The long awaited Bahamas fly out was finally under way! Since we're flying ourselves this time, we aren't limited to just two bags. Duane always says I pack too much...oh well...
The total flight time is about 6 hours - so we planned an early morning departure. Three planes were in the "convoy" - all flying into Ft. Pierce, Florida for a final refueling before making the "hop" over to Eleuthera.
The plane all packed up with supplies and survival gear. We carried a life raft and we wore life vests for the over-water portion of the flight.
The three couples met at Ft. Pierce for lunch and a final double check of the airplanes and International flight plan paperwork. The couples were Duane and myself, neighbors Dick and Lindy and longtime friends Cecil and Carolyn.
A final pose before getting our life vests on for the flight.
We flew in a "flight of three" with us in the lead. Here we are departing over the Intercoastal Waterway.
Not too much to see except blue ocean until we approached the lovely Bahamas...I don't think I'll ever tire of the stunning crystal clear water!
Our destination for the day is Rock Sound, Eleuthera where we will pick up our sailboat the next day.
We had to clear customs - so everything had to be removed from the planes and wheeled into the small terminal building.
Always helpful people around.....see how much "stuff" I had in the airplane??
Clearing customs was a breeze - then we moved the airplanes to a parking area. All three airplanes are secure and we're ready for our "Out Island" adventure to be underway!
We weren't able to be on the boat for the first night, so we stayed in these lovely little cottages overlooking the Atlantic side of Eleuthera.
The girls took a little walk on the lovely deserted beach.
Then there was much relaxing on the deck before dinner.
We all decided that this particular kind of aloe plant looked like a giant asparagus, so it was worthy of a photo. The photo doesn't do it justice - it's about 20 feet tall!
This is a very small establishment called Northside Inn - the owner is also the cook - she whips up nice Bahama dinners to your order, all served with "Rice and Peas" and fried plantains. A great start!
I had to snap a photo of Carolyn with the "glass of water" that she ordered. It came as a neat little squatty quart sized jug...the cold beer in the foreground is the local Bahamian beer - Kalik. These were liberally ordered during the entire trip!
It was wonderful to have the ocean breeze flowing thru the cottage all night long....more tomorrow when we board the sailboat!
Now for the next "phase" of this trip - moving onto the charter sailboat. This was all new to us - we used the only charter company available - 360Yachting. We booked one of their biggest catamarans - a 47' Leopard. Here Jay, the owner of the charter company is reviewing the boat with all the "boys".
We were tied up to the "government" dock in Rock Sound, Eleuthera - the only dock. It's a huge concrete structure. Strangely, there was some un-identified grey paint on the dock that was "sticky" - Carolyn got it on her foot....and I caught Cecil giving her what appears to be a foot massage!
There was much scurrying around - getting provisions, linens, ice, beer and more beer, etc. on board.....finally, we were off for a nice sail around Cape Eleuthera.
Everyone got settled in for the sail....
Cecil was particularly "settled"!
The first night, we anchored in a lovely bay past Cape Eleuthera....I'm not going to mention that I was a little "under the weather" in the roll-y anchorage. I did manage to cook spaghetti.....although I excused myself before the evening was over.....I hadn't found my "sea legs" yet. A lovely sunset, though!
Up bright and early the next morning - ready for a nice long sail across the Exuma Sound . We had about 25 miles to sail to our next anchorage - Highbourne Cay. (Cay is pronounced "key").
We had nice winds for the first few hours. The guys hoisted the mainsail and we pulled out the jib. Duane had put out the fishing pole, hoping to catch dinner!!! As we approached Highbourne, he noticed that the pole was bent over a bit. You never know - sometimes you pick up sea-weed or trash.....but this time - it was a fish!!
Dick and Cecil helped bring the nice Mahi-Mahi on board.
We didn't have a scale or anything onboard....but it was a very nice fish. Click on the photo and you can get an idea how big the fish was compared to Dick's arm.
I won't go into the details....but....as Duane was trying to remove the really, really big hook....the fish jumped....and the hook went COMPLETELY THRU Duane's fingertip. OWWW...Cecil quickly cut the hook and PULLED it BACK THRU Duane's fingertip. OWWW again. All was well - we doctored Duane's finger - he proceeded to fillet the fish - all was well!
Soon, we were approaching Highbourne Cay - Cecil and Dick on "look-out" for coral heads as we headed into the anchorage.
Ooohhh, the beautiful water!!!
Isn't that just lovely?
After the long sail over, we were quick to jump into the dingy for a little snorkeling.
Nothing great, but a nice little swim....
Our boat "No Expectations" - in the anchorage at Highbourne Cay.
Dick and Lindy in the dinghy....
Going back to the boat in the dinghy.
Dinner!!! Like our trip 2 years ago - we had the Mahi - grilled, plus saffron rice and scrumptious grilled pineapple. (with the addition of "Scott's" hot BBQ sauce provided by Cecil and Carolyn).
Yummm!! Absolutely nothing like really fresh fish!
After dinner, we threw some left-overs to the birds...they were amazingly agile. Often they could catch bits that were thrown mid-air. This is one of the very few "Karen" photos of the trip!!! Funny how that works!!
This side of the island is apparently for the well-to-do folks! We saw several of these mansions-on-the-water....
OOHHH, I just love that clear blue water! The snorkeling actually was really not that great. Plus, there was a HUGE current. We jumped off and let the current carry us - then we were picked up in the dinghy.
Since the snorkeling was disappointing, we headed south! Next stop, Norman Cay.
Yeah, it's a rough life, Lindy!!
Approaching the anchorage at Norman's Cay
The history of Norman's Cay is filled with drug smuggling - the airstrip is left-over from the 1980's now-defunct illegal operation.
A nice runway, currently used by legitimate visitors.
There is only one establishment on the island - MacDuff's.
We had a nice dinner there - Lindy and Carolyn got some up-close time with the local "welcome" skeleton.
I think this is our only group photo!!
The lovely couple!
The next morning, the winds had virtually come to a stand-still....Carolyn testing the water. we motored to the southern tip of Norman's Cay to snorkel around the (in)famous airplane wreck.
The airplane wreckage is a DC-3 that crashed after an ill-fated run to the island carrying drugs in the 1980's. It is about a 1/2 mile from the runway in about 20' of water. The wreckage is deteriorating - the top of the cabin can be seen from a distance.
Underwater, parts of the plane are in good shape.
Another load of snorkelers! There was a good current in a perfect direction - so we dropped the snorkelers off at the wreckage - and the current brought us back directly to the back of the sailboat!
Ready to head further south!
Back out into the Exuma Sound (the east side of the Exuma chain). Dick is so nice to help Lindy with her sunscreen. I loved getting these "sneaky" shots!
Capt'n Richard for a while!
Carolyn getting ready to fix the evening meal - pulled pork from home and some very yummy coleslaw!
Most of the time that we were moving, we were fishing!!
Hahaha - this time it was just some seaweed!
But very soon, the pole was bent again.....
And this one had a beautiful sac of roe! We put this in the freezer - I have it at home now and will let you know how it is (after I figure out what to do with it, that is!!)
Cleaned and ready for the freezer.
Capt'n Karen for a while!
This may not be of interest to you, but it fascinated me....this is our chartplotter. The position of the sailboat is depicted as the little black dot. The water depth this depicted as the little numbers. Out in the Exuma Sound, the depths were at times over 2000 ft! What was fascinating was how quickly the depths changed. You go from 1000 feet to 60 feet to 20 feet almost instantly.
It's a little hard to make out, but in the distance you can see where the water changes colors. The boat is currently in the deep-indigo-blue of 1000 ft depths. Just ahead, you can see a line where the water changes color to the lovely aqua-marine.
Approaching our next stop - Warderwick Wells Nature Preserve.
Cecil and Carolyn getting ready to do a little snorkeling and beachcombing on their own.
Sharks!! They are just "lemon" sharks - apparently fairly "harmless"....haha. No one swam off the back of the boat here!!
Warderwick Wells was a popular place. This is the most sailboats we've seen on this trip.
A fabulous dinner - fresh corn-on-the cob, wonderful coleslaw, everyone else had pork bbq and bragged on it.
And soon, another lovely sunset!!!
After a pleasant night's sleep, we took the dinghy over to the Warderick Wells Park headquarters to pay our fee and do a little exploring on the island.
The island is all limestone - and the eons have pitted the relatively soft stone in an "other-worldly" way! The hiking was a bit difficult because you had to be careful where you stepped! Look close - there is a small lizard in the middle of the photo.
Some spectacular views!! The water was bathtub-warm!
There was a rather large hole in the ground that someone had put a ladder down - I had to climb down, of course!
More spectacular views as we continued around the island! This is the Atlantic side - much deeper water.
Still crystal clear.
We walked to the top of "BooBoo Hill" - the highest point - where "cruisers" have a tradition over the years of leaving a piece of driftwood stenciled with their boat name. Since we weren't on our own boat, we did not feel the need to participate in this tradition!
Walking back to the boat, we had to take off our shoes and wade thru a rather large tidal pool - quite refreshing, actually!
Cecil and Carolyn relaxing.....
And Lindy doing some chore!
Off we pushed south to our next destination - Staniel Cay....I wanted to try my hand at fishing - and here is my catch! More seaweed. And I will tell you - pulling that sucker in was no small feat. After a couple of more false alarms like this one, I put the pole away! It's hard work reeling it in - too much for vacation time!
Beautiful water again at Staniel!
We made reservations over the VHF for dinner at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Had some of the best Lobster Chowder I've ever tasted! Yummm. Another fine day in paradise!!
I first looked at this photo thinking that it was a beautiful sunset, but it's actually a beautiful sunRISE!
The girls took the dinghy "solo" to shore since the boys didn't want to go on a little shoreside shopping excursion. We stopped in by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club - this time in the daylight and no huge crowd like last night! The club is quite interesting with tons of "Yachtie" flags from around the world hanging overhead.
We started walking down the street and immediately a kind soul on a golf cart gave us a lift! She took us about a 1/2 mile to a little grocery store.
Their idea of a bridge is a little less sturdy that we're used to, but we saw several regular vehicles cross it with no problem!
We got a few items we needed for the boat and were on our way to explore Staniel Cay on foot.
We were actually in search of ice cream....
We enjoyed our little walk around - admiring the brightly colored houses.
And the church with the best view, ever!!
Carolyn is a sucker for a dog or a child....she had to be introduced to this little island girlie!
We scoped out our spot for dinner tonight - a little establishment called "Taste and Sea" - a good choice!
Resting a bit overlooking the anchorage....
More pretty colored houses sitting on the limestone hills....
Relaxing with the boys when we returned from our excursion!
In the afternoon, we wanted to go see the "pigs".....strange thing to do in the Bahamas, right?? I'll explain.....but first we needed to top off our water and fuel supply - and get rid of some bags of garbage, mundane tasks..... So, we lifted anchor and went over to the dock for those chores. Cecil filling the water.
View from the fuel dock....
The off to Big Major Cay - where the PIGS are! Seems as though some pigs inhabit this small cay (unpopulated by humans) and they are friendly pigs!
Some people that we met at Rock Sound heard us on the VHF radio - and said that they were over at Big Major also - so we "rafted up" with them for a little while. They were renting their boat from 360Yachting too.
Their next stop was also Staniel Cay, so they pushed off....
Hmmmm, off the back of the boat.....I don't think we'll swim here either!!
Everyone but Duane hopped in the dinghy to go see the pigs.....Duane said he's seen enough pigs in his life....
And here they are, just as we expected. They really just wanted handouts of food - which we provided. We had brought a few slices of bread - they were experts at catching the bread - and if they missed, the seagulls were more than happy to snap it up!
Carolyn wasn't so sure she wanted any company!
Cecil, on the other hand, had much to discuss with them!!
After the pig encounter, we motored back to Staniel Cay - next adventure was to snorkel at "Thunderball Grotto" - a cave that was used in the James Bond movies Never Say Never Again and Thunderball.
You have to wait until low tide to be able to swim thru the cave, so we timed it for the 4pm low tide.
It was fabulous! We really enjoyed it -
Entering the cave...
This Queen Angelfish was spectacular! This photo is NOT retouched! She really looks like that!
Inside the cave.
Looking straight UP to the semi-open roof of the cave -
Underwater scene with the light shining down from the roof holes.
Cecil and Carolyn ready to go ashore for dinner.
Carolyn, pretty much a non-drinker, pretending to slug down a beer...
Silliness upon finding a telephone booth - since they have virtually disappeared in the U.S.
That's it for the evening! More tomorrow!
We pushed off in the morning from Staniel Cay - this would be our last sailing day. We all settled in for the 30 mile long sail across the Exuma Sound back to Rock Sound, Eleuthera.
The fellas discussing something important, I'm sure!
We had a few hours of good wind - then it was mostly motoring along.....for hours and hours....
We had to stop at the tip of Eleuthera to get our final top-off of fuel and water before we handed the boat back to the charter company. Cape Eleuthera Resort is a very nice, but quite remote little village.
Beautiful resort but looked fairly deserted....
Our last night we spent anchored near Rock Sound...just had a peaceful evening - Lindy cooked a nice Moroccan chicken dish....the next day would be flying to Stella Maris!
Getting ready to take off at Rock Sound Airport.
Bye Rock Sound - see you again soon!!
Beautiful views flying south -
Unloading at Stella Maris Airport. We were already cleared into the Bahamas, so we just had to stop by customs for a stamp on our cruising paperwork.
Arrival at the Rainbow House - part of the Stella Maris resort.
Loved the house - everyone had their own bedroom and bath - lots of neat "stuff" in the house including this 10' tall giraffe - intricately carved from one piece of wood!
Our neat bedroom.
Cool central room.
The view from the balcony - beautiful infinity pool that spilled over into the ocean below.
Cecil and Carolyn planning the day!
There was a dog aptly named "Stella" that roamed freely around the resort. She was a favorite at the airport where she had her own bed and food bowl. She was a favorite up the hill at the resort also. We saw her many times at the various places around the resort....
We had met "Bruno", the chef at the resort, the previous night at the restaurant. He was chatting with us after we had eaten and we mentioned that we were heading over to Hawks Nest on Cat Island the following day.....He said he'd love to join us - so I volunteered our back seat. Hmmm - most people don't take you up on those offers.....but Bruno gladly did! I guess 30 years on the island makes you want to leave it if you get a chance!! He was a nice temporary traveling companion.
Cat Island - less than 20 miles from Stella Maris...
The small resort, Hawk's Nest, is just a short stroll from the runway.
We had a very nice lunch at the restaurant...even chef Bruno approved!
Absolutely stunning -
For the return trip to Stella Maris - Bruno rode in the back of Dick and Lindy's plane - he took this neat closeup of our plane! After our nice lunch at Hawks Nest we returned Bruno safely back to Stella Maris!
The following day, Duane, Dick and I were up early to head out on our only SCUBA diving of the trip.
The dive boat ran into some steering problems a few miles out - so they radioed shore and were sent another boat. Within a half-hour, we were back on our way. Here our Divemaster and assistant were arranging the boat changeout.
Here is Robert the divemaster leading us on the start of our first dive.
Duane looking around.
Nice coral, lots of fish...
A pretty angel fish - probably a foot long. I noticed that the fish here were not as "skittish" as the fish in BVI. A nice SCUBA trip.
We loaded up the mini-van and drove up to the northern end of the island for dinner one night. We had read about this rather high-end resort - Cape Santa Maria.
It was very nice - right on the water.
Time was catching up with us - about time to end our spectacular trip! Here we were at the Stella Maris Beach Bar for our last "cocktails".
A last view of the rocky shore.
Up early the next morning for final packing, clearing out with customs and heading back to the good ole' USA!
A bit cloudy while flying up the Exuma chain - this is about where we crossed over to Highbourne Cay on the sailboat.
And back to Ft. Pierce! After un-eventfully clearing customs back into the U.S., we were in for a cloudy/rainy flight back home. This is the first of many such trips, I believe!!!