The Exumas, Eleuthera and Nassau

What can I say, the Bahamas are amazing.

Since our last post, we have been working our way north from Georgetown, up the Exumas, to New Providence and Eleuthera. We made the lucky catch of finding another young couple heading our direction, so we have had partners in crime. Josh and Shea on Full Moon, are from Whidbey Island, not too far from our roots in Bellingham.

Shea and Josh from Full Moon

Shea and Josh from Full Moon

Lee Stocking Island

Our first stop after Georgetown was Lee Stocking Island. The abandoned NOAH Research Center there made the whole island feel like a scene from the tv show Lost. Boats, tractors, houses and labs all just sitting as if someone left them 5 minutes ago. Windows open, doors unlocked, dishes on the counters… All a little strange. We weathered several days of high wind on one of their brand new but abandoned mooring balls, so we had lots of time to explore the island.

Élan and Josh built sailboats from beach findings and set them free to sail over the sunset.

Élan and Josh built sailboats from beach findings and set them free to sail over the sunset.

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“What a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts…”
We also did lots of coconut hunting, and therefore had lots of chances to figure out how to get those suckers open. Eventually we found that a machete did the trick for getting to the coconut water in the young green coconuts, and a hammer and hacksaw worked wonders on revealing the yummy white meat in the brown coconuts.

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Crazy for coconut!

Apollo is crazy for coconut! He wont stop begging until he gets his own piece.


Now that we are masters of coconut obliteration, we had to find uses for all those coconuts. I have been drinking coconut water, making coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flour, coconut bread, coconut shell bowls, and I may get around to coconut shell jewelry, but that involves sanding, ick, my boat-life nemesis…
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Separating the coconut flakes from the coconut milk.

Separating the coconut flakes from the coconut milk.


Galliot Cay
We made a one night stop at Galliot Cay, where we snorkeled Galliot Cut in search of conch. Full Moon found a few, but I was too busy looking at coral and fish…
Basket coral

Basket coral

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Going to and from Galliot, we had our first experiences traversing the “banks”. The East side of the Exumas are exposed to ocean wind, swell and deep depths. The banks on the west side are protected from the prevailing wind and swell, and are super shallow for miles and miles. It feels quite bizarre to sail for 4 hours and never see a depth over 12 feet. One day, our average depth was about 8 feet… we draw 6 feet, so it wasn’t much clearance or room for error. The first time we did this, I spent all day on the bow oohing and ahhing at everything on the sea floor and taking photos, while Élan spent the whole day frantically watching the depth sounder and worrying his fingernails down to nubs. There are some benefits to not wearing the title of “Captain”!

Shadow in the shallows.

Shadow in the shallows.

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Little Farmer’s Caye- Population: 52
Shortly after entering the small grocery at Little Farmer’s Caye, we were introduced to the family dynamics of life on a island of only 52 people, where pretty much everyone is related. After a few hours of island gossip, we had a general idea of the who’s who. Although a few cruising boat pass through here every day, the locals seemed excited to have fresh tourists to entertain and be entertained by. Two days at anchor here somehow turned into five, with many hours spent chatting in Altimus’ (“Ali”) Bar, and Tasha’s Grocery store. The boys went fishing and conch diving with Ali, helped him change bilge pumps in his boat, air filters in his tractor, and somehow ended up on sanitation duty: riding around the island (in a re-purposed boat trailer, pushed backwards by an old tractor) picking up garbage from each house on the island- ha, I wish I had photos of that. Us girls chatted with the island ladies, baked bread, learned to fry fish and did lots of beach combing for sea beans.

On a sea bean hunt

On a sea bean hunt

Once again, Élan makes it behind the bar... Hanging out with Ali at his bar.

Once again, Élan makes it behind the bar… Hanging out with Ali at his bar.


A Strange New Obsession is Born
I’ll admit it, I have become obsessed with sea beans! A friend introduced me to my first sea bean on Long Island, and ever since, I can’t pass up a seaweed covered beach without doing a quick sea bean hunt. Apparently, sea beans, or “drift seeds” as they are sometimes called, don’t actually come from the sea, they are hard, buoyant, seeds that come from all over the world. They fall into rivers, get carried to oceans, move around with current and wind and wash up on beaches in other places. The most common ones we have found here are “sea hearts” and “hamburger beans”. They polish up really pretty and can be used in jewelry, etc, but most of the fun is in the hunt. Thankfully, I have converted Shea into a sea bean lover too, so even when the boys get tired of beach combing, I still have a sea bean searching partner. 20130329-173400.jpg

Excited over a sea heart.

Black Point After all of our socializing on Little Farmers, we enjoyed two quiet days at Black Point on Great Guana Cay. We spent one day beach combing for sea beans and a full day baking on the boat.

Blow hole near Black Point

Blow hole near Black Point

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Baking Boat-Style: Without an Oven or the Proper Ingredients
By necessity, we get creative with the new ingredients available to us, but more often that not we have to be creative about the lack of ingredients available out here. Lately I have been doing some experimentation… My first two attempts at making yogurt made from powdered milk flopped, but that was before I realized that my 100% milk from Panama was actually mostly soy. Shea has been schooling me at making fresh bread, pitas on the BBQ and stuffed bread rolls from scratch, which I “bake” in my toaster oven. As I write, I am also enjoying my first ever batch of no-bake cookies on the boat… Why it took me a year and a half of living on the boat to think of that one is beyond me. Anyway, Élan (and sometimes Apollo, when the recipes flop) is enjoying my new interest in baking. I’ll include some of my new boat-friendly recipes soon.

Wheat bread and stuffed rolls, yum!

Wheat bread and stuffed rolls, yum!

Coconut bread, warm from the oven

Coconut bread, warm from the oven

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Staniel Cay
After we got over the shock of seeing SO many boats, specifically mega-yachts, in Big Major’s anchorage on Staniel Cay (we are still adjusting to the crowds as we inch closer to Florida), we dinghied to Thunderball Grotto. This underwater cave was used in the filming of the movies Splash, Thunderball, and two James Bond movies, and for good reason. The swim-in cave has natural skylights and fish swarm close to us. We enjoyed swimming thought the tunnels and exploring the “rooms” full of grouper, squirrel fish, angel fish, trigger fish, sergeant majors, parrot fish and others.
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Swim through caves

Swim through caves

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Staniel Cay is also famous for its wild swimming hogs. We were also greeted by a curious stingray at the same time.

They look cute, but they are big and hairy and hungry, and wanted to get in the dinghy with us.

They look cute, but they are big and hairy and hungry, and wanted to get in the dinghy with us.

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Warderick Wells, Shroud Cay & Highborne Caye
We spent one night on Warderick in the Exumas Land and Sea Park, hiking all over the incredibly rocky island and checking out the ruins of an old plantation. How any one ever grew anything on that island made of rock, I have no idea.

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We dinghied through the estuary that almost entirely divides Shroud Cay to a beach with especially bright blue water.

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On to the Big City, then Eleuthera Island
We arrived in Nassau a few days before Elan’s childhood friend, Colin and his lovely girlfriend Erin, flew in to meet us. We celebrated my *ugh* 30th Birthday in the city and then headed off the next morning to Eleuthera just before sunrise.
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We spent 5 nights in Hatchet Bay, which was once a freshwater lake, that had been cut through to form a perfectly protected harbor. We used this anchorage as a base to explore the whole island.
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The guys were excited to try out their new sling spears and managed to catch us dinner on the first try.
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We rented scooters to check out the north end of the island. Although the scooters each had less than 400 miles on them, they BOTH managed to break down and leave us stranded. We eventually swapped them for two others, only one of which left us hanging, haha, it’s always an adventure out here. We still managed to run up to The Glass Window, Preacher’s Cave, the cave where religious exiles first landed and held services for 100+ years, and found a beautiful white sand beach on the north side of the island.
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After the scooter mishaps, we decided to try our luck at hitch hiking instead, and had much more success. Bahamians are so friendly, and are always willing to offer a ride. This time we went south and explored Cupid’s Cay, James Cistern and Governors Harbor. We found a great shell beach which didn’t exist before Hurricane Sandy created it just a few months ago. I also dragged everyone all over the island in search of a pink sand beach, and finally found a great one on the east side of the island. The color is subtle, but most definitely tinted pink.20130329-171041.jpg
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On our way to Current Island, we caught an Amberjack and several Barracudas. That night the boys snorkeled and speared while us girls beach combed the deserted beaches.

Amberjack

Amberjack

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We were sad to drop Colin and Erin back off in Nassau, their trip went by too fast.

Tomorrow morning we will sail out of Nassau’s busy harbor at day break and head for the Berry Islands. We will make a few stops after that in Bimini then cross the Gulf Stream to Florida within the next week or so. Elan and I are reluctantly admitting that reality beckons us home soon. We are still working out the details of putting Silver Lining on a semi truck for her cross-country ride back to the Pacific Northwest. After that… we still aren’t exactly sure. We’ll see what the future has in store for us!

Until next time,
Ashley & Elan

4 thoughts on “The Exumas, Eleuthera and Nassau

  1. Wow! Great photos and stories, we miss this life so so much. It seems like you have acquired many cool new skills and have got the coconut thing down. I’m looking forward to the bread recipes and I also want to know if you made a coconut bra? Swimming pigs…it’s like something from a dream, much better that coco dorito’s though. Good luck with the next passage. the Solent’s XXX

    • Serena! I can’t believe you said that. Coco Doritos are my favorite flavor. We miss having you guys across the way. The Bahamas are great though and you guys are going to love sailing through them.

  2. Ash and Elan,
    You mentioned coming home and “getting back to reality”. It could be that what you’re doing is reality, and what we’re doing is . . .something else. Did you ever think of that . . .??

    Love,
    Dad / Randy

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