Staniel Cay Swimming Pigs

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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

Pirate Treasure

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Mahi on a mooring ball.  (photo by Bruce McWhirter)

While anchored at Cambridge Cay, our weather forecasting models showed bad weather was coming, so we moved to a mooring ball to ride out the storm.  Here is a picture of S/V Mahi, taken by Bruce McWhirter, M/Y Felix.  This is the first time to grab a mooring ball on our trip.

While waiting for weather to change, we decided to hunt for a pirate treasure geocache left in April by another cruising family boat,  S/V Paisley.   This was fun activity to do.  Basically, you have clues and GPS coordinates in order to find the cache.  You take something, leave something, and include your boat card.

13082706_253382655012950_7081626009577285710_nI decided to leave one of my peyote beaded bracelets as our added treasure.  We took a boat card from S/V Paisley, along with a bottle opener.   Once finished, we carefully placed the cache back and piled the rocks back on it.

While at this island near O’Brien Cay, we swam, snorkeled and found a live helmet shell, which we left alone.  Here it is as viewed through the “Look” Bucket.

This area is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, so no taking of any shells, live or dead.  It is illegal to collect any specimens.

The storm hit with a vengeance early the next morning.  I was able to take a picture of friend boat, M/Y Felix, and the sky behind this beautiful catamaran, just before the wind and rain hit.13138794_10206496922922303_7336772588948711114_n

The weather system was very strong,  and a mooring ball with a megayacht on it broke free during the storm, causing some excitement nearby.  We could hear them on the radio. We 13094196_10206503242080278_2879861333182182253_nhad two friend boats moored next to us on either side (M/Y Felix and S/V Tryst Two) and everyone weathered this storm just fine.

Neil, a friend of ours, just happens to be a private megayacht captain and was working nearby.  We were happy that he was able to take some time off to come visit us aboard Mahi.  Joe, Ethan and I so enjoyed seeing him and catching up.  A bottle of wine was shared among good friends.

Tomorrow’s adventure involves heading south to Staniel Cay, home to the swimming pigs.

 

Sea Aquarium

thHeading to our next anchoring spot at Cambridge Cay, we had a lovely beam reach along the Exuma Bank, where you become used to sailing in 8-20 feet of water.  That is just how the Exumas are.  You quickly overcome your fear of running aground, so long as you pay attention to your charts.  For anyone new to sailing in the Bahamas, a must have is the Explorer Chartbooks.  This is a series of three chartbooks that cover the entire Bahamas.

We arrived to Bell Island and started for the pass to Cambridge Cay.  Another sailboat hailed us on the radio, warning us that the surge was rather rough ahead and they needed to turn around.  We thanked them, and headed for an anchorage at Little Halls Pond Cay to wait for slack tide.

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Sign on beach at Johnny Depp’s Private Island

The anchorage was only temporary, and I knew this island was private, so we could not go ashore.  Looking with my binoculars,  I saw some “No Trespassing” signs on the beach and evidence of security cameras.  I quickly googled the island to see who owned it- turned out to be Johnny Depp’s private island.  He has good taste.

When slack tide time arrived, we pulled up anchor and headed for the pass.  We anchored next to the mooring field, and rested for the night.

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O’Brien’s Cay near the Sea Aquarium

We had heard wonderful things from M/Y Ditch’d Hatteras about the Sea Aquarium snorkeling spot next to O’Brien Cay.  So the next morning, that was the first item on our agenda.  This was an incredible spot, the best snorkeling to date in the Bahamas.  Here are some images I took with my underwater camera:

 

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As you can see, this was an incredible spot!  We found the islands around Cambridge Cay to be interesting, and varied with lots to do!  We stayed here almost a week, and found something new to see each day.

Arrived to the Exumas!

13096334_249552765395939_8516683348618411706_nDawn found us leaving Rock Sound, Eleuthra, and heading across the deep blue Exuma Sound for the Exumas.  Wind was up, which is a good thing for a sailboat.  Only issue was the wind direction was not favorable for our plan to head towards Highbourne Cay, so instead, we headed south for Warderick Wells and the Exuma Land and Sea Park.   Love that we can change plans on the fly, based on the actual wind direction.   Go where the wind takes us.

Warderick Wells was breathtaking, especially the north and south mooring fields.  We loved being on the hook, so instead opted for the Emerald Rock anchorage on the west side of the island.

img_1313We hiked on the island, snorkeled each day, and toured by dinghy to see local natural sites.  We swam with nurse sharks, big and small, and found miniature starfish on a sandy shore.

This was a magical time aboard Mahi, visiting a place that has no restaurants, stores, or civilization.  Thankful, our boat is completely self sufficient, when we needed water, we made it using our Rainman R/O watermaker.  For power, we charged our batteries using our generator.  Cooking food is done using propane.

shark2Shark Encounters:  We learned that a local nurse shark fell in love with our Rainman watermaker.  Every time we ran it, the 8 foot shark would show up.  I was able to snap a picture of this shark.

The first time he showed up, I had just left the water a few minutes before.  That caught my attention; in some places you would do a shark scan or watch if there happened to be a higher concentration of sharks.  That day, we didn’t.  Luckily, nurse sharks are curious and not as prone to being aggressive unless provoked.  Still, you are always cognizant that they are bigger than you and come with sharp teeth.

This little nurse shark swam close to shore when we were in the water.  I saw him, so we got in the dinghy and grabbed my iPhone to film him.  He was only about 4 feet, a young shark.

On another occasion, Joe and I were snorkeling and I was taking pictures of fish among the coral.  There was a huge nurse shark (about 8 feet) just sitting on the sea floor nearby.  I found photographic proof when I later looked at my footage.  Look real close in the background:

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sharkieSuch is the fun of snorkeling with sharks.  Never knew that sometimes nurse sharks like to just lay on the bottom.  So much for hearing that sharks have to continually move.  Not true with nurse sharks.  Later on in the Exumas, I had a close encounter with a reef shark off of Cambridge Cay.

From Warderick Wells, we sail to our next spot down the Exuma chain.  Stay tuned!

Rock Sound

13055428_245411285810087_3654806379926724064_nkarte-8-804Rock Sound is a lovely Bahamian Settlement.  It has good cruising restaurants, a delightful blue hole, local artisan store, and an excellent provisioning grocery store next to the hardware store.

The map I borrowed from a website and it gives you a good overview of the places on Eleuthra  I have written about.  Spanish Wells was our first stop, and Rock Sound down towards the bottom hook is our last.

We ate dinner at Wild Orchids, a pricey restaurant that had excellent food.  Here is the colorful sunset view of our boat we enjoyed from the restaurant:

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13006531_10206436017879715_5978145556934154229_nWe stayed here a few days.  We also took the time to visit the local blue hole, said to have healing properties.    Much to Joe’s embarrassment, I decided to test out the healing hole to see if it would work on my longtime spine issues (no), but I did discover the blue hole is filled with hundreds of colorful, large reef fish that swim around you.

I wished I had brought my snorkeling gear  as it was a very cool place to visit.  There is also a hiking trail around the blue hole, and we discovered a playground for Ethan to play.

On our way back to the boat, we visited a local artist gallery that used found and recycled items to sell in their shop.  In the spirit of supporting local artists, I bought a few items:

I leave you with some more images from this beautiful place.  Next stop- Exumas!

 

Alabaster Bay

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S/V Mahi in Alabaster Bay, Eleuthra

The winds shifted southwesterly,  causing us to move Mahi south along the island of Eleuthra to seek a better anchorage for the new conditions.  We found Alabaster Bay (formerly Receiver Bay when the United States had a naval presence here) to be another tranquil place to anchor- a very large bay with James Cistern Cay at the north of the bay and a sheltered point at the south end, where we anchored.

Here is an aerial view of southern part of Alabaster Bay from an old 1984 chart book we have.  We anchored in the blue sandy waters just off the shallow beach.

The waters here were spectacular.  This image of Ethan playing in the dinghy shows you the colors from a land view:

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Atlantic pink sandy beach of Eleuthra

We decided to rent a car so we could travel and see parts of Eleuthra otherwise hard to see via sailboat.  On the Atlantic side, we visited a remote pink sandy beach off the ruins of a large US naval base that shut down decades ago.

This was a great beach combing beach, but also a reminder of how much plastic trash travels to Eleuthra from countries across the Atlantic Ocean. Floating plastic items travel thousand of miles to disrupt the beauty of a distant shore.  No picture of the trash,  however, the pink tinged sand along most of Eleuthra is unique to this section of the Bahamas.

We kept the rental car a couple of days, and would travel up and down the island visiting restaurants, farms, and Governor’s Harbour to provision.  We even pulled out our inflatable kayak so I could take Ethan to play with local children while I searched for shells.

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Alabaster Bay was a fabulous stop for us.  We knew we needed to head south to Rock Sound, our last anchorage in Eleuthra.  This was about a half day sail for us.  All-in-all, we enjoyed our time in this lovely bay.

Wifi Coverage & Rainbow Cay

13164287_10206496951763024_1432814131403269697_nThe only problem (well, if you can call it that) with extended travel to remote, tropical places, you find it difficult to write and upload blog posts.  I posted the last few with my cell phone, but even finding adequate cell coverage in the Bahamas can be a challenge.  Many nights saw me standing at the highest spot on my boat, holding my iPhone up as high as I could to obtain any bars.

We are now back in the wonderful marina at Great Harbour Cay, which has wonderful wifi, especially when they are not full, and there are no large boats to hog the bandwidth.  I figured it was time to get caught up on all we have been doing since Eleuthera.

Rainbow Cay turned out to be a breath of fresh air for us.  What is not to love?  Picturesque photo opportunities, nice local people we met.  I love any opportunity to pull out my nice professional Canon camera in order to capture images like this one.  Keep in mind this image has not been altered in any ways, the colors are truly this vivid:

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Rainbow Cay Beach in the distance.

Above image shows we were the only boat here the entire stay.  You could swim ashore, snorkel off the beach and rock points.

There is a well maintained beach where we met the local Rainbow Cay Association President, Ron, and his wife, Sue.  We struck up a conversation, and this kind couple offered to show us their slice of paradise.  The sightseeing tour also included a trip to the local grocery store for provisions.  By the time we were done, I was ready to move there and buy a place.  It is that stunning!

Our time at Rainbow Cay was magical.  Here is an interesting picture,  a sunset, moonlight image of Rainbow Cay from the boat:

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Eleuthera- Meek Patch to Hatchet Bay

Since leaving Spanish Wells, we have spent the last week or two at anchor in Eleuthera.  It is stunning wherever we go.

Internet happens to be nonexistent, so will share some iPhone photos with you and hope they are uploaded through cell phone data.

First anchor stop- Meek Patch.  here is our beautiful sunset:

Our next anchorage will be Glass Window, a window view and narrow spit of land between the bay and ocean.  Used to be a natural bridge, but a rouge wave took care of that feature, which is replaced by a bridge.


Here we are anchoring in Hatchet Bay for a night:


To get to this anchorage, we had a nice sail down the coast of Eleuthera.


We took the dinghy into town and found a grocery store about the size of a small bedroom.  Bought a few items until we could locate a larger store to provision.

Next stop- Rainbow Bay.  Once I find wifi, I will upload some new blog posts, promise!

Pink Sand Beach

harbourislandpinksandEarlier this week, we boarded a ferry to travel along the challenging Devil’s Backbone sea route to visit Harbour Island in Northern Eleuthra.  The goal?  To see the beautiful pink sand beaches along the Atlantic shore.

drypinksandThe sands were indeed a faint pink color. I did take a close up image of the sands to show you why they appear pink- due to the red coral grains of sand mixed in. Of course, I brought back some sand for my collection.  Once home, I plan to create a display of all the various places we have been by their sand.

To get around Harbour Island, we rented a golf cart.  As we toured around, we were not impressed by  Harbour Island, called Dunmore Town, at all.  We found it to be rather dirty, run down, trash everywhere, and way overpriced compared to other places in the Bahamas we have visited.  The island appears to raise their prices for the mega-yacht and private jet crowd.

The only redeeming feature was the pink sand beaches.  Oh yes, also the surprising view of horses on the beach:

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What Joe and I found to be more interesting was the ferry trip through Devil’s Backbone to get to Harbour Island.  This is a challenging sea route which involves a narrow channel with reefs on one side, along with breaking waves, and shore with breaking waves on the other side.  Not for the faint of heart.

ethanpinksandAt the end of the day, we were happy to get back to Spanish Wells, where everything is so much cleaner and prettier. Spanish Wells, by comparison, takes pride in their homes, gardens, and island.

Not sure we will ever go back to Harbour Island, but at least we can check it off our list.   Been there, done that, and collected the sand and photos.

Spanish Wells

ethanwaterOur first stop in Eleuthra is Spanish Wells, a beautiful settlement filled with descendants of Eleutheran Adventurers and English loyalists during the American Revolutionary War.  This is a clean, friendly and picturesque island, filled with colorful, freshly painted houses and beautiful gardens.  Crime is non-existent. Golf carts fill the street as the primary form of transportation.  You are greeted with a friendly hello or wave as you see the island.

 

spanishwellsbeachThe beaches are, of course, stunning, and a golf cart rental to see both Spanish Wells (located on St. George’s Cay) and Russell Island is a must.   We quickly learned where the grocery store was so we could provision, where the park was for Ethan to play, and the beaches.  We met several families staying here on vacation, who became playmates for Ethan during our stay.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and the people we met.  Today, Ethan and I got much needed visit to the local island hair salon.  Check out how cute Ethan’s new haircut turned out with the before and after shots, shown above.

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We leave tomorrow for new places to anchor and explore.  Ethan’s 5th birthday is quickly approaching, so stay tuned for that event.   Fair Winds from Joe, Carla and Ethan.