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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Prenuptial Plunge in the Exumas

Hi All…Ben here in the Exumas with Sandy and Dimitry,

Yep, there they are taking a plunge into the warm waters of the Bahama Banks in the Exumas.  In a couple of months they’ll be taking another kind of “plunge” into the “Sea of Matrimony”.   I hope the waters there are as clear as they are here. 
(Click on this link to see where we are and type in Staniel Cay, Bahamas)
Their vacation with us started in Staniel Cay
where they arrived after a very long trip from LA  on something Izzy called the “Red Eye”, complicated further by being delayed for four hours before take off, and missing their connecting flight on the Water Makers flight into Staniel Cay.  I’m not sure what their “red-eye” or “water maker” problems were, but all their systems seemed to be working fine by the time they arrived.
They were a little travel weary as you might expect, but they hopped right into some double rum drinks for a quick attitude adjustment and the beginning of some fun in the sun!
First thing they noticed was how clear the water is, and…YIKES! – all those critters swimming around our boat!  They freaked me out at first too, but I got used to them after seeing people swimming with them.  So far no one has come out missing any body parts.  But still, I’m glad I’m not one of those silly water dogs that blindly jumps into the sea to get a ball or a stick that their owners throw. 
Nurse Sharks and rays under our boat at Staniel Cay
The conch guys had just arrived with the catch for the day, so Jeff went over to negotiate some conch salad for us. 
Here are the pretty shells that those conch come from.
Meanwhile Dimitry was busy preparing the new Ducks Stanley Cup Playoff flag that he brought to fly next to the Bahamas flag.  He’s a big fan and he’ll be missing the game.
Maybe it’ll bring good luck to the Ducks this week.
Looks like the time change and the travel caught up with Sandy and Dimitry.  Siesta time. they have my rug out there ready for me to join them...sounds like a good idea.  These days I never pass up an opportunity for a nap.
We let them snooze for a while to get ready for the next few days of water activity.  The three things they really wanted to do on this vacation were to see the swimming pigs ( yep, that’s what I said- swimming pigs!), snorkel in Thunderball Cave, and more snorkeling and beach time anywhere else.  Dimitry always likes to do a little fishing too, so Jeff and Izzy planned to make all that happen during their week on the “Izzy R”.
First we needed to get a few provisions so we went into the town looking for the bread lady.
This little wooden sign is all there is to identify where to go.  We went up to that yellow house and found her in  the kitchen baking lots of wonderful smelling breads. 
Coincidentally, on our way back to the boat with a couple of loaves of bread under our arms, we found a  bread fruit tree.  There was nothing about that fruit that looked anything like bread, but I guess it was on a tourist map Izzy had.  So they brought one home that had fallen on the ground so they could dissect it.
Kinda fleshy green thing
How does it taste, Sandy?
pretty tasty!
Hmm…well, maybe the pigs will like it….
Speaking of the pigs, did you know that pigs can SWIM?
Well, they can, and I saw them do it.  We took the dinghy over to the beach nearby where they hang out, and visited them. 
Staniel Cay
We took that breadfruit to make friends.  Here’s Dimitry getting to know the little one. 
Dimitry making friends with the smallest of the swimming pigs
She was cute and wanted to come for a ride with us, but her hoofs are even sharper than mine, so Jeff wouldn’t let her in the inflatable dinghy.
Pretty soon the whole pig family was out on the beach looking for a handout.  Some other boats came around, too, so the little oinkers had a lot of fun swimming from boat to boat checking out the offerings.
It was like a Sunday brunch smorgasbord for them!  I think this guy scored an apple from someone.
I’ll bet these pigs don’t even realize how lucky they are to keep cool in the clear water here instead of wallowing in the mud like regular pigs do.
We can check the pig thing off the list, so now we’re on to snorkeling Thunderball Cave.  It was close to the pig beach, so they went there in the afternoon at low tide.   This is what it’s  like on the outside.  Doesn’t look like much, does it?
Thunderball Cave
At low tide you can swim right into the cave, but at high tide you have to dive under that rock shelf to get in.  That’s why they went at low tide!  I stayed back at the “Izzy R” ….because…um… I couldn’t get my mask to fit right.  Not that I’m afraid of the sea critters or anything.
This is from the inside looking out.
Sandy was trying out her underwater camera
Thunderball Cave snorkling
This is the opposite opening of the cave that was still under water.
Cool coral, sponges and fish are in every direction.

After entering the cave, the ceiling rises above the water about fifty feet, with big holes that let the mid day light filter down into the water showing off the bright colors of the fish and coral under water .

Here they are!
They took some rice and I packed them some of my dog food pellets to feed the fish
I guess it worked…fish, fish every where!
Wow, two items crossed off the vacation list already and it’s only day two!  Maybe they’ll actually get to relax a little on this trip,  if Jeff doesn’t put them to work doing chores.
We still needed a few provisions for the boat before moving on to the Land and Sea Park, but a run to the grocery store is a little different here than in Orange county.  In the Bahamas, we often go by dinghy, and leave the big boat tied up at the dock.  The “Izzy R” is in the middle of this picture at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
So we dinghied to Isles General Store for some vegetables.  Here are Dimitry and Sandy getting ready to check out the local shopping options there.
The wall around the store is make of conch shells held together with cement.  conch walls
Pretty cool and a good use for the thousands of shells around the island.
The “Izzy R” was finally loaded up with fresh fruits and veggies,  and we left Staniel Cay,
and headed out to Warderick Wells and the Land and Sea Park for more snorkeling. The water was a spectacular combination of blues and greens, and we could see the coral heads clearly from the fly bridge.     
There is a real narrow channel that we have to go through to get our anchorage next to our favorite snorkeling spot -  the Sea Aquarium.  We have to go between the rocks and that light colored sand on the left.
Doesn’t look big enough for our boat, but Jeff did some tricky maneuvering and we made it without any bumping.

We anchored the boat and took the dinghy to the mooring ball that the Land and Sea Park people placed to mark the Sea Aquarium snorkel spot.  It’s a great feature of this great 22 mile sea park – many wonderful snorkel sites have mooring balls.  Boaters use them to secure their dinghies in the strong currents while they snorkel and eliminate the need for anchors that could harm the coral heads.
As soon as Sandy and Dimitry jumped in the water, they were surrounded by beautiful little fish, looking for a handout!  Dimitry didn’t disappoint them, because he had a stash of bread in his hand and they could smell it.
Pretty soon they brought all their fish relatives!
Sandy got into the act too, and they followed her like the Pied Piper.

After all the fish food was gone, and everyone had cruised the coral formations for a while, they all flopped into the dinghy like slippery seals - except for Dimitry, who opted to hang onto a line off the back of the dinghy and be dragged behind!  Looked like fun!

Warderick Wells was the next stop.  It is the hub of the Land and Sea Park, and has the offices with information on the wildlife, and a map of trails on the island to explore.  We tied up to a mooring ball
Izzy R in the distance
 and got back in the dinghy to check out the Ranger Station.
  Here are Sandy and D on the dock in front of the Ranger Station building.
From the porch, there's a beautiful view of the crescent shaped north mooring field
Vview of the north Mooring field
and the beach with the huge whale skeleton.
Funny- the beach has real big things like this, and real little things too,
Whale skeleton at Warderick Wells beach
like this. 
Things on the beach come in all sizes - just like dogs, I guess.
Sandy found one with five legs and no head
After exploring a little we came upon some other cruisers having cocktails at the palapa on the beach, so we joined them for a while before we got back in the dinghy for the ride back to the "Izzy R" for dinner.
We spent the next day exploring the island trails and swimming in the clear water.  First we went to the beach in the dinghy and headed for Boo Boo Hill.

After a ten minute walk through the island bushes, across the limestone and coral rocks, through the salt water pond formed from the tide, we ended on top of the hill where we had beautiful vistas on all sides.  On one side we saw the aqua waters of the shallow Bahama Banks and on the other side of the island was the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.


Here they are on top of Boo Boo Hill where the cruisers leave driftwood signs that they have painted with their boat names.  We saw boat names that we recognized from our cruising in the area, but we didn't have one made to leave here.  Maybe next time.  They'll probably give that job to me...
Nearby that pile of wood was a sign pointing to the blow holes.  Jeff stood over one as it made a loud groan and a whoosh...then it blew his hat off his head!
Looking over the cliff we saw what was causing the strong wind coming up the holes.  The sea was crashing against the rocks on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, pushing air up through the big holes in the limestone and coral rocks that formed the cliffs.  Dimitry took this picture of Sandy, Izzy and Jeff standing up by the blow holes as the waves rolled in. 
There are beautiful beaches all around to be explored.

This little curly tailed gecko was enjoying climbing the rock formations, too. I usually like to chase them, but it's too hot today.

Boo Boo Beach is one of the prettiest ones.
The top of the rocks there is a good spot to get a view of the long white beaches. I didn't have my hiking boots, so I stayed on the beach to take this one! 
We headed back to the boat for lunch, and before we knew it Sandy and Dimitry were decked out in their snorkels and fins.  Just can’t keep these two out of the water!
Off they go to swim to the beach, looking for fish and shells on the bottom as they go.
Sandy is trying to keep the fish food out of the water so she won’t loose it all at once.  Trouble is, the birds tried to take it from the bag as she held it over her head!
Pretty soon Jeff and Izzy jumped in for a swim, too.  There was a nice raft anchored near the boat, and it begged for a round of "Interpretive Diving".  Each person got a turn to be the leader to do some crazy jump off the raft and everyone else had to try to copy it.  Here's Sandy doing her version of Dimitry's "Lotus Position Cannonball".  I think she should win!
I didn't have a chance to participate this time, but I'm ready to go with my "double-dog-dare-ya dive" the next time.
After many laughs, they came back onto the boat for happy hour (my favorite time of the day), and some juicy burgers on the grill.  Since the next day was Easter, Izzy brought out some hard boiled eggs after dinner and we all decorated them.  Rather unconventional decorations since we didn't have egg dye, so we improvised with what ever we had on the boat...sharpie pens, sea shells and brown pipe cleaners.  There were a lot of creative juices flowing around the table that night.  

The next morning after the Easter Egg Hunt on the "Izzy R", we unhooked from our mooring ball and moved on to Compass Cay...another narrow route back inside a winding passage to a small harbor.  There we found a great little marina building covered with more of those driftwood signs from cruisers.  They serve hamburgers on the deck for lunch, and offer people the use their box of paints to make the crazy signs.   
Jeff and Izzy made one for the "Izzy R" and hung it on the wall by the office door.

  Oh, look!  I think I see my head in the window of that boat they drew!
After lunch, Dimitry checked out the "Aquarium" behind the lunch deck. There are nurse sharks and rays living among various other fish there, and a sign that tells the sharks names!
Jeff took me over to the dock so I could introduce myself, but they didn't get up close enough for me to smell their butts like I do with dogs.
I guess it was lunch time for the fish too, because they were hanging around for handouts from the people on the deck. 
swimming with and feeding the nurse sharks
All of a sudden there were sharks coming from all directions for the handouts,
and fighting for the morsels of food!
Dimitry, are you sure you want to go in there?!
D and the sharks 
Well, he did and this is the view from Dimitry's camera!
Pretty up close and personal, eh?  He came out with all his fingers and toes, and a smile on his face, so I guess it wasn't so bad.

I liked the walking path from the marina that we took every day we were there.  It was full of those crazy signs that the boaters made to declare that they had visited here.  Izzy and Jeff  had fun trying to find boat names that they recognized, while I sniffed around for dog "news"..

There's "Goose Bumps" -  we know Mike and Barb!

At the end of the paved trail into the island, there's a sign with a lot of directions on it.  We went towards the one that said "Beach". 

It's a real pretty trail throught the sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean side of the island where the water is deeper and darker blue, and the waves are bigger.  This day the waves were particularly big and the wind was blowing hard, making the sea foamy and loud.   

We didn't go swimming since it was so rough, but we walked on the beach and looked for shells and drift wood to make more signs!
Finally that afternoon, D and Jeff got a chance to fish a little since we were  outside of the Land and Sea Park.  We had our taste buds set for some grouper sauteed with garlic and lemon butter...yummm!
They came back empty handed, with only "stories"!  They each said one “this big” got away. 
Yeah, yeah, yeah. 
Luckily Izzy had some salmon in the freezer to whip up for dinner that night!
I'm not sure about Dimitry, but I know for a fact that Jeff does his best fishing at a place called Piggly Wiggly.  I think that's where he caught the salmon we had that night. 
On our way back to Staniel Cay we stopped again at the pretty anchorage off the beach at Big Majors where we saw a big rain storm come through and make the sky black with clouds, and heavy rain with booming thunder and lightening.  We watched it roll on by before too long, leaving a beautiful sky that sent everyone running for thier cameras. 
The sun came out and we wiped off the deck so we could enjoy the sunset and another great dinner outside.
After the storm in Big Majors
On the last day we went back to Staniel Cay to bid farewell to Sandy and D.  They were going back to California to get ready for their wedding. 

Sandy found this Red Head sign on the wall of the Yacht Club.  I think Dimitry was in heaven in this picture...sitting in a bar in the Bahamas with a cold beer, a hockey game on TV,  and his favorite Red Head by his side!  Doesn't get any better than that, eh Dimitry?
The Red Head  and hockey playoffs - what could be better, eh Dimitry?
We had lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and tried to stay cool in the shade, with all the yacht club flags hanging overhead
Lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club
I couldn't go into the restaurant...some silly rules they have there, but I got my picture taken with Sandy on the boat so I can keep it next to my bed.  We're pals!

I said my good-byes and off they went. 
I had lots of fun with them.  I hope they'll come again soon so they can tell me about the Sea of Matrimony.  Jeff said he and Izzy have already been there, but I didn't see any pictures on the camera or on the computer. 

With all the excitement I think I'll take a turn around the "Poop Deck" before going back to my nap.

I have to be up for Happy Hour to watch the sunset with Jeff and Izzy.  Maybe it'll be as spectacular as this one that I captured on the camera the other night. 
Hope you all have a nice sunset to watch, too.