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A Brand New Island

I can’t believe it, but we are finally leaving the Exumas. Its always a little sad leaving a newly discovered (and loved) place, but we are anxious to see what else there is to see out here. After a quick breakfast, consisting of the last of the frozen hash browns and a can of peaches, we departed. It was still dark when we pulled anchor and motored out of Norman’s Cay on March 18.

The sun peaked its head up over the horizon just as we cleared the inlet. We were heading due-east out on the Exuma Sound. Today’s journey would be 46-miles to Eleuthera’s Rock Sound Harbor. Conditions were almost perfect for sailing. The ocean swell simmered down as we cleared the land and became almost completely flat (which never happens). Especially when there’s wind blowing, which there was. It was perfect to keep us on a close-to-beam reach for the majority of the morning!

Bosco steers herself wonderfully when her sails are trimmed just right. And her favorite point is the beam reach. With the added assistance of Autohelm 3000, Jake and I were free to actually sit back and relax during our shifts. I actually got to read my book (which never happens during passages).

The sailing was excellent, but it felt like a very long and slow day. We were happy to be out on the water, making miles again.

Lunch was pretty bleak: a camp meal that we shared. Can you tell we’re running a little low in the food department? There is actually a ton of canned / preserved food, but it requires effort to make it edible. And whenever we’re underway, we prefer to keep food simple; hence the “just-add-water” type.

We spotted land early in the afternoon. The shelf of East Point marks the entrance to Eleuthera. I decided to try my hand at fishing and dropped my line. We’ve learned that its best to wait until you reach a shelf, where the shallows meet the deep ocean, because thats where all the really yummy fish tend to congregate.

In a span of about 10 minutes, I got something on my line! Woo hoo. Since I was solo, I worked the line slowly. When I pulled it up, I was saddened to see a large mouth full of little teeth – barracuda teeth. Dang!

Jake helped me reel it in and get it off the line to go back out in the ocean with its friends. We opted to abandon fishing now that we’re in the shallows, since all we ever get is barracuda. Jake also took over the helm so I could relax below decks.

The last 10 miles were excruciatingly slow. We had to traverse a bunch of coral studded paths and opted to motor the rest of the way into the harbor. The boat was getting sweltering hot by this point, making it hard for me to hang out below.

We pulled around the last bend and up into the harbor just after 4PM. I was shocked by how HUGE it was – much larger than any other we’ve seen so far. We pulled up and dropped anchor as close to the Government dock as possible, sharing company with a dozen other boats.


Once settled, Jake got to work on dinner. Since I failed to catch us a fish, we enjoyed a variation of rice and beans…again. Tomorrow we will splurge after we get to a grocery store.

The heat of the day saturated the boat inside and out. This was probably the hottest its been onboard since last summer on the ICW. Thankfully the sun went down, kicking up a pleasant breeze that wafted through the cabin. We were looking forward to a quiet and relaxing evening when sounds of a party were cultivating on shore. And sure enough, our quiet night turned into a blaring party that lasted until after 3AM.

Jake and I were both frustrated and sleep deprivation wasn’t helping. I read on Active Captain that mentioned something about how this area is wonderfully quiet except for during homecoming. Now, I assumed homecoming was a school dance sort of thing, which is exactly what the music sounded like (with a DJ and people singing and cheering). The base was bumping…bump…bump…bump…bump….bump. I couldn’t take it anymore I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Somehow we both managed to sleep for a few hours but were up way too early the next morning (or the same morning I guess). Jake somehow mustered the energy to do yoga on the SUP. I barely moved out of bed until I drained 3 full cups of coffee.

Properly caffeinated, I got my butt in gear while Jake made breakfast: oatmeal mixed with re-hydrated blueberries, maple syrup and peanut butter. It sounds gross. And it was gross. But its what we’ve got. Such is the cruiser life.

Soon after, we made our way to shore with chores: gas for the dinghy, food and ATM for cash. We only had 2 – $20 bills and assumed we’d need cash to buy things on the island. It was a bit of a bumpy, wet ride and the dinghy dock was packed with other boats. There were 3 guys loitering on the dock when we pulled up. At first it seemed a little shady but once we got there, these guys were nothing but sweet and helpful and chatty. They talked to us for a good 20 minutes, explaining all the great places to go visit and how to get where we needed to go.

They also explained about homecoming…its not a dance like I assumed. Its a HUGE celebration in the Bahamas when all of the people who went off to other islands (like Grand Bahama and Nassau) to work, come home to spend Easter with their families. The islands are so family-oriented and spiritual, that everyone celebrates the home coming of their friends and families with music, parties, dancing and food. And we were encouraged and invited to join in the fun. How cool is that?

After chatting, we got down to business. Its weird how it felt so windy and cold in the dinghy and now it just feels hot on land. We hoofed it through town, which seemed much less festive this morning. Maybe everyone’s still sleeping from the late night?

It had a really cute, quaint feel with lots of little shops and restaurants. First we tried the ATM, which was all out of cash. Go figure. And the bank is closed until Monday (its only Saturday). Thats a bummer. Next we hit up the grocery store, which thankfully took credit cards. We stocked up on so much fresh food we could barely carry it all – carrots, peppers, onions, potatoes, cantaloup, hot dogs, flour, cereal, yogurt, cheese, bread, sausage and even a brick of chocolate! Talk about a score. My tummy was grumbling something fierce.

Goods in hand, we hiked 5 blocks (it felt like miles) back to the dinghy dock. We stopped to get gas, which cost us one of our precious $20 bills (since they didn’t take CC). So only one more $20 has to last through the weekend.

Back aboard Bosco, we were tired. Neither of us had energy to do anything. Our baser need of food kicked in. Hot dogs and baked beans for lunch. Simple and delicious (especially since we haven’t had anything fresh in a long time). After stuffing our faces we both passed out for several hours.

A few hours later we came to. Starting to feel like a normal human again makes it easier to enjoy oneself. We decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out on the town. There is a restaurant conveniently located right on the water with a dinghy dock, called Wild Orchid. The setting was perfect. Beachy and comfortable and the food was awesome: bacon cheeseburgers, sweet potato fries and conch fritters. We were properly stuffed for a change.

And thank goodness there was no loud bash tonight so we were able to get a full night sleep. Halleluia.

The next morning we were getting back on the old routine – Jake always awake by 545AM to check the weather at 6. Jill sleeps in until 7. 🙂

It looks like the good-weather days are over for the foreseeable future. Clouds, thunderstorms and big wind for the next week. BOO. Not ideal for snorkeling and exploring. But we’re starting to accept and get used to that fact. Today will be so-so, and we wanted to make the most of it. Jake read about some cool caves and a blue hole nearby. Sounds like a plan.

I made us a scrumptious breakfast of french toast with fresh sliced apples – OMG I can’t tell you how good fresh food tastes after this long. Something in our old life that we took for granted. I’m so glad we have an awesome refrigerator to keep food more than a day or two (like many of our cruising friends).

Once we got that cleaned up and out of the way, we got to packing the dinghy for our day of exploring. The clouds seemed to have thickened over the last hour and the wind sure did pick up. It was howling out there. Maybe not the greatest of conditions to explore? Jake certainly had no interest in going anywhere, but I was insistent. I NEEDED to get off the boat and do something fun for my own sanity.

The dinghy ride was long, wet, cold and loud. The weather sucked and we almost bailed. But we were so close to potential awesomeness, we kept going. The caves were supposed to be 3/4 of a mile down from our anchorage along the shore. We passed a couple of smaller caves, but nothing to indicate our larger one.

We decided to beach the dinghy and continue on foot. The shore was a rocky limestone of varying elevation. It felt really adventurous climbing along the edge of these little cliffs that run right up against the water, which was more raging than earlier. I was having a blast even though it appeared that our cave would remain elusive.

Jake was beyond frustrated, his mood matching the darkening sky. We eventually made it to a cave, though much smaller than the one we hoped for. Jake saw a few bat-inhabitants before they flew off into its depths. But neither of us were in the mood to crawl into tight-fitting tunnels that zig-zagged into darkness. So we called it a draw and turned back.

There goes 2 hours of our day. I was irritated by Jake’s defeatist attitude. He obviously had no interest in anything other than going back to the boat. I convinced him that the blue hole would be better, since its inland. He grudgingly agreed and we dinghied back to town.

We found ourselves on the streets of Rock Sound, though completely deserted. Not one person could be seen or heard. It was like a ghost town. Then I realized that its Sunday and everyone was probably in church. Just when the thought occurred, sounds of voices filled the air. In a few minutes there was a parade of people walking down the street in their Sunday’s best, singing and carrying palms. It must be Palm Sunday. As they passed, the churchgoers waved, smiled and nodded to us while singing their songs. Jake and I felt COMPLETELY out of place with our sopping wet and disheveled selves. It was a comical sight.

We didn’t get 10 feet until we saw another couple walking towards us with their cute little dog and a bag of goodies. This is how we met Calista – Giles and Annick and their dog, Dukie, from Nova Scotia. You know how there are some people that you meet and you instantly click with them? Thats how it was for us with these guys.

We chatted like old friends for a few minutes. They had to run off to finish their chores but told us to call them on the VHF later to hang out. We parted ways and moseyed up the street that the procession came down for 20-feet when a man saw us and called out. He was getting out of his car and asked if he could help us find our way. We ended up chatting with him (he introduced himself and told us about his works – he’s an artist). He explained about the festivities going on next week and even went as far as inviting us over for Easter dinner. It was so sweet and random. I mean we just met and already he’s welcoming us into his home with open arms. I was so flattered I didn’t now how to respond. We told him that if we are still in town we would LOVE to.

After that encounter, we were back on our way. What a crazy whirlwind of activity, all in the span of about 30-feet and 30 minutes. Crazy. It was only 2 blocks to Ocean Hole. When we walked up, it looked more like a large lake. The overcast sky wasn’t helping. It looked more like a black hole. It was similar to the blue hole in the Berry Islands only this one was 4 times larger.

Though conditions weren’t great, I was determined to get in and see some fishes, I really needed a break and was hoping it would set my mood right again. As I donned my snorkel gear I realized there were a bunch of other people around. Locals and tourists alike were hanging around, feeding fish and enjoying the attraction. I was the only one crazy enough to get in the water.

And I jumped. My first though…HOLY CRAP THIS WATER IS FREEZING! Maybe because its so deep? Or maybe because I was already wet and cold before we got here? Once I mustered the courage to dunk my head, I was shocked by the vast amount of gigantic fish swarming around. They didn’t seem to care about me, but were very interested in the pieces of bread that were plopping on the surface of the water every few seconds.

I spent a leisurely 30 minutes or so swimming amongst these colorful giants. They were mostly snapper, tangs and angelfish. All of them I’ve seen out in the ocean-wilds, but these fish were much larger than the ones in the ocean. Strange how that works.

The blue hole was huge. I attempted to swim a lap around the perimeter but gave it up after awhile since there wasn’t anything to see. It was too murky and the sky too cloudy.

Now is a good time to call it a day and head back to Bosco boat. Something tells me that it won’t be the most comfortable anchorage. We could see her bucking around like crazy on our dinghy ride back. It felt like she was at sea, not at anchor.

The wind shifted from southeast to west. And now we are completely exposed. Time to move. It was a 3 mile jaunt across the bay – shocking since it doesn’t seem that big to the naked eye. All the other boats in the anchorage moved to the northern-end. However, we decided to go to the west-side, where the crowds were non-existent.

Calista had the same idea. We were the only 2 boats over here, which is very calm right now. We dropped the hook and promptly got on the VHF radio to invite them over for drinks and appetizers this afternoon. It would be our first complete-stranger guests aboard s/v Bosco!

The plans were all the motivation I needed to get the boat cleaned up. It took almost 3 hours to get her back to her glorious shiny-new state and presentable. Jake and I have found that of all the cruisers we’ve met, we are by far the cleanest. Or maybe we’re just more minimal than anyone else? Either way, we can’t help ourselves. Must be my Polish “cleaning” etiquette.

When I came up to clean the cockpit a few hours later, I was surprised by all of the newfound anchored boats nearby. I guess everyone else decided to follow us over here. So much for our secluded anchorage. Oh well.

Calista (Giles, Annick and Dukie) came around that afternoon. We were so happy to have them and their adorable terrier puppy on the boat. Jake and I were craving some animal love and were happy to bestow it upon sweet little Dukie. These guys are wild and crazy and so much fun. They loved our boat and said they were also looking at IP-31s for their cruising boat. Annick braved the use of our composting head, which she also loved. We love it too!

We spent 6 hours chatting, drinking (mostly our beer since we overstocked and needed help to get through it – Giles was so happy to oblige), eating and lots of laughing. We even broke out the guitar and played some music. Such a fun night.

Even though the day started out kinda rough, it ended on such a high note. Its days like today (in retrospect) that make us really LOVE the cruising life. You never know what will happen, where you end up or who you’ll meet. An awesome cruising day for Jake and Jill (and Bosco too).

5 comments on “A Brand New Island

  1. My wife and I travel to the Bahamas frequently and find that the restaurant food is just OK. Its generally overpriced burgers, sandwiches and other simple options. The seafood can be quite good and fresh and if you like conch, there is usually an abundance of friend-versions to choose from. But the best is if you buy fresh seafood from fisherman or catch it yourself (which it seems like you attempt with every passage you make).

    • Yes we couldn’t agree more. I don’t think people travel to this region for the cuisine (but we have found a few gems out there). The fresh seafood is the best!

  2. This is a great post. Its so refreshing to read your take on traveling this way. Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you very much!

  3. I’m glad to read that you and Jake keep meeting so many truly FRIENDLY people! Of course, it probably helps that you two yourselves are so friendly. It’s been my experience that friendliness attracts friendliness.
    I especially liked your last line in this post, Jill –
    “It’s days like today that make us really LOVE the cruising life. You never know what will happen, where you’ll end up or who you’ll meet.”

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