Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mayaguana and the Pink Flamingos

We arrived at our last Bahamian island! Mayaguana is the south-easternmost island of the Bahamas and has three small settlements. Cruisers don’t typically visit here unless they are staging to go to or from the Caribbean. We are waiting here until a weather window opens up, and then we’ll sail to Providenciales, which is in the Turks and Caicos island chain.

The first day we anchored at Northwest Point and took the dinghy to Blackwood Point to find the pink flamingos that supposedly live there. And found them we did! I was so excited because it was the first time that I’ve seen flamingos in the wild. The water where they were resting was shallow so we turned off the motor, and I got out to slowly make my way over to them. They were easily spooked though, and once I got 30-40 feet from them they all took off. Watching their pink bodies and black tipped wings fly across the bay was a beautiful sight!

After that, we moved on to Betsy Bay, waited out a rainstorm, and then went to the beach. There we found hundreds of pieces of dead coral and a few baby conch shells. I took a lot pictures and selected a few pieces of brain coral and conch shells to save as souvenirs. Coral heads littered the water between the boat and the shore so we jumped in to snorkel before heading back. In a matter of minutes, we found three large conch that would soon make their way to our dinner plates. David had been waiting to find some that were large enough to eat. Harvesting them is easy…getting them out of their shell is the exact opposite. We both gave it a go and a few hours later we were enjoying fresh conch fritters.
Here’s my version of the process:
1)      Knock a hole big enough to fit a knife in the top of the conch
2)      Sever the muscle and watch who knows what ooze out of the hole
3)     Stick your hand up into the shell and pull the conch out
4)      Cut away the digestive tract and some other stuff but save the crystalline style to eat (locals say it provides energy and a boost in libido)
5)      Eat the crystalline style and watch David’s face twist into a grimace. He can’t believe that I’m eating it. It wasn’t bad though – like eating a slightly salty and crunchy non-flavored Jello.
6)      Make a few shallow cuts and peel the skin off 
7)      Beat the crap out of the meat with a piece of wood to tenderize it
The meal was delicious, but we won’t be doing that again. We are officially conched out after being in the Bahamas for two months.




Monday, June 15, 2015

Conception Island

We left Cape Santa Maria after less than 48 hours because it was so buggy. Sand flies (a.k.a. no-see-ums) practically swarmed into the boat since there was no wind. They are worse than mosquitoes because they are so small that can fly through the screens and OFF doesn’t keep them from biting you. We made the short 20 mile sail to Conception Island and anchored in West Bay.

Beautiful, uninhabited, pristine beaches, secluded, bird sanctuary, serene…all words that describe Conception Island. This has definitely been my favorite anchorage so far, and we stayed for a week. We snorkeled at the Southhampton Reef (where David was chased back to the dinghy by two barracudas), explored the creek that runs through the middle of the island, relaxed on the superb beach, AND helped catch turtles so they could be tagged.


 A researcher from the University of Florida happened to be anchored nearby us and asked if we wanted to help him and his two student assistants. Normally you are not supposed to touch sea turtles because they are endangered so to be able to be up close and personal with them is something I will never forget. They are beautiful animals! David and I took our dinghy and met Steven, the researcher, in the saltwater creek where the turtles sometimes hang out. He gave us a few guidelines and off we went to chase them down. I stood at the bow with a net while David steered. Spotting them wasn’t too difficult but chasing them down until they tired out was a little tricky. Several of them gave us the slip in water too deep and murky, but I was finally able to catch one. David pulled all 17.6 kilograms (or 39 pounds) of him out of the net and laid it on its back in the boat. When I put my hand on the shell, I could feel it move when it took a breath and could also hear its deep exhale. I kind of felt bad for wearing the little guy out and detaining it, but I know the data that is collected from the process helps the turtles. We brought it to Steven’s boat where he measured, tagged (or cleaned the tags if already tagged), photographed, and then released all the turtles that were caught that day. This experience is definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

There was a 3-4 foot lemon shark that patrolled the shore in West Bay. I briefly saw it when I was snorkeling the first day we got there but wasn’t 100% sure (maybe 95%) if it was a shark since it was overcast and water visibility was low.  Although I was really close to shore, David was out in deeper water, and I panicked a little bit and yelled to him to get out of the water because that there was a shark. I know that it was more afraid of us, and odds are that it wouldn’t do anything. But still, it’s the first shark (besides a nurse shark) I’ve seen while in the water. It takes some getting used to. We saw it the next time we went to the beach and then saw it the third time we went. It was about 10 feet from shore in waist deep water, and I went out a couple feet and was able to get this picture:

 On June 14th, we celebrated our two years of being together, and what a whirlwind those two years have been – moving to Seattle, getting engaged, getting married, moving back to Texas, buying a boat, and now living a nomadic life at sea. I wouldn’t change any of it and couldn’t ask for a better partner to go through life with!!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Loving Long Island

Once we got to Long Island on May 29th, we anchored out by the settlement of Salt Pond in Thompson Bay and decided to stay the week so we could attend the Annual Long Island Regatta. It is the second largest sailing regatta in the Bahamas, and the skippers compete for cash prizes and trophies.

Since we had a lot of time to kill before the regatta, we rented a car for a day to explore the 80-mile long island. We woke up early, picked up the car, and headed south towards Clarence Town, the capital of Long Island. The main attraction in CT is St. Peter’s and Paul’s Catholic Church, which sits on a high hill that overlooks the harbor. It has 40 foot twin towers that can supposedly by climbed to get a 360 degree view, but unfortunately for us, the door was locked. We stopped for a quick breakfast at Rowdy Boys before heading out to Dean’s Blue Hole. Dean’s Blue Hole is located right by the shore and is 663 feet deep, making it the deepest salt water blue hole in the world. We walked up the cliffs to snap a few pictures and then went snorkeling to check it out. There is a platform located in the center of the hole, and it has a weighted line attached to it, which you can use to dive down as deep as your lungs will let you. There wasn’t a lot of sea life by the hole so I ventured out farther away from shore while David worked on his diving skills. That is until I saw what I think was a 3-4 foot barracuda, and then I high tailed it back to the beach. Barracuda are known to be extremely curious with snorkelers, and I didn’t want to be out there by myself with one so big!

The Columbus Monument was next on our list of things to see so we headed up north. We found the sign that pointed to the monument and started our very bumpy and rough ride up the dirt road to see it. At one point, we had to get out and do some road re-construction so the car would make it past a hole in the road. After about 15 minutes, we got to the end of the road and walked the rest of the way up to the monument, which is a 18.5 ft tall stone obelisk that is located about 70 feet above sea level. It was dedicated to the Lucayans (people who first lived on the island) that Columbus met when he landed there in 1492. The monument was nothing to write home about, but the view of the Atlantic Ocean and the cliffs was spectacular!

We had planned on going snorkeling in Columbus Harbor, but the sky had become overcast so we headed back south to eat at Maxx’s Conch Bar to try their reportedly amazing conch salad. I really loved the restaurant – it was a small tiki hut with a lot of character just off the roadside, and it was full of patrons. People were starting to trickle in from nearby islands for the regatta, and we met some really nice guys that lived in George Town and Nassau. Oh that was another thing I wanted to mention! The people on this island are so friendly and helpful. It reminded me of growing up in Penelope because everybody waves at you as they drive by. There is a definite small town feel to this place.
Here is a video that I put together of our road trip.
On Thursday, we stopped by s/v Skybird in the dinghy to pick up Rick, Barbi, and Bacon and went to the Regatta. It was lunchtime so we grabbed some food from the stalls set up in front of the beach at the park. It was almost like a mini fair…there were games for kids, a straw market (they made beautiful purses), a bouncy house, fair food (cotton candy, nachos, ice cream), Bahamian food, and a rake and scrape band. We watched a few sailing races, and then David grabbed me by the hand to go dance. We danced one song, and then a lady grabbed me by the hand and I ended up in a circle of people dancing and laughing. I so much fun on the dance floor!!!

Our boat was right in the middle of the races!

We left Thompson Bay this morning and are headed to Calabash Bay to anchor by Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort, which has been featured in travel magazines as having one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. I can’t wait to get there! There is hardly any wind today which makes it a motoring day instead of sailing, but it also means that we can see clearly all the way to the bottom in the 12-14 foot water since there are no ripples. We’ve seen big starfish (like the picture I posted in a previous entry) and rays laying on the floor. Very cool!