Archive for 'Bahamas'

We left Bimini before 6:30am Friday morning and just after 3pm in the afternoon we officially completed our circumnavigation by crossing our track at approximately 26 degrees 4 minutes North and 80 degrees 3 minutes West.  It’s going to take a day or two for it to sink in.  It seems like we were in Australia yesterday, and it still feels a little bit like this is just the next stop on our trip instead of the end of an adventure.

DSC_0670 We did it!!!  The world’s newest circumnavigators.

DSC_0678 Treating Pura Vida to some hard-earned bubbly

As usual, we made the trip from Bimini in light winds, motorsailing most of the way.  We did have one last bit of excitement, however.  Jackson has been pretty nuts about fishing, so we put both lines out and he made sure we kept checking both lures for seaweed.  Just before noon, Tim saw a fish jumping behind the boat, and sure enough, we had a fish on.  I started to pull in the hand line without putting gloves on first, and the fish was so strong that it took off and pulled the line right through my hands, leaving a few little burn blisters.  When it jumped again, I could see that it was a large bull dolphin (mahi mahi or dorado).  After patiently working it to the boat and with some help from Tim, I was eventually able to gaff it and bring it on board.  At around 44 inches, it was easily the largest fish we’ve landed.  It made a great lunch and provided plenty of filets for the freezer as well.

DSC_0647 Bringing this guy in was a team effort

For a country as obsessed with security as the US is, border security is as lax as anywhere we’ve been.  Aside from the occasional random Coast Guard boarding, you’re pretty much free to motor in to where ever you want.  The official procedure is just to phone in your arrival to CBP and then come by the office sometime in the next 24 hours to get your passports stamped.  We’ll drop by later today to make our re-entry to the US official.

We’ve added a couple of fun (for us) pages to the website for trip Stats and a few Tips, Tricks, etc. that we’ve learned along the way, but this will probably be our last blog. Our plans are to move the boat farther north and work on getting it in shape to sell.  We’re hoping to spend some time road tripping in the US visiting friends and family that we haven’t seen for a while before heading back to southern California.  I’m sure it won’t be long before we’re yearning for more adventure; we’ve started a list of potential new adventures, but we don’t have any firm plans for the future as yet.

Thanks to everyone who’s followed along by reading the blog during our trip.  It’s been fun to share the experience with you and we’ve really enjoyed reading your emails.  Thanks as well to Wes, Tim, and all the others who have supported us with dinners out, brought us parts, and helped co-ordinate assistance when we had problems at sea.  In addition to being there for us, we owe a big thanks to our parents for providing mail service and helping us with stuff stateside during our trip.  I’m especially grateful to Lauren, who’s been an amazing partner in this adventure.  I can’t say enough about her great attitude, spirit of adventure, and hard work (and her iron stomach).  She really jumped in with both feet and has made the experience memorable for me, our crew, and for the many people we’ve met along the way.  We’ve gone from being uncertain about even a short passage to being confident in our ability to cross oceans and navigate new, unfamiliar countries together.  Cruiser’s often call each other by their boat name (e.g., Hey, I saw Marionette at the market!), and it’s been great to hear the way our friends say “It’s Pura Vida!”

The trip has been life-changing for both of us, and like Lauren said, we’ve been lucky to have this experience at a relatively young age.  I’m sure the experience will continue to impact us for a long time.

Ahh the Bahamas

Our stay in the Bahamas hasn’t been long, but after all we’ve seen, it’s pretty clear that the Bahamas are underrated among the sailing community.  With so many islands (something like 700), and so few of them populated (something like 30 or 40), it’s a veritable paradise of remote, untouched beaches.  The water is clear, with both deep-sea trenches and large, shallow banks.  There are tons of coral reefs, great diving and fishing, and fun, friendly locals. We’ve spent the last week enjoying the Bahamas with family and taking it easy.

Before leaving Grand Bahama, we met a French/Canadian cruising couple on a 2000 47’ Privilege with 3 kids who were just starting out and are planning to do the Caribbean.  It’s definitely different being on the experienced side of the conversation and meeting lots of folks just starting out.  Jackson and Harper had fun playing with their kids, and they invited us over for snacks and drinks before we left for Bimini just before sunset.

After starting the passage with a sunset dinner, Lauren and I were reminded how accustomed we’ve become to the motion of the ocean.  The sun had barely set when Tim and Heather both started feeling sick.  The seas weren’t big, but they were mostly on the beam and a little confused.  Lauren and I would typically have been hoping for some more wind for better sailing and wouldn’t really have noticed the waves, but seeing Tim and Heather feeling the effects of the boat’s motion reminded us how it was when we started.  Luckily, the kids did pretty well and by the next morning Tim and Heather were in good shape for our landfall in Bimini.

On our first trip to the Bahamas, an old man who went by the name of “Gold Tooth” told us that Bimini was “a magical place, mon.”  We’ve certainly enjoyed it every time we’ve been there.  Ernest Hemingway spent a good deal of time there, and before it burned down a few years back, his house was both a Bimini icon and one of the best bars in the world.  Tim & Heather were engaged on North Bimini’s Radio Beach during a sailing trip, and our friends Brett and Aida who are now married got to know each other there after they met in Grand Bahama on a sailing trip with us (Brett left the US with us and Aida was a stowaway from Grand Bahama to Bimini).

Bimini was just as great this time around.  We spent plenty of time at the beach and at a couple of the current Bimini institutions: The End of the World Saloon (a.k.a. the sand bar) and Sherri’s bar and restaurant at Radio Beach, which is also full of personality and has a great view of the sunset.  Bimini is so small that the gas station is just a couple of pumps at the side of the road with just a small spot to pull off in front of them.  Many people use a golf cart as their primary vehicle and we joined the crowd one day by renting a golf cart and touring the island.  We drove North Bimini end-to-end in well under an hour, including a stop at Charlie’s house for his famous home-cooked Bimini bread.

DSC_0529 The kids loved the beach where Tim proposed to Heather.  Doesn’t get any prettier than this.

After a couple days in North Bimini we headed down to South Bimini to take the kids to the shark lab.  The shark lab is a research station started by a Miami professor to study the lemon shark. There are three lemon shark “nursery” areas on Bimini, where mature female lemon sharks return to Bimini every other year to give birth.  The young sharks stay in the Bimini area until they reach maturity, about 12 years later.

DSC_0615 Young lemon sharks

DSC_0607 Bubbles in the clear, shallow water made star shapes on the sandy bottom

After a dip in the pool at the Bimini Sands Beach Club, we headed out to snorkel and dive the Sapona, another Bimini tradition.  The Sapona was a WWI ship transport built by Henry Ford.  After only one Atlantic crossing, the war ended and it was being used as a rum runner during Prohibition when it was wrecked on the bank south of Bimini.  Its hull is mostly above water, and it makes for an awesome shallow-water snorkel and dive.  There were literally hundreds and hundreds of fish, including some really cool ones we’ve never seen.  Some of our favorite sightings were a giant crab, a large stingray that we nearly swam over, a hogfish, ocean and queen triggerfish, a large, poisonous spotted scorpionfish, an eel, and a good-sized shark.

DSC_0627 The Sapona

DSC_0630 The little guy loved his first lobster

DSC_0640 Our last sunset in paradise pic

Family Vacation

The Bahamas is a very popular destination with Florida boaters due to its close proximity and excellent diving and sport-fishing, and in recent years, resort accommodations for tourists have been popping up throughout the islands. We started our Bahamas experience with a taste of the resort life, which seemed so cushy by our recent standards. Tied up to the dock at the Ocean Reef Resort in Freeport, it was a short walk to the showers, laundry facilities, pool, and restaurant. I especially enjoyed meeting new people at the pool and winning the poker game on Friday night.

Later that night, we went to the airport to meet Dallas’ brother Tim, sister-in-law Heather, and their kids, Jackson (5) and Harper (3). Dallas saw them when he was back in the States last year, but I hadn’t seen them in over two years and was amazed at how the kids had grown. It has been so much fun to be around them – it brings out the kid in me (not so hard to do, I suppose). However, I was quickly reminded that I’m not so young anymore when I strained my back picking the kids up to get them on and off the boat.

DSC_0479 Climbing around the boat like a jungle gym

Saturday we all piled into the dinghy and motored out of the channel to a nearby reef to do some snorkeling in the crystal clear water. There were quite a few small fish there along with a stingray. Jackson made it into the water but is afraid of sharks and thus is working up to the main event of putting his face in the water. On the way back, stopped at the lovely white sand beach for some shell collecting and purchased several filets of a white, flaky fish that we can’t recall the name of from a local fisherman. I heeded his advice and marinated the filets in lime juice before pan-frying them in olive oil with garlic and thyme, and the result was delish.

PICT0360 Found a big one

DSC_0483 Fresh fish chez Pura Vida

We spent more time in the pool on Sunday before sailing to Port Lucaya, just an hour away. On the way out of the channel, Jackson spied a spotted-eagle ray, after which Dallas gave him the wheel and helped him to steer us toward our destination. He’s going to have a lot to talk about when he returns to school.

It’s hard to believe, but the last time we plugged into shore power was in Panama two years ago (with the exception of a few times in NZ when we ran power tools or the sewing machine). However, since we are back in a marina now and have guests on board, we thought we’d plug in and see if the air conditioning still worked. Once Dallas rigged up a homemade 30 amp adaptor, we were in business and have been basking in the cool air.

Adjacent to us on the dock here is a 46’ Privilege catamaran. The owners are a family of five from Quebec who are in the early stages of cruising. Last night Dallas went to see them give them his cruising tutorial while we hosted a play date for the kids on ours. It was fun to watch the kids of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures interacting so easily, and Harper, the up-and-coming social butterfly, was a great hostess. (“Does anyone want a cookie or an apple?” “I know where the potty is.”)

Tonight we are planning to sail 60 miles to Bimini to the very beach where Tim proposed to Heather…

Familiar Ground

For the first time this trip, we’re actually visiting someplace we’ve been before.  Grand Bahama and Bimini were regular destinations for the charter trips that Wes organized when we were between boats.  We made landfall at Grand Bahama around sunrise this morning and are enjoying internet access and looking forward to meeting my brother Tim and his family at the airport this evening.

The passage here was pretty uneventful except for a few hours when we were east of Eleuthera.  After leaving San Salvador, we discovered that apparently all you have to do get some wind is take on enough $6+/gal fuel that you don’t have to sail We’d actually had enough wind to sail for most of more than 24 hours when things got more interesting.  It had been an overcast day with occasional lightning and rain in the distance, but all of a sudden the wind really started picking up.  We went outside to drop the sails and before long our 10-12 knots had become 35-40 knots of wind that was blowing from a strange direction and creating steep wind-against-current waves that were adding to the already present waves and swell make a nice confused sea that felt like some sort of mechanical bull ride.  About this time we noticed that there was lightning ahead and to starboard.  The island of Eleuthera was to port, and as we looked around, we saw a waterspout show up behind us.  A waterspout is basically a mini tornado at sea.  It looks pretty much the same, but is much smaller.  It was really starting to look like our peaceful afternoon was going to turn into a nasty day, but things eventually calmed down.  After looking like it was working its was toward us, the waterspout finally disappeared into the clouds, and although the lightning looked nearby we never got close enough to it to get really worried.

DSC_0461 Waterspout!

The rest of our passage was pretty uneventful.  The engines did make another overnight appearance due to having contrary current nearly all the way, which was the opposite of what I’d anticipated.

Grand Bahama isn’t really known for anchorages, so as long as we’re here we’ll be enjoying the resort-type life tied up at a dock with a pool only a few steps away.  Should be a nice break before heading back to the US and getting the boat ready to sell.

Lat: 24 41.211′ N
Lon: 75 20.693′ W

It has been a week since we left the Virgin Islands, and there is still very little wind to speak of. Dallas has been carefully monitoring our fuel consumption and decided that it was safest to stop and refuel in San Salvador, Bahamas. We planned to clear in with customs/immigration, fuel up (to the tune of $6.36/gallon!), and go, but there was another boat on the fuel dock, so we grabbed a spot on the marina wall and hung out for a bit. I had a delightfully long shower at the marina, and when I returned, Dallas informed me that our neighbors on the dock invited us over for a beer. Well, one beer led to another along with a dinner invitation, and before long we had decided to spend the night at the marina and set sail (or more likely motor) in the morning.

Our newest friends are an American couple in their early 50’s who recently sold off their worldly possessions and moved onto a Nordhaven trawler. They are planning on taking the motor vessel around the world (along with their two beloved dogs), although they might make a beeline for Alaska after they transit the Panama Canal. They haven’t really decided yet, and the beauty of it is that as they are retired (already!), they are not on a schedule and have about as much flexibility as is humanly possible! Naturally they had many questions for us, but it felt a little different than usual since they viewed us as circumnavigators. Dallas helped them trouble-shoot problems with their battery bank, shared some charts, and after dinner, conveyed his passion for the islands of the South Pacific. If they end up going there, I have a feeling they will think of him once or twice!

marquesas Photos from the Pacific: Learning to play the ukelele in Hakahetau, Ua Pou, Marquesas (French Polynesia)

chiefsWith the village chief on the island of Malekoula, Vanuatu

Mark and Jennifer were not the first to express surprise that we have circumnavigated (very nearly) in two years. Certainly our schedule kept us on a fast pace as evidenced by the fact that we spent 40% of our time at sea. Had time not been a factor, we undoubtedly would have spent more time in places like the South Pacific and probably would have slept more and endured less stress along the way. However, neither Dallas nor I regret the decision to go ahead and set sail rather than waiting until more time and money was available. I’ve learned that many things in life don’t come easy, but striving to achieve one’s dreams in the face of inevitable obstacles seems to me to represent "living life to the fullest."

For years, Dallas had dreamt of sailing around the world while he was still relatively young and in good health, and I think our age did serve us well in maintaining our activity level. But to me, an added benefit of doing it at our age relates to the process of self growth. The myriad unique experiences, exhilarating adventures, and memorable conversations with amazing people that I’ve had over the course of this trip have challenged me to think and act in completely new ways, and as a result, I have the opportunity to continue on life’s journey with a better understanding of myself and the world in which I live. Such a life-changing experience is definitely worth waiting for, but what a privilege to have had it now.

lauren2 Enjoying the journey