Monthly Archives: April 2011

Andros Family

Without even trying to make it happen, we stumbled into such a preciously delicious situation in the anchorage in Andros. The other boats here have become such a lovely little family, all tucked safely into the southeast corner of the cove at Morgan’s Bluff. Every morning a group of us has been doing yoga in a beach hut seemingly made just for us, and at no charge.
We have been having potlucks at night, and outings during the day. And best of all, there is a sense of security among us — we are all looking out for one another’s boats, giving each other rides in our dinghys, and generally just being so wonderfully good to one another. The VHF radio has taken on a new dimension….it is the open discussion board for everyone in the anchorage to have a group chat while on our separate boats. We all get to listen to things like Francois the Frenchman and Allen the Irishman discuss in their wonderful accents the repairs they are doing to their bilge pumps, and hear about Mariah the 17 year old who forgot her flipflops on Allen’s boat and could he bring them over to her. In the morning Jennifer would announce how late she was running for starting the yoga class, and since we are all on island time no one would ever mind. Mimi wants to know if someone can pick up an onion for her at the store. On land, this would be an unlikely bunch of people to become “like family”, but we all had one great thing in common – living on boats and traveling in the Bahamas. So here we were, people as varied as Nate, a modern Huck Finn from Arkansas, who taught us things like how to use a “Hillbilly Bucket Anchor Alarm” (tie a bucket full of spoons or other pieces of metal to a leaded rope that hangs in the water. Put the bucket in the cabin. If the anchor drags, it will tighten the tension on the rope with the bucket, causing it to move and make enough noise to wake you up!) And then there was Allan, the great Irish sailor, who was full of rich stories of sailing in his beloved Ireland, and Michael, the college professor from Conneticut with a beautiful tattoos of a mermaid and Poseidon on his arms. And speaking of tatoos, let me not forget to mention Saunders and Tony, two young men who just finished serving in the Coast Guard and are now travelling together in a small sailboat called “GnarCrust” (short for Gnarly and Crusty). They are both COVERED in tatoos, and are on their way to Nassau to get more.

Sea Wolff

On Easter, or sometime around then, a new arrival came. A gigantic motor catamaran named Sea Wolff came into the harbor and anchored right next to us. They were a group of people from Cape Town, South Africa, and yes, they motored their luxury 47 foot megaboat all the way over here. Their boat, which is basically a floating 3 bedroom condo, is in an entirely different league than the rest of our lowly sailboats, and they are people we would not have been likely to brush shoulders with in other circumstances. But here they were in this isolated part of the Bahamas with a bunch of adventuring low budget sailors. To our surprise, they invited everyone in the entire anchorage to a dance and dinner party on their boat. We were all thrilled with that idea — dancing?!? on a boat?!? Count us in! So about 20 grungy sailors piled into their immaculately clean boat, and made merriment all night long. 20 people on their boat was not even crowded!

Mimi and Rich pretending to be old

The front end of the boat even became a stage, and Mimi and Richard, the retired theater couple, entertained us with one of their hilarious skits.

The next day, Sea Wolff extended another generous invitation to the harbor to take everyone out snorkeling at a reef not far away. So we all got an board and got to experience this giant boat in motion, gliding across the bay, flying over the big waves. I felt like I was in a photo shoot for a yachting magazine ad featuring a luxury vacation in the Bahamas. Although the waves were pretty big and choppy out at the reef, the snorkeling was something you’d see on the Discovery Channel. Thousands of fish in vivid colors swam all around us, with purple coral fans as big as 8 feet tall dancing in the underwater currents. Some of the men, Cap’t K. included brought their fishing spears, and by the end of the afternoon they had a bucket full of gorgeous snappers, parrotfish, pudgies,and grunts for dinner. One of the local Bahamians, Johnny, cooked them up for us Bahamian style and it was exquisite.

And then, poof, the bubble of ease and contentment burst with the change of wind. We had all been kind of stuck on Andros by relentlessly strong East winds, and finally they eased enough to allow us to go. Some of the sailors will continue traveling together, others are going their separate ways, blown in different directions by the winds of change. We are continuing on to the Exumas, and buddying up with Mimi and Richard on the boat Maffick. Good thing we have facebook to keep us all connected!

I'm on a #*%!! BOAT!!

don't we look tan?

Capt'n K's first Lionfish

Allan the Salty Irish Sailor

Gogi making conch salad

The snorkelers have the better view

Go cheap and go now

The View from the Top of Morgan's Bluff

When planning for our voyage, we ran into many opinions and philosophies “Go cheap and go now” turned out to be the one that made the most sense.

We looked at taking sailing and cruising courses from the American Sailing Association, but the cost was prohibitive. For the both of us to take the classes that would bring our skills up to the level of cruising would have cost as much as the purchase price of our 27 foot Albin Vega sailboat ($6,000)! So we decided to use that money to get the boat instead. Better in our view to learn by doing and afford to have a boat and cruise it than to pay for such an expensive class and have no money left over for a boat or cruising!

One of our friends went to the British Virgin Islands for a week, and he spent more on airfare and renting a boat there for one week than we spent on our entire voyage of a half a year so far!

We’ve met many people along the way who have told us how they would love to do what we are doing. Many plan to go cruising “in a few years.” Some have been planning for far to long and may never actually get to it. Often people have a three year plan to get off of land and onto a boat. Surely a mortgage, career, children and pets can all bind you to a life on land.

Still, houses can be rented. Careers can be closed or changed. Children can be “boat-schooled,” and pets can be brought or given away. There is no guarantee of the future, and no one will make your dreams happen but you. So whatever it is that you dream of, let us encourage you to “go cheap and go now.” Your dreams do not have to be expensive, and Lord knows that what gets put off to tomorrow may never happen!

Lionfish and Cruisers Rendezvouz

Morgan's Bluff, Andros

We heard a story of the weather last year here in Morgans Bluff. The wind blew out of the east for three weeks straight. All the cruisers that were anchored here were trapped here, and all the cruisers in Fresh Creek, 35 miles south of here, were trapped there. No one could travel north or south along the coast until it let up.

Morgan's Bluff chart

We decided to come here because our course to New Providence was fairly rough as it was into the wind and into the chop, and the waves were only 3 or 4 seconds apart. So now we are “trapped” here because the seas have built up even more and the winds haven’t let up either.

It’s a nice place to be—stuck in a sweet spot like this with other friendly people. I just dinghied out to the main entrance channel to check the wind and waves and weather. The seas are still up, although the winds are fair. I could see a large squall in the distance. The atmosphere is unstable and turbulent. If it’s this way now, I can see it getting even more turbulent as the day heats up. We’ll stay put for now.

We had planned to go south to Fresh Creek before heading eat across the Tongue of the Ocean in our little Albin Vega sailboat. It’s a great place to check out, but the holding is poor and the current is reversing and strong and there is no protection from the northeast. They used to have mooring balls for $10 a night, but they are not in service any longer, like most things here. Now the only option for staying there with a boat is a $45 per night slip. Fresh Creek is far enough south that you can sail directly east from there to make it to the Exumas. Also there is a weaving community there that we’d love to visit.

There is an inside route between Andros and the great barrier reef, but it is strewn with coral heads and should only be attempted by an active and perceptive crew on mid-tide on a rising tide in peak mid-day sun. If you go aground any other way you may never get off, and there are not many people around to help. There is no TowBoat US to call on channel 16 to help. You are pretty much on your own.


While diving yesterday I discovered a sunken wreck in the inner harbor entrance channel. Hiding in its stern were 6 lion fish. Along the bank 100 yards out were another 3 lion fish. These are amazing creatures, although they are an invasive species that is wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Rumor has it that people had them as specialty fish in their saltwater aquariums (~$1,000 per fish), but let them go into the wild when they couldn’t keep them.

They are not only invasive, but they have no natural predators and they are venomous. Man, are they beautiful though. One of the cruisers here, Francois, got “stung” by one on his elbow. It literally swelled up larger than an apple or orange, and it’ll take him three months to heal from it. Their venom is serious. The fish can be eaten if handled and de-spined properly, but there is as-yet no market for this supposed delicacy. Lots of people buy them for their aquariums, but not here in the Bahamas. Therefore none of the fishermen are hunting these fish and their population grows unchecked.

Nate, Allan, and Lala

In honor of Easter, we cruisers had a potluck dinner on the beach at the North Andros Festival Market Place. This is where the regatta is held every June. What a delightful and assorted group of people have assembled here! Allan, the Irishman, bent our ear about traveling to the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. He encourages us to sail across the Atlantic in the trade winds from Bermuda to the Azores to Spain rather than to take the northern route through Nova Scotia, Greenland, Iceland, and then Scotland. Going that way, you are sure to hit storms and heavy weather, he says. In his opinion there is no finer sailing ground than Denmark, where you can get a slip anywhere for $15 per night. Who knows if such a trip would ever come about, but it is fun to think on it.

Mariah & Jennifer

For now we are content enjoying this splendid place that holds us while considering the next stop on our journey eastward. We are learning so much by living this way!

A bit about Andros, Captain Morgan’s Treasure Cave, & the other sailors here

It was a mystery to me before we arrived in Andros, why this should be one of the least visited islands in the bahamas. It is not only the largest island in the Bahamas, but it also has lots of fresh water, one of top 3 barrier coral reefs in the world, and other interesting things like “blue holes”, which are holes thousands of feet deep that have fresh water on the top and salt water underneath.

Andros is magical and beautiful for all these reasons. People are very friendly and if you are walking along the road many people will stop and offer you a ride. It is not as expensive as other parts of the Bahamas. They grow some fresh produce here and there are white sand beaches with no one on them. But it is a strange place too. I’m starting to see that there is a reason why not many people live here. Most of Andros is comprised of marshes and mangroves and generally uninhabitable space. Apparently in the interior of the island it gets unbearably hot and there are killer flies and mosquitoes that will eat you alive.

Andros, land of flat scrub

The Northeast corner of the island, where we are now, is the main population center. North Andros is very dry and covered with scrubby brush and stick thin tall pine trees. There seems to be almost no soil — the land is comprised entirely of limestone rock. The landscape feels prickly and dry and neglected. There is lots of trash on the ground. A feeling of inertia hangs heavy in the air. There are a surprising amount of abandoned buildings that are in various stages of construction. In many places you see a concrete foundation and some walls that are about half finished, and then the entire project was abandoned and it all just sits there. These types of houses abandoned in mid-construction seem more numerous than finished houses. Even some of the houses that are finished and occupied have such a look of neglect to them, that it is sometimes difficult to tell if a house is abandonded or occupied.

Today we went to the top of a hill — the first hill we have seen in about 4 months!!! On the top there was a property that had the most fabulous view over the ocean. This was a piece of real estate that in any other place I know of would fetch TOP dollar as an exclusive ocean view property. But here, there was a very odd abandoned house. Part of the house was quite old, with peeling paint and rusted door hinges. The inside walls had lots of strange holes in the sheetrock and it was partially torn apart, as if renovations were being done but never completed. In the back of the house was an addition/remodel project that was left seemingly quite abruptly — piles of sheetrock and nails and tools were still sitting there, but it looked as if years had gone by since anyone was there. Weird piles of trash covered the property.

abandoned house with a view

Cap’t K. and I fantasized about what we could do with this beautiful spot….it would be a perfect hang gliding launch, or perhaps an artist retreat.

But there are also neatly maintained concrete houses and there is a fabulous tendency in the Bahamas to paint buildings pink and lime green and bright blue. Government buildings seem particulary likely to come in these colors. The police station we passed today was entirely painted a cheerful pink color..would you ever see that in the States?!

One of Andros Island’s claims to fame is that supposedly Captain Morgan’s cave where he stashed his pirated loot is here. Today we walked to the cave and explored it. It was a hole in the ground under the pocked limestone that went a few hundred feet back, and even came back out through another secret entrance. It was quite dry in there, and refreshingly cool. There was just enough light coming in the entrance to make it not too dreary, and we could imagine cave people happily living there. It would be a great place to get out of a hurricane, and not a bad place to stash some extra trunks of gold.

Captain Morgan's cave

Tree roots growing through rock

Neat cave but where's the treasure?

Here in the harbor where we are anchored, there are about 6 other sailboats. Some very interesting people end up here. When we first arrived we were soon greeted by a couple on a boat called Gitana del Mar. Jennifer and Michael are just a wee bit older than us, and are traveling with 2 of their children, who they are “boat schooling” on their 36 foot boat. They are from CT, so they are New Englanders like us. Micheal is a professor for an online university program and has managed to work as a teacher and also a writer while they travel. Jennifer is a yoga teacher and has been leading informal, free yoga classes almost every day in a little round hut on the beach, with the absolute most beautiful view of the ocean. That has been a special treat! Their children Mariah and James, who are 16 and 12, are wonderful, well mannered, and intelligent kids. They have been showing us around and giving us the scoop on where to go to get water, vegetables, internet access, etc.

Mariah, Jennfier, and Allen the Irishman

Then there is Allan, an Irishman aboard a big, heavy steel boat called Cheal. He’s been sailing most of his life in Ireland and is now cruising the world. He has a marvelous Irish accent and is extremely witty and funny. He uses the word “wee” on a regular, daily basis.
He is planning on doing a solo circumnavigation of the world WITHOUT STOPPING next year. Only crazy people do that. He is amazing. I really like him.
And on the boat “French Summer” is Francois, another single-handed sailor. He and Allan and the Gitana del Mar family have been sailing together for awhile, and they have now formed a big floating family that really takes care of each other. They share movies, and food, and dinghy motors, among other things, and they have taken us in to their circle. I absolutely love how cruisers look out for one another.
We have also met a very interesting retired couple aboard a small catamaran. Their boat is named Maffick, which is an old English word that means something along the lines of “unrestrained joyful merriment”. Mimi is an actress, among other things, and Richard was a theater director, so they are theater people who are now living on a boat. They are well into their 70’s, but don’t really look it or act it. They are wonderfully fit and active and engaged. I really like them a lot. They have been happily married for over 40 years and Richard claims he has been sailing for 70 years, so they are inspiring role models for us.

There is another boat here that is smaller than ours — Waltzing Matilda, a wee 24 footer. Nate and his tiny, perky dog Mattie live on that boat and they are from the backwoods of Arkansas. Nate is an eccentric, enthusiastic man out on his first cruise. He’s had quite a few major adventures already, many which involve running aground, and he loves to tell stories of his mishaps and how he got out of them. He has very innovative ideas about things such as building a solar still in his mast to create alcohol on board.

Cap't Nate and first mate Mattie the dog

The main Bahamian friend that we have met here so far is Christopher,a fisherman and all around handyman who lives on a boat in the harbor here. We hired him to drive us around in his jeep yesterday and he took us (Mimi and Richard and Nate came along too) to the “Blue Hole” and a vegetable packing plant where we scored some free vegetables. Although he does his share of wheeling and dealing to make a buck, he is a warm and friendly man. After paying him a bunch of money to drive us around yesterday, he took a liking to Cap’t K and told him that we could just borrow his jeep anytime we wanted to if we just put gas in it. His jeep is named “Jeesus Creepers”, and is the most beat up vehicle you’ve ever seen. The back window isn’t there anymore, only a few of the doors open, all the fabric is ripped off the seats, the entire interior is covered in dust and trash, and the car does not have the gear “park”. We took it out today and Capt K. got to practice driving on the left side of the road. Christopher has a uniquely low voice and manner of speaking that you must hear to understand, so here is a little video clip of him talking while driving Jeesus Creepers.


The Real Conch Republic

The Real Conch Republic

When we were in the Florida Keys we learned that Key West, and the Keys in general, like to refer to themselves as the “Conch Republic”. There are symbols everywhere featuring the beutiful conch shells, but because of their popularity, there are almost none left anywhere in the Keys. The only place we saw any was in the Dry Tortugas. You can buy the shells as Key West souvenirs in lots of shops, and guess where they all come from? The Bahamas! The Bahamas should be the place called the Conch Republic — they are everywhere here. I never thought I would see so many of these beautiful shells just lying around.

Conch shells

In case you aren’t familiar with the Conch, it is a large spiral shell that has a snail like creature living inside. They are popular to eat, although some people (including me) think they are a bit tough and chewy. One of the most common things to make out of them is conch fritters. It is notoriously difficult to get the meat out of the shell without completely smashing the whole shell. Usually, a small hole is punched in the top of the shell and then a knife is inserted through the hole to loosen the attachment of the conch inside the shell. Then the whole slimy thing comes sliding out the open ended part of the shell. Sometimes the shells are then patched up, polished and made into horns and sold to places like Key West where sucker tourists like us will pay $16 for them. Here in Andros the common practice is to toss the empty shells on the beach. There are gigantic graveyards of conch, hundreds of them laying in piles all along the waterfront.

Here at the local bar called “Willy’s Water Bar”, a guy named Gogi makes a delicious conch salad. It is basically like ceviche but with conch instead of shrimp or other raw fish. He mixes peppers, onions, lemon juice and other special sauce ingredients with a fresh, finely chopped conch. He makes it to order right there at a table outside the bar and you can watch him take out and prepare one conch for each salad that is ordered.

One other weird note about food — Andros supplies the Bahamas with vegetables, and one of their main exports is onions. (although I don’t really understand how they grow onions with the tiny amount of soil that is here) Right now is the onion harvest and there is an absurd abundance of onions everywhere. When Christopher took us to the vegetable packing plant there where whole buildings filled with onions. They are kind of like zucchinis in the summer in the North — you can’t even give them away, and people resort to sneaky tactics like leaving them on peoples doorsteps in the middle of the night to get rid of them. Christopher had huge bags of onions in the back of his jeep, and when we got back to the harbor he was pushing them on us. “Just take them, mon!! All of them” None of us needed that many onions, but somehow we ended up in our dinghy with enough onions to last us a year.

Sourcing food on Andros

Some people say that if you don’t have what it takes to hunt and kill and clean and cook an animal, you shouldn’t eat meat. There’s some merit to that argument, although we all could challenge it. Big business had commodified meat and so many animals live in squalor and prison for their entire lives in order for big business to bring meat to market.

Part of the reason that we moved onto our Albin Vega sailboat, Wee Happy, was to become more self sufficient and to reduce our carbon footprint. Part of that means sourcing our own food rather than patronizing the capitalist system that produces meet for the masses. In that light, we’ve endeavored to learn how to fish. It’s supposed to be so easy that it’s a no-brainer.

Still, we are finding that the oceans are beyond over-fished. Coral systems, the life-blood of fish populations, have almost completely disappeared all around us. There are few reefs that still remain, and even fewer of those are even close to what one might call “healthy.”

So we’ve gotten a fishing license and basic rod and reel, etc. We’ve caught a few fish here and there in the keys, but not very much. Even if we were to be able to catch fish every day, we shouldn’t eat them every day. Fishing is not a dietary solution because you can not eat it every day. The fish are so loaded with mercury that there are very real limits to the amount that you should eat every week. What good is a diet loaded with fresh protein if you die of mercury poisoning?

So it is what is known as a catch-22 situation. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The middle road seems reasonable however. If nothing else, we can learn to supplement our diet with reasonably healthy amounts of mercury laden fish. The younger they are the better, but that means catching more of them.

And then there is the fact that every fish you catch is one that you have to kill and then clean. Catching them is fun. Cooking them is fun. It’s the killing and cleaning that is a “steep learning curve.” Another way to say that is that killing and cleaning them sucks.

It’s good to be in touch with the life that you are taking when you eat meat. Distance breeds insensitivity. Having to hunt means that you meet the animal in its own environment on its own terms. You learn to love it and find it beautiful in its amazing perfectly situated niche. Then when you catch it and honor it and kill it you feel deep inside what it is that you are actually eating. Food from a store in packaging with colorful labels really does separate us from the reality of what we are consuming.

So today I, Capt’n K, caught my first fish by spearing them. I’ve been snorkeling with my spear for a while, but I’ve always been hesitant to take the fish that I see. I don’t want them to be too small. If they are then I’d have to kill to many to have a meal. I don’t want to kill to large of a fish, because then it would be more than Lala and I could eat in a meal, and we don’t want to waste any precious life. So I have been hesitant until I found the right ones.

Today was that day. A spear is violent compared to a rod and reel. It is also very grounding. It makes me realize that what I am doing: catching an animal for eating is violent. I use force and it inflicts pain, and it is all to fill my belly. I am no vegetarian, but I do honor life. And so I like spearing because it requires me to appreciate my food in an entirely new way. I am swimming with them, meeting them in their environment, and I must deal with the emotions and thoughts that come up for me as I endeavor to take life to bolster my own.

First Day in Morgan’s Bluff, Andros

Lala woke up early because of some banging on the boat. The main sheet had come loose, and the boom was banging back and forth as we rolled in the anchorage. She was like a walking zombie barely able to keep her balance or think a thought other than “stop the banging!” Turns out that the swinging boom broke our anchor light cord. Bummer. We’ll have to fix that too. She came back to bed and we went back to sleep.

A while later I woke to my watch alarm which goes off early in the morning. The sun was just rising I blew the conch shell out over the waters to greet the coming day, and I turned on the SSB radio and brought it to bed. We listened to Chris Parker’s weather forecast while still half asleep. Everything sounds good for staying in this anchorage for the next few days. There is no protection here for winds from the west to north, so this is not a place to stay if a front comes through.

Fell back asleep again. Damn we were tired. Didn’t really regain consciousness until 11:00 or so. Then I spoke these sacred words: “coffee” and “banana pancakes.” That magically roused Lala from some deep otherwordly place, and without opening her eyes, she repeated the mantra: “banana pancakes” with a big ass smile on her face.

I did up the Wee Happy coffee double strong with a double dose of condensed milk. That really got us going!

We struggled to assemble and inflate our dinghy from the land of giants on the Albin Vega’s wee foredeck so that we could get ashore today. That almost brought us to tears with frustration because we still haven’t recovered from our exhausting passages. Nevermind that though! One jump into the crystal clear waters from the deck and all troubles were washed away.

The water here is clean and perfect. It’s just the right temperature to stay in all day long. It just brings a smile to all the sad places inside of you. You cant help but become one big smile. While we were lingering in the water, soaking in its healing powers, over came a couple from the next boat over in the anchorage, s.v Gitana Del Mar. Michael and Jennifer introduced themselves and told us all the benefits of this sweet little spot.

Here there are deep Blue Holes, unlimited delicious fresh water, a produce market, a woman who does laundry, gasoline, $5 lunches and dinners, and Captain Morgan’s treasure cave. Yeah, for real! Captain Morgan (the pirate, you know) stashed his booty in a cave just a ¼ mile from here. You can just go explore it. It’s not a business or anything. There’s great fishing and snorkeling just across the bay too. Not only that, but Jennifer hit us with the fatal blow after that. “Do you want to do yoga in the yurt over there on the beach?”

That’s really going for the jugular. I haven’t been able to stand up in six months now. Yoga? DAMN STRAIGHT! In a yurt too! Over a beautiful beach in the Bahamas with nothing but a few sailboats around! DAMN! We hit the jackpot here. It can really pay off to follow your intuition and go off the beaten path!

Turns out that Michael and Jennifer are from Connecticut, although you couldn’t tell from their tan skin. They are traveling on their nice sloop with their two children, Moriah and James. They came to do yoga too, along with an Irishman named Allen who is also anchored here.

The yurt has two floors and no walls. We did yoga on the second floor overlooking the water from up above it all with a delicious warm breeze blowing over our bodies. Is this for real?!?!

We rowed back our Albin Vega sailboat any made dinner in the tiny little kitchen with our beautiful new stove. Played with the kitties. Still tired, but relaxed and full of wonder and gratitude now. Blew the conch at sunset four times. Once when it just touched the horizon line, twice while it was setting, and once when it was fully gone. Seeing the sun rise and set every day is becoming a spiritual practice of sorts. It helps to connect me to the cycles of this beautiful world that give us life and meaning.

Breathe deep and rejoice. You are alive.

Much love,
Wee Happy.

Bahamas Banks to Morgan’s Bluff

Woke at 06:15 to tune into Chris Parker’s morning Bahamas weather net on 4045 khz SSB. Made strong Wee Happy coffee and got ready to haul anchor to get off the Great Bahamas Banks and into the tongue of the Ocean. We decided to head for New Providence Island, where Nassau is located. From there we could make it to the Exumas in just one more day of travel. The trouble was that the wind would be on the nose and strengthening. We hoped that we could make it to Nassau before the chop got too bad and the headwinds too strong. It was 60 miles to the anchorage at West Bay on the west end of New Providence, so it was going to be another long day. Actually it was another passage like crossing the Gulf Stream, except without the strong current. The sun was out, the temperature was nice, and the winds were only around 5 to 10 knots.

On our way around the Northwest shoal marker that doesn’t exist we saw a sailboat going right over the shoal from the anchorage that we almost made it to the night before. Our paths crossed as we converged to go through the narrow channel into the Tongue of the Ocean. They hailed us on channel 16, and it turned out to be s/v Midnight Express from Marathon. We’d met there when we lost our kayak paddle in a serious blow. They lent us their paddle while we searched the mangroves. People said that we’d run into people we know in the Bahamas, but seriously out here in the middle of nowhere?!!! We motored together into the wind until our ways separated as they headed to Chub Key and we headed towards the Nassau area.

The Tongue of the Ocean is a mile deep, just like the Gulf Stream. So after 60 miles over the banks in water no deeper than 20 feet anywhere, we suddenly found ourselves in over 5,000 feet of water. The winds were out of the southeast…directly in our line of travel. To make West Bay before dark, we’d have to keep going at least 4 knots for 12 hours or so. Our plan B was to head to Morgan’s Bluff on the northeast tip of Andros, and our plan C was to head to Chub Key, the southernmost island in the Berrys.

We made good progress in the beautiful grand bleu of the ocean. Most of the time we were alone in the great splendor of lapis blue below and baby blue above. We made love in the sunshine with no one around for dozens of miles. What a treasure of an experience to make love on a sailboat in all of God’s glory.

A few hours later, as we were closing on New Providence, the winds and seas reared up quite a bit. Our Albin Vega was beating hard to windward by motor and was bobbing like a cork, so we flew full canvas and fell off the wind enough to see how high we could point and how fast we could sail The closest we could aim to our target was about 30 degrees to the east of it. We were beating hard to windward and making headway, but only 3 knots. That wouldn’t get us into port before sundown. So we started the motor again (dammit! We are supposed to be sailors!!!). We furled in the jib and kept the main up for stability. With enough throttle to keep our average speed over 4 knots so we could make port by sunset, we were beating HARD. The bow was coming fully out of the water every two or three waves. By this I mean that we were doing wheelies. Not fun with a 6,000 pound vessel that is supposed to stay in the water, not out of it!

16 miles to go. 4 knots. Four hours of hell.

We like to think we are tough, but we really had no desire to keep stressing ourselves and our vega out like that. If we didn’t have to be in port before sundown then we could just turn off the motor and sail to windward at a lazy 2 or 3 knots without popping wheelies and pegging our blood pressure. If we didn’t mind beating up our boat and ourselves, we could just pound ahead for 4 hours at 4 knots.

Why push though? Really!

We changed course and headed for Morgan’s Bluff on Andros. Instantly the sailing was blissful and beautiful on a nice reach. The waves were just so close together that when we were pounding to windward we were getting slammed every 3 or 4 seconds. The path to New Providence from the Northwest channel can really be surprisingly hard in even moderate winds.

We let go of the idea of trying to push on to catch up with our friends Sara and Trevor on s.v Earendil. Oh well. We tried! Maybe we’ll run into each other later. In the mean time, we’ll be exploring Andros: the island where (next to) nobody goes in the Bahamas.

We made the entrance channel to the anchorage just before sundown, which made us nervous because we were heading directly into the setting sun. Talk about blinding glare and lack of visibility!!! I was wearing two pairs of polarized sunglasses, and that still wasn’t enough to look into the horizon for long.

Lucky for us, the channel is very well marked by Bahamian standards, and the entrance channel is easy for small craft in most conditions. We motor sailed in, took a left and found a sweet spot to anchor nestled into the southeast corner of the bay. There are only five other sailboats here, and they are all relatively small. Your boat has to be to explore Andros. The big boys can’t play here because the waters are simply too shallow. Sweet! We like remote exploration off the beaten path. We don’t care to go to the big cities and crowded anchorages.

Andros sounds wicked cool anyway. It’s the only island in the Bahamas that has natural fresh water. It literally has fresh water springs welling up within. It also has “blue holes” all over the island where there is a circular pond of sorts with fresh water on top and then thousands of feet of salt water beneath. They are reputed to be the most amazing blue. Andros also has fresh produce!!! That’s nearly unheard of in the Bahamas! Oh yeah, there’s a fiber craft / weaving community here too, so we are excited to explore.

We were so tired after crossing the banks and getting only 5 hours of sleep before our day on the tongue of the Ocean, that we could barely set our anchor without crying. Once we got it set right though, we made dinner and uncovered the interior of Wee Happy. We took out the outboard motor that was sleeping on the starboard half of our bed in the v-berth. Found the port side of the v-berth was soaked, and so were all the books on the port side of the shelf at the forepeak of the v-berth. Some of the water that went over the bow while we were beating to windward must have made it inside through the hull/deck joint and the front hatch. We’ll have to get some caulk out before our next passage!

We transformed the bathroom from a storage closet back to a bathroom. We unearthed the couches in the main cabin. Our vessel became a snug cozy place to hang out again, and we dove into bed for a much needed full nights sleep in calm protected waters. Still can’t imagine sleeping while crossing an ocean or while hove to for the night. Nice sheltered anchorages with flat water are just SOOooOoOOoOOOo nice!!! After three days of almost constant travel, the cats finally got out to play on the deck.