Month: April 2016
Our return journey to Spanish Wells was fairly uneventful. We were once again headed directly into the wind, just like we were when we sailed from Spanish Wells to Nassau. I told Danny that it was like we went to school uphill both ways! When we were about an hour from our destination, Danny reeled in a huge Barracuda. It has become easy for us to tell when there’s a Barracuda on the line, because they fight like crazy in the beginning, and then give up to the point where you feel like what ever was on the hook had wiggled off, until they are close to the boat when they fight once more. This guy was so heavy that it took both Danny and Mycah to hold him up. We set him free once we’d removed the hook.
We anchored in the same spot as we did last time – just outside the harbor entrance. This time however, there were already 8 other vessels in the anchorage, and a few more have arrived since. Danny and I chuckled to ourselves as we sat on deck last night and another couple came in to anchor, and Danny commented that they were not new sailors because they had dark tans. As people come and go we are able to pick up on things now that we would never have noticed before, just by looking at their boats and how they have things set up. Some have their decks lined with extra diesel and water cans from long crossings. Some have come a short way in calm seas and have laundry hanging out to dry. Last night we listened to a couple singing out loud at their stern while others washed their dishes off their transom, others gathered their dried laundry from their stanchions, and still others took boat showers in their swimsuits at the stern. We as cruisers are a community, and it is a peaceful way of living.
Danny and I took the dinghy into town to take care of some business. The only place that was open was the post office since it was lunch time, so we mailed off the creatures exams and stopped at the Shipyard for lunch.
I love this guy. I never tire of spending time with him, and the longer we are together, the deeper in love we fall.
Kjira, our beautiful 24 year old angel creature just moved from working at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana,
to working at a resort in Alaska. She took this photo a couple days ago.
We spoke on the phone last night and as always it was so wonderful to chat with her. As a parent, nothing beats knowing that your children are happy, healthy and excited about life. That they love you and know that you love them and they feel hope and excitement for the future. Kjira has always been an amazing big sister to her siblings, and a wonderful daughter and companion to me. I love her so much. We all love her so much.
En route to Nassau, we saw a huge flock of seagulls splashing into the water then taking flight again, and turned to port to sail through the flock. They were feeding on little fish who were being hunted by bigger fish, and we wanted to catch one! In no time at all we heard the whiz of the reel and Mycah (for the first time) grabbed a hold of it and reeled in a nice looking tuna.
Nassau was as busy as ever. Airplanes flying in and out, boats packed with people going in every direction, and police sirens loudly blaring as they passed. Danny had a whirlwind trip, flying to Miami, picking up our feathering props and a couple other things we needed, then flying back that evening. We met him out on the road when his taxi arrived, and what pulled up was a big white limo (which was the same price at a regular taxi), and Danny climbed out with his lips puckered and his hand pushing his hair back like he was some sort of super star. We all bust out laughing.We really missed him while he was gone. Even Nassau seemed to celebrate his return, as fireworks were shot off over the bridge.
It felt good to leave the big city this morning, leaving the craziness behind and heading out to peaceful waters.
Tonight we are anchored on the south side of Rose Cay. A beautiful, calm little island covered in dense vegetation and a couple of gorgeous beaches. We arrived at low tide and took the dinghy to explore the beach.
Emma searched for shells while we all explored and waded through a large area of gorgeous shallow water. I love the patterns that the wind forms on the water, as well as the pattern of the waves.
I love seeing the world through the creatures eyes, and witnessing their love and interest in the world.
As we were returning to the dinghy, I came across a beautiful sea hare. Sea hares have a soft body with an internal shell. Their color is directly related to their diet, which mostly consists of seaweed. To defend themselves they can squirt an inky substance which is either red or purple in color.
In China they are fried and eaten with rice or some wrapped in grape leaves and eaten. We didn’t eat this little guy (nor ever will we eat sea hares), and set him free.
Tomorrow we will return to Spanish Wells, where Tanda Malaika will be hauled out on Friday for repairs.
We sailed from Spanish Wells to our favorite little island just outside of Nassau, that we call ‘our island.’
Danny was able to find an exceptional deal on some folding props that we have needed for Tanda Malaika, and it is cheaper for him to fly from Nassau to Miami to pick them up than it is for them to ship them to us, so tomorrow morning he will fly off for the day and return tomorrow night. We have to return to Spanish Wells as soon as he gets back, because our girl is going to be pulled out of the water there so we can replace a faulty sail drive seal and patch up the keels from our little run in last week.
When we awoke we got our swim suits on and prepared for some exploring time in the water. Jude and Mycah first rigged the fender up to the spare halyard line and we took turns flinging ourselves off the top of Tanda Malaika. It’s quite a rush.
With mask, snorkel and fins on, Danny and I went grocery shopping…he had his Hawaiian Sling in hand and I had a mesh bag. I came across a beautiful turtle who had three remora attached to his belly. We swam together for a short while before I hurried off to catch up to Danny who was already shopping in the lobster isle. He speared three lobster for dinner.
As I snorkeled close to shore in search of more lobster among some rocks, an endless school of tiny silver fish circled around me. There were thousands of them in every direction and they swam with me for some time. I felt like a mermaid.
While we were diving and snorkeling around in about 25ft of water, we came across about 600ft of anchor chain lying on the reef. It had obviously become wrapped around the coral heads when someone tried to anchor as they zig zagged across the reef, and after failed attempts to raise it up they finally cut the rode and set it loose. It frustrates me when I see this because there are huge patches of sand that are so easy to see that can be anchored in, and yet people still anchor in coral and damage it. These people ended up losing several thousand dollars worth of anchor chain in the process.
Since we are always up for adventure (and a good challenge), the creatures and I decided that we were going to selvage the chain and sell it someplace. Danny tried explaining to us that first of all, there’s no way we could raise such a heavy chain without the right equipment – which we don’t have, and second of all, who on earth would we sell it to. The creatures and I saw no problem with either of the issues he mentioned, so we took the dinghy over to the spot, draped a tarp over its sides so the chain wouldn’t mess the dinghy up, and dropped the dinghy anchor in sand right where we needed it to be. When we looked down at the beginning of the chain, about five feet away by a huge coral overhang, a beautiful big black nurse shark lay fast asleep.
I had dinner rolls cooking in the oven back on the boat, so after about half an hour of tugging till my shoulders ached and our efforts seemed pointless, I paddled back to the boat while the creatures reconsidered their plan. I sheepishly gave Danny the report that the chain was a lot heavier than I expected, and had to look at the ‘I told you so’ look on his face. We kept expecting to hear the creatures return, but they never did, and after about an hour Danny and I took two of the paddle boards over to where they were and were instantly asked for food and bolt cutters. To our amazement they had pulled in about 100ft of chain (300lbs worth) and were all so exhausted but didn’t want to quit. They needed bolt cutters because they had reached a place where they couldn’t unravel the chain from the coral. Danny finally convinced them that they had done an amazing job but we simply didn’t have the necessary equipment to complete the job, so after a requested moment of silence, they lay the chain back down again.
I told the creatures I was so proud of them for their determination, team effort and perseverance. When they returned home, their legs and arms felt like jello, and Aidan walked into the hanging fly glue trap on three different occasions on accident. I guess his brain was fried too! This evening they are all feeling some muscles they didn’t realize they had.
Spanish Wells is considerably different from the Bahamian towns we’ve visited. Not just by appearance but it also has a different vibe. Many people notice it and either love it or would rather avoid the place altogether. Unlike the other islands, most of the residents are Caucasian, but still use the same Bahamian talk. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation.
Spanish Wells is a small town on the island of George’s Cay. Historically, the island was used as a last stop for Spanish ships returning to Europe, the ships refilled their water supply from wells built for this purpose and that’s how it got its name. The first colonists from Bermuda suffered a shipwreck on the reef known as Devils Backbone, and ended up settling in Spanish Wells. Today the town is the center for lobster fishing in the Bahamas, and the harbor is lined with power boats in every shape and size, packed with fishing gear and lobster pots.
We explored the town which is neatly lined with beautifully painted homes with well kept yards. Some of the paint color combinations would be seen a gaudy in other places, but here in the Bahamas, it’s the norm. Even the cemetery seemed and bright with many colorful flowers and surrounded by brightly painted homes.
On our first day here we walked the beaches on the north side of the island and were once again amazed at the blueness and clarity of the water.
On our second day we took the dinghy up the south side and found a gorgeous shallow area by a bridge that connects St George’s Cay to Russell Cay, and splashed around in the water for the afternoon.
The creatures played on a rope swing attached to the bridged, and climbed as high as they could for jumping tricks as well.
At one point they called me over and Jude mischievously said, “so Mom, it’s a really hot day, would you like something from the fridge?” I looked at the abandoned fridge and said “but of course, thank you…,” she opened it, and look what was inside…
A case of Mycah! Funny kids.
Jude found more twine to take back to Tanda Malaika which Danny tried hiding, but it didn’t work.
These adventures never grow old, and the people we share them with are so wonderful. Today a woman and her son were motoring past us and recognized our boat name from Facebook, and stopped by for a visit. They shared a huge delicious pasta salad with us, we chatted for a while, they asked for a tour of our home, and then were off on their way again. Before leaving she mentioned that she is a mathematics teacher and asked if any of the creatures needed help with math homework.
Our lives are so blessed as we open our hearts and minds with love and gratitude to the world around us.
Before leaving Harbor Island, we spent some time at a beautiful little beach. Emma found many shells and Jude found more of the twine that she seems to be collecting. In fact, she found so much that Mycah had to get a paddle board to taxi it back to Tanda Malaika on.
One man’s junk is another man’s treasures!
The wind had been blowing quite hard for a few days, causing some impressive swells and waves to crash through the three outlets from Harbor Island to open ocean. We decided to avoid the Devils Backbone and after waiting for 24 hours for winds to die down, set out on our next adventure to Egg Island.
We knew it was going to be a fun ride when we approached the gap and white caps stretch across the horizon. Jude positioned herself in the farthest seat forward and Aidan and Emma braced themselves at the mast for a wet and wild trip. Mycah decided to stay dry down below and Danny and I were at the helm.
Tanda Malaika raised up high over waves then dipped down into the troughs that followed, splashing water all over her bow. A huge spray also erupted through the holes of the trampoline, sending a beautiful mist over everyone and the entire deck. Jude and the twins laughed in excitement as they were drenched, bracing themselves for the next dip.
Once we got through the worst of it I tried to convince Danny to turn around so we could do it again, but he just smiled at me and we carried on and we enjoyed the rest of the sail to the beautiful calmer waters at Egg Island.
Within minutes of us anchoring we were all in the water exploring our surroundings. Danny and I harvested several Emperor Helmet Conch so that I could make conch fritters with the recipe Big Mama told me. The creatures swam to shore and Emma collected all sorts of shells and sea glass.
After we had enjoyed ourselves until we were completely saturated and our hands and toes looked like prunes, we returned to Tanda Malaika so we could clean out the conch and cook dinner.
Danny found that getting into the shells of the Helmet Conch is far more difficult than Queen Conch, but once he was on a roll there was no stopping him. Six conch later, we put the meat from three in the freezer and I cut up the other three for fritters. The key to working with conch meat is to slice it while it’s as fresh as possible, because if you don’t it’s like cutting into a frozen sperm whale.
I sliced and diced and before long had conch fritter frying in the pot. I never fry anything because fried foods aren’t good for you, but for these guys we made an exception. If you’re interested in the recipe I’ll have it in the recipe section of the blog under “Big Mama’s Conch.” Dip them into a fry sauce mixture and you’re in for a delicious explosion of flavor in your mouth. Danny and the creatures ate till they were ready to bust at the seams.
Egg Island got it’s name because there are many chickens on the island, and locals from a nearby island collect the eggs on a regular basis. We didn’t see one chicken though which can only mean that they are the inland variety and not the beach going type.
When we first started cruising last year we were told that the stressful times come when you’re close to land, but when you’re out in deep water you can relax. We’ve most definitely felt this several times, especially again after being hung up at Rocky Point (what an appropriate name) in Abacos. Being free and out in deep water felt so good, and even though we could have anchored some place since it was the middle of the night, all we wanted to do was keep sailing. Our Angel Creatures were fast asleep down in their berths, and the ocean was wide and deep and safe.
As the morning progressed, I hooked a big beautiful Mahi Mahi, who kept jumping high out of the water and thrashing around as I reeled him in. When he was fairly close to the stern, he finally wiggled loose and sped off into the depths. Later in the morning Danny was reeling in a large Barracuda, and when he was close to Tanda Malaika, a very rude shark swam up and bit his body off right behind the head.
About 48 nautical miles later, we saw Eluthera on our horizon, and sailed over to the east side to work our way into the beautiful bay at Harbor Island. Being in the bay felt like floating inside a large caldera. Elutheran islands surrounded us in a circle, with 3 small gaps leading out to open ocean – one of them called ‘The Devils Backbone! The bay was so picturesque with beautiful turquoise water, white sandy beaches, a small harbor filled with power yachts and quaint homes and businesses lining the shore. We motored over to where 3 other sailboats were anchored, and as we prepared to drop anchor, we were greeted by a beautiful big Lemon Shark.
We took the dinghy in and tied up to a small wooden dock. Seagulls and Terns were perched on the posts and seemed annoyed with us for interrupting them. Golf cart whizzed past followed periodically by a car, and friendly people went about their day. Aidan skateboarded up and down the hills following the rest of us as we made our way to the beach.
The pink sand beach is a beautiful three and a half mile stretch and gets its color from thousands of broken coral pieces and tiny pink and red shells that live in the coral reefs that surround the beach. When you look closely at a handful of sand it looks much like regular white beach sand with strawberry jello powder mixed in with it. With the UV filter on my camera, it picked up the color even more.
The small town on Harbor Island is called Dunmore Town, named after the governor of the Bahamas in 1786. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, had a summer home on Harbor Island. When we past the town cemetery, we saw graves dating back to the late 1700’s.
Several of the locals greeted us, welcoming us to Bahamas, and people with friendly smiling faces waved as we passed fruit stands and a little shop on the beach. The creatures were impressed that even their signs are polite, using the correct magic word.
We returned to our trusty dinghy, passing a group of gentleman harvesting conch, and made our way back to our home on the sea. What a beautiful day in a beautiful place.
Sometimes it is difficult to update our blog when we’re in the remote islands with slow internet speeds. We’re going to try sending posts by email to update our blog. If you can see this, then it works!
After leaving Moore Island we continued around to the southern most point of Abacos where it looked like it was extremely shallow. The color variations of water was gorgeous as slightly light blues changed to calypso then turquoise, cobalt and finally a deep blue.
We watched the charts carefully, navigating precisely on point to an area marked for anchoring, but the closer we got the more uneasy we felt. Just as we were turning Tanda Malaika because it didn’t feel right, one of the engines died and we hit bottom. (Even though it was high tide) Regardless of how Danny tried to maneuver our girl, she was not going anywhere. Jude and Mycah jumped overboard with masks to asses the situation while Danny jumped down in the engine compartment and I walked the deck, looking into the water around us trying to figure out an appropriate plan of attack.
The girls surfaced to say that not only were we solidly stuck on our port keel, but the starboard keel would soon hit the same flat rock and even worse, we were surrounded by coral heads.
We checked the tide schedule once again, noting that at 2am high tide would return, but wondered if we’d be able to get out at that point because we’d gotten into this predicament at high tide. We had the twins put the anchor in the dinghy, ride out and drop it into deeper water to see if we could use the windlass to pull ourselves out, but made no progress.
In fact, the anchor got so stuck that Jude and Mycah had to use their super ninja strength to dig it out and then unhook it every few feet as I pulled it back in to Tanda Malaika. After radioing for assistance with no response, Danny took the dinghy around the southern point of Abacos to try find someone to pull us out. While he was gone Tanda Malaika made awful noises as she gently bumped back and forth between the keel and the rudder, and I dove down to check on her underside. There was no way I could dig down because everything under us was solid rock, and the girls were right, coral heads surrounded us in every direction. It was overall deeper off to starboard where as off port was even more shallow, and directly ahead of us was a hole with tall coral heads around the entire circumference. The fiberglass of the keel was slowly getting chipped and damaged.
I finally climbed back aboard, realizing there was nothing I could do but enjoy the scenery, pray the boat is not damaged too badly and get started on dinner. I figured the least I could do was cook a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy in our beautiful surroundings.
After over an hour I saw two power boats speeding around the corner of the island and headed in our direction. Just then the cell phone rang with Danny on the other end telling me to flag them down down. As I stood waving my arms, I spotted Danny in the dinghy in the distance flying across the water at lightening speed. Several local men who worked for a waterspouts business were on board the boats, and tied ropes to Tanda Malaika’s bow to try pull her off. I told them we were sitting too high out of the water at this point and that they were not going to pull us anywhere but they politely smiled and went to work.
Danny soon arrived and also saw that their efforts were getting us no where, and before long they told us they’d be back around 1am and were on their way back to where they’d come from.
We set our alarm for 12:30am, and called everyone up for a sincere prayer asking for safety, guidance and insight. We knew it was still 90 minutes from high tide, but Danny fired up the engines and I stood on the bow with a flash light shining down on the coral heads. My dad came to mind and I wondered if he was watching as Danny pushed the throttle forward on both engines, and without one single scrape or bump we shot forward across the shallow water with Danny calling out, 4 feet, 8 feet, 15 feet, 30 feet….
What a relief it was to be in deep water again. We gathered together once more and gave a prayer of thanks, and when we were done I quietly looked out over the rolling swells and spoke quietly into the wind, ‘and thank you Daddy for your help too.’
Finally have internet again!
Sunday, April 10th
This morning Danny and I were still in bed when there was a soft knock on the door. Jude and Mycah had ordered us breakfast in bed for our Wedding Anniversary and served it to us. What Angels. Danny and I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious coconut french toast with sliced bananas, maple syrup and a tall glass of milk. They thanked us both for being such wonderful parents and thanked Danny especially for the amazing Dad he is (in particular for putting up with Mycah lol). We are so grateful for 11 beautiful individuals to learn from and grow with.
We prepped the boat and checked out of the marina, and several friends stopped by to wish everyone farewell, the creatures friends came and chatted for a while and as we motored out we heard farewells from the hotel balcony and dock from several of the anglers. The Atlantic was restless today. Currents pushed in different directions to the strong winds, causing the rhythm of swells to periodically be interrupted by a dysfunctional wandering wave. Tanda Malaika took it all gracefully like a patient mother, placing her hulls in troughs and swells that moved us forward as comfortably as possible. At times spray would reach as far back as the stern hatches. We couldn’t sail directly on course because the wind was right on our nose so we tacked back and forth and then backtracked for four and a half hours and as a crow flies, only made it about 10 miles down the coast.
Finally Danny and the creatures got us anchored at about 1830, just as I finished cooking fish tacos with the trigger fish that Meli gave us yesterday. I cooked them like the security guard at the marina had suggested and seasoned the fish, garlic, onion and bell peppers with oregano, salt, pepper and lemon juice. I served them with rice and pineapple salsa and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Trigger fish consistency is much like lobster, and quite delicious.
What a fantastic day in a beautiful place. We will continue our journey tomorrow, and according to the weather report, the weather will be far more favorable.
Monday, April 11
The winds turned on us again after looking promising on the report, and to avoid beating into the wind for who knows how many hours, we decided to stay put and leave early in the morning. According to today’s weather (which could change any second), it should take us half the amount of time to reach lower Abacos tomorrow than if we’d left today.
Jude and I took advantage of the time while Danny was doing some route planning and the other 3 creatures were busy on school work, so catch a ride in to the grocery store for more fruit, flour and sugar. It is so much cheaper for me to bake all our bread rather than us buying it – (besides the fact that I love baking bread). We took the dinghy over to the marine police station and a gentleman there named Danny offered to take Jude and I into town and then back again afterward. I know I’ve said this before, but I am so impressed with the Bahamian people. They are some of the happiest, friendliest and most helpful individuals I’ve ever met.
This afternoon we all piled into the dinghy and went over to the abandoned hotel to explore. The actual structure is still very sound, but some of the walls need new sheet rock. I’m sure if any of you would like to open your own hotel you could get a really good deal on this one! When we arrived there the tide was low so we had to climb very high up and out of the dinghy to get onto the dock, and Danny was such a gentleman to let me stand on his leg to do it. He was the last one to climb out and as he began his ascent he fell back right into the water. We all had a good laugh.
After our adventure we returned to Tanda Malaika where I served fresh homemade potato salad, watermelon, corn and lamb chops grilled on the braai (bbq). We goofed around for a while, had prayer together and have now retired to our berths. It’s been another wonderful day.
Tuesday, April 12
The sunrise was gorgeous this morning as we made our way out to sea and raised the sails. At first it appeared that we would have good wind for sailing but very soon after setting out, the air became calm and the only breeze we felt was the apparent wind we were creating. Flying fish raised themselves from the cool clear water, gliding out across the gentle swells and leaving zigzag patterns from their tail fins on the water.
As the day progressed the ocean calmed even more.
While taking my turn at the helm, Mycah came and joined me with her ukulele and sang to me for a while. She has such a beautiful voice. Later after going down below she reached up from the lower deck handing me an apple with a couple bites out of it and told me she had opened it for me!
Last night when I hugged and kissed her goodnight and thanked her for being so wonderful, she looked discouraged and said, ‘Mom, I feel so sorry for my future daughters..actually I feel sorry for every women.’ I was concerned and asked her why, and she replied, ‘because none of them will have as amazing a daughter as me. I’m already born!’ She is such a dingbat!!
Not too far before the main Abacos island we saw a little land mass called Moore Island, and decided to check it out. From a distance it appeared to have very long while sand beaches. After motoring all the way in to drop anchor, we realized that the ‘white sand’ was actually concrete wall and there are no beaches at all. It’s all still so beautiful though and we enjoyed dinner out in the stern salon before coming in. Tomorrow we will continue on…
This morning began with school work and chores, and then some extra maintenance chores for everyone. It was time to scrub bilges and rinse out holding tanks. Everyone ‘rolled up their sleeves’ and got to work, efficiently completing their tasks while listening to good music and chatting back and forth. Our sweet neighbors that were docked behind us needed help once again and Aidan and Emma went over to shine up all their stainless steel around their boat as well as assist them in transporting their boat and another boat to the haul out marina.
Danny got busy in the starboard engine room replacing a bilge pump that seems to have a short.
Just as Danny got done, the gentleman from the Tampa CBS TV station came to interview us. He spoke with Danny and I first and then with Jude and Mycah. He said that it should air within the next two weeks.
Afterwards we made our way back down to the beach to see how the anglers were doing on their 2nd day of the fishing tournament. Several had already come back in and most commented that the conditions were not as good today as yesterday.
Some huge King Fish and Wahoo were brought in as well as some massive snapper. We hung around for the weighing in and then also the awards ceremony. The first prize was $10 000 and a beautiful trophy. Our sweet friend, Meli, gave us a huge Trigger fish that she had caught, and Danny filleted it up beautifully.
While all the celebrations were going on, one of the winners came up to us wanting to chat, and said, ‘do you realize that your family is the talk of the tournament!’ Everyone has been so interested in our life style and many have come to check Tanda Malaika out.
We heard some commotion and splashing in the water behind us, and turned to see a 10ft scalloped hammerhead within 5ft of shore, grabbing at some fish. All the chum, blood and bait the last few days has attracted it in. After being really close it swam out a little ways and we watch its dorsal fin moving in the directing of a swimming area. I looked to the side and saw two women and a baby about chest deep in the water and yelled to Danny that the shark is headed right for them. He sprinted down the beach yelling for them to get out of the water. It was like a scene from the Jaws movie, as I watched Danny running, the shark approaching, and a water skier in the background skiing closer in to the danger zone. All ended well, and several of the anglers decided that they are going to try catch it tonight, photograph it and set it free once again.
Three different anglers came and gave us gifts, which was so unexpected and incredibly thoughtful of them. A beautiful new fishing rod and reel, as well as leaders and lures. We are so set at this point!
We sat together as a family on the beach for a while and watched the colors in the sky soften as the sun began to lower in the west. A large flock of terns and seagulls walked the beach eating bits of left over chum and bait, and Aidan and Mycah ran through them – sending them soaring over the waves.
One of our new dear angler friends wanted a photo with us. We have so many wonderful new friends.
We have loved our time here in Lucaya, Grand Bahama. The staff are always smiling and so friendly and helpful, and we have all loved spending time with incredibly giving, happy and positive people. We will always remember this place with great fondness. Our plan is to set sail for southern Abacos in the morning. Hopefully we will have wifi so I can post a blog tomorrow night.