30 April 2007

Salt Pond, Long Island

April 30, 2007

After the regatta in George Town, we hoped for settled, calm weather in order to spend a couple weeks in the Jumento Cays and the Raggeds. However the forecast for the next week is for east winds with squalls and thunderstorms every day. No problem; we chose Plan B: Long Island. Just east of George Town, Long Island is over 80 miles long and its population earns a rather good living off the ocean. They are also great sailors and their boats placed well in all classes of the Family Island Regatta.

Squalls and thunderstorms don't allow for much snorkeling or sailing, but they do provide amazing aerial shows.

We met up with Michael and Renee on the catamaran “Jacumba” and we all decided to sail to Long Island together on Sunday. It was raining when we left George Town, and the sky was black all around us for the entire sail to Long Island, but we managed to stay under a patch of blue sky. We kept on opening and closing hatches and putting the cushions away and getting them back out again in anticipation of rain that never hit us.

The white sand beach we found...although Disney found it first because it was used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean.

flotsam and jetsam found on the white sand beach

Two big milestones occurred in our sail to Long Island: 1) we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. We’re in the tropics now!; and 2) Hans found a tiny, deserted, sand island. We made a quick detour, dropped anchor and went for a swim in the warm, crystal clear water. The clouds continued to look ominous, so we continued onward to Long Island and arrived around 5:30PM. A 10-minute walk on the beach, where we saw a native Osprey (different from the migratory ones were used to seeing on the Chesapeake), was interrupted by thunder so we all scurried back to our boats, watched a gorgeous sunset and were awoken around 2:30 AM by torrential downpour. Jacumba caught a lot of water and we were happy with squeaky clean decks.

28 April 2007

Regatta Time, George Town

April 28, 2007

We had a great time yesterday watching the regatta. George Town has turned into a carnival with food stalls, loud, loud music, dancing, beer flowing like water, gin and coconut water (dangerous!), powerboats, dinghies, and fishing boats following the races, betting and kids running wild.

Brad, from Hope Town, showed up and we had fun drinking some cold beers, gin & coconut water and sampling the food. The conch salad, made by a guy from Long Island, was excellent. Conch fritters, 5 for $1 were unbeatable! The championship races will be held this afternoon along with a performance by the Royal Bahamian Police Marching Band, a live concert, and, of course, more gin & coconut water!

Hans and Brad ordering some grilled food for dinner.

Brad, Sybil and Kristen sampling the gin & coconut water.

the party strip.

Tomorrow we’re leaving George Town for a couple weeks and heading either to Long Island or the Jumentos and the Raggeds. We’ll be out of email contact until we return to George Town to pick up Matt Doyle who is arriving on May 15. No more blog entries for a couple weeks either.

25 April 2007

George Town, Exumas

April 25, 2007

After a great visit from Hans’ parents we all had a tearful goodbye on Monday afternoon. Karin and Roger are on their way back to Sweden, with some good memories and pretty decent tans for a couple of Swedes! On Whisper, we’re back to our island explorations, although it is a little lonely and quiet now.

Two pictures from the "Atlantic" side of Stocking Island. It's really the Exuma Sound, but looks like the ocean!

It’s regatta time in George Town, so we’re hanging out here for the events. It is the biggest thing that happens here every year with traditional wooden sailboats coming from all over the Bahamas to race in the Family Island Regatta. Lots of food, drink and racing to look forward to this week. Yesterday we watched the juniors race. It was blowing over 20 knots but they weren’t deterred and the racing was very close and exciting. One boat sank!

Two "D" class sailboats during the Juniors' Race. All of the boats are captained and crewed by kids under 18, although each is allowed two adults on board. Considering the winds, waves, and size of boats, these kids are really talented sailors.

A fishing seminar held near the "Chat-n-Chill" beach bar on Volleyball Beach.

Some cruisers playing volleyball. George Town has been described as a summer camp for adults in the Bahamas. There are lots of planned activities and they all take place on or near Volleyball Beach.

22 April 2007

George Town

April 22, 2007

The beach at one of our anchorages in George Town.

We’ve been spending the past few days in George Town with Roger & Karin, Hans’ parents, who are visiting from Sweden. We are all pleasantly surprised with George Town. Hundreds of cruising boats descend upon the town and Elizabeth Harbour every winter and take up residence. There are planned activities such as backgammon, bridge, volleyball, beach walks, church services, etc. etc., however it is easy to keep a distance from this community and enjoy the town, the beaches and the snorkeling which are all close by.

Our time here has been divided between hanging out at the beach, reading, eating, snorkeling, eating (yummy lemon chicken Sofia!), sailing, cold beers and wine and good food both in restaurants and aboard Whisper. Life has been pretty difficult for the crew these days. Even Kit Kat has received increased rations including some bits of bacon and parmesan cheese.

Roger at the helm.

Hey crew! start swabbing the decks you scurvious dogs.

Overlooking Elizabeth Harbour in George Town from the monument.
The monument on Stocking Island in George Town.

Hiking down from the monument.


and time for some pina coladas.

Food vendors setting up their stalls for the Family Island Regatta.

The Ericssons looking cool.

19 April 2007

Staniel Cay to Georgetown, Exumas

April 19, 2007

After spending a few days in Staniel Cay waiting out bad weather, we set sail for Georgetown, aka Chicken Harbor. We need to renew our tourist visas which expire on Monday and the closest place is Georgetown, so we needed to move quickly from Staniel Cay.

The winds were from the North on Tuesday so we had a fast, comfortable, downwind sail to Rudder Cut and anchored between the Darbys—a recommendation from Snowday. The anchorage was beautiful and protected from wind and surge from the Exuma Sound, a welcome change from the windy, bumpy anchorages at Staniel Cay. We arrived around 5PM. Roger and Hans jumped in the dinghy and went off in search of some fish for dinner and Kristen and Karin climbed to the top of Darby Island (a very strenuous 10 minute hike!) to check out the ruins of an old mansion. The mansion is rumoured to be a relic from WWII when a German sympathizer lived there and built a large concrete dock to host German U-boats. The house was obviously once beautiful and grand, however it is slowly crumbling and you need to use your imagination to see the house as it originally was. The fishermen were unsuccessful although we had a Spanish tortilla for dinner which was very satisfactory.

The ruins at Darby Island.

The weather forecast was correct for Wednesday—light and variable winds so we spent the day motoring almost 40 miles to Georgetown. It was a hot day…and no mahi-mahi were caught for dinner, despite our best efforts. Upon arrival in Georgetown, we anchored at the Redshanks anchorage (again on suggestion of Snowday). We were a 1 minute dinghy ride from a pretty beach and are surrounded by small islands and only a few boats. It is peaceful and a world away from all the other cruising boats anchored in the Georgetown area. We had a wonderful dinner at the Peace & Plenty Inn last night and, with full stomachs, a starlight dinghy ride back to Whisper.

Sailing is such hard work!

Enjoying a cold beer at sunset in Georgetown.

17 April 2007

Staniel Cay pictures

April 17, 2007

Hans cuts his birthday cake. Yum!

Hans' parents, Roger and Karin and Hans hang out on the front porch of their cottage at Staniel Cay.

Hans with all of his birthday loot.

16 April 2007

Staniel Cay, Exumas

April 16, 2007

Although the Log of Whisper currently has no pictures uploaded to document the occassion, Hans turned the big 3-0 yesterday. Despite a strong cold front that blew through the Bahamas yesterday evening and overnight, we had a great day. Hans opened many presents while eating a bacon and egg breakfast; we spent time at the pool; ate some cake and ice cream with coffee; and had a great dinner of grilled mahi-mahi at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The front passed through the area around midnight (the same weather system that created snow in Vermont), it was bumpy and rolly on Whisper but everything was fine.

Tomorrow morning we're setting sail toward Georgetown where Kristen and Hans can renew their visas and the Family Island Regatta takes place over the weekend.

Stay tuned for pictures!

12 April 2007

Staniel Cay, Exumas

April 12, 2007

We've arrived in Staniel Cay in the Exumas after a week or so traveling from Nassau. Hans' parents are due here from Sweden on Saturday and we're eagerly awaiting their arrival. Staniel Cay is home to the Thunderball Grotto, an underwater cave made famous in the James Bond movie: Thunderball.

We'll have access to internet for a couple weeks, so expect some more frequent blog updates!

Hawksbill Cay

April 9, 2007

In an attempt to avoid the mega-yachts with their jet-skis, other cruisers and day-trippers from Nassau, we sailed down to Hawksbill Cay, the next island south from Shroud Cay. Snowday reported that Hawksbill Cay was one of their favorite stops in the Exumas and it’s easy for us to see why. The Cay is very hilly and filled with lush vegetation. There are ruins at the hill closest to our anchorage which reportedly date back to the days of the Loyalist settlers (late 1700s). There is also a great trail to the beach, which, like our anchorage, we had to ourselves—a great relief after sharing so many anchorages with lots of boats, most twice our size and some almost 6 times our size!

Whisper at anchor

The weather has gotten much warmer and has become more settled in the past week. We are hoping that this is a taste of what is to come.

Hmmm... Beach or ruins?

Here's the beach!

Some ruins

More ruins

Shroud Cay

April 8, 2007

Shroud Cay is a large, low-lying cay south of Norman’s Cay and is the northernmost cay in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. The Park is a protected area for both sea and land life. At Shroud Cay, the main attraction is the waterways that wind through the mangroves in the center of the island. We explored these canals in Ding Ding III although were a little disappointed at the lack of fish and birds that we thought we would see. On the other hand, throngs of tourists made up for the lack of wildlife once we arrived at the ocean side and provided for some interesting people-watching.

Looking east over the Exuma Sound from Shroud Cay

Looking west towards the Exuma Banks from the same location. The water snaking through the picture is the very shallow mangrove "river" that we dinghied through to get here.

A slew of tourists at OUR discovered beach! The audacity...

We had our first attempt at BBQ pizza for dinner. It came out really well, except it was rather scorched on the bottom. Next time we need to try a lower heat and perhaps a heat diffuser (aluminum foil?). We also made a small batch of cinnamon buns in the pressure cooker, which turned out great!

Pizza, Pizza!

07 April 2007

Norman’s Cay

April 7, 2007

We spent two nights and one day in Norman’s Cay, which gained notoriety back in the early 80’s when a large cocaine smuggling operation was based there. Today, the only evidence remaining are some abandoned buildings and a plane wreck in the middle of the anchorage.

The leftover's of Carlos Lehder's drug smuggling operation: a sunken plane and abandoned buildings.

While in Norman’s we met up with the crew of Moxie, whom we had run into previously at Allen’s Cay and in Nassau. Shawn, the owner of Moxie, has some friends visiting for two weeks. We’re all around the same age which was a fun break from hanging out with the retirees. Since Kristen is out of the water to wait for her toe to heal, Hans and Shawn went diving for dinner all day Saturday with help from Katherine. Kristen, Alex and Camilla sat on the beach and caught up on some reading, sudoko and good conversation. The hunters were successful and returned with three Nassau grouper, a real delicacy. We cooked them over a fire on the beach with rice, veggie curry and salad. Yum!

Hans checking out a waterfront cave.

05 April 2007

Allen’s Cay, Exumas

April 5, 2007

We woke up on Thursday with plans to go snorkeling for dinner and see the iguanas that live on the group of cays that comprise Allen’s Cay. Because the currents are so strong, it is important to go snorkeling as close to slack tide as possible. We first ventured out around 10 AM and although no dinner was found, we scoped out lots of potential hunting grounds and Hans saw lots of pretty (non-edible) fish. The coral formations are different here than in the Abacos. The coral in the Abacos is very dense with large structures and is usually found on the ocean side, while the coral we’ve seen so far is found in smaller clumps and scattered along the sea floor. At one point Hans was able to follow a grouper an maintain visibility beyond 50 yards. The water is so clear that it not only lets you see everything, but it acts as a magnifying glass on the coral head and the fish. It is spectacular. Later in the afternoon we went ashore and fed the iguanas. They are prehistoric looking, not very friendly and rather aggressive. While normally we wouldn’t be feeding wildlife, everyone feeds the iguanas and they probably don’t know how to hunt properly for themselves anymore. Massive tour boats from Nassua come almost daily with over 30 passengers, all bearing food for the iguanas.

A resident of Allen's Cay...the boss iguana.

The Malo 40, with the Danes aboard, leaving Allen's Cay.

Hans snorkeling.

Kristen modeling in Ding Ding III.

Our preconceived notions about the Exumas are proving to be far from reality. While the landscape and the snorkeling is exactly what we imagined, we never thought we would have to share the islands with so many people. Not only are there lots of other cruising sailboats (up to 12 right now anchored at Allen’s Cay), but there are massive mega-yachts from Nassau and Fort Lauderdale anchored just outside. The megayachts are around 150 feet long and all have 25 foot “dinghies” as well as jet skis and other water toys on which they constantly zoom around the anchorage. We talked with a crew member from one of the megayachts who gave us the inside scoop on the operations of the boat. The boat is owned solely as a charter vessel that operates at a huge loss every year to realize tax benefits for the owner. Even so, a week charter costs $120,000. And even though the guests were most likely treated like royalty, one of the girls was reputedly unhappy all the time. Maybe if she were on Whisper and not treated like royalty with no comforts from home she would be happy!

A mega-yacht at anchor off Allen's Cay.