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 :
Hunting for coconuts :
Indescribable colours :
Peaceful anchorages :
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.
Beautiful architecture :
Great mates :
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!
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.
I frantically tried to get Mal’s attention…
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.
They are known as Seahares or Aplysiomorpha, a marine mollusc and this variety is known as a black-spotted seahare.
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!
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!
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 🙂
And, while still on land, get a load of this cute little dude known as the, guess what?, curly-tailed lizard.
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.
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.
And our final pic is of a fossilized flounder, possibly the Peacock Flounder, which we see in abundance, with a live one to compare.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Good ol’ Sergeant Majors always provide a pretty show.
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 🙂
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.
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!
Whilst in Sint Maarten I entered a competition at Island Water World (IWW) where us cruisers seem to spend copious amounts of money! I wasn’t really sure what the prize entailed except I knew it had something to do with watching some of the 35th Heineken Regatta.
I received an email advising that I’d won and would be joining 10 other winners the next morning out on the water on the IWW 52′ Racing Catamaran. I wondered if Mal was included so I emailed back asking the question to which the response was, sure, bring him along too. Ooh, all of a sudden this is real. It’s been a bit windy, like 25 knots windy, and I get a tad seasick in rough conditions. Do I really want to go? Perhaps Mal could go on his own. Heck no, I want to go too, even if it’s just to get my free IWW rash-guard! Mal assures me I’ll be fine; yeah right, he always says that!
So with trepidation we head out the next morning to meet the fellow winners, receive our rash-guards, sunglass holders, both kindly donated by IWW, pose for the photo opportunity and board the vessel. Wait, there’s no cockpit, no saloon, no berths, nowhere to hide from the weather! She’s nothing like our 47′ catamaran! She’s sleek, lean and light as a feather! I’m relieved to hear there is a head in one of the hulls!
We are welcomed by Captain Rodney, crew member Guillaume and part-owner, Dominic. Rodney provides a safety briefing on deck, well, trampoline as there is no deck! We don the safety vests and away we go. I can’t back out now!
Rodney explains we will head out to watch the start of the Commodore’s Cup, which is a pre-Regatta event, then motor alongside the leaders up to Phillipsburg where we will peel off, hoist the sails and sail back to Simpson’s Bay. We can ‘play around’ in the bay for awhile and, if there is time, approach the finish line to watch the end of the race. Everyone is excited and itching to get going. I’m still a little nervous as the winds are definitely picking up but my tummy is holding it altogether at this stage!
In the end, we had a great day. There was lots of wind, rain, sun and we got drenched again and again. The rash-guards were brilliant as I wasn’t cold, even when I was wet through and they dried very quickly. Mal had a turn on the tiller and got us up to 21.5 knots with two reefs in the mainsail.
The cat is gorgeous. She only weighs 2.5 tonnes (Kool Kat weighs up to 33) and she has the latest and best equipment. Her shrouds and railings and, I think, the trampoline, are all made of Dyneema rope which is renowned as the “World’s Strongest Fibre”. Her history is that a few years ago the owner-builder entered the Route du Rhum Solo Transatlantic Race from France to Guadeloupe, finishing in 14 days. She then sat in a boat-yard on Sint Maarten until Dominic from Bluebeard Charters saw her. It has been a labour of love for him to bring her up to the boat she is today where they can now use her in the business. She will be ready and entered in the 2016 Heineken Regatta! Good luck Dominic. Click here for further information about her, and if you’d like to book a ride!
Island Water World, together with Dominic, were fantastic hosts and we had water, soft drinks and, of course, Heineken on tap throughout the morning.
I wasn’t ill at all and still can’t believe I managed a beer whilst sailing! Thanks Dominic and IWW, it was a great experience!
OMG! We both looked at each other in disbelief as we realised we were approaching our first anniversary of this extraordinary time in our lives. As everyone says, where has the time gone?
Today, the 14th February, marks the day in 2014 when we left Australia to commence this new stage in our lives. My reflections on the past twelve months are easily divided into two areas: our boat and what I have learnt.
Kool Kat 1: Mal, having sailed with previous owners Linda and John for five weeks the year before, was a little nervous but basically knew what to expect. I, however, was a tad more anxious! Excited, but anxious. I had only seen Kool Kat once three years earlier. Would she have enough room to house all my worldly possessions I was bringing from home? Could she handle my culinary attempts using a small 3-burner stove top and oven? How could I get in the dinghy at the dock and off the dinghy at the other end without falling into the drink? What would she do when I pushed instead of pulled that lever or button? Did she know that I DIDN’T know much at all.
The answer is she has been the most patient (outside Mal of course) and forgiving friend I could have asked for. She safely stores everything I ask of her, she teams with me to prepare some fabulous new dishes, I only fell in the water once which wasn’t her fault, and she quickly regrouped after I inadvertently turned off her solar panels. She is a beautiful girl and I love her 🙂 She gives me a freedom I haven’t experienced before, she has helped me overcome my disabling seasickness and, best of all, she’s contributed to my love of sailing.
Things I’ve come to learn (in no particular order):
dark nail polish leaves marks
haircuts don’t happen every six weeks
Family are a long, long, long way away
I can paddle board
I can scuba dive
15 hours is an awkward time difference
I miss my friends
Mal isn’t responsible if water gets in my goggles
I can prepare a pretty good meal with limited ingredients
I can make wonderful new friends and be inspired by so many of them
Drinking a G&T with Mal and watching the sun go down is pretty damn good
my body serves me well
I love being on or underwater
I can save my iPhone from drowning when falling in the water
I can maneuver Kool Kat in tight situations while Mal hoists the anchor
we can live ‘in each other’s pockets’ without killing each other
simple things can bring an enormous amount of joy
Australia is a bloody long way from The Caribbean especially when flights are delayed or missed!
I love living so close to the natural environment
That yachties are a unique breed of people – helpful, friendly, adventurous, and, best of all, I’m now one of them!
One thing I already knew, but that living 24/7 together in a confined space has confirmed, is that Mal and I make a great team. Mal has borne most of the initial worry and responsibility of our new lifestyle. He rarely loses his patience with me, he never gets overwhelmed because, as he always says, “there is a solution to every problem” and he just sits down and works it out, sometimes with my help. He has been my best teacher. Happy Valentine’s Day Mal! ❤
It’s been a great year and we are thrilled that a few family and friends have been able to make the journey to share it with us. We hope there will be more.
This first year has been a great learning experience for me as every day I learn something new about the boat. It is usually in the form of a breakdown of some sort. We had the generator overheat, raw water-pump fail on the water maker and bad connections here and there effecting the operation of various components. Every day I do something to the boat whether it is polishing, making water, a repair or just preventive maintenance like changing oil and filters.
The boat has been as good as I expected and better. We have learnt what makes her sail well and how to anchor her securely for the night.
Sue has been brilliant in her application to how things work and her coolness in some of the very confronting experiences we have endured (dragging the anchor during a violent storm is at the top of the list).
We are a team and have our special jobs. Sue is my backup always reminding me of things I usually forget, like, have you done the topping lift or slackened of the sheet before unfurling the genoa.
To sum up the first year has been fun every day and spending summer in Grenada was very special as we would not met so many people who have become very good friends. Our data base has over 80 boats who we have met along the way. It is a delight to meet up with them again when we drop anchor in a bay somewhere. We have visited seven countries and twelve islands to date whilst covering almost 700 nautical miles. Not bad for our first year!
Thanks for following our blog, we’ve loved bringing our adventures to you. Sue & Mal xx
We are fortunate that two sets of guests are flying into Antigua as it gives us a good excuse to spend a month or so of reconnaissance work on the two major islands in the country, Antigua and Barbuda.
On arrival in Antigua, we anchored in Falmouth Harbour to celebrate NY Eve with friends but, as soon as the celebrations were complete, we were out of there! We had been buffeted around for a few days by a swell coming around the corner and for us to feel it in a Cat gives you an idea of how bad it was. It was also quite crowded so when it came time to raise the hook, well, let me just say it was an experience and one referred to in a previous post, Anchoring – Highs and Lows. We did enjoy our time in Falmouth and if you want to read more, check out a recent post Nelson’s Dockyard.
As there wasn’t much wind and it was a short trip, we motored around to Jolly Harbour on the west coast and dropped anchor in Mosquito Cove. Antigua has beautiful beaches and make claim to 365! Sailing to Jolly we went past several and they did look beautiful.
Jolly was a lot calmer but it is a funny little place. It is a marina and condominium development with mostly holiday townhouses on canals and a boat tied up at their door! There is no local village but lots of resorts and the marina is host to many charter boats so it’s got quite a transient population of yachties and holiday-makers.
After a few days in Jolly Harbour we refuelled and headed around the point to Hermitage Bay in Five Islands Harbour. There is a very pretty resort which has the best internet we’ve encountered on Antigua so it was time to catch up with blogs and Facebook! Slow Waltz and Nahanni River also arrived and, after checking emails, we played a few rounds of our favourite card game, Wizard. Nahanni River had an early morning start the next day (2am) for their sail to St Maarten so it was an early night.
The next day we sailed to Deep Bay where the Andes Wreck is lying just below the surface and right in the middle of the bay entrance. We anchored, had lunch and then joined Gwen and Guillaume to snorkel on the wreck. It was fabulous. The variety of soft corals were terrific and there weren’t any fish we hadn’t seen before but to see the ship lying on the seabed was extraordinary. Part of its’ mast is still standing and you can see the framework and holes through the bow.
Later we walked to the top of Fort Barrington with 360 views.
The next day we headed to the north of the island and navigated our way through the Boon Channel to Long island. We anchored in a very pretty little bay known as Jumby. Long Island is privately owned with resorts and private homes; the restaurants are only open for resort guests and yachties are not encouraged to go ashore. So with 20-30 kt winds forecast, good protection, fast wifi and gorgeous blue water, we hunkered down for a few days and made the best of it 😉
We spent a few days here before heading north to Barbuda, but that’s another story, I mean post!
Until next time, fair winds and smooth sailing, Sue and Mal xx
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.