Potluck on Pirate’s Beach

mahiwhitecayanchorJoe and I are in love with the Berry Islands, particularly the Eastern Berries.  We have fallen hard for the stunning turquoise vistas, the white sandy beaches, and the remoteness.  Now that we are at anchor in the Eastern Berry Islands, our love for this unique area of the Bahamas has only grown.

biggbeachFrom Soldier Cay, we sailed to White Cay, and anchored for about 5 days.  For the majority of the time, we had this anchorage to ourselves.  It is easy to forget there is a world out there when you go days without seeing another boat.  When you do see someone, you go out of your way to dinghy over to say hello.  New friends are often formed by doing this.

biggauldingbeachWe had the pleasure of saying hello to S/V Trixie, Alan and Lucy, cruising with their grandson, Braden.  Alan and Lucy are experienced cruisers, having traveled extensively for almost two decades.  They pointed out a distance white beach as their favorite beach, on Big Gaulding Cay, a pirates cove complete with chairs, caves, and hammock under the coconut palms, and invited us to have a potluck the following night.  We readily agreed.


I made chicken tacos to share, creating the tortillas from scratch.  Joe helped me make chocolate chip cookies to share.  We took our dinghy over to the beach where Trixie had arrived before us to set up and start a bonfire on the beach.  Ethan’s eyes became large as saucers, he had never before seen such a large fire before, fueled with driftwood and palm fronds.

Alan and Lucy were a delight to talk to. They had so much cruiser knowledge to share with us. Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, it was interesting to hear how they came to be in the Bahamas, and what home was like for them.

We gave thanks before dinner,  asking for safety wherever our travels took us in the future and being appreciative of our surroundings.  This was fitting, given the enormousness of God’s beauty surrounding us.  It was a wonderful meal with excellent company.

Provisioning Mistakes

Since our current trip to the Bahamas was the first major provisioning opportunity for Mahi, I knew there would be a steep learning curve.  Mistakes would be made.  So, I decided to share what has not worked in order to help future cruisers.

In preparation for leaving, I had read multiple books on how to provision for your boat,  store the food, which basic supplies to have on hand, and most importantly, what not to do.  I thought I had a pretty good grasp on the subject.  I even talked to several experienced cruising friends to learn from them.

Despite all my research, I made many errors in provisioning for the Bahamas.  No matter how well you prepare, you will make mistakes, too.  Just accept this fact ahead of time, and you will far ahead of the game.  So, what lessons did I learn the hard way?


Before Stowing

Lesson 1-  Costco Oops!  Do not overbuy any one item at Costco.  This mistake was my biggest one, and I am sure to have this story retold over and over for many years with lots of laughter involved at my expense.

Joe and I were at Costco, and our conversation went something like this:

Carla: “Joe, we need rice, which bag should we get?”

Joe: “These are too big, just buy rice at the grocery store instead.”

Carla: “No, we love rice, we will be gone a long time on the boat, and we need it.”

Joe at this point shakes his head, and decides to let me have my way, since I am stubborn and had my heart set on buying a Costco rice bag.  He picks it up and places it on the cart.  We haul it to the boat.

I quickly learned my mistake- it was a 50 lb. bag of rice!   In my head, that bag was a lot smaller, really.  So  I bagged up about 15-20 lbs of it, then gave the rest away.   Joe was right, of course.

What is funny is that we have only had rice once in the last 3 months.  Twice, if you count the time Joe got his new android phone wet and he used the rice to dry it out.  Or the time I put some rice into the salt shaker to prevent clumping.  Do not go crazy and overbuy any one item at Costco or Sam’s Club.  Especially not staples easily found outside of the US whatever country you live.

On the flip side, there are items I wished I had bought more of at Costco that we used up quickly: Trail Mix, Dried Mangoes and Coconut, Turkey and Beef Jerky, to name a few.  Paper Towels are another Costco favorite.

Postscript:  I heard yesterday from a cruising friend that a sailboat she just met had 50 lb. bag of couscous on board their boat.  See?  I’m not the only one who made this mistake!  🙂

Lesson 2- Produce Mistake.  The day before we left, I stocked up on tons of produce from Publix Supermarket in Fort Lauderdale.  I even brought those green bags that are supposed to extend the life of produce.  Half of the produce fit into the fridge and the other half I organized into bins on the counter.

What really happened is that most of the produce in the fridge froze, then turned bad.  Many of the produce in the bins went off quickly in the tropical heat and humidity.  Within a couple of days, we had to throw out rotted produce.

The solution is to buy just enough that you can use quickly.  Better yet, plan in advance and can vegetables to use on the boat.  Bring some frozen fruit and vegetables for when you run out of fresh.

In buying fresh produce, read on for my next lesson.

Lesson 3-  Not All Produce is Equal.  Some produce keeps well and others do not.  Here is my list of what produce lasted: cabbages, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, garlic, citrus fruits including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits.  Apples lasted about a week.

Unripe bananas, mangoes and similar fruit will ripen quickly.  You will learn to buy when you find, then use up later that day, if possible.

Lesson 4- Buy What You Love–  Many cruisers will buy items because they read an article or blog post- or want to try out new recipes.  You stock up, then discover that you do not really use that item.  I did this with some Trader Joe purchases and some recipe items.  They are just sitting in my provisioning bins gathering dust at the moment.

The moral of this topic is keep a running list of items you love and will use day to day before moving on board your boat.  These are the items you want to have on board.  At the end of this first season, I will remove what we didn’t eat and I’m keeping a list of groceries and provision items that we need more of.

Here is an example- Joe happens to love canned peanuts.  I stocked up on some in Florida, paying about $2.50 per can on sale.  However, our peanut supply is about to run out.  While shopping in the local store here on Spanish Wells the other day, I found some canned peanuts, however, the price was over $10 a can. Ouch!  I should have devoted more provisioning space to peanuts and less to rice and flour.


Ethan’s milk storage.  UHT milk is easily found all over the Bahamas.

Lesson 5- Staples.  Basic staples are found all over the globe.  Sure, they may cost more in other countries, but I would rather have the storage space devoted to items we love and eat everyday- especially items not readily found outside my home country.

We all have our favorite food items or treats that we like from time to time.  Trader Joe’s makes a few items I really like, including seaweed wraps, that can be eaten alone as a snack, or used to make sushi wraps with rice.  (For the record, Joe thinks they are gross)  I picked up about a half dozen, and they went within the first few weeks.  This is a specialty item only found in the states, so once I ran out, they could not be replaced.   Flour, sugar, milk and other staples are found in every small store, but not so rarer items.

whats-on-my-boat-appLesson 6- Stowing Inventory.  I started with good intentions using the “What’s On My Boat app, then as I moved things around, my inventory system fell apart.  Keep a good inventory list that will be easily modified.  Keep groceries that you use most often in easier to reach locations.

It will be worth it in the end to properly maintain your boat inventory list.  Whether you use an app, an excel spreadsheet, 3×5 cards, whatever your system is- keep it up to date as you move things around.  Trust me on that!

Lesson 7- Potluck Provision.  Once you are out cruising, you will attend lots of potluck gatherings, even if you are not a potluck type of person.  The hardest part for me is always figuring out what to prepare and bring.


Making tortillas for potluck tacos.

Next season, I will plan ahead of time a list of crowd pleasing potluck dishes and desserts, then provision especially for those events.  Right now, I am just winging it.  Last potluck we had I made chicken tacos (homemade tortillas) with chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

You can improvise in a pinch, but I would prefer to have this all thought out ahead of time and provisions at the ready pre-bought and organized.


In the future, I will write a post on what I did correctly, and what provisioning lessons actually worked well for our boat.  🙂


First Storm at Anchor

sunrisecresantbeachBeing first year cruisers on a new boat, everything is a new adventure to Joe, Ethan and I.  First time crossing the Gulf Stream, first time in the Bahamas, and weathering our first storm with our boat at anchor.

predictwind_edited-1Obtaining daily weather information is critical to boaters, especially boats at anchor.  A change in wind direction and intensity could turn your lovely, pleasant anchorage into a nightmare where you end up on the beach or rocks of a lee shore.

To follow the weather, we use an Iridium GO! with PredictWind (PW) set up to obtain multiple forecasting models.  We then interpret the models to make a decision about where to anchor, and how much ground tackle (anchor and chain rode) to put out.  We can obtain the PW info anywhere in the world, it is not dependent on internet.

We moved our boat to Soldier Cay in the Berry Islands because we knew a storm was headed our way.  This little island would provide us protection from the north, northeast, east, and southeast, so we set our anchor and let out 100 feet of scope.  For our non-sailing friends, scope is how much anchor chain and rode you let out.  Too little scope, and you are more likely to drag your anchor.   Too much scope and if the wind shifts, you might  swing onto the shallows and ground your boat.

firststormThe storm arrived with an impressive display of lightning all around us, then the winds went into high gear.  Looking at our wind gauge, we saw over 35 knots of wind, which exceeded what had been forecast.  The rain came next, so there is the mad scramble to close any open hatch or portholes.

As the wind howled, Ethan slept nicely inside in his bunk, oblivious to the storm raging above.  This boy sleeps through anything!

Joe and I sat inside the full enclosure, which surrounds the cockpit on our boat.   We  were very thankful for this enclosure, as you can watch the nasty weather while remaining dry.  The cockpit is an extra living space on a sailboat.

Over the next 36-48 hours, Mahi rocked and rolled at anchor.   It was not comfortable.  During the worst, I dreamed about reclining in a soft zero gravity chair at home, with my favorite quilt to keep me warm.

Instead, reality dictated that we have an anchor watch for 2 nights to ensure we didn’t drag (which we didn’t), and that our anchor snubber chafe protection did not rock off the area we were protecting.  This happened multiple times.

Finally, the wind lessened to below 20 knots, so we climbed into our dinghy to visit a nearby beach.  In this picture below, life is calm again.


At Anchor in The Berrys

  Leaving beautiful Great Harbour Cay to spend a week or two in the Eastern Berry Islands was the order of the day.  This is a very remote location.

We were sad to say goodbye to new friends, also the wonderful Hans and staff at the Marina.  S/V Visitant gave Ethan a goodbye gift of some dominos, which made his day!  We waved goodbye as we head for the cut out of the harbor.

Mahi glided through the seas to have an enjoyable sail up to and around the Stirrup Cays.  We planned to head for an anchorage between Hawksnest Cay and the Beach Club on the east side of Great Harbour Cay.  

The water was a stunning turquoise color and we even had a visitor fly by for a rest. 

 Once anchored, a sea plane landed literally in front of our boat.  I ran down to get the camera, but missed the photo opportunity.  

Tomorrow we sail to Soldier Cay and check out the anchorage there.  Mid week, the forecast is for strong winds, so we want to ride out the weather front there, if possible.

Fair winds, Carla, Joe and Ethan

Ethan Boat School

ethanprintNow that we are out cruising, it is time to begin boat schooling 4-year-old Ethan.   We are using an eclectic approach to boat schooling,  which means we are not using any one program or curriculum.

Ethan is currently in preschool, so our focus now is on pre-reading, writing, and beginning math skills.  We also focus on his interests, which currently are the solar system, human body, and anything mechanical.

Here is an example of Ethan’s writing.  We use small writing dry erase boards found at the dollar store, along with dry erase markers.  It is a reusable resource, plus takes up less space on the boat.

His printing and fine motor control skills are coming along nicely, as you can see.  6 months ago, he was still scribbling, so he has made wonderful progress.

ethangolf5Ethan likes to use playdoh, to cook and bake, and any art activity.  Since we have been on Great Harbour Cay the last few weeks, Ethan has taken up golf, so that would count as Physical Education.  Time in the ocean is another common physical activity:


At this age, you want to make it fun for the child.  Early on, Ethan was not enjoying school time,  so we stepped back and discovered ways to make the time more fun.

We have lots of books on board, also Ethan has a kindle reader filled with eBooks.  Ethan prefers the physical books at this age.   As we read to him, he can make the connection of words reading left to right.  We will on occasion use educational apps, including the Starfall series. We also have Osmo on board, which is a fun learning tool.  th  Even though Joe spent his career at a technical company, we limit how much iPad time Ethan has each day.  We noticed that if he gets too much electronic time, Ethan’s behavior gets cranky.


Ethan getting instructions from Capt. Bruce on M/Y Carry On

We often get asked if we are worried about Ethan getting enough peer and social time.  With Ethan’s engaging personality, this is not an issue.  He finds playmates wherever we go.  Here in Great Harbour Cay, he has play dates with a darling 4 year old named Faith.  He also plays with some local children, too. Ethan will also find kids on the beach to play with.  Trust me, he is not shy.  He interacts with all the adults, too.

The other boaters here in Great Harbour Cay will long remember the cute little boy who starts every conversation with “Excuse me?”


Eastern Berry Islands

As I write this, we are stowing things away to head to the Eastern Berry Islands and anchor out for the next week or so.  First stop is Soldier Cay, then after a time, we will work our way south before heading off towards the Exumas.

berryHere is a terrific map of the Berry Islands, though it is small.  We will leave Great Harbour Cay, and head to the top of the map to swing around Little and Great Stirrup Cays in order to anchor at Soldier Cay.

Little and Great Stirrup Cays are owned by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, respectively.  When we have been out snorkeling, you can easily see the huge cruise ships at their islands.

You have to head north, east and south to get to Soldier Cay due to the shallow depths shown on the map as a light blue color.  Even using a dinghy, you can only carefully access the areas shown in light blue at high tide.

What does this area look like?  Here is a picture I took of Bruce and Shani, from M/Y Carry On, looking towards Soldier Cay from the vantage point of Ambergris  and Money Cay:


We are looking forward to some snorkel and beachcombing time over the next week.  We will not have internet, so will be out of touch until we locate wifi.   There is a cold front moving in about mid week, so will be able to test our Rocna primary anchor in stronger wind conditions to build confidence that we do not drag (our anchor).  This will be 1536588_227388124279070_2081287019546574408_nimportant  to know because once we hit the Exumas, we will be relying on our anchor and ground tackle to keep us safe.  Our backup anchor is a large Fortress.

Here is a dinghy picture of the S/V Mahi crew, along with MaryLou from S/V Dalmation, a photo taken by Shani of M/Y Carry On.


Sea Caves and Beaches

sugarbeachThe Mahi crew decided during our stay on Great Harbour Cay to rent a golf cart and visit the beaches around the island.  If you come here, we highly recommend this as some beautiful locations are too far away to dinghy or easily walk to.

We sent Joe off to the rental office to get a vehicle.  These rentals are not inexpensive, and for your money you obtain a rather dilapidated golf cart with cracked windshield, and highly questionable steering.  Such is the way of the islands, so you laugh and roar off towards the beaches going about 10 miles per hour.  Good times!

First stop- Sugar Beach.  Sugar Beach has miles and miles of white sand, turquoise waters as far as the eye can see.  Stunning location, and we swam in the waters while Ethan played in the sand and explored the shore.

I was able to obtain a good picture of Ethan on the shore:

ethanworld After an hour or so, we headed north in the golf cart to Sugar Beach Sea Cave.  This spot was spectacular, and the rising tide was low enough to snap a quick image from inside the cave.  This turned out to be one of my favorite pictures so far as I love the juxtaposition of the turquoise waters against the cave interior.

seacaveI also climbed a large rock to get a good view and perspective shot of the turquoise coast and the cave from the outside.  If you visit Great Harbour Cay, please do not miss this spot.  The cove and the cave are simply breathtaking!

sugarbeachcaveOur day was not finished.  After shopping for provisions in town, where Ethan was greeted by name numerous times by locals, we headed for Shark Creek Beach at low tide.  This place is perfect for shelling, plus Ethan loved the shallow depth.  It was like one big kiddie pool!


1917519_228274260857123_4778997878630130954_nI did have some time to collect shells here, plus found a sea fan.  I am a beachcomber at heart, so I collect sand, shells and sea glass wherever there is a beach.

All in all, we had a spectacular day!  Plan to rent a cart one more time before we leave this island.  Stay tuned as a weather window is opening up for us to sail to Soldier and Hoffman Cay area on Friday, then early next week sail on to new locations.  Internet may be hit or miss, so if you are following along, be sure to follow our FaceBook boat page.  There is a link on the right side or bottom of the page, depending on which viewing format you are using to read posts.

Berry Islands Snorkeling 2

12065651_918263168294997_4729024296852295090_nTeaming up with the crew from SV Dalmation, SV C’est La Vie, and M/Y Carry On, we waited for the tide to rise high enough to travel over the shallows by dinghy to visit Fanny Cay, Ambergris and Money Cay.

On board our dinghy were Joe, Ethan, myself, and MaryLou from Dalmation.  The dinghy in the photo background held Shani and Bruce from Carry On.  Picture by Lydia Adams and Bob (C’est la Vie), who were in the front dinghy taking the image on the left.

FullSizeRender(19)The first stopping point was Fanny Cay, which had some beautiful fish to see.  We anchored on a sand bar, and this allowed Ethan to practice his emerging snorkeling skills.

We find that Ethan is getting braver and braver with getting over his fear of the ocean and seaweed.  One day, I am sure we will tease him about the evil seaweed.  Ha ha ha!


Lydia also took the picture of Joe and I, and the water and scenery were stunning as it appears.

Next, we headed for Money Cay and the southern tip of Ambergris Cay.  This turned out to be our favorite spot seen to date, hands down!  Here are some photos I took with my iPhone, kicking myself that I didn’t have my good camera on board.  No photo editing done at all,  the images were not doctored in any way.


Money Cay shown above.  Just as we pulled up, we saw a nurse shark.  Ethan is in the dinghy awaiting the landing.


Lydia and Bob Adams on C’est la Vie‘s dinghy.


Bruce and Shani from M/Y Carry On:


Keep posted for our next blog post where I did take my good camera to capture some incredible beach images of Great Harbour Cay.   Hugs from Joe Carla and Ethan



The Berry Islands Snorkeling 1

944862_222561994761683_2892450018421138304_nBeen having a blast now that the wind has shifted and settled down this week.  This means we can travel by dinghy without becoming airborne, snorkel, and just get out to see the beaches on the island and also visit nearby cays to snorkel.

Yesterday, we visited a blue hole by Rat Cay, Cistern Cay, and Bullocks Harbour Cay.  A blue hole is a section of the sea floor formed by a sink hole.  There is a much larger blue hole on nearby Hoffman’s Cay that we will be visiting in a couple of weeks, but we were curious to see this one.

starfishlookAlong the way we saw manta rays, sea turtles and star fish.  Here is Joe snorkeling around the blue hole, which is a deep blue color compared to the surrounding sea.

Ethan was entertained by viewing sea life via our “Look” bucket, which is a bucket with a Plexiglas bottom to see through.  I took a photo of a sea star as seen through the look bucket.

drugplaneGreat Harbour Cay apparently has a drug lord past in the early 1980’s, with an air strip, old drug houses, and a rather sensational drug plane crash just offshore, which you can snorkel over.  We saw a large variety of reef fish at the crash site, and was thoroughly interesting to visit.


Bob using his pole sling

Once finished with the crash site, we headed to the tip of Lignumvitae Cay, where we made another snorkel stop.  This was a wonderful snorkeling place, and we saw large schools of snapper, reef fish,  manta rays, and even a huge eel inside a cave.  Our dinghy friends, Bob and Lydia Adams of S/V C’est la Vie, also were able to successfully spear dinner, which they kindly shared with us later that evening.  It was tasty!

Here are other images of this day:



Cleaning Conch

carlaconchI just happen to love conch…  conch fritters, cracked conch, conch salad, and conch burgers.  I knew I wanted to learn how to catch, clean and prepare the conch while out cruising the Caribbean.

Catching conch is easy, you just have to snorkel and find them.  Once you find them, you free dive down and pick them up.  Easy peasy!  The hard part is knowing how to kill and clean these critters.

conchcleanSo I asked a wonderfully nice Bahamian named Trameco to show me how to clean a conch that I had found.  He was kind enough to teach me, and I took pictures of most of the steps.  Here is a rough overview:

removingconch2First you take a hammer and in a certain location, you open a small area so you can insert a knife  (shown above).  The knife is so you may remove the conch (shown left) from the beautiful shell by severing its attachment point.  so far so good.

Conch are not pretty.  You have to overlook that you are basically eating a sea snail.

The next part requires knowing what to remove and what to leave behind.  You remove the digestive tract, the head, the horn, and the skin, which peels off.  In this image, Trameco is cutting off the horn, which is how the conch moves around the sand:


Here are several images showing you how to remove the tough outer skin and peel it back:

conchsaladWhen you are finished, you have some lovely cleaned conch to use in your favorite dish.

Some people tenderize the conch by pounding it, others by scoring it.  Here is a local gentleman making conch salad with some fresh conch.

The flies tend to come out in droves when the conch is being cleaned and prepared.  To combat them, you burn cans of sterno, which does the job nicely.

trameco_edited-1I leave you with a terrific picture of Trameco, holding my cleaned conch.  Coming post, how I made a conch horn to blow at sunset!


Joe, Carla and Ethan