Throwback Thursday: Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After our mostly uneventful week in Puerto Rosario, we were ready to get out of the industrial harbor and find a peaceful and picturesque anchorage once more.  Even though both of us were itching to get back to our previous spot by Playa Papagayo, I wanted to make another stop along the way.

Sitting just between the main islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are a little group of islands called Los Lobos, and they were touted to be a gorgeous spot to anchor, if you could handle the swell that sometimes passed through. Ready to take in one new anchorage before we eventually made our way to Gran Canaria to prep for our Atlantic crossing, we spent two beautiful nights in this relatively undiscovered anchorage.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday November 15, 2014

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

It was nice to have the conveniences of Puerto Rosario, but we were more than ready to get out of the industrial port and trade it for something a little nicer on the eyes. Our next destination was Isla Los Lobos at the northern tip of Fuerteventura. It was a placed we had originally passed on our way down and tossed back and forth in our minds if we should stay there. Our 20 year old guide book listed it as a nice day anchorage, but with too much swell running between the island and the mainland, not a place you’d like to stay overnight. But with the idyllic posters the guy at the information center showed me, accounts of a friend that had just been there, and the fact that we saw about a dozen masts there when we passed it the first time, we knew we couldn’t give it up.

Waiting for winds that would allow us north again, we figured a clam would be the next best thing and turned on our engine at the early hour of 5:30 to give ourselves plenty of time for the 20 some mile hop. We had currents pushing us all the way down Lanzarote and feared they may work against us on our way back up the island. No need to fear though as we traveled at a swift five and a half knots at 2,000 rpm and made it in just over three hours. I guess my math was wrong as well and the trip was only 15 miles. Oops! sunrise over Fuerteventura

sunrise over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands Coming in we had to be very careful of reefs and shallows on each side of us, breaking waves showing the danger we could be in if we drifted too far off course. All the guide books had listed this area as extremely popular for all kinds of extreme water sports and we were starting to see why. High winds wrapping around, strong currents, breaking waves. No wonder a world famous kite boarding championship had just been held in this stretch the previous week. Inching our way into the anchorage we dropped near the back in 40 feet of crystal clear water and took the rest of the day to relax, nap, and watch the charter/party catamarans that would bring tourists over from the mainland for a few hours to swim, drink, and play incredibly loud music. At least it was good though, none of that 80′s stuff that we can’t seem to outrun here.

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Our second day I was ready to get out and do something. There’s been lots of lying around beaches or touring city streets in our docket lately, but not much exploring. I had been very excited to get on to the island itself to see what it had to offer. After drifting precariously close over reefs and darting in and out of what we thought were coves in the dinghy, we finally found a spot to land and found out that all the island of Los Lobos had to offer were rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Not even the pretty kind either. As we walked down the dirt paths it felt as if we had been deposited in a landfill of rubble.

bay at Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

trails at Isla Los Lobos

Back at the boat we took in a quick lunch and were right back in the dink for some snorkeling. During our hunt for an entrance to the bay at Los Lobos we had gone over tons of coral as well as seen multiple dive boats anchored outside of the area. A pretty good indication that there must be something of worth in the water. Donning our wet suits and masks we slipped below the surface of the water and into quite a shock at it’s temperature. A chilly 72°! I remember the days when I wouldn’t even get into Lake Michigan until it was pushing 75°. Sucking it up, I skimmed along under the water and just gave myself more motivation to cross the Atlantic once more and get back to those balmy 82° seas of the Caribbean.

Although there was no color to the coral surrounding us, there were definitely fish abound. On one of Matt first dives down to check out a rock he even found an octopus hanging out under there, something that’s been on his bucket list of things to see in the water. By the time I went down to catch a glimpse of it as well it had already hidden itself out of sight. Instead of searching for it even further as Matt was, taking dive after dive under the water and holding on to the rocks to keep him submerged while he looked in every nook and crevice, I was happy to float at the top and watch the parrot fish which swam below me.

For water that was so cool we stayed in a lot longer than I expected for only having ¾ suits, about 45 minutes in total. We also found the local drinking hole, hundreds of glass beer and wine bottles nestled into the sand just below a set of flat rocks that hung out at the surface. I’m pretty sure Matt could have gone a few more rounds through the bay, but he must have noticed that I was beginning to shiver and keeping my arms wrapped around myself the whole time, so he led us back to the dinghy where I took in a fresh water rinse and some sunbathing up on deck to warm myself back up.

anchorage at Los Lobos

beach at Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

In the evening just before sunset I ushered us both out into the cockpit where I had a nice little spread set up for us that I had been waiting for the perfect surroundings to appriciate. Having made up some bruschetta and toasted french bread earlier in the day, I went to pair it with the bottle of Maderian wine we bought in, where else, Maderia. Opening the top with it’s thick resealable cork, I poured us each a full glass and we went to toast in the glow of the setting sun. Then taking big sips of our revered wine, we simultaniously went back and forth between spitting it out and gulping down what was left while our throats burned like fire. No one had told us that Madeiran wine was actually more like a port. Thick and strong with a heavy liquor taste. We had both been prepared to enjoy it as if it were a chilled Rosé.

Matt poured his glass over the side of the boat while I continued on with mine, taking very light sips as if I were drinking straight rum. It wasn’t bad once you knew what you were in for, but I’m beginning to think this one bottle could very well last six months. Not to bad considering we paid about 6€ for it. Other than the initial surprise and fire in our throats, the evening was soon remedied when Matt had a Pepsi in his hand and I was chasing my wine with water. Good thing we never had the chance to bring that bottle to one of the parks in Maderia to drink like we had originally planned. I think we would have put on quite the show for any unsuspecting tourist that might have had their blanket spread next to ours.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

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Throwback Thursday: The Still Lost City of Atlantis

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

It’s funny what a year can do to change one’s perspective.  The first time we arrived in the Bahamas in 2013 we had been a little underwhelmed by the islands that awaited us.  Expecting that every time we stepped off our dinghy we’d be greeted with the picture perfect resorts that you always find in ads, we quickly found out that the cruisers versions was filled with lots of dusty roads, low lying shrubs, and run down buildings.

Sure those iconic areas existed, if you wanted to pay for them, but that was not in our budget and we continued to lament, for awhile, that our life did not always resemble the cover of a Conde Nast magazine. Here’s what we learned in the one year we were away from the Bahamas though.  The inhabitants of these islands are some of the warmest and most welcoming that you’ll ever meet in your life.  Just because we weren’t strolling through perfectly manicured grounds with towering palm trees doesn’t mean that these islands can’t hold a certain kind of charm.  And most importantly, these waters really are the best you’ll come across in the western hemisphere.

So it was with a bit of sadness on our second visit through the Bahamas that we had to rush through them due to a schedule and that a good chunk of that time was spent in bad weather. After our few great days in Warderick Wells we were feeling the sand running out of our timer before our Atlantic crossing and realized we needed to get to Florida asap.  Making one long jump we left from there and sailed 36 hours directly to Bimini to situate ourselves for a Gulf crossing as soon as the weather permitted.

It may have seemed at the time like the weather was working against us once more by keeping us in Bimini a few days longer than we intended, but it’s one of the best things that could have happened.  One last chance to get as much as we could from a country we didn’t realize how much we loved until we made it back a second time.  With those few days we watched the waves roll in to Radio Beach and even had a chance to snorkel the famous Bimini road.  Just a few more memories to last a lifetime and make us remember what a special place we had originally cast aside.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday May 8, 2014, 

NW Bimini

Everyone has heard of the lost city of Atlantis, right? A highly developed society constructed  in script by Plato that supposedly sunk into the sea? Did you know that right here in Bimini Bahamas, they claim to have remains of this lost city? Or at least, the road leading to it. That’s right, situated on the NW side of the island just off Paradise Point is the Bimini road, an underwater rock formation that is so precisely laid out that it is claimed to have once been a man made road or wall, and is now currently sitting 15 or so feet below the water’s surface.

When we were here just a month ago I had desperately wanted to dive (snorkel) this site, but it was just waaaay more than our dinghy would have been able to handle, about five miles each way from where we had been sitting all the way up the channel inside. Since we had no reason to rush ourselves in this morning, in fact, we needed to wait for an incoming tide, we decided to time our departure from the anchorage in the afternoon which meant we had the whole morning to find and explore the Bimini Road. After our morning coffee to fully wake ourselves up, we checked the spot where I had plugged the coordinates in our chart plotter and with the destined spot now in mind, we hopped in the dinghy and sped off at all our little Mercury 3.3 could give us. Our guidebook along with the coordinates, also stated there was a buoy marking the site and you could not miss it. Only…we could. As far as we could see on the horizon, the only buoys that seemed to be littering our view were bright orange ones that were marking off construction zones for a new pier that is being installed.

At this point we realized that we should have put the coordinates into our little hand held GPS and brought it with us, but now, just like in that scene at the beginning of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, although we could still see the boat, we deemed that we’d ‘Already gone too far’ and didn’t want to head back to get it. The next best option was to have Matt stick his goggled head underwater each time we came up to a dark patch in the water only to find out that each of these dark patches was a bed of eel grass. There were a few rocks out in the water that were supposed to be marking the start, or end, or side, or some relation to the road, so we kept focusing on that area to no avail. Then we realized what we’d really been wanting to do all along. Catch some dinner at the end of our pole spear.

Four weeks in the Bahamas so far and we’d never been out for one spear fishing adventure. This was going to be our last opportunity, and if we couldn’t swim the underwater road to a mythological city, well damn it, we still weren’t going to go home empty handed. Based on the kind of below the surface life we found back at Emerald Rock in Warderick Wells, the rocks we had been skirting around all morning seemed like the perfect place to gouge things. Dropping the anchor to the dinghy in a sandy spot to the side we fell back in the water and were instantly greeted with bright purple fan coral and a small shelf of rock hiding glass eyed snappers below. I thought Matt would have to work at his rusty skills for awhile since it’s been over a year since he’s last stabbed anything, but on his third attempt he was already swimming to the surface with a punctured fish on his spear. Score! That was half a dinner right there, we just needed a few more to fill our plates up for a few nights.

Rounding all angles of the large rock now we first scanned to see what was available to eat before just shooting anything that moved. There were a lot of fish we hadn’t seen in quite some time, and a few new ones we couldn’t identify as well. Continuing around the edges we’d kick down the 5-6 feet below us to look in all nooks and I kept a close eye out for any lobster. We didn’t see any of those, but did come across something much much better. At the east side of the rock was a large tunnel that wasn’t visible above water, but once you got down a few feet you could see that it let from one side of the rock right out to the other. Except, you couldn’t quite see it clearly due to all the fish swaying back and forth in there with the tide. It was literally a wall of fish with a few specs of light filtering through here and there. Matt was completely ready to go in and do a little exploring, but my nerves got the best of me and made it apparent to him I would be waiting outside. He decided to forgo it if I wasn’t going along, we wanted to make sure to always have an eye on each other, and took the long way around instead.

Getting from one side to the other was a little tricky due to the shallowness of the coral and rock in some areas. We had to swim over rugged edges of rock that were mere inches away from our belly, all the while fighting against the crests of waves that were building up due to the shallow waters. Doing a circumnavigation of the rock we ended up on the south side for the best fishing, where a group of yellow fish that we can’t remember their name but ate all the time last year were hanging out. 15 more minutes in that spot and we had two more fish in the dinghy, ready to make their way to the dinner table that night.

Even though that spot had been treating us well we settled on a change of scenery and snorkeled past the dinghy to the next rock where we didn’t see many good fishing opportunities, but we did see parts of something that looked suspiciously like an underwater rock formation. The beginning of the Bimini Road perhaps? Hmmmm….I’m going to say yes just so I can say that we actually did snorkel it. Since we had lost sight of the rest of the road and had also lost sight of any good fishing, we moved ourselves and the dinghy to the northernmost rock of the formation. Wow. All I can say about this rock is wow. Best snorkeling we’ve seen in the Bahamas yet this year. Not only was there colorful coral abound, but there were underwater bays full of hundreds and hundreds of fish! We could have had enough fish to last us a year by staying in this spot had two unfavorable things not happened. The first is that the elastic band on our pull spear kept breaking. Matt was able to fix it two times, luckily since one of those time brought in another fish for us to eat, but after that it was deemed unusable for the rest of the day. The other thing was the biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen, and it would not leave our eyesight. It’s one thing just to swim with them, but when we have a bloody fish between us and them, well, let’s just say we don’t want to find out in person how they handle that.

I can’t say we were too disappointed with our day though. Great snorkeling, great fish gazing and spearing, and swimming the Bimini Road (yup, I’m calling it!). Once we had the fish on deck and cleaned into edible fillets, still need to hone that skill a little, we upped anchor to make our way out of the swells that were building and into the safety of the harbor where we were greeted with a calm anchorage and internet access. For dinner we enjoyed a breathtaking sunset and fish tacos where I decided that it was a special enough occasion to pull out my second to last Red Stripe (yup, part of the 24 pk I bought in Jamaica last May). Our time in the Bahamas now officially feels as if it’s at an end, we’ll probably be leaving on the next available weather window although it’s probably still a few days out. I can’t believe how fast it’s already gone by. Last time we were counting down the days until we could get out, now we’re savoring each day that we still have here.

Bimini sunset

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Video: Snorkeling in West End

Friday April 10, 2015

Old Bahama Bay
Holy crap.  This place is spectacular.  I’m serious, if you ever find yourself in West End make sure you come to Old Bahama Bay Marina.  The grounds are gorgeous and the amenities are more than any cruiser could hope for.  Normally we’re just happy for a shower, a wifi connection, and maybe a laundry facility if we’re lucky. This place has hall that and so much more.  A pool surrounded by palm trees; land games like basketball, corn hole, and shuffleboard; free bicycles for touring town; and so many water sports.

Completely free with your stay you get the use of kayaks, paddle boards, and even a hobie cat! (Although the rudder was broken when we were there)  Three of us did take advantage of the paddle boards our first day there as well as used the bicycles to run into town to find a welder for the broken alternator bracket, but today was all about satisfying Bob’s craving for snorkeling.  As soon as he found out their boat would be headed to the Bahamas he went out and purchased all the gear and it was the one thing on his checklist during our stay.

Talking to the friendly staff we found out the best area for snorkeling on the grounds was currently off limit due to rip currents but if we walked down the beach a bit there was a small jetty of rocks that we should still be able to find some fish in.  True to their word, we did find all kinds of little fish in this area and I was even able to follow a sting ray for just a moment.  And to think that Matt and I were worried that we wouldn’t be able to pull our gear out for a whole 9-12 months when we left the Virgin Islands….

I also had the luck of trying out a GoPro for the first time during this little snorkeling adventure.  It wasn’t until we were back at the boat that I was able to look back at the footage and I’ll admit that I may not have always been shooting where I thought I was (for the most part I was wearing it on my head), but it was still fun and I was even able to put together a little video from the footage! I may have been a little slapdash putting it together since I wanted to get it up right away, but I hope you enjoy it.  :)

Other than that, we’ve all been enjoying our time here immensely! The days are beautiful, the company is great, and Joni is an amazing cook that keeps us well fed morning, noon, and night.  This ‘job’ could not have come at a better time and I know we’ll be incredibly sad when it’s time for us to head home. Shamroga stern Shamroga side church West End Bahamas

mosaic window in church

Old Bahama Bay Marina

Old Bahama Bay Marina and Resort

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Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Saturday November 15, 2014

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

It was nice to have the conveniences of Puerto Rosario, but we were more than ready to get out of the industrial port and trade it for something a little nicer on the eyes. Our next destination was Isla Los Lobos at the northern tip of Fuerteventura. It was a placed we had originally passed on our way down and tossed back and forth in our minds if we should stay there. Our 20 year old guide book listed it as a nice day anchorage, but with too much swell running between the island and the mainland, not a place you’d like to stay overnight. But with the idyllic posters the guy at the information center showed me, accounts of a friend that had just been there, and the fact that we saw about a dozen masts there when we passed it the first time, we knew we couldn’t give it up.

Waiting for winds that would allow us north again, we figured a clam would be the next best thing and turned on our engine at the early hour of 5:30 to give ourselves plenty of time for the 20 some mile hop. We had currents pushing us all the way down Lanzarote and feared they may work against us on our way back up the island. No need to fear though as we traveled at a swift five and a half knots at 2,000 rpm and made it in just over three hours. I guess my math was wrong as well and the trip was only 15 miles. Oops! sunrise over Fuerteventura

sunrise over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands Coming in we had to be very careful of reefs and shallows on each side of us, breaking waves showing the danger we could be in if we drifted too far off course. All the guide books had listed this area as extremely popular for all kinds of extreme water sports and we were starting to see why. High winds wrapping around, strong currents, breaking waves. No wonder a world famous kite boarding championship had just been held in this stretch the previous week. Inching our way into the anchorage we dropped near the back in 40 feet of crystal clear water and took the rest of the day to relax, nap, and watch the charter/party catamarans that would bring tourists over from the mainland for a few hours to swim, drink, and play incredibly loud music. At least it was good though, none of that 80′s stuff that we can’t seem to outrun here.

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Our second day I was ready to get out and do something. There’s been lots of lying around beaches or touring city streets in our docket lately, but not much exploring. I had been very excited to get on to the island itself to see what it had to offer. After drifting precariously close over reefs and darting in and out of what we thought were coves in the dinghy, we finally found a spot to land and found out that all the island of Los Lobos had to offer were rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Not even the pretty kind either. As we walked down the dirt paths it felt as if we had been deposited in a landfill of rubble.

bay at Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

trails at Isla Los Lobos

Back at the boat we took in a quick lunch and were right back in the dink for some snorkeling. During our hunt for an entrance to the bay at Los Lobos we had gone over tons of coral as well as seen multiple dive boats anchored outside of the area. A pretty good indication that there must be something of worth in the water. Donning our wet suits and masks we slipped below the surface of the water and into quite a shock at it’s temperature. A chilly 72°! I remember the days when I wouldn’t even get into Lake Michigan until it was pushing 75°. Sucking it up, I skimmed along under the water and just gave myself more motivation to cross the Atlantic once more and get back to those balmy 82° seas of the Caribbean.

Although there was no color to the coral surrounding us, there were definitely fish abound. On one of Matt first dives down to check out a rock he even found an octopus hanging out under there, something that’s been on his bucket list of things to see in the water. By the time I went down to catch a glimpse of it as well it had already hidden itself out of sight. Instead of searching for it even further as Matt was, taking dive after dive under the water and holding on to the rocks to keep him submerged while he looked in every nook and crevice, I was happy to float at the top and watch the parrot fish which swam below me.

For water that was so cool we stayed in a lot longer than I expected for only having ¾ suits, about 45 minutes in total. We also found the local drinking hole, hundreds of glass beer and wine bottles nestled into the sand just below a set of flat rocks that hung out at the surface. I’m pretty sure Matt could have gone a few more rounds through the bay, but he must have noticed that I was beginning to shiver and keeping my arms wrapped around myself the whole time, so he led us back to the dinghy where I took in a fresh water rinse and some sunbathing up on deck to warm myself back up.

anchorage at Los Lobos

beach at Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

In the evening just before sunset I ushered us both out into the cockpit where I had a nice little spread set up for us that I had been waiting for the perfect surroundings to appriciate. Having made up some bruschetta and toasted french bread earlier in the day, I went to pair it with the bottle of Maderian wine we bought in, where else, Maderia. Opening the top with it’s thick resealable cork, I poured us each a full glass and we went to toast in the glow of the setting sun. Then taking big sips of our revered wine, we simultaniously went back and forth between spitting it out and gulping down what was left while our throats burned like fire. No one had told us that Madeiran wine was actually more like a port. Thick and strong with a heavy liquor taste. We had both been prepared to enjoy it as if it were a chilled Rosé.

Matt poured his glass over the side of the boat while I continued on with mine, taking very light sips as if I were drinking straight rum. It wasn’t bad once you knew what you were in for, but I’m beginning to think this one bottle could very well last six months. Not to bad considering we paid about 6€ for it. Other than the initial surprise and fire in our throats, the evening was soon remedied when Matt had a Pepsi in his hand and I was chasing my wine with water. Good thing we never had the chance to bring that bottle to one of the parks in Maderia to drink like we had originally planned. I think we would have put on quite the show for any unsuspecting tourist that might have had their blanket spread next to ours.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

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Last Days in Bermuda

Monday July 7, 2014

St. George Yacht Club, Bermuda

I’m going to kill my camera.  I really am.  Even though I’m the one I should be mad at since I’m sure it’s 100% my fault for not knowing how to work it properly.  First of all, ever since I got my new Sony NEX-5T back in Miami, I’ve been having issues where I need an update that I can’t get on Photoshop for it to read my RAW images.  So ever since our first stop in Bimini, I’ve been using JPEG photos on the site.  Not my number one wish, but whatever, it works for now.  At least I shoot in both and still have RAW images saved so I can go back to them later if I want.

The kicker for me is that last night we heard a celebration going on in the town square of St. George, so we went to check it out.  Bringing my camera in, and shooting in RAW and JPEG, I took some great photos, knowing that I’d be using the JPEGs to go up on the site.  Now I go back to them and get this error message: ‘Photo viewer doesn’t support this file format, or you don’t have the latest updates to Photo Viewer’.*  Come on!  It’s not like I have the easiest access to a good internet connection these dates to get those updates!  So, at the moment, I’ve had to go waaaay outside the box, taking screen shots of my RAW photos that I can only view on my computer but do nothing else with, paste them to Paint, save as JPEG, and then I can worth with them to edit or upload to the site.  Geez.  I really need to get my s#!t together and figure out this problem once and for all.

But..other than my issues with the camera, everything has been great here.  As I was mentioning, we went into the square last night when we heard a live band playing and wanted to see what the celebration was for.  Since a crowd was gathering around the yacht club we wandered over there as well and found the floor of the office decorated with intricate flower patterns and statues of Jesus placed here in there.  Then I remembered that when we had been walking around earlier we’d seen a procession of kids all dressed up, and thinking back to the elementary aged girls in their frilly white dresses, I put two and two together.  This must be an annual celebration for First Communion.

With all the church related stuff done for the day it was now time for everyone to party, and they were going all out.  In the center of the square was a large stage with a band playing, what had originally drawn us in.  It was a group of about five men playing covers of songs from the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s, and they were pretty good.  In front of the information center was a long tent with tables selling all kinds of food.  We had actually been up for buying something for once but found out we got to the party just a little too late and all the good stuff was sold out.  We could still buy beer or other drinks, but I had already packed a single serve wine in my purse to bring to the event with me.  Tee hee, my parents have taught me well.

When the music finished it was time to raffle off a Vespa, and Matt and I were caught quite off guard when the gentleman on stage began speaking in something that was definitely not English.  It was something that neither of us were familiar with, and after trying to pick out familiar sounding words here and there we finally gave up and asked a family who was sitting on the curb behind us, and they told us it was Portuguese.  Wow, it sounds a lot different than I expected it to.  Lots more shhhh sounds.  I always thought it would sound very French.  But it looks like something we’d better prepare ourselves for since the Azores are part of Portugal and we can foresee a lot more of it in the future.

St. George Harbor, Bermuda

St. George Yacht Club, Bermuda

band in town square

St. George town square, Bermuda

celebration in St. George Bermuda

 Although we originally planned on getting our butts in gear and leaving today, the weather was showing no kind of wind whatsoever.  So instead of bobbing around 10 miles outside of Bermuda waiting for it to fill in, we decided to do it comfortably at anchor.  Which also meant we had one more day on our hands to go have fun.  Wanting to enjoy Tobacco Bay once more, sitting out and enjoying the sun and water, we packed another bag today as well as our snorkel gear and made our way out there.

We had barley put our bags down on one of the flat black rocks surrounding the bay before we were grabbing out our snorkeling gear and getting into the water.  We hadn’t expected to see much in these waters, but even as soon as we got in there were a bunch of hand sized white fish with black dots on their tail that are hard to see unless you’re in the water because they blend in with the sand.  Wanting to see more though, we kicked between some of the rocks and out of the protected little bay into open water.  Although we hadn’t been expecting much in these areas either, we were pleasantly surprised to find an abundance of tropical fish out here, probably better than most of the areas we’d snorkeled in the Bahamas this year (with the exception of Bimini).

Staying close to the tall rocks, as that’s where any of these fish seemed to be, I could tell we were both silently cursing ourselves for not breaking our pole spear, although I’m not entirely sure if that’s allowed here.  I was having a great time out in the water, having not really enjoyed it for about two months now.  As I was thinking to myself, ‘This is absolutely perfect, and the best part is, there’s no barracuda lurking behind me’, I turned my head just in time to see, yup, a big ‘ol barracuda staring me down.  Damn it!, we can never seem to escape those things!

It wasn’t much longer after that when we swam back into the safety of the bay and I lost Matt for a bit when I became entranced watching a parrot fish that was almost as big as me.  When I did find him again he was skirting an area just below one of the tall rocks that people were jumping into the bay from.  Getting back to our spot on the rocks we had another lunch and relaxed a little before packing it in for the day.  Well Bermuda, you’ve been really good to us.  I think we’re going to miss you, unintentional stop.

Matt at Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

Tobacco Bay

Jessica at Tobacco Bay, Bermuda

 

*I just realized the issue of why I couldn’t get the photos from last night to come up in JPEG.  Because of my memory card swap, since my normal one stopped working in Hamilton, I had different photos with the same number when they uploaded.  The RAWs uploaded fine, but when the second set of JPEGs uploaded with the same number, it wiped out the first set.  At least that’s one issue figured out.

 

 

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The Still Lost City of Atlantis

Thursday May 8, 2014

NW Bimini

Everyone has heard of the lost city of Atlantis, right? A highly developed society constructed  in script by Plato that supposedly sunk into the sea? Did you know that right here in Bimini Bahamas, they claim to have remains of this lost city? Or at least, the road leading to it. That’s right, situated on the NW side of the island just off Paradise Point is the Bimini road, an underwater rock formation that is so precisely laid out that it is claimed to have once been a man made road or wall, and is now currently sitting 15 or so feet below the water’s surface.

When we were here just a month ago I had desperately wanted to dive (snorkel) this site, but it was just waaaay more than our dinghy would have been able to handle, about five miles each way from where we had been sitting all the way up the channel inside. Since we had no reason to rush ourselves in this morning, in fact, we needed to wait for an incoming tide, we decided to time our departure from the anchorage in the afternoon which meant we had the whole morning to find and explore the Bimini Road. After our morning coffee to fully wake ourselves up, we checked the spot where I had plugged the coordinates in our chart plotter and with the destined spot now in mind, we hopped in the dinghy and sped off at all our little Mercury 3.3 could give us. Our guidebook along with the coordinates, also stated there was a buoy marking the site and you could not miss it. Only…we could. As far as we could see on the horizon, the only buoys that seemed to be littering our view were bright orange ones that were marking off construction zones for a new pier that is being installed.

At this point we realized that we should have put the coordinates into our little hand held GPS and brought it with us, but now, just like in that scene at the beginning of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, although we could still see the boat, we deemed that we’d ‘Already gone too far’ and didn’t want to head back to get it. The next best option was to have Matt stick his goggled head underwater each time we came up to a dark patch in the water only to find out that each of these dark patches was a bed of eel grass. There were a few rocks out in the water that were supposed to be marking the start, or end, or side, or some relation to the road, so we kept focusing on that area to no avail. Then we realized what we’d really been wanting to do all along. Catch some dinner at the end of our pole spear.

Four weeks in the Bahamas so far and we’d never been out for one spear fishing adventure. This was going to be our last opportunity, and if we couldn’t swim the underwater road to a mythological city, well damn it, we still weren’t going to go home empty handed. Based on the kind of below the surface life we found back at Emerald Rock in Warderick Wells, the rocks we had been skirting around all morning seemed like the perfect place to gouge things. Dropping the anchor to the dinghy in a sandy spot to the side we fell back in the water and were instantly greeted with bright purple fan coral and a small shelf of rock hiding glass eyed snappers below. I thought Matt would have to work at his rusty skills for awhile since it’s been over a year since he’s last stabbed anything, but on his third attempt he was already swimming to the surface with a punctured fish on his spear. Score! That was half a dinner right there, we just needed a few more to fill our plates up for a few nights.

Rounding all angles of the large rock now we first scanned to see what was available to eat before just shooting anything that moved. There were a lot of fish we hadn’t seen in quite some time, and a few new ones we couldn’t identify as well. Continuing around the edges we’d kick down the 5-6 feet below us to look in all nooks and I kept a close eye out for any lobster. We didn’t see any of those, but did come across something much much better. At the east side of the rock was a large tunnel that wasn’t visible above water, but once you got down a few feet you could see that it let from one side of the rock right out to the other. Except, you couldn’t quite see it clearly due to all the fish swaying back and forth in there with the tide. It was literally a wall of fish with a few specs of light filtering through here and there. Matt was completely ready to go in and do a little exploring, but my nerves got the best of me and made it apparent to him I would be waiting outside. He decided to forgo it if I wasn’t going along, we wanted to make sure to always have an eye on each other, and took the long way around instead.

Getting from one side to the other was a little tricky due to the shallowness of the coral and rock in some areas. We had to swim over rugged edges of rock that were mere inches away from our belly, all the while fighting against the crests of waves that were building up due to the shallow waters. Doing a circumnavigation of the rock we ended up on the south side for the best fishing, where a group of yellow fish that we can’t remember their name but ate all the time last year were hanging out. 15 more minutes in that spot and we had two more fish in the dinghy, ready to make their way to the dinner table that night.

Even though that spot had been treating us well we settled on a change of scenery and snorkeled past the dinghy to the next rock where we didn’t see many good fishing opportunities, but we did see parts of something that looked suspiciously like an underwater rock formation. The beginning of the Bimini Road perhaps? Hmmmm….I’m going to say yes just so I can say that we actually did snorkel it. Since we had lost sight of the rest of the road and had also lost sight of any good fishing, we moved ourselves and the dinghy to the northernmost rock of the formation. Wow. All I can say about this rock is wow. Best snorkeling we’ve seen in the Bahamas yet this year. Not only was there colorful coral abound, but there were underwater bays full of hundreds and hundreds of fish! We could have had enough fish to last us a year by staying in this spot had two unfavorable things not happened. The first is that the elastic band on our pull spear kept breaking. Matt was able to fix it two times, luckily since one of those time brought in another fish for us to eat, but after that it was deemed unusable for the rest of the day. The other thing was the biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen, and it would not leave our eyesight. It’s one thing just to swim with them, but when we have a bloody fish between us and them, well, let’s just say we don’t want to find out in person how they handle that.

I can’t say we were too disappointed with our day though. Great snorkeling, great fish gazing and spearing, and swimming the Bimini Road (yup, I’m calling it!). Once we had the fish on deck and cleaned into edible fillets, still need to hone that skill a little, we upped anchor to make our way out of the swells that were building and into the safety of the harbor where we were greeted with a calm anchorage and internet access. For dinner we enjoyed a breathtaking sunset and fish tacos where I decided that it was a special enough occasion to pull out my second to last Red Stripe (yup, part of the 24 pk I bought in Jamaica last May). Our time in the Bahamas now officially feels as if it’s at an end, we’ll probably be leaving on the next available weather window although it’s probably still a few days out. I can’t believe how fast it’s already gone by. Last time we were counting down the days until we could get out, now we’re savoring each day that we still have here.

Bimini sunset

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Staniel, Baby, One More Time

Friday May 2, 2014

Staniel Cay, Bahamas

This year’s trip to the Bahamas was supposed to be all about seeing places that we never visited before since we rushed through so much of it last year. Why spend what little time here seeing things we already have before? This rule has already been broken twice when we stopped in Nassau, although that really is the only middle ground between the Berry’s and the Exumas, and when we stopped in Georgetown, but that was to see friends and therefore totally excusable. This last stop though, well it is another double of last year, but we just couldn’t help ourselves.

Staniel Cay and Big Majors have two major things going for them as far as sightseeing, and although we did see/experience both of them last year, there was no way I could pass them up again being as close as we were. Staniel Cay is home to the famous Thunderball Grotto, even featured in two James Bond films, as an underwater cave filled with fish and a grand opening in the center allowing you to view the cavernous walls as well as some erosion near the ceiling that allows in a bit of light.  Right next door on Big Majors is Pig Beach where, true to it’s name, is filled with a dozen or so very large pigs that will actually swim out to your dinghy looking for food scraps.  Can I really be expected to pass that up?

Making the decision to skip Mush/Rudder Cay and David Copperfield’s sunken sculptures due to tide/current conflicts, we left Adderley Cut with the the east winds and incoming current working together against us, but at least not against each other.  This left a calm progress out the cut at 3 knots.  The slow speed I could handle versus rushing out into whitecaps.  The Exuma Sound was full of large rolling waves though since winds have been steady and out of the east for a few days now.  Raising the main we tried to keep a relatively low speed so that when we reached Dotham Cut we could ride the tide in, something that wouldn’t be happening until after four in the afternoon.  On the ride north though, we saw an electric blue light in the water that at first had us completely puzzled until we realized it was a mahi swimming just a few hundred feet off the boat!  Having had our fishing line out all morning already we changed course to try and tempt it onto our line, but the only thing that prevailed from this side trip was that we helped to waste a little extra time.  It wasn’t enough to get us to the changing tide though, and we still ended up heaving to for two hours until we found it safe to pass through Dotham Cut.  Under sail alone.  Matt is really starting to prep me for our Atlantic crossing by making sure we don’t have to rely on our engine for those times we won’t be able to use it.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

streets of Staniel Cay, Exumas

boat carrying palm trees

We had the luck of arriving to Staniel just after the mail boat which meant fresh produce for us at the stores.  Not having purchased anything since Ft. Lauderdale, our heads were full of the thoughts of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, about the only things we haven’t been able to keep a six week supply of on the boat.  I used to include things like apples on that list, but it seems like even when they are bountiful and in front of me I can’t force myself to eat them over whatever junk food we have around.  Now it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even snack between meals.  With fresh fruit out of the picture, the only snack foods we seem to be left with are the now staling granola bars that we purchased all the way back in Cayman, and personally, I’d just rather go without than be forced to eat them.

After picking up a few staples for cooking though and even securing myself a can of ginger beer which will later be turned into a dark & stormy, we were back to the boat and ready to put our things away in order to rush over to the beach and visit the pigs.  Last year we had tried to lure them to us with lettuce which we had read plenty accounts of other people feeding them, only to find that things have changed and you better show up with carrots or oranges, lest you be ignored by them.  Carrots happened to be something we had managed to retain a few of, and sure enough, these pigs were ready to accept them.  I hadn’t thought far enough ahead though to break the carrots into smaller pieces before leaving the boat, and wanting to spread the for as long as between as many pigs as possible, I was rapidly trying to do this once we had landed the dinghy on the beach.  The pigs however, were incredibly impatient and when they noticed I had food in my hands that was not being passed immediately to their open mouth, they got a little nippy and let me know of their displeasure by nibbling at the bottom of my shirt.

If you haven’t ever seen the size of these pigs you might be thinking to yourself, “Awww, how cute!”.  But these are not cute little pigs.  Although they did actually seem pretty well trained to tourist and I don’t think they planned on causing me any harm, I think they could have if they wanted to.  I’ve never started snapping carrots as fast as those moments I thought they might eat my shirt off if I didn’t give them something else to eat right away.  Being sly of hand and quick of foot though, I did manage to get myself away with a few small pieces still in my bag, to divide up between feeding to the new piglets that weren’t here last year, and letting Matt get some feeding in as well.  As soon as the food was gone we watched these massive pre-cooked pieces of bacon wander around the beach and in the water for a little bit before they lost interest in us and made their way back into the thick of the island.

Jessica with pigs at Big Majors

pig from Big Major's Cay

Jessica with piglet at Big Majors

family of pigs at Big Majors

piglet checking out dinghy

Matt feeding pig

Most of our other free time anchored here in Big Majors has been spent soaking up the amazing beauty surrounding us.  If I haven’t already mentioned how appreciative we are this time around of how stunning these anchorages are, or how clear and beautiful the waters are in the Bahamas, we definitely are.  Yesterday I forced Matt into those waters just after we got back from visiting with the pigs so he could do a little more cleaning of the bottom of the boat.  He whined that it was getting too close to shark-thirty and he might be better putting it off for one more day, but I tried to put his fears at rest by telling him that there was still three hours before sunset and the sharks wouldn’t possibly be out yet.  Which is why I had a little bit of a surprise when I was down below changing into my suit so I could join him for a refreshing dip in the water when I heard him yelling from the stern, “Jessica!!  Get out here now!!”  I rushed out, barley being able to cover myself, to see what all the excitement was about.  He pointed to a dark spot just a few feet from the boat and exclaimed “Shark!!”.  Yup, I had forced my husband into shark infested waters.  It turned out to only be a 5-6 ft nurse shark that was happy to ignore us both (I quickly got in the water to see it better with my snorkel gear), but for Matt, having a dark looming shadow pass just feet below you while you’re not expecting it can give you quite a scare.

Today we made our way over to the Thunderball Grotto to get our first real snorkeling in this year, and I could not have been more excited.  Slack tide wasn’t until 5:30 in the evening, and with Matt’s shark scare yesterday, he was not too fond of going that late.  We bumped up our time a little bit and, since we knew the lay of the land, weren’t too worried about any current that might be running through it.  We dropped anchor in the dinghy just outside the entrance next to about five other dinghies or small boats.  I had come prepared with a ziploc full of corn to feed the fish, and both of us rushed our way into the cavernous entrance of the grotto.  Weaving through other tourist, we found a spot that had the most fish gathering in it and quickly went through all the corn as I tried to reach out and brush any fish that came by for a snack.  The currents were a little stronger than we had experienced last year which didn’t allow as much time floating in one spot to watch all the underwater life below you before bumping into the cave walls.

We’d heard it last year, and even in the span of 13 months have unfortunately found it to be true, but the fish in this area seem to be disappearing quite quickly.  Upon talking to a cruiser just as we were about to make our way into the grotto for the first time last year, he mentioned that ten years ago there were four times as many fish as there were now.  Having been one of our very first snorkel spots in the Bahamas, we didn’t know what to expect and were pleasantly surprised at the amount of fish we had been able to see at that time.  Even one year later though, it was very apparent to us that there weren’t as many fish as last year.  It’s been a subject that’s been coming up in the news a lot lately, and we seem to be experiencing it first hand, but it looks as if our oceans are starting to empty of life.  Which although as sad as it is, just gives me one more reason to appreciate that Matt and I are out exploring the world right now.  Who knows what we’d be left with if we waited 30 more years.

fish at Thunderball Grotto

cave at Thunderball Grotto

Matt inside Thunderball Grotto

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A Snorkeler’s Christmas Eve

Tuesday December 24, 2013

dinghying outside of Isla

I would like to say that we had gotten around to seeing all that Isla had to offer yesterday, but unfortunately we were still much too exhausted after our ride over from Cozumel to do much.  After a small visit with Luki and Elmari when we anchored, I tried to catch an hour of sleep before waking up once more so we could find out where the Port Captain’s office was.  Luki and Elmari were headed there anyway, they’re still trying to check in after having arrived on Saturday morning (and it turns out they were Almost Skebenga that we passed after exiting the San Pedro cut).  We were told from the office in Cozumel that we needed to check in here with the Port Captain upon our arrival, and Mexican Customs and Immigration was not something we wanted to mess with.  This makes me extremely thankful that we stopped in at Cozumel to check in though, it sounds like Skebenga is having a hell of a time at it.

So yesterday we got back to the boat after about two hours in town, with 2-3 hours of sleep under our belt from the past 30 hours, and enjoyed the sun that’s shinning up here, hoping it will finally start to raise our battery bank over 13 volts, since we haven’t been there since mid November.  I’m just happy that now we’re finally in a place again with sun-kissed weather, and we have good friends at our disposal.  It did not take us very long to take advantage of that part.

This morning we moved both boats over to the lagoon I mentioned earlier.  There’s supposed to be some high winds coming in tonight and we’ve heard that things can get a little rough in the main anchorage of the harbor.  I was just happy to be in a place where we had wifi at our fingertips.  I know, I know, I should focus on other things besides having a constant connection to the world wide web, but it’s hard to let go of after having it everyday at the marina for five months.  And then going three weeks without it (for the most part) until getting here.  I have an addiction, I can fully admit it.

Then it was time for snorkeling!!  Matt and I loaded ourselves up in our dinghy along with our gear and a cooler with a few bottles of water and a couple of beers.  Luki and Elmari did the same in their own dingy, adding two crew members I haven’t mentioned yet, Luki’s brother Jan and nephew Stephan (Stefan?).  Together the six of us tore out of a little cut that leads into the open waters between Isla and Cancun, resting at a little beach to relax and have a lunch of one of the best submarine sandwiches I’ve ever had, courtesy of Luki, prepared with prosciutto and fresh toppings.  And even though I brought my own beer, I had cold Dos Equis passed to me from their cooler.  I still can’t get over how nice and generous these two people are, how lucky we were to find them back in Jamaica, and even luckier that they still like hanging out with us after all these months.

While the four of us original cruisers hung out at the beach for a little longer after lunch, Jan and Stephan/Stefan took out t/t Skebenga to try and find some good snorkeling spots along the coast.  With their 15 hp outboard, they were definitely the better scouts than us.  They came back after 30 minutes saying they couldn’t find much along the coast without going to the very south tip, so we decided it would be better for us to check out the spot next to the little cut we had used to come from the harbor.  Just to the north side was a whole area sectioned off for divers, so we brought the dinghies to just outside of that area to swim over.

I had the job of tying the anchor to the dinghy while Matt outfitted himself in snorkel gear, and a few minutes later I was right behind him.  It was when I crossed under the barrier rope to the designated snorkeling area that I realized the two of us seem to be plagued by a bad snorkeling course.  He were are in some of the world’s finest reef and snorkeling areas, but we can not seem to stumble upon the good stuff.  Belize, Mexico..we’re just left with murky water and eel grass.  I’m sure we could pay to have a tour boat take us out to the really good stuff, and we might have to, because we’re not finding it on our own.  In the hour we spent in the water I think I saw maybe five fish.

We would have loved to hunt more down, but there seemed to be another crisis at hand.  Even though I swore I finally got my bowlines down, and I even waited two minutes before jumping into the water to make sure my knot was secure, t/t ‘Dip came undone from her anchor and began floating away.  Thankfully the good folks on t/t Skebenga noticed this and chased her down for us, towing her back to the spot we were snorkeling.  Now all that was left was finding the anchor, still sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.  The hunt was on between Matt and I to find the anchor, and the rest of Skebenga was keeping t/t ‘Dip secure while simultaneously getting yelled at by the Guarda for having divers in the water in an unmarked swimming area, and also not having life vests on.  We think  It was all in Spanish.

Just as we were about to give up, Matt spotted something shiny on the sea bed (that should tell you about the water clarity in this area, we knew exactly where we dropped anchor), and was able to retrieve our anchor before bringing it back aboard.  Even though we didn’t find the amazing snorkeling we had set out for, we did still manage to find an amazing day with our friends.  I’m telling you, it can make all the difference in your happiness when you have friends with you to share your day with.  So it’s a good thing they’re not looking to get rid of us so easily, and have invited us to spend Christmas with them, enjoying lunch and lounging at one of the marinas for lunch before enjoying dinner aboard Skebenga.

Lagoon at Isla Mujeres

Leaving the boats behind in the lagoon.  Not as pretty as the harbor, but much more secure.

t/t Skebenga

The crew of Skebenga, showing off with their fifteen horses.

dinghy cut in Isla Mujeres

The little cut next to our snorkeling spot, and probably where our dinghy was floating after it came undone.

swim with dolphins Isla Mujeres

 Christmas Eve was a busy day to swim with the dolphins.

rain showers off Isla Mujeres

 Rain showers in the distance, but they didn’t come our way.

family on beach in Isla Mujeres

 There’s lot of private power yachts in this area, Mexico’s elite, living it up for the holidays.

spinnaker jumps

 Hoards of tourists piled on to catamarans for tours, some of them performing spinnaker jumps out in the water.

private beach in Isla Mujeres

 One of the power yacht families, setting up a posh spot on the beach to relax.

Isla

water jet pack, Isla Mujeres

 Water jet packs for those tourists that are feeling brave.

 

 

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Cay Caulker….Go Slow

Wednesday December 11, 2013

palm tree at Cay Caulker

I love when a place has it’s own catchphrase.  Normally you might see it for a whole country or even just a large providence, but we’ve stumbled upon a little island that has it’s own catchphrase.  Everywhere you go on the island you’ll see it posted on boards, painted across buildings, and imprinted on tee shirts.  Cay Caulker…Go Slow.

Today we decided to follow just those rules, to go slow.  In our dinghy that is.  Now that we’ve gotten rid of our Johnson 9.9 hp, all we’re left with is our Mercrury 3.3, which is normally just fine for us.  Before we even sold the Johnson though and had the chance to slip those crisp hundred dollar bills in our pockets, we thought to ourselves, ‘If only we could keep it long enough for Belize’.  The reason being that Belize has a lot of great snorkeling sights, but none of them are usually near anchorages.  Which leaves one with two options. Take your dinghy out there, or pay a fairly hefty price to hop on a tour boat and have them take you the 3-6 miles to a decent dive/snorkel site.  We decided against the latter since we’re cheap and would kick ourselves later for paying money for something we could get to on our own.  Maybe not here, but in general.  Which left us with the dinghy and our little 3.3 hp engine. Oh, and only about two gallons of gasoline.

We never really communicated between each other what the plan was when we left Serendipity, sitting in the west bay of the island.  All I knew is that we had our snorkel gear, the dinghy anchor, a nalgene bottle full of water, and our two gallons of gasoline.  Puttering out through the dinghy cut to the east side of the island and the barrier reef lying a mile out, we passed a popular restaurant situated right on the cut full of already tipsy backpackers and vacationers which were probably wondering where these two people were going in a 9 ft inflatable boat.  Due to the non-communication between the two of us, I assumed that we were planning on motoring the one mile directly out to the barrier reef to see what kind of diving we could find out there.  It’s not like we wouldn’t be able to find it, the thing stretches for hundreds of miles with very few breaks in it.  The reason I assumed this is because all the dedicated snorkeling sites on our charts were at the north and south tips of the island, and we were somewhere in the middle.  Which would have meant about a six mile round trip in the dinghy to get there and back.

Not only was I not sure if we would have time or fuel, for some reason I had a distinct feeling that if we went that far away, something would go terribly wrong and either the dinghy would become untied from the anchor leaving us stranded in the water, or worse, we’d be carried out to sea with it.  Don’t ask me how these thoughts make their way into my head, but once they’re there, it’s 100% certain that it will happen.  I can see into the future, trust me.  So when Matt asked which way he had to turn to make it to the marked snorkeling site, I violently shook my head back and forth.  Not that he usually believes in my fortune telling (although I have frightened him before by being eerily accurate) I told him the more logical reason, that it was a six mile trip, we were moving at about three miles an hour, and it was already mid afternoon.  He bought it, and we continued on a direct path to the barrier reef instead.

Motoring out until we were only about a hundred feet from the reef, we dropped the anchor for t/t ‘Dip in about ten feet of water with a sandy bottom.  It’s surprising how much eel grass is all the way out here even, trying to find a spot to anchor the dinghy was a challenge in itself.  Slipping our gear on and dropping into the water, we were greeted with a large head of brain coral.  Score!  The two of us absently bumped into each other as we tried to explore the one piece of coral together, before finally taking opposite sides.  It definitely wasn’t as impressive as some of the diving we’d seen in the Bahamas or Grand Cayman, but again, we weren’t in a designated snorkeling spot.  We just dropped anchor on the first thing we found.

Dolphin kicking our way to the bottom, we’d drop further in the water and try to get a close up view of the coral without doing anything to disturb it.  When I came to the surface again, Matt was pointing to something off to our side, a few barracuda keeping their eye on us.  The first few times I’d swum with these things I used to get really nervous, but quickly learned they want nothing to do with you.  They may float there with that evil look that says “Watch your back because I’ll devour you in three bites”, but I’ve never actually seen one follow through on that promise.  We went back to our diving until Matt once more motioned for my attention.  Kicking over to his area he pointed at a little opening in the coral and mimed for me to do down and check it out.  Pumping my way down through the water I saw it was a lobster that had caught his attention.  Dinner?  Getting back to the surface, I asked Matt what he was waiting for, go catch it!  Luckily he had brought his diving gloves with him so his hands wouldn’t be sliced open by the shell, and now the chase was on.

Over the next 20 minutes he’d dive down and stick his hand in little nooks trying to capture the crustacean, but it was quick and always ducked just out of reach.  Then we’d both go on scouting missions, trying to find it’s new hiding spot, turning it into an adult version, with very high difficulty, of whac-a-mole.  We never did catch it but instead went back to our business of just admiring the coral and fish.  Matt only took one more opportunity to point something out to me, a lion fish that was lingering near a jagged edge of coral.  As many of these suckers as I’ve enjoyed for dinner after Matt or Brian would spear them, I’d never actually seen one in the water before, and honestly, it kind of scared the hell out of me.  All of it’s stingers were on full guard, and for as small as these things are, it looked pretty damn menacing.  Maybe only because I’ve heard a few first hand accounts of people that had been stung by them, but I knew that with no barrier between my skin and this predator, I didn’t want to get too close.

It was shortly after this that I thought we’d seen enough of that coral head and we went to move on to the next.  Swimming in large circles we discovered that we’d plopped down next to the only decent piece around, and turned our sights to the actual barrier reef to see what it had to offer.  Turns out, not a whole lot.  Once we got up close to it we found that it was literally just one large shelf of coral with no fish floating around it.  The top was only a foot or two under water, with large breakers constantly crashing over them, which meant no snorkeling.  Unless you wanted to put yourself in a human washing machine full of sharp bits to tear you to shreds.  Maybe tomorrow?  I don’t know, I’m just not in the mood for that today.

Once again proving ourselves to be the worst cruisers ever, we decided to throw in the towel.  Sure, we could probably motor around a little longer trying to find more coral heads to dive on, but neither of us were very much in the mood.  We came, we saw, we conquered.  One piece of coral.  Good enough for us.  Now it’s time to get back to Serendipity where there’s beer and sunsets.  That kind of puts us back into the cruiser category, right?  Maybe just a little?

dive shop on Cay Caulker

I’m starting to think forking over the dough might have been worth a real dive tour.

La Cubana restaurant, Cay Caulker, Belize

Hiding out the rain while eating lunch.

inside La Cubana, Cay Caulker, Belize

Serendipity, West Bay, Cay Caulker, Belize

 Serendipity, sitting pretty where we left her.

rain showers, Cay Caulker, Belize

 

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Outer Cays of Belize

Thursday December 5, 2013

*So, I kind of forgot to take photos here and had to borrow some from other cruisers.

Entering fishing camp

Approach to Colson Cays
(Photo courtesy of Sailing Bailando)

 

To my surprise, Serendipity picked up some speed as I was sleeping, and now we were gliding through the inner channel at a steady 5.5 knots. During my slumber I had heard Matt try and open the headsail, hoping that the engine would not be needed, but the wind was still too close on our nose and we had to continue motorsailing with the main. My spirits instantly lifted when I heard the engine come back to life since I am not a fan of sailing through channels at night. Alone. On my first day back to sailing in 5 months. There were a few times in my sleep shift that I was also called up to lend an eye with my navigation skills.

Throughout the channel were markers of the channel as well as various buoys marking shoals and cays. As I rubbed my blurry eyes and looked at the chartplotter while Matt tried to place a green buoy that he could not see on there, I turned to look for the source of light. “Do you see that green one between the two reds?”, Matt asked me. “No, I see two reds with a white in the middle though.” “I don’t know how you can’t see it, they’re right there about a mile away from us!” I looked at it again. And again and again to make sure I was seeing it right. Then I turned to Matt and shouted “It’s not green, it’s white! Like really, really white!”. Poor guy. His somewhat colorblindness was cute back in our home when he thought our living room was painted light green, and not the oatmeal it actually was, but out on the water it’s a little scary. I matched the white buoy with the one it was representing on the chartplotter and went back to sleep. Luckily he saw a real green buoy shortly after and is now able to tell the difference again.

My next shift up was full of nothing, and that’s just the way I like it. Calm seas, starry skies, and good music playing through our cockpit speakers. By the time my shift was ending at 4:30 am, we were already passing the Tabacco Cays which meant we would not be stopping there unless we wanted to circle that area for the next two hours. Which I did not. I found something else about 15 miles further up and told Matt of our new destination as I went back to bed. Where I heard that Matt figured out our course had taken us off the wind enough that he now actually could let out all the sails and cut the engine. Oh well, at least I wouldn’t have to touch them. My next sleep shift would take us all the way to anchor.

The next time I was woken up we were just about to make our entry into the Colson Cays. It was a pretty straightforward entry with only a few coral heads near the entrance, so I was put at the bow with my polarized sunglasses to keep a lookout for them. Which of course did nothing for us since the sun was so low in the sky and I couldn’t make out anything more than three feet past our bow. There were no issues though, and moments later we were dropping our hook in 12 feet of clear green water. After we went through the steps of putting the boat back together we happily passed out in the v-berth for the next three hours.

Getting up in the late morning we tackled a few chores like trying to get the bottom of the dinghy from a nice espresso color to a lightly coffee stained color. Then came the most important part of the day, trying to find a good snorkeling patch. All of our guides showed a spot for excellent snorkeling just out from the northernmost Colson Cay. Searching through the depths of our lazarette for items that we hadn’t used in almost six months, such as our snorkel gear and the dinghy anchor, we packed everything up and set off for clear waters full of fish. Who knows where those were hiding, because we did not find them here. Dropping in the anchor that looked like it might have coral around in, we fell into the water only to find nothing but eel grass.

Swimming for a few hundred feet, that’s all we continued to find. Pulling ourselves back into the dinghy we continued further up the little island made of mangroves. No coral patches popped up, but we did cross over the blue hole that was marked on our charts. As many times as I tell myself that taking a dinghy or swimming over the top of one means it’s going to suck you into it’s depths, they always give me an uneasy feeling in my stomach when we pass over one. Just for something to do, we anchored the dinghy outside of the hole and decided to swim around it’s outskirts. I was hoping for the same kind of clarity and fish that we came across when we encountered blue holes in the Bahamas, but this one was a little bit of a let down. Visibility was slightly murky and again, all we could see was eel grass and one or two chameleon fish that blended in with their surroundings. Dejected, we got back in the dinghy and puttered back to Serendipity.

Still determined to find good snorkeling, we powered up the chartplotter so we could grab the coordinates of the so called excellent coral in the area. Entering them into a little handheld GPS, we set off once more. Tracking down the exact spot we had marked for ourselves we once again lowered the anchor and slipped into the water. And once again there was nothing. Visibility was even worse out here and the only thing we seemed to find was a ton of those little jellyfish without the tendrils. Circling the whole parimiter we saw nothing, but I think I did get a few small stings from those little jellyfish. Nothing very painful, just a little prickling that stayed with me for the next 30 minutes.

Back at Serendipity we went about the rest of our chores, Matt tightening our stays and me trying to make bread, hamburger buns actually, with only a lingering memory of the recipe in my head. As the afternoon wore on we relaxed in the cockpit, and good book in one hand and a Red Stripe in the other. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset while watching that big orange ball fade behind the mountainous backdrop of mainland Belize.

Today we moved ourselves 10 miles up the coast in hopes to find good snorkeling at a little place called Rendevoux Cay. It sits right next to the barrier reef, and our charts show it as a good day anchorage while you’re exploring the water, but shelter overnight should take place at another cay three miles away. We hauled anchor mid morning, falling back into the routine of the Bahamas where we were doing everything under sail power as to keep ourselves from using the engine more than necessary. It came up with ease, and the help of our windless, soon we were sailing back out into the channel. Winds were strong and steady, holding at 20 knots with gusts to 25. We pressed forward at 5 knots with only a double reefed main, and watched as Georgie gave us the death glare while trying to squeeze herself into her little hiding spot under the combing.

Watching the wind steadily build around us as the very tips of waves frothed into white, we both knew that snorkeling was now a no-go for the day. Conditions didn’t appear calm enough to make the tricky pass with Serendipity through the coral heads that circled Rendevous Cay, and neither of us were too keen on taking the dinghy for a 6 mile round trip in this weather. Falling into our back up plan we set course directly for the overnight anchorage again, hoping that tomorrow will bring us good enough weather to finally check out the Mesoamerican Reef.

 

Colson blue hole

Blue hole at Colson Cays
(Photo courtesy of Sail Winterlude)

Reef at Colson Cay

We saw one starfish like this. It was the highlight of our snorkeling.
(Photo courtesy of Wand’rin Star)

boat at Colson Cay

The cays here are all made up of mangroves. No beaches to stroll.
(Photo courtesy of MokaKat Sailing)

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