All posts by Sue and Malcolm

We are a couple of Aussies living our dream; cruising The Caribbean islands on our catamaran, Kool Kat I.

Cruising doesn’t get much better than this

We’ve been cruising in The Bahamas for just over two months and, to use an old expression, it really doesn’t get much better than this! Take crystal clear waters, amazing marine life, stunningly beautiful remote, quiet anchorages and combine with great friends and there you have it, paradise!

Gin-like water :

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Checking out conch on Mayaguana

Hunting for coconuts :

Indescribable colours :

Peaceful anchorages :

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It is special when you can share some of this with friends and family so we were lucky my sister, Anne, could join us for a few weeks visiting Eleuthera and The Abacos.

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Beautiful architecture :

Great mates :

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Mal and Dave’s (Banyan) birthday celebrations at Spanish Wells.
Lt Harbour
Lt Harbour
Hope Town (S/Vs Carrie May, Providence, Banyan and Slow Waltz)
Hope Town (S/Vs Carrie May, Providence, Banyan and Slow Waltz)

We are presently at West End which is our last stop before jumping across The Gulf Stream to Florida. We have truly loved The Bahamas and now look forward to the next stage of our adventure. Here we come US of A!

Cheers, Sue and Mal xx

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Bahamian Critters

After three seasons in the Eastern Caribbean we have been pleasantly surprised to meet some new critters and creatures in The Bahamas. Some, of course, are not indigenous to The Bahamas but we just hadn’t seen them before, or should I say, encountered!

Mal and I were lobster-hunting at East Plana Cay, a very remote and uninhabited island, when we met Mr 10’ Reef Shark! We had only seen nurse sharks in the Eastern Caribbean.

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Mal looking for lobsters…..

I frantically tried to get Mal’s attention…

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He cruised by and then, as is their wont, circled back to take another look at us! He was between us and our dinghy but he slowly swam away and we slowly, yeah right! swam back to our dinghy, all the while keeping an eye on the four barracuda tracking us! We’ve swum with nurse sharks before but never encountered one of these big boys! So awesome!

Now, for something a little more tame. Alex, from s/v Banyan, and I were snorkeling at Jack’s Cove off David Copperfield’s island, hunting for these cute little, as yet unidentified, creatures that Alex had spied the previous day. She described them as something between a snail and a slug, well, sort of she said.

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Alex and I jus’ hangin’ before heading to the shallows sea-hare hunting!
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And, we found one, actually dozens! They’re quite gelatinous in texture and look snail-like and move snail-like but they have no external shell. They’re markings are really cute and they have a frill-like trim which waves gently in the current.

They are known as Seahares or Aplysiomorpha, a marine mollusc and this variety is known as a black-spotted seahare.

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These two were travelling together. I took a video and will upload to our Youtube channel when I get a good wifi connection.

Continuing the underwater theme, we have regularly seen this delightful little Yellow Stingray throughout the Bahamas. Pretty well camouflaged heh? It is small but if you accidentally stand on one they have a serious sting!

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Gwen from s/v Slow Waltz and I recently had the ‘ride’ of our lives! Well, three rides actually. Guillaume and Mal dropped us off at the beginning of a cut with the tide going out to view the snorkelling spot at Warderick Wells called The Coral Garden. We enjoyed it so much we did two more times! The fast-moving current carried us along whilst we gazed down on the beautiful underwater marine life. Highlights for me were several giant Nassau Groupers, Atlantic Spadefish and four Spotted Eagle Rays elegantly gliding along. But, our favourite find was this 3lb lobster feeding on a conch shell whilst a Nassau Grouper patiently waited his turn. Whilst I’ve seen all these guys before, their size blew me away!

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OK, moving on to land, this gorgeous looking spider caught Alex’s and my attention when we were on Lee Stocking Island visiting an abandoned Research Marine Centre. We’ve been told he could be a Banana Spider – I think the yellow and black legs are the giveaway here LOL! He was big and since then we’ve seen smaller ones on other islands. Don’t you just love his hairy joints! My Wikipedia research says the Banana Spider or Brazilian Wandering Spider is aggressive and venomous! Luckily we left well enough alone 🙂

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And, while still on land, get a load of this cute little dude known as the, guess what?, curly-tailed lizard.

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He preferred his left side and wasn’t intimidated by the camera at all! We’ve seen a few of these little fellas on different islands now and they are so cute.

And, now we come to the amphibious critters. Gwen and I found these superb King Helmet shells semi-buried on the beach at East Plana Cay. The photos don’t do them justice and they’re far less common than a conch shell.

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The two above are roughly 17cm (7″) high (when standing in bottom photo) and 15cm (6″) across to the widest point.

Gwen is actually a Helmet shell magnet! She has found quite a few now. Slow Waltz, Banyan and we were walking through the shallows of O’Brien’s Cay when we found the ones below. All alive! These are smaller but check out their amazing markings.

Not to be outdone, get a load of what Mal found on the same sandbar. The 1st photo is obviously out of the water and is a massive crab! The pincers were as touch as nails! The 2nd photo I tried to take holding the camera underwater and it’s not that good but you can get a rough idea of what he looks like. He could move pretty quickly too! If he’s a hermit crab, he’s the biggest we’ve seen.

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And our final pic is of a fossilized flounder, possibly the Peacock Flounder, which we see in abundance, with a live one to compare.

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As you can see, we love exploring and discovering the wildlife, marine life and everything nature-wise about our travels.

We hope we’ve been able to show you something a bit different too 🙂

Cheers, Sue and Mal xx

Postscript: We only take shells that have been vacated by their owner and are not in a Marine Park. No critters are killed to satisfy our thirst for these amazing specimens.

Bahamas 101

We are currently cruising through the amazing archipelago known as The Bahamas. We didn’t know much about this incredible cruising ground and now fully appreciate why so many boaters, particularly those from North America, spend their winters exploring the incredible little nooks and crannies!

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Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island is the deepest known blue hole in the world at 663ft.

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According to Wikipedia, The Bahamas territory encompasses 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) and is made up of over 700 islands, cays (keys) and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. These islands are divided into regions: The Abacos, The Exumas, The Raggeds, The Jumentos and the Far Bahamas, which cover the more uninhabited outer islands. The main ‘cities’ are Georgetown down south in the Exumas, Nassau on the island of Providence, also the Bahamian capital, and Freeport on the northern island of Grand Bahamas in the Abacos.

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Many boaters sail across from the US for the northern hemisphere winter and spend their time cruising up and down the islands often only visiting the closer ones: The Abacos and The Exumas. We made our way up from the Dominican Republic via Turks and Caicos and have visited some of the outer or Far Bahamanian islands. These were a treasure and we feel privileged to have been able to visit some of them!

The islands we have visited have all been different but, at the same time, very similar. The striking similarity is the ‘gin-like’ clarity of the water! We attribute this to two reasons: the islands are flat and have little to no agriculture eliminating run-off; and, the prevailing winds during winter are from the east so this means the Atlantic ocean is flushing out the waterways with every tide. The result is pristine waters just begging you to snorkel, dive or swim.

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Staniel Cay

We find it impossible to accurately describe the colour and clarity of the water…..

The shallows, of course, present their own problems. We have to time our movements according to high tide and our snorkelling to slack water. We are on constant alert for coral heads and sandbars and many nautical miles are completed with only 1-1.5m under Kool Kat’s keels.

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Capt’n on high alert for coral heads and sandbars.
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Typical sandbar on the right.
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Jack’s Cove and very typical island terrain

We had to stop at Rudder Cut Cay to dive on David Copperfield’s stainless steel piano with accompanying mermaid. And, of course, Mal had to tickle the ivories. Not bad clarity in 15-20′ of water. The tide was going out and it took all our energy to maintain position. We time our dives now for slack water!

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And, like all good tourists, we had to feed the pigs at Staniel Cay….

And, snorkel Thunderball Grotto. This is a gorgeous little cave where James Bond (Sean Connery) did what he did best in the film Thunderball.

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Good ol’ Sergeant Majors always provide a pretty show.

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And, so we continue, up through The Exumas to Nassau where we are collecting my sister at the end of this month and we can share some new experiences with her through The Abacos! Can’t wait 🙂

Until next time, Sue and Mal xxx

Island friendliness…

We needed to refuel but the fuel dock on Mayaguana is no more so locals, Marissa and Dalton, drove us to Pirate’s Well to pick up fuel in two 15-gallon drums. We talked, laughed and sang and generally hit it off! We discussed all things island, and it came up that we hadn’t ever tried conch salad. Ok, says Dalton, today is your lucky day!

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OK, out to KK to refuel whilst Dalton and Marissa go fishing, or is that conching?

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We’ve never refueled like this before! Boy, those drums are heavy!

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Four hours later, we’d finished refueling and Marissa and Dalton arrived with all the ingredients to make a conch salad and with two fabulous dog snapper for our din-dins!

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Chop, chop, chop and dice, dice, dice very finely! Intersperse with jokes and a little rum and soda!

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Add some salt, goat pepper (wow, it sure packs a punch!), ground black pepper, capsicum, red and brown onion, and heaps, I mean heaps, of lime juice!

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It was sooooo good! Dalton’s THE MAN! It went down very nicely with an ice cold beer!

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Then he prepared our snapper; first he created a rub with salt, garlic, that fiery little goat pepper and a touch of black pepper.

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He made an incision on the outside and placed in the cut along with inside the fish itself.

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Then he placed sliced capsicum and onions over and inside the fish and wrapped in foil. We refrigerated it for a few hours and then placed on the grill and hmm! Need I say more!

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What a day! Thanks Marissa and Dalton for giving us a taste of island life Mayaguana-style!

Still having a blast, Sue and Mal xx

PS: Conch are everywhere throughout the Caribbean and The Bahamas and is also known as Lambi. We’ve tried it a few times in a stew-style dish but it’s always been a little rubbery. This is what a conch looks like alive….

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Photo courtesy of Google – one type of conch.

Overnighters

Doing an overnight passage is not my favourite part of sailing – well, actually, it’s my least favourite part – arriving at our destination and exploring is much more fun! But, hey, sometimes you’ve just gotta do it!

And, so it was when we had to make the big jump from the DR (Dominican Republic) up to The Turks & Caicos in our quest to reach The Bahamas. 198nm (367kms or 299miles) is the distance we needed to cover to reach Grand Turk in The Turks & Caicos.  At an average speed of 6 knots, we estimated it would take us about 33hrs and if we left at 6am from Samana Bay in the DR, we should reach landfall on or around 3pm a day later in T&C. The weather window indicated the winds were ENE which suited us but they would be light to start, building to about 25knots along the journey. Alright, let’s do it!

Of course, you can’t just throw off the lines and sail into the sunrise! We needed to prepare.  Food first! In case the weather is bad and you don’t want to spend too much time indoors, you need ready-to-go and easy-to-manage food. So I set about preparing: we’d have our normal cereal for brekky, soup with toasted cheese and vegemite sandwiches for lunch, red peppers stuffed with jambalaya  for dinner and apple fritters/pancakes for snacks. We also had fruit, dry biscuits and muesli bars in the ‘snack basket’. It’s amazing how hungry you get in the middle of the night! Oh, and we had a take-away pizza from the restaurant at the marina which went down a treat!

Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!
Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!

Next, check the Grab Bag. Well, actually, create a Grab Bag! One of those ‘just-in-case’ things; a bag full of everything we might need if we had to abandon the boat, God forbid!

Items in our Grab Bag: water, flares, phone, dinghy key, flare gun, torches, horn, Leatherman, whistle, passports and important documents, wallet.

Next, get our harnesses out. We both wear a harness at night or in bad weather and it is always clipped on, especially if the other person is not in the cockpit.

The Despacho, Shephard, came aboard at 6am and cleared us to leave. It  was still pretty dark and as we traversed the channel we nearly clipped the starboard buoy – it wasn’t lit and Mal couldn’t see it. Not a great start! Motoring along to exit Samana Bay we then proceeded to nudge four fishing buoys tied together – egads, I was meant to be on lookout! Luckily for us they didn’t get tangled in our props and we counted our lucky stars!

As we headed out of the bay our fortunes changed and we were lucky to catch sight of some North Atlantic Humpback whales. Lots of spouts and tails kept us entertained.

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During night passages we aim to have 2hrs on-watch and 2hrs asleep but it never seems to work that way. This time we got into a rhythm of Mal being 1hr off and 2hrs on with me have 2 glorious hours of sleep and being on watch for 1! 🙂 Mal was happy with it and so was I! 🙂

We set the phone stopwatch for 12 minutes. When it goes off whoever is on watch stands up and does a full 360 of the horizon. Ships can come up on you very quickly at night and we know of friends who were hit from behind by a ferry. Fortunately, they’re OK but you have to be very vigilant!

During the night we went past Silver Banks and Navidad Bank which are two shallow areas where the North Atlantic Humpback whales come to mate and calve. On my watch I could smell whales on at least four occasions which was quite scary as we definitely wouldn’t want to hit one! I cranked up the playlist and sang louder so they might hear me. The first few glimpses of sunrise are so uplifting and such a relief after a long, dark and sometimes, cold night.

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Sunrise between DR and The Turks & Caicos

As the morning progressed the winds picked up and Mal put a 2nd reef in the mainsail and pulled in the heady a little. With winds hitting over 25knots we reached 10.2 and the direction made it possible to alter our destination to South Caicos. This meant we’d have an extra 27nm to go but we had plenty of time to arrive in daylight.

9.4 knots well above our anticipated average of 6!
9.4 knots – well above our anticipated average of 6!

We are pretty good at dodging squalls but this one caught us on the edge.  We watched it edge forward very slowly but there was no escaping it.

The squall passed leaving this gorgeous cloud formation. See the  row of puppies….

How many dogs do you see?
How many dogs do you see?

And, then we arrived. We had travelled 225nm (417kms or 340miles) in just under 30 hours, averaging 7.5knots/hour. After a very brief tidy up, we had a well-earned arrival beer and promptly went to bed for some catch up sleep!

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There’s nothing quite like the arrival beer!

We’re both hoping this might have been our last overnighter.

Until next time, take care, Sue and Mal xx

Kool Kat is FOR SALE

It is with mixed feelings that we have listed our beautiful home, Kool Kat I, for sale! Anyone who knows us or has followed our blog since we commenced this incredible journey, living aboard and cruising the Caribbean was always going to be a three-year adventure! Those three years are now coming to an end and it’s time to head home, back to Australia.

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Kool Kat I is a 2003 Leopard 47 built by South Africans Robertson & Caine. I really didn’t know what to expect in our first year and was a little anxious but I was totally blown away by how wonderful the boat was. She gave me confidence in her ability to handle anything we threw at her and, best of all, I didn’t get seasick! 🙂

She’s strong, sails really well and has been our home away from home with all the mod-cons. She’s totally self-sufficient so we’ve been privileged to be able to visit some awesome places and see some amazing things! She has met every need we have had, and some more!

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She’s great for entertaining and has provided spacious accommodation for our guests.

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If you know someone who may be interested or you happen to be in the market for an awesome catamaran,  check her out at Yacht World.

Thanks Kool Kat I for the past three years! We’ll sure miss you, Sue and Mal.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

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Kool Kat in her slip at Palmas del Mar Marina

OK, our last post had us arriving at Palmas del Mar Marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico where we planned to hire a car to provision in preparation for The Bahamas.  All our cruising friends had told us that you need to be well-provisioned before visiting this incredible archipelago of islands. According to Wikipedia, it encompasses more than 470,000 sq kms!

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So much to see….

From what we understand there is very little agriculture so most foodstuffs are brought in, often by mail boat once a week and, when that food has gone, it’s gone until the next boat arrives. Because it is imported, food can also be expensive. Cruising guides have stressed that boaters need to be independent as there may be little or no services available. So, with all this advice in mind, we got busy!

Inventories were taken in the pantry, laundry and workshop! Use-by dates were checked and some stuff was tossed! We then set about trying to estimate how many meals x how many days we might need and exactly which boat spares we should buy, just in case!

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We stocked up at Walmart, Econo and West Marine. Oh, and Gwen and I stocked up at JC Penney’s and Marshall’s too as we didn’t have anything warm to wear in the cold Bahamas, LOL! New goods were added to the inventory and excess packaging was removed, not only minimising opportunities for little beasties to stowaway on our boat, but also to reduce the amount of rubbish we’d create in The Bahamas.

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I hope we’ve got enough……
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Definitely got enough tea bags!

In the midst of all this activity we celebrated Australia Day with the Inaugural Australia Day Film Festival on Kool Kat! Banyan (Alex and Dave) and Slow Waltz (Gwen and Guillaume) joined us to watch Aussie movies Red Dog and Gettin’ Square, which is only fair as we helped celebrate Canada Day last 1st July. We had a little Vegemite overload with Banyan and Slow Waltz bringing Vegemite popcorn yes, you read that correctly, Vegemite popcorn, which accompanied our Vegemite on salada-like biscuits and Vegemite and cheese scrolls. Thank goodness I also made Anzacs and mini banana muffins! I should add Mal showed a short Youtube video called ‘Straya’ which is quite a hoot!

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Yep, that’s the Vegemite popcorn in the green bowl! It was scrummy!
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They tasted better than they looked!

So, back to our planning for The Bahamas. Guillaume and Mal had been checking the weather watching for a good window where we could bypass the Dominican Republic and sail straight to either Great Inagua (bottom of The Bahamas) or The Turks and Caicos, a small country next to The Bahamas. The window needs to be 3-4 days of good sailing weather and there was one coming up which looked perfect.

Kool Kat leaving Puerto del Mar Marina. Thanks Banyan for the image.
Kool Kat leaving Puerto del Mar Marina. Thanks Banyan for the image.

We said our goodbyes to Alex and Dave and headed off with Slow Waltz to the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, where we would stop for the night before commencing our journey across the Mona Passage and into the great beyond! But before long Slow Waltz had trouble with the autohelm and an autohelm is not what you want to have out of action when doing a big passage, well, any passage really! So, we both pulled into Salinas on the south coast of Puerto Rico to see what was what. Luckily for us, our hot water service gave up  the ghost whilst there. We’re lucky because if this had happened elsewhere further into our trip we would have been having cold showers for a very long time! Everyone tells us that The Bahamas is a lot cooler than we’ve been used to in the Eastern Caribbean so we wanted a working hot water service! We were able to order a new one, along with some other items and, because Puerto Rico is a US territory, delivery was estimated as three days and not hellishly expensive.

We moved to Guilligan’s Island and then on to Puerto Real on the west coast to wait for the goods and so we would be ready to go as soon as the next window opens up. Our trip was beautiful with dolphins and interesting terrain to keep us occupied.

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Dolphins playing off Kool Kat’s bow
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They love to jump and surf the waves
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The stunning lighthouse, Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, on southwest corner of Puerto Rico
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Sunrise over the sleepy port of Puerto Real
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Homes in the fishing village of Puerto Real

The goods arrived true to their word in three days and Mal successfully installed it. Slow Waltz have also got their autohelm working and we’re all ready to go!

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One new fully-installed hot water service!

So now, we’re waiting, waiting, waiting. The winds are very light and there doesn’t seem to be a big enough weather window for The Bahamas so, we think we will do one overnight hop across the Mona Passage to the Dominican Republic where, once again, we’ll be waiting, waiting, waiting.

Until next time, Sue and Mal xx

Postscript: We’ve woken this morning (Sunday 7th February) to 20-30kn winds so we’re off! Woohoo!