Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton

Tuesday, July 19th we awoke to fog and rain at our anchorage in Corbetts Cove. Thanking our stars once again that we were safely at anchorage and not out in 6-8′ seas, we enjoyed a quiet day catching up on maintenance, trip logs, and this blog.

On the morning of the 21st, we raised anchor to seek out another place to visit. Neil had researched several possibilities, the first place we visited was too crowded with both boats and homes on the shoreline. Not to be discouraged, we cruised to another area, Crammond Islands. Our track into the beautiful, protected anchorage was a tricky “S” curve, with extremely shallow shoals on either side. We were both earnestly watching the charts to follow the track in, when we heard (and felt) the dreaded sound of our hull getting stuck in mud. Yes, we had run aground for the first time. Apparently, the charts were not completely accurate, and we realized belatedly that having one of us outside watching the water (like we do in the Bahamas…) would have been wise… Neil tried to back us out of the mud, to no avail. He dove the boat and at least could confirm that there was no damage to the hull or stabilizer fins.

As we were trying to contact marinas to get some help (the two major ones at either end of the lake were both very far away), a family pulled up in their boat, offering help. They were so kind and tried valiantly to pull us off, but our boat was just too big for their motor. A pontoon boat came up and also offered assisance, volunteering to go contact a lobsterman friend whom they knew had a boat big enough to help. While they were gone, a third boater approached and also offered help pulling us off (they had a larger motor), and between the two power boats, they got us off the shoal in no time. The pontoon boat came back, indicating that the lobsterman was available in an hour – but were happy to see us floating free and clear and gladly canceled the call for a tow.

All of these folks were amazing helpful and so very friendly. The pontoon owners (Earl and Eleanor) invited us to their home on Saturday for a pizza party that they hold every weekend for family and friends (all of the boaters knew each other and lived or summered in the area). The original “rescuers” even proceeded in front of us the rest of the way to the anchorage to ensure our safe passage. Everyone kindly said “It’s not your fault – happens all the time – there used to be channel markers here” and that locals just get to know the path through so they don’t think about it much. Needless to say, it helped us not feel like complete idiots.

Once we got anchored, we settled in to a gorgeous place. Lots of birds and gentle breezes along with tree-lined shores. During our stay here, we did swim (chillier than the Bahamas), cleaned the waterline from the dinghy, and then put on our shorties to clean barnacles from the hull. And yes, we did head to Earl and Eleanor’s on Saturday for fresh pizza (for Neil) – met their wonderful family and some more friends (and saw the couple that did eventually pull us off the mud). Earl and Eleanor have owned their place for 25 years, adding to the home as their family grew. The outdoor pizza oven and sitting area was their most recent addition, which they obviously put to good use. After thanking them, we went back to our girl and departed on the 24th for Little Harbor anchorage, about 10 miles away.

Surrounded by forest and few homes in Corbetts Cove anchorage, Bras d’Or Lake
Nestled amongst the Crammond Islands
Relaxing backyard view, Crammond Islands
A beautiful morning, neighbor’s boat mirrored in the still water. Crammond Islands

Little Harbor was a very protected anchorage, basically a circular inlet protected on all sides from wind. There were only a couple of boats with us, and one large home on the shore. We had fun using both the dinghy and the kayak here, exploring the coastline. We also did some research on the jellyfish that we had been seeing. There are two types here in Bras d’Or Lake – Moon jellies (that don’t sting unless you stick your hand into the bell) and Lion’s Mane jellies which are very large (over 1′ across bell), fiery in color (all shades of reds and purples) and have very long tentacles (like up to 9 feet) and they do sting. We luckily stayed clear of both types when we were in the water, but did see times of teeming moon jellies that were almost as thick as the jellyfish we had seen in the Chesapeake a few years ago. Neil dove the boat to clean the hull. Our friends back in Crammond had told us that the mussels, clams and oysters in Bras d’Or were safe to eat, so when we took the kayak out we brought a bucket with us and did some gathering! We collected three dozen oysters and double that in mussels. Kathleen spent the afternoon scrubbing and cleaning these mollusks, and then we both had fun shucking the oysters. That night for dinner it was oysters on the half shell and mussels in a wine – garlic – butter – clam sauce. It was amazing – and bonus points – no one got sick!

When we had first anchored at Little Harbor, we heard disturbing boat sounds and clunking (this was another reason for Neil diving the boat). The cutlass bearing on the shaft of our wing engine had come loose – not good. We contacted the marina at Baddeck, the only marine servicer on the lake and not too far from where we were. They had a travel lift that could haul us out. So, on the 28th, we headed that way.

When we arrived at Baddeck harbor, we went to the marina for a pump out. It took longer than expected as their attachments did not fit our boat, so Neil and the marina crew “MacGyver’d” a fitting. From there, we anchored out in the harbor, waiting until later that week when they could haul us.

In the meantime, we explored Baddeck. A very quaint town, with awesome pizza (even gluten free!), grocery store, other restaurants and lots of nice places to take lots of long walks. It is also one of Alexander Graham Bell’s favorite places. There is a fantastic museum to him, his family and his work. We learned so much about him – he was much more than an guy who called for Watson to come quickly from another room…. The family still owns a massive estate on the coast, as we were able to catch some views of it from the water on our dinghy.

Baddeck is known for its boating, especially sailing. There were kids out every day, in groups that were overseen and taught by adults. It was amazing to see how easily and fluidly these little folks controlled their crafts and had fun splashing and playing at the same time.

We met some more cruising folks, but we noticed that overall, Bras d’Or had much less traffic than we had anticipated – which was wonderful. We finally got to our haul out day, and everything went beautifully. We were a bit nervous, as we always are getting hauled out, but we were very happy with the professionalism and kindness of the entire staff. They also got the work done in one day, with the parts on hand and workmen available, completing the job with the boat remaining in the slings of the lift. While the professionals worked on the bearing and shaft, we were able to finish our cleaning of the hull, which was really really great as we wanted all barnacles OFF before we splashed.

Kathleen out for a spin in the kayak, Little Harbour anchorage
View from Little Harbour out into Bras d’Or Lake
Our Little Harbour anchorage
Enjoying a warm sunny day out in the dinghy
Oysters on the half shell!
Heading through the Barra Strait Bridge into the north end of Bras d’Or Lake
View of Baddeck Harbour from Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
Kidstone Lighthouse at the entrance to Baddeck Harbour
Anchored just outside Baddeck Harbour
Haulout at Baddeck Marine to replace the auxiliary engine shaft cutlass bearing

Once back in the water we headed to a secluded anchorage (not sure there is any other kind here!) called Island Point, only two hours away. We left at 5:00 pm for a beautiful, calm evening cruise, entering the inlet in deep water. We cruised to the end, and were once again in a very protected, very isolated anchorage. There was one home in the area and no other boats. The pines and deciduous trees competed for limited space along the shoreline, with white stone outcroppings appearing intermittently. There also were NO jellyfish sightings!

The next morning we lowered the dinghy and explored the area, leaving the generator running to charge batteries and get some laundry done. When we got back, all seemed well for at least 15 minutes…. they we had high voltage warning from the generator. We got everything shut down IMMEDIATELY (as we had learned from this the last time it happened before we went to the Bahamas and blew up our stove and dryer). Luckily, this time there was no damage to any appliances. Neil spent the rest of the day investigating all connections and conversing with an expert on the generator (Bob Senter, who is now on a first name basis with Neil). Neil did discover a 2 amp breaker was damaged and a wire harness appeared to need replacing. So, after all fixes and replacements that we could do were made, we fired up the generator again – and it worked. We were still really nervous about it, so unfortunately decided that it was best for us to head to St. Peter’s marina to tie up to a dock and shore power. Luckily they had space for us on the fuel dock, and we left the next morning.

St. Peter’s is right near the lock where we first entered Bras d’Or. The people are wonderful, and we were surprised to see a lot of arts (both visual and musical) in what appeared to be a working town. We had amazingly great food at the Bras d’Or Inn, accompanied by a fantastic musician who played guitar and sang beautifully. We were admittedly very shocked to have such high end food and entertainment, as the town itself does not present itself as a tourist location. Gotta love finding little gems like this. In addition to enjoying these treats, we got some great hiking in, learing about the canal and lock, as well as Neil satisfying his Tim Horton’s fix before we left.

Cliffs lining our anchorage in Island Point Harbour
Jerome Point Lighthouse in Battery Provincial Park near the town of St Peter’s
Docked at St Peter’s Lion’s Club Marina
St Peter’s Canal, we will head through here when we depart Bras d’Or Lake and head back to Halifax

After waiting for a good weather window, we cast off at 11:30 am on August 12th for an overnight voyage to Halifax. Cruising through the canal and lock, we said goodbye to Bras d’Or Lake, vowing that we would be back. It was one of the most beautiful, unspoiled areas we had ever seen, and we felt lucky to have spent a month there.

The trip started off rough, as the seas were confused and Kathleen did not put a patch on… luckily, that was corrected and other meds were on board, so she was better in no time. After we turned south, the seas smoothed out, and we had an easy, beautiful cruise into Halifax. Even intentionally slowing our trip, we got to the marina at 8:30 am. The spot was PERFECT, right on the waterfront, in front of the Marine Museum. After getting tied up, we rested a bit, and then went out exploring. Being on the waterfront was great – all the entertainment was right there, and the noise pretty much died out by 10:30. We did have a “Ghost tour” that came by every evening to tell tales. Halifax is a place for ghost stories – lots of history, and not all of it happy.

We did get to visit with Mark and Jennifer, walking to their home from our boat. We had a lovely lunch with them, and wished we could spend more time. On the walk back, we visited the oldest cemetary in Halifax (and one of the oldest in North America, apparently). Thousands were buried there, but there were much fewer tombstones. We did see the tombstone of the British commander responsible for burning the White House in the War of 1812. Here he is a hero – funny how history is like that.

We visited the Marine Museum, which was AMAZING. There were all types of boats on exhibit, as well as historical events highlighted. The Halifax explosion of 1917 was well documented – if you don’t know about this, you should. It is still the largest non-nuclear explosion ever (the equivalent energy of roughtly 2.9 kilotons of TNT), occuring when two ships – one a French munitions ship fully loaded, and one a Norwegian relief vessel – collided in the narrows. 1782 people were killed, entire neighborhoods flattened, and 9000 others were maimed or blinded. The horrible irony is that the munitions boat was barely moving – about 1 knot at time of collision, and the other ship was unladened. It was just a horrible, perfect storm. Help arrived from all over, including the US, especially from Massachusetts. In thanks for their rapid and large response, Halifax sends the city of Boston a spruce tree as a Christmas gift every year.

We ended up leaving Halifax a day early as a storm front was moving in. We got to the grocery store for some provisioning, and then departed on the morning of the 16th. We had an easy, gentle cruise down to Chester, a town just south of Halifax. By car, it took about 30 minutes. By our boat, it took six hours – we took “the long way”, seeing a seal and a minke whale along the way.

We anchored in the Chester Back Harbour looking for protection from a few stormy days. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner in the cockpit, and settled in. The next day was stormy, with rain and winds, even in our sheltered area. We took advantage of the down time to rest up, catch up (on this blog) and enjoy drinking tea and coffee in August and not sweating.

Waiting for the St Peters Canal Lock to open up so we can head south into the Atlantic
Sunset as we head south on overnight cruise to Halifax
Moonlight and calm seas made for an easy overnight cruise
Entering Halifax Harbor, not much traffic early Saturday morning
Granuaile (red arrow) at slip on the Halifax Waterfront, in front of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Museum ships CSS Acadia on our left and HMCS Sackville on our right
We could step off our boat and access Halifax’s 4 km waterfront boardwalk to check out the many sites and restaurants
View of Halifax from Citadel Hill
Time for a cocktail at Durty Nelly’s, pub just up the hill from our boat’s slip

To Nova Scotia, Canada

On July 10th, we left Southwest Harbor, Maine around 9am for an overnight cruise to Shelburne, Nova Scotia. On the very smooth, easy cruise, Neil saw Minke whales (so far, Kathleen had only seen the spouts from some whales in the distance, and she was getting envious of her husband’s views on various early watches…). We pulled into Shelburne just after 10:00 am on the 11th, getting secured to the dock and checking in with the harbormaster. We had the easiest customs check-in EVER – we had previously entered our information on ArriveCan, and after a friendly phone call to Customs and Immigration, we were given the all clear to lower the yellow quarantine flag and fly the maple leaf!

We walked around the town, discovering (unfortunately) that Mondays are the day when everything is closed. So we headed back to our boat for a quiet evening, meeting a couple from Australia who had sailed in and docked behind us. It is wonderful to meet people from everywhere, sharing laughter and stories as well as perspectives.

The ocean was almost flat calm
Night watch
A moonlit night on the ocean
And then a beautiful sunrise the next morning

Arriving at Shelburne, Nova Scotia
Docked at Shelburne Harbor Yacht Club

The next day we explored the “Museums by the Sea” – a Dory Shop museum, a Colonial-era house (Ross-Thompson House) and the Shelburne County Museum. It was so much fun and very interesting to learn about the history of this area, and to be able to do so in a very hands-on way. We enjoyed beverages at the Yacht Club’s gathering space, meeting very friendly locals and enjoying spectacular views of the harbor. After a dinner out at a surprisingly “modern-style” (aka has gluten free and dairy free food that Kathleen can eat!) at the Emerald Light restaurant, we walked back to our boat for a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday we got the bikes out and rode to a nearby town to visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Center. The ride there was a rambling 5-6 mile excursion off road through gorgeous forests over bumpy trails that allowed us to see the beautiful flora while getting a good work out. The Center is a great place to visit to learn about Black slaves who escaped the naissant United States at the end of the Revolutionary War. They had been promised freedom by the British if they fought for the monarchy. Many jumped at the opportunity. Many never realized this promise. After the war, General Washington worked to keep Africans who had been previously enslaved in the US. Cornwallis took as many as he could to what would later become Canada. This is a part of the US history that Kathleen had never learned about. The Blacks who made it to Canada had many of the same difficulties as they had encountered in the US, with racism and discrimination dominating the social make up. There is an excellent movie, “The Book of Negros” that documents all of this. It is fantastic to be able to learn varying historical perspectives and to be able to have a more holistic education about our past.

The history of Nova Scotia is rich and varied, with settlers from France, Great Britain, Scotland etc establishing this area. The removal of French residents who refused to pledge allegiance to the British king after the British vanquished the French in the 18th century lead to a great diaspora from this area known as Acadia. In the US, many settled in the Maine area and of course in Louisiana – they were the ancestors to the current Cajun culture in that area. Many were also taken to Haiti, Europe and other points. Some, eventually, even made their way back to Canada. We both love history, and have been very enthusiastic students to have the opportunity to learn about all the areas we visit.

Touring historic Shelburne waterfront
Discovered the local cafe, Beandock, for that all important morning coffee and beakfast
Trying not to get lost on our trek to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre

We departed Shelburne at 6:00 am on the 14th Kathleen rueing the choice of a 10 mile bike ride the day before a long cruise. We had a wonderful cruise, with Kathleen having a Minke whale come up RIGHT in front of the bow. She slowed immediately, in wonder at the sight – and also figuring that no one had told this particular whale that humans and whales are supposed to stay at least 500 feet apart. She definitely did not mind. More sunfish appeared, lazily floating on the surface – apparently welcoming birds to land on them to pick off annoying parasites on their skin. Symbiotic relationships at its best!.

We got to Lunenburg and anchored across the harbor from the town at a beautiful site, just off the shore. As we were setting the anchor, we watched a bald eagle on the shore enjoying a fish snack. It was spectacular. We were not going to have time to visit Lunenburg on this visit as we had weather moving in and needed to continue north the next day, but we enjoyed rather spectacular scenery of the town as the sun set – Kathleen is convinced that all of her Christmas Village pieces that Neil had given her over the years were modeled after the buildings in Lunenberg. We were very much looking forward to visitng on our way back down in a month or so.

Ocean Sunfish (Common Mola) slowly paddling by in the ocean. They can weigh up to 2000kg!
Eagle on shore a couple hundred yards from our anchored boat
Anchored in Lunenburg Harbour. What a view of this World Heritage Site.

Getting up the next morning, we were greeted with very dense fog. We waited about an hour, as we were sure it would burn off. We were wrong. We had about 1/4 mile visibilty at most, and fantastic electronics, so we headed out just after 8:00 for a seven hour cruise to Halifax, certain that the fog would lift with the rising sun, as it ALWAYS had for us in the past.

Again, we were wrong. We were socked in the whole way up, grateful for our new and powerful radar and charts, getting a little nervous as we approached Halifax as it is a major shipping and naval area. Just as we rounded the point to begin our entry, the fog lifted, displaying the beautiful coastline that is Halifax. Cruising into the harbor, we were on high alert as this can be a busy place with freighters, sailboats, power boats, and naval vessels. Neil scoped out a storm cell that was planning to be right above us as we approached the marina, so we turned around and hung out doing circles while the storm moved through, only having a bit of rain to wash off some of the salt. This turned out to be an excellent idea, as there was sunshine and light winds behind the storm.

We pulled into the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron (which is REALLY fun to say clearly when hailing the marina looking for our slip assignment…) just after 3:00 and got secured to our dock with minimal difficulty. It had been a while since we had docked with no extra hands, so we were really glad there was not much wind and no current to fight with!

After checking in, we caught an Uber downtown, had dinner at a nice restaurant, and walked the harbor. It was Pride Weekend, as well as Jazzfest, so there was a lot of fun going on. The boardwalk has lots of historical references along the walk, along with interesting sculptures and murals. There is so much history in Halifax – from the expulsion of the French to Titanic memorials to information on the original indigenous people. We quickly surmized we could spend weeks here, but we only had a couple of days, as once again, bad weather was in the forecast and we wanted to get to Bras d’Or lake in Cape Breton before it arrived.

Waking up to fog in Lunenburg Harbour
Tied up at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron marina, Halifax
Walking the Halifax Waterfront boardwalk

On the 16th, we had a wonderful treat – Mark Dull, a friend of Neil’s from kindergarten that we had not seen for more than 15 years, lives in Halifax with his wife Jennifer and their family. Mark came to the boat to be our tour guide for the day. We had so much fun, touring around, including stopping at Peggy’s Cove (a “must see” light house and town where we got lunch), Mahone Bay (another cozy, beautiful coastal town with beaches, shops, and picturesque sights), the town of Chester, and finally Lunenburg. We walked around a bit, visiting the Bluenose II, a famous Grand Banks fishing schooner in the harbor. The original was built in 1921, and was an undefeated racing champion. It was amazing to be able to walk the wooden deck, see and touch massive masts and spars, block and tackle and other gear and visit with the crew, who worked on the ship for the summer, captaining her out daily on sailing cruises and other trips. We walked the old, steep streets, visiting one of the old cemeteries (a must for Kathleen), then drove up to the Lunenberg Academy, a historic school building from 1895, that in its day was very cutting edge and ahead of its time in both construction and philosophy. It was used as a school until 2012, and today is still used for music instruction, gatherings, and events. It is actually the third iteration of the academy, the previous ones built down closer to the docks, where it was determined that maybe that wasn’t the best place for children to go to school. The previous buildings succumbed to fire, with the current structure proudly sitting on “Gallows Hill” (Kathleen wondered about the wisdom of building a school on a hill so named, especially with the grounds surrounded on two sides by a cemetery – but whatever…). It is a gorgeous building and again has immense history surrounding it, so very much a necessary stop.

On the way back to Halifax, Mark very generously stopped at a grocery store for us, and we were able to stock up for the next few weeks. Once back at the boat, we had to say goodbye, hoping to be able to visit with him and Jenn when we came back through Halifax in mid-August.

Picturesque Peggy’s Cove, NS
Mark, Neil and the famous lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove
Kathleen and Neil contemplating another lobster meal
The Bluenose II schooner in Lunenburg Harbour

We had a later start the next morning, so we had a more leisurely pace to get the boat ready (including finishing up laundry, and Kathleen getting a work out in – bonus!). We had an overnight run to Cape Breton, with soft swells and following winds. The cruise was uneventful until around 3:00 am. Kathleen was on watch and the “High Temp” light went on for the stabilizer hydraulic oil. Wondering why this always seemed to happen in the middle of the night while she was on watch, she had to wake up Neil. After we shut off the stabilizers (which showed us that the ocean wasn’t QUITE as smooth as we had been thinking), Neil was able to switch out the raw water cooling pump (we had a new spare on board – thank you Meghan! – she brought it with her from Denver when she came out in April to the Bahamas!). Unfortunately, this didn’t totally fix the problem. We cruised the rest of the way to St. Peter’s Bay, at the entrance to Bras d’Or Lake. Lucky for us, the ocean was REALLY smooth, and we were once again very glad that we had erred on the side of caution and traveled in good weather – it would have been very nasty to ply the waters in the much bigger seas forecasted for even one day later.

We had fun experiencing the lock and canal to get into the lake, and had an easy cruise to our anchorage (except for the super yacht that was cruising out of the area as we were coming in – not a big problem, and the captain was very nice – just another narrow passage area). Dropping anchor in Corbett’s Cove, we were the only boat there, and were greeted by a bald eagle coasting over our boat. This area is quiet, peaceful, reminding us of lakes we camped on in Colorado. Once we secured the anchorage, we decided we needed well-deserved slow day – that is after Neil diagnosed and fixed the stabilizer cooling problem, purging the lines of air and being very happy that the system seems in working order. An early night was in order, and we slept very well.

Never tire of the sunsets!
St Peters Canal lock, the south entry into Bras d’Or Lake. Waiting for a superyacht to clear through before we can enter
St Peters Canal Swing Bridge opening so we can enter Bras d’Or Lake
Anchored in Corbett’s Bay, Bras d’Or Lake

We plan to cruise Bras d’Or Lake for the next 4 weeks.

Newport, RI to Southwest Harbor, Maine

We left our Lake Montauk, NY anchorage early on June 23rd to cruise up to Newport, Rhode Island. There was a lot of commercial boat traffic as we passed through Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound, but we had a nice cruise. After passing Block Island we turned north and cruised into Newport Harbor, with a lot of other boats, large and small. We hailed the Harbormaster and got a mooring ball assigned. Their crew actually guided us to the ball in their launch which was very helpful as there are hundreds of mooring balls dotting the harbor. The harbor is naturally deep and protected and BEAUTIFUL. Newport is jam packed with history, so we had a blast walking around, taking a self-guided tour, having a personal tour (nobody else signed up) of Ft. Adams, and generally just loving it. Kathleen found a great oil and vinegar shop where she was able to purchase some fun culinary items. The best part of this weekend was being able to meet up with an old friend of Kathleen’s and his husband. Russ and Kathleen originally met in 6th grade and hadn’t seen each other since 1982 – 40 years ago!- high school graduation. FaceBook brought them back in contact, and this was the first time they had been able to see each other. We had a fun time at dinner at the Black Pearl restaurant on the harbor, and then strolling around after for some dessert. It is one of the best parts of this boating life – getting to see old friends, and it happens more than you might think.

Departing Lake Montauk, NY
Heading out the channel from Lake Montauk in to Block Island Sound
Moored in Newport Harbor
Our Newport Harbor neighbors
Walking historic Newport
View of Newport Bridge from Ft Adams
Fuel barge dropped by to top our tanks with 500 gallons of diesel. Very convenient!

From Newport, we cruised up the coast in Buzzards Bay to the town of Onset, Massachusetts on the 26th. We anchored there for two days to wait out some weather before heading through the Cape Cod canal. Onset is another small, picturesque vacation spot with amazing homes and beautiful shores, waters, flora and boats. It unfortunately rained for most of the day we were there, so we did not get to do any adventuring on shore. It was a peaceful, easy place to be, and Kathleen took advantage of early morning sun to do pilates and yoga in the cockpit with not a soul around. We very often feel very spoiled.

We left Onset the next morning at 9:00, and cruised through the Cape Cod Canal. Entering the canal, we passed by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a beautiful school right on the point. The run through the canal was “swirly” (Kathleen’s description as she piloted through it), but picturesque. We exited on the east side into Cape Cod Bay, with a perfect view of the far arm of Massachusetts. We hung a left and cruised up the coast to Gloucester, enjoying the New England coastline and beautiful weather. We pulled into Gloucester Harbor around 5:00, having dodged many lobster pots with no mishaps – but really, do a lot of lobster swim in 90 feet of water 5 miles off the coast? Kathleen thinks maybe the lobstermen just like messing with us on occasion…

We grabbed an anchor ball after deciding the one assigned to us was too close to another boat (the harbormaster was cool with this – we’ve been finding so far that harbors are much less crowded the further north we go – but we expect this to change as the summer continues…). The marina offered launch service (which means we get rides to and from the docks, which is lovely). We went into Gloucester, walked around and had a lovely dinner. The town was sleepy, but it was midweek and it is a fishing town. Folks go to work early here. After a stroll and seeing a HUGE church (these folks are SERIOUSLY Catholic) and an even larger town hall, we hailed the launch to go back to our boat. We had the same captain, and as he was not busy, he asked if we’d like a tour of the harbor – it was very cool, seeing a marine works shop that had been there for the last 400 years or so, and still had rails that were used to lift boats out of the water to do work. We want to come back and spend longer here to really see the place. We did meet another Nordhavn couple – Hank and Betsy from My Harley, a 60 foot trawler. We hadn’t seen a lot of cruisers so far, so it was fun to meet some new friends!

Leaving Newport Harbor, view of Newport Bridge reaching across the East Passage of Narragansett Bay
Keeping out of the way of tug and barge that is heading up the East Passage
At anchor in Onset Bay, Massachusetts
Passing under a railroad bridge as we enter the Cape Cod Canal
That’s our boat out there (red arrow) in a busy Gloucester Harbor
Workboats fill Gloucester harbor which is surrounded by beautiful houses
“Hot Tuna” is one of the boats featured in the TV show Wicked Tuna
The harbor launch captain took us for a sunset tour of the harbor and then delivered us to Granuaile

From Gloucester, we cruised through the Blynman Canal. We had a moment of hesitancy as we noticed other cruisers like us were taking the long way around the Cape, including My Harley. The online reviews were less than enthusiastic for it being an easy transit. Neil checked with the harbormaster, though, and he said we were fine. And we were. We had two bridge openings, several sharp curves, and a narrow-ish canal to transit, along with 7 feet under our hull – and we were at high tide with a 7 foot tide – so, we could not have made it through at lower tides. But there was no wind, and the scenery was phenomenal – the area was a vacation paradise for Massachusetts folks. We came out on the Ipswitch Bay, and continued to head north to Kittery, Maine, about as far south in Maine as you can be (the Portsmouth Harbor borders both New Hampshire and Maine. We were not very far from Portsmouth, and the anchorage was, again, gorgeous. And again, there were tons of lobster pots. We were definitely starting to plot getting some lobsters, but so far they were still really expensive…

From Kittery, we cruised up to Harpswell, Maine. We saw whales (Kathleen’s first time!) and passed the Bush’s estate in Kennebunkport (could see it from very far away). Pulling into the harbor, we stayed at the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant, which was AMAZING. Dolphin is a family run marina, and it is the friendliest, most knowledgeable, unbelievably kind place we have been so far. Every morning they visit each moored boat in their launch and bring fresh coffee and fresh blueberry muffins (Kathleen was almost crying at this as she couldn’t eat them). The people who run the marina are ALL family and they employ local college kids (Bowdoin College is 20 mins away) for summer help. The restaurant here has large servings of amazing local seafood for very reasonable prices, and Erika’s sells seafood – whole lobsters for SEVEN DOLLARS A POUND (Yes, we had found our nirvana). We got the bikes down and with a wonderful launch service to shore, took a beautiful ride to a trailhead and got our fix in for wandering nearby forests to hidden coves, walking among tidal basins and open fields. Kathleen is pretty sure we could live here – Neil is thinking at least during the summer months… It has been exceptionally nice to get up in the morning and not be sweating, able to have a hot beverage and enjoy the quiet of this place. We have been kind of joking about how we are now spending summers cooler and winters warmer – but we love being able to do so!

A Boat House along the Blynman Canal
Neil ignoring the camera as he concentrates on not colliding with the many boaters on Blynman Canal or straying from the narrow deepwater sections
Moored at Dolphin Marina in Harpswell, Maine
Out for a walk at low tide
Picking the perfect lobster for dinner
Softshell lobster dinner!
And a beautiful sunset in Harpswell, Maine
Each morning marina staff visit every boat to deliver fresh blueberry muffins and coffee!! Do we have to leave Dolphin Marina?

We celebrated the 4th of July over several days, with a fireworks display on the night of the 3rd as we enjoyed a second night of steamed lobster. On the 4th, we cruised from Dolphin Marina to Christmas Cove, in South Bristol, Maine. Another gorgeous, smooth day of boating, punctuated by a slew of lobster pots the whole way up, getting much denser as we approached the harbor. Christmas Cove is another beautiful, secluded harbor, with many unique and spectacular sailboats and day cruisers. After we got settled, Kathleen made lobster bisque (we still had not tired of this crustacean delight) and enjoyed another evening of fireworks set off from the dock. We took a hike the next day, visiting a local preserve and the next “town” over – not much of a town, but there were streetside “honor markets” with Kathleen proving once again that she can and will buy arbitrary Christmas ornaments anywhere, anytime.

We took an amazing dinghy cruise around the area, being treated to an island of seals (who were only a little perturbed that we had disturbed their naps) as well as pristine Maine coast scenery. This is a quiet place, with what seems to be mostly vacation homes – and it definitely got on our “maybe, someday” list. We had dinner at the Coveside restaurant in Christmas Cove, then back to the boat before high winds and rain came racing in for the night.

Wednesday was spent on the boat, as the winds were still high, but we enjoyed the downtime, catching up on tasks and the like.

Cocktails on the foredeck at our Christmas Cove, Maine mooring
Dinner at Coveside Restaurant overlooking our mooring in Christmas Harbor
Seals watching us as we take a dinghy ride on the Damariscotta River

We raised anchor with “lightening skies” at 5:15 on the 7th , as we had a 10 hour cruise ahead of us to Southwest Harbor. It was magnificent to leave the harbor at that time – smooth as glass water, quiet, with only the lobster boats around us (and there were plenty of them…). We have learned that the reason for the deep water pots is the particular season for the lobsters – they molt during the warmer summer months, which leave them with soft shells, and less protection from predation – so they go deeper. So do the lobstermen. We are in awe of the hard work these people do, day in and day out. It is a grueling calling with razor thin margins. And we try not to make their work harder by staying our of their way and giving them right of way on the water.

The views from the ocean were straight out of Hollywood – brilliant, rising sun, glistening water, and a magical mist hugging the shoreline. On this cruise, we got to see puffins – those really cute birds that don’t look like they should be able to fly, with the round faces, orange beaks and rounder bodies – but they flit over the rolling water, rest when needed, and dive up to 200 feet in search of food – all with looking like something Kathleen would love to get closer to… they have very sweet faces. We also saw sunfish. At first, we were not sure what we were seeing, as these fish are HUGE and flat, have speckled bodies and fins that look like floppy shark fins – we really had not idea what we were seeing, and were grateful to our friends Hank and Betsy for sharing their knowledge! Look them up – they are crazy looking.

We pulled into Southwest Harbor, Maine by mid-afternoon. This marina is well known in the cruising community, as a good, protected place to dock or grab a mooring ball, and the last place to stay before hopping over to Canada. The harbormaster, Micah, and his son Jacob, are AMAZING. Micah can find space, it seems, for anyone. We had a facing dock tie up between two smaller boats, with very little room forward or aft – but with thrusters, a helpful wind, and VERY capable hands of Jacob (he had us fully tied up and secure before Kathleen could even get off the boat to help – never happens!), we were secured to the dock, making what was a little tricky seem easy. After checking in, we had “linner” (lunch-dinner) at the restaurant overlooking the harbor and marina, and actually got to watch Betsy and Hank come in on My Harley. They have been here several times, and their 60′ Nordhavn was in its slip and secured in no time.

Walking back to our boat, we met Milt and Judy Baker on their new American Tug, “Blue Water V”. Milt and Judy are icons in the cruising world, especially Nordhavns. They welcomed us onto their boat and regaled us with stories of decades of cruising, involving many people that we knew. We also had a great time getting our “dog fix” with their cutie, Zoey. While visiting with them, we asked about getting some more local lobster – they hailed Micah who happened to be walking by, and he promised us 6 the next day when the local lobsterman came back in with that day’s haul. The next day we walked into town to have some coffee and goodies at a local shop, and then headed back to Granuaile to clean her up, inside and out, including polishing neglected stainless steel, changing oil, and washing a lot of clothes. It felt really good to get everything de-salted, polished and cleaned. The lobsters were delivered to our boat, and Kathleen spent some time steaming and cleaning four of the lobsters for later meals. For dinner, we enjoyed wonderful steamed delights while watching the sun set.

We had a couple of nice visits with Hank and Betsy, once again feeling so lucky to meet great people who share our passion for this lifestyle. We planned to return to Southwest Harbor in August, hoping to host our son Mike and his girlfriend Nat for a week visit.

Next up: Nova Scotia, Canada

Smooth seas as we enter the Gulf of Maine on our way to Southwest Harbor
Flat calm and cool looking clouds
Southwest Harbor, Maine
View from our slip at Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina, Southwest Harbor


After a month in Palm Beach Gardens, we were at last ready to begin our travels north for the next several months.  Excited to be on the open ocean (and have good ocean breezes to blow away the oppressive humidity and heat of Florida in June), we left Old Port Cove marina at 1:30pm on May 31st  and cruised out the Lake Worth inlet, heading north.  

We knew the seas would be a little challenging, as various fronts had been moving through for a while.  We wanted to catch a ride on the Gulf Stream, but stay out of the middle where the worst of the squalls were forecasted.  We used Chris Parker for our weather planning (highly highly highly recommend), and Neil charted a course for us to Charleston, SC.

The first day and night were pretty rough (praise the Lord for Scopolamine patches!), but we were also rewarded with amazing sunsets and sunrises as well as a night sky bursting with stars and a waxing crescent moon.  The depth of the stars with no light pollution is hypnotizing.  The trip itself was for the most part blissfully calm as Kathleen listened to books and Neil listened to music to help the nights pass.  Our new navigation electronics performed brilliantly and we didn’t have any glitches on this run (which was about 52 hours). 

Exiting Lake Worth, FL and entering the Atlantic
Kathleen at the helm as we begin our cruise north
Sunset 70 miles offshore
Smooth seas finally!
Commercial traffic increases dramatically as we approach Charleston

We had to slow down as we approached Charleston as we were not able to catch the early morning slack current which is the best way to safely enter and dock at Charleston Harbor marinas, so we throttled back and were fully tied up by 5:30pm June 2nd at our slip at the Charleston Harbor marina.  We were both exhausted, and sticky, so Neil hosed off the boat while Kathleen showered off two days of boating.  After Neil did the same, we walked around the marina, eventually settling into chairs on the outdoor patio of the local casual waterfront restaurant and bar.

Avoiding oncoming cruise ship as we enter Charleston Harbor
Feels good to get off the boat after a 2 day cruise!

Once fed, we were back on the boat, Kathleen set to watch some TV, Neil agreeing, but asleep before opening credits rolled! We both had a great, undisturbed rejuvenating full night of sleep.  The next day Neil met with a local service yard to review our next project, solar panel installation (sorry, daughters – some of your sunbathing area is getting covered…).  We planned to stay in Charleston until Tuesday and then continue north to Beaufort, NC, heading up to Deltaville to get some work done on the bow thruster before continuing north!  Charleston is such a beautiful place and we were excited to be back here for a few days!

We ended up spending 5 days in Charleston, waiting for a good weather window.  During that time, we got to tour around Charleston for a day and get the boat spiffed up.  Charleston is FILLED with US history, and it is very easy to get lulled into the beauty and charm of this southern gem – we are looking forward to docking the boat here in November for a little while.

Our backyard while docked at Charleston Harbor Marina
Walked Charleston and enjoyed the sights

We left Charleston the morning of June 7th, cruising outside on the Atlantic overnight, coming in through the Beaufort, NC inlet and continuing up the ICW to an anchorage in Broad Creek off of the Neuse River.  It had been a couple of years since we had cruised these waters, and it was wonderful to see again the vast, quiet beauty of this part of North Carolina.  These waterways are truly hidden gems, with soft breezes, lots of birds and other wildlife, and lush shores crowded with tall grasses and various trees.  Broad Creek is a well-protected area and we enjoyed our night anchored there.

June 9th found us continuing up the ICW to the Alligator River, anchoring just off the ICW in some protected waters as there were winds blowing in from the north.  Again, the trip was fun, lots of winding waterways, bridges, and mostly sailboats accompanying us.  We were definitely enjoying and becoming accustomed to the stillness of the mornings and evenings; there is a certain calm that descends on you when you travel these waters at slower speeds.  Of course, that gets punctuated with moments of frustration with others traveling at varying speeds – it would be perfect if we could have it all to ourselves!!!

Heading out Charleston Harbor
Cruising past Fort Sumter
Sunrise as we cruise 20 miles off Wrightsville Beach, NC
From Beaufort we head north on the ICW, Adams Creek Canal
Stunning sunset at Alligator River anchorage. Sky changes color as the sun sets below the horizon!

June 10th we cruised from the Alligator River anchorage through the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and anchored at the north end of Albemarle Sound in the North River.  The only bother was the myriad of crab pots – we had not missed those – but once again, had a lovely cruise day, enjoying all that the NC ICW had to offer.  

Up early the next morning to hopefully beat the departing boat traffic from a popular marina ahead of us – Coinjock – we had a sunrise departure and an easy cruise, passing Coinjock Marina, and continuing up, try our best to time our arrivals for various bridge openings, and tying up at Atlantic Yacht Basin Marina by noon.  This marina is a working boat yard, with sheds for long-term docking and various facing docks for “overnighters” like us.  They were completely booked for the night but found us a spot in the back between some sheds, dock was a little rough but our tie-up was protected and had power and water – about all we ever really need. It was a really hot, still day, but by evening the light breezes pushed out the heat, and we enjoyed relaxing in the quiet dockage – we are pretty sure we were the only people there.

Tied up to dock in the back of work yard at Atlantic Yacht Basin, but happy to have a place to rest for the evening
Our neighbors

June 12th we cast off at 6:45 for another long day of cruising, heading through Norfolk to Deltaville.  We cruised through the first bridge and into the Great Bridge lock to move up the Albemarle-Charleston Canal to the Elizabeth River.  It is always awe-inspiring to come into the Norfolk area and cruise past the US Navy shipyard – the oldest in the country, established before the US was born.  As the largest naval shipyard, we got to see all kinds of naval ships as well as container ships.  We only saw one aircraft carrier this time, but a lot of LHD’s (Landing Helicopter Dock ships) that are very impressive in their own right.  Cruising by the navy ships to exit Norfolk, we got behind two tugs that were moving a huge container crane.  It was quite the sight, but we were happy when we could go around them and continue our way up the Chesapeake.  Unfortunately, shortly after we entered the Bay, we could see a large storm cell in front of us, moving our way.  Neil turned us around and we cruised back south for an hour or so to avoid the worst of it, which was somewhat successful.  We eventually turned back around and cruised through the remnants of the storm, but it had lost some of its fight by the time it engulfed us.  Unfortunately, this detour added two hours to our trip, so we didn’t pull into the Deltaville Regatta Point Marina until 5:30pm.  We were happy to see this pretty place, and very grateful for the friendly boaters who came out to help us tie up.

Passing through Great Bridge Lock near in Chesapeake, VA
The scenic view along the southern Elizabeth River changes quickly to …
… busy commercial docks and naval yards as we head north to Portsmouth and Norfolk
Radar displaying storm tracking ahead of us. Weather alerts warned of 50-60kt gusts so we waited until the worst was past us before proceeding north to the marina in Deltaville, VA.

Deltaville is a small, colonial-era town that has beautiful scenery at every turn.  We saw bald eagles, ospreys, great blue herons, cardinals and other birds.  The fish jumped around our boat.  The trees were majestic and swayed as the wind whispered through them.  The marina was great with all amenities including a loaner car.  Neil met with the people from Zimmerman Marine who came over to check out our bow thruster problem.  Thankfully, after the technician completed troubleshooting, removed the electric motor and reinstalled, the clunking sound was gone. So we avoided another expensive part replacement/haul out (for now).  We borrowed the loaner van and went to the only market.  It wasn’t quite as slim pickings as the Bahamas, but we were not able to stock up on fresh fruit or much veggies.  We did hit a great seafood shop, purchasing fresh crab cakes, fresh oysters, and some other snacky seafood-y items.  We ended up staying at the marina for three days waiting for the weather to improve.

Granuaile (red arrow) docked at Deltaville marina
Kathleen relaxing with a book and a view

We left Deltaville on June 15th after noon exiting the Chesapeake around 5:30pm at Cape Charles.  We were buzzed by a military helicopter while cruising, which woke us both up!

The trip north was another overnighter, with a magnificent sunset, stars sprinkled all across the sky, and a moon almost full lighting up the waters.  We did have thunderstorms from 5:30 am – 10:00 am, which weren’t too bad as the water was not too rolly.  We cruised into Delaware Bay and turned into Cape Henlopen to anchor behind a breakwall.  Kathleen was very excited to see several pods of dolphins here, all of them having at least one baby swimming right up next to mom, learning how to fish.  We got anchored, and relaxed and napped the rest of the day away.

On the 17th, we lowered the dinghy and cruised around to see the area.  Gorgeous houses, lots of beaches and boats from kayaks to ferries surrounded us.  We took the dinghy up the Lewes-Rehobeth Canal and tied up to go visit Lewes.  This town claims to be the first town in the first state – it does date back to the early 1600’s.  The homes are beautiful and kept faithfully to the colonial architecture.  After walking around, we got lunch and enjoyed the views.  We scooted back to the boat after that as the winds were building and we wanted to get back – Kath got a bit splashed as we rode out into the bay, but it was all fun (although the water is MUCH colder here than the Bahamas!).

The winds kicked up very rolly conditions, which added an element of “fun” for Kathleen’s yoga and pilates practices, but brought out the kite surfers, who had fun all day skimming across the waters.  We enjoyed Father’s Day with a video call with the kids, and then looked for a window to continue on to Montauk, NY early next week.

Helicopter flyover as we head south in the Chesapeake Bay
Cruising past Cape Charles and under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge out into the Atlantic
Anchored off Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes, DE
Took the dinghy into the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal to visit the historic town of Lewes

We raised anchor at 8:15 am on June 20th.  Exiting was a bit tricky with strong currents, and a lot of boats and shipping traffic, but we made it across large shipping lanes without any mishaps.  The cruise was really nice, with smooth seas, a following wind and beautiful night sky including a huge, orange moon.  With the sunrise, the ocean was calm and beautiful.  There were dozens of dolphins frolicking and fishing around the boat, and Neil even had the rare treat of seeing a whale – for the first time!  (Kathleen was zonked out at the time and was bummed to have missed this!)
We encountered some rain as we approached Montauk Point, but it lightened, and we had amazing views of the historic lighthouse.  There were tons of fishing boats that we negotiated as we came around the point and entered the protected harbor of Lake Montauk.  The path back to the anchorage was tricky as the water outside the narrow channel was very shallow, but we got through, and we dropped anchor in placid waters with stunning homes and lush surroundings.  Kathleen was very excited to be cool and actually needing long pants, and was entranced as the evening brought a rolling fog over the hills, creating a surreal, quiet, cozy environment as the day ended.  Montauk is the northernmost part of the Hamptons – and is picturesque and placid.

Flat calm as we head north on the Atlantic to Montauk NY
Dolphin swimming with us as we near Long Island
Rounding Montauk Point
Fog rolling in to our Lake Montauk anchorage

Time to Head Back to Florida

The weather was very uncooperative, with high winds preventing us from doing very much in George Town after dropping off our most recent guests. We did have one last lunch at Chat and Chill, filled up a gas can for the dinghy, and decided to “hit the road” (seas?) on April 13th, beginning our slow journey north back to Florida.  The ride again was rough, this time with following seas.  We did a 7 hour cruise up to Great Guana Cay, anchoring in an exquisite, isolated  area called Isaac Bay, not at all far from where we had anchored last time, but so wonderfully isolated.  We took the dinghy to explore the coastline, stopping at a beach to get some wonderful sun.  We then went back to Oven Rock, anchoring the dinghy in calmer waters, and hiked up to the cave with fresh water pools and amazing stalagtites and stalagmites.  This place is amazing, with clear fresh water, sounds of dripping from the ceiling as the salt water makes its way through the rocks, filtered, and dropping onto the area below, building these cave creations over the years.  We heard something else too – small squeaking noises.  After scanning the ceiling, Neil turned on his cell phone light and sure enough, loads of (actually very cute) bats were hanging upside down, sleeping.  We left them to their slumber soon after.

Departing the busy George Town anchorage
And now we are the solitary boat in Isaac Bay anchorage off Great Guana Cay – more to our liking!
Exploring cave a short hike from Oven Rock on Great Guana Cay

Back on the boat we had lunch and a bit of relaxation, then went in search of some coral to dive.  We found a beautiful spot not far from our boat, with many structures to explore.  The water was uber clear – Kathleen thinks it’s the clearest we’ve ever dived in.  Tons of fish, coral, even a beautiful conch shell – and a kind creepy attendee – a three foot long barracuda was VERY near us.  It seemed very interested in us, but as in past encounters, did not come too close (although it did come pretty darn close to Neil).  Kathleen had read that they hang out around humans as they are used to us fishing and they wait for scraps – or to steal any fish that may get speared.  We were not fishing (or spearing), but it just never went away.  We had no shiny objects on us (which apparently draw them and can cause “mistaken” attacks), so we explored carefully the area, enjoying parrot fish, angel fish, a grouper, and tons of other tropical fish and coral.  Still.  After about 45 minutes, we had both seen enough, and Neil’s hands were getting cold – a good sign that it was time to wrap up our dive.  We got back into the dinghy with no mishap with Mr. Barraculda – perhaps he was disappointed that we didn’t get any fish for him…

Friday was a day for relaxing, with Kathleen doing extended Pilates, getting caught up on this blog, and Neil putting together the photos for our most recent post.  Our journey north continued.

On April 16th, we left Isaac Bay for Sampson Cay, an anchorage just north of Staniel Cay and the Bay of Pigs.  Less crowded and prettier, we very much enjoyed our stay here. After anchoring, we got the dinghy down and explored the area a bit.  There are many little inlets to visit, beautiful small islands to marvel at and generally just a nice place to play.  On Sunday, we went to Staniel to dump trash and to go grocery shopping, only to realize too late that it WAS Easter Sunday and all shops were closed.  We were happy to see some friends and their boats (Booke End and Puffin Quest) anchor near us. At Staniel Cay Yacht Club, where we stopped for lunch, we had the unexpected surprise of meeting up with old friends from Vero, Mike and Judy on One September.  Neil and Kathleen found time to do some snorkeling in the area, which was gorgeous, as usual.  More flats than condos, but lots of fish and bursting colors (and no barracuda which was a plus).  On our last night, we met up with Sam and Cindy of Booke End and Paul and Renee of Puffin Quest for sunset on a sandbar, enjoying the uniqueness of standing out a few hundred feet from shore on sand, watching the sun go down – we knew it was time to go back as the waters started coming back in.  Just another beautiful aspect to this place.

Heading north to Sampson Cay with a storm giving chase
Rain caught up to us after anchoring off Sampson Cay
Then all clear for relaxing on the boat deck
And another beautiful Bahamas sunset
Threatening clouds to the east of our Sampson Cay anchorage
Snorkeling off Gaulin Cay, a short dinghy ride from our anchorage
Cool rainbow!

April 19th: From Sampson Cay, we cruised two hours north to Hawksbill Cay.  We picked up a mooring ball closer to the beach than we had ever been, lowered the dinghy and went to the island to explore and swim.  We tried to find some ruins (fail), but did find paths to the other side of the island, and enjoyed spectacular views.  We came back to our anchorage side and snorkeled and sunbathed on a deserted beach, reveling in being the only humans around (lizards outnumbered us, but that’s ok).  We then took a dinghy ride to the south side of the bay we were in, finding super yachts at anchor.  We cruised around the south point and went as far as we could towards open water, but the water over the sandbank at this point was way too shallow. When we got back to the boat, we noticed that it was actually touching the bottom.  The tide had gone out and we ended up resting on the sand.  We also had a really cute remora on the bottom of the boat that we both spent some time swimming with, and Kathleen tried to get pictures and video.

Hawksbill Cay anchorage
Out for a dinghy ride to check out the beaches and anchorages around Hawksbill Cay
Granuaile resting on the sand at low tide! Remora cleaning the bottom of hull

As the mooring was too shallow, we left the next morning on rising tide, and cruised to Norman’s Cay, where we waited out high winds and rain and did some of the never-ending maintenance and care on our girl. On April 24th, we cruised up to West Bay, New Providence to anchor overnight.  We had a VERY rolly ocean with following seas.  The anchorage was good; not too crowded and well protected from the crazy winds.

From West Bay we cruised up past Chubb Cay and anchored on the Great Bahama Bank, a large, shallow area that we needed to cross.  It was AMAZING – no one around us, basically dropping anchor with no land in sight.  THIS is what we really love about cruising – the peace and calm are amazing balms for any stressors.  This was our first time anchoring like this – and we highly recommend it, but only in light winds!

We raised anchor at sunrise the next morning, and traveled to Bimini – our last stop on our amazing trip. We had mixed feelings about leaving – we absolutely love the Bahamas, but we were looking forward to modern amenities and better food selections.  But we knew we were going to seriously miss this place – it is magical. After we checked out with with Immigration and Customs (which Kathleen had done on line, and apparently did not have to visit their offices – even though the online instructions explicitly stated that we did), we had dinner at Big Game marina.  We didn’t get to explore the area much, so we’d like to come back again to check out the sights.

Docked in Bimini at Blue Water Marina
Dinner at Bimini Big Game Marina. Our last night in Bahamas

April 27th found us raising anchor at 7:00 AM for the 80 mile run back to reality.  We had a beautiful, calm crossing the whole way – it’s hard to believe this was the same ocean we had bounced across 2.5 months before.  We anchored in Lake Worth, cleared customs using CBP Roam app.  We planned to be in this area for 3 weeks or so, getting new electronics, cleaning and waxing the boat all over (good times in 65-80% humidity, 85-90 degree weather), doing some dockside maintenance and re-acclimate to the US.  We met up with old and new friends during this time and really enjoyed ourselves.  We rented a car and went back to Vero to see friends (and get requisite dental cleanings done).  After the work was completed and the boat provisioned, we turned our sights to the north and began looking for a good weather window.  The Bahamas keep calling us back like a siren’s song – and we hope to head back in late January/early February for an even longer visit!

Getting ready for an early morning departure from Bimini
Reeling in a barracuda while crossing the Gulf Stream
Anchored off Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Waiting for our slip to ba available at nearby Old Port Cove Marina
Pilothouse gutted and ready for installation of new navigation electronics
Filling the tanks with diesel fuel

Next we head north, hopefully as far as Maine and Nova Scotia


March 31st: Neil picked up Meg and Liv at the taxi stand (aka “Exuma Markets”). The girls had been on the road since the day before, taking a red-eye from Denver and then spending 11 hours in Miami before the short plane hop to Great Exuma Island. They may have been a wee bit tired…. After some tropical refreshments and appetizers, they were very happy to be here – ALMOST as happy as we were to get to see them and hug them. The next day we dinghied over to George Town to do some grocery shopping. Lunch was spent at “Chat and Chill” on the nearby Stocking Island, another great outdoor spot where conch salad is prepared right in front of you, drinks are plentiful, and food is good, but takes a very long time to come out of the kitchen. After lunch, we had a quick stop at the boat to get stuff together to hike to the other side of Stocking Island – the view is spectacular and the swimming fun, so we really wanted to show it to the girls. It was another perfect day.

We lifted anchor on April 2nd and headed north for Bitter Guana Cay, a 7.5 hour run. Neil and the girls tried fishing, although none were biting. Bitter Guana Cay is JUST south of Staniel Cay, and MUCH less crowded (we had the place to ourselves!). This Cay is a wildlife refuge for an endangered breed of iguana. These giant lizards are very friendly and have, for reptiles, great manners. They also LOVE carrots and HATE having them fall in the sand – good to know. Liv and Meg took the kayak over the beach that first afternoon, arriving back in time for cocktails and another breathtaking sunset.

The next morning, we all rode over to the beach to visit and feed the iguanas, which were still excited about carrots… After emptying our supply, we hiked up a trail to the crest of a bluff, able to see both sides of the island from there. Kathleen and Liv explored the area closer down by the sea, and Meg and Neil checked out the surrounding views. The white cliffs, tidal pools, and occasional iguanas were amazing. We finished the hike back on the west side, exploring some rocky coastline and checking out a cave – which was already claimed by MANY iguanas cooling off from the mid-day sun. Back on board, Kathleen made some more chocolate chip cookies, and we settled in after dinner to watch one of the myriad DVD’s that Meg had brought for us – so much fun as the majority were Disney or Warner Brothers – guaranteeing trips down memory lane for some, and a chance for Neil and Kathleen to get caught up on the “must see animation movies” that we had missed.

Hiking the east side of Stocking Island
Cocktails and snacks on the boat deck with Liv and Meghan, anchorage off George Town
Early morning departure from George Town, heading north to Bitter Guana Cay
Meghan enjoying a float in the crystal clear waters in Bitter Guana Cay anchorage
Checking out the iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay beach
Bitter Guana Cay anchorage

Around 10:30 on the morning of the 4th, we took the two hour cruise over to Staniel Cay, anchoring again in the Bay of Pigs (no joke…). After anchoring at Big Majors Spot, we got the dinghy in the water and headed over to the beach to introduce Meg and Liv to the piggies. We still had some carrots saved, so we had a lot of fun, barring the one large pig that seemed to want to chase our dinghy instead of coming with us to the beach to get fed. It IS amazing how large these pigs are, and they are good swimmers – with cloven hoofs that can scratch if you’re not careful…

Our friends, Paul and Shannon from Time Out were anchored close by, so we finally got to visit with them (we kept missing each other for various reasons – pretty typical for cruising!). From there, we took the girls to the Grotto for a fantastic snorkeling experience (except for the crowds – lots of tour boats here which lead to lots of people) – we spent some time snorkeling outside the Grotto too, checking out some beautiful and varied coral with hundreds of fish swimming around for our viewing pleasure! We had brought some clothes to change into in our dry bags, and we headed over to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a very relaxing dinner, complete with frozen daquiris for the girls. Walking around the dock we were treated to many nurse sharks in the marina as well as smaller fish darting about. After some photos with the sunset in the background, it was back to Granuaile for showers and relaxing on the “Lido Deck” for the end of the day.

Feeding the pigs at Big Majors Spot
Snorkeling at the Thunderball Groto near Staniel Cay
Taking in the view from the boat deck

We took another short cruise up to Cambridge Cay on April 5th. The cruise was very easy until we started working our way to the mooring field. It was a good “learning experience” for Kathleen as she was piloting through narrow winding passages, and Neil exemplified great patience and calm, helping her navigate. When we got to the mooring field, there was exactly ONE ball left – good luck for us! Once we were tied up and secured, Kathleen needed a little decompression time, so Meg and Liv chilled on our floating chairs off the stern with Neil grabbing beverages and pictures. Later that afternoon, we took the dinghy to “the Aquarium” – a beautiful coral reef in semi-protected waters. Another fantastic place to visit, but way over crowded with people. The times to be able to swim at some of these spots is limited due to current and tide, so you go when you can – and so does everyone else! We went from there to a less crowded spot, diving over a sunken plane and more gorgeous “coral condos” with fish of every color, size and shape. Back on board, after showers, Kathleen made some Ahi poke with rice and shrimp scampi – amazing how these meals are raved about when everyone is starving from a full day! ;).

We had several nurse shark visitors that evening/night, and Neil hung the green fish light off the back of the boat once the sun had gone down. It was sooo amazing to see so many fish and nurse sharks milling around our boat in the clear water. They seemed to really like the warmer water from our generator, and possibly some shrimp-flavored water from cleaning our dishes…

Liv and Meghan hanging off the swim platform in our Cambridge Cay mooring
Heading out in the dinghy for some snorkeling
Checking out The Aquarium near O’Briens Cay
Lots of fish at The Aquarium …
But lots of snorkelers too
Neil investigating a submerged plane near O’Briens Cay
Nurse sharks swimming around us in Cambridge Cay mooring field

The next morning dawned beautiful (as usual…), and after breakfast, we headed over to the Cay to explore. The trail we took was called “the Honeymoon Path” and it was a pretty, lush (for the area) short walk to Honeymoon beach, and the Kissing Rock (also called the Bell Rock). We hiked the beach and surrounding hills, getting fantastic panoramic views of both sides of the island, including a salt pond. Kathleen and Liv again explored closer to the Atlantic side, marveling at the cliffs and awesome power of the ocean. After more portaits with this background, we hiked back down, visiting the Salt Pond and then back to the beach. Liv was the only one brave enough (?) to swim over to Bell Rock and climb to the top – the rest of us watched a little fearfully, but cheered her on the whole way.

After checking out the other end of the beach, we dinghied over to the “Bubble Bath”, a recommendation from our friends Doug and Sue on their “not to be missed list”. A short walk in from the beach proved them right – a shallow pool backing up to limestone rock that had an area where waves crashed over from the ocean side was so much fun. We went back to the boat to grab our snorkeling gear, and headed out to the Rocky Dundas mooring, a short ride away. In addition to great reefs to visit, there are two amazing caves here, easily accessible at low tide. These caves sported unbelieveable stalagtites and stalagmites – many that had joined together and looked a lot like ET’s, lending an other-worldliness to the caves. They were also sacred sites for the indigenous Lucayans, so that probabaly added to the mystical air, too…

On the 7th, we went to one more snorkeling spot – Larry’s Reef, a drift spot. The winds had really kicked up the water, so it wasn’t an easy snorkeling, and not a whole lot to see – we were hoping to see a “rare stand of pillar coral”, but didn’t locate it, and after swimming around for a while, headed back in
Back on the boat we celebrated another fun day with fresh guacamole and humus – along with some beverages, of course, followed by pizza!

Hiking over to the east side of Cambridge Cay
View of Granuaile at mooring in Cambridge Cay from hill on the east side of cay
Overlooking the Exuma Sound
That’s Liv on Bell Rock after swimming over and climbing the steep trail to the top
Wave crashing into the Bubble Bath, on Compass Cay
Inside cave at Rocky Dundas

We left the anchorage early the next morning for a 9 hour cruise back to George Town. The seas were really rough and the only one not affected by it was Neil. Once again, we were very glad for Scopolamine and Dramamine! We secured an anchor spot and relaxed for the evening, enjoying a spectacular sunset.

Our time with our lovely girls was coming to a close. We spent Saturday, the 9th, in George Town, getting the girls their Covid tests, hitting the Straw Market for shirts, hats, ornaments, jewelry and other touristy items, and a bit of grocery shopping. We had lunch at Chat and Chill again, snorkeled some nearby reefs (that were unfortunately cloudy due to the active currents and winds) and then Meg and Liv treated us to a fantastic dinner at the Green Turtle restaurant. Another movie capped off our last night together.

The next morning, we took the girls to their taxi stand and after many hugs and not a few tears, waved them off, very grateful for their time with us. Neil and I did more grocery shopping, and headed back to the boat – we had a lot of cleaning to get done after so many days of cruising! It was strange to have the quiet again – we definitely enjoyed having guests, and with Meg and Liv departing, we realized we were in the last few weeks of our time in the Bahamas.

Back in George Town, and unfortunately time for Liv and Meghan to depart
Another beautiful sunset in the Bahamas

George Town, Great Exuma Island and Long Island

March 18th: Kathleen piloted us out of the Oven Rock anchorage off Great Guana Cay and through the Galliot Cut into the Exuma Sound for our cruise down to George Town. The seas were a little rolly, but easy, we had some light drizzle, which was actually great. George Town is the capitol of the Exumas and the largest town on Great Exuma Island (every wonder about the difference between “cay” and “island”? Well, Kathleen did – thank you Google – a cay is formed over a coral reef, with deposits from the sea on top building over time. An island is formed by a volcano or by shifting underwater plates. There – your geography lesson is complete.

The anchorages were very busy, as this is a popular place for boaters to “winter over” – free to anchor, two well-stocked groceries, fuel availability and a good spot to hop off to places north, south, east and/or west. We did not go ashore the first night as a) we were tired and b) it was pretty rolly. So we settled in for dinner and another Harry Potter movie…

Exiting through Galliot Cut into the Exuma Sound
At anchorage in Elizabeth Harbour off George Town, lots of boats

Dinghying in to George Town the next day was “wet” as it was nearly impossible to avoid sea spray on the bumpy ride to the dinghy dock. The marina looked to still be in the throes of some repairs, so we followed the rest of the traffic under a cement archway into “Lake Victoria”, aka a shallow large pond with lots of dinghy docks to tie up to. We dumped our trash and walked around the island for a bit, doing a big circle. We wandered through a “straw market” – also known as a tourist spot for souvenirs, stopped to read some local postings about the local history of the area, went into a local grocery, then got served “turkey sauce” by some lovely ladies who were part of a church group feeding people for free. (Just as a suggestion, probably want to pass it by if offered – it was bits and pieces of hacked up turkey, skin, bones and very little meat – but it was very kind and we were happy to contribute to their work). By the time we got back to where we had started, we were pretty tired, so we hit the grocery store near the marina (we were extra lucky as the mail boat had just come in the day before – and WAS THAT STORE EVER STOCKED!) – we were overwhelmed with, well, everything. Fresh fruits, fresh veggies, frozen foods, dried and canned goods – we hadn’t seen this much plenty is almost two months. The store was mobbed, so we stocked up as quickly as we could, and headed back to the boat. (Neil was hoping to be able to buy some gas for the dinghy, but they were sold out – something to get used to here).

On Sunday the 20th, we took the dinghy to Sand Dollar Beach on Stocking Island, near where we were anchored. After passing sailboat Rock Chalk (the couple we had first met in Warderick Wells and had seen several times since!) we had a nice visit with a couple on shore who gave us directions for a short hike to a spectacular view. We all agreed it was one of the absolutely most beautiful beaches we had every seen, and we took a great walk up the coast.

Hiking on Stocking Island
Exuma Sound side of Stocking Island, beautiful long beaches!
Sand Dollar Beach. Granuaile anchored in the background (red arrow)
Sand Dollar Beach anchorage off Stocking Island

A quick bite on the boat and a change of clothes, and we went back to George Town – Dave and Elaine needed to get their Covid tests as they were leaving the next day for Miami. It was hard to believe that their time with us was almost up! We decided to have lunch at a local stand, as most of the area was closed down (yes, it was Sunday, and yes, at some point we would figure this out). Lunch took over 1.5 hours to MAKE, but it was good and the owner/cook/server was very apologetic, stating that everything was made from scratch and that she had just come from church (!) to open for lunch. It did taste great, but we all wondered if the wooden table would have tasted great as we were really hungry. Ah, Bahamas time…

After another stop at the grocery store (and another failed attempt at getting gas as it was closed – on Sunday…), we went back to the boat, having left overs for dinner, and spending time together as Dave and Elaine packed. We also met another Nordhavn couple from Boulder! Very nice people on Puffin Quest, Paul and Renee. Super helpful and fun, and we hope we get to catch up with them soon.

The next morning, Neil took Dave and Elaine to the George Town dock (not enough room in dinghy for Kathleen this time!), and after securing them on land and bidding our love and farewell, we lifted anchor and took the five hour cruise to Thompson Bay off of Long Island.

The ride down was easy and beautiful, and anchoring simple, with not a lot of boats in the area. The winds have been steadily high (around 20 knots), which makes for interesting dinghy rides. We did get ashore the first day, walking around near the government dock, noticing a grocery and a beach bar, as well as a real Esso gas station and fish market nearby. We took a short swim once back at the boat – you HAVE to when the water temperature is 83 degrees. The evening was polished off with Kathleen’s homemade hummus, Neil’s Manhattan and nature’s glorious end of the day. Our second day started well with Kathleen making some chocolate chip cookies (they somehow taste better on the boat). However, shortly after Kathleen’s back demanded a day off, so we hung out on board, marveling at the stars that night, and actually watching a movie (we did finish Harry Potter with Dave and Elaine…).

Sunset at Thompson Bay anchorage on Long Island

The 24th was bright and sunny with billowing clouds – and super high winds. So, a day of catching up on this blog, laundry, housework, engine maintenance and the like took over. The next day had us exploring the island, crossing over to the “Atlantic” side, where after a good hike, we lounged on the beach, played a bit in the water and took it all in as the only people on the beach at that time.

We finally found our beach bar here – Tiny’s – with a very relaxed atmosphere, WiFi (Kathleen got to download some more pilates classes), and according to Neil, the best rum punch he has had yet. Combine that with a game of Cornhole on the beach, some swings and an incredible view and we were in heaven. During the dinghy ride back to the boat, the sunset was exceptional, painting the sky various shades of orange, bouncing off the water, silhouetting anchored boats with an unbelieveable backdrop.

Atlantic Ocean side of Long Island, never tire of Bahamas’ beautiful beaches
Dinner and a cocktail at Tiny’s Hurricane Hole
Dinghy ride back to our boat with a beautiful sunset

We took time over the next couple of days to do some cleaning, polishing, laundry and maintenance in preparation for our next guests, daughter Meghan and wonderful friend Olivia.

On the 28th, we lifted anchor around 8:30 to cruise back up to George Town, where Meg and Liv were flying into on the 31st.

Staniel Cay and Great Guana Cay

March 7th had us cruising the relatively short hop (2.5 hours) from Warderick Wells Cay to Staniel Cay. After dropping anchor, we got the dinghy in the water and cruised over to a grocery store to both dump trash (large amount and stinky …) and buy some provisions. We planned a bigger shop the next day, but we have learned that when shopping on these islands, if you see something you want/need, buy it – it might not be there later.

We toured around the area, ending up at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and Marina, where we were happy to discover the Karen Marie, with Dale, Karen, Sean and Debbie – friends we last saw in Norman’s Cay. They invited us aboard and we enjoyed a great hour catching up, friendship, beverages and seeing a plethora (Kathleen just loves using that word…) of sealife – about 10 nurse sharks, rays, one barracuda, and a myriad of other tropical fish. After our visit, we grabbed dinner at the bar of the Yacht Club and wandered back to the dinghy, well after sunset and nightfall. The long dinghy ride back felt sketchy except for Elaine who enjoyed watching the stars and maybe the newness of the ride not feeling the tension that Kathleen and Neil did while trying to navigate the waters and many anchored boats back to our boat in the dark. We got back safe and sound, no worse for wear.

The next morning had us up and out, first checking out the “swimming pigs” on the beach near us, along with nurse sharks and rays and other fish. From there we cruised over to the town to do some proper shopping and a bit of sightseeing. We got back to the boat, where Neil changed the generator oil and the rest of us relaxed (Kathleen trying to master Fair Isle knitting and Elaine and Dave alternating between reading and “contemplating with eyes closed.”). Neil had checked the current and tide, and found a good window to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto (the scene of last summer’s fiasco where Kathleen banged her head on the limestone). This time, it was PERFECT. Hardly any current, water low enough we could just gently swim into the grotto. The fish were fantastic, the light dancing across the water in different areas through a larger hope at the top of the grotto, grasses hanging down from the ceiling, stalactites and stalagmites growing with. We snorkeled in and around for about an hour, all declaring that it was one of our more stellar expeditions.

Sunrise at our Staniel Cay anchorage
Dave and Elaine inside the Grotto
Underwater views from inside the Grotto
Staniel Cay beach with swimming pigs attraction
Kathleen taking video of the rays swimming near our dinghy

We left Staniel the next day around 1:00, after a tour around the Sandals resort and another visit to the pigs and company, and a quick trash dump. We were ready for a short hop (ten miles) to the Little Bay anchorage off of Great Guana Cay. On the way, we connected via VHF with Christine and Joe Cook on Legacy, our friends from Vero, who were headed to Staniel. It was a bummer that we couldn’t stop to visit, but hopefully will catch up later.

The Little Bay anchorage hosted a seeming Nordhavn convention, with 4 Nordhavns anchored (including us). Kathleen’s back decided she had had enough bouncing while in the dinghy and needed a long rest, so she headed to bed, but everyone else had a grand evening, with folks from one of the Nordhavns coming over to meet and greet.

Although the anchorage was pretty, it was very rolly, so the next morning we weighed anchor and cruised around the point to the Black Point Settlement anchorage. There were A LOT of boats here, both for nominal protection from some anticipated blowing later in the week, as well as a pretty town with friendly people. We had lunch at Lorraine’s, a popular restaurant/bakery, which definitely ran on Bahamas time (lunch took about 2 hours, of which 1.5 of it was spent waiting for our food..). We came back to the boat where some quick snorkeling and longer sunning took place, and we are still waiting to play Euchre (Elaine did teach Kathleen, but somehow, every night after dinner and stars, we are all just ready to collapse into bed – there are worse things…).

On the 11th, we went to shore around noon, hoping to rent a golf cart to see the island. Apparently, they are a rare commodity – although we saw several scurrying around, there were none available to rent. Just as well, as we had a great walk along the one main road here, with the island narrowing at one point so much that we could see both the Atlantic side and the Bank side at the same time. We also ejoyed a very active blow hole and a dip from a pretty beach. It was very shallow (like 2-3 feet shallow) for a long way out, so we had fun just floating around. The water was really warm – a harbinger of the months to come. Back at the boat, we all snorkeled around for a bit, with cooler (aka more refreshing) water, and not a whole lot to see beneath us. The sea bottom for a lot of the Exumas is a vast desert, with amazing coral reefs exploding in color and life popping up with regularity. We went to a restaurant for dinner and were treated to dining on an outdoor patio, by ourselves, for the most part, watching another amazing sunset and a very adorable local child who had fun entertaining us with his antics for a bit before mom had had enough. We are still trying to figure out the night life – or lack thereof – on these islands – it seems that most people eat out at lunch, and it’s pretty quiet come 5:00. We enjoyed fresh conch prepared in various ways, Kalik beer (local brew) and an easy cruise back to the boat – we left extra lights on this time so easier to find in the dark…

Anchorage off Black Point Settlement, Great Guana Cay
Atlantic side of Great Guana Cay
Enjoying dinner at restaurant overlooking our Black Point anchorage. Granuaile in the background (red arrow)

The next day we awoke to waves hitting us on the beam causing us to roll. The whole day was really rough, even too risky to try to get on the dinghy to get to shore. So, we had the difficult task of entertaining ourselves – lots of reading, Kath working on new knitting techniques, Neil doing some tax work (yuck), and Dave and Elaine practicing maintaining balance and stomach calmness in between well earned naps.

Still no Euchre yet, but we are getting through the Harry Potter movies (again!).

We had one more day at this anchorage, again visiting the small village of Black Point Settlement. It was very quiet as it was Sunday and not yet 1:00 – people here seriously use this day as a day of church and rest. We walked around a lot of the island, and evenutally had lunch at a local spot, where the owner had JUST opened as she had just come in from church. After a nice relaxing meal, we walked around a bit more and then headed back to the boat. This time, we did have a somewhat raucus round of Euchre!

We headed south late in the morning the following day, March 15th, to Oven Rock at the southern point of Great Guana Cay. We towed the dinghy using a bridle that we had yet to use since we had bought the boat. All went well, it was a nice easy ride. It was a gorgeous day, and after securing the boat and anchor, we went exploring. There were several coral areas to snorkel, with lots of tropical fish, sea stars, and even a playful young turtle! We saw our first lionfish here, and appreciated it from a distance. They are actually a menace here and hunting them is very encouraged. Unfortuately, we did not have the equipment, so we just watched.

Oven Rock anchorage off Great Guana Cay
Oven Rock anchorage reef teeming with life

We went ashore on the 16th, with Kathleen, Dave and Elaine exploring the island to a cave with fresh water, stalagtites and stalagmites to stagger the senses. Neil stayed back with the dinghy, as the anchors did not give him a great sense of security given the rough surf. The hike also opened up a panorama to the other side of the island, with crashing seas and limestone landscapes. We can never get enough of this. We then took the dinghy over to Little Farmer’s Cay, which was right next to the end of Great Guana and very close to the anchorage. The townspeople were crazy friendly, from the moment we pulled up with helping us to tie up and giving us the rundown of things to see and visit. Dino appears to be the head of the weloming committee, inviting us to take part in “feeding the turtles” with him if we so desired. We gently declined the offer, but did stop by the next pier to put in an order for lobster tails and conch salad. We then took a short walk around the immediate area, having fun talking with local about a project to complete a recent monument (a local who had moved to Nassau to live and work as a nurse is currently in charge of a memorial to all the family members who have lived on this island – it has an interesting history, as it was bought from the British by the children of a freed slave, with the understanding that only family members could own property on the cay.) We also had an “enterprising artist” who corralled Neil, Elaine and Dave to check out his wares – none of which really sparked any interest to purchase.

At the dock, Kathleen got a free lesson on how to make conch salad, which we consumed on site. It was a truly perfect Bahamian moment eating conch fresh from the sea, watching rays and nurse sharks coast around and watching Dino enthrall some new tourists with feeding his 80+ year old sea turtle (which was, in fact, very cool). We spoke with the owner of the local restaurant, confirming that we needed to make dinner reservations and promised to do so for the following evening (it was too late in the day to do it for then). Back on board, after some swimming and unwinding, it was time for relaxing beverages and another spectacular sunset, along with grilled lobster!

Ordering fresh made conch salad and lobster tails for dinner. Little Harbour on Little Farmers Cay
Chef Kathleen attending the lobstor tails cooking on the grill
A delicious lobster tail feast

In the morning, Kathleen made Irish soda bread as it was St. Patrick’s Day – admittedly not a big holiday here. We made dinner reservations via VHF for that evening, and went back to the island around 2:30 to do some more exploring. We walked all around the island this time, seeing goats, chickens, beautiful waters from all sides, the “airport” aka – landing strip for one or two propeller planes, ending up at TJ’s a beachfront bar and grille that was touted as “the best” on both Active Captain and our Waterway Guide. Unfortunately, TJ’s was not open – it did look like a really fun place, but also that it may have suffered from Pandemic restrictions. We were pleasantly surprised when a woman came by, said it was her day off, but was happy to get us a drink. As this was all that we really wanted, we were grateful. She told us a lot about her life, both on Little Farmers as well as in Nassau. Kids from the out islands leave their homes at 10th grade to go to school in Nassau. The university is there also. Many families choose to mover there, understandably, to be near their children. Many never come back. At one point, Little Farmers had over 200 people living on it as permanent residents – today, it’s aroun 75. The people are eager to show off their home and would love to have more tourists come – we heartily encourage anyone going to visit this little gem.

After our visit, Dave took a dip off the beach to cool off, and then availed himself of the outdoor shower! (we were glad for the blue planks…)

We walked back over to the marina for dinner at the Ocean Cabin, a great Bahamian restaurant/bar just up from the water. Terry and his wife Evangeline run a very pretty place, with great food, music and company. They also have more unique tee shirts for those of us who don’t want to have ones that just scream about swimming with pigs…

Terry has had a very interesting life and is more than happy to share it with you. After realizing we were probably keeping them from closing up (it was nearing 8:00), we said our good nights and dinghyed back to the boat. We had an early evening too as we were leaving at sunrise (or so) the next day to head out for George Town.

Beautiful view from TJ’s Sunset Bar and Grill on Little Farmers Cay
Dave enjoying a shower after a refreshing dip in the Exuma waters
Ocean Cabin restaurant hours … life in the Bahamas, love it!!


Another short cruise on March 2nd took us to our favorite spot (so far) in the Bahamas. We picked up a mooring ball in the Emerald Rock field, anticipating bigger winds later this week – strategically locating our boat near shore and “hills” that would hopefully buffer the winds that were anticipated from the East in a few days. We took the dinghy to the ranger station to pay our mooring fees and to hike Boo-Boo Hill, the blow holes, and environs. The Ranger was also kind enough (and patient enough) to point out that our mystery “shark-fish” were remora – something Kathleen was SURE were waaayyy smaller – until he very kindly and patiently brought up pictures – of exactly what we had seen under the boat. We were glad for the lesson, and ventured out to hike.

The three mile round trip was fun, with breezes and a lot of sunshine. We encountered other boaters on the trail, which is always fun, to hear about their travels and swap stories and weather updates. Most of the hike was either over very pointy limestone or sand, so we figure we got our workouts in for the day!

Coming back to the boat, we had a nice dip off the swim step, cleaned up and settled in for another spectacular sunset and dinner on the deck. There are worse ways to welcome in the beginning of March.

Dave taking in the beauty of Warderick Wells Cay
Granuaile in the distance on mooring ball at Warderick Wells Cay
Elaine and Dave hiking up Boo-Boo Hill on Warderick Wells Cay
Top of Boo-Boo Hill: Surveying the offerings left by cruisers ove the years to King Neptune
Another perfect day comes to a close

On the 3rd, we dropped Dave and Elaine at the ranger station so they could do some more land exploring, and Neil and Kathleen went over to the coral garden to try snorkeling. This particular morning we had no luck as the current was really strong. After struggling back into the dinghy, we took a cruise around the mooring field, checking out various boats, and then anchored off of a small beach near the inlet for Warderick Wells Cay. We snorkeled for a bit, again feeling some strong current, explored the tide pools on the beach, and headed back to the Garden to try snorkeling again, hoping that the changing current would allow us an easier time. Kathleen got in first, and had moderately more success, noticing that along with fins, if she swam Freestyle, she made progress – she also probably made noise like a fish in distress, because shortly after swimming, she noticed a 6 foot long black tip reef shark swimming nearby. She immediately went to just calmly hanging out and when the shark chose a direction, she chose the opposite one.

Neil and Kathleen worked very hard to see a small area, but it was beautiful as usual, ending with seeing four beautiful rays swimming/flying through the waters as they headed to the dinghy. They then went to the other end of the island, discovering Pirate’s Lair, another amazing protected cove with pristine beaches. Although the water looked like the most inviting swimming pool ever, the current there was also too strong to swim. They did, however see more rays, however, which was simply icing on the cake of a perfect day.

After cruising back to pick up Dave and Elaine after their excursion (they also saw a lot of sea life, a ray and a nurse shark and lots of fish!), we all went back to the boat for some more swimming and evening relaxing.

Pirates Lair, Warderwick Wells Cay a beautiful location for snorkeling or just hanging out to take in the view
Reef near our Emerald Rock mooring

March 4th was the last good weather for several days, so we made the most of it. We dinghyed over to Beryl’s Beach, one of the many gorgeous beaches to choose from. We hiked to see colonial ruins, including a stone wall and some very rudimentary “buildings” on the top of a hill. It definitely clarified the incredible difficulties of the earliest settlers, as this “plantation” settlement was listed as failed – with no further discussion of what that meant – but without much potable water, arable land or even easily traversed terrain, it would seem that the failure was probably quick and not pleasant.

We walked to another area designated “Slaves’ Dip” which was on the exposed side of the island, a much more turbulent area with very little sand and a whole lot of limestone. It seemed safe to deduce that either the name was ironic and used as a punishment, or slaves in the day did not dip very often…

We then hung out on the cove side beach, swimming, sunning and enjoing a very brave local lizard who bonded with Kathleen, even climbing on her. She was thrilled, Neil was less so. We got back in the dinghy and cruised over to show Dave and Elaine Pirate’s Lair, which, even with higher winds and choppier water, was still breath-taking.

Ruins overlooking our mooring near Emerald Rock, Warderick Wells Cay

After a lunch and naps for at least three folks on the boat, we went out to snorkel the Malabar Cays, just behind our boat. Neil and Kathleen saw some great fish, including several fluorescent colored ones, Butterfly fish, Tangs, a grouper, two live spiny lobsters, and tons of coral. The craziest sighting however, was an incredibly huge lobster shell – two crustaceans had apparently battled to the death – but the larger one, which appeared broken into three pieces was greater than three feet long. This is crazy to contemplate, and Kathleen, at least, was entirely convinced she would not enjoy encountering such a large crustacean when it was alive.

We then ventured to Emerald Rock and the reef right by it for the last swim of the day. Everyone enjoyed this swim, with lots of fish, sea slugs (ick) and coral abounding. Kathleen saw another fish that she couldn’t identify and is anxiously awaiting some WiFi connection in Staniel Cay to do some research.

By sunset, the winds were starting to blow, so dinner was inside, but fresh breezes actually kept the temperature wonderful and with our mooring ball close to protective hills, even with higher winds (gusting to the high 20’s), there was not much rolling inside the boat.

Snorkeling near Emerald Rock, Warderick Wells Cay
Nurse shark checking us out

March 5th was sunny with really high winds, so a day on the boat, with Kathleen practicing guitar and excercising, Neil working on this blog and all reading and relaxing. We have great philosphical, historical and political discussions, with the space and time to listen to each other, laugh a lot and learn about each other and ourselves. Tonight – Elaine has promised to teach us all Euchre.

The Snorkeling Dive that Made Narcos Real

Feb 26th: Today we snorkeled the plane that went down here during the days of Norman’s Cay being a drug-running center. Apparently this cay was ideal for its out of the way location, long landing strip and proximity to the US. We don’t know what happened to the pilot of this ill-fated plane, but it missed the runway and crashed in about 6 feet of water many years ago. Since then, the islands have turned to more peaceful pursuits in tourist trade and the tales of Carlos Lehder, the drug lord from decades ago, have faded into the mists of time.

However, Kathleen and Neil had a very enjoyable morning exploring the wreckage, marveling at the sea’s ability to reclaim its territory, seeing many types of coral and several schools of fish making the twin engine their home. Dave and Elaine decided to relax on the beach, as they are still acclimating to life on a moving, rolling home and needed some time on terra firma.

Kathleen snorkeling sunken plane off Norman’s Cay

After diving the wreck, Kathleen and Neil toured the area, which has beautiful beaches, shallow waters, lots of coral beds and apparently a “new” Norman’s Cay Club being constructed. (Neil pointed out that it has been being built for the last 4-5 years, and so far only has part of a roof on one building, but we did see construction vehicles moving stuff around, so progress was being made!). We checked out another set of “coral condos” just off the southern point of the island. Kathleen had a blast swimming among the beautiful tropical fish and amazing variety of coral while Neil relaxed on the dinghy. We boated back to Dave and Elaine’s beach spot, and the four of us went to MacDuff’s restaurant (the only one on the island, we believe) and had a very enjoyable lunch on a relaxing and beautifully appointed veranda. After lunch, we got back in the dinghy, motored to our floating home, and Kathleen enjoyed reading and sunbathing while the other three napped away a couple of hours inside the boat. The weather was perfect, with a constant gentle breeze, 75-80 degree temperature and water that is just cool enough to be refreshing. While taking some pictures, we did remember that it was snowing in Denver today, and again thanked our lucky stars for this time in our lives.

The grounds of MacDuffs Cottages and Restaurant are immaculate
Lunch at MacDuffs

The next day, all four of us dove the wrecked plane, getting to meet up with Dale and Karen Bennett, friends from Vero, and their guests. It was a gorgeous day, and it was fun to be able to share it with family and friends. After the wreck, we snorkeled the Coral Condos from the previous day, being lucky enough to see a fairly large sting ray nestled in the sand. Lots of tropical fish and a wide variety of coral made it a great adventure.

Later that afternoon, while enjoying the late day sun up on the “Lido Deck” – aka our upper deck, Dale and his brother-in-law Sean dinghyed by for a visit. We also met some other sailors near us who were out for a dinghy ride and came by our little party – and we all had a great visit. That’s how this community is – it seems really transient (and it is), but you meet such friendly people almost every day.

The stars that night put on their usual spectacular display. Neil got a green light to hang off the transom to draw in fish after sunset, so we had a lot of entertainment (even if the fish were of the rather small variety, they were very cute).

Dave posing with plane wreck
Dinner on the boat deck at our Norman’s Cay anchorage
Underwater lights to attract fish for night time viewing

Shroud Cay Revisted!

The next day we had a short cruise (like five miles) to Shroud Cay, one of our favorite visits from last Summer. It did not disappoint. We picked up a mooring ball, and after getting settled, sent Elaine and Dave off on the kayak to do some exploring. Neil and Kathleen had some down time during a sun dappled afternoon. We did have a rather large and sudden rain shower, which hit out of nowhere. Dave and Elaine were on a nearby beach, with (luckily) a beach umbrella to huddle under, and Kathleen kinda scurried about the boat closing hatches and doors, only to open them all again as soon as the rain stopped – it may have been the end of February, but it was still in the 80’s and a bit humid in the Exumas…

Smooth seas for our cruise south to Shroud Cay. Dave and Elaine contemplating the comfort of a super yacht …
Dave and Elaine exploring Shroud Cay
Shroud Cay mooring field

We went for a dinghy ride, trying to traverse the Cay through a mangrove channel that we had used last year – but the tide was too low. We still saw some rays and turtles, so it was a nice little ride. We celebrated our new anchorage with cocktails on a nearby beach at sunset – really cool and breath-taking, but was also a bit abbreviated as the tide was coming in and the beach was shrinking significantly. Still… it was a glorious sunset.

Next morning we got out bright and early (OK, a little after 8:00, but it SEEMED early) to take the ride through the mangrove forests to the other side of the Cay. The waters were crystal clear, the turtles swimming in abundance, and enough depth for us to motor to the Atlantic side of cay. We anchored and walked to shore, over a short rise, to an amazing vista of gentle waves, innumberable colors of blue in the sea, and a soft breeze. If it wasn’t for a maddeningly/sad amount of plastic that had washed ashore on this secluded island, it would have been absolutely perfect. We took a walk along the curving shoreline, and then a quick dip before heading back to the dinghy – we wanted to head out with the tide, not get stuck there!

Later that afternoon we saw three fish circling under our boat that Elaine and Kathleen were SURE were sharks – Neil dropped the GoPro into the water at the end of a boat pole and got some great video, after which we all agreed that they were not sharks, but we had no idea what they were – and with little to no WiFi, no way to research it.

Toasting a glorious sunset with a glass of wine
Sunset at Shroud Cay mooring
Walking the isolated beaches on the Atlantic side of Shroud Cay
Remora fish swimming under our boat at Shroud Cay mooring. Photo taken with GoPro attached to boat pole. We first thought the fish were small sharks when viewed from above!