Monday, February 29, 2016

The Looky Bucket- Not Just for Fish!

Since we are having a down day here at Bimini Sands, we've all worked at cleaning or maintenance. Terry worked on his engine sensor.

Carol and Peggy decided to try out the new sunshade Carol constructed before we left on this adventure. Today was the perfect day to work on fitting the sunshade. It has been barely breezy and occasionally cloudy. Off they went to try it out.

Of course, what is the first thing to happen? Carol drops the scissors overboard. In the process of trying to fish out the scissors, Carol goes for expensive. She drops a piece of one of the lifelines overboard- the gate part. We were willing to let the scissors go, but the lifeline cost a bit more. Carol went looking.

She then went fishing with the crab net attached to the long boat hook.

We all watched and called out encouragement.

Finally, Carol found it. Success!

Just another fun day on LUX!

Leap Day!

Today is February 29 - Leap Day. It's the day where salaried employees work for free! It can be considered a day out of calendar time. With that in mind, we decided to spend another day here at the Bimini Sands Resort.

This is actually an amazing marina for the Bahamas. It is not expensive. For example, water is only $.35 per gallon! The docks are all floating docks. And, just for Linda, the water is deep here in the marina.

Like Highbourne Cay, the docks are not right up against the land. There is a space that makes a natural habitat for fish. We saw more fish yesterday and today than we have seen on the whole trip. We even saw three lionfish! It is like snorkeling here without getting wet. The water is so clear that viewing the fish is akin to visiting the aquarium.

Today started like most of our days -the sailors were gathered around the radio to listen to the weather report from Chris Parker.

This report encouraged us to stay the day. It appears that tomorrow will be the best day for crossing over to Florida. Once that decision was made, we all went out to breakfast at the small cafe here in the marina.

It's a nice little place that offers the usual fare as well as some Bahamian specialties.

Note that one specialty is sardine salad served with grits. And, look, you could have steamed bologna! Needless to say, we skipped right over that option. We went for omelette or Bahamian bread French toast. We have fallen in love with the Bahamian breads. It is no surprise that we made a purchase at the little marina store.

Yes, indeed, we bought both raisin and coconut bread today. On top of everything else, this marina offers the best prices we have found here in the Bahamas. The bread was only $4.50 a loaf! We've never paid less than $6 a loaf to date. We really like this marina.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Morning

It's almost 7 AM here, and we are already on the Tongue of the ocean. Yes, Dear Readers, it truly is called the Tongue. We can tell we are here because the depth sounder officially reads ----. In other words, it is too deep here.

Yesterday ended on a high note. Gee had taken a nap while the crew sailed on. When she got up, Mike announced that he was glad she was finally up. She was needed to call the fish. You see, Gee loves to sit out back playing with the fishing line and calling, "Here fishy, fishy!" Yes, not a single fish had been caught while Gee was napping. So, Gee heads out. Before she could even unzip the enclosure door, she turns and says, "What about that splashy thing?" As usual, they all ignore her. She asks again. She asks a third time. Carol yells, "It is a fish!" And the excitement began.

You could tell when it leapt out of the water that it was a Mahi Mahi. The colors on that fish are so beautiful and distinctive. And, they do put up a good fight. But Terry wrestled it on board. Carol threw a towel over it, and they Terry gave it a good drink of vodka (we're out of cheap rum). 

After we reeled in the catch of the day, we continued on to Chub Cay- a private island with a fishing resort marina. The marina itself shows the signs of extensive investment.

As you can see, there are floating docks with water and electricity hook ups readily available at each slip. There are beautiful villas to rent all along the protected entrance.

But the facilities were not as nice. The fuel dock itself is nice, but it is surrounded by ramshackle run down warehouses. The transient bath house for men was just a step above primitive. Terry wouldn't use it. He thought it was not worth the effort. He did try to check out the female side, but it was locked. And, no, we were not given a key. We were told the showers were open 24/7. And, the prices were at the high end of the marinas her in the Bahamas.

As you might guess, we had baked Mahi with a Parmesan breadcrumb crust for dinner. To accompany it, we had a Mediterranean couscous salad. It was made by adding pistachios, craisins, and a vinegar honey dressing to the cooked couscous. It was a very yummy way to serve couscous.

This morning, we were off again at COD.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


This morning was a COD adventure- COD meaning Crack of Dawn! We are starting the first leg of our journey back to the states today, so everyone had to be up bright and early so that we could get in a nice long day.

We managed to leave the marina right around 6:30.

Highbourne Cay has a very interesting entrance. They put a fish cleaning station right at the point where you enter. And, it attracts lots of interesting wildlife.

If you can't really tell, that dark shadow in the water is a shark. This morning, there was only one shark there in hopeful anticipation of a fisherman who was so successful that he could come back before midday. When the shark saw us leaving, he followed us for a bit hoping we were at least dropping off treats. It took not long for disappointment to set in, and he headed back to the fish cleaning station.

This was a good morning to be up early. The sky was incredible- full of clouds of all textures. 

We'll be moving along for most of the day today. The goal is to get as far north as we can. Once again, the weather is unstable. Yesterday, we had on shorts. Today, four of us have on long pants. Yes, Dear Readers, Mike remains the only one still in shorts. Peggy and Carol have added long sleeve tops, and Terry is back in his fleece jacket. It's often hard to believe that we are in the Bahamas.

Finally, I thought to take some time to give a wildlife update. Traveling in the Exumas has been somewhat akin to traveling on a wet desert. Science often points out that the desert is not devoid of life. But, life is very scarce. During this month, I have felt that way about the Exumas. We would catch mere glimpses of wildlife- a turtle, one osprey, a few fish. These two days at Highbourne Cay have been great for wildlife sightings. The ends of the docks do not go all the way to the land. There are areas of beach that you can see opposite the dockage areas. When the tide is high, water fills in there, and the fish come. The water is so clear here that you don't even need a Looky Bucket. We saw lots of small brightly colored fish, several parrot fish, and even a young barracuda. As the tide ebbed, sandpipers would come out to check the edges of the water for treats. Doves cooed in the nearby trees. And, a local fisherman pulled up to the dock to sell his catch. He had the largest lobsters I have ever seen. Mike offered to but one, but we don't have a pot big enough on board! He also had conch with beautifully dark colored shells, and one big fish he was busy cleaning for a customer. This morning, as we were leaving, don't forget that we saw that shark. And, Peggy sighted a dolphin!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday, February 26

We will spend the day here in Highbourne Cay. The weather reports continue to talk about waves, wind, and squalls. We'll just avoid all that by staying here at this lovely dock.

That gives me the opportunity to talk a bit about Highbourne Cay Marina. This is a most upscale marina. However, it is the only marina in this corner of the world, so they could actually be rather run down and still get away with the prices they charge. Just to give you an insight to shopping in the marina store - we bought a regular sized bag of Doritos for the low price of only $8.50.

The marina has a protected entrance, so it is also a great place to hang out in bad weather- as we are doing.

And, as noted, it attracts a rather interesting crowd.

But, it's not only yachts who show up here. We are currently docked behind Beacon Won.

Beacon Won is run by Seven C's Charters. The boat is considered to be an adventure charter. It not only does visits to cays with snorkeling and other activities. It also tries to do service activities such as beach clean ups.

This morning, the local freight boat showed up. 

As you may know, not many things are produced or grown on these islands. Almost everything is brought in. Today's freight boat may look familiar to you because the Yamacraw started life in the Chesapeake as a buy boat! Now, it delivers goods to several islands in this area. You never know who you will meet or what you will see here in the Bahamas.

Thursday, February 25

Yesterday was a red letter day for the crew of LUX. We saw our first dolphin here in the Bahamas on this trip. Yes, Dear Readers, the waters have been scarily empty of interesting fish and dolphin. The Looky Bucketeers would see some small fish near coral outcroppings, but the amount of fish was never near the number seen in past voyages.

As you can tell, the sighting of our dolphin was a big deal. However, the dolphin was too far away to get a decent photograph. Our dolphin was also more like the dolphins we see in the ICW- it was moving slowly and making lazy loops to the surface. It barely broke the surface of the water. We caught sight of it as it meandered in the blue green water. It moved over to the darker areas, and it was gone from sight.

Terry and Mike went ashore to go walkabout, and had the opportunity to see more wildlife. For the first time, they actually saw lots of conch all in one place. The conch were feeding in the tidal pools. Terry took videos of them. Tip of the day: When you have the opportunity to see one of the videos, don't ask if Terry is running the video in slow motion. Conch really do live life in the slow lane.

Today we read a great beauty tip from Real Simple magazine that is perfect for boaters. Skip the blow dryer. Mist salt spray on damp hair, and twist into a bun. Then, shake out when dry for loose waves. Seriously. It really said that. At this moment, we have an inexhaustible supply of salt water. However, the humidity is really high. We'll probably never get to the point where we can shake out our dry hair!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday, February 24

Wednesday, February 24th

Yesterday, we spent most of the afternoon on the hook (for my non boaters, that means we were anchored in a lovely cove). Some of our more adventurous crew went off in the dingy to explore. The nearest cay actually had a cut of sorts that ran across the island. Our crew traversed the entire distance from our cove to the ocean. At one point, Terry had to get out and pull the dingy along, but they had a great time. Again, unfortunately, there were not many fish or other things for the Looky Bucketeers to view. But, they did see a heron who posed for pictures. They also saw a turtle who was camera shy. He swam away quickly before they could get great pictures.

This morning, we moved further up north. We are now anchored off Long Cay. In the distance, we can see masts from the Highbourne Cay Marina. Tomorrow, we will move over there for even more protection. Yes, Dear Readers, we are expecting another front with heavy winds. So, we will hunker down as we await a better weather window.

Along the way, we had a bit of an adventure recently. Mike actually lost his hat. Yes, it was not attached to him - an important rule in boating. That hat blew right off his head and into the water. Terry saw it as the perfect opportunity for a MOB- Man Overboard Drill for the non boaters.

Alas, Dear Readers, we failed the drill. No one hit the MOB key on our lovely radio. The MOB key automatically records the longitude and latitude of the location when you hit the button. No one took on the job of watching and tracking the hat. Yes, the hat was lost to the briny deep. And, we all learned that Man Overboard drills really do need to be practiced regularly for the safety of the crew- and their hats.

Tonight's dinner was another Gee original fashioned from several different recipes. I think it will make a great boat recipe because it's pretty much a one pot dish again. Also, you could choose to make it out of all canned goods by substituting canned shrimp for the frozen. Remember to really cook the dried tortellini. Although the dried ones are convenient, they really need to be cooked in order to regain their original tastiness.

Tortellini and Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce

2 packages of dried tortellini
Vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 12 ounce package frozen shrimp,partially thawed and tails removed
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 4 ounce cans of mushrooms
1/2 cup milk
1 8 ounce container of whipped cream cheese
Shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook the tortellini until done. Drain in a colander.
2. Using the now empty pot, add just enough vegetable oil to sauté the shrimp and heat. But, before adding the shrimp, add the pepper, garlic powder, and Italian Seasoning to the oil. Fry the seasonings just enough to release their aromas, then add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are just done. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Add the mild and cream cheese. Stir until all the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
At this point, you can add the tortellini back in. Or, you can choose to serve the sauce and tortellini separately so that each person can add sauce to individual tastes.

Provide shredded Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. There are no pictures. We forgot until after dinner. We were hungry, and it was tasty!

It's a beautiful night on the water. We have a wonderful moon tonight.

On a final note, it's a special note again to Susan and Linda. It's another bread holiday. It's National Banana Bread Day. Today's trivia is a fact about the banana tree. It's not a tree. It's actually an herb. So, in honor of the day, indulge in some fancy herb bread - especially if you have some overripe bananas around.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Back at Warderick Wells

We pulled up the anchor, and we moved north back to Warderick Wells. We picked up a mooring ball in the basin next to the park headquarters.

The trip up was a lovely sail for most of the time. The weather has warmed up, and the winds have calmed down. It's interesting just looking at the water and land here. The water varies in depth quickly- so quickly that you actually see bands of color in the water. It literally looks like someone dragged a gigantic magic marker across the water.

The land here is also different. These islands actually have hills. The terrain is much more ragged than then terrain the the Abacos.

Once here at the park, the coveting mooring balls are the ones in the basin in front of the park headquarters. 

But you really must be very careful. The mooring field is shaped like a giant fishhook surrounding a sandbar. This sandbar is dry during low tide, by the way. We are moored in 12 feet of water, so there is plenty of depth. But the channel in is barely 200 feet wide. 

LUX is at the end of the yellow arrow.

The guys went off almost immediately to play in the dingy. But, the real entertainment has been here on the boat. A new boat radioed in several hours ago to get a mooring ball. They are still just inside the entrance. They were going a little too fast, and they did run aground. 

This brings us to Mike's favorite line in classes about boating. "Never go faster than the speed you would want to be going if you ran aground- especially in unfamiliar waters." Those of us on LUX have watched them try to get their boat free, and it is still going on 2.5 hours later. Update: I no sooner finished writing that last line when the boat got free. But still, the lesson is there. Pay attention to our friend, Al. He always says, "Slow is your friend."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Evening off O'Brian's Cay

We moved today up to O'Brian's Cay. This location is in the Exuma Park. We wanted to come here because it is near the sea aquarium and a submerged airplane.

As one might guess, the more adventurous members of our crew could not wait to get into the dingy. They went off the be Looky Bucketeers again. This time, they had some great sightings. The submerged plane is now a home for a grouper. They found a turtle out swimming around. They visited an island reputed to be a research station looking at iguanas. Since they only saw tracks and not any real iguanas, we can only report that it is supposed to be a research station.

Mike did actually get halfway into the water today. Of course, he didn't plan to do so. He just slipped. He reported that the water felt a little warmer, but he still has no immediate plans to go snorkeling. Terry did get in - with his wet suit on! No since turning blue if you don't have to!

Tonight, we went all gourmet with a serving of chicken, mushroom and spinach crepes. Fried plantains were offered as the side. Dessert will be peaches with a gingersnap crumble topping served warm from the oven.

The crew all said ey enjoyed the meal. The cook reports that she's not crazy enough to do it again.

Sunday Morning, February 21

It is another beautiful morning here in the Exumas. Even better, it is a gorgeous morning just a little wind. Yay!

And, just to make sure we knew it was special-- we had a rainbow show up this morning!

We started the morning with a fruit bread.

The last time I made this, I used a can of Pillsbury crescent rolls. We're out of those, but I did have another roll of the French bread. So, I just smooshed the roll out flat until it was about 9 by 12 inches. I spread soft margarine all over it. Then I sprinkled on a mixture that consisted of 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/4th cup of diced dried apricots, and 1/4th cup of diced dates. I then sprinkled the whole concoction with sliced almonds. I probably used 2 or 3 tablespoons, but I truly just eyeballed it to make sure I had an even distribution of almonds. Then, I just rolled it up. It went into a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. It was yummy.

However, if I use the French bread again, I plan to make some adjustments. It needed more butter. It needed 1 more tablespoon of brown sugar. And, I would rather cook it at 325 degrees. Our oven just got too hot. But, it was still yummy.

Evening at Pipe Cay

It was a short trip from Staniel Cay to Pipe Cay today. As usual, the winds did increase in speed again. That meant our intrepid sailors only had a short window of sailing time before the sheets came down again.

Mike and Terry went adventuring on land. Pipe Cay was once the home of a British military installation from World War II. The ruins are still there, and folks are invited to explore. One couple loves it so much that they have been here for quite a while. They have spent their time developing hiking trails around the Cay. Terry and Mike had a great time looking around. They also had the opportunity to chat with some other cruisers who had gathered on the beach.

It was a beautiful evening in the anchorage.

The moon came out early.

We had a great dinner of leftovers. And, we capped off the evening with the perfect boat dessert- fruitcake. We are especially lucky to have the most wonderful fruitcake hand made by Mike's sister, Lauretta. 

Fruitcake is a great boat dish because it literally lasts forever. Given to us at Christmas, this fruitcake still tasted fresh and moist. For all those fruitcake haters out there among my Dear Readers, Lauretta's fruitcake is NOT the fruitcake of your nightmares. No, indeed, hers is an old family recipe full of yummy richness. Not only that, but she bakes them in small batches tailored to the individuals. Allergic to citrus? She makes them without the candied citrus. Allergic to walnuts? She uses pecans. Yes, these fruitcakes are all special and delicious. We are so happy to have this special treat on board.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday, February 20

One despairs of being repetitive, but things appear not to change much. The wind continues to blow, and not in an appropriate direction for our adventures. You can see the whitecaps on the waves beyond LUX.

The excitement of the moment was that a few drops of rain fell. But, the sun is once again breaking through the clouds. So, the crew entertains themselves while awaiting a weather change.

Last night's dinner, by the way, was not only exciting because we had Eskimo Pies for dessert. We had a lovely one pot meal beforehand. Since it was fast as well as easy, I thought I might share it with you. The recipe originated from the web, but I modified it a bit to fit our tastes. Feel free to do the same.

Mexicali Stovetop Pie

1 pound of ground meat (Here begins the variations. I used ground turkey.)
1 large can of diced tomatoes - I used the ones with peppers and onions
1 can of beans- I used black beans
1/4 cup of water (see the directions below)
Your choice of seasonings with a Mexican flair - I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of taco seasoning with a 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 package cornbread or corn muffin mix, prepared but not baked- I must say that we LOVE Marie Callendar's Honey Cornbread mix in the pouch. It is so tasty, and it only requires that you add water! It's perfect for a boat.
1 cup shredded cheese- I used sharp cheddar, but you could use one of your choosing

1. Fry the ground meat with the seasonings. While it is cooking up, partially drain the tomatoes and mix up the cornbread. Also, fully drain the beans. Fill the can halfway with water.
2. Once the meat is cooked (and drained, if necessary), add the tomatoes and the beans. Add the water in the can of beans to the mix. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
3. The next step is dependent on the type of cornbread you used. Marie Callendar's mix is a very wet mixture, so I was able to just pour it over my ingredients. If you chose a more traditional mix, you will need to spoon it on- just like dumplings!
4. Cover and cook for 15 to 17 minutes- or until the cornbread is done.
5. Sprinkle your cheese on top. Cover and let the cheese melt. 

Once the cheese has melted, it is ready to serve. Be sure to offer your favorite brand of hot sauce on the side for those who like a little kick for their taste buds! Our favorite right now is a Caribbean one- Mango Madness.

The options are endless! I had thought about frying fresh onions and peppers in it. However, I am currently out of those! And, seriously, you do not want to think about the price of a pepper when you have to also pay to have it travel to the islands from someplace like Miami. Believe me when I say I am fairly sure that pepper traveled first class. But, dinner was good.

Today, we might move on to Pipe Cay to see the ruins of a World War II radio station built by the British Admiralty. As always, though, travels are based on the weather. We'll see what happens.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Evening at Staniel Cay

We spent an uneventful day here at Staniel Cay. Some of the crew went into town. While there, they visited the local bakery, and the two grocery stores. When they arrived at the bakery, the bread of the day was just going in the oven. Terry asked to reserve two loaves of raisin bread to be picked up later. Then, our crew was off to visit the two grocery stores. By the way, we were right. It was the boat coming in this morning. The crew had really great choices of fresh fruits and vegetables.

They returned later in the day. Here's what they bought.

Yes, that is one loaf. It appears that the lady will take your name. But, she does not take orders. Terry managed to buy the LAST loaf of bread for the day. Good thing he got there when he did, huh?

They did manage to get something else on that run. Eskimo Pies! Ice cream!  What a great way to end the day.

Back at Staniel Cay

As I mentioned, we are back at Staniel Cay for the next 2 days waiting for the winds to die down once again. This morning's fun activity was eavesdropping on radio conversations. Lots of goings-on today here at Staniel Cay. A group of folks got together to go snorkeling. Some women joined up to do Pilates on the beach. And, people were making plans to go into town to get some groceries. It's a big day here in Staniel Cay because the boat is coming!

One of the more interesting aspects of island life is that your fresh groceries are very dependent on the route of the island freighters. You cannot imagine the number of times we have been to,d that we couldn't get something because they ran out, and the boat hasn't come in yet. My favorite is that restaurants routinely run out of dessert. You don't get dessert until the next boat!

The other issue would be fresh fruits and vegetables. They might have some stuff left right before the boat comes in again, but you really don't want to buy them. By that time, they have long lost the concept of freshness.

So, boat day is a really big day here. Our crew will soon be heading into town to check out just what came in the boat.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

February 18th

We woke up to another interesting day here in the Bahamas.

Yes, it is still 72 degrees. I actually double checked the thermometer. We moved back to Staniel Cay today to find a place to hunker down for the next two days of strong winds. The skies show the disturbance already.

But the water here is still some of the clearest we have seen.

The weird thing is that we haven't seen many fish other than minnows. And, there are not many birds either. We hope it's just the weather. But, it is still strange.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On the Way to Farmer's Cay

We took the VPR route up the coast to Farmer's Cay. For those who do not know, VPR means visual piloting recommended. That would be because it is shallow, and there are coral heads along the way. This route is not recommended for the faint of heart or the deep draft. Depths ranged from 5.5 to 3.6. We scraped the barnacles off the bottom of the boat at one point. (That appears to be boat speak for we touched the bottom but we did not run hard aground.)

Along the way, we were right next to the island owned by David Copperfield. You could just barely see the chimneys of the big manor house at the top of the hill.

There were two lovely waterside cottages.

You can also arrive by helipad.

And, there was a party beach complete with tiki bar and a cabana. Sweet!

It was a little bright for the camera. But, you can easily admire the beach and view. Very sweet!

Terry and the Mermaid

Yay! Terry and Mike found the mermaid with her piano!

The story begins with a dingy ride. Mike and Terry rode off....and rode right back. Terry had a dead battery in the GoPro. Oops! New rule: Check all equipment BEFORE leaving the boat.

On the second trip, Terry pulled the starter cord. And, it stayed out. Oops! The cord broke off. More dingy repair in Mike's immediate future. But, they did find the mermaid. She was right where the Canadian dingy was anchored. Nice of them to serve as a marker, wasn't it?

Terry did attempt to play a little tune for the mermaid.

She seemed entranced.

Terry then hurried back to LUX so he could hop in the shower. Mike did not need a shower. He stayed in the dingy, and he used the Looky Bucket. Our photos for today were shot with Mike's camera using the Looky Bucket! It worked!