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


Interior Tour of Mahi

Thought I would share all the interior shots of S/V Mahi, our Taswell 43, that I have taken over the last few months to give you a tour.  This is a really comfortable center cockpit sailboat floor plan.  The basic floor plan looks like this:


You enter below deck by climbing down the companionway ladder backwards, holding on to the grab bars.  If you turn around, you will see the main salon settee on the port side:


The little salon table swaps out for a very large one.  Here is a different viewpoint of the main salon, showing our flat screen TV/DVD player:


On the starboard side is a navigation station.  Here is a picture before we added a few more items, including our Iridium GO! and our Bitstorm wifi booster:


Here is what the galley looks like


Ethan’s berth:


Master cabin


Overall picture showing the salon, nav station, Ethan’s cabin and forward head:


I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the boat’s interior.  We are currently in the Bahamas enjoying our cruising and liveaboard life!  Here are some pictures taken recently:


Shark Creek Beach on Great Harbour Cay, The Berry Islands, Bahamas:


Regards, from Joe, Carla and Ethan


Images From Our Day

joedinghyI thought I would share some photos from our day.  Today, we joined a wonderful group of cruisers who traveled through a narrow mangrove path to see a distant beach.  Along the way, we saw sea turtles, manta rays, starfish, conch, fish, and other sea creatures.  A wonderful experience!


ethandinghySome dinghy images of both Joe and Ethan.

Your dinghy functions as basically your boat car.  You use it to get around to sight see.



Here is the conch I found and the dark little section is the actual conch.  I plan to learn how to crack open the conch and remove the it.  Then you must  prepare the meat before turning into a conch salad, conch fritters or any other conch dish.  They are quite yummy!  Next, at a later date, I plan to turn the shell into a conch horn.  The local ritual is to blow the conch horn at sunset.

Here is a interesting netting I discovered near the boat.  It is actually quite lovely, so I captured the image for you:




Next up is a compilation of two starfish I discovered while snorkeling today. They were large, about the size of a dinner plate.

It wasn’t yet sunset when we arrived back to the boat, but this scene had a warm glow about it.  I took a walk to a pier and though I would share the image with you.

I hope you enjoyed the images from our day.   Regards, from Joe and Carla




Ethan in the Bahamas

ethancockpitThought I would write a post about how 4-year old Ethan is adjusting to life in the Bahamas and on the boat.  His previous sailing experiences involved day sailing on our O’Day 23 in California, and bareboat chartering in the British Virgin Islands.

We were not sure whether Ethan would get seasick or not, and debated whether to give him Dramamine Jr., which his pediatrician had suggested.  In the end, we went with no medication, and that was the right way to go.

ethannap_edited-1Even in pounding seas on the nose, Ethan has not been seasick at all.  He usually naps during a passage for an hour or two, then play with toys, talks up a storm, and munches on snacks.  We also set up a cuban yoyo fishing reel so he can see if we catch any fish.   Another activity is to look for dolphins.

Once we reach land, we make sure to plan fun activities each day.  We also need to fit preschool into the day, right now Ethan is learning his ABC’s, writing his name, and today, he will be researching all about space and manateeManatees since making friends with the local 2 manatees here in Great Harbour Cay- JJ and Kong:

We are on the lookout for other children for Ethan to play with.  So fortunate to have found another 4 year old for Ethan to play with each day right now.  Social opportunities are so important, especially since missing all his wonderful friends back at Happyland Preschool in Ft. Lauderdale.

Below are a few snapshots of our days- at the beach, experiencing local culture, learning new skills, etc.  Today, we are going conch hunting with a dinghy ride to a far beach.  Hope you have enjoyed a look into how Ethan is adjusting to time in the Bahamas.


From Bimini Islands to Great Harbour Cay

img_9074-1A nice weather window allowed us to leave North Bimini for Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands.  It is a two day trip, so you first head for Mackie Shoal, drop anchor, then the next morning sail to Great Harbour Cay.

The day started with goodbyes to new friends made in Bimini.  Once we reached the entrance channel, a surprise awaited us.  Check out this cool tall ship that we passed as Mahi headed north.

img_9129Once we reached our waypoint at North Rock, we headed towards Mackie Shoal.  You head off the lane about a mile, then throw out the hook to anchor.  We were rewarded with a lovely sunset to eat dinner by.

The winds kicked up in the evening, so it made for a very bouncy night.  Think rocking horse on steroids.  Our snubber failed in the morning just as Joe was about to remove it.  Apparently, the chafe protection rocked its way off the stress point, hence the failure.  Luckily, we have lots of line to use as extra snubbers.

img_9165At first light, we quickly had our morning coffee and pulled up the anchor.  First, I grabbed the camera and took a picture of the sunrise.  Headed on a course for Great Harbour Cay.

Ethan has been a real trooper on all our travels.  So far, he has not been seasick at all.  So glad of this, the flip side could have been real nasty.

img_9210We arrived in the late afternoon to Great Harbour Cay.  It has an interesting entrance which looks like someone dynamited an opening for the marina.  Looking forward to hearing the history of this beautiful island.

We were exhausted by the time we docked.  Have such wonderful, welcoming neighbors in this marina, and a bonus- another boat with a 4 year old on img_9217board!    A quick dinner at the marina restaurant- Joe ate conch salad and I had fried conch and fries to share with Ethan.  Shhh… we tell him they are chicken fingers since he is a picky eater.

I leave you with this sunset shot of the marina from our boat, and a picture of our boat at dock:


Advice to New Cruisers

Joe and I have now experienced the steep learning curve of cruising- including a boat search, purchase, driving across the country to move aboard, then a refit, then back on board, provisioning, outfitting and now setting off.   We thought we would post advice we wish someone had given us- or advice we wish we had listened to.
Find the Right Buying Broker– we wasted time and money by not finding the right buyer’s Mahidockbroker for us in the beginning.   Red flags we had with our first broker were his not returning phone calls timely, too busy to spend any time with us, and in the middle of a multi-location boat hunting trip, dropping the ball completely, leaving us to locate boats and schedule visits ourselves.

Your broker should care about working for you and provide the level of attention to get the job done.  Luckily, our second broker was wonderful, and have highly recommended him to several other buyers.  You can read more about our advice to new buyers and the broker we used at this post.

truckandtrailerLess is More!-  When moving on board your boat, you will have purchased a large variety of items ahead of time, and may make the same mistake we did, which is bringing too much stuff.  Unfortunately, we hauled most of it across the country from California to Florida, so had to ship some of it home, or stuff it into suitcases and fly it home as checked baggage.

The reality is that you need less than you think you do.  You only need a few clothes, not a suitcase or boxes worth.  Instead, move on board and start living.  It will become clear which items you cannot live without- or which items are just taking up space.

sailboat survey2Your Boat Surveyor Will Miss Things–  No matter how experienced your boat surveyor is, he or she will miss items.  Some of these items will cost more than you want.  Accept that fact ahead of time, then when you discover pricey items that need to be repaired, you will be ahead of the game and not financially traumatized.


Repairing the A/C

Before You Cruise, Learn as Much as You Can about Complex Sailboat Systems– You will be far ahead of the game doing as much of the work yourself as you can.  Early on, Joe’s mechanical engineering skills became important when diagnosing and repairing broken air conditioning in the middle of a Florida summer.  Later, he got up close and personal with replacing the marine toilets and hoses, and many other items on our repair list.

However, there will come a time when a job is outside of your knowledge and/or comfort zone, or make the decision to hire a local marine professional in order to get out cruising sooner.   If so, here is another nugget of wisdom we learned:

Boat Jobs Will Take Longer Than You Want and Cost More Than Anticipated–   We found that 90% of the marine professionals we worked with were wonderful.  The good ones seemed to be busy, so you would first wait for a schedule slot, then an estimate, then the work would begin.  Some would make an appointment and then not show.  Not a good sign, keep looking.  In the end, the best referrals came from friends.

Marine professional charge a high price, and of course the geographic location of where your boat is at will matter.  A place like Fort Lauderdale will cost you more on labor than in La Paz or Ensenada, Mexico.

Many marine workers seem to work on Island time, meaning that maybe the job will get done that day- or maybe not.  This can be frustrating for many new cruisers, who are working to a tight deadline or want to get out cruising sooner.

pamsayingRecognize There Will Be Times When You Feel Disappointed– Early on, when we discovered items missed on the survey, equipment failure, or when things didn’t work out the way we wanted, it was easy to feel discouraged.   To realize the  cruising “dream,” you must successfully work through your disappointments and frustrations.  Everyone does this differently and at their own pace.  Don’t lose sight of the overhaul goal.

At a particularly low point for us about 4 months ago, we talked to a sailing friend, Pam, about these feelings.  Her response was perfect and just what we needed to hear at the time.  She said, “If cruising was easy, everyone would be doing it.”    Yes!  Hearing that comment turned our focus back on our goal.

Set Off to Cruise as Soon as Possible!  There is a lovely journey just waiting for you once you take off.  Life slows down, and you get in the cruising groove.  It is important to remind yourself that there will be amazing times ahead of you- people to meet, places to see, and rich experiences!

  Joe and I hope the above advice is helpful in your own personal journey.  Your cruising experience will be your own, and we hope it goes smoothly for you.  Fair winds from The Bahamas!

 Carla aboard S/V Mahi


Bimini Fun

  There is so much to do here in North Bimini- meet and socialize with other cruisers,  walk and chat with locals, enjoy the beach and swim, visit the Dolphin House, take a ferry to visit the shark research center, visit the bakery for authentic Bahamian bread, and beachcomb along the shore.

Fellow cruisers have been incredibly nice.    There is a Happy Hour every night by the pool for anyone who wants to participate.  We enjoy getting to know others, exchange boat cards, and talk about future plans.

The locals are very friendly, and everyone greets you as you walk down the street.  What a rare treat.

Yesterday, we visited The Dolphin House, a labor of love by Mr. Ashley Saunders.  Dolphin house is pure folk art and whimsy constructed with found objects and materials available to him on the island.  Here are a few images of his house:

    Notice the conch shell raised planter:

After visiting the Dolphin House, we decided to sea glass hunt on the beach.  Ethan has turned into a terrific spotter and helps me add to my collection.  Here was the haul from yesterday:

Today we have some local cuisine to try out… stay tuned!   

From Key Biscayne Bay to Bimini

Left Ft. Lauderdale to sail down the coast to Biscayne Bay.  Spent the night “on the hook,” which means we anchored  overnight.

  We were greeted across the water by Charlie and Cathy Simon, “Ahoy, Mahi!”  This wonderful couple have circumnavigated around the world on their Taswell 58, Celebrate.  We first met  

 the Celebrate crew  back in Ft. Lauderdale.  Here is one of the pictures I took of Celebrate at anchor.

Joe and I made a point of not anchoring too close, which is poor cruiser etiquette to do so. Still, I took some nice images of Celebrate and Cathy says she took some nice pictures of out boat, too.  Below is a picture of Mahi taken in the twilight by Cathy Simon from Celebrate:

Left in the morning to head to Bimini.  It was a tad rough going across, but we had faith in our boat and crew.  No one got seasick, which is a good thing.

  We arrived to North Bimini well before dark, took us about 9 hours total.  Above photo was taken as we approached the entrance channel.

  We tied up to the dock with help from other boats to catch our lines.  Everyone here is incredibly nice!  Invites for Happy hour were made, something we plan to do every night until we leave.  Networking with other cruisers and socializing is part of the awesome cruising experience!

I leave you with a photo of how incredibly beautiful this place is:

Hugs from S/V Mahi crew- Joe, Carla and Ethan

Sunday Trip

Finally, after waiting patiently,  the weather forecast allows us to leave Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Sunday.   We are starting our journey by heading south to Biscayne Bay, anchoring out for a night, then leaving across the Gulf Stream to Bimini.

 Previously, we were planning to go to the West End, but changed our minds at the last minute. 

Final provisioning took place yesterday, so today was spent figuring out where everything fits.   I did a pretty good job, this is the “after” picture.

A shout out to Neil, Magali, and Annabelle, also to Neil’s parents, Ray and Bonnie!  So enjoyed dinner last night, fine company, and the kindness of good friends!  

Hope to see you in the Exumas!  If not, then in Ft. Lauderdale during the summer.