Happy New Year breakfast would not be the same without Captain Christian’s eggs benedict. We invited Michael, Kerry, and Mike (from Cygnus) to our boat for breakfast. They brought their own eggs, a hot “just out of the oven home-made” bread, and crispy bacon! Thanks to all these contributions, we ate like kings! The day was lazy with a visit at slack tide to the ship wreck at mooring #9 (a sloop that was on a Warderwick Wells mooring about 20 years ago that went down in an unfortunate fire). It was warned that we might see a resident lemon shark swimming around this wreck, and to be cautious of it, as it can be aggressive. Luckily, we did not see it. But the wreck did look a bit smaller than I remember from when we would dive it in 2010. Later, at low tide, several of us boats congregated on the exposed shoals in the middle of the anchorage. The tide gets so low that it exposes the swirling sand bars and you can walk on them.
But one has to look down to avoid stepping on the multitude of sand dollars! Our kids had a great time playing with kids from a boat from Belgium and one from Canada. So interesting to hear others’ stories. While chatting, we saw a huge eagle ray jump out of the water just behind our boat! This place never ceases to amaze me with its marvels of nature.
At mid-day, we saw Rhondazvouxs, a trawler we met in Nassau, come into Warderwick Wells and moored directly behind us. The kids loved their dog Lula, who dressed up every day in a new dress and painted toe nails. They were happy to see them move in behind….both Rhonda and Kerry (her husband) are a hoot and full of fun stories! The kids played with a new friend Avery (moored next to us) in the water for a few hours, diving in and out and holding onto the rope for help against the current.
For Happy Hour, we partnered with Rhondazvouxs to offer everyone snacks. Rhonda and Kerry supplied pounds of their recently caught and seasoned wahoo and we bbq’ed it on our portable BBQ.
While everyone was chowing down, our kids were selling their bracelets on the beach.
They made some “custom” designs for a few clients. They also played beach games with a new friend they met from Colorado moored next to us (a Beneteau 47 from Colorado – Endurance).
To ease into schoolwork, which re-started for the new year today, we focussed on “art” for the day. Rhonda had lent us some “how to draw” books, and the kids had a few of their own, so they spent the morning drawing bunnies, kittens, dogs, chinchillas, lizards, dinosaurs, horses, and pigs. Meanwhile, Christian went to help Michael with his water maker, again.
After lunch, the kids wanted to play with Avery next door, so we dropped the kids off and went to land to hike a few of the paths in the park.
Our goal was to get to the plantation ruins. (dating back to the late 1700s). Loyalists fleeing the Revolution brought their plantation system to the Exumas, and specifically Warderwick Wells, with its attendant slaves. The plantation system was decimated in 1834 following the British government’s declaration of emancipation. They freed the slaves and stopped the plantation. For our 2 hour hike, we made it as far as Shady Tree path, which was only halfway to the ruins. We saw many interesting sites, such as an underground cave, a rock bridge over flood plains, breathtaking scenery, and lots of salamanders, geckos and hermit crabs (who holed up in their shells for a LONG time to hide).
The kids had so much fun with Avery that when we came back after the hike, they stayed a little longer. They went on an adventure with Avery’s grandmother to the island where they saw 2 turtles, a Queen Triggerfish and a huge beautiful parrotfish. Happy Hour was at the beach again. Nice to meet the new comers who were finding shelter from the upcoming storm.
Happy Hour again on the beach – last calm night – we made acquaintances with new arrivals.
After supper tonight, Jeremy hosted his Happy New Year party! He had been planning this for over a week, but it always got postponed due to unexpected visitors or late dinners. So finally we were able to sit down and play as a whole family. It was a lot of fun! He had made up some interesting games (ie. create a “unique meal” recipe, create a drink recipe, draw a building, silly-willy, dancing, snakes & ladder style game)
Today Christian also went scuba diving with Michael (from Cygnus) to check on his mooring in preparation for the big blow coming. The mooring looked to be very solidly attached. Unfortunately, by the time they got to our boat, the current had picked up so strongly that it whipped Michael from bow (where he jumped in) to stern in seconds! He came up our swim ladder with a look of perplexity and angst, not knowing what hit him, I think! Christian had to abort the dive on our mooring and we hoped that the condition of Michael’s mooring represented the state of ours, so we could sleep soundly during these impending storm conditions.
In the late morning, even with the increasing winds, Captain Chris offered his services at Warderwick Wells to varnish the walls, doors, storm panels, and railings of the office/headquarters. It was a lot of hard work.
Despite the upcoming bad weather, at low tide we went to hike up Boo-Boo Hill to see/hear the blow holes. There is a story that > 100 years ago, a ship was wrecked near Warderwick Wells and no survivors.
The ghosts of those perished are said to make the “boo” ghost sound at the top of the hill. Scientists will tell you that the “boo” sound is due to the waves “whooshing” up water into the blow holes. You believe what you want. Regardless, we had no luck because the water was unusually calm on the east side because the storm winds were coming from the west. We would come back another day.
The wind picked up in a wild manner over the course of the day…. I say “wild” because we were rarely facing the wind due to the strong current that kept turning our boat. As a result, we heard the mooring ball bumping into our boat many times and the wind blew across our beam (because the current was stronger). This resulted in us feeling as though we were “heeling” when we were not under sail!
It was a long day of hard work. Unfortunately, we did not benefit from a peaceful sleep due to the crazy winds and cross currents.
Still lots of wind…gusts blowing up to 35 knots all day. Christian offered his volunteer services yet again to Exuma Park. He helped them fix a few things (like a ladder that goes down into a deep cave on one of the paths) and cleaning the shop/storage shed. Meanwhile, Mama Bear stayed back at the boat and did 4 hours of schoolwork with the kids. Boy, was the wind blowing! We had white caps in the bay!
The kids asked their friend Avery to come over to play, but unfortunately, she was not able to join us.
Instead, we were invited by Rhondazvouxs to spend Happy Hour at their boat. After a drink and some sweets, the kids got cozy in the forward cabin to watch a dog movie while the adults chatted in the salon. It was nice to spend a crazy windy night in warmth and comfort with friends.
We were sad to see Cygnus leave this morning. He needed to head south to drop off his friends to get a ride back to the mainland. Despite the continuing high winds, we went to shore to volunteer yet again…this time, I helped Monica (Warderick Wells’ dispatcher and our friend) clean out the staff house. We took down all the Christmas decorations and cleaned up a few rooms in anticipation of the “head quarters big wigs from Nassau” coming in for a visit next week. While I helped Monica, Christian and the kids cleaned palm fronds off many of the paths in the tropical forest. They were warned to keep an eye out for the resident boa constrictor as they approached plantation ruins. This boa is apparently “small” and is always full from eating Hutias, so no big worries…HA! ; – ( They took the dinghy to another beach to get quicker access.
When they came back they were very satisfied that they did the “happy dance” on the dinghy!
Our whole family worked to clean off the beach – lots of black algae was washed up on the shore as well as other pollution.
The kids helped us rake up these huge wads of polluted algae and remove them. After Serena finished raking, the beach looked like a “resort beach” and just in time for our happy hour! All the boaters, who had been stranded here during the blow joined us on the beach for drinks. Lots of fun had by all! Rhonda brought a home-made chocolate delicious cake and we brought escargots (Jeremy’s favourite).
We found it quite fun to watch Lula (the chihuahua from Rhondazvouxs) try to intimidate the local Hutias (rodents that are 2x her size that lurk in the bushes at the beach looking for scraps left by humans). The trip back to the boat was VERY wet…waves were surprisingly high and the dinghy was challenged. But we made it safely!
Today, more volunteer work in the Park: Christian and Serena had lots of fun raking the beach further (they raked the name of our boat into the sand! Easily seen from the air). And they worked in one of the houses, called the “tree house lounge”, cleaning up. Meanwhile, I stayed on the boat and cleaned up the crevices of our food cupboards and took photos of the kids having fun on the beach in preparation for the Happy Hour! Latino Happy Hour on the beach from 4:30 to 6pm. It was fun to have a chance to chat with all the people “stuck” here due to the winds. Good to hear their plans and their differing weather reports. Even Cherry from the Exuma Park office joined us!
At 6:30pm dinner was then hosted on Serena I…we invited our friends Rhonda and Kerry from Rhondazvouxs and Monica and Constantine from their boat Monica. Late night, but lots of fun and warmth on this cold wintery evening!
After 3 hours of schoolwork, Papa Bear came back from his volunteer work to pick us up to go back up Boo-Boo Hill. On top of the hill, boaters are encouraged to leave the name of their boat (and date of visit) on a pile to mark that they visited the park. Their name must be in natural material only (ie. wood)…no plastic allowed.
We not only wanted to see if the blow holes were working, but also wanted to try to send text messages. We were told that if we climbed as high as possible with our phones, we might be able to send a message from our phones via the phone tower at Highborn. This has been a real inconvenience to not have access to internet or phone. We cannot tell our families that we are doing fine, nor can we look up weather. Blow holes were not being active today. But we think we had luck with sending a few text messages. Luckily, the kids are cool with not accessing internet…they play Minecraft and build cities with the ipad – no need for internet access.
Today, Christian and I left the kids on the boat while we went to the island for volunteer work. Christian helped Constantine with the garbage sorting and I helped Monica and Cherry do data input of all visitors to the park in the last few weeks.
Tonight’s Happy Hour would be the last we would see of several of our boater friends. They were leaving to find other sheltered anchorages for the next blow coming in a few days. We had to make a decision when we would leave this paradise.
After listening to the weather forecast and what we heard from the others at Happy Hour last night (Chris Parker’s infamous weather report), we decided we would move on a bit further south today. We went to spend some time saying goodbye to Monica and Constantine in the office. Our friends gave us a few jugs of water as a good bye gift and we were off by 10am. We motored on the Bahamas Banks side, because the Sound was far too rough from the last few days of storms. We arrived at Big Majors Island, near Staniel Cay, by 1:30pm. Coincidentally, Michael, from Cygnus, was already anchored here. He was the first to motor over and welcome us. As we had been informed, we were able to see several fat pigs running on the beach nearby. They are wild but like to be fed by visitor boats. Perhaps we will check them out later, as a front came by very quickly. We invited Michael over for chicken parmesan for supper. The wind and rain picked up just after he left. By 10pm, with the deluge of water pouring down upon us, I got the idea to try to “catch” some rain water as an experiment. I put 3 buckets on the deck under the bimini where water seemed to be trickling down.
Pouring rain and lots of wind all night long. When I went to see how much water
When I went to see how much water I had captured in the buckets during the night, I was surprised to see them all overflowing! The rain kept falling all day. Great for us to focus on doing schoolwork. Christian left in the rain to pick up Michael to go to Staniel Cay to buy parts for his water maker. And I used all this great new rain water to do a load of laundry. Unfortunately, with the non-stop rain, I was unable to keep the laundry on the lifelines to dry, so I moved them under the bimini for some protection. We continued to take turns capturing rain water and pouring it into jugs for future use. I had collected over 5 gallons with the 3 buckets and 4 glasses/bowls we used. I can only imagine how much more I could have collected if I had a better system! The rain poured on and off all day.
At sunset, we found a window of no rain to go visit the pigs on the beach. As per recent tradition, we spent Happy Hour on the beach….only this time it was with pigs! They came RUNNING to greet us as we beached the boat. I did not even have time to get out of the dinghy and their chins were on our boat with their mouths open where we could see the teeth and throats!
We fed them our compost (carrots, onions, potato peelings). The babies are SO cute! All multi-coloured. I have never seen pigs like this before. After 20 minutes, under a beautiful sunset, we returned to the boat for a supper of wahoo (grace à Rhonda and Kerry’s supplies)!
Here’s our laundry at sunset!
Rain and schoolwork. Christian left to try his luck at catching supper (ie. lobster or fish), but no luck. So he went over to help Michael with his water maker…hopefully to make water. Lots of schoolwork done with a fun Happy Hour after.
We were joined by friends, Terri and Lymon from Terridup, and Bob and Gretchen from Golden Pearl with their 2 Jack Russel Terriers.
In the morning, we went to explore Thunderball Grotto. This is a huge limestone rock that has been eroded away inside to form a large cave/grotto where you can snorkel with fish.
This place was used in part of a James Bond film. The snorkelling is amazing here. The kids were ecstatic to see so many fish…sergeant majors, parrotfish, grunts, queen angels, etc. They were is such large schools all swimming around us! So beautiful! When we got back from our adventure, we got an invitation from our friends from the Golden Pearl to be their guests at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for dinner. We had to order the meal in the morning so that it could be ready for 7pm. Later in the morning, after schoolwork, we went to Staniel Cay to buy some food. We checked out the Pink Store, the Blue Store, and Ives General Store. It is amazing how bare the shelves are. Not much produce or products on the shelf and definitely a limited variety amongst the products. And the prices are all EXHORBITANT!! How does $6.50 for a broccoli head sound to you? Or $5 for a litre of milk? When we came back to the boat, we picked up our compost bowl and went to the beach to feed the pigs again. This time, we fed them
CORRECT way: “in the water”. We filled a floating bowl with our food scraps and they were swimming all around us. The little ones stayed on the beach while the adult pigs were the ones eating. It is really amazing to see a pig swim!
At 6pm, we met Bob and Gretchen at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks. It was a rough ride as the wind was still blowing. They were so kind, they gave the children a little table toy to play with (bean bag toss). We had a few drinks and then the bell rang for everyone to go into the restaurant. This restaurant was a new addition to the Club that was not there when we last visited in 2008. It was very modern. We were assigned a table that was in its own little private room – were we lucky! The different courses of dinner was served with a smile.
The children, although starved, were well behaved. We had a fun conversation with Bob and Gretchen. It is always nice to hear new stories. Then at 10pm, after a tough competition of pool, we closed down the restaurant and had to head back to our boats. Luckily, the wind had died down quite a bit, but it was pitch black. One could only see the flashing beacon light at the point we had to around to get back to Big Majors where our boats were anchored. Very spooky dark!
Today, it was calm and hot, just before the predicted blow. Christian and Michael tried to look for lobsters, again, with no luck. We had fun spotting the huge sting rays who were swimming below our boat.
The kids swam with them and took many photos of the graceful marine friends. Then, we went back to Thunderball Grotto to see the marine life again. There were some tourists in the aquarium this time and the current seemed to push the fish into a corner. But this time, we spent our dives going through the holes in the rock. Outside of the grotto, we saw 3 leatherback turtles who seemed to enjoy swimming with Serena and Jeremy for nearly ½ hour!
Back at the boat, we saw a sea plane land near us and motor over to the Pig Beach. What
an elaborate entry to feed pigs! Certainly got the attention of us all in the anchorage! Tonight, Michael invited us to his boat tonight for dinner. We brought our steaks/chicken to be charbroiled on his bbq.
He had air conditioning, which was a welcome feature in his warm cheery home. We left just in time for the rain and lightning to begin. Luckily, we made it to our boat with 1 minute to spare. The winds howled all night. Not much sleep as the boat tossed quite a bit despite the fact we had our rocker-stoppers out on both sides.
Due to the rough night, we decided to move a bit closer to land in hopes that the wave action would be less. It was a good move…the rocking to our boat was dramatically reduced and it was much more bearable. For schoolwork today, Serena and Jeremy did a number of science experiments (ie. creating crystals, making fountain drinks, forming salt crystals on string). After lunch, Jeremy arranged a Fun Fair for us. He had planned (and invented) several games with his Trash Packs (ie. trash pack smash, trash pack pass), a drawing game (where you pass the drawing to next person to add the next feature) as well as a bag toss for us to play. We really had a lot of fun! This was great timing because we were stuck on the boat due to non-stop rain, wind, and waves.
Today, we left for Black Point, 10 miles south of Staniel Cay. We were told there was internet there…something we DESPERATELY miss – it has been over 20 days since we have had access to internet so we are far behind on updating the blog, our banking, research for schoolwork, our emails, etc. On our way south, Christian threw a few fishing lines out to try his luck. After an hour, he had a bite. Boy was it hard to reel in! After 40 minutes, he brought in what looked like a “needle fish”. It was a “hound fish”.
One of the biggest of the needlenose fish that are an irritant to fishermen because they swim at the surface and always eat their bait. This fish was huge and gave a big fight. It was scary to catch in the net because of its pointy snout. They are known to have impaled people with their points when they jump out of the water, so we had to be careful. Christian really tired the fish out, so we brought it aboard with less trouble. It was about 4 feet long! But when it was fileted, it turned out to be a measly bag of flesh. See disappointed Captain Chris in photos “before” and “after”:
It is supposed to be good meat…Supper for tomorrow. Because the wind was still very strong (20-25 knots), we went to the south anchorage, which was not close to the restaurants, but was much better sheltered. When we arrived, Christian again tried looking for lobster (no luck) and then we were invited for a Happy Hour at our friends’ boat – Terridup. It was a nice get together. Terri and Lymon invited Michael (from Cygnus) and Rhonda and Kerry (from Rhondazvouxs). Great to be with friends during this miserable weather. Thanks Terri and Lymon!
We stayed until it got dark because 2 fronts came through and poured rain for over an hour with very high winds. It was great to be in good company during yucky weather like this!
Kids had their Univers Social exams today. Surprisingly, they BOTH scored 89% on their tests (grade 4 for Jeremy, grade 6 for Serena). Christian and I got some paperwork done. We changed places in the anchorage to get a bit closer to the beach to be in calmer waters. The kids continued writing their books…they are on their 6th book of their book series. For a late lunch, Christian prepared/fried the hound fish that he caught yesterday. It was absolutely delicious! Mmmmm!
And again, just near sunset, Papa Bear had to go out to hunt for the ever-elusive spiny lobster. This time he went with Jeremy. On the way, Jeremy got a lesson on how to start the dinghy motor and how to drive the dinghy! He now knows and is able to start it and drive it!
Later we decided we had to find internet, even if we had to go to a restaurant and buy our meals. We heard of a restaurant – one of the few in the Exumas – that is open daily and they have great pizza. All dressed up in our rain gear, we went for an adventure: took the dinghy to the beach in the pouring rain (and oncoming rain squalls). We had our computers all wrapped up in our waterproof bags and went to find this renowned café. When we walked up the beach, there was nothing aside from some abandoned trucks, construction tools and some muddy lanes (that might have been roads). We walked using our sense of direction (or maybe it was our noses sniffing for good pizza?). After 40 minutes of walking in puddles and rain showers, past abandoned housing construction sites and dead snakes, we arrived at Lorraine’s Café. It was so welcoming! Even though it took 1hour 15 min to get our pizzas, it allowed us to get stuff done on the internet: banking, update blog, email friends, etc. It was a great 2 and 1/2 hours. However, as we all know, the sun sets in the islands at 5:45pm on the button. Sure enough, at 7:30pm, it was pitch darkness outside. Not being too excited to walk another 45 minutes in pitch darkness with rain, we kindly asked a local guy for a lift. He allowed us to go into the trunk of his pickup and gave us a lift to the desolate terrain where we hoped was near the beach with our dinghy. He could not drop us off at the beach since there was no road. Unfortunately, he dropped us off a bit too far from where we needed to turn off and we got a bit lost. Needless to say, thank you Captain Chris for having brought you flashlight. We got lost in the dark…turning around and retracing our steps. At one point, we started to make inukshuks in the event we got more lost. There was considerable (heated) discussions amongst us, with Serena not wanting to sleep with Bahamian Boas during the night and Jeremy encouraging us to go further back. In the end, we found our way, thanks to all of our inputs and determination. The moon and stars came out as we arrived at the boat in one piece! Sorry no photos of this adventure!
January 17 – 19
These days have been off and on rain, heavy wind. However, we have always found time to get out and meet our neighbouring boats and go for a few brief walks. We did laundry on Saturday and it was fun to meet up with all our previously made friends from other islands. The island has a very small population. All people are welcoming and polite to us visitors. There is a church, a school and grocery store here, plus 2 restaurants. Black Point is a GREAT place to do laundry. There is wifi, groceries, and beer available as well as coin showers and Iris, the owner, even gives hair cuts! Several of the guys got their heads buzzed. CC and I took a nice long walk back to the beach while the boys dinghied back with the kids. We met a few interesting people along the way. CC and Chris invited us to their boat for dinner…what a lovely Little Harbour 38. So cozy and warm on a wintery windy night! Thank you CC and Chris for your hospitality!
Despite the bad weather Christian always found time to go hunting. Today, he finally found some serious lobster. And this time he decided to try some conch. He collected 4 conch and we learned how to prepare them from a neighbouring boat. We steamed them in a pressure cooker – 15 minutes each. The shells were so big, he had to break them to get them into our pressure cooker! He was so excited about his catch today, that he made an announcement on the VHF inviting all boats in the bay to a Happy Hour on the beach. We brought our little bbq and he cooked up the lobster and conch which we served to all our new friends.
This morning, Christian made his eggs benedict and we invited CC, Chris, and Michael. It was delicious as usual. Today was the football game between the Patriots and the Jaguars. We had to go to Lorraine’s Café to participate in the excitement. She invited all neighbouring boats (on VHF 16) to her place. She had snacks of conch fritters and chicken strips to serve. There were about 50 people in the restaurant, both locals and boaters. It was quite the “charged” atmosphere!