Fresh and Local food, IN THE BAHAMAS

Fresh and Local food, IN THE BAHAMAS

They said it couldn’t be done, but we found some locally grown veggies.

It is very true that it is hard to come across local produce (and we are still searching for local eggs). Most of the vegetables in stores comes imported from the US or Costa Rica. Because of this, it takes several weeks to transport the goods to the local bahamian islands. And this results in not only expensive, but also bruised and old veggies. Some things like carrots, potatoes and cabbage keep easily, but others become undesirable.

Needless to say, when I read about Island Farm in our guidebook I was going to beg, steal or borrow to find my way there.

It didn’t require any of the above, but did include some hitchhiking. The farm is about 5 miles away from the settlement we are anchored in. We walked over to the main road and I stuck my thumb out shyly, but didn’t get anyone one to stop. We walked a bit further up the road we saw a car right ahead of us with two lovely ladies (Sharon and Cici) that were trying to get our attention to give us a ride. As luck would have it, they were also headed to the farm.

 

 

We arrived in this beautiful tree filled location, with so much green, lots of picnic tables, and some little christmas lights decorating the bigger tree trunks. To the back, there was a little open shop with lots of leafy greens, vegetables, and a huge selection of homemade sauces, jams and other foods. Some days this selection also includes homemade breads.

The owners welcome you to walk around the farm, so we started going down a little path to take some pictures. Unfortunately for you, I stopped about 10 steps in, upon seeing a spider the size of my fist and quickly turned back. A was able to persuade Stephen to take a few pictures anyways.

 

After we were done, the owner, Clyde, drove us back to town and along the way told us all about how he started the farm 10 years ago and what he is doing to incentivize other locals in this and other islands to do the same.

The final score of the day was a successful run at hitchhiking (though we were mainly offered rides, and not asking for them , green beans, carrots, and delicious little bright red tomatoes. They all proved to be delicious. We quickly decided that we would stick around here enough days to make a second run.

 

Glass Bridge and Queens Baths

Glass Bridge and Queens Baths

We were eager to leave Royal Island the second weather permitted. It was the perfect anchorage to hold out a storm, but it had served its purpose and we (I) had some serious cabin fever. We were ready to find a beach.

The next leg of the trip was to continue south through Eleuthra. This included going through a place called current cut. Just imagine why it gets that name…

We were advised to take the cut 2 hours past high tide in Nassau to avoid being thrown around like a washing machine or moving backwards despite maxing out your engine. Of course, we tried to olblige as much as possible to the advice, however found ourselves just at the entrance of the cut about 20 minutes past high tide. Our options were to anchor and wait it out, or power through. We decided to go through. If it wasn’t slack it was close enough right? And any current still there would be going with us, not against. We made it through unscathed, but phew it was a ride. Our boat, that when fully revved up gets us at or just below 6 knots, was flying through a 10.5 kn. Quite a ride indeed, but we could feel that we had full control throughout the cut.

Just on the other side the winds picked up and we run our spinaker all the way into the anchorage. We had a beach to ourselves and a few key places to visit on land.

The first was the Glass Window Bridge. This used to be a thin little piece of land that connected North Eleuthra to South Eleuthra. A few years ago a hurricane destroyed it, so in place today is a man-made bridge. From it, you can see to one side the beautiful, tranquil, and turquoise waters of the Exuma sound, and to the other a very angry, dark blue Atlantic Ocean. I suspect even angrier after 3 days of storms and heavy NE winds. Needless to say, we were thankful to be on the calm side.

Exuma Sound side
Space under the bridge, where water flows from Atlantic to Sound
Atlantic Side

Along our walk to the bridge, we ran across a blow hole in the ground, that as the Atlantic waves crashed in created a natural salty fountain.

The last was a visit to Queens Baths. I suspect we hit this spot at the wrong end of the tides, as any bath in these waters would be the last bath you would take, ever. It was still beautiful and another place to admire the crashing of the ocean waves. They undoubtedly demand respect.

Easiest fishing in Governor’s Harbor

Easiest fishing in Governor’s Harbor

Another great sail south got us the 20 kn miles to Governor Harbor. Arriving in the afternoon, we tidied up, cleaned, showered and made some dinner. We haven’t had much luck with fishing in the last week, so started working on those vegetarian meals and some of the meats carefully rationed in the freezer. Just around sunset we were inside each reading our books when a very loud noise caught our attention. It sounded like someone was angrily knocking on our hull.

I rushed outside, thinking our boat was about to run into someone else to warrant that much banging, but didnt see anyone. At the front of the boat, what I saw was a fish thrashing on our deck. As I got closer I recognized it as a spanish mackrel. I yelled at Stephen to grab the knife, and our fishing problems were over.

Please excuse the terrible photo, we actually only got a video of it, so this is a screenshot of said video.

My theory is that a bird caught it and dropped it as it was too heavy. Stephen thinks it jumped up on deck in pursuit of another fish. How it happened we will never know, but I sure do hope it happens again, and soon 🙂

The crappy 3 days in Key Largo

The crappy 3 days in Key Largo

This happened back in December, when we were still in Miami. However, it is now day 3 of sitting in the rain in the Bahamas and I have officially run out of things to clean, bake or organize. Oh and I finished my book too. So, here goes the story of some pretty crappy days in the first of the beloved Florida Keys.

We decided to take a pretty spontaneous trip down to Key Largo. We only had a few days to kill before needed to come back to Miami, but we figured why the heck not. Picked up some minimal groceries, and off we were. We sailed down the Biscayne bay on a beam reach and with the sun in our faces. The wind was great, and it was an all around enjoyable afternoon. The first night we anchored about halfway down near Pumpkin

Key, since we had a late start to our day. It was a beautiful anchorage we had to ourselves, other than a few pesky mosquitoes.

Early the next day we motored through the two bridges, sailed in between in light winds and anchored just in time for happy hour in Sunset Cove. And the name did not disappoint.

The next morning we got stuck in some pretty nasty weather. Winds were swing up to 40+ knots and out came all the blankets again. This lasted 2 full days and nights of pouring rain, crazy wind and chilly days. When the weather finally got better, we started our way back north towards Miami, but made a quick pitstop in Tarpon basin as we needed a couple of things from Publix. Now, you might be thinking this doesn’t really sound like that bad of days, just a little crummy weather. Chin up and get used to it. But this is when it takes a turn.

We walk the 1.5 miles to the grocery store. On the way back we see a terrible accident involving a young teen on his bike who had just been hit by a car. We stopped and tried to calm him and the driver down, but the police and ambulance were soon there to take over. It seems the kid made it through okay other than a badly broken leg.

As we get back to our dingy, we are stopped by a man who asks us if that plastic boat is ours. We confirm, and he claims that our dingy had damaged his, and in the process of moving our boat he accidentally dropped his phone in the water. He also says we don’t need to worry about the boat damage, but he would appreciate a new phone. Now, there are several reasons that this story is unlikely. 1) Our boat is made of plastic, his of aluminum (and very beat up to begin with) 2) Our boat was downwind from his, making it impossible to naturally swing that way 3) Even if it all were true, what fault to we have that he dropped his phone?

After talking through would not get him to back down, we had to involve the police and file an official report. We were also advised to leave immediately, and avoid any additional confrontation with the guy who had a bad reputation. Needless to say, we rushed back to the boat while the police were still there are zipped out of sight immediately. Luckily this was the end of the story, even though I was fully freaked out and locked us in the boat all night in case he came looking for us.

We had heard of a lot of these “unwanted locals” who live on boats in the keys. I guess we just weren’t expecting to be a first hand account, especially within only a few days of arriving in the keys. Hopefully we will have better luck in our next visit.

Happy New Year from Eleuthera

Happy New Year from Eleuthera

Soldier Cay was absolutely gorgeous. We had it to ourselves with the welcome exception of a couple about our age in a very similar boat, SV Tuebar (apparently they are also fond of latin names). There was great fishing nearby, a beautiful and well protected beach, and plenty of room to try out the Stand Up Paddleboard. Unfortunately, at night this particular anchorage was extremely rolly, making for very long nights of being tossed and turned.

Soldier Cay

While I am enjoying being one with nature, as a true Brazilian I had to put my foot down that we would need to find a little company for New Years Eve. After a bit of research, we set off to the Spanish Wells, in a separate island grouping called Eleuthera.

We had a perfect day of sailing to our destination. Wind was in the low teens on our beam, and we had plenty of sunshine to stay warm. This passage was through the Atlantic ocean vs. through the calmer and shallower waters of the bahamian sound, so we had hoped for some deep water fishing but unfortunately nothing bit. It was about a 5 or 6 hour sail, and we wanted to get in before dusk, to allow for time to anchor with some light. Especially since by mid afternoon the waves had begun to build up a bit and we were heading straight towards are pretty narrow cut. We anchored just on the inside of Egg island, and the next day enjoyed the reef and beaches around the area, including finding some green coconuts for refreshments. Our humble sailboat was surrounded by 3 or 4 mega yaghts, each towing not only a dingy, but a finishing boat, a couple of jet skis, and some kayak/SUP equipement.

The next morning we set the short distance to Spanish Wells early in the morning. It was December 31st so we had to scope out any plans quickly. After a quick nap, we were ready to head to town for a countdown, that even included some fireworks (though, not fairly compared to New Year’s in Rio).

From Spanish Wells, the forecast started to look a little grim. A cold front (the same that had just attacked our friends in NYC with arctic temperatures and even brought snow to Tallahassee) was headed our way. We seeked out a protected spot in Royal Island to hunker down for the next few days. And that was a about all we did. Some baking, some cleaning, and oh so much reading. Winds built up to nearly 40 knots over the next two days, and at times we were nail biting and just staring at our GPS to make sure we didn’t budge, but the Rocna continues to impress us and held tight.

Our anchor GPS shows that through the 2+ days we swung just about in every direction
nearly 40 kn winds.
Bahama Mama!

Bahama Mama!

 We finally made it to the Bahamas! After exactly one month in Miami, on December 20th just around 5am, we left Coconut Grove to jump to the Bahamas. The winds were predicted to be in the mid teens, blowing from the South/South West, ideal for the passage. The first several hours provided great sailing, but by late morning the winds had died down to below 10. While we could have continued on sail, we were being pushed north by the gulf and would have missed our target of Bimini. So, we decided to turn on the engine and motor sail the majority of the way. This allowed us to come into Alice Town, Bimini before sunset with plenty of time to navigate any shallows and clear customs. To our dismay, we still didn’t catch any fish.

We only stayed one night in Alice Town, then headed towards the Berry Island, through the Grand Bahama Bank. Winds were low, and because we used the engine so much in the passage, Stephen refused to turn it on for three days. This meant a lot of drifting, a lot of sitting, and a lot of a whole lotta nothing. But, the water was clear, the weather was warm and the boat was stocked. Can’t complain.

Just as we were arriving, we caught our first fish! We determined it was a spanish mackerel, and a very delicious one.

We arrived in Great Harbor Cay on Saturday, the time I had gone without setting foot on land. We were expecting a bit of a town setting, but unfortunately there wasn’t too much going on, so we stayed most of the time on the boat.

We spent christmas eve and christmas day swimming around, trying to fish, and catching lobster. We had a lobster feast on christmas day!

Our un-traditional, but very delicious christmas meal

Our next stop was Soldier Cay (on the way, we got the first Tuna!!!), a beautiful beach nearly to ourselves. From here, we are planning to leave tomorrow for the Spanish Wells, pending weather.

The first Tuna! Blackfin and a fighter
mighty mackarel
Tuna was a diver, and wrecked chaos on our lines. Took me 3 days to detangle

How the heck do you provision?

How the heck do you provision?

Oh so you now live on a boat, and you will not see a full size grocery store for a year. Panic slowly instills. What are we going to eat? Do I even know how to make half these things I bought?

First things first, we were spoiled in NYC. Bagels and coffee to go, daily lunch at the office, seamless at least 3 times a week, restaurants and the only thing we ever made at home aside from breakfast were blue apron or hellofresh meals, which require no thought or grocery shopping. And as if not enough, a 24 hour organic grocery store on our block just in case we ever needed anything at all.

Needless to say, how and what we eat will be one of the hardest adjustments to our lifestyle on this year onboard.

We spent endless days grocery shopping, and countless hours finding a place to store it all on the boat. Then we said we were done, and would spend hundrends more of dollars at another store. Then we were really done, oh but we forgot drinks! But now we are really really done, other than another $200 in fresh things, right before we left…

While we may have gone a little overboard, we did keep it organized. I made a spreadsheet with all the provisioning information which can be seen below for anyone interested. With the offline editing, I intend to make it a living document that I update as I pull things from their hiding spots. Mainly for 2 reasons, its too much to remember what you are out of, and you definitely don’t want to forget to buy, say salt, when you are only going to 1 store a month and cooking onboard 3 times a day.

Provisioning Spreadsheet

A word of caution, this is my very first time buying groceries for more than 2 weeks at a time, so I am no expert and not into this adventure long enough to know if I did any of it right. What I do know, is that I did a lot of research, and that with what we have we definitely will not starve, though startchy meals are in our future. One of the struggles we are expecting is having to learn to eat a lot of canned veggies. We are veggie lovers, but prefer them with a quick steam where they still have a crunch. Because of this, you will notice that there are not that many canned veggies onboard (we can manage carrots, peas, and corn). We hope to buy fresh anytime we can, even though we know it will come at a premium to US (even New York) prices.

In addition to what is on the sheet, we also bought 2 cases of wine, 3 packs of 18 beers, and 6 bottles of liquor. Refrigerator, freezer and more general items (snacks) are not listed in the sheet as we will be using these constantly and updating a sheet would be too much work.

Picture below was after the first run, I was too overwhelmed to get a picture when we had it all out, but its probably 3 times the volume of the below.

Once the food was done, we had to turn our attention to toiletries and cleaning supplies. Oh, and lots of mosquito repellent.

A big surprise in Miami

A big surprise in Miami

When my parents said they might be able to swing a quick visit to Miami to say goodbye before we cast off the US coast, I as very eager to throw all the plans (of leaving Miami early December) to the wind and stay as long as needed to get a family visit.

They came mid december for a few days where we did lots of shopping and catching up.

While they were here, Stephen and I got engaged! Happened on our boat, just before we headed out to have breakfast with my parents. We have been together for almost nine years, so very excited to finally have a party to celebrate with all our friends and family. I couldn’t be happier that my mom and dad were here to celebrate with us, of all days on my dad’s 64th birthday.

First patch of rough weather

First patch of rough weather

It’s no secret, we are not the most experienced sailors. In fact, we are learning a lot as we go. During our years sailing as a hobby, not full time, we just avoided going out if it looked bad. Do something else instead. We knew that once we were cruising, eventually, we would hit some rougher weather. Well, my friends, that day arrived.

Okay, it could have been a lot worse. Really, it wasn’t even what people call “rough” but here goes:

We looked for the window to leave Savannah to Miami – we needed at least 4 days. The winds were coming from the north, in the 20s, so a bit more than we normally would want, but since we would be going on a broad reach, we felt comfortable. Seas were predicted to be 2-4 feet, but they were much larger than that once we came out. At first, we tried to get into deeper water to see if the waves would get under control. When that didn’t work and it was nightfall, we decided to get back closer to the coast, for fear we were a bit too close to the gulf stream. All night, winds continued to pick up to the low 30s and waves continue to hit us from unpredictable directions and intervals. So, as our back up plan had already mapped out, we decided to come in at Ponce de Leon, which according to Active Captain is one of the better Florida inlets. Unfortunately, the inlet was a lot rougher than we expected under those conditions, and lasted several minutes of white knuckling the wheel. Steering so hard against the waves I was sore after. But – we made it in with nothing but a few scratches. Final tally of things that broke:- Traveller: our boom break was too tight as we looked to jibe, so we had to release it which caused the boom to FLY across the boat and yank the screws right out of the traveller. Luckly, it was a simple drill, epoxy and re-secure job- Wine: too much shaking is not good for glass (who knew?). Now we will be more careful, unfortunately, the wine was stored right above a few books and board games, which now will forever be a shade of pink and smell of vinegar.- Bimini: not really a break, just one of the screws came loose right in the middle of the inlet. Talk about good timing. We have decided to put in extra straps when we know winds will be high- Sail tear: boo, this wasn’t really a bad weather issue. We had our main reefed, and the belly of the reef was rubbing a bit too much on our shrouds which caused a minor tear.

We also found quite a few leaks to start working through sealing up. We fixed everything pretty quickly (after sleeping for like 18 hours) and motored a few days through the ICW. There were some lessons, and we know we will hit weather like this (and worse) again, so next time we will be more prepared.

Life aboard thus far

Life aboard thus far

It’s been 6 months since we turned in the keys to our NYC apartment. While it may not be fair to say we have been living aboard this whole time, we have fully embraced the nomad life.

From June through early July, it was all new and wonderful. As we hopped from town to town down the east coast we started to get used to life onboard. Cooking in a one burner kitchen, cold showers, sleeping with minimal foot space, bumping your head 5-7 times per day and constantly rocking, just a little bit. We had a few great sails, which gave us the chance to test (and be very pleased) with our new B&G autopilot, intermingled with a lot of motoring through the ICW. Before we knew it, we were packing up the boat and catching a plane to Brazil.

In mid July we flew to Rio de Janeiro, my home town, to spend the (northern) summer. I moved away from Rio at a young age, and ever since have been visiting 1-2 times per year, but always a short vacation. I had always wanted an opportunity to spend a bit more time there, giving me the chance to travel around a little bit of Brazil. During our 3 months there, we did just that. We visited some beautiful small towns, and gorgeous beaches. We also had some quality family time (though this required jumping over the atlantic for a few weeks in London and Lisbon). Aprehensively, we watched from far away as Irma, Maria and Harvey destroyed so many boats and destinations. Since our boat was still in North Carolina, we were not directly affected by the storms, but very saddeded by the devastation they caused in many of the places we have dreamed of visiting. We know recovery efforts are in full blast and are still looking forward to sailing to these places.

Since October, we have been back in the states. We were eager to get back to the boat and launch. That process took a bit longer than we would have liked, with a never endling list of projects. The biggest of these was building a refrigerator/freezer. Previously, we had only had a engine powered sea-frost, not ideal as cruisers. This would have required running our engine at least twice a day to cool down the fridge (and no freezer). Stephen worked through several scenarios to avoid a full out custom build – but alas nothing else would have worked with the space and/or budget we had in mind. In addition to the fridge, we also worked on re-wiring our anteana, some teak restoring, and a good ol’ boat polish. We were back in the water by the end of October. Our first stop was Charleston, SC; followed by Beaufort, SC; Savannah, GA; and finally Miami, FL where we are now. Stephen’s dad lives in Miami, we are were able to spend Thanksgiving with family and alternate between staying on the boat and in their home while we prepare to head to the Bahamas.