We all went on a hike in Emerald Bay. It wasn’t as nice as the Boo-Boo Hill hike, but it was fun, especially for the kids. They took off and were not concerned about us at all. The boys (dads) decided to swim back for the dinghies while us (moms) and kids hung out on the beach two coves over from our dinghies. I think all the people in the mooring field could hear our kids cheering for their swimming dads. The Dads did come back with beverages. I am thinking that maybe this was the real reason why they went instead. They wanted to spare us the hike back or they just wanted a beer?

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Cambridge Cay

Our next stop in Exuma Park was Cambridge Cay. We used the moorings provided by the park again. Our plan was to visit the Dundas Cave, but the winds were very strong for us to visit the cave, but we will be back.

We took a hike on the top of the ridge behind the mooring site. We had some strong winds and waves on the Atlantic ocean side. This was the highest hill we climbed on while in the Bahamas. The view was breathtaking, but it looked more like a picture of  Ireland with the raging sea, cliffs and strong wind. It was a different kind of beauty.

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Here is our Walden and it looks pretty tiny compared to those big yachts.IMG_6646.JPG

We also couldn’t pass on snorkeling ‘The Aquarium’. The name is an exact description of what it looks like. The minute we arrived and tied our dinghy to the mooring ball hundreds of Sergeant Majors, some Jacks and Night Sargents surrendered our boat waiting to be fed. And yes we brought some crackers, don’t judge, we don’t do this usually.  The snorkeling was awesome and it did look like an aquarium. Aside of the named fish we saw a couple of Rays, a Sea Turtle, a Bahamian Grouper and a couple of different kinds of Parrot Fish. The rest of the fish I don’t know nor we remember.

We also checked out a small airplane wreck on the way back to the boat.

Our handsome and supper happy driver brought us safely to the boat.GOPR7167.JPG