Jan 13 to Jan 19 2012

January 13, 2012

 

Nassau!!! Ok, so Steve and I are not really happy to be here. We heard terrible things about Nassau but it was the only reasonable destination with the stores we needed.

 

Nassau is the Capital city of the Bahamas. It has the most inhabitants out of the 27 inhabited islands in the Bahamas with a population of appoximately 250 000. Last year, the total number of murders totaled 127!!! Crime is a big problem and from what we have read, the warnings are as follows:

  • Do not leave anything unlocked I
  • If at anchor and dinghy to shore – Do not leave ANYTHING in the boat unless you want it to be stolen.
  • Do not walk around at night
  • Do not walk alone
  • …etc you get the picture.

We made our shopping lists last night. We were told we can get everything we need from the street the marina is located; Banks, Grocery, Marine Store, Dive Shop and restaurants. We grabbed our bags and walked up to the main street and were instantly assaulted by traffic!! This is one busy place!! The sidewalks are intermittent so walking on the street with cars whizzing by is expected.

 

First stop - a marine store. There were three of them on this street but he biggest is a place called Lightbourne Marine. This is a great little store with a good selection of items at decent prices. We picked up a paddle, spare propeller, an anchor with chain and gas tank with direct hook up for the dinghy, along with many other little items. Great stop, the staff was knowledgeable and helpful and the cost was comparable to back home.

 

We wanted to check out the Potter’s Cay Market. It’s supposed to offer local produce and apparently we can negotiate price. But first, we were hunger so we stopped for lunch at a restaurant called “The Poop Deck”. I had to check it out. It’s a lovely looking restaurant with a great view of the harbor but it’s a tourist trap. The food is ok and the prices are outrageous. We had conch fritters, conch salad (a really small bowl), tuna fish sandwich, two Kaliks for 50$!!!!! Oh well…that will teach us to leave the boat hungry.

 

We then made our way to Potter’s Cay Market. It is located by the water under the big bridge leading to Paradise Island. It is lined with food and drink shacks offering conch salad, fish fry, fritters and beers – all for a few dollars each! And this place was hopping!! Lots of men in groups playing checkers drinking beers while the shacks were cutting up conch by the bucket full and serving the locals – YUM!!!! It is a lively place as people shout at each other, cars everywhere honking at each other – it was overwhelming at first but awesome in the end!! We instantly regretted spending our money at the Poop Deck.

 

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Potter’s Cay Market – there are four food shacks here and there must have been a dozen lining each side of the bridge.

 

All shacks offering a similar menu of conch salad, fritters and fish fry.

 

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One of the fruit and veg stands located under the bridge between the rows of shacks.

 

It was time to buy some fruit and vegetables and try out my skills at negotiating. There were around six stands to choose from all offering the same selection of local produce; cabbage, onions, potatoes, ginger, tomatoes, peppers, dried peas, bananas, plantains, avocadoes and some had a cage filled with little crabs.

 

The stands are loaded with produce and armed with tough looking ladies. I picked out the produced I wanted and asked for a price. The lady told me 9$ and I offered 7$. She looked at me like I spit in her face. She said 9$ and I said 8$. Then she said 9$ and I said Ok. LOL!! Oh well...I stopped at a second stand and it was a similar experience.

 

We were still full from lunch but had to stop at a stand for something. The Bahamas are known for a few things: Conch salad, Conch Fritters, Macaroni and Cheese and Sky Juice. Sky Juice is a national drink. It’s basically gin, coconut juice and condensed milk.

 

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DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On our way back to the Marina, we stopped at a Dive Shop to look at masks. My mask doesn’t seal very well, so we were hoping I could find a new one that wasn’t terribly expensive. I was successful J I am now outfitted with a pink mask (teehee) that fits my nose and seems to seal much better. I can’t wait to test it out in the Exumas!

Back at the marina, we loaded everything on the boat then headed to Starbucks to check our email. Yes, Starbucks is here too!! Fortunately, we didn’t see any McDonalds but we did see a Burger King – boo!! Oh well, the Internet was good and the lates tasted just like at home.

We planned to leave in the morning for Allen’s Cay in the Northern Exumas. The weather is not looking great but we think if we leave at first light we can make it before the high winds. Our neighbours on the dock; Bruce and Jan on a 41 foot Morgan called Celtic Rover, recommended to anchor in Highbourne Cay instead as it offered better holding and less current.

Early to bed as tomorrow will be an early start.

January 14, 2012

Up at 0600hrs to catch Chris Parker’s weather forecast.

The weather is not good to do the trip this morning. The sky has clouded over this morning making navigation over the yellow banks impossible. We are also expecting high winds over the weekend, meaning we are stuck in Nassau until probably Tuesday. We checked our budget and determined we could stay put for the next three days. Oh well, we were disappointed since we were in the Capital of the Bahamas we chose to make the best of it and get out to see the sights!

 

The Marina is filled with fellow cruisers doing similar trips. We all have something in common so conversation is easy and fun. We get to share tips, weather info and stories. We are expecting Jolly Mon whom we met in Great Harbour Cay to arrive, as well as Rodeo – the 37ft Alberg. There are quite a few Canadians as well. As the day wore on, more and more arrived. A boat with a family of five s/v Larose des Vents who we met in Bimini arrived and popped by Diana to say Hello. It’s really fun, we don’t know each other very well but we are bonded by our adventure and when we run into each other it always feels like running into long lost friends.

 

I really wanted to go for a run but was unsure whether it would be safe or not. Yesterday, I saw a young woman running and asked her what route she took and if she felt safe. She told me not to worry and shared her route. Traffic would be my main concern and she advised to just run against it. So this morning, I put on my running shoes and enjoyed a nice run along Nassau’s busy waterfront. I passed a park, a fisherman’s wharf (very smelly) and many big old homes. The traffic here is no joke. It is either bumper to bumper or the cars are speeding by. Since the sidewalks are limited, I’m on the road with them but I felt safe and the run was great!!

 

While I was running, Steve was getting to know our neighbours, Bruce and Jan. They have been sailing for a long time but have been live-a-boards-cruising for the past 5 years and gave us a lot of tips on anchorages and interesting places to visit in the Exumas. They are trying to get to Grenada this year. We became fast friends J We also met a Canadian couple Andy and Gisele on a 36ft Catalina called Blue Breaker. They did this trip 18 years ago in a little 27 foot tri-maran and this time they are retracing their steps on a bigger, more comfortable sailboat. We had lots to talk about and tips to share – again – instant friends. We have not met a cruiser we haven’t liked yet! Since we are “stuck” in Nassau for the next few days, it was time to play tourist. We went for a walk across the bridge to the infamous Paradise Island to see what all the fuss was about and to visit the Bahamian Craft Centre.

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View of Harbour from Bridge to Paradise Island

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A close up of the marina area. Diana is docked in the mass of boats somewhere in the back on the left. This is a very busy place!!

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View of Paradise Island from the Bridge - - you can see the ocean behind the buildings J Jan_14_Paradise_Island_Street_Sign_resized.jpg

 

We went to the Bahamian Craft Centre first. We chatted with a number of ladies selling their work. We almost bought several things but ended up walking away empty handed. Steve however got some fishing advice from one of the vendors. She was selling her husband’s shell art. She has a friendly smile and was easy to talk to. She LOVES fishing and was surprised to hear Steve hasn’t caught very much. She gave Steve her secret; she uses the leftover conch bits called “Conch Slop” to bait her hooks and catches fish all the time. She suggested we talk to one of the fisherman in the Market to get some “Conch Slop”. Excited to try it, we made some mental notes and thanked her for the advice.

 

We then made our way towards the Atlantis Hotel and Casino which is surrounded by shops and has an upscale marina with Mega Yachts galore. We were turned off by this part of Nassau. It felt so fake. Even the beach at the hotel was man made. Paradise Island felt like a sanitized version of Nassau. Everything is shiny and new and felt almost cartoonish.

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Shop Area

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Mega yachts at the Marina with Hotel in the background

We were unable to see the famous aquarium in the Hotel and we were restricted to enter certain areas if we were not Hotel guests. We did stop at the Casino to try our luck on a couple of the machines. We walked away a few dollars poorer and smelling like cigarettes ha!

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Our winnings from the Atlantis Casino ;)

I don’t want to be too negative about this place because some people would love this. The Hotel really is beautiful. But for us, this is not our idea fun. When I visit a new country and I want to visit the people and see how they live. I don’t want to be limited to a westernized version of a country. We are turned off by this experience and feel this is simply a tourist trap. It’s really too bad because we feel the Bahamas has so much more to offer than a plastic Hotel and overpriced restaurants and shops.

 

It was time to get back across the bridge to Nassau for some fritters and beer from one of the shacks in the Potters Cay Market J We picked a shack with the most people in front. We ordered conch fritters and two beers. The fritters were TWO BUCKS!!!! There was a group of men at the next table, drinking, laughing and smoking cigars. We drank our beers while waiting for our fritters and enjoyed our surroundings; people milling about, cooking, playing games, laughing, shouting at each other and lots of cars. This was the real Nassau. A big man named Nado, who was holding a big bag of fat cigars, asked if we wanted to by some Cuban’s - we declined and enjoyed watching the jovial group teasing each other.

We finished our beers and prepared to take the fritters back to the boat when one of the men from that table bought us a beer. So we HAD to stay to hang out – twist my rubber arm I say! We munched on our fritters and chit-chatted with the men. We hung out mostly with Jerome - a mechanic by trade but was a fisherman too. We shared our story and explained our fishing troubles. We told him about the advice we got from the Craft Lady and he explained to us that the Conch Slop was great for fishing from a pier but not so good from the boat. He offered a different approach – squid and sardines!! He recommended a grocery store up the street to get some frozen squid to use as bait. The squid is tough and smelly – making it great bait. Then, he said to get a can of sardines, poke holes in the can and drop it in the water where we are fishing. The juices flowing out of it will attract the fish and make for easy catching. Ingenious!!!

We thanked Jerome then said good bye, made our way back to the boat and added squid and sardines to our shopping list.

January 15, 2012

We are really enjoying Nassau and are glad the weather pushed us here. We are disappointed we couldn’t get to the Andros but the experience so far in Nassau has been a pleasurable one.

Our friends from Jolly Mon; Anna and Greg, arrived yesterday. They were meeting some friends near the Straw Market and we asked if we could tag along for the walk. The Straw Market is a popular stop – it is basically a souvenir shop with local arts and crafts. On our way, Anna was hungry so we stopped at the Potter’s Cay Market for some fritters. Potters Cay is some becoming my favourite place in Nassau. Most of the shacks were closed on Sunday but a few remained opened. Anna ordered some fritters from a different Shack than yesterday.  The fritters were equally good and the beers were delicious. With full bellies and a bit of a beer buzz we made our way towards the Straw Market. We parted ways at a restaurant. So Steve and I kept walking.  We hadn’t ventured this far yet…

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Evidence of businesses that once were...

We walked and walked through this depressed area then it changed…

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Gucci anyone?

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Busy streets on our way to the Straw Market

There were many venders lining the street. Lots of local art and jewelry – my favourite J 

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Cartier and Rolex stores…there were also server diamond stores…ooh la la J We are definitely in Cruise Ship territory now!

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Burger King with Cruise Ship in the background

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Straw Market

The Straw Market was big. It offered a lot of wood carvings, jewelry, handbags and trinket souvenirs. We didn’t really find anything we liked – we actually preferred the Craft Market on Paradise Island – it offered more unique things - so we left empty handed – again.

We didn’t feel like walking all the way back to the Marina and decided to try the city bus. They are numbers white vans with about a 12 passenger limit – great for weaving in and out of Nassau’s hectic traffic. The cost is 1.25$ per person to ride the bus – well worth it. While waiting for the number “7” we stopped into the liquor store to check out their rum stock. We do this in every new city or town ‘cause we never know what we might find.

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“Fire in the Hole – Erotic Rum"

We haven’t seen this one before. It’s a Bahamian Rum called “Fire in the Hole – Erotic Rum” 80 proof for 7$! Sounds fun doesn’t it!?!?! We didn’t get it thought, thinking it probably tastes horrible but we will keep it in mind if we run out of money and need a stiff drink ;)

January 16, 2012

Today was spent mostly getting the boat ready to leave tomorrow, doing a last load of laundry and picking up some last minute things at the grocery store – namely; squid.

We went for a walk with Andy and Gisele – they were hungry and hadn’t been to Potter’s Cay Market yet so we had one last excuse to go J We tried a different shack for fritters and beer that were equally delicious. We’ve developed a fritter addiction and have vowed to try them everywhere we go. So far, the Berry Island’s fritter are by far the best but these were yummy too.

We parted ways with Gisele and Andy. Steve and I went to the Super Value Mart south of the Paradise Bridge – what a grocery store!! It had everything!! Anyone stopping in Nassau, this store is by far better than the one near the Marina. We picked up squid and some cans of sardines – we were all set to go fishing J

We enjoyed drinks and good conversation with Bruce and Jan. They too, were headed to Highbourne Cay in the morning.

I worked on the Blog while Steve Skyped with family…

Nassau was a surprisingly pleasant experience. We dreaded – I mean DREADED – coming here based on what we’ve heard about it but we’ve had nothing but good experiences. We were careful to not go out at night but that was really the only precaution we took. The people here are friendly, helpful and eager to talk once engaged. I wouldn’t come to Nassau a vacation destination but I would certainly come back as a stop-over to somewhere else and enjoy myself.

January 17, 2012

To the Exumas!!!!!!!!!! The winds are ESE anywhere between 10-15kts. It’s a sunny morning which is exactly what we need to cross the Yellow Banks. I mentioned the Yellow Banks a few days ago – I’ll explain them now:

I mentioned in a previous post about the Visual Piloting Rules while navigating in the Bahamas – reading the water colour for coral heads and water depth in addition to following the chart as not all coral heads are exactly where they are marked on the chart. Again, knowing how to read the water is the key and navigating on a cloudy day is not recommended as the clouds cast shadows in the water making it unreadable. This particular crossing takes us over a place called the Yellow Banks that is peppered with coral heads.

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The green land mass at the top left is New Providence Island – Nassau being the capital. We are coming out at Porgee Rock and following the 316 degrees 29.6nm route to Highbourne Cay.  The Yellow Banks are in the middle of the map and the coral heads are marked with a “+” inside a white circle. Most are submerged and we were assured by Bruce and Jan to follow the way point and we shouldn’t have any problems. Having someone on the bow of the boat to keep watch is also recommended.

We left the marina at 0800hrs and were at the Yellow Banks a few hours later with full sun. We could clearly see the coral heads in the water. They looked like dark black circles of varying shades indicating depth. Steve went on the bow while I was at the helm. Our system was if he pointed in a direction to quickly turn in that same direction. It worked well and we didn’t really need to deviate from our course much at all.  The winds almost on our on nose but we have enough of an angle to be close-hauled motor sailing. We averaged anywhere between 4.5 to 6kts and arrived at Highbourne Cay by 1500hrs.  

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO STEVE’S DAD - RAY!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s turning 39 today J

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There were three boats when we got here, then another seven moved in for the night including Celtic Rover, Bruce and Jan.

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Other boats in the anchorage…Celtic Rover in the front…

Steve got the dinghy off the deck and all set up again then went for a tour to visit the other boats.

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Steve on tour chatting Bruce and Jan J

I got to work cleaning the deck and cockpit - Diana is always dirty!!

When Steve got back, we went for a swim, started supper, went for drinks on Celtic Rover, then headed back to Diana for supper and sleep J

January 18, 2012

Good Morning Exumas!! We had breakfast while looking at this…

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…too cool!!

After breakfast, Steve went fishing with his new bait…

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There is a squid in the “Fish Bait” jar, I explained the sardines and in the “Sleep-Eez” bottle is vodka – this should kill the fish instantly when squirted in their gills.

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Steve fishing…

While Steve was trying out his new bait, I got caught up on the blog…sitting in the cockpit overlooking the above scene sipping coffee, reviewing my notes and typing away. There has to be a way to do this full-time!

When Steve got back, we went for a dinghy ride to Allen’s Cay. We want to see the island filled with iguanas!!

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Anchorage at Allen’s Cay – the Island with the iguanas is on the right

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Iguanas are the largest native land animals of the Bahamas. They are herbivores and inhabit this small little island. They are protected by the Bahamas National Trust.

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Here’s a tough little guy…

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Look at them all!!!

People feed them so they come up to the water as soon as someone shows up. We did not bring any snacks but there was a boat load of people who just did J

We left the iguanas to find a reef to do some snorkeling. We did not need to go far. Just off of Allen’s Cay we dropped the anchor and dove in. I tried my new mask – which is great!! I’m finally starting to relax under water. As soon as I dipped my face under water, it was like Finding Nemo under there!! {I know, it’s sad my only reference to fish is through cartoons} Beautiful reef fish, lots of bright colours and coral. There was nothing too big or scary which was perfect. I cannot wait to study our fish book to be able to identify what I am looking at. It’s going to be like the birds all over again ;)

We slowly made our way back to the boat for drinks and snacks. I went to work on supper while Steve went out to try his luck at fishing again. He is determined to catch something today!!

Within the hour, I heard a commotion outside the boat. I poked my head out to see Steve with a big grin on his face wresting with a fish at the end of his line. It jumped a few times out of the water. It was a hound fish – as big as they get – all teeth!! It was not an edible fish so Steve threw it back but fun just the same. Oh well, tuna for supper ;)

January 19, 2012

We woke up this morning to a rolly boat with winds blowing from the West. Since we are anchored on the east side of Highbourne Cay – we are now in a lee shore. Fortunately our anchor is buried so deep it will take more than a few knots of wind to dislodge it.

We were unable to catch the weather forecast this morning and are unsure how long this west will last. The forecast we got a few days ago predicted light winds for the NW but no dead on west. We considered moving to Norman’s Cay today but really didn’t want to move just yet. A fellow sailor anchored next to us popped in to see if we were catching any fish, we said not yet and asked about the weather. He said the winds were to move North, then North East by tomorrow. Steve and I decided to stick it out. More boats left and others came in throughout the day.

We decided to explore the little beach we were anchored in front of.

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It is simply gorgeous in every possible way…

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We hunted for a path through the trees but could not get far. Inside, we found an old well, several little caves with trees growing out of them. We didn’t find any treasure chests or hidden maps but it is interesting scenery ;)

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A conch shell becoming part of the shore

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View from the rockier side of the island

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Lots of palms – I’m soaking in the view…

We headed back to a very tipsy Diana. The wind was opposing the current making Diana a rolly mess. Anyway, I had started making a salad this morning that required several steps. The first, was to bring some black beans back to life by soaking and boiling them for a rather long time. The catalyst for this endeavor was an over-ripened avocado. I could have just eaten it as is but I chose this recipe instead - Steve doesn’t even like beans or avocado really – I do so I pursued. I was committed after all ;) So, to add insult to injury, I also wanted to make a loaf of bread. We ran out yesterday and since I’m an addict now, I require my daily fix. Remember the boat is really rolling around – like unsecured things are sliding off tables – kinda thing. After many hours of cursing, dropping things and bracing myself to measure liquids and stir – I had a loaf of bread and a delicious looking black bean salad but I was frustrated and cranky as a result – not a pleasant sight I may add. Steve had asked me to stop and “let’s just eat peanut butter sandwiches tonight” but Oh No – I had to finish what I started. All that so say, I learned a valuable lesson today: When the boat is rolling at anchor – drink rum from a non-spill-able cup, read a good book and be merry. I’m on vacation for goodness sake ;)