Crossing from South Bimini to North BiminiConch shells everywhere!Human Resources and the Barber Shop along the Main Street in Alice TownShops all along the main streetBack on the ferry with a bottle of Bahamian rum
One of the biggest issues about being out of the states is the lack of WIFI and cell phone service, on both of which we have become very dependent. Our phone service is through Verizon and the plans that they offer are limited and expensive. They also vary with each country we will pass through. The general way to get WIFI in the Bahamas is through their BTC telephone company. To utilize this service we needed to buy an unlocked cell phone and, if we wanted to use the Internet, have an iPad that has a SIM card. We bought the phone before we left the states and had the iPad, so we started off Wednesday, March 16, on a walk to the ferry dock. The ferry takes people ½ mile across a channel to Alice Town on North Bimini Island. The scenery was spectacular, of course, as we climbed on a rather rustic boat for the $2 ride. Once in Alice Town we had to walk a mile through the “business district”. The shops were colorful and tiny and exactly what one might expect for the Bahamas. After purchasing a BTC SIM card and having it installed in the iPad, we walked back, stopping for lunch along the way in a nice modern looking restaurant. I got right into the island attitude and had a conch salad. Delicious!
Back on board AfterMath, we decided to leave the dock and make our way to Gun Cay (Cay is pronounced Key in the Caribbean), only an 8 mile run, but one that would make our 75 mile run the following day an hour or so shorter. Before we left John tried to check weather using our newly carded iPad, only to find that the one we had with SIM capabilities is too old to load the nice new apps to which we have become so accustomed. He can use it for the Internet, but not for the other weather and wind prediction apps that we have come to depend on for safe travels. So, now John uses a combination of the old iPad and my phone’s very expensive data from Verizon. As soon as we get somewhere that iPads are sold, we will have to buy a new one that has the capabilities we need.
We started out early again on Thursday and motored for ten hours to Chub Cay. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, and we have decided to head toward the Exumas as they are beautiful and will send us on our way further south a little quicker. We have to be below Latitude 12 by Grenada or Trinidad, thereby out of the hurricane zones, by July 1st for insurance purposes. As much as we would love to spend lots of time everywhere, we have to keep a little bit of a schedule. When we arrived in Chub Cay, the water again was crystal clear and pale blue. We set the anchor and looked around at the ocean floor to see that we were surrounded with beautiful, colorful sea stars. What a magical sight!
Originally we had planned to travel 40 miles each of the next two days, which would have had us stopping in Nassau before arriving at an island on the southwest side Allan’s Cay on Saturday, but, after having such a nice easy ride Friday and admitting that neither of us liked Nassau, we decided to just keep going and do the trip all at once. Therefore, we did a ten hour day and decided we would not travel anywhere at all on Saturday.
The draw to Allan’s Cay is that an endangered species of iguanas live there. The iguanas range in size from babies at about a foot long to full-grown adults that are three to four feet long. They have become accustomed to people who come to visit them offering bits of fruits and vegetables. I was anxious to get in the dinghy to get to shore, but, again, the winds stirred up and we did not make it in on Saturday. Our anchorage was about two miles from the iguanas, and it just didn’t seem wise to start the voyage. In fact, it became so rough that Kirby and Jake seemed scared and a bit uncomfortable. John spent some time investigating and found there was an anchorage right at Allan’s Cay so, although it was late in the afternoon, we pulled anchor and started our way into more protected waters.
Right away we knew we had made a good decision. The water was much calmer and the anchorage was very beautiful. Also, for good measure, right next to us we saw the beach where all of the iguanas love to hang out during the day. There was a father and his two children on the beach and the iguanas were everywhere hoping to get a hand out. It was getting late and it was very windy to put the dinghy in the water, so we decided to wait until the next morning to visit these amazing creatures.
The iguanas of Allan’s Cay
Sunday morning came and I made sure I was prepared with a big bag of grapes, and my camera. I also packed some wooded skewers as I had read that the iguanas did not see very well and that a person’s finger was difficult for them to distinguish from a piece of food. We were just ready to leave AfterMath when we noticed a huge powerboat full of tourists come into the anchorage. They, of course, were coming to see the iguanas. While I realize that everyone wants to see them, it seemed sad to me to have a boat bring in such a large crowd of people to this little spot of paradise. I would estimate that 50 people got off that boat and waded to shore. After the tour boat left, however, it was obvious from the cockpit of AfterMath that the iguanas were not done looking for treats for the day. We hopped in the dinghy as did a couple of other families, and the fun began. The iguanas were adorable and happy for our treats. They really loved grapes! After returning to the boat, satisfied and happy, I took a nice swim in that incredibly beautiful water. It was a great day!
The winds are a constant factor in the Bahamas and the next few days didn’t seem to be favorable for moving, so we ended up in Allan’s Cay for a few more nights. Honestly it wasn’t particularly comfortable in our anchorage as there were swells that just wouldn’t stop. John got a few chores done over those days, but I mostly sat still and read books, barely even making any meals. We were very happy when we finally could leave and move on to our next destination, which was Shroud Cay.
Shroud CayFollowing others to the ocean sideFirst sight of the oceanKirby loving the water!
As always, the water was gorgeous in the anchorage at Shroud Cay, but the highlight of this area was a long dinghy ride that took us from the bay side straight out to the ocean. The path did not look easy, but just as we were about to enter a creek, two other dinghies appeared and we followed along. There were places where it was so shallow that everyone ran aground, but no harm was done and after riding past a mangrove forest, suddenly the ocean and a beautiful beach appeared. It was a breathtaking sight and we were so happy we didn’t miss it.
Our anchorage at Exuma ParkThe whale skeletonCruisers gather for happy hourThese friendly little guys are called hootias and they love to visit for happy hour treats
Thursday, March 24th, we motored to Exumas Land and Sea Park. This park is a 22-mile long strip of cays that is simply spectacular. There is no fishing allowed in the park and no one is even allowed to pick up a shell, so the area remains in its perfectly natural state. Pulling into the mooring field there was indescribable. The crystal clear water was every shade of blue and aqua that can be imagined. Large spotted rays swam past and we even spotted a nurse shark near the office. The park has secluded beaches, snorkeling, hiking, and, of course, swimming. Also, there is a very nice beach where cruisers gather for happy hour next to a huge skeleton of a whale. It was great fun to meet other boaters and to hear of their plans and travels. It was hard to drop that mooring ball to move on, but Sunday, March 27th, we moved to Staniel Cay,
The pigs of Staniel Cay
Note the sharks in the waterA trip to the beachHuge nurse sharks at Staniel CayInside the bar at the yacht club
The picnic ladyThe laundromat and liquor store combination
Staniel Cay is famous for its swimming pigs and I had been looking forward to this day ever since we decided to start our adventure. It was only a three and a half hour ride to our new anchorage and when we arrived we saw a lot of people on the beach with the pigs. No one is sure how these pigs arrived on this island, but they have thrived here, and they have certainly learned how to swim. At first the pigs were busy eating other visitors treats, but soon a couple of them found me with a loaf of bread and some vegetables in my hands. One in particular was very pushy and just followed me everywhere shoving his snout into my stomach and trying to snatch all the bread I had with me. I actually was surprised at how aggressive this pig was and I was anxious to have him move away from me when I was out of food. It was fun but not quite the calm and silly experience I had imagined!
Yesterday, along with our new friends, Joe and Charlotte, we walked to a tiny cafe where we heard there was Internet service, planning to have brunch and do some computer work; however, the cafe was closed. Thankfully, we could still use Wi-Fi outside so I was able to get one entry posted before it stopped working. While we were there, though, a lady came with her family and set up a picnic lunch for sale. We paid $10 each and got huge plates of chicken, ribs, peas and rice, pasta and cheese and salad or corn. It was a treat to eat some authentic Bahamian food in such a casual atmosphere. We had dinner at the yacht club with Char and Joe as well; afterwards riding our dinghies back to our boats under beautiful star lit skies.
Today we moved a short eight miles to Black Point, the second largest settlement in the Exumas. Here we will do laundry, use the Internet, and then spend time talking to the native people and looking around their markets. Lately, every day I think how unbelievable it is that we are on this journey. I know that we are incredibly lucky to be living our dream – the trip of a lifetime.