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.
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.
“What a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts…”
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…
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… 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”!
Little Farmer’s Caye- Population: 52
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.
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.
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.
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.
Staniel Cay is also famous for its wild swimming hogs. We were also greeted by a curious stingray at the same time.
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.
We dinghied through the estuary that almost entirely divides Shroud Cay to a beach with especially bright blue water.
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.
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.
The guys were excited to try out their new sling spears and managed to catch us dinner on the first try.
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.
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.
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.
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