Year 6 of Cruising!

As the Mahi crew makes plans to rejoin our boat in Guatemala, it is hard to believe Joe, Ethan, and I are now into our sixth year of cruising!  Time has certainly flew by since moving aboard in 2015.

Mahi arrival to Rio Dulce at Tijax

Where is SV Mahi?  Mahi is in the Rio Dulce area of Guatemala, specifically at Tijax Ecotourist Marina in Livingston, Izabal.  We highly recommend Tijax, the staff there is second to none!  We are looking forward to seeing our friends at the marina, also check out how the boat has done during our pandemic absence.

What a year 2020 has been!  We were initially delayed flying back to Guatemala in January, when Captain Joe had another retinal bleed.  First time this happened was on New Years Eve, 2015, with his other eye.  His retina specialist advised us to stay in California so Joe could be followed in case he needed surgery.  So we rebooked our trip back for March, 2020.  Well, we all know how that turned out.

Our CA home. Notice our smaller sailboat in driveway?

While home, we have stayed busy.  I started a mask making group, and personally sew masks for my local hospital, doctors, medical staff, friends, neighbors and family.  Joe built a treehouse and zipline for Ethan, plus stayed busy teaching Ethan 5 days a week.

Ethan in his Star Wars mask

Despite staying home and being socially distant, I made a trip to our local superstore in mid June, noticing that I was one of the few customers wearing a mask. You can guess that despite being so careful, I came down with Covid-19 the last week of June. It was 8 weeks before I left the house again.

Now, 4 month later, I still do not have a sense of smell, my sense of taste is messed up, and I’m still being treated for some painful neurological symptoms. I still wheeze. The doctors do not know if time will help or if this is now my new normal.

This was the sickest I have ever been. What is weird about Covid-19 is how it affected my lungs, but also other systems in my body. Some symptoms were there all the time, and some changed frequently. It was very strange. The only symptom I did not have was a high fever. So now I am a long term CoVid cruiser; one would rather recuperate on our boat, live at anchor, and allow the white sands and turquoise waters heal my body and soul. My stamina is a work in progress.

So what are our future plans for Cruising? Once we get back to Mahi, we have to get her whipped back in shape, put the sails on, take care of needed maintenance, then get a survey for insurance, haul out and do the bottom. My favorite thing is getting a custom dinghy lift/solar arch made and installed.

Then we will leave Rio Dulce and head to Mexico, then back to the Florida Keys, and over to Bahamas. From the Bahamas, we may head to Panama or to the Honduran Bay Islands, then back to Rio Dulce. We will see. All depends on what countries are open and what Covid restrictions they have.

Beautiful Rio Dulce!

Hope you will follow along here on the blog, also on Instagram (Sailing_mahi) and Facebook (SV Mahi) Regards from Joe, Carla and Ethan, SV Mahi

Second Year in the Bahamas Overview


Leaving Great Harbour Cay Cut

After weathering Hurricane Matthew in 2016 at Great Harbour Cay (GHC) Marina, Captain Joe and I decided to stay in the Bahamas for season two, and visit some new places not yet seen.   We also wanted to improve our sailing and cruising skills, and figure out what changes or improvements to add to MAHI later this year.

We took off from GHC, and spent some time in the Berry Islands, before making the passage over to Eleuthera.  We knew a big storm was coming, so we wanted to seek all around protection in either the marina at Spanish Wells or at Royal Island.

We figured that Yacht Haven Marina would be full, so decided to anchor at Royal Island.  Charts say holding varies in Royal Island, so we decided to anchor and back down really hard to make sure we were set.   In hindsight, we should have called the marina and tied up there.

Here is our view out MAHI’s master berth porthole in the anchorage.  I woke up, turned my head, then grabbed my camera:


View in the Royal Island Anchorage

Moments like this are why we live aboard our sailboat for a majority of the year.

The expected storm turned out to be much stronger than predicted, with winds just under 80 knots per hour at its worst.  The story about this event is saved for another day.


S/V MAHI at anchor in Eleuthera

We spent about a month touring Eleuthera and waiting for a weather window to go to Cat Island.  Basically, we spent time ducking storms in safe anchorages and waiting in vain.  So, we headed to the Exumas, and then sailed MAHI back to Great Harbour Cay to fly home for a family wedding.

Once back, we spent more time in the Berry Islands, then over to Eleuthera, then north to the Abacos.  Now, with the 2017 Hurricane season upon us, we just arrived back to Great Harbour Cay since it is such a wonderful hurricane hole.  We fly out in a week once we prepare the boat for any potential named storms.

Promise to catch up on all my travel posts.   Many days, you are living the dream out on the hook in beautiful locations, and your days are spent with boat school, snorkeling, swimming, beach combing, socializing, and touring on land.  Blogging get set on the back burner as you live each day.  Stay tuned for more posts!

Preparing Your Boat For Summer

13177065_10206550029409932_5709866126599773892_nOur summer plans include leaving the sailboat in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, at Great Harbour Cay Marina.  I thought I would share how I prepared S/V Mahi for our absence during the tropical hurricane season. When you leave your boat for an extended time, there are many issues to consider.  Here is our main list:

Humidity/Mold–  Number one concern for us is the high humidity, coupled with heat.  This results in many mold issues for the unprepared boater who leaves their boat for an extended period of time.   I knew that I did not want to come back to a moldy, smelly boat.

boatcleanI cleaned the boat thoroughly,  and wiped down every surface with a combination of Vinegar & Water with a very small amount of Dawn.  I created a dilution about 50/50 Vinegar to Water, then added in just a small squirt of Dawn.  This mixture does a great job of cleaning in addition to the preventing mold.  It makes the boat smell as you expect- like vinegar.  Be sure you especially wipe down the ceiling and walls, also inside cupboards with this solution.

Tea Tree Mixture to prevent mold- I happen to be sensitive to Tea Tree Oil, so we do not use it on our sailboat.  Thus said, many boaters use it, though be careful to not overuse.  I once was on a boat where there was so much tea tree product, that my eyes burned and I needed to leave.  Tea Tree Oil is said to help with mold.

cabinfanAir Circulation-  Next step is to open up all your cupboards, and hanging lockers, and place your salon cushions up on end.  This will allow air circulation to limit moisture in these areas.  I also wiped down these areas with my vinegar/water solution.

We also left on all our boat fans to circulate the air inside during our absence.   These are the Calframo fans (shown in the photo) we installed during our refit in Ft. Lauderdale.  Fans are a must on a cruising sailboat and you use them every day.

Dehumidifier/AC–  We asked the marina to run our A/C units (we have two on Mahi) every other week so help dehumidify the boat.  Some boat friends of ours use small dehumidifier units to do the same.  Take care, though.  I read that one boat used too many dehumidifier units and it dried out all the interior wood.  In other words, you can go overboard with dehumidifiers.

Other Boater’s Help– For Mahi, a wonderful boating couple in the next slip offered to kindly keep another set of eyes on our sailboat.  They are opening up the Mahi to check on her regularly and air her out.  Last note is that everything looks great; no sign of mold or mildew!  We are very thankful to Jay and Karen on M/Y Largo.


Fridge and Freezer Cleaned and Wiped Down To Avoid Pests

Avoiding Pests–  We did not wish to come back to our boat and discover a pest problem onboard.   The main pests you worry most about are roaches, ants and rats.  To minimize pest problems, we emptied out any open food, and vacumn packed dry goods.  The fridge and freezer were emptied and cleaned.  Same for the kitchen cupboards shown in the photo above, and anywhere you store food on the boat.

cockroachkillerThe biggest problem in the tropics seem to be with cockroaches, so I researched how to avoid these nasty critters.   The best tip came from the WindTraveler blog, the use of Dupont’s Advion Syringe tubes found HERE on Amazon.  I applied it all over the boat, in every nook and cranny, taking care to use it where Ethan would not be exposed.  Since using this product, have not seen any cockroaches on our boat.  I tell you, this stuff really works!

I also place bay leaves around the boat, since it is a natural pest deterrent.  Some people use Boric acid, but I have had such good luck with the Advion product.

81ZrGjKCqTL._SL1500_In Ft. Lauderdale, we had an ant issue in the cockpit drains that were coming from the dock by crawling up the dock lines.  The solution for this was Terro Ant Spray on the lines and in the drains.  This product is found at Home Depot and most stores.  Terro also makes a small gel bait for the ants to ingest and take back to kill their nests.

Luckily, we haven’t had a rat or mouse onboard.  Still, you have to be prepared, so we have a number of traps for just in case.  The best bait to catch them is peanut butter.

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Prep– When you leave your boat for any time, you need to remove the canvas and any loose items to store below.  We added extra lashings on the dinghy, which is turned upside down and stored on the foredeck.

For boats that have hurricane coverage, you need to file a Named Storm plan with your insurance company, which spells out what you or your agent will do in case one happens.  This could be a blog post on its own, so I will leave it at that.

The above list covers the main things we considered when leaving our Taswell 43 in the tropics. We learned most of this by talking to other boaters, or researching on the internet.


Our land based home- I think our boat could fit in this space!

Home Again!!   Once the boat was prepared, we flew home after being gone for 9 months!   Ethan and I flew home to California, while Joe took a different plane to Ft. Lauderdale to get our truck out of storage and drive it home.  Joe loves his truck, so rather than sell it, he decided to drive it across the country.

It felt weird being home again.  So much space after living on the 43 foot sailboat.  This summer, we plan to catch up on dental and doctor visits, and plan our next boat projects.  I plan to make Mahi a flopper-stopper to help dampen any roll at anchor. More about this at my next post.



Back to The Berry Islands!

We had a nice motor sail across from Nassau to the Berry Islands.  We knew that bad weather was approaching, so we needed a place to hole up for a couple of days-  one with both a south and westerly protection.

Only hitch in the crossing was a fast motor yacht who came within 100 feet of hitting us.  We first spotted them off our port side, and kept close visual eye on this faster boat.  We had the right-of-way, but you can’t always count on the the other boat knowing this, or if they even have someone at the wheel.

Turns out this captain was just being a jerk.  Hard to miss our large white sails.  Some motor yacht captains do not care for sailboats, so he apparently wanted to wake us by passing just in front of our boat at high speed.  Not cool, but especially not cool if you have a small child on board.  We were able to yell for Ethan to brace himself.   Being at the helm, I had slowed down to a crawl to avoid a collision.


Great Harbour Cay’s Beach Club Bay

We arrived to Great Harbour Cay’s Beach Club Bay late in the day, which would give us protection with good holding.  Not long after we arrived, the first of three storms hit.  I clocked winds about 35 knots.  Joe had unstrapped the dinghy on the foredeck in preparation for putting it into the water.  We were thinking of heading ashore for drinks when the weather turned.  The halyard was clipped on.  When the initial gusts came, the dinghy flew up to the mast.  Joe quickly tied off the painter so the dinghy wouldn’t swing around.

After the third storm front passed, we pulled up anchor and headed around the tip of the Stirrup Cays for the west entrance to Great Harbour Cay Marina.  It felt like we were home again, at least our Bahamian home port.

To enter the cut, you must rely on the charts, then at the last minute you see the narrow opening and pray another boat is not coming out.13237861_10206591162678238_5161244659048044046_n

Marina and Island Manager Hans, along with M/Y Largo friend, Karen, was there to grab our lines and say hello.  Felt like our home away from home.  We love this place!  Here is a slideshow of why we love Great Harbour Cay:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the end, we were feeling homesick.  After all, it had been 9 months since we left California on this adventure.  So, we decided to leave our boat at Great Harbour Cay Marina for hurricane season and fly home to California.  That meant I needed to research how to prepare your boat ahead of time to leave it.  You do not want to come back and find mold has grown inside Mahi’s interior.  Or, that critters have moved on board the boat.

13327549_10206704682316158_4045192856226925981_nIn the end, I removed every open food on the boat, defrosted the fridge and freezer, and cleaned and wiped down every interior surface with vinegar/water solution.  Our friends on Largo, Jay and Karen, along with the marina, kindly offered to keep an eye on Mahi during our absence.  Thank you, Jay and Karen!!

Now it is time to fly home.  Stay Tuned!



Highbourne to Rose Island


Grocery at Highbourne Cay

From Shroud Cay, we stopped at Highbourne for the night.  Our plan was to head out in the morning to sail up towards Nassau across the bank.  There is a section that requires coral navigation, so you ideally want to hit it around noon time on a clear day for good visibility.


View from Grocery Store

At Highbourne, this was basically a quick stop.  We picked up Paula from S/V Island Time to head to the grocery store at the marina.  This was a picturesque spot, and when I say the grocery store is pricey, trust me on this.  I bought 3 bags of groceries for $160.  They were small bags, too.

img_1931At the marina is an impressive amount of nurse sharks waiting to be fed.  Here are some just hanging out, hoping for a fisherman to come along.  I counted about 20 of them at one point.  Don’t think I’ll go swimming here!


Mahi sailing across the Northwest Providence Channel

Next morning, we quickly pulled up anchor to head to Rose Island, an anchorage just east of Nassau.  We had been warned about the coral heads along the bank route, but in the end, managed to avoid them all just fine.


Sunrise at Rose Island

Rose Island as an anchorage spot was a serious disappointment, given the weather direction.  Rough, rolly, and most uncomfortable.   Island Time anchored just in front of us for the night.  In the morning, we all agreed we had a horrible night.  Never stopping there again!  First light, while beautiful, saw us heading towards the Berry Islands.

Shroud Cay

13263910_10206585682861246_1716960207057593697_nHeading north, we stopped for a couple of nights at Shroud’s Cay.  This turned out to be an excellent anchorage with lots of interesting things to do.

First stop- a dinghy ride to Hawksbill Cay to find the Russell Ruins, a Loyalist settlement from just after the American Revolutionary War.

The first cove we visited did not lead to the ruins.  However, we did have a nice hike across the island to cool off on the other side in the surf.  The second cove yielded the correct trail, also an old paddleboard that had seen better days.  I tried standing up on it, but was quickly dunked to Joe and Ethan’s amusement.  Still, this paddleboard became great fun in the hands of a 5 year old boy.  A dinghy paddle assisted in his fun.  13177302_10206559057795636_7911331820378903038_n

The ruins were very interesting, and we highly recommend this as an ashore activity.  Wear plenty of DEET though as the mosquitoes and biting bugs were fierce.  You have to hike up a steep hill and explore once you reach the settlement.  We discovered several buildings, a well, walls, and evidence of old conch shells.  Prickly pear cactus is abundant, so wear hard soled shoes (you can guess why I say this).  The view from the settlement is also stunning.

Later in the day at high tide, we took the mangrove tour on Shroud’s Cay.  This was another fun outing for Joe, Ethan and I.    Not sure if we took the right path, as there are several.  The path we did take emerged next to a beach, so we spent the next hour beachcombing and playing in the water.  You can only stay about an hour, otherwise you run the risk of getting stuck as the tide goes out.  I leave you with more images of our day:


Cambridge and Compass Cays

13221524_10206573181308715_3649667834127094570_nWe headed north and decided to stop at one of our favorite places in the Exumas- the anchorage at Cambridge Cay.  This gave us an opportunity to revisit the Sea Aquarium one last time, then visit the Bubbly Pool on Compass Cay, and finally snorkel by the Coral Gardens off of Honeymoon Beach.

img_2179Along for the fun were Ken and Paula from S/V Island Time.  We first met at Black Point when we saw their unusual yellow dinghy called a Portland Pudgy and asked them about it.  Ethan dubbed it with a new name, “The Interesting Dinghy.”

Later on, every time we saw them, Paula would share some of her chocolate and chocolate milk with us.  You gotta love a cruiser who stocks up on the essentials!    We invited them to ride along with us in our dinghy to visit the Bubbly Pool and Coral Gardens.

13230342_10206573181988732_598148705091088669_nThe Bubbly Pool at Compass Cay was my favorite!  I could have stayed there for hours.  Basically, a bubbly pool is where the waves crash over the rocks into a pool, creating a natural jacuzzi.   Best to go at high tide, which we did.  This place was so much fun!  Here is a view of Joe holding Ethan, and also Paula in the pool:


After this adventure, it was back over to Cambridge Cay for Ken, Paula and I to see the Coral Gardens.  Joe had snorkeled on it previously.  Joe had shared about the rare elkhorn coral there, and so I really wanted to view it.  This place is beautiful, and I was able to capture just how much with my underwater camera:


Just after I took these pictures, a 7 foot reef shark swam by me.  I froze for a moment, then grabbed my camera and swam after him.  He was too fast for me, so I missed him.  Probably a good thing.

This was a great day spent with new sailing friends.  I leave you with a picture of what Cambridge Cay looks like as you head towards the anchorage through a narrow channel.13230322_10206537939947703_7537485038872578750_n

Black Point, Exumas


Mahi at Black Point, Exumas

By this time in our cruising life, Joe, Ethan and I had been gone from home almost 9 months total.  It was time to make a decision about turning around and making the slow trek back to the US.  We missed our family and friends.  The decision was made that Black Point would be the furthest south in the Exumas we would go.

Black Point is a beautiful and unique Bahamian village.  No fuel is available, but it does boast the best laundry place seen in the entire Bahamas.  Even better, this laundry has its own dinghy dock and free wifi.  What’s not to love?

We ate at two restaurants while at Black Point, and most tourists and cruisers talk about the first one, Lorraine’s.  We must have hit them onjoeexuma an off day because the food and service were poor.  The next day, we went for lunch in the restaurant across the street as we noticed that was where the locals went.  We loved it and had a great time there!  Check out this picture of Joe having a good laugh.

We met other cruising boats here, including Ken and Paula aboard Island Time.  Of course, Ken and Lynn, aboard, Tryst Two, were also nearby.

In the afternoon, we decided to go exploring and visit a recent shipwreck nearby.  This turned out to be very interesting.  Here are some pictures of that wreck:

The backstory, as told to me by people on Facebook who knew the owner, was that the owner had run afoul of the Bahamian authorities in 2015.  The officials deported him, and his boat ended up in this small cove.  Also in this cove is a much older wooden wreck, and you can see parts of it in the first picture on the left.

All in all, an interesting day!


Bitter Guana Cay


bitterguanaThankful to be away from Staniel Cay, Bitter Guana Cay was a breath of fresh air!  We went ashore with our friends, Lynn and Ken, aboard Tryst Two, to see the marine iguanas.  They were interesting creatures and very docile for the most part.


Ken from Tryst Two photographing a mean iguana.

These iguanas are said to not be aggressive because of the no feeding policy.  There are also marine iguanas by Allen’s Cay, said to be rather viscous by comparison.  Of course, a tourist tour boat then showed up and blew this myth apart by throwing food to the iguanas.

Bitter Guana Cay has some interesting caves and hillside you can climb up.  At the bottom of the hill near some caves are a group of iguanas that challenged us.  One even rushed Ken as he was taking photos.  I decided the safest place is in the water, so took this picture of Ken with the iguana.

There was a nice view of Mahi from the Bitter Guana Cay iguana shore, so pulled out my camera to get this shot:


We had a lovely time on this beach and at anchor, but were ready to move on and visit Black Point, which many of our friends had spoken most highly of.


Ethan enjoying the surf at Bitter Guana Cay

Staniel Cay Swimming Pigs


Staniel Cay Swimming Pig (credit unknown)

Everyone had been talking about the swimming pigs at Staniel Cay for as long as I can remember.  For many, it was the highlight of their trip.  With excitement building, we sailed to Staniel Cay and anchored off of the famed Pigs Beach.  We jumped into our dinghy in anticipation of seeing the adorable swimming pigs.

Only there was a slight problem.  No swimming pigs seen, only tourist filled boats by the dozen speeding past your boat at anchor while headed to Pigs Beach.  Tourist then run quickly to shore and walk among the pigs while feeding them.  In other words, the pigs are smarter than the tourists!  Why swim, when food and tourists will come to you?nonswimmypigs_edited-1

Later in the day, Joe took Ethan for a second chance at seeing an actual swimming pig after some boats left.  However, just as he arrived, another large tourist boat arrived, with the tourists running to shore.  A rather large woman in a bikini got out with her hula hoop, and began to perform for the pigs.  It was very bizarre.  Once again, no swimming pigs,

At the anchorage, we were waked by speeding boats every few minutes.  It was uncomfortable, though the tour boats stopped doing this at night.  Heading into Staniel Cay the next morning, we ran into friend boat, Tryst Two, from San Juan Capistrano, CA.  They told us about a good provisioning spot, so off we went. They were moving their boat to a new place since Staniel Cay was such a disappointment.

Groceries in hand, we started motoring back to our boat when two large tourist boats came behind our slow moving dinghy.  It became clear that with their bow raised, they did not see our little dinghy and were about to run us down.  Joe changed course, and the boats did, too.  By this time, Ethan is screaming, and Joe and I were honestly scared.  Joe changed course again, and the boats finally saw us, slowing down.  Near miss averted.

We had one last try to actually see some swimming pigs.  No, most we saw is one ankle deep in the water.  Those pigs are now trained to stay on land to be fed.

By this time, I was ready to get the hell out of that place.  So we pulled up anchor and headed for Bitter Guana Cay, home of the beach iguanas.  Swimming Pigs seen: 0