Sunday, April 30, 2023

Da Bahamas!

We had heard from our trusted sailing friends on “Jayana” that the Bahamas had incredible cruising. They were right!  The amazing wildlife, crystal clear water and endless anchorages make it a place that we could spend a lifetime. 

When we arrived here, we had a great opportunity to visit a very remote atoll in the southern Bahamas because of a stretch of very settled weather. It was called Hogsty Reef and it was an unprotected dot in the middle of the ocean. There were many wrecks to dive, fish to hunt and even a few sharks around.  All of this made for some very interesting snorkeling. 

The visibility in the water was unreal. We have never been able to see nearly this far underwater anywhere else that we have visited. 

We saw many sharks while we were anchored at Hogsty Reef. It was unnerving to see them while we were snorkeling, but we quickly got used to it. It helped to have a spear gun - just in case!  They are incredibly graceful and beautiful underneath the waters surface. We saw blacktip reef sharks and nurse sharks. None over 5-6 feet long.  After the swimming was done, the kids decided to tie a fish head to a rope and attract all the sharks at once.  It was a highlight for them. 

We managed to get some frightening close-up footage of the sharks with the GoPro as well. 

Next, we found a nice & remote stretch of beach to chill and have a marshmallow roast. The water was super warm and we saw rays right from the beach. 

The anchorages in the Bahamas are so vast. It is shallow for miles, so you can literally put your boat anywhere you like.  It’s pretty crazy. 

We have become comfortable with snorkeling and holding our breath, so we wanted to visit a “Blue Hole”.  These are narrow, very deep holes that are typically used by free divers to practice their craft. Dean’s Blue Hole is on Long Island in the Bahamas and is the second deepest blue hole on the planet. 

The blue hole was surrounded by a conical sand beach that sloped down briefly and then dropped off into the abyss. The hole itself was only about 15-20 meters across, but was over 200 meters deep!  The way that the sand fell slowly into the hole was mesmerizing. 

Stu tried to swim down as deep as possible, but only made it to 15-20 meters deep. Interestingly, once you reach that depth, you are no longer buoyant and you start to sink (because of the compression on your lungs). It’s an advantage for the free divers, but it’s a very creepy feeling.  While we were there, some pro free divers were practicing for an upcoming global competition. One diver made it down to 110 meters that day!

The free divers used this rope tethered to the bottom for safety. It was useful for the kids to pull themselves down to see how deep they could go. 

The kids are growing up so fast on this trip and seeing so many wonderful things along the way. Micah had her 9th Birthday and got a nice boat cake!  The candles spelled “Congrats”, but she wanted it to say “Goats” instead :). Eva from “Nahla” was there to celebrate with us. 

The Bahamas are where Christopher Columbus first made landfall in 1492. We anchored near where it’s believed he and his crew first sighted land. Conception Island is now a nature reserve and it was stunningly beautiful. 

We snorkeled near a tiny deserted island off of Conception Island and flew the drone for some scenic shots. 

At Conception Island, we dinghied up a tidal estuary and saw many rays and turtles. 

After a couple weeks of remote cruising, we were ready for some civilization. We sailed to Georgetown, the largest town in the Exuma Cays. It’s a place where a lot of Canadian and American cruisers spend the whole winter season. During our sail over, we got to practice our light wind sailing techniques, and flew the mizzen staysail. 

While we were in Georgetown, The Bahamian Annual Family Regatta was on. Teams come from all over the Bahamas to race traditional Bahamian Skiffs. The racing was awesome to see as we chased the sailboats around in our dinghy. 

At the cruisers restaurant called “Chat-n-Chill”, the stingrays have gotten very accustomed to people and would come by for a quick touch on the back. 

Near Georgetown was a defunct marina complex with a blasted-out canal for dinghy access. It was great for cliff jumping!

There were a few turtles in the canal as well and we got to swim with them too. 


After Georgetown, we will continue to sail north up the chain of Exuma Cays. We will take our time in this part of the world because it is unbelievably beautiful.  We have plans to be in Nassau by the second week of May. Thanks for watching & reading!  Feel free to comment or send us an email :)

Friday, April 21, 2023

Walmart, horseback riding and flamingoes!

We have had to make quick miles northwestwards because we have a lot of ground to cover. We want to spend at least a month in the Bahamas, so we brushed the surface of both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. That involved some beautiful downwind sailing, and a couple overnight passages. 

We stopped in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It has a rich history of Spanish settlement, fortification and has a very European feel to it. We anchored in San Juan’s big natural harbour. The harbour was the main reason this place was a perfect transfer point for all of the plundered riches of Central & South America (on their way to Europe in the 1500’s & beyond). The Spanish-American War in the late 1800’s saw the US take over control of this island. We were now back into the world of Walmart and cheeseburgers!

Right next to our anchorage was an “urban park” with 100 foot wide, overhead screens and fake grass. It was very surreal. 

The old fort had an amazing setting looking out over the Atlantic Ocean with cemetery in the foreground. This tells the tale of a long history of European occupation.

The fortress was very impressive and was built in the 16th & 17th centuries. It was mainly used to defend attacks from rival European fleets and later from pirate attacks.  It had massive walls that eventually included a large part of the old town. 

Old Town San Juan was very cool with centuries of history and various eras of architecture. Touted as the “oldest city in the USA”, if feels very European because it was part of Spain until about 150 years ago. 

Many of the streets were beautifully decorated and the atmosphere was very festive.  Generally, San Juan felt very safe, clean and friendly. We took the opportunity to re-provision the boat, take the girls to a modern mall, and be proper tourists, in general.  It was a nice urban stop and our only landfall on Puerto Rico.

There was a small park where we could feed the local pigeons. They were very used to people and quite aggressive at times. It was fun!

San Juan has many feral cats which are well looked after by the locals. Micah stopped to visit all of the cats that would let her pet them. 

Next, we spent 48 hours on passage and landed in the Dominican Republic. Luperon is a favourite with cruisers for its protected anchorage, friendly people and cheap prices.  It did not disappoint, and had all of those things in spades. During our trip here, Stu almost amputated his right big toe by dropping a heavy hatch cover on it!  Luckily, it ended up just being badly bruised and he hobbled around for a few days while healing. 

The check in procedure was very extensive, but friendly. The naval officer who inspected our boat (Richard) had a father-in-law that had horses - Micah’s dream!  So we arranged some horseback riding through him. It all felt so welcoming and quaint.  Richard gave the crew a ride to the ranch on his motorcycle. 

The surrounding landscape was very dry and interesting at this time of year. The horses were great and the hosts were super friendly. 

The trails were right above the anchorage and you could get views down to the ocean all the time. 

Some of the trails would wind through surreal landscapes that looked like something out of “The Lord of the Rings”. 

The DR is very into baseball and softball. We watched a game one evening and were impressed by how skilled the players were. 

On our last day in Luperon we made friends with a family who had a Chihuahua puppy named “Dumbo”. He was the cutest little thing we had seen in a long time. He weighed about one pound and was very cuddly. 

After leaving Luperon, we sailed north to the Bahamas and checked in at Great Inagua Island. The Bahamas cover a huge area, so we will keep moving north towards Nassau every few days. 

We reunited with our Québécois friends aboard “Jayana” here and met some new friends aboard “Nahla”. With them, we did a back-of-truck tour of Great Inagua Island. It’s known for salt production, flamingoes and a huge lighthouse. 

There were mountains of salt as far as the eye could see!  It is harvested from evaporated sea water that sits in the enormous natural pools near the shoreline. 

The wild flamingo population is thriving here and was rehabilitated by naturalists many years ago. 

We also visited an old decommissioned lighthouse that was about 100 years old.  All of these islands are extremely low-lying and were very difficult to see in years past prior to modern GPS navigation. Before the lighthouses were built, shipwrecks were a regular occurrence around the Bahamas. 

Climbing the spiral staircase inside the lighthouse was a dizzying experience.  It was about 150 feet tall!

We will continue northwards in the Bahama Island Chain. With its stunning azure-coloured water and its endless number of protected anchorages, we really think we’re going to love it here in the Bahamas.  We will take our time and explore this water world before heading to Nassau by mid May.  There, we will wait for a suitable weather window to make it up the Chesapeake Bay by early June. 

Goodbye Oyai & Hello New York City!

After leaving Annapolis, we explored the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for a couple of weeks.  We sailed to a quaint little town called St...