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Bahamas

Home is where the Anchor Is…Sailing the Exumas Day 4

Day Four: Mermaids and M*&%ER F&*@ERS

Day Four Itinerary: Rat Cay to Little Farmer’s Cay – 24 miles

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I don’t know about everyone else, but I woke up EXHAUSTED.

We had survived Sailing in the Bahamas for Dummies on Day 1 and hoped the learning curve was going to get easier.

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Our plan for the day was to sail from Rat Cay to Rudder Cut Cay, where we would anchor for lunch before continuing on to Little Farmer’s Cay where the first “settlement” after leaving Great Exuma waited for us. We were looking forward to finding the submerged piano sculpture that was rumored to be off Rudder Cut and have a dinner at an actual restaurant where we could eat at a table that didn’t rock back and forth and require you to hold onto your silverware to keep it from sliding into the floor.

The morning sail was uneventful. The water was beautiful. Starfish the size of dinner plates rested on the sand below and the bottoms of the clouds overhead were tinted with turquoise from water below. Everywhere we looked, there was a different shade of blue.

We enjoyed a calm, peaceful ride, alternating between naps on the trampoline and reading on the back deck.

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We arrived at Rudder Cut Cay before noon. Rudder Cut Cay is beautiful, but the beach is off limits because the island is privately owned by David Copperfield. It holds the airstrip that transports guests to and from Copperfield’s gajillion-dollar-a-night private resort island, Musha Cay.

There were actually signs on the beach telling people to "keep off" and I have read that there are guard dogs that patrol the beach to keep riff-raff like us away.

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It is said that David Copperfield had a sculpture made from a mirror finished piano that is a replica of a life size Steinway Concert Grand Piano. A mermaid sits on the bench, a sculpture fashioned after the woman who was Copperfield’s girlfriend at the time the sculpture was made.

Adam, the guy who checked us out on the boat, told us he’d never been able to find it. Finding a piano in the ocean is like trying to find a fart in a sandstorm.

We didn’t have a chance.

But we really wanted to find that piano.

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Matt and John swam back and forth across the bay where we believed the sculpture to be. Back and forth. Back and forth. Forth and back. Back and forth.

Just when we were about to give up, a day tour boat passed and stopped at the cave on Rudder Cut. Matt swam over and asked them where it was. They directed us to go back one bay, around the point. "Once you see it, you can't miss it," they said.

They were right. From the surface, it looks pretty much like a piano in the water.

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I hate to overuse the word awesome, but it was AWESOME.

I mean...A mermaid! And a piano! In the water!

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We planned to visit the nearby 2 mile sandbar, as low tide was just approaching, but some ugly clouds and choppy waves were approaching too, so we decided not to try our luck.

This was as close as we got.

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Instead, we made lobster rolls with lobster Sydney had brought down from Canada and buttered, toasted baguettes. Apparently, Syd does not like it when her hands smell like lobster. I was starting to wonder if she was going to make lobster salad or perform a rectal exam.

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The morning had been fantastic. Our spirits were high. We had found the mermaid. We were sailing through the water like a hot knife through butter. We had a fantastic lunch instead of a rectal exam.

We had this Bahamas sailing thing DOWN. We were IN THE KNOW. We had this.

Life was good.

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Until we got to Little Farmer’s Cay.

We were moving along fine, having just reached Little Farmer’s Cay, and then, all of a sudden, there was a JOLT. And we weren’t moving anymore.

Damn.

One minute, the sun is shining. You’re sipping a rum punch. You’re cruising along with your favorite song playing and then. Wham. You’re on a sandbar.

The boat guide says, “If you do hit a sand bar, the first thing you should do is shut off the engine. Make sure that everyone on board is okay, because there is sure to be a hard jolt, and if you are not prepared for it you may go flying and get hurt. “

That’s as far as we got before the fight started.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get as far as “Stay calm. Getting irate will not help you dislodge your boat and it will only make things worse for the people on board.”

Fingers were pointing. Charts were flying. Sydney was waving her arms. Teresa was crying again. John and I had a shouting match that would have made our mothers wash our mouths out with soap. Everyone blamed everyone.

Thankfully, Matt kept reading as the rest of us alternated between screaming, shouting, crying, and curling up into a fetal position and repeating, “Mommy loves Daddy. Mommy loves Daddy. Mommy loves Daddy.”

“Disembark and make sure that there is no structural damage. If not, then then push your boat backwards from where you came.”

Before we knew it, we were off the sandbar.

We all calmed down long enough to find some mooring balls and secure the boat. The mooring wasn’t strong and it looked like a storm was coming.

This caused another shouting match.

The women on the boat were demanding that we use the VHF to call the Yacht Club because the guide book said you could call them if you needed help navigating your way in and someone would help you.

A man will drive 40 miles out of his way before he'll stop and ask directions. A man will put a bicycle together wong 4 times before he'll actually read the instructions. Did we really think they were going to radio some other guy and admit they needed help navigating in?

Things were tense.

We finally called the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club and they told us how to get in and where to find a stronger mooring. When we got the boat secured at the second mooring, I practically leapt off the boat.

There are moments on a boat when the only thing that matters is getting off that boat.

Matt and I had Keith take us over to Little Farmer’s on the dingy and drop us off. I needed some “me time,” and Matt got dragged along for the ride.

Little Farmer’s Cay was unique.

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Little Farmer’s was settled by a freed slave from Great Exuma named Chrisanna. She bought the island from the British Crown and moved there with her three young children. Mostly undeveloped, this small cay is home to about 50 residents who are mostly descendants of the original residents.

There was nothing “fancy” about Little Farmer’s. It was simple and basic, but it was pretty. As we walked, we noticed most people were outside and every single person greeted us with a happy, friendly greeting. These people were not rich, but they were happy and they were kind.

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They had a very interesting Post Office:

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Given the sight of the Post Office and the Grocery Store, and the fact that there was an honor box on the beach where you could either buy a cabbage for $3.00 or drop off garbage for $3.00 (I never was sure ....), I knew Matt was making a mistake when he strolled into this Bar thinking he was going to find an actual BAR.

The rusted out Jeep should have been a clue. There were more posters of alcohol on the outside of the door than there were actual bottles of alcohol inside.

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There was a counter with 2 bottles of rum and a can of pineapple juice. Oh, and some warm sodas. He didn’t have any ice.

Well, once you are the only patrons inside, you are going to be ordering something, now aren’t you? So Matt had a rum and pineapple juice. No ice.

We met a man who was collecting buckets and had his tennis shoes tied with blades of grass. We found a tiny stray kitten. We were followed by laughing children.

We also found what appears to be the Farmer's Cay hotel, although, I would SERIOUSLY like to know who is going to walk up to that door, ring that bell, and tell them they want to sleep there for $10.

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Maybe if I had just spent 3 weeks on a life raft. No. Not even then.

Eventually, I had regained enough normalcy that I thought I could be with other people without slapping anyone, so we made our way to the Ocean Cabin, THE restaurant on Little Farmer’s Cay.

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Ocean Cabin is owned and operated by Terry Bain and his wife, Ernestine. Terry was born in the Bahamas but was sent to England and to Libya for his education. It shines through in his articulate manner and his ability to talk about any subject whatsoever. When you go to the Ocean Cabin, you don’t just get fed well, you get entertained and you get educated.

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When Matt and I walked into the Ocean Cabin’s small bar, the others were gathered around the bar, staring at a blue drink.

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“We’re trying to guess what’s in it,” Sydney said.

Terry told me that the drink was not blue, it was aquamarine. It’s the Ocean Cabin’s signature drink and it is pre-mixed in a jug, so you don’t get to see what actually goes into it. We spent a good 30 minutes trying to guess all of the ingredients. Spend a few days on a boat and that’s what happens to you. Everything becomes entertainment.

We finally managed to guess them all, but by then, we were all drunk, so no one remembers what they were.

So that’s how he keeps the ingredients secret. Terry is a smart man.

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We had pre-ordered dinner via VHF radio shortly before I leapt off the boat for sanity purposes, and as we moved into the dining room, delicious plates of food started arriving.

Matt, Teresa, and I all ordered the lobster. 1) The lobster tails were HUGE. 2) We have no idea how they cooked them, but they were the most delicious, tender lobster tails any of us had ever had. They had some sort of hot sauce butter mixture on them that was out of this world.

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After dinner, Terry told us that we could have any flavor of ice cream that we wanted.

As long as it was rum raisin.

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The drinks, the conversation, the amazing dinner, the ice cream….the long evening had been filled with wonderful things. And every time we thought that was it, it was like that old Ginsu Knives commercial.

“But WAIT! That’s not all. You also get seven free kittens and a new car!”

After ice cream, Terry went around and handed everyone a piece of paper. On it was a song.

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We sang it.

Together.

As a group.

We rocked it.

Little Farmer’s Cay –
smiling in the turquoise sea,
lazing in the sun at noon,
dreaming safe beneath the moon.
Where sky meets sand and sea –
my precious island, Farmer’s Cay.
This is home to me and it will always be.

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“But WAIT! That’s not all! You also get a bag of diamonds and a bubble making machine!”

Just when we thought there couldn’t be anything else, Terry showed up with a tray of shot glasses and a bottle of Nassau Royale liqueur, which he proceed to pour, light on fire, and teach us how to dip our fingers into it and take the fire to our mouths.

WE ATE FIRE.

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That’s better than 7 kittens and a bubble machine.

The best part was that Terry reminded us how much fun we were having and how much we loved each other. Spending the evening with Terry at the Ocean Cabin was worth getting tossed around, flooded, banged up, and run aground.

I even forgave John for calling me a M*&%ER F&*@ER.

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Posted by vicki_h 05:36 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island tropical bahamas exumas george_town staniel_cay great_exuma little_farmers_cay Comments (2)

Home is where the Anchor Is…Sailing the Exumas Day 3

The Day All Hell Broke Loose

Day Three Itinerary: Stocking Island to Rat Cay (23 miles)

It was our first morning on the boat. We were all excited about getting underway.

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Unfortunately, we hit our first snag of the day early. Apparently, the cruising permit for the boat had expired and we didn't have a new one yet. We couldn’t leave Elizabeth Harbor without it.

While we were waiting, Teresa twisted her ankle. I blame myself. I had talked her out of her comfortable, familiar, strappy, hiking sandals and convinced her to buy a pair of flip flops. Apparently, it is not a good idea to wear flip flops for the first time at the age of 58, particularly when your first experience with the flip flops is on a slick, wet, perpetually moving surface. We iced her ankle down and continued to wait.

Snag #3 came when we realized the air conditioning was not working on one side of the boat.

The guy finally showed up with the permit, but by then, we needed the a/c fixed, so he spent the next hour fixing the air conditioner. And while he was at it, we asked him to see if he could get the fan in John & Teresa's cabin working.

It was finally time to go. (He was probably really happy to see us leave).

We would sail on the rough outside passage for about 20 miles, then we would take a narrow, current and rock filled cut to the inside passage, where we would spend the remainder of our trip.

Keith and Sydney were used to sailing the Virgin Islands and this was their first experience in the shallow waters of the Bahamas, where eyeball navigation is more necessary than a fancy GPS. John & Teresa had never been on a sailboat for more than a day trip. Matt and I know about power boats, but not sailboats. We were all a little nervous.

“Anyone who has sailed the Exumas chain in the Bahamas knows about cuts….the cuts tend to be rather narrow, so the amount of water flowing through a cut can be quite impressive….add a little wind opposing the current flow and you can very quickly develop 6 to 7 foot seas in a very confused state combined with a vicious current making for a dangerous situation with land on both sides of you.”

We all took a deep breath, battened down the hatches (literally), secured anything loose, emptied the toilets, and strapped an ice bag to Teresa’s ankle.

This day was already a doozy and we hadn’t even made it out of the harbor yet.

The morning started off great. We cruised along the length of Great Exuma and the water was fairly calm. We lounged. We listened to music. We napped (because some of us hadn't slept well the night before...ahem).

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Snag #4 came in the form of this ominous tornado looking cloud that brought with it torrential rain that lasted just long enough to get everything good and wet and make the waves really big.

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We were starting to worry that this day was not going well, but then there was this beautiful rainbow. Maybe all our bad luck had been frontloaded and the rest of the day was going to be a breeze. (And maybe a dingy filled with singing gnomes was going to show up with a pot of gold. Yeah. Right.)

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We continued on until we were at what we believed to be the correct cut. We were already testy because of all the mishaps that had occurred that morning, and knowing how treacherous the cuts could be, we were extremely on edge.

As we made our way toward the cut, we began to get pummeled by 7-10 foot waves. That’s when the rope to the jib came loose.

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Did you know the term “three sheets to the wind” refers to a boat whose sheets have come loose? That should give you a visual of what was happening to us at that point, in 10 foot waves and strong currents with our sail flapping uncontrollably and the boat meandering at the mercy of the waves.

We couldn’t go into the cut. We couldn’t keep sailing past it. We couldn’t just sit still. So we started going in circles while the guys tried to catch and contain the jib.

Do you know what happens when a boat goes in circles in 10 foot waves? 10 foot waves wash over the boat sideways.

Unfortunately, when Teresa (and her purple foot) had “battened down the hatches” in her room, she didn’t latch the giant hatch over her bed properly.

As we sat up top, clutching anything that looked stable with white knuckles and trying not to cry or vomit, water was POURING into her cabin and flooding her bed.

It was about this time that I heard a loud “BANG!” in my cabin, so I ran (rocking and swaying like a mad woman) down to see what was going on. The hatch in my head had popped and water was pouring into my bathroom. The floor was completely flooded and was about to overflow onto the wood floors of my cabin. I did the only thing I could, I braced myself inside the shower as the boat rocked violently back and forth, and depressed the drain button.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to drain the water from a boat shower? It is agonizingly slow. Worse than the toilet. The best part is that you have to continue to hold the button down until it is completely drained. This took about 6 minutes.

By the time I got back up to the salon, Teresa had discovered her flooded cabin. She managed to re-latch her hatch, but the damage was already done. Her bedding and mattress were saturated and there was about 3 inches of water in the storage area under the bed.

“Leave it,” I said. “There’s nothing we can do about it right now.” She looked miserable.

The guys had gotten the sail secured and we were headed back into the cut. The narrow passage between the rocks literally seemed smaller than the boat. The currents were insane. The water was rough and we were all rattled.

Waves started pitching over the boat again. We heard a lot of commotion up at the helm. That’s when Keith jumped down, hit the deck that was now covered with slick salt water, and fell on his face. Literally landed right on his face. He jumped up, eye bleeding, grabbed a chart book and ran back up to the helm.

You know how, when someone falls, you don't know whether to laugh or pretend to be concerned? Well. It wasn't like that. We were HORRIFIED. Blood was pouring down the side of his face and we were pretty sure he had lacerated his brain and his eye was going to fall out. Sydney, Teresa, and I stared at each other wide-eyed.

We crept through the cut and came out the other side unscathed. The water was calm, the sky blue. It was as though the world on the other side of that cut didn’t even exist.

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Everyone was shaken and unhappy. Teresa’s foot was swollen. Keith’s eye was turning blue and he was bleeding. One of the cabins was completely soaked. That’s when I got the great idea to make lunch.

Yes. I am an idiot. I'm that person that thinks a ham sandwich can cure cancer. "You just lost both of your feet in a car accident? I'm sorry. Here. Have a cupcake."

Food makes everyone happy, right? We were through the cut, we were in calm water, the bad stuff was over. As we made our way to our anchorage, I would surprise everyone by having a lunch spread ready by the time we stopped the boat.

I started making a fruit platter. When that was done, I cut up cheese and salami and put it on another platter with an assortment of crackers. I was smiling and patting myself on the back when I felt the boat make a 180 turn.

“Wha…..?????”

“We’re at the wrong cut,” I heard Matt say. “We have to go back out.”

Teresa started to cry. Sydney put her head in her hands.

I braced myself in a corner, holding a platter of meat and cheese in one hand and a platter of fruit in the other so they wouldn’t pitch over when the waves hit us again. Stupid cheese. Stupid crackers. I hated them. I wanted to throw them overboard.

Apparently, I suffered from premature mastication.

I held those damn platters for 20 minutes until we found ourselves at the correct cut and were safely on the inside passage at Rat Cay. It was remarkable how beautiful the world was on this side of the cut.

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We found a safe anchorage at Pigeon Cay and stopped to assess the damage.

John and Teresa’s bed was soaked. Keith had a black eye. Teresa had a sprained ankle. The davit clip that held the dingy up out of the water had broken and the dingy dangled sadly from one hook. We looked like a Chinese laundry boat with John & Teresa’s mattress, pillows and bedding strapped to every available surface.

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It had been a day.

We ate our smoked salmon wraps in silence, happy to be alive.

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Everyone spent the afternoon doing what made them happy. That meant Matt and I took the dingy over to a nearby deserted beach with rum punches.

It’s amazing how easily an hour on a deserted beach with a rum punch can completely wipe away a bad morning.

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As we pulled up to Island Girl, she looked more like a Haitian refugee boat than a cruising yacht, loaded down with wet blankets and foam mattress pads, but she was ours and she had brought us safely through the cut. Twice. She was family.

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As the sun began to set on our first eventful day, we fired up the grill and made burgers and hot dogs. You think God could have thrown us a mercy pass at this point, but no. It just couldn't be that easy. As with everything on a boat, nothing is “quite right.” The grill had two speeds: raw or on fire. It was more like cooking on a campfire than a grill.

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We couldn’t find a metal spatula for the grill, so I had to use a pie server. The fact that the grill was on fire and the pie server was only about 5 inches long made this quite a challenge. It was also tilted at an angle and there was no lip or edge, so I lost a few hot dogs that just rolled off into the water. That meant I had to hold them onto the grill with my 5 inch pie server.

And we never had found those hot dog buns, so we had “hot dog baguettes.”

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But with a bottle of wine, good friends, and a beautiful sunset at sea….it was all good.

It was a rough start, but we knew there would be a learning curve. We just knew tomorrow would be better.

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Posted by vicki_h 05:58 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island tropical bahamas exumas george_town staniel_cay great_exuma Comments (2)

Home is where the Anchor Is…Sailing the Exumas Day 2

How to Provision a Boat and Get Diarrhea All in One Day

Day Two Itinerary: Sailing from Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma to Stocking Island (1/2 Mile)

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We had tricky logistics for the morning. The grocery store closed at 11:00 a.m. Our sailing charter didn’t start until noon. Our sailing friends from Canada arrived at 2:00 p.m.

So, we decided to just make a trip to the beach because thinking about all of those logistics made our head hurt.

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We headed to the grocery store at 10:00 a.m. The plan was to get all the provisioning done by 11:00 and beg the young couple cleaning the boat to let us go ahead and put our food away even though it was an hour before our charter started.

If begging didn't work, Plan B was to bribe them with our $300 box of liquor. If we had to go to Plan C, we were going to need some duct tape and a plunger, so we hoped we didn't have to go to Plan C.

I have shopped in a small Bahamian grocery store before, so I am not unaccustomed to the rather odd, sometimes random, and always limited selections that you encounter there. However, I had never provisioned a boat for 7 days for 6 adults, knowing there would be very limited opportunities to pick up any additional provisions during the trip (because the only thing you could find on the smaller cays is the equivalent of a small town gas station mini-market where you might be able to score a pack of crackers and a can of soda if you are lucky).

Lessons for provisioning a boat in the Bahamas:

• If you don’t eat it at home, you won’t eat it on a boat. Just because you’re on a boat doesn’t mean you have to resort to lots of dried beans, tomato paste, and sardines. Unless you are sailing to Africa, you can probably stick to your normal diet.

• You can never have too much alcohol. 12 bottles of liquor, 1 bottle of champagne, 2 cases of beer, and 4 bottles of wine may sound like a ridiculous amount of alcohol for 6 people to get through in just seven days, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a little focus and determination.

• Be patient because nothing in the store will be where it should be. For example, at the Exuma Market, I found the toothpaste with the rat poison. The pizza crusts were with the salsa and chips, not with the Italian foods. And hot dog buns? Well. I never did find the hot dog buns. Probably because the hot dog buns were not with the bread, but were actually with the lighter fluid, and I didn’t think to look there.

• Be flexible. So you wanted Doritos. Bob’s Cheesy Nacho Strips are probably just as good. Want Sprite? You may have to settle for Club Soda and a box of Splenda. The important thing to remember is that there is no food you can’t live without for a week. Especially if you have 17 bottles of liquor and 2 cases of beer.

• Expect things to cost more. That $2.99 box of cereal you buy at home is going to cost you at least 3 times that in the Bahamas. I find that one tends to question one's actual NEED for Oreos when those Oreos cost $11.25.

• Be aware of your space limitations. A week’s worth of food for 6 adults has to fit in a space the size of your high school gym locker. And, after about 3 days it will smell the same. However, despite space limitations, you can never have too much water, ice, zip-loc bags, or toilet paper. Tie them with rope and wear them as a hat if you have to.

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We pushed 3 grocery carts across the rutted, pocked, potholed pavement to the boat. Not only did the kind couple cleaning the boat let us go ahead and load up an hour early, they helped us put things away!

We didn't need that duct tape after all.

We were finally introduced to Island Girl, our home for the next week. While the outdoor and common spaces were AWESOMELY HUGE for a boat, the cabins left me with heart palpitations. It wasn’t my first time on a sailboat, however, and I knew to expect my bedroom to be exactly the size of my (very small) bed with a shoe box sized locker to put all of my things in and a bathroom (head) that could cause the hardiest individual to become claustrophobic in an instant.

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We had the boat provisioned and our things put away by 11:00 a.m. and we weren’t expecting Sydney and Keith until 2:00, so we grabbed a taxi to the Fish Fry, a tangle of colorful one-room shacks located on the shore a couple of miles from George Town. It’s beyond casual and most of the places don’t seem to have regular hours but open when it’s convenient or they simply have nothing else to do.

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Roland, our taxi driver, had recommended Shirley’s. Soon enough, we found her bright yellow building with the doors open, welcoming us inside with the smell of fresh fried seafood. Her menu was simple, featuring local seafoods, curries, and BBQ.

Matt and I ordered the conch fritters, cracked lobster and the coconut grouper to share. I’m not sure what we enjoyed most – the friendly service, the fresh food, the rum punch, or the delicious breeze blowing in off the ocean.

Shirley’s was a HIT.

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It was about 1:30, so it was time to make our way back to the Exuma Yacht Club to wait for Keith & Sydney to arrive.

The term “Yacht Club” is loosely applied on Great Exuma.

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We were surprised to find our friends already on board when we arrived back at Island Girl. After a short briefing, we were ready to set sail.

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Because it was late in the day, our plans were not ambitious. We’d make the ½ mile trip across Elizabeth Harbor to Stocking Island, home of Volleyball Beach and the Chat n’Chill. The short ride across the harbor was beautiful and we all started to get really excited about the week ahead.

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We managed to get there for the tail end of the Chat n’Chill’s Sunday BBQ. Dinner was complete with a Goombay Smash with a Splash and a dog named Butter that would let you throw his coconut.

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We went to be that night full of BBQ, rum, and the hope and promise of our first day at sea.

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Unfortunately for me, I was also full of something else.

Do you know where tap water comes from on a sailboat? Unfortunately, it is not sweet flower dew brought down by fairies. Ask 100 sailors if they drink the water from their holding tanks and I guarantee that at least 99 of them will say “no.” The water looks bad, smells bad, and tastes bad. That’s because it’s likely contaminated with dirt, rust flakes, paint chips, bacteria, cysts, or chemicals. You don’t know where the water in the tank comes from.

It could come from anywhere. You also don’t know how long it’s been since that tank was cleaned. Water tanks that haven’t been cleaned in a while have a thick layer of crud in the bottom and deposits of icky in the PVC lines.

I knew it the instant I did it. I was innocently brushing my teeth when I realized I hadn’t gotten a glass of water from the “clean water jugs” up in the salon. I was already undressed and really didn’t want to put on clothes and schlep back upstairs, so I used the water from the tap.

It was just like the scene in Sex and the City when Charlotte drinks the water in Mexico. I knew my mistake the second I swallowed some of the tank water. I could already imagine the bacteria coursing through my digestive tract, planning to take up residence in some cozy corner of my abdomen, waiting to burst out of me like that thing from ALIEN.

It was about 3:00 am when it hit me. I tried to creep into the head, but there is simply no way to be discreet or quiet on a boat. Your toilet is about 10 feet from the next cabin's bed, separated by a thin wall of fiberglass.

Sound carries.

And smell travels.

Odors are made of gas molecules. Gas molecules are in continual motion. They travel as fast as a bullet. Humid air (like the air in a boat, for example) traps smells and causes them to linger even longer than normal. Small, enclosed areas (like a boat, for example) limit the amount of dilution possible, which further intensifies the smell.

I mean, it’s like a sailboat cabin is the “Perfect Storm” of the olfactory universe. When an odor is released, the small enclosed area and thick, humid air allow the odor to remain in a smellable concentration for an eternity. And privacy? On a boat? Forget about it.

You have no choice but to flush.

Even if it is 3:00 a.m. and the flush is loud enough to wake up the people on the next boat.

Because a boat head doesn't flush like a household toilet. The flush is excruciatingly slow and it is deafeningly loud. You have to hold the button down for about 10 seconds to get a good, clean bowl. It sounds like an 18 wheeler running through a cement wall.

I know there was nothing to be ashamed of. Diarrhea happens to everyone….nuns, princesses, grandmothers…even the Queen gets diarrhea. But I still tried to be discreet.

By my 7th visit to the head, I didn't give a damn about being quiet anymore. In fact, some passive aggressive part of me wanted to take an eye dropper and pour tank water into each of their sleeping mouths so that they too could experience the midnight joy of having their guts turned into molten lava.

Ka-whooooooosh-whooooosh-whooooooooooossssshhhhh (one one thousand.....two one thousand...) kaaaaa-wwwhhooooosssh (three one thousand)….

Oh what a night.

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Posted by vicki_h 06:08 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island tropical bahamas exumas george_town staniel_cay great_exuma Comments (0)

Home is where the Anchor Is…Sailing the Exumas Day 1

Relaxing, self-indulgent, easy….those are typically the last 3 words I think of when planning a vacation. Those words are for vacationers. Not me.

Vacationers come home with big smiles, clean clothes, and shiny trinkets purchased at junk stores that still have the “Made in China” stickers affixed. Vacationers come home with good hair and pedicures that are still as fresh as the day they left the spa a week before. Vacationers bounce back into work with a photo album full of glossy pictures, ready for their 8:00 a.m. meeting without missing a beat.

But vacationers come home with nothing they didn’t have before they left, except maybe a tan and a good night’s sleep.

Travelers come home completely exhausted, with their last pair of underwear inside out because they ran out of clean ones the day their flight home was cancelled due to hurricane force winds. Travelers come home with no money, dirty shoes, and the closest thing to a souvenir is the paper wrist band still attached to their arm from the all night beach party they left to run to the airport. Travelers come home with sunbleached hair, chipped toenails, blisters, and a slight case of food poisoning from eating that fish the local guy grilled on the sidewalk.

Travelers come home with a renewed sense of who they are, a feeling of accomplishment, and an awareness of the world they didn’t have a week before.

I rarely vacation.

I travel.

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Day One: Flying into Great Exuma – The Necklace of the Bahamas

I have heard the Exuma island chain, made up of some 365 cays stretching for 100 miles, referred to as a necklace of sparking jewels. It appears like glittering emeralds and pearls scattered across a turquoise sea filled with forgotten hideaways, protected harbors, and deserted beaches.

Viewed from the air, it was dazzling.

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We made an uneventful landing and were in a taxi within minutes, headed to Augusta Bay to spend a night while waiting for our Canadian friends, Keith and Sydney, to arrive.

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Augusta Bay is a small boutique hotel that sits on a private beach just steps from shallow turquoise water. It was clean and quiet, and, with the exception of the shiny black comforter in my room which had a slightly 1970s-porn quality about it, we loved it.

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We had loads of sunshine and nothing to do but kill time, so Matt and I walked down the beach, which was dotted with small hotels. When we reached the end of the hotels, we found a pretty little beach on the other side of a small rise.

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If we had stopped there, we would have been happy. It had beautiful water, swaying palm trees, and what gets my vote for "most interesting snack bar."

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But we kept walking to see what was farther down the beach.

That’s when we found Jolly Hall Beach. We were greeted with a fine curve of soft, white sand shaded by casuarina trees and bordered by clear, shallow water of the most brilliant turquoise.

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It was, without a doubt, one of the finest beaches I have ever been to.

And we were alone.

THIS is why I love the Bahamas.

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That afternoon, we decided to head into George Town. I’m not sure what I expected, but considering it was the capital on one of the larger islands in the Bahamas, the largest city in a 100-mile island chain, and home to an international airport…… I expected more.

The guys decided to stop for a beer while Teresa and I strolled through the shops.

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Teresa and I were finished in approximately 8 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, it was sweet. It was quaint. It was friendly……But it was so SMALL.

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More a village than a city, George Town is a smattering of shops and eateries on one street that circles a small lake. It takes longer to walk through the average Super Target than it does to walk around George Town. I’m pretty sure my first apartment was bigger than George Town. And the widely touted "straw market" reminded me more of the Bean Station Flea Market than a craft market, well.....minus the boiled peanuts, discount cigarettes, and bootleg copies of Hank Williams, Sr.

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Unfortunately, we had expected ……more….so we had asked our taxi not to pick us up for 2 hours. Sure, we could have just called another taxi. Except that we had just purchased all the liquor for the trip and put it in that taxi’s trunk.

Oh dear.

We did the only thing we could do with 2 hours to kill.

We headed for the bar.

We found a waterfront view and cold goombay smashes at the Club Peace & Plenty. There are harder ways to spend a couple of hours.

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We were pretty sure that with $300 worth of free liquor in his trunk, we’d never really see Vencil again, but he showed up, exactly 2 hours later.

We had him drop us off at Catch a Fire, a restaurant that has the best sunset view on Great Exuma.

And yes, we left all that liquor in his trunk again. We are a very trusting bunch.

Catch a Fire was fantastic. All Balinese teak furniture, tiki torches, and bougainvillea….right at the edge of the water, with a sunset view.

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Although, they seemed to run out of signs when it came to the men's room. This either means "Men's Room," or it means "Women who do not wear skirts are men." I'm still not 100% sure.

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They also had Bahama Obama. At least that’s what he told us his name was. I think he was a little more Bahama Flavor Flav. He was the self-proclaimed Fun Meister of Catch a Fire and he tried to make dancers out of me and Teresa.

He failed.

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30 minutes past the time we told Vencil to pick us up he still hadn’t shown. We were sure he had decided the $300 worth of liquor in his trunk was worth more than the $30 cab fare we owed him and was probably hosting a party somewhere on the other side of the island waiting for Bahama Obama to show up. Just as we were about to give up, he came rushing into the parking lot, apologizing because he’d started watching the basketball game and forgot about us.

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What he lacked in punctuality he made up for in honesty.

We bid good-night to Catch a Fire, Bahama Obama, and the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree and called it a night.

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Posted by vicki_h 12:26 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island tropical bahamas exumas george_town staniel_cay great_exuma Comments (0)

Do You Have Time for a Quickie?

Another mini-cation on Guana Cay

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I don't have to tell you that Matt and I can’t go very long without the itch to get out of town. Unfortunately, our lives and jobs are demanding and don’t often allow us the luxury of a full week off, so we make do with lots of mini-cations.

Who says a 3 day jaunt can’t be a full-blown vacation? A mini-cation can recharge your batteries and provide some much needed downtime.

It was March and the world was just starting to thaw, but it still wasn’t warm enough to get outside. I want to speak to the person that decided that spring begins on March 20, because that person is just a LIAR. There was no spring outside my door.

I was pretty sure that if I had to spend one more weekend cooped up inside with Matt watching “Game of Thrones” in a marathon frenzy, my head would explode.

It was time for a getaway, and there is only one place I can go when I need to getaway but haven’t spent my requisite 9 months obsessively planning my vacation in such precise detail that I know exactly what time I will be brushing my teeth on Day Four.

Hello, Guana Cay!

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Guana welcomed us with open arms, a beautiful sunset, and some darn good ribs.

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Day One: Abaco is for Lovers Lubbers

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We wanted to try something new. We had contacted Austin & Amy of Lubbers Landing about spending the night. I mean, if their tuna burger is that good, how awesome must the cabins be?

As we boated over to Lubbers Quarters, the water astonished us with light and color. It doesn’t matter how many times I see this water…it still amazes and delights me.

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We made a pit stop in the small bay at the narrow point of Man-O-War Cay. The sand is soft, the water is shallow, and the beach is a gentle crescent. It’s one of the most perfects spots in the world.

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If you walk onto the beach, you’ll see that all that separates the sea from the ocean is a road. Cross the road, and the raging Atlantic rushes at you in a mist of salty water. It’s simply a breathtaking spot with a 360 degree view to die for.

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Getting pretty hungry, we decided it was time to move on.

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we stopped at Firefly for lunch. The Firefly Sunset Resort is located near White Bay on the Sea of Abaco side of Elbow Cay. This upscale resort has some of the best dining in the Abacos.

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We discovered they also have some of the best drinks!

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Most restaurants in the Abacos have a menu that looks like this: Fish (fried, grilled); Ribs; Hamburger; Cheeseburger; Cracked Conch; Conch Fritters; all entrees served with french fries, baked mac n’cheese, and potato salad (aka, how to have a heart attack in 3 days).

Firefly had a menu so delightful that I literally became giddy and lightheaded. Or maybe that was the drink.

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I had a hard time deciding between the Panko Crusted Fish Cakes with Fruit Salsa or the Stone Crab Quesadilla with Mango Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Sour Cream. Wait, maybe I should get the Curry Lobster Salad tossed w/ Garam Marsala & Citrus Juices?

Too many choices. Too little stomach space.

At the very last minute, much like a squirrel that can’t decide which side of the road it wants to run to, I went for the Fish Taco. It came out with crispy romaine, sweet-hot Vidalia onions, & savory heirloom tomatoes wrapped in a chili dusted tortilla. It came with crispy sweet potato fries. We also tried the bacon wrapped lobster skewers with lemon garlic aioli.

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Don’t worry. I still got my mac n’cheese. I’m not crazy, after all.

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We made a quick hop over to Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay after lunch. It was low tide and I never get tired of seeing the sandbars that make their daily appearance in the shallow water.

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We saw Austin from Lubbers Landing on his kiteboard. He was whizzing through the water and flipping through the air.

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That’s when I remembered we hadn’t made a reservation for dinner.

Like many restaurants you find on the smaller cays in the Bahamas, you have to let Lubbers know you are coming to eat dinner by 3:00 p.m. and you have to order your food at that time. Otherwise, you won’t be eating. They don’t get enough foot traffic to simply have food out ready to prepare “in case” someone happens to come by.

It was 3:05.

I started to have heart palpitations.

There’s a saying around my house, “If Vicki’s hungry, ain’t nobody happy.”

No dinner?

My mind quickly went to the bag of chips we had leftover on the boat from earlier in the day. I thought about running back to the boat so that I could hide it in case I needed it later for emergency provisions. Maybe I could find an old granola bar stuffed in the bottom of my bag.

It was every man for himself.

Just before I made a mad watery dash back to the boat in an attempt to hide any food that was left in my tote bag, Austin came over.

“I have exactly 4 lobsters left,” he said. “You guys want them for dinner?”

God bless Austin.

We left the beach and headed in to the dock at Lubbers Landing. We were greeted by Austin & Amy, sunshine, and one gigantic saltwater margarita.

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After drinks, Amy showed us our cabins.

Lubbers Landing has only 3 cabins, all nestled privately in the woods and connected by a maze of raised wooden walkways with rope railings. It is like the world’s best grown-up summer camp.

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Each cabin is unique and is furnished beautifully with Amy’s eclectic and artistic touch.

They were rustic, yet luxurious, with soft bedding, air-conditioning, and high end furnishings. Special touches like seashells, handmade pillows, or Amy’s handpainted signs gave it a personal touch.

I was in heaven.

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Our room even came with a Chihuahua.

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I was trying to figure out how I could live here forever without Austin & Amy noticing, when Matt reminded me it was time for dinner.

Ecclectic stemware and soft lights greeted us as we sat down at a thatched umbrella table looking out at the Sea of Abaco.

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The lobster was grilled and served with a fresh salad, house made dressing, and their signature home-cut fries.

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Just when we thought adult summer camp couldn’t get any better, Austin built us a bonfire on the beach where we sat and sipped our wine, ate chocolate cookies, and listened to Bob Marley tunes.

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Day Two: Time to DEVOUR!

Sunrise is beautiful on Lubbers Quarters. I thanked God for the beautiful sunrise and I thanked Austin & Amy for the most perfect place to watch it.

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After some much needed coffee, which Amy makes early every morning and leaves out for guests, we decided to walk along the path behind the cabins. Austin said it would take us to a beach.

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It took us to a pretty little beach with a swing and a makeshift bar. I can only imagine what that water would have looked like if the sun had been out.

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Breakfast is a casual affair at Lubbers. When we were ready, Amy asked us what we wanted and cooked it up. Breakfast was a fried egg sandwich with peppers. Oh yum!

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We lounged around all morning, but eventually, we had to get a move on. We hated to leave, but gave Austin & Amy a hug “goodbye” (Where else do you get a hug when you leave a hotel? I mean, really?), and headed for Green Turtle Cay.

We docked in New Plymouth, grabbed us a golf cart, and made a quick stop at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar for a Goombay Smash. Then it was off to the Green Turtle Club.

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We had afternoon tickets to the Coco Beach Party that was part of the Devour Food and Film Festival that was taking place on Green Turtle Cay. Devour is an international festival celebrating cinema, food and wine culture that takes place in Nova Scotia and is in its fourth year.

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This was their first year having a festival in the Bahamas. Called “Devour! The Beach,” the event included several days of food & wine events and film screenings. Our tickets were for the all-afternoon-rum-infused party at the Green Turtle Club where chefs would take turns grilling lobster, making fresh conch salad, and roasting wild boar.

Wait a minute. Abaco? Wild Boars? Whaaaaaaa? Was someone trying to say that there were wild boars on Abaco???? Don’t ask me why, but I had an irrational fear of wild boars as a child. It’s not like I lived in an area with wild boars. Nor had I ever actually seen a wild boar. It’s more likely that my older brother showed me a picture and told me that they were in the woods waiting to gore me to death, leaving me terrified every time I tried to walk through the woods alone, certain that a wild boar was hiding behind every tree. Do wild boars even live in Georgia?

It's just like the irrational fear I have now of snakes coming through the bathtub drain. It doesn't have to be possible in the real world to be scary. I mean, just think about MONSTERS. Okay?

My mind was now filled with images of me laying on the beach and being gored to death by a wild pig. Were there really wild boars on my beloved Abaco?

Apparently, yes. Like most things in the Bahamas, it all started with the settlers. They didn’t just show up with a bottle of rum and a desire to tame an island. They brought household goods, seeds and plants, and, you guessed it, livestock. That would include pigs. Combine that with the occasional shipwreck where it was every man, woman, and pig for himself, and you ended up with some loose pigs that eventually became the wild pigs that live on Abaco today. Thanks to a plentiful supply of fruit, sugarcane, and thick forests in which to hide, they continued to roam, forage, and have lots of babies.

I guess I was going to have to start carrying my pepper spray in my bikini.

When we arrived, we made straight for the rum punch table, because we are classy like that.

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The first station had Abaco wild boar with Bahamian potato salad and cole slaw. I did not expect to like it. I’m not sure how I thought wild board would differ from farm pig. I guess I thought it would taste like something that had been eating tough coconut shells all it's life and running from dogs, but pig is pig. That was some fine pork.

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There was fresh conch salad, grilled lobster tail with roasted garlic, tacos with goat cheese and charred poblano guacamole…oh, so much food.

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I had a bit of a conundrum when I had been standing in the taco line for a good 20 minutes. It's important to note that I don't believe in waiting in line for food. The line was short and I was close by, AND I LOVE TACOS, and I was all jacked up on rum punch and goombay smashes, so I hopped in it. I reached that point, a good 15 minutes later, where I started to wrestle with the, "Do I get out of line?" question. You know, when you've already invested so much time that you can't make yourself quit, but you know that the longer you have to wait, the stupider you are going to feel. But I reasoned with myself (the way we do in these situations), "These must be AMAZING tacos if they take so long to make and so many people are waiting for them, right?" So I kept waiting. Like a dipshit. Another 10 minutes passed.

That's when I discovered I was in the LAMB taco line.

I don't eat lamb.

I generally try to avoid eating anything in its infancy.

Pisser. I had invested 25 minutes in this line. What was I supposed to do now?

So I ate them. And, yeah. They were good. But I'll never be able to listen to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" the same way again.

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Drinks were flowing, music was playing, and a good time was had by all.

Well, except for those conch. I don’t think they were having a good day.

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We ended the day back on Guana at Grabbers.

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We had conch fritters, frozen grabbers, and a thick slice of mango cheesecake because there is no such thing as calories when you are on vacation.

Everyone knows that.

Day Three: How NOT to End Nippers Sunday Vomiting Off a Dock

Sunday morning greeted us with a beautiful sunrise.

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It was much sunnier than the previous day, but it was SO WINDY. We decided to leave the boat docked and waste the morning in the sunshine at Grabbers.

There are worse ways to waste a day.

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Around lunchtime, we wandered over to Nippers. It was a quiet day We ordered up lunch, and, since I had my fill of pig the day before, I declined the buffet (yes, hell just froze over) and got a cracked lobster sandwich.

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And some fried buffalo lobster bites, because one fried lobster is never enough.

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It just wasn’t a day for dancing, so we chose to walk down to High Rocks instead. This is the most beautiful stretch of beach that you can reach by land on Guana Cay.

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We wrapped it up with a quite dinner and a beautiful sunset at Grabbers.

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See….I can do a quiet, relaxing, respectable trip. I just don’t like to make a habit of it. ;-)

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Next up: 6 adults on a sailboat for 7 days in the Exumas. We’ll either kill each other before it’s over or we’ll have the adventure of our lives! Stay tuned……

Posted by vicki_h 11:16 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers lubbers green_turtle_cay Comments (4)

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