Day 1- Flight from NC to Crooked Island, Bahamas
Took off around 7AM from home, arrived Ft. Pierce, Florida around 11AM.
Had a quick lunch with Dick and Lindy at the Tiki Hut. Nothing special, but a good break before crossing the gulf stream!
After a little flight planning and call to ATC, we were on our way. Life jackets on..... Leaving Ft. Pierce.....
And on to the beautiful waters of the Bahamas!
I'm always amazed at the beautiful colors - these photos are "un-retouched"....just exactly like my camera took them!
We landed at Stella Maris, Long Island to clear customs into the Bahamas. (There is no customs station at Crooked Island, about a half hour south).
After a quick refuel and easy customs encounter, we were off for our destination for 2 days - Tranquility on the Bay Resort on Crooked Island.
We had a strange thing happen - the Garmin 530 map in the plane and our Ipad program (WX Pro) both had the airport pinpointed in the wrong place! This was the first time we've ever seen that happen! The location shown was about 3 miles from the actual airport! So, we did a bit of circling and finally found the little, unmarked airstrip.
Here's a photo of the strip - called Colonel Hill - on final approach. Looked just like a road with no markings. No worries - the surface was smooth enough.
Here's a bit of a video I shot on the approach.....it's cloudy and a little late in the day....you can just make out the little landing strip in front of the plane!
We had "circled low over the resort" to alert the owners to our arrival (since our phones don't work in the Bahamas!). Within a couple of minutes, Mrs. Ferguson arrived in her SUV to take us to the resort. Just a few more minutes and we were relaxing.....just what we wanted!
A little walk on the beach and then settled in for some serious relaxing!
Mr. Ferguson asked us what we wanted for dinner - he offered fish and lobster. Duane chose the fish, I the lobster! Can't get any fresher than today's catch! He went outside to the cleaning station - and a few minutes later was busy preparing our dinner. Duane's meal was the entire fish! He said it was very good.
He served a fabulous conch ceviche - basically raw conch marinated in lime juice to "cook" it.
My simple and wonderful meal.
And that was about it for a long and fun day!!!
Day 2 - Tranquility on the Bay resort - Crooked Island
We spent the day doing exactly nothing! Just reading and relaxing. Not a soul in sight.
Later in the morning, I met a very friendly local man named LeRoy. He snorkels out in the bay most every day to pick up conch and spear an occasional fish.
Here is LeRoy's "boat" - it's just an old plastic drum that he has carved out to fit his needs. He has a rope tied to it which he trails behind him as he's snorkeling. I watched him out in the bay for over an hour!
Then he comes back to the cleaning station and cleans his catch to be used in the restaurant (and I'm assuming at home too!) Here he is displaying a nicely cleaned conch. Note the golden bottle of rum on the table....that was with him out in the bay too! He was a happy man, livin' off the land/sea!
This shows the entire lodging area - just 5 rooms.....so no crowds!
Truly Tranquility on the Bay!
And tonight the fabulous meal was fresh grouper, "peas and grits" and a lovely coleslaw. Washed down with a cold Kalik beer, of course!
Day 3 - Flight from Crooked Island to Georgetown Exuma -
Forgot to include earlier - Messy view of our room at Tranquility on the Bay - huge room! Very comfy!
Tranquility on the Bay from the air. The "round" building was the bar/restaurant.
Colonel Hill Airport - Crooked Island Bahamas from the air.
Approaching Georgetown Exuma
Landing at Exuma International Airport
The FBO, Odyssey Aviation was very helpful!
After a short taxi ride, we were at the Exuma Yacht Club - meet the "other" Island Girl! A 46' Leopard Catamaran.
The other couples arrived at intervals - getting settled in.
This weekend was the Island Family Regatta - a local celebration of sailing using specifically design sailing sloops - no engines allowed and all crew must be from the Islands! It's a big deal down here - mostly for bragging rights.
Island Girl at the dock.
Day 4 - Short motor from Georgetown (Exuma Yacht Club) to Stocking Island
The boys - working for once.....cleaning the deck before departure.
Reid being silly - I don't know if he's sleeping or hugging the beer. (Lots of beer!)
More of the competition boats.
After fueling up and topping off the water tanks - we were away from the dock for the short trip across to Stocking Island.
The Regatta was under way.
Forgot to mention that the boats not only have no motors - but the sails are all cotton.
Anchored near the "Chat n Chill" beach bar. Dinghy-ing in for our first bit of island libations.
Chat n Chill in the distance.
A Cessna 182 on floats tied up to the beach.
Our transport for the next 10 days!
Rays inhabit the shore - looking for handouts from the bar....
Closer view of the Cessna
I was already feeling like I was getting too much sun....covered up to make sure of no sunburns!
At Chat n Chill
Silly Reid again....
More regatta traffic - we were anchored very near the course.
Some of the crew creep out on the board pictured here to help offset the sail on the other side of the boat. Exciting!
Reid had brought a LED light that goes in the water to attract fish at night.....it was cool looking but we never saw it attract much more than some smaller fish. Weird, because we've seen similar lights at docks and there were always lots of huge tarpon or sharks attracted.
And the day was done - pretty sunset!
Day 5 - Stocking Island to Little Farmer's Cay
The boat is wonderful - huge cockpit area.
Lots of room for us all to be comfortable.
And a beautiful day for sailing! The wind was the perfect speed (between 10 and 15 knots) for the day.
We navigated easily from the anchorage out into the Exuma Sound (with the help of the onboard chartplotter and Reid's Navionics program on his Ipad, of course!)
Reid and Duane navigating....
Immediately, the crew raised all the sail and we were humming along at 8-9 knots!
Pulling out the foresail....
Ahhh, everything's great!
Karen and Sharon relaxing!!! Kindles Beer Sunscreen
Laurie relaxing during the sail.
We had gotten some plantains at the grocery store. I always love them when they're given to us as a side-dish at a Bahamian restaurant. But, I'd never cooked them myself before. We purchased some that were "black" already, knowing that they needed to ripen in order to be sweet. So, while we were underway, I got busy experimenting.
Some butter in the fry-pan....
Peel, cut up, fry until golden.
A little salt sprinkled on.....these were gone in moments. Wonderfully sweet/starchy, just like the restaurant variety!
Girls getting ready for lunch while underway.
Our original, loose plan was to sail to Rudder Cut Cay and anchor. But the winds were from the west, meaning that the anchorage there might be uncomfortable because it's not protected from the west. So, we decided to sail on north to Little Farmer's Cay.
Great decision - anchored in about 8 feet of water between Little Farmer's Cay and Great Guana Cay.
Laurie jumped in for a quick snorkel - look at that beautiful water!
Relaxing a bit....
We took the dinghy around to the other side of the small island to a beach bar we had read about - Ty's Sunset bar.
Unfortunately, there was a sign on the door - they were closed! They were down at Georgetown for the regatta!
We wandered around - Buddy found a refreshing beach shower....
And the ultimate fly-in restaurant. There is a short runway behind the bar.....
Thwarted in our search for libations on shore, we went back around the tip of the island into the public dock area.
Up the hill, we found Ocean Cabin. Terry (the proprietor) served us his special drinks....
Terry - he looks ill here, but he's actually quite a cheerful guy!
Ernestine, Terry's wife, said that she "wasn't cooking" today....so we were on our own for dinner tonight.
On the way to Ocean Cabin we had seen Ayden, AKA The Conch Man......at the public dock. He makes a raw conch salad right there at the dock. So, we ordered a couple of bowls and he volunteered to bring us some fresh-caught snapper.
Fresh veggies and some "Bird Peppers"....these were hot little suckers!
Cutting up the raw fresh conch.
Just scroll thru these photos -
He squeezed a "bitter orange" over the salad....
And he brought the snapper too. We're all ready for dinner tonight now!
Back to the boat, with the help of a local fellow. He introduced himself as Dick.....we told him that we also had a fellow named Dick back on the boat. So we called him Dick #1....as we saw him several times. He was very helpful.
Back to the boat in the anchorage.
Getting ready for dinner - fish sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning.....wrapped in foil and put on the grill!
Buddy making sure nothing burned!
Sharon made a yummy vinaigrette salad dressing - paired with saffron rice and we had a fabulous meal!
Yes, it was that good!!
Day 6 - Little Farmer's Cay to Blackpoint Settlement
We pulled anchor for a short motor to Oven Rock on the western side of Great Guana Cay. I had read about a cave there that you can hike to.
Island Girl anchored....
We pulled the dinghy up on the beach and tied it off since we didn't really know how long we'd be gone.
After a couple of incorrect turns, we found the correct trail.
It was clearly marked....but we hadn't walked that far up the beach so we didn't see the markers.
We wandered the trail and came to a dead-end....if someone hadn't noticed these rock piles, we would have missed the cave entrance. It's really hidden back off the trail.
The cave entrance....
You immediately start to feel the cool air.....
Lovely cool pool - it extends farther than we could see or were willing to explore! The water was clear and maybe 60 degrees. We had read that it was fresh water...but a sample said that it's rather salty!
Duane took a group shot....he never wants to be in the photos!
Hiked back across the island to Oven Rock and back to the boat!
Reid got us ready for lunch - the conch salad from Ayden and pasta salad. Sandwiches for those not partaking of the conch!
The next mission was to find snorkeling that we had read was just south of Blackpoint Settlement. The water was pretty rough....and we never did find the reef.....instead, we took the dinghy to this lovely beach and just enjoyed the beautiful environment.
Coming back to the boat....
Hauled anchor and headed to our destination for the night, Blackpoint Settlement. Passed this weird house....note the sad sailboat beached - maybe from a storm?
Blackpoint Settlement public dock.
We made reservations with Lorraine for dinner - drinks first - it was warm in the restaurant!
After a relaxing rest, we had a really great buffet.
Lorraine was a gentle lady! Very friendly - cute shirt!
Sorry for the fuzzy photo - Lorraine turned around to let me snap the photo. The shirt says "You never tasted a dish like this" - saucy island lady! Back to the boat for an early night.
Day 7 Blackpoint Settlement to Staniel Cay and late night joke about Timbuktu
We dinghied back to Blackpoint Settlement in the morning - Reid had ordered some lovely coconut bread from the lady at the Straw Market. She said it would be ready at 9:30AM. The girls went to the little beach next to the public dock and collected a bag of "sea glass" for Sharon's collection. We bought a few provisions at the Straw Market and Adderly's store and headed back to the boat.
The papaya that we had gotten from a street vendor in Georgetown was ripe - beautiful fruit, but not as tasty as you might want....
We hauled anchor and headed a little north to Big Major Cay - to see the swimming pigs!
Dinghy to shore with a bag of vegetables - mostly leftover cabbage and lettuce trimmings.
The pigs came out right away from the nearby scrub forest.
They particularly liked Reid....don't know what that says about him!!!
A little baby pig....he was sweet (if a pig can be sweet!)
As you can see from the little snippet to the left of Duane....he's not too interested in tame pigs!
Back to the boat .....
For lunch - left over fish from Little Farmer's was made into tacos....very yummy. Caramelized onions and more shredded coleslaw made a terrific lunch.
And some frozen drinks.....yes, we are eating and drinking well!!
On to Staniel Cay - a short trip.
We tied up to a mooring ball near the Thunderball Grotto (famed from the 007 film).....we decided to save snorkeling there for tomorrow because we need a low tide to be able to fit into the underwater cavern.
We dinghied in to the Staniel Cay Yacht club - always some sharks milling around at the dinghy dock.....
Waiting for a drink at Staniel Cay Yacht Club.....not the quickest, friendliest or cheapest! Oh well.....
We wandered down the main road to Taste n Sea restaurant.....
We all enjoyed a good and inexpensive meal - most had fresh grouper or conch. Back to the boat for a joke telling session.
I'm going to write one of Reid's jokes - Just so I will always be able to search the blog for "Joke" and find it. After the jokes, we all turned in for an early night again!
(A little "semi-adult" joke):
Two guys interviewed for the same job. The interviewer told them it was too close to choose between them. He gave them each a paper and pencil - told them that to test their ability to "think on their feet", they needed to quickly write down a poem about Timbuktu. (Just the first thing that came to his mind).
The first guy finishes in just a few minutes - he wrote:
We came across the distant land
Where the wind blows and drifts of sand
Where riding camels is the thing to do
In the distant land of Timbuktu
The interviewer told the 1st guy, "This is great, I've never had anyone come back with a good poem so fast. I think you've got the job. But, out of courtesy, I need to read the other applicant's poem".
So, after an hour is up, the 2nd guy comes back with his poem. He says, "sorry it took me so long. I'm a little hard of hearing......I didn't quite catch the theme for the poem.....but I did the best I could...."
Across the desert we did went.
We came across 3 whores and a tent.
Be they 3.
and We just 2.
I bucked one,
And TIM BUCKED TWO.
Disclaimer....the original joke ending was just a bit racier than that......but you get the idea..... :-)
Day 8 Staniel Cay back to Little Farmer's Cay
We awoke to another blustery day.....strong wind from the west. Not a normal condition for long periods and it churned up the normally placid Exuma Banks water!
We had planned to await low tide at 11AM to be able to enter the Thunderball Grotto for some snorkeling. We ended up being able to sneak in what I normally think of as the "back side" of the grotto with just a few inches over our heads. Sorry - no underwater photos this trip - I didn't bring my case that holds my camera! Bummer!
So, you'll just have to take my word that we spent a fabulous half hour in the grotto - with bread crumbs to feed the fish. We saw beautiful angel fish and an enormous variety of the usual reef fish.
Time to head in to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for water. We were almost out (we started with 200 gallons). We're about 1/2 way through the 10 day charter, so we felt like we were doing pretty well conserving the water.
Unfortunately, the wind was strong! But since we really had no other options, we tossed off the mooring ball and pulled over to the large dock. It was very blustery and the wind was pushing us hard onto the (padded) dock. The boys got busy putting the water in the tanks. Turns out we used 161 gallons - so just about 4 gallons of water per day per person. Not bad!
The crew had to use a "springline" to allow Duane to angle us away into the strong wind and escape the dock. The crew-coordination worked wonderfully and we were away from the dock in a jiffy!
Safely away from the dock - we headed out Big Rock Cut into the Exuma Sound. Amazingly, the sound side was almost calm in comparison! We sailed with just the genoa (foresail) out in 15 knots of wind. This pushed the boat happily along at about 5 knows. We could have put more sail up, but everyone was happy for the couple of hours it would take to get back to Farmer's Cut.
Going out Big Rock Cut....
We had the fishing line in the water.....
Everyone relaxed along the way.
Beautiful easy sail.....
See what I mean about relaxing...
Capt'n Duane took a break....Capt'n Buddy and first mate Laurie.....
One of the few photos of Karen!
More relaxing .....ahem.....sleeping.....
Dick heard the fishing line whir - and reeled in our first fish!
We believe it is a yellow tailed snapper.
Filleted and put in the freezer for later use! We have plans for dinner tonight that don't include cooking!
And then we started catching barracuda.....several were caught - good fighting fish, but not edible. This one went back to the ocean.
Filleted and put in the freezer for later use! We have plans for dinner tonight that don't include cooking!
Uneventful sail - back into the anchorage at Little Farmer's Cay to avoid the worst of the west wind.
We contacted Ocean Cabin via radio to order dinner....then everyone got cleaned up an we dinghied in for some pre-dinner fun.
Dick #1 met us at the public dock.
We had to get him to pose with Dick #2!
Then we wandered over to Ty's for an adult beverage before dinner at Ocean Cabin.
Working hard to figure something out on Lindy's Ipad.
Sharon and Buddy on their 25th wedding anniversary sunset at Ty's Sunset Bar.....perfect.
Everyone enjoyed the ever-present "ring toss" game.
Lot's of celebrating when the ring was captured on the hook!
See what I mean about celebrating!
Group photo with Terry after dinner....
Terry "worked the crowd" to get everyone ready to sing the "Little Farmer's Cay" anthem.
And now....drum roll.....the video of the patrons all singing the theme song...."Little Farmer's Cay". It's really a nice song. Really. I know you don't believe it.....fun though!
And on the way back to the boat....we had Ayden make us some more of that conch salad! Yum! A wet dinghy ride back in the dark finished us all off. We gave Sharon and Buddy a little photo album with all the photos of them I could find thru the years. Fun to look at them as young folks!
Day 9 - Little Farmer's Cay to Musha Cay - retreat back to Little Farmer's
The girls all wore their "Island Girl" shirts today! Aren't we cute?
Off we were -
The winds were still strong out of the west.....but we persevered and made it to Musha Cay. This is a small, privately owned island. It's clear that there are some very private, upscale residences here. Non-guests are NOT welcome on shore. Oh well.....we anchored nearby in about 6' of water. This is pretty shallow - but the chartbook said it was well protected from west winds by a sandbar nearby.
Duane stayed with the boat because he was not comfortable that the anchor was holding.....the rest of the crew hopped in the dinghy to go out to a sandbar that was reportedly "dry" at low tide to look for sand-dollars.
Found several nice ones! They are extremely fragile.....and we were careful to only take the ones that are not alive!
Sand dollar hunting done, we tried to find a airplane wreck nearby.....tried to find it for 15-20 minutes. Never saw it so we retreated back to the boat.
Lunch was really just left-overs - but fun!
After a little discussion, it was clear that the anchor was not holding. So, we made the decision to head, once again back to the protection of Little Farmer's Cay.
Just a pretty shot of the local Sands beer.....icy cold from the refrigerator.
Sharon prepared a couple of chickens on the grill while we were underway....we made Fettuccine Alfredo - a good, basic meal.
And once the call to play scrabble was sent out, the boys all disappeared to their respective cabins!
Fun game but, as usual, we were tired and everyone slept well!
Day 10 Galliot Cut Cay - Rudder Cut Cay and back to Little Farmer's
Sharon made a wonderful syrup and banana concoction to pour over French toast - made with the coconut bread from Blackpoint Settlement. Yummy!
Headed south again - going out Farmer's Cut was pretty rowdy based on the tide and wind. Going into Galliot Cut was equally rowdy! But, we had a really good snorkel near Galliot Cut Cay. Then motored further south to visit some "caves" off Rudder Cut Cay. We passed Musha Cay again - here are a few views of the ultra-rich residences.
Found the caves easily - snorkeled over to explore.
An even neater cave on the other side of the hill. This one you can ride into with the dinghy. Met up with some nice folks that were also exploring - one was Wendell - who owns the mooring ball that Island Girl stays on regularly in Georgetown! He was just up cruising around on a little vacation of his own.
Then we dinghied to see the "piano".....it's a stainless steel piano that David Copperfield reportedly had put in the water for his girlfriend.....Don't know if that's really true - the the piano and mermaid are really down there!
Since I didn't have my underwater camera - no photos as proof! So I'll steal a couple from the internet so you'll understand what I'm talking about!
It's a full size grand piano - and full person-size mermaid! Strange!
Got back to Little Farmer's anchorage in a deluge. Very windy and rainy.....
Made reservations again at Ocean Cabin for dinner - this time everyone dressed for a very soppy dinghy ride......I had no raincoat so I used a garbage bag! Looks stupid but I arrive high and dry!
Sharon and Duane found some nice foul-weather gear in a compartment......they didn't pull it out until after I had donned my bag....
Another nice meal at Little Farmer's - wet ride back to the boat and played a fun game that Lindy had brought - Say Anything....a fun family game!
Day 11 - Little Farmer's Cut to Stocking Island
Interesting to watch the supply boat arrive. It's clear that everyone on the island had something on that boat they needed to retrieve! It's not like there's a Wal-Mart anywhere around....so this is their lifeline.
We also needed to get a couple of supplies - ice and some bread - so we dinghied back to the public dock.
That all taken care of, we headed out into the Exuma Sound in some pretty strong winds.....
See the slightly angry skies?
Really rowdy exit at Farmer's Cut!!!
Sailed all the way back to Stocking Island with a double reefed main and genoa since the winds and waves were strong. Took about 5 1/2 hours....
After the exit at Farmer's Cut - the seas calmed a bit and the sail was not particularly exciting - most folks just read, or slept!
Went back to shore at Chat n Chill.....
The sign post to everywhere! Oriental is in there - 670 miles!
At Chat n Chill - Mango Daiquiri "with a rum floater".....yum!
Saw more of the rays - hovering near the conch stand for tidbits of food!
The conch stand disposes of their conch shells right on the beach. I assume an occasional storm probably comes and washes them away!
Lindy relaxing with her daiquiri!
And Reid can't pass up an opportunity at a conch stand.
We sampled this young man's salad - maybe not quite as good as Ayden's at Little Farmer's Cay....but was good too!
Laurie used a pen and left our mark on the Chat n Chill stool!
And once again, the call for a game - this time rummy sent all 4 fellows scurrying for their berths!
Day 12 No Sailing Day - Rainy day at Stocking Island
Our 10 day charter is coming to a close.....and the weather is not the best ever....
Back to Chat n Chill for some.....
On a couple of interesting hikes for others...
Well marked trails.
Trail leads to another anchorage.
Signs warning about the Poisonwood Tree - we've seen this many times - don't touch!
View over to the "monument" on the far hill. This is where we turned around based on the abundance of mosquitoes and no one thought to bring repellant!
Back at the boat, everyone is a bit subdued.
Windy and rainy.....
The boat was nicely equipped with pull down canvas curtains - this helped keep the wind and rain off in the cockpit!
We settled in for another game of Say Anything - good fun!
Meals today were just a combination of Chat n Chill bbq, conch salad and various left overs! Weird combinations but good!
Day 13 - Time to turn the boat in at Exuma Yacht Club in Georgetown
Time to cleanup and packup.....and take the boat back over to the Exuma Yacht Club dock.
Galley cleaned up and linens stripped from the berths.
A dreary ride back over to the dock in very gusty winds.
Luckily, Roston was available to come to the dock and catch our lines so we safely tied up to replenish the fuel and water we had used.
He gave the boat the "once over" to make sure we hadn't damaged anything (we hadn't!).
We made quick work of getting our numerous bags off the boat and onto the dock.
Day 14 - Last day in the Exumas and flight home
We rode to the airport in the morning with Dick and Lindy. They needed to go on home due to some previous commitments. But, we were free to stay....so we took that opportunity take some of our extra gear back to the airplane and to get a rental car.
The other crew members were due to depart in the afternoon on the airlines - so we'd be the only ones staying another day.
After pleasant goodbyes, we headed off to explore the Great Exuma island on the one and only road.....
Beautiful views of Exuma Sound.
Interesting stopover to read historical markers - this is a salt pond left over from the 1700's. You can still see the remnants of the rock walls in the shallow pond (they're the dark lines you see). They controlled the amount of water coming into the pond area via sluice gates. The slaves and other workers had the horrible job of raking the ever concentrating salt-water from one area to the next. The marker explained that the slaves had terrible ulcers on their skin and often went blind from the glare.
This tower is on the hill near the salt ponds - to serve as a beacon to ships coming from the Exuma Sound.
Beautiful views from the cliffs overlooking the Exuma Sound.
Located the Shoreline beach bar - I had wanted to go there on the boat but the wind/seas kept us away. Unluckily it was closed today!
Did make it to Big D's beach bar - it was open - we stopped in and had a beer and some grouper fingers.
And that was about it for our island tour!!
Watching the weather, we decided we better head home.....
Last views of the islands and beautiful water!
We decided we would have to clear in to US Customs at Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport instead of our usual Ft. Pierce.....the weather/storm was too bad to the north along the coastline. When we came down thru the clouds, off to our right was our old stomping grounds. Pompano Airport - where we trained for our private pilots certificates over 20 yrs ago - looks the same!
After a quick stop at Customs and refueling, we hopped back in the plane for the final, long leg to home. This is the view most of the way.....nothing but white! We dodged the storms by going thru central Florida instead of up the coastline like we usually do.
After 5 hours and 10 minutes sitting in the airplane in the same spot....we were finally home to green NC! A great and memorable trip!