Time to Head Home!

Wednesday, March 13th
Leeward Yacht Club
Green Turtle Cay

After a wonderful month, it’s time to leave Green Turtle Cay.

It’s mid-March already!?! Where has the time gone? I was just getting settled in and used to being here in the Bahamas and suddenly I find myself preparing Mavis to go to sea again. 

Over the past few days I had begun to think seriously about the (very) long journey home.  As a loose plan was beginning to emerge for leaving the Bahamas and sailing up the coast, I found myself already missing this incredible place. I know that I’ll soon be longing to be back here and something tells me this isn’t our last visit to Green Turtle.

We had planned on staying here for another few weeks before sailing back to the USA but some rather crappy weather is expected to move in and stay most of next week so this afternoon we went from “staying for a few weeks” to going…  Like NOW.  Friday and Saturday look like good days to cross the gulf stream so tomorrow morning at dawn we will leave this island we have called home for the last month and sail to Great Sale Cay where we will anchor for the night before crossing back to Florida.  This will allow Willow to get one more bathroom trip in and we will get to feel some Bahamian sand under our feet again before crossing Friday morning into Saturday.

We want to be home in early May.  If we want to sail conservatively and still have some time to explore places on the way back we really need to get going!  We also prefer to do ocean passages on the weekend because when we are without mobile data we can’t speak to customers, handle emails, and deal with our normal day to day operations.  And if we stay past Friday, we really don’t know when the next good crossing window will open up and chances are it won’t fall on a weekend.  So off we go.

We are expecting calm seas for our overnight passage Friday morning into Saturday morning with winds at about 15 to 18 knots from the East.  We hope to be able to sail the entire way across the Straits of Florida and arrive at the Fort Pierce inlet around dawn on an incoming tide.

I’ve been paying careful attention to the weather patterns and poring over the charts again… plotting various courses and doing numerous calculations. I have worked out about 10 different hypothetical routes back to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. But it looks like we’ll have a good window to sail from Great Sale Cay to the Fort Pierce Inlet.  We plan to dock at Vero Beach and deal with the Customs and Border Patrol process of clearing back into the country.  There’s a new app called ROAM that allows private yachts to check in via a video interview with a CBP agent instead of having to clear in at a port of entry.  Hopefully it works without any issues.

Once tied up in Vero Beach, I’ll get my car from my sister and hit a REAL grocery store and pack the boat up with all the things we need for the long trip home.  Food, paper goods and other provisions are quite expensive out here in the islands and lots of things we take for granted at home we just can’t get.  But I’m glad we won’t be buying any more $7 cucumbers!  So after a run to a Walmart, a grocery store and West Marine, I’ll leave Mavis, Cindy and Willow behind while I drive our car home and then fly back to Palm Beach.  Once I’m back on board, Mavis will begin heading back up the coast.  We hope to be able to do much more offshore sailing on the return trip.  Due to lots of poor winter weather and the need for internet on weekdays, we found ourselves stuck inside the ICW the whole way down. This is tedious and requires us to run our engine and to hand steer the boat. We’re hoping to run offshore more on the trip home so we can use the auto-pilot and cover 120 to 170 miles per day.   This is a lot better than the 40 to 60 miles a day we average on the ICW and it also gives us time to relax in more ports of call.  Overall a much more relaxing way to travel if the seas aren’t hairy.

Last sunset on GTC

We went into town tonight and enjoyed one last dinner while watching the sunset on the Sea of Abaco.  Although we are looking forward to being home Cindy and I both feel pretty emotional about leaving this place.  It’s not like the feeling you get at the end of a great vacation in a resort…  It’s different.  In the month we’ve been here we’ve fallen in love with this charming little island and its people.  After dinner we stopped by our friend Kyle’s house to say goodbye.  A group of friends had gathered there and it was nice to get a chance to say farewell properly as our decision to leave was pretty abrupt.  Last night we were having a few drinks with Kyle at Pineapples and telling him that we would be around for weeks and this afternoon that all changed.  Kyle’s lovely wife Novi works at the Leeward Yacht Club where Mavis has been docked for the month.  We only learned that they were married a few weeks ago.  It seems everybody is related on Green Turtle.  

So a little side story…  Kyle and Novi have a son Kyle Jr. who everyone calls KJ.  KJ is 8 years old and he’s a real personality.  He’s also really afraid of Willow… And all dogs for that matter.  I remember the first time we saw him before I knew who his father was.  He was walking on the opposite side of the street and went waaaaay wide to put as much distance between himself and the dog as possible.  One night while talking to Kyle he told me his son is terribly afraid of dogs because he was chased by one years ago.  I was pretty sure I knew that the boy who avoided Willow was KJ.  A few days later I saw the boy again and left Willow with Cindy and went over to talk to him.  I confirmed that he was Kyle’s son and I told him that his father really wanted to get a dog but wouldn’t because he was afraid.   I told him that before I left the island, I’d like it if he would be able to pet Willow.  He said “No way!”…  I shouted “Ok.  But think about it!” as KJ ran back to his house.  The next day as Cindy, Willow and I walked past Kyle’s house on our way back from the market the door flew open and KJ appeared on the porch and yelled “Hey!  I’m thinking about it!”  We laughed and walked on.  I figured we had 3 weeks or so to get him warmed up to the idea.  That was about a week ago…  Tonight we tied Willow up on Kyle’s front porch and after chatting with Kyle and some of his friends and family who we had become friendly with,  I went over to chat with the young man and to say goodbye.  I told him that Willow was a good dog and that she would never bite him.  I explained that just like there are good and bad people there are good and bad dogs and it would be a shame if he remained afraid of dogs his whole life just because of a bad experience.  He didn’t seem convinced at all.  Then I told him we were leaving the island early in the morning so if he was ever going to pet Willow it had to be now.  He said “Ok!  Just cover her eyes so she doesn’t know it’s me.”  I was really happy to see him get a few quick pets in…  If we had more time they’d be buddies.

KJ finally pets Willow!

At Kyle’s, we also got to see Brendan and Pearl who are fellow cruisers aboard S/V Sendem.  They’ve been to Green Turtle before and we actually met them through PJ and Jim.  Those guys all met up in Deltaville and while out for a walk one day with PJ and Jim we ran into them.  They all looked so shocked to see each other.  Imagine running into somebody you met in Virginia on this tiny little island!  That’s kind of what happens in this crazy community of cruisers.  Brendan and Pearl are really cool people and I’m very glad we met them.  They introduced us to some great people and gave us some tips and pointers about the island.  I wish we could have spent some more time with them before taking off.

Speaking of PJ and Jim from Hail Mary.  We love these guys and feel terrible for leaving the Abacos without saying goodbye in person.  I’ll call them tomorrow and I know they’ll understand.  It’s hard to sail on a schedule but I know our paths will cross with them again…  Perhaps in Florida. 🙂

I think Betty and Bill from Sea Mist will be also heading north soon.  I really hope we get to see them again too.  So it’s bittersweet to be leaving this amazing place.  It sucks saying goodbye to new friends who we were just getting to know.  It stinks skipping out on PJ and Jim.  We’ll always remember this time we shared in the Abacos.

Goodbye Green Turtle Cay.  It’s been a blast!  

Capt Frank

 

Green Turtle Cay

March 6, 2019
Green Turtle Cay

Warning… Lots of words ahead.

I don’t know how it happens but sometimes I sit down for a few minutes and when I look up, I’ve filled the screen with thousands of words.  I try not to edit things too much, but leave it in its pure, stream-of-consciousness form.  You’ve been warned.

Sunset at the beach

Hello from the charming and beautiful Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos.  Today is March 6th, 2019 and we have been aboard Mavis for 159 days since leaving Long Island.  It’s hard to believe its March already!  Spring is right around the corner and this is usually the time of year that I begin making final preparations to launch our boat and start our season…  I get a real kick out of knowing that we don’t have to worry about any of that this year because our season never ended!  In fact, I find myself super excited when I realize that our Spring/Summer 2019 season will be starting soon.  It will be nice to be back in our home waters on the Great South Bay.  I’m happy to announce that we just signed the contract for a slip Sunset Harbour Marina in East Patchogue.  This is a bit further east on the bay than I would have liked but at this point a few miles really doesn’t matter.  Our voyage here including various side trips has put about 1700 nautical miles under our keels and I imagine our round-trip will be about 3,000 nautical miles…  That really changes my perspective on an extra twenty minutes to get to Atlantique, one of our favorite spots on Fire Island!

The weather here in the Abacos has been absolutely perfect.  With the exception of one rainy day and a few stray showers it’s been wall to wall sunshine and 76 to 82 degrees.  At night the temps dip to about 70.  I’ve only wished for air conditioning a few times on this trip.  The trade winds keep us comfortable and move the boat along very nicely.  We’ve had a few stray showers that pop up out of nowhere and deliver torrential downpours for a few minutes and then… Back to perfect weather.   We got caught out in a downpour on our morning walk today and by the time we got back to the boat we were absolutely drenched.  Do you like Pina Coladas???  When its 80 degrees I don’t mind a refreshing downpour and getting caught in the rain to cool us off.  30 minutes later it was sunny again.

Getting drenched in a downpour is no big deal when its 82 degrees!

Last weekend we took a side-hop over to Manjack Cay which is about 5 miles north of us.  Mavis and Hail Mary spent the night on the anchor under a star filled sky after a delicious dinner served up by our friends.  Dark here is DARK.  It’s amazing how many stars you can see when you’re this far out and away from big cities and towns.

We got to do some snorkeling on a wreck that was very close to where we dropped the anchor.  Cindy had discovered it while paddling around on our kayak.  The next morning, we threw our gear onto the dinghy and headed over.  We didn’t need wetsuits because the shallow water was probably around 75 degrees.  We stayed in the water on that wreck for about an hour.

Snorkelling in the mangroves.

We found an idyllic beach that we had all to ourselves… Or so we thought.  We discovered a very large set of hoof prints that belonged to what we suspected was a big pig.  We were having a great time and it was a beautiful beach and there was no pig in sight so we hung out for a while.  I had heard the wild pigs around here can be a bit aggressive because the cruising boats feed them and pig bites are common injuries.  I wasn’t that concerned for us but I had reservations about Willow who was running around the beach.  Thankfully we didn’t see the animal that made those prints!

Cindy swinging off Manjack Cay

That evening, while having dinner aboard Hail Mary with friends, we saw a giant animal wandering along on the beach.  Jim, Hail Mary’s captain grabbed his binoculars and as he panned around he suddenly stopped and said “Holy Shit!”.  We all took turns looking at a giant pig through the binoculars.  Cindy and I really wanted to check him out so we left Willow with our friends and zoomed over on the dinghy.  As soon as we got close to the beach this thing started wading out toward the dinghy.  We didn’t have any food for him so we let him approach a bit and took off.  As we did, he realized there would be no meal and he turned sideways…  Only when I got a look at him from this perspective did I get a true sense as to the size of this beast.  I estimate this thing weighed around 350 pounds.

Mr. Pig tried to board our brand new dinghy.

The next morning we got up early and Willow jumped into the dinghy for her morning bathroom trip.  As we approached the shoreline, I scanned the beach looking for the giant pig we saw the night before.  It looked like the coast was clear so as we got in close I turned off the engine and gave Willow the “Ok Free!” command.  She immediately hopped off the bow and scurried up to the beach.  Looking back at Cindy and I who were still in the dinghy she squatted and started to pee.  That’s when we saw the pig slowly coming out of the brush and lumbering toward Willow!  She looked over her shoulder at the thing and nonchalantly continued to urinate…  Just as she finished, the big boar was probably about 20 feet from her and continuing to approach slowly.  I called Willow back to the boat and we quickly helped her clamor aboard.  As the pig waded out to our dinghy we started the engine and took off.   Again, the poor giant boar looked disappointed as we left without feeding him.  Later that day, Cindy and I returned to the beach with Jim and some scraps from the boat and fed this thing.  We had drifted in close into shallow water so I had to climb out of the boat to pull us out.  While I’m doing this, Cindy and Jim are tossing food to the pig to keep him away from the boat…  As we ran out of food, however, he tried to climb into the dinghy.  It was pretty comical but a little scary.  I reminded myself that I had my pole spear aboard the dinghy in case this boar needed a reminder that boarding someone’s boat without permission was a no-no.  We escaped the pig of Crab Cay without any injuries.

Big boar on Crab Cay

We had a series of minor business challenges that kept me glued to my laptop for a full day putting out fires, modifying software and websites, and dealing with some customer issues.  I also had to change some configurations on our telephony server.  I was pretty aggravated.  Just a few days ago I posted Set Yourself Free, a blog post about designing your business so you can be free and here I was, in paradise, stuck in the boat working.  But when the fire was put out, I reveled in the accomplishment, even more convinced that a true digital nomad can handle some rather challenging business problems without having to give up this incredible lifestyle.  In just a day I had accomplished what could have taken a solid week of work.  How is this possible, you ask?   I highly recommend reading The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.  I don’t agree with everything Tim says in the book but if you’re at all interested in changing the way you think about work, give this gem a read!

Island Wifi has been outstanding!  I wish this kind of internet connectivity was available back home.  We have been in the Bahamas about 15 days and already burned through 300 gigs of data and coverage has been remarkably good here in the Abacos!

After enjoying the company of our new friends Jim and PJ from Hail Mary and Bill and Betty from Sea Mist, who we met in Stuart they all left us today to move further south.  We will catch up with them in 10 days or so when our month here at Leeward Yacht Club is up.

In the meanwhile, we’ve really been enjoying walking around this fantastic island and exploring.  There are a number of breathtaking and pristine beaches that we have been visiting.  Walking along the shorelines here is like walking through a postcard or a travel brochure.  I’ve said it before — things are so perfect here that they almost look Photoshopped.

We are slowly depleting the ship’s stores of shelf-stable and canned goods.  There are a few markets here that stock vegetables and frozen meats.  Everything comes over on the mail boat on Thursdays.  We have the basics available here but food is pricey.  Some things seem to be only slightly more expensive than home.  Others are highway robbery.  $21 for paper plates?  $7 for a bag of ruffles potato chips?  $11 for a can of pineapple juice?

Although we can get the basics here I’m looking forward to a big re-provisioning when we get down to Marsh Harbour.  There are a number of good grocery stores there and if you shop carefully you won’t get clobbered. I did, however, recently hear a story about a fellow cruiser who got back to his boat and reviewed his receipt to learn he paid $45 for a box of Archer cookies that go for $2 in the US.  This is sadly pretty common.  Caveat Emptor!

A few nights ago we had some lobster tails for dinner.  I got 6 small tails for $15.  They were delicious but I think next time instead of grilling them, I’ll steam them because I found that the flesh got stuck to the shell in spots.  Our super-expensive “infrared” stainless-steel Magma grill that we have only used a handful of times has some hot spots that make cooking a challenge.  The thing is really small to begin with so having to shuffle food around on it’s surface is a royal pain.  It works, but $650 is a lot of money for a gas grill for a boat.  Lesson learned.  You don’t always get what you pay for.  Especially when it comes to marine stuff.

Surf and Turf being prepared on our expensive (but crappy) Magma grill.

Life here on Green Turtle is interesting to say the least.  The rich history of this place is evident everywhere you look in the town.  Columbus… Pirates… British loyalists… Freed American slaves.  Lots happened here.

The people here are warm and friendly and any serious crime here is rare.  We feel safe walking all over the island at night even though it gets incredibly dark — “like holy shit it’s freaking dark” dark!  When you live in a city or in suburbia, it’s so easy to forget what it feels like to be standing in complete darkness under a sky filled with stars.   I’m glad it’s something we get to enjoy out here.  It’s just one of those simple things that you don’t realize are missing from your life until suddenly it’s there.  I’m having lots of those realizations on this trip…  And conversely, there are all sorts of things we take for granted at home that seem like ridiculous luxuries to me now.  But back to feeling safe…

The fact that there is only one cop on the island confirms my belief that some places just don’t need tons of police and government services to maintain order.  I say “some places” because our experience here is in stark contrast to what’s happening in Nassau.  The U.S. Department of State just released a travel advisory due to high rates of violent crime, robbery and sexual assault over there.  But the out-islands are a completely different experience.  Even though the vast majority of the population of this country live on New Providence Island (Nassau)…  These family islands are the REAL Bahamas, in my opinion.

Last night, while feasting on our lobster tails, we heard a very strange sound.  Sirens!  The last time I heard sirens we were in Florida.  It’s so quiet and peaceful here at night.  There’s no traffic noise… No trains going by.  Just the sound of the water against our hull and the breeze in our rigging.  Occasionally a boat’s engine or bow-thruster will break the silence but the nights here are pretty silent.  All day long, the roosters crow but I’ve learned to tune them out.  But sirens?  Sirens are something very strange indeed.  Cindy and I looked at each other like “WTF?” as we listened to this alien sound move from one end of the island to the other.

Today I learned that spring break season is starting.  It seems rich kids who’s parents have vacation homes here come to party and last night a young girl got herself into some drugs and/or alcohol and crashed her golf cart.  The island nurse stiched her up and from what I understand wanted to sew her mouth shut during the procedure.  I hear the injuries were minor.  Kids!  Golf cart crashes are not-surprisingly commonplace here but it’s almost always tourists at the wheel.  I suppose it doesn’t help things that they drive on the left side of the road here.  Last year someone managed to make it completely off the road into the harbor on one.  But despite all this craziness, the island still feels quaint and peaceful.

There is a bank on the island…  But not really.  It is only open on Thursdays from 10am to 2pm and I understand they take a 1 hour break for lunch.  I think the bankers just come over on the mail boat and spend a few hours.  Same thing with the cellular telephone company, BTC.  If you need to purchase a new sim card for your phone, pay your bill, get a new phone or any of the things you can easily do at home… Thursday is your day.   The post office is open 3 days a week for a few hours each day.  Starting to get the idea?

All of this inconvenience makes Green Turtle feel special.  We are after-all, on a barrier island off another island in an island nation.  Even though we are only about 180 miles from the Florida coast, sometimes it feels like we may as well be on the moon.

Even though we are only about 180 miles from the Florida coast, sometimes it feels like we may as well be on the moon.

Although many services are limited here, one thing that does seem to be reliably open are the bars.  There are lots of really good places to kick back and grab a drink.  This island runs on rum and Kalik, the Bahamian beer.  My favorite place so far is The Liquor Store.  This is an actual liquor store with walls lined with bottles of Rum, Wine, Gin… And more rum.  Lot’s of rum.  Just like any liquor store at home…  But unlike the stores at home, there are also tables in the middle of the place and they serve drinks and food.   They make an amazing rum punch that they refuse to give me the ingredients to but I think the primary ingredient is rum.  This concoction went down extremely easy but it packed a hell of a punch that got the first mates pretty buzzed.  The food there is great too!

I find the drinks at our marina’s pool bar to be a bit light on the booze but I watched as the bartender at another great spot called Pineapple’s  poured all sorts of rum into a milk jug and shook it up… Then she carefully sniffed it and poured in ridiculous amounts of more rum.  Then she sniffed it again and poured in more rum.  There was an insane amount of rum in this milk jug and I thought for sure she was going to pour it into some juice or something to dilute it.  But no.  She poured it into a cup and served it to me.  After she poured out a few servings she stopped, sniffed again and added… Yes. more rum.  It seemed that as  the night went on this rum punch got progressively more potent.  We had a good  great time that night and it seems we met half the island there.   All of the locals we talked with were incredibly proud of their island.  And they should be.  Green Turtle Cay is a very special place.

Capt Frank

Willow and Cindy enjoy watching the sun set from topside.