Aanonson family visit

Yippeee the Aanonson family for a whole week.  For the last few years before we left California, these guys were our ‘everyday’ friends.  They’re homeschoolers that live a hop skip and a jump from our back door.  Some mornings we would bike to the donut shop before school work, meet up on dog potty walks in the morning, 20 minutes of play between school work and classes and then there is always the afternoons and evening of play, dog walks and kids running, playing and eating at each other’s houses.

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Scott, Krista, Tyler and Cody Aanonson

 

Last year they visited Makai in the British Virgin Islands, we met up at Grandma and Grandpa Aanonson’s house in Florida this year for the New Year, and another memory for the kids to share will be the last minute vacation week in the Bahamas.

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Four days earlier sad kids were passing emails back and forth because their parents couldn’t agree on a date to visit.  The weeks for Makai in the Bahamas were slipping away fast, so I send Krista an email that said, “Just come now!”  Within minutes Scott made the reservation and it was done.  After an entire day of travel their flight gave them a beautiful view of the islands.  When they arrived in the BVIs last year, it was dark but we were at the airport jumping up and down in the terminal windows.  Today all they had was the instructions to find a taxi and meet us at the Exuma Market.

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The taxi driver called us on Eric’s Bahamian phone and we sent Roy to the dinghy dock to pick them up.  We’ve had quite a bit of wind lately making the dinghy ride a bit wet and splashy, but no one melted.

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The excitement in the kids was hard to control.  They were all over the place, hopping around like jumping beans.

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Or monkeys swinging in the trees.

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First thing in the morning, as soon as the sun lit up the sky, they scurried about planning their trip to the beach. Four tired parents wandered around rubbing their eyes before casting them off.

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Sand castles are fun again when you are with a buddy.

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The gang went over the hill to the surf side of the beach.

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The kids found an old cooler to cast Cody off in.  It didn’t get too far before tipping over. So, no need to worry about little boys lost at sea.

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Then of course there’s the sand hill.  We discovered there is an updraft along the bluff.  When the kids tossed sand about, it would fall up and drift over the top of the hill.

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See there are pictures of us when someone else is taking them.  The Aanonson’s photos from last year in BVI are what sold us on the Olympus T2 Tough camera.  This year I found that our friends on C-Spirit had the previous model of this camera and liked it as well.

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All the toys came out.  Everyone got Hobie sailing lessons.  The wind was a little brisk which always makes me nervous.  The last thing I want to learn how to do is right it if it flips over.  Oh, nooooo, we flipped.  Scott and Krista were on the leeward side, I told Scott to steer for Makai and then head up at the last minute so I could run over and grab the side.  At that very minute, with him turning and the three of us on the leeward side, over we went.   I guess I needed to get some experience with capsizing.  It was quite easy to right the boat.  The float on top of the mast prevents it from turning turtle, so just unclip the main sheet, grab a line off the hull that is towering above me, stand on the one still in the water, and pull back.  Easy Peasy.

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Eric went off to run an errand so the rest of us overloaded the Hobie and sailed down to Chat n Chill and Volleyball beach.

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Conch fritters in Staniel Cay and Conch salad here are the only local delicacies we’ve indulged in.

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At the far end of the beach is a little shack next to the water.  The chef wades out and scoops up a conch (tied of course so it can’t get away).  His only tools are a special conch hammer and a knife for chopping.  I watched him squeeze lemon on the meat and slice it this way and that.  Then he diced up tomatoes, onions and green pepper.  More dicing, squeezing, chopping and scooping.  In the end we had bowls full of fresh conch salad one with a spoonful of spice and the other without.

Next to the stand is a bucket of conch bits that are trimmed off before making the salad.  The kids grabbed up a handful of slimy conch guts and fed it to the habituated sting rays.  These rays come out and greet any pair of feet that enters the water looking for a handout. This photo also shows the conch shells from previous salads.

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Eric returned from his errand and spotted our brightly colored Hobie sail.  We’re pretty much the only ones in the Bahamas with this sail so we’re easy to spot.  Here it is, his new dinghy engine, delivered today on the mail boat from Nassau.  There are a few reasons for this new addition to Makai’s equipment.  First we can’t get the dinghy up onto a plane for speed and fuel efficiency when taking the family off on an adventure.  Also, when the water is choppy if you go slow the waves hit the front of the boat and splash inside the dinghy.  If we’re planing, then we’re skimming over the top of the water and the boat has moved past the splashes keeping us dry.  The final reason is that the United States no longer sells 2-stroke engines which are lighter weight than the 4-stroke engines and this is one we want for Makai’s future.

There are a few things to get used to on it.  We’ve all be driving from the port side of the dinghy but now there is a gear shift mounted on the opposite side.  So where do you sit to reach both?  We had to learn where the lever and pin are to raise the engine when beaching the dinghy, how about the strength needed to pull the starter cord (Marie can no longer do it), etc…..

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Evening is a welcome time.  Everyone is tired and ready to blow the conch horns at sunset.

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Along the way we’ve found a few colorful shells without much growth to make horns.  Eric fills in the hole, where the meat was released from, with epoxy and then slices off the tip.  They’ve decided that the biggest shells are easier to blow and have the best sound.

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Now that everything is in order, off we go to find some new adventure.  The wind was perfect 15-20 kts behind us.  Genny put on an audio book and the motion of the ocean kept everyone quiet and nappy.  We snacked on delicacies they brought from Costco like Kirkland Steak Bits beef jerky, mmmmm.

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The 30 nm trip took most of the day, but everyone was refreshed and ready for the next day’s activities.  Musha Cay area is where the mermaid statue, low tide beach in the cave, spear fishing, and a little beach time.

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Roy and Tyler have been planning their spear fishing expedition and now they’re ready to bring home dinner.

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Scott grabbed the pole spear.  This used to be my favorite weapon until Roy convinced me the Hawaiian sling is much more effective.

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Tyler swam off with the sling looking for prey.

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At the end of the day They got a Nassau Grouper and a squirrel fish.

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With the work finished it’s play time again.  The kids swung the boom over for swinging and jumping.

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There all kinds of sea creatures to explore.  The sea stars are pretty slow and easy for a bunch of kids to capture.

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Tonight we’re having a little birthday celebration.  Roy and Eric have birthdays in May but we like to celebrate with friends.

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Krista brought balloons and banners, gifts and treats.  At the end of an active day the kids play Minecraft. I don’t really understand the game, but everyone has their own device and can all access the same game.  So, if they’re playing together, what’s the difference if it’s on an electronic device or a piece of cardboard with plastic pawns.

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Our special dinner is cheeseburgers on fresh baked buns with lobster and vegetables.

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Our secret treat is See’s Candy.  Mmmmm, the kids got a back of Milky Way bites, but we got See’s Nuts and Chews.

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The evening is wrapped up with brownies and a sparkler.

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Last year Roy turned 12 in the Port Canaveral anchorage. He got to celebrate with his family, but he didn’t think it was so special.  This year we’re starting his 13th birthday celebrations early, I’m sure you’ll see a few more birthday pictures in future posts.

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A week goes by fast, now we have to head back to Georgetown.  The blow hole on Boyse Cay was blowing so we stopped to check it out.

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Surf crashes against the rocks, under the ledge and shoots out a whole on top.

Ok, here’s the worst moment of our entire trip.  About 10 miles to our waypoint we decided to pull in the jib and motor on course so we wouldn’t spend the whole day tacking back.  I looked over at Roy’s pole and the line was out in front of Makai instead of dragging behind.  FISH ON! I figured it must be another barracuda, but that would be fun for Tyler to reel in. The gang started chasing the line around the boat as Roy reeled in.  A MAHI MAHI, yippee yiperoo, just what we’ve been waiting for.

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Roy got it right up next to the sugar scoop in the back and I had the gaff.  My legs were quivering and my nerves were stressed out, but I whacked it with the gaff and up it came on the back step.  That’s when chaos hit.  This slippery, green 4 foot long mass off fish muscle started bouncing around on the back deck.  Boing, boing Mr. Mahi is several feet in the air I’m trying to lay on it, the line got caught and cut on the ladder, he flopped off the gaff and kept on going, back into the water.  The only trace of him left behind was blood, scales, our tears, and bruises.  Roy and I were so distraught we couldn’t talk.  I felt sick to my stomach from the anxiety for several hours.  After researching gaff techniques on the internet and talking to other boaters, Roy and I have a plan for the next Mahi that comes our way.
The Aanonson family left us with promises for another visit this summer.  Now we’re taking care of chores like laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Thursday Gary and Sandy are arriving and we’ll all head north to Nassau in the next 10 days.
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George Town – preparing for guests

Today our first guest arrives and our last guest departs on April 29, in that time we’ll only have 2 days to be lonely.  The Aanonsons were emailing with me trying to squeeze in a date sometime in May, but it just wasn’t working out.  So I said, “How about NOW?”  A few minutes later Scott said, “Done, we’ll be there on Tuesday.”  That’s what I like flexibility and a thirst for adventure. :)

After returning from the Jumentos we rested up, organized our thoughts and then got to work.  Eric ordered a new outboard engine for our dinghy.  Fifteen horsepower just isn’t enough for the dinghy to get up on a plane to conserve fuel and skim us along the water’s surface.  We often leave some people behind where there is someplace far for us to go or else we just putt along with a full boat.  The new 30 HP engine is due to arrive tomorrow and everyone is excited.

 

Next is the crappy corners that I’ve been overlooking for months now.  Marie sorted out the sticker books, magazines and puzzle books.  We put together a load of trash and a pile to donate.

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The piano buried under Marie’s clothes was dug out.  For the first hour everyone fought over who was going to bang out some favorite old song, then it pushed aside and forgotten.  Every few days I open a song book and slowly attempt a new song.  Once it’s noticed they all take a crack at it.

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Fishing is not allowed in Elizabeth Harbor where we are anchored.  This is stressful for Roy who is only comfortable with a pole or spear in his hand.  There are two scavenger remoras living under our boat who come out to suck up any scraps that are tossed off the back. Genny had fun with Cheesits tied to her line and a little Topaz teasing.

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One day Roy pointed out the excessive mold growth over the book shelves.  Ick, it was pretty bad.  I took all the books off and scrubbed the area with softscrub and bleach.

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We managed to thin the library out a bit and reorganize so most everything fit on the port side.

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We anchored off of volleyball beach and the Chat n Chill restaurant for a few days. A bunch of kids came by for volleyball, swinging in the trees and petting the sting rays who come by the conch salad bar for handouts.

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I started joining a bunch of regulars for afternoon Mexican Train Dominos.  Everyone has an interesting story behind how they happened to get here.  We’ve met people with seasonal jobs like commercial fishing in Alaska, editors, people on sabbatical,  and of course retired folks.  One guy told me he thought the retired folks who live and sail on their boats are healthier than their friends back home.  Sounds like we have to keep doing this. It’s also impressive to hear about previous careers, like the dominos guys: a phd level marine biology professor, biochemistry professor, and fireman, to mention only a few.  Most people don’t really talk about work, conversations more commonly revolve around fishing, making water, getting supplies, and future travels.

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Roy and Eric have been bugging me for a little sewing work.  Roy even went and set up the machine just to get me to make his spear fishing poles a bag.

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Roy designed this protective pouch for the pole spear and two Hawaiian slings.

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The whole week has been excessively windy. There are only two things to do on a windy day, fly a kite or go sailing.  One day I took about 10 kids from the anchorage out sailing.  We had a rotation where one would steer, one would ride and two would be towed on surf boards.  That’s always a miserable mess.  Anytime a kid falls off, you have to go back and get them.  It is often hard to turn around and get the rope back to them and kids dragging slows the Hobie down to a crawl.

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After everyone got a turn, they decided to try riding by themselves. I suppose they thought I must be doing something wrong.  So all 10 of them went out and tried to tow two kids on each board.  Hmm, I think that didn’t work either.  Finally, no one rode on the surf board and fewer kids rode on the Hobie and everyone had a great sail.

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Don’t forget Topaz. She likes to swim around off the back of Makai.  Her retriever instinct drives her to grab her harness and carry it back to the ladder.

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Roy made her a toy by tying interesting knots on the ends of floating line.  Eric was posted on the back step for the afternoon tossing the toy.

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I decided to rub out some of the scuff marks we’ve collected this season and continued on to waxing the hulls as far down as I can reach from the deck.  Eric polished the stainless steel and now we shine on top.

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For a final night with all the kids they all came over after dinner for popcorn and a movie.  I’m sorry we didn’t spend more time with this crew, but everyone was going here and there.  Maybe we’ll see them up the road.

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Back to company cleaning.  Marie has been elected to move out for guests.  I’m not sure why her room is always turned into a guest room, but it’s a good idea.  Marie’s room is always the biggest mess of the entire boat.  Last year I just stacked up boxes on her floor and said to scrape all her belongings into the boxes so we can find her bed.  This year we’ve managed to cut back on her possessions but it still looks like a tornado at a rummage sale.  Guests on a regular basis forces us to clean up the mess.  Wow, look!

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Genny also straightens up because from the guest room the view is a straight shot into Genny’s room.  Genny probably uses her room more than anyone else.  At first she called it her hidey hole, now we call it her lair.

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For years Roy has seen the stress of the sister mess.  Mom pulls her hair out and the sisters fall to pieces in tears because their so overwhelmed by stuff. I’ve told him over and over that ‘stuff’ is an anchor. When you move you have to transport your stuff and find a suitable location to store it. Stuff piles up and you can’t find useful stuff at the bottom of the pile.  Stuff crowds your space and requires care.  So Roy got rid of the stuff.  All he has in his room is a few pillows and blankets, Diary of a Whimpy Kid books (the first series he read), and his fishing gear neatly organized and displayed.

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As for the rest of the house, we did our best.  Homework is also at the top of our list this week.  Roy just signed up for a writing class with WriteGuide.com.  Maybe I can get him to take over posting on his fishing trips.

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Yesterday was business in town.  Our 90 visa in the Bahamas expires next week, but the good news is that it only takes a little paperwork to get another 90 days.  We all marched over to Immigration to take care of this important detail.

Then the truck that takes us to Prime Island Meats and Deli comes by at 10:30.  This is a photo Eric found on www.galleywenchtales.com, one of the 90 or so blogs he follows. If you are bored reading about Makai’s adventures, just email us and Eric will pass a few blog links on to you.  A few weeks ago I piled into an over stuffed pick-up truck.  Since then many of the cruisers have left and Roy and I managed to get in with four other people.  Next week when we come back to Georgetown I’ll pack the freezer with hamburger, chicken and pork chops to get us through the rest of the season.

The cruising season is coming to a close.  Most people’s boat insurance require them to be at some point north by June 1st and many people have plans to be in the USA by May 1st.  Every day a dozen or so boats head out on the East and South winds we’ve been experiencing.  This morning the group of kid boats we’ve been hanging around with left.  Boat cards were exchanged with promises to keep in touch and find each other in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Adios friends see you all in the Abacos, the Gulf Stream or the Chesapeake Bay.

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Back to waiting for guests.  The cleaning is almost finished, with nothing to do but wait, Marie decides cartwheels will take her mind off of things.

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Weeee.

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Jumentos

We’re off again, this time to the Jumentos Cays, with Dream Catcher, the Leopard 40 we met in Connecticut.  The chain starts about 30 miles from Great Exuma and George Town, and extends to Ragged Island about 60 miles from Cuba.  These islands are very remote with very few residents.  Duncan Town on Ragged Island is the only settlement in the chain with 72 residents reported in the 2000 census.

Our day’s travel was about 55 miles from George Town to Flamingo Cay.  We had to time the tide going through Hog Cay Cut, 15 miles from George Town, because the deepest the water gets there on a high tide is 6 feet and our boat is 4.5.  So about an hour before high tide we made a mad dash across the sand bar.  There wasn’t any wind but that gave us a great view of the bottom.

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We spotted coral heads and sea stars.  Roy fished and caught barracuda one after the other.  One time the “fish on” call went out but by the time Roy got to the pole all the line went off his reel and we could only wonder what took it.  Roy felt bad for the fish that was now swimming around with 200 feet of line hanging out of it’s mouth so we turned around to look for the line.  I’m sure you can guess how that went, it’s not easy to find fishing line trailing along the bottom.

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From the spreaders Roy spotted a shark and barracuda, sure enough we all saw them a few minutes later.

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It’s been awhile since we’ve been on a passage this long.  Everyone started getting board so there was much running around the boat, swinging and rolling.

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Just before sunset we arrived at spear fishing paradise.  But what did we see?  Two big fishing vessels and a couple dozen skiffs scattered about.  My heart sank, I was sure they were vacuuming up the bottom and we would snorkel on a barren waste land.

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Roy and I swam over to Lady Marie and chatted with George the owner/captain.  He invited all of us to come back the next day for a tour.

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We arrived with a plate of cookies for a tour.  He told us about Spanish Wells, on the north end of Eluthera, where he’s from, how his father was a fisherman, and now his son is aboard.  We learned that they hand spear their catch of crawfish (lobster), conch, and grouper.  According to Ronald’s Seafood in Spanish Wells, their company exports over one million pounds of lobster tails to Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants.

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George showed us pictures of his family and told stories about his sons and his passion for baseball.  His advise to Roy, our fishing guru, is to stay in school!  The life of a fisherman, while it seems fun at first, consists of spending weeks at a time away from home and watching weather and storms.

Lady Marie is named after George’s wife and he fishes with just one skiff.  He said the other two dozen skiffs belong to the Dominican Republic fishing boat, which the Bahamian fishermen do not welcome in their waters.  We found that George had plenty of cruiser friends and even used the same weather report from Chris Parker that the rest of us do.

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All this talk of fishing got Roy twitchy.  We donned our gear, Hawaiian Slings in hand and off we went around the corner.  Roy has a grouper in his right hand and a Hog Fish in the left.

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A huge school of jacks came by and distracted us.  We had fun diving into them and cutting the school in half.  After that great freediving class I found it easy to sink 25 feet down in this clear warm water for great photo opportunities.

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Roy is always hunting.  At the end of they day, he’s the only one with a full bucket of seafood.

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Most of the time I don’t even try, because Roy brings in more than a meal and he does this every time he gets wet.

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To keep the sharks away from the anchorage, Roy did his cleaning on the island and tossed the carcass in the bushes for the lizards and ants.

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Late in the afternoon funnel clouds formed out over the bank.  Eric noticed that funnel clouds had been reported here in other blogs he reads.  The conditions must be just right for them in this area.

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The next day we sailed south to Buenavista Cay about 25 miles further south.  Roy deployed a message in a bottle and caught a few more barracuda.  Since we were sailing with the spinnaker, its difficult to stop the boat to pull in a fish and since we don’t keep barracuda, the lines had to come in so we could enjoy the sail.

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Ahh another great sunset in paradise.

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First we anchored along the west side of the island. Topaz had a bit of shore leave as we sailed the hobie along with one foot on the sand.  She ran along and stretched her poor cramped up little legs:)  This dog never has any fun.  The water was full of little green specs, they looked like tiny leaves or seeds floating by.  Upon closer inspection we saw that they are clouds of jelly fish.  Yikes, I’m super sensitive to jelly stings.  I can go into the water with 10 people and be the only one to come out with welts.  Even though I dive with a full wetsuit and now a hood that covers everything except my mask and mouth, I still managed to get several stings that itched and a few blistered.  See it’s not all fun and games down here :)

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We had a wonderful evening with two young couples from Nila Girl and Rode Trip, Ashley, Ren and their little baby Ani and Brian and Stephanie. Ashley prepared the most tender and delicious conch I’ve had so far. I really need to figure out how to tenderize that snail.  Roy brought a lobster and grouper to the table.  We found out that grouper eat squid because the one he caught today coughed it up in the bucket.  I offered to fry the squid up for Roy, but he waved off the idea.

After looking at all our photos, I’m thinking the adventure to the Jumentos is really a fishing vacation for Roy.

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Around the corner from the anchorage we found some nice reefs.  As usual Roy’s bucket filled up.  Ken and I spotted a few crawfish, I missed one and then stuck a second but it got off my pole spear.  I’ve been stubbornly rejecting the Hawaiian sling Roy selected for my birthday present, but I guess, he’s right and I’m going to have to switch.  The difference between the two is that the pole spear can be used with one hand while I hold a rock with the other.  The problems are that it’s more difficult to get your catch off the end of the spear and into the bucket and it doesn’t have as much penetration power.  The Hawaiian Sling is a bit more like a bow and arrow.  The pole penetrates better and has a better one-way barb, and your catch can slide off the other end of the spear easily into a bucket.

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We also used a tip Ken got from a local and started fishing at day break.

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Yahoo, we had a lobsterfest that will go down in the record books along with our spearing trip in the Sea of Cortez with our pal Brian 15 years ago.  Between the three of us we collected enough shell fish for a huge dinner and full freezer for our upcoming guests.  In one lobster nest, Ken went down for the first bug, then I went down and shot another.  While I was pulling it out of the hole another crawled into my hand and I came up with two on one breath.  Then Roy was right there to finish it off with one more.  Whew, Ken and I redeemed our selves and don’t feel like Roy showed us up on this dive.

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Roy has his Evolve Freediving hat on to advertise Ashley and Ren’s instruction for increased bottom time.

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After cleaning up from spear fishing, we took everyone out to reef in the middle of the bay.

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The colors were beautiful.  I put away my wet suit, weights and sling to show this wasn’t a fishing trip.  Of course I should have worn the wet suit because I got a few jelly stings, and Roy came out in full gear to take home a lobster.

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Marie practiced her freediving skills, with ventilation breathing, a peak inhalation breath, then hooks and cleanses on the surface to recover. See she even spit her snorkel out to properly close her mouth for safety. Thanks Ashley and Ren!

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Yes slinging lobster is fun, but I also love to sink to the bottom for a better photo.

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As always, when you enter the water, you are a guest.  The Barracuda are always lurking on the sidelines. We’re getting used to them and have been told not to worry to much, Eric and Roy like to chase them away.

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The rest of the afternoon was hot and windless.  The water was crystal clear and the sky blue, a perfect day for swimming and splashing around.  But, Noooooo, a bull shark decided to spend the day doing figure 8′s around Dream Catcher and Makai.  In the evening we had a dinner party with Dream Catcher and Fooling Around, a seasoned Bahamas cruising couple on a trawler, Fred and Elaine.  Its great to visit with people who have been here for several seasons. Tomorrow is Elaine’s birthday, we better get her a present.

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So at daybreak Eric drove us over to the reef.

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Aww, aren’t I cute?

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So Roy and I swam off into the sunrise to see if the lobsters, sleepy from their nocturnal adventures, are still playing around at their hole’s front door.

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Phew, ting, ting, ting. Roy shot a quick three for a birthday present.

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Happy Birthday Elaine have a nice lobster omelet.

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We put our slings away, as crawfish season will be over March 31, packed up the boats and sailed back up to Flamingo Cay.

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Genny did a bit of water art on the cushions.

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Eric made a few conch horns. When cleaning a conch and extracting the meat you have to punch a hole in the back of it to get the meat out.   To make the horn, he had to epoxy the hole up and then using a saw cut off the tip.  Blowing into this hole makes conch music.  We’ve found that the bigger the conch the deeper the tone and we’re testing to see if the ease of making a noise has to do with the cut hole size or the conch size.

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The trip to Flamingo Cay left just enough time for a SCUBA dive.  Marie joins us on the bottom with the hookah hose and strict instructions not to hold her breath and never surface faster than her smallest bubbles.  Next year when we come to Georgetown she’ll be 10 years old and can get certified in the Bahamas.

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It’s a much different feeling looking at the fish and coral when I have air in the tank on my back compared to the feeling of needing to breath while freediving.

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Genny likes to play in her weightless environment and look for shells.

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Roy is always looking for seafood.  Its against the fishing laws to have a sling and SCUBA gear with you at the same time. Roy spotted two nice big lobsters whose legs and horns would have made an impressive meal on their own.  This is the very same coral head he pulled a lobster out of a few days ago.

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The grouper weren’t even afraid of him.  The Nassau grouper has a season which opened at the beginning of March.

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Without his sling Roy is a very bored SCUBA diver.

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The week ended with a long sail, but great wind back to George Town.

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Georgetown – Freediving

Chat n Chill occupies the beach on Stocking Island directly across from George Town.  The restaurant/bar is on the northern end with picnic tables and benches under the trees off to the side, three or four regulation volley ball courts, a conch salad stand and plenty of room to park your dinghy.

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Throughout the week many events are held here.  Things like church, yoga, volleyball, dominoes and card games,  and seminars on all kinds of topics.  We put it on our busy calendar to attend the Freediving seminar given by Ashley and Ren Chapman from Evolve Freediving. The kids sat in the trees while we listened.  Ashley has broken several world records in the extreme sport in competitive freediving/apnea.  Apnea is the suspension of external breathing. This ancient sport was originally used by sponge divers, pearl divers and salvage divers. There are several apnea disciplines from static breath holding in a pool to riding sleds down to extreme depths.  Ashley said she started by joining her husband for a class to help them  with spear fishing and found out she had potential. We are also just interested in how we can spend more time at 15 – 20 feet looking in lobster holes, but who knows, maybe one of us could be a super star. So we decided to sign up to take a class.

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Knowing we would be in class at the beach all day, we had to prepare.  A little bread is in order for easy lunches and dinners. With the 150 lbs of flour we brought on board and the price/availability issues for provisions, baking is a good choice.   We also packed Topaz up with extra water and an anchor to keep her at the beach.  We wouldn’t want her swimming away or going to the restaurant and begging for lunch.

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While taking a break from class, the kids went to pet the sting rays that hang around for conch scraps near the conch salad shack.

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Ashley taught us about the effects of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pressure on a body while breath holding.  We practiced techniques to slow the heart rate, maintain blood pressure, and relax for maximum breath holding time. Safety procedures are also stressed.

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After the morning under the tree, we all went to shallow water to hold our breaths.  First there is a time of relaxation breathing.

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Then a totally relaxed float to see how long we can hold our breaths.  Most of the kids made it to a minute and a half, Eric and I made two minutes, and Wendy and Nat were up to 3 and 4 minutes.  Amazing!

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Next we went to the Angelfish Blue Hole.  Blue Holes are underwater vertical caves. Stocking Island hosts a blue hole inside an enclosed bay which will make it easy to find protected deep water.  While the hole goes down to 92 feet in an area where it’s hard to find water deeper than 20 feet, we won’t actually be going into the hole, just down to the rim at which is 30 feet below the surface.

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The dive rigs were set up and we broke into two groups to practice diving form, ear clearing, breath holding and of course safety.

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Ren and Ashley are great coaches helping us one at a time to hold our breath longer and dive down deeper.

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Upon returning to the surface there is a brief recovery time to prevent dizziness and clear out the CO2.  We also learned about the gear they use.  Roy already has a pair of these extra long fins on order for his 13th birthday gift.

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By the end of the day everyone made it down to retrieve a blade of grass as proof of their achievement.

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Watch out lobsters, Roy is armed with new information on how to get down and stay down, so scoot back in your hole.

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The day was great fun and the one thing I came away with is: try everything, you can never tell what will be your specialty.  Roy declared this yet another ‘best day ever’. Thanks Ashley and Ren.

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After all that time on the beach, Topaz was exhausted.   It can be hard to get her up in the morning.  You can tell if someone has gone out to visit her because of the tail thumping sounds.  Her tail is the only indication she’s conscious, because the rest of her fuzzy, bony body doesn’t move.

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The week wasn’t all work, we still had time to fly kites.

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We joined our friends on Whistling Cay in taking a bunch of kids to the windward side of the island.

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It is amazing how many beaches are deserted even though George Town’s resorts and the hundreds of boaters living in the bay are only a short distance away.

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The kids found a fun sand hill to climb.

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and

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run down.

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Northward – Part 2

Another cold front is forecasted so we went in search of an anchorage with west wind protection.  It’s not easy when most of the anchorages are on the west side of the islands.  We found a spot near Musha Cay, David Copperfield’s Island.  So, let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.  What should we do on a windy day?  How about flying a kite.

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Nancy and Jamey are kite surfers and brought along a training kite.  Eric got a few lessons on how to turn it this way and that, then he proceeded to teach us all about the dynamics of air foil tweak and twist, wing shape, push and pull.  Ok, so it was above my head.

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The girls knew their time together was drawing to a close quickly.  C Spirit would leave as soon as the front passes and this north wind turns back out of the east or south. So, it’s girl fest 2014.  Sage had fun in Marie’s mermaid costume while the rest of them dug around in the craft box making bracelets.

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Eric and Jamey pulled apart one of our winches for cleaning and lubrication

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The girls had sleep overs and Roy made breakfast.  His new specialty is Mini Mouse pancakes.  He makes a Mickey and adds a bow.

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The anchorage is wide open, just the two of us, plenty of warm, shallow, clear water and swimmers.

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In true Roy style, he found a critter.

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After saying goodbye, two boats of sad cruisers parted.  The C Spirits tried to get away but Marie paddled after them.

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Then when they sailed by for one last wave, Marie tried to bounce off the dinghy and jump aboard.

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The girls stayed home and moped while we took Roy spear fishing.  He dug this Nassau Grouper off the reef and dedicated his catch to Jamey.  His first fish without his best spear fishing buddy.

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We made grouper egg rolls and sauteed the fillets in soy and ginger.  Dinner is yummy, but Roy and I had only each other to enjoy it with.  We sure miss our other fish eating buddies.

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Today is a new day, the wind has slowed down, time to get some bottom time.  The current was starting to pick up so we dropped down on the mermaid and piano sculpture.

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It’s been almost a year since we did our last dive on the Rhone in the British Virgin Islands.  That wreck starts around 25 feet deep and goes down to 70 feet or more.  All the places we snorkel and dive around here are 25 feet or less.

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Shallow dives are nice because the sun shines into the water, the water is warmer, we don’t use too much air and don’t have to worry about exceeding the dive tables.

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After visiting the mermaid, we drifted along to the west of the anchorage and found large coral garden.

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Genny had fun with the camera.  Oh that’s the other great thing about shallow dives, our new camera can dive with us.  It is not supposed to dive deeper than 50 feet.

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After this season’s spear fishing, Roy has gotten really comfortable underwater.

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Eric hovered over us in the dinghy and Marie came down to visit with the hookah hose.  This is an extra long hose attached to a SCUBA tank in the dinghy and a regulator on the other end.  Marie has strict instructions to never hold her breath and without weights doesn’t get much deeper than 10 feet.

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But it’s just deep enough for a photo op.  Next season she’ll be turning 10 and will get her SCUBA certification.

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The reefs were loaded with fish and coral heads.

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Its always fun to see big rays and turtles, but not so much fun to see sharks.  A glimpse of a shark is enough to send spear fishermen to the dingy and home to eat macaroni and cheese instead of fish.

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When we were finished Eric towed us back to Makai.

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Poor Topaz doesn’t understand why she’s not invited to SCUBA dive, so she and her yellow dolly just laid around waiting for us to return.

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We spend another night in Williams Bay and then over to the channel between Leaf Cay and Normans Pond Cay for more protection from the west winds.  The last time we were here, we found a few nice lobsters so Roy was ready to hunt again.  But this time, no fish, only lobster.

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Roy de Lobstah Boy strikes again.  ”Here you go Mom, can I have lobster for lunch?”

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The wind has turned around and promises a nice sail to George Town.  A perfect 5 kt. trolling speed for Roy, and FISH ON!  Roy chased this fish all the way around the boat.  Eric usually turns Makai up into the wind and heave-to to stop the boat.  The fish headed for the bow, down the other side and back to the starboard sugar scoop where we started.

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It was a fun fight but Crevalle Jack is not good eating so Roy sent him back on his way.  This Jack isn’t an uncommon fish, we often see them 12 inches or less, but this is definitely the biggest Jack Roy has ever caught.

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A few hours later, the reel started screaming again.  FISH ON!  or maybe not.

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All this fishing has slowed our progress and messed with the schedule to arrive before dark.  Not to worry, here comes squalls.  Whew, like a fire drill, we threw everyone and everything inside and closed the doors.  The air temperature dropped, wind picked up and down came the rain and off we flew.

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Now we’re back in George Town and hiding out on another windy day.

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Eric and Roy hiked to the top of the hill and then what should we do on a windy day?  How about fly a kite.  Roy ran down the beach and got it WAY up in the air.  The kite then pulled us in the dinghy back to  Makai.

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Eric had an idea to make a parachute and attach it with a paperclip to the kite string.  It was really cool until the parachute reached the kite which knocked the kite off balance and it threatened to nose dive into the water.  At the last minute the parachute came off and the kite recovered.

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When the wind slows down a bit we have some chores to do and then plan another adventure.

 

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Exploring Northward – Part 1 – Lobstah!

After diving with our pals near George Town and coming home with one little lobster, C Spirit and Makai were feeling motivated to capture some bigger bugs.  The first stop is the fuel dock at Emerald Bay Marina.  While the boats were fueling up, the kids and I explored the marina a bit.

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The Lounge was quite impressive.  We lounged in the TV room, the dining room is behind us, with a billiard room and a bar room off to the side.  Too fancy for us.  The playground is still under construction.

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Back on Makai hand stands were practiced. Phoenix is a gymnast and her graceful contortions inspire Genny and Marie to flip around.

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The coconuts which occupied everyone’s afternoon a week ago and stained the back deck were set free.

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Then Roy set out on the hunt.  He gets real itchy when his spears are dry for too long.  The first afternoon he came home with a slipper lobster and Jamey got a nice spiny lobster. It isn’t easy diving to peek into a coral head when the current is flowing like the Niagara River.

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The next morning we were feeling disgusted with our ability to determine slack water and find the elusive lobster. Theoretically, the water should stop rushing in or out right about when the tide is turning around, but for some reason our observations don’t agree with the tide chart.   So we started preparations to move first thing and hopefully get to the next anchorage by high tide. Jamey said the water was surprisingly slack under his boat and suggested a quick snorkel trip on the coral heads we tried to visit yesterday. OK, lets check it out.  These coral patches are beautiful, we even saw a turtle and a big nurse shark resting in the sand.  Then we spotted them, LOBSTAH, right where they should be, sticking their little antenna out testing the waters.  Roy was chasing one around while I tried to spear the super hard shell of Lobzilla. My spear bounced off him two or three times and finally I pinned his horn so I could drag him out and get my hands on the beast.

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The tails are about the size of our feet.  Jamey got a nice one for their lunch and then off we went to the next anchorage.

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This is the location around the corner from the mermaid and piano sculpture.  We looked for lobster here about 10 days ago and only saw one that we couldn’t get out of its hole. Today everyone snorkeled and played on the beach while Roy hunted.

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In the end Roy got two and Jamey got one.

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I was on the beach with the dinghy, Topaz and Sage when I spotted him swimming with the big bug over his head.  We do that in hopes that predators won’t get a whiff of the distressed creature on the spear. So Sage and I left Topaz and went out to get Roy’s catch.  Meanwhile Genny pointed one out for Jamey to sling.  By now everyone was pooped out except for Roy and Nancy, so they went off with the paddle board and came back with one more bug.

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Now we have too much lobster.  How can that be? I guess that means another dinner party!  C Spirit and Makai couldn’t eat it all, so we sent Marie out with water to offer and make friends.

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Rag Doll chatted with her and accepted the dinner offer.

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Mmm, the last time I lobster hunted like this was in the Sea of Cortez in 2000.  Since then the only lobster we’ve eaten was once in Barbuda last season and here in the Bahamas.

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I froze two tails, baked three tails, steamed all the legs and horns, chopped up some of the meat and melted it in with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sauteed onion and a bit of garlic for a spread.  We also has sauteed spinach, and pasta for the on seafood and vegetable eaters.

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George Town

Great Exuma is the largest of the 360 Cays that make up the Exuma district.  The capital and largest city in the district, George Town, has been our goal.  George Town is truly in the tropics as the Tropic of Cancer runs through here.  The Tropic of Cancer is the northern most point where the sun will appear directly over head.  This event only happens once a year in June during the summer solstice.

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For us the major draw to the George Town area is to visit some friends and buy vegetables.  The dinghy dock is a busy place for boaters to park while in town and fill up water jugs at the hose.  As the day wears on, the dinghy raft is several boats deep on either side.

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The Exuma Market is stocked regularly by shipments that arrive on the mail boat.  We were very excited to find such a wonderful selection of produce and cheeses as well as any other grocery item we might need.  As usual, you have to be very careful to check the prices.  Some items are reasonable and others are off the chart expensive.  Ken showed Eric a can of nuts for $24.  We still have a few jumbo sized containers from Costco stashed away. I did buy the $30 Jumbo bag of mozzarella because it would provide several pizza dinners.

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Three days a week a pick up truck stops by the fuel station across the street and as many boaters that will fit in the back pile in for a lift to Prime Island Meats and Deli. This link to their facebook page has some great pictures of the pickup truck and inside of the deli.  After shopping here I had a grocery shopping sense of satisfaction I haven’t had in months.  While Eric and Roy waited for me to return, they ran sheets and towels through the washing machines at the laundromat. We still use our drier lines on Makai to finish the job.

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Eric was so impressed with the solar panels that he took a picture.  Normally we 25 amps coming in and 12 used by our refrigeration and electronics while the rest charges the batteries.  On a windy night the wind generator does a good job keeping up with our night time usage, but if there’s no wind, then the panels are hard at work all day. This all works pretty well, but if all conditions were perfect we should get 75 amps.  The conditions that reduce the panel’s performance are things like clouds, the fact that our panels are horizontal and don’t aim toward the sun, shadows from the boom, radar and wind generator. All in all, it works great.  If we have a bad solar and wind day, we can always run the generator and make water which will charge up the batteries in a jiffy.

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One morning Eric got up to use the bathroom and started grumbling while flushing.  Blah, blah, blah, the toilet is clogged, blah, blah, blah, how much toilet paper did those kids stuff in the toilet, blah, blah.  Meanwhile I’m shivering in my boots because I was the last one to use the toilet in the middle of the night.  He’s in there pumping with visions of tearing apart the plumbing and spending the rest of the day digging out wads of toilet paper or some other obstruction mixed with sewage.  Then all of a sudden the toilet water turns purple.  Yikes, I just dyed the girls’ hair, I wonder how the dye got in the toilet.  Now, I’m really scared.  Then Eric finds that it pumps fine if he’s not trying to pump water into the bowl, so a quick check of the salt water intake is in order.

You wouldn’t believe what he found, a little baby octopus crawled into the sea water intake hole and settled in for a nap, when the toilet sucked him into the strainer and squeezed the ink and his life out of him.  Poor guy, but at least the rest of us are off the hook for today’s toilet disaster.  So, now if there is a mysterious problem that could result in much time and money to fix, we first say it could be an octopus before jumping to the worst case scenario.

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For C-Spirit George Town is the goal because Sirene, the catamaran Jamey built in more than 10 years ago in Massachusetts. Jamey and Nancy then trailered it to Florida and sailed through the Bahamas. I heard stories about sailing right up to the beach and pitching a tent on the trampoline at night. Now those are some tough sailors.  Anyway they eventually sold Sirene and the new owner did the same and eventually sold it here in George Town. Jamey anchored near by the new owner and they family had a great sail up and down the channel.

Roy saw them out there and jumped on the Hobie.  He had a great sail across the half mile channel, then another half mile south toward town, and then back.  That was a great distance and independent sail for my almost 13 year old boy Roy.

Wikipedia says George Town has 1000 residents and I bet during the winter another 1000 boaters.  Some boaters just set their autopilot for George Town and spend the winter here snorkeling on the outer reefs, enjoying the beaches, taking advantage of easy provisions, free water fills, and other necessary services to make their lives comfortable.  The airport has regular flights from Nassau as well as the U.S. and Canada, for guests to visit. One Canadian friend said it sure beats shoveling snow.  The boaters are very organized here as well.  We used channel 68 for hailing and alternate channels for chit chatting, channel 72 at 8am is the morning net where new boaters are welcomed and old friends say goodbye as they leave, swap and trades are offered, the weather is reported, taxi shares to the airport are organized, lost and found items are identified, and reminders for the day’s events are announced.  We arrived at the tail end of the Cruiser’s Regatta which attracts more then the normal number of boaters.

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With all the extra kids around, one of the moms, single handedly, put together Kid’s Day events.  They started by breaking up into three teams to make sand castles.

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Then there was an exciting best out of three tug of war.  The north team won three times.  After the first two wins, the biggest boys on the end were switched to the other team, but the north team won again.

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After everyone rested their sore hands an obstacle course had the kids crawling under the bench, hopping on one foot around a tree, and racing back to the finish.

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The last event was story telling and a scavenger hunt which ended with a buried treasure box full of candy back at camp.

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Every time a kid participated in an event, they got their name in the raffle. Marie was excited to win a gift certificate for the Exuma Market and a few bags of chips and candy.

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Finally, after all that hard work there was a hot dog roast.  I could see how hanging around George Town with all of the fun activities could be addicting.

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Even though everyone was tired, we managed to come to Makai for desert. Today is my birthday, 49, I can’t believe it. Marie made me a card, Roy got me a Hawaiian sling so I can join him spear fishing, the C Spirits made a beautiful wallet, birthday cake, and a yummy bottle of rum liqueur.

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The girls quickly became little social butterflies.  They visited Jeanette on Dream Catcher who we first met in Connecticut before they left home for cruising. We met Whistling Cay who has been living our parallel life.  Nathan and Wendy lived on their boat in Harbor Island, San Diego just a little after we did, then they sailed in Mexico the same time we did (even though we never met).  After this they went back to Alaska where Nathan is a commercial fishermen and raised their family.  Now they spend the winters here on a Leopard 45, which is laid out exactly like Makai with two feet cut off their sugar scoops in the back, with their three kids and yellow lab, Rocky.  A few weeks back another boater came across us on the beach at Norman’s Cay and mistaken us for them.

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Meeting boaters and listening to their stories is very interesting.  Everything from their lifestyle back home to their boat and cruising experiences can provide unlimited entertainment. In the end children in 2014 settle back in the evening and play iGadgets.

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Chat and Chill hosted a Friday Night Dance. The beach was lined with dozens of dinghys and the twinkling lights in the night is evidence of the many anchor lights along the open road stead.  The evening started with several parodies written by cruisers.  The lyrics were great fun announcing the craziness associated with cruising.

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We participated in a fun run, if running can possibly be fun. The course had us run down a path through the jungle, over to the other side of the island, up a steep hill to the monument and then slide back down the other side completing the 1.2 mile run at the beach. From there we swam between two docks and sprinted back to the finish line.

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The participants all lined up.  I looked at the skinny path we were all going to trot along and realized accomplished runners like Jamey should be in front and chubby, 49 year old mothers like me supporting their girls’ interest in participating, should be in the back.

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The horn blew and they were off.

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Trudging up the hill to the monument and sliding down the other side was hot, but slowing down got my heat rate and breathing back to normal. Little Marie was out in front, dropping off her shoes and positioning the swim goggles.

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Genny and I wore masks as we plunged into the water for a refreshing swim to the north dock.

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Meanwhile Jamey crossed the finish line in first place.

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The rest of us finished and made a sharp right turn back into the water to cool off.

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That afternoon Eric went up the mast to take pictures of some fittings on the mast.  He caught us resting up after our morning exercise.

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This is a great picture of the top of Makai, there are so many details here like the laundry on the life line, surf boards stick out from under the solar panels, the spinnaker guy coiled up on the trampoline, our tired old stack pack on the main sail holding on for it’s last season before I make a new turquoise one, solar panels and the solar water heater Eric installed this fall. How about the missing Hobie Cat?  Looking out over the upwind boats looking for Roy on the Hobie is like a Where’s Waldo picture. I see him in the middle.

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Roy always has his eye open for critters. This Blue Crab seems to have very long arms and claws compared to the ones we found in Maryland.

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The week was fun but we’re going to head north a bit to explore some areas we missed on our mad dash to George Town. It’s amazing how fast produce cravings will make us move. Plus we’re not ready to part with our buddy boat C-Spirit as they make their was back to Florida.  Soon they will be on the fast track as a new adventure begins. Jamey has an airline ticket from Florida to Seattle where he’s going to teach for 10 weeks.  Nancy and the girls have great adventures planned that include Florida, New Orleans, Denver, and Tunisia to visit Nancy’s friend. In preparation for the uninhabited Cays north of here, Nancy and I are stocking up on produce.

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Staniel Cay to Georgetown

It took about six weeks and thirteen anchorages for us to travel the 50nm from Allen Cay, at the top of the Exumas, to Staniel Cay. We covered next 50 nm in about five days and four anchorages.  I’m sure we could have found plenty of beautiful beaches and snorkeling spots to slow us down, but we’re out of fruits and vegetables.

About 5nm south of Staniel Cay is Blackpoint Settlement.  I heard this town has the best laundromat, great provisioning, a fund raiser BBQ, free water and trash and some amazing/famous coconut bread.  The kids and I walked through town looking for ice cream and bread.  We found the bread, but like all the islands in the Exumas, the stores are bare until the Mail Boat arrives.  We did get the last loaf of bread.  It was beautiful with a delicious coconut swirl in the middle.  It was great the next morning as french toast.

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We also came across Moon Dance.  While beach combing through plastic trash on Hawksbill Cay we came across a clean new fuel jug that still had gas vapor sealed inside.  Like Makai’s jugs, the boat name was on it.  So we took it on as a quest to make a new friend. Apparently, the jug fell off their stern right here at black point and floated more than 30 miles to Hawksbill Cay.  So, in the end we just gave it a ride home!  We had to move on, but are looking forward to meeting up again because Mr. Duval has experience in sport fishing.

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I think as we go further south the winter storms that bring Northerly winds affect us less, so the prevailing winds are out of the south east.  Of course that’s the direction we’re heading down to Georgetown.  The weather report for the next few days says the winds will be very light which is best if we have to motor into it.  Next stop is an anchorage just south of Musha Cay. This 150 acre island is owned by David Copperfield.  It has accommodations for 24 people and can be rented for $25K per night with a three night minimum.

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The beach in front of our anchorage is private and has a dog patrolling.  Actually, it looked more like he was napping in the sand, but we still couldn’t go ashore.  Right next to the beach is a cave that we took shore leave in.

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The opening is very wide and the beach is only exposed at low tide.

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At low or high tide, as the tide changes, it’s considered slack.  Which means that the tidal current isn’t sweeping water through the cuts.  The tidal current dictates our snorkeling, swimming, diving, and anchoring.  Low tide in the cave also means slack water so we can swim from the boat to shore without being taken away with the tide.

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With the whole flotilla ashore comes an opportunity to be towed back.

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Just south of the anchorage an underwater sculpture called The Musician by Jason De Caires Taylor.  The description of the piece describes it as a mirror finished Stainless Steel.  Most of it is crusted over with marine growth and only in a few places can you see the stainless shine through.

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When I went to the link for this sculpture, the site looked familiar in my memory bank and sure enough, this is the same guy that did the sculptures we dove on in Grenada.

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After fighting the current at the sculpture we moved in to a rocky cove with a bit of sand and shallow water to play in.

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As usual we saw a barracuda watching us.  I would bet that 75% of our anchorages have had one of this guy’s relatives lurking under the boat.

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Luckily, with all that time spent with this silvery neighbor, we’ve never had a problem with aggression.

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All around the edge of the bay are pretty little pockets of color.

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This was a great snorkeling morning.  Later that afternoon, I joined Jamie and Roy on a spear fishing trip.  Roy shot a trigger fish that immediately flipped over and died.  There was a nice coral garden full of fish, but then a reef shark came by and broke up the fishing party.

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There are always new places to swim on Makai. The escape hatch looked inviting this morning.  So we cleaned the debris out of it and Marie went for a swim.

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Topaz has taken to making the Hobie Cat her new nest.  When it is in the water and tied to the side of Makai she likes to nap on the tramp, and when it is on Makai’s bow she makes her way up there for a perch with a view.

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The next stop is Lee Stocking Island. This island was owned by John Perry who first noticed it while ferrying aircraft back from Europe after WWII. John Perry was a newspaper man owning a few dozen Florida newspapers as well as the Nassau Guardian and the Freeport News. Perry used Lee Stocking Island for two of his other passions, Marine research and renewable energy. It was his interest in Marine Research that led President Johnson to appoint Perry to a commission to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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We anchored in front of the research center, that is now abandoned, and had fun hiking around on the island.  Our first walk had us walking down the runway to a beach on the east side of the island.  The kids ran down to the water because they’ve been dry for about 15 minutes and needed to swim.  As we moved down the trail another beach lay before us to splash around on. Then another and another.  Finally the sun was getting low in the sky so we headed back to the boats.

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The next day we took the dinghy around the corner to hike to the highest peak in the Exuma Islands.

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Loaded down with cold water and cinnamon rolls, we managed to get 7 kids to the summit. A whopping 123 feet above the beach.

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The view of the beaches had the kids racing back to the water.  Once again being dry for 15 minutes is 15 minutes too long.

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The C Spirit family, Nancy and Jamie with Skye and Pheonix, Indigo and Sage.

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At the beach a coconut tree taunted Roy until he climbed up to pick nuts for everyone.

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How can you resist Skye’s request for a little girl sized coconut?

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One more anchorage before Georgetown.  Roy trolled for tasty sea monsters but only came up with Barracuda.  He said he would rather get this toothy neighbor than nothing at all.

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Rather than find a beach or spear fish it was decided to swim.

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The kids swung over the boom to climb up Roy’s rope ladder and jump.

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Marie got her hair dyed, and everyone had fun swimming in the warm water.

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The kids took turns trying to break into the coconuts.

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Roy finally persevered.  We used the water for this morning’s pancakes and still have chunks of white coconut meat in the refrigerator.

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The rest of them will have to be cracked on the beach.  For some reason coconuts leave a horrible orange stain on the boat.  I used a special cleaner and managed to get it down to yellow, but will have to find more in Georgetown for another application.

 

 

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Staniel Cay

Staniel Cay is our third taste of civilization in the Bahamas.  First was Bimini, our pantry and refrigerators were full so all we needed was to set up our BTC (Bahamas Telecommunications Company) data and voice plans for the winter. Next was the unplanned visit to Nassau where we were able to fill up on produce again, take care of generator business and a few household chores.

Staniel Cay sports a BTC tower on the beach in front of town. This is a welcome sight after weeks of signals on the edge that blink in and out unless the iPad is being held up high on the hard top.

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From the water the yacht club to the east has fuel, trash, a great restaurant and bungalows for tourists. A short walk to the west is two little stores, the library, church, and a bit further down is an airport and a general store that takes care of propane, mail boat deliveries, and fishing gear.

C Spirit is anchored waiting for us to go shopping.

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The first stop is the Pink Store and two houses down is the Blue Store.  Boy am I glad we spent so much time packing Costco, BJs and Walmart products on Makai.  I’m sure most families back home have more food on their shelves than these stores do.  But how can we complain, the kids got ice cream and Pringels. We were able to pick up some lettuce, eggs, and boxed milk.

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Saturday’s big event was a fund raiser for the library.  There was a rummage sale where I picked up a huge tupperware bowl, perfect for popcorn.  At the library we donated several books from Makai and feasted at the baked goods sale.  Wow, we ate donuts, muffins, brownie/chocolate chip cookie muffins, cheese cake tarts, lemon bars, and there were so many other goodies we just couldn’t eat anymore.  We ate all this as a charitable donation to the library, so I’m sure that cancelled out the calories. Afterwards there was a lunch near the beach but we couldn’t possibly eat another bite.

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In an effort to keep Topaz away from town, on another evening we went in search of a good beach.  Across the bay and out through the cut was a little island with a bit of sand to play on.

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It is always fun to find a beach off the beaten path.

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Topaz appreciates her romp on the beach.

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Roy spent quite a bit of time on Windflower one morning.  Getting the scoop on what the boys at Serenity are up to and discussing free diving, trolling and spear fishing.  It was a great conversation and we got some great tips.  So the first order of business is to plan a fishing trip.

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The crew on C Spirit joined us for a Sunday morning fishing trip to troll along the drop off on the east side of the Cays.  The bottom quickly drops from about 20 feet to a few thousand about a mile off shore.  There was no wind so we motored which was better for controlling the trolling speed as well as stopping for “Fish ON”.

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When the spool started letting line out and everyone was running around, things started getting crazy.  Jamie grabbed a hold of Roy who was grabbing a hold of his pole which had some sort of sea monster on the other end.

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Finally, they landed our first Wahoo. This 36 inch streamlined silver piece of fish muscle really made everyone’s day.  We’re not quite sure how much it weighed because the scale reflected something the size of a trout instead of a Wahoo.

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Even though Roy has cleaned all of our fish so far, Jamie had some great tips on how to made a cleaner fillet.

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The next two fish were barracuda which we don’t keep.  The excitement of the fight is great fun.  It is also nice to see this guy on the end of our fishing line instead of patrolling the reef while we’re snorkeling.

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Check out these teeth, they look like Topaz’s pearly whites.

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We also spent quite a bit Hobie Sailing.  C Spirit has a sailing dinghy, so we both zig zagged between the little islands.  One day we sailed the Hobie more than two miles out to Harvey Cay. It was a windy day and the waves were bigger than I am used to in the anchorage, but C Spirit was our mother ship and we had fun snorkeling once we got there.

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Topaz is very glad she came cruising.  She runs, swims, goes snorkeling, and barks all she wants.  There is never time enough for her to have a nap.

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Thunderball Grotto is a cave inside of one of the small islands in the anchorage. At low tide there are entrances on both side of the island.  This is one of the locations the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed.

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The inside of the cave rises up about 15 feet with openings that let the sun shine in.

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Since the entrance has a foot or so of clearance, you never have to hold your breath to get in.  This makes it easier for Topaz.

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Inside there are many beautiful fish and corals.  I always love fish schools.

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The lighting is unusual with it being a little darker in the cave.

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Those crazy Sergeant Major fish can really mob a swimmer.

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The inside of the Grotto is protected.  I think the unusual lighting really highlighted this orange coral.

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Lastly, there was a lonely anemone wriggling in the current.

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Just as the fish are going about their business underwater, the ever goofing off girls are going about their business at the dinghy.  They like to bounce on the pontoons and launch themselves off into a cannon ball.  There’s always plenty of giggling and splashing as well.  Genny and Marie are in heaven with C Spirit’s four little girls.

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Roy also hooked up with Cole and Gauge from Serenity.  They live here on Staniel Cay where their family business includes vacations rentals and boat rentals. Its a beautiful place if you are interested in vacationing here.  The boys recently put together this Cape Dory 25 and invited Roy to have a sleep over on the boat.

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Meanwhile the girls did hand stands for the fun of it.

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C Spirit also has an inflatable wind surfer on board.  The girls had yet another platform for goofing off.  Genny did manage to sail it for a bit.

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Big Majors is a Cay adjacent to Staniel.  The anchorage on the west side of the island is large enough for many boats and there are three little beaches. There are quite a few large power boats here as well.  The boat at the back of the anchorage had several jet skis as well as some crazy water powered rocket boots. We’ve seen these in Saint Martin and Saint Thomas.  It’s pretty fun to watch.

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There’s never a dull moment in the anchorage. One day the fuel boat came through the anchorage on its way to Fowl Cay resort.  All power in the islands is provided by generators. Fill ups should be fairly common, but this is the first we’ve seen such a big boat in the anchorage.

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If this week wasn’t exciting enough, the package we’ve all been waiting for arrived.  The new rotor for our generator.  It was due to be delivered on the Wednesday mail boat, but when we heard the announcement that the mail boat wouldn’t be arriving until Saturday, Eric made arrangements for it to arrive on the Flamingo Air commuter flight.

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Eric got to work right away installing the new part and putting the generator back together.

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By the next afternoon he was able to push the one button starter and it fired right up.  OH YEA, 50 gallons of fresh water per hour.  No more solar showers, and paper plates.  Topaz gets nightly baths again, and I even hosed out the cockpit and rinsed the salt, sand and dog hair off the new cushions.  Eric is the big hero today!

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The old part is heading to the trash.  I can’t believe how heavy it is, it takes both hands and plenty of muscle to hold it up.

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More fun with friends.  Roy and Jamie cleaned today’s catch.  I have been cooking fish daily.  The Wahoo was good for three meals including a fun pot luck with 3 boats.  All the grouper, snapper and trigger fish have also provided many meals including pot luck tacos for lunch.

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This evening we joined three other kid boats on the beach for a bonfire.

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Our neighbor brought over the Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp for our movie night.  We really love that Makai can accommodate 13 people for movie night.

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The girls are always begging for sleep overs with Pheonix and Indigo. Topaz likes it because there are more girls to cuddle on her in the morning.

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C Spirit took them all for breakfast while we packed Makai up to move after a week in and around Staniel Cay.

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We took care of chores like putting the Hobie back on deck, Roy had to drill a hole for Eric in some cramped space, and I cleaned the sand, salt and dog hair out of the cockpit while Eric made a deal to pass the portable generator on to a fellow cruiser.

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Lastly, we took the dinghy down to the beach on the southern end of the island that’s occupied by pigs. The story I heard is that around the time of the beginning of the Gulf War some guy thought it would be WWIII and decided to keep some pigs on the island for farm stock. If you google Big Major’s Pigs there are several photos and videos to check out.

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The one big hairy momma came out first.  She swam up to the dinghy grunting for food.  Many people walk on the beach with them and even touch them, but we thought it was too dangerous so everyone stayed in the dinghy.

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The little ones were very cute and we could have spent hours watching them.  But we had to go back to town and take care of a little business.

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Eric needed to pick up our propane tank that was being filled, Roy needed more trolling bait.  He started getting these frozen Ballyhoo all strung up with hooks and leader line for a tasty trolling treat.  We also had trash to drop off and one more lunch at the yacht club.

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Everyone ordered the same as our dinner last week.  I got a plate of conch bits with a crisp garden salad and a Bahamian Beer.

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While the rest of them ate cheeseburgers in paradise.  We were all so hungry and happy to be eating out, that the left over box was fairly empty by the time it got back to Makai.

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While we waited for food the pool table kept the kids entertained.

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This afternoon the bar was full of Americans and Canadians watching Olympic Hockey.

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What a great week full of fun, food and friends.

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Pipe Cay

We anchored in three different spots around Pipe Cay.  There is a very flat sandy area near the island and then a nice snorkeling place on the east side of the bay.  Topaz and I swam over there and when returning to the boat the tidal current trapped us.  We couldn’t get back to Makai and had to yell for the dinghy to get us.  The current between the islands flows like a river that is too strong to swim into.  Later, we swam off the back of Makai with a line tied to a fender floating down stream.  The current was so strong that when some of us got out past the fender, the dinghy had to come get us.

Now that we’re out of the Land and Sea Park, Roy gets to hunt.  Spear fishing is more like hunting because you search for the prey, sneak up on it and poke it with the pointy end of the pole spear.

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Roy is a great hunter.  I was searching one side of the reef when I spotted him swimming toward the dinghy with this guy on the end of his spear waving in the air like a flag.

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Roy and I can get two meals out of a lobster this size.

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The next place we anchored had beautiful sand bars a short distance away.  We could easily swim there except for the current.  If anyone decides to swim, it needs to be at slack tide and the dinghy has to be ready for a rescue mission.

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We had fun piling up the sand to see how long it would take the tide to cover it, or trudging through soft squishy sand. Every once in awhile a deep pool would form and we called it our swimming hole.

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While the first two anchorages had great things to offer, the no-see-ums came out in the evening and bit us up Then a cold front was due to rain on our parade and we had to move again to find shelter from the west winds.

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Inside Pipe Creek we met up with friends on C Spirit.  They live in Hawaii but are spending the season sailing from Massachusetts to the Bahamas on Grandpa’s boat.  They have 4 girls that Genny and Marie are having a blast with.  We’re having fun on the beaches, snorkeling, sailing and we’re learning a lot about fishing and cooking fish from Jamie and Nancy.

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I’m not sure how they found this little flounder, it looks like a dollop of sand in Jamie’s palm.

Roy got a few tips on using the pole spear for fish, Jamie checked off the good eating fish in Roy’s book, and then they went out to find dinner.

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Roy gets excited about using his fishing poles, but then he has to just sit and wait for a fish to think his lure looks delicious.  Now he can actively go out and find a fish.

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Pot luck dinner on Makai tonight.

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The girls on the other had have more fun goofing off.

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Genny creates a challenge for anyone on the board, she insists on rocking until people start falling off.  So in the end, we don’t get very far because we’re constantly going back to pick up lost riders.

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The sand bar makes us want to play in the sand.

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One more fishing trip in this location.  We looked for lobster for hours the day before and today at the very last place we dove Roy came up with this.  Pot luck on Makai again.

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This lobster and the two fish he got served 4 of us.  Lobster season ends in March, but then grouper season begins.

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The nice thing about friends is that they have new toys.  Marie happily strums their ukulele, and when they come over here the Little Pet Shop toys come out.

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So, it looks like all fun and games, but occasionally we have work to do.  Most mornings Eric works on the computer, the kids do school work, I cook 3 meals a day plus snacks.  Last night we had a big rain and I collected 3 buckets of water to wash sheets and towels with.  We had pixies jumping on the trampoline (the name can be misleading, you aren’t supposed to jump on it).  In a place where two pieces of tramp fabric were sewn together, the stitches broke.

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Since everything was clean and salt free from last night’s rain storm, we brought it back and gave the sailrite sewing machine a project while the laundry dried on the life lines.

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