Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Know You Live on a Boat In The Bahamas When:

Tanqueray anchored at Pipe Creek, Exumas, Bahamas

Swimming is a daily activity!
You've reached your maximum tan.
You no longer communicate with cell phones, but with the VHF.
You listen ("eavesdrop") to other conversations on the VHF.
You break your can opener.
You break your replacement can opener.
You are stingy with your fresh water, washing & bathing in salt water as much as possible.
Your wild nights are in a town of 300 where you meet everyone in town in the first 5 minutes & are in bed by 10pm.
Night time entertainment is a game of cards or reading a good book and not a movie or TV show.
The latest product in your hair is the salt from the sea.
You dream of HOT SHOWERS, hey, maybe even COLD showers...
You worry about the head (toilet) breaking.
All your valuables are stored in zip-lock bags.
When it’s not unusual to hit your head once a day.
When your wardrobe consists of 90% swimsuits.
You look for the green flash in the sunsets.
Fishing is considered an arm workout.
You use vocabulary like: scuppers, stanchions, jib, leeward, forestay, bow, stern, forward, aft, companionway, cockpit, halyard.....
You listen to the weather forecast instead of the news every morning.
You reuse ziplock bags.
Your recycling bin consists of burnables, compostables, and sinkable's.
You use a sea sponge for a dish sponge.
You tape your cupboards shut.
You have a new waterfront view everyday.
Your center of balance is no longer standing straight, but leaning at a 30 degree angle.
You drink warm cocktails, occasionally warm beer, if you are lucky enough to get it.
You line dry your laundry.
You consider letting your husband cut your hair.
You get Internet 3 times a month instead of 3 times a day.
You speak in units of knots instead of miles per hour.
You compare things like: length, draft & speed with your neighbors.
There are not enough words to describe the variations in the color blue.
Pipe Creek, Exumas
Happy hour doesn’t have to start at 3pm and end at 6pm.
Fish is a daily part of your diet.
In terms of keeping your home clean, sand, salt and mildew are your worst enemies.
Leaving the head (toilet) valve open could sink your home.
All your lights are LED & you monitor your power usage daily.
You use port and starboard for left and right.
Parking requires an anchor.
Wind is your best friend and worst enemy.
You cook with propane.
You are excited when you make a tray of ice cubes in a day.
You NEVER wear socks.
You rarely brush your hair.
Visiting the neighbors requires a dingy ride.
Practically everyone on the SEA is your new best friend and is willing to lend a helping hand!
Pitts Town, Crooked Island
......the joys of seamanship in the Bahamas!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cat Island Honeymooners

By, Kevin Jensen

Our journey to the Bahamas actually started back in October with Emy and me getting married.  Our fellow honeymooners, Mike and Sara, were were gracious enough to offer us a chance of a lifetime to spend our honeymoon sailing with them in the Bahamas!  So after a long rainy and cold winter in Seattle we departed in search of warmer weather, clear water, and a little nautical feline companionship.
Sara, Cindy, Matt & Emy taking Tonic in to the boat.
On arrival Mike and Sara wasted little time in educating us in the Bahamian lifestyle, which included hitchhiking, enjoying cold ones by the sea, and my personal favorite of feeding the sharks the table scraps.  Also on the first night we were lucky to still have Cindy and Matt on board to show us the ropes of boat survival.
Tanqueray anchored off boat-house
The following day the sails were raised and the sail began towards our boathouse retreat on the north end of the island.  Our sailing instructors did their best to show us the finer points of sailing along the way, which Emy picked up much quicker than I.  During the day and throughout the trip Mike kept commenting how the weather and sea conditions were the "best ever".  To us it seemed like any other day in Paradise!
Deck on the boat-house
Dinner-time at the resort
We were welcomed to the boathouse by our soft spoken landlord Leslie.  She simply met us at the beach along with her barking dogs and pointed in the direction of the house; she said “you don’t need a key; nobody locks anything on Cat Island”.  Our high expectations were not disappointed by its accommodations including an outdoor shower, full kitchen, hammock, a nearly deserted sugar sand beach, a view to rival most and a home perfect for our band of travelers.
Our lizard friend on the beach

Sunset view from the boat-house looking through Kevin's sunglasses.
Kevin & Emy aboard Tanqueray
Our days at the boathouse were spent exploring the coastline by canoe, bike and our personal favorite inflatable pool tubes.  The dining was exceptional thanks to Mike and Sara's expert knowledge in cooking with even limited resources found at the local grocer;  Pizza, sushi, salad, fresh bread, brownies, and all the fish you could ask for. Cat Island would disappoint a traveler looking to be pampered, but we loved its rustic feel and lack of souvenir peddlers.  Even the bar lacked a bartender!  Instead the bars were under the honor system.  We did our best to maintain the system...
Kevin bartending at the bar
Emy & Sara enjoying the inflatable pool tubes on the beach.
Sara & Mike enjoying the boat-house - showers,
laundry, water, ice, full kitchen - we were in HEAVEN!
One expedition stands out amongst the rest in which we explored the opposite shore of the island.  To make the trek which we believed to be a couple miles one way we used the 3 bikes found in the garage, however, we 4 members in our group.  Without even drawing straws Sara volunteered to make the trek across the island by running alongside us.  This is after doing a very long beach run that morning.  Apparently the Bahamas haven't slowed her down.  Once to the opposite coast beach we found another sugar sand beach with pink confetti, later learning that this was coral that had broken and washed ashore. We snorkeled out to the reef, Mike led the way and after venturing 200 yards off the beach he spotted a SHARK!  Mike is not known for showing fear in any situation, but this time he had a look that made me a bit uneasy.  He instructs us to reverse course and head straight to the beach which means crossing a very shallow reef.  Thankfully nobody endured reef rash or a shark bite.  Sara then laces up the running shoes and completes her triathlon day by running the 3 to 4 miles back.

Kevin & Emy exploring underwater 
Another expedition with perfectly calm water took us up to Little San Salvador, the island currently known as Half Moon Cay. The snorkeling was great, but no luck fishing. We saw dolphins multiple times, at one point there were 6 swimming along side us, which made up for our lack of catch.
Sailing the Tanqueray along the west coast of Cat Island

Kevin helping the motorless Tonic.
Departing the boathouse was sad as the seas were finally flexing some muscle.  Tonic at this point was motor less so it took Mike and I rowing with the ladies in the water kicking to reach the Tanqueray.  We sailed south to explore the other end of the island.  The seas calmed again and the sailing was pleasant.  The south of Cat Island was the home of the sport fisher’s marina “Hawks Nest”.  We hoped to find refuge for the night here but were greeted with a thick cloud of no-see-ums.  These suckers tormented even after we set sail for the fishing grounds the following day. Hawk’s Nest was also our first interaction with more than two people at a time…apparently this is the place to come if you are hosting a college frat house reunion.
Mike & Kevin both at the helm, spotting tuna
Kevin & Emy with the black-fin tuna catch of the day

The fishing grounds on the south end of the island were around a sea mount a few miles off shore.  The mount rose nearly vertical from 2800 ft below the seas to around 60 ft below water at its peak.  With the clear water we could see the bottom even at a 60 ft depth!  The tuna schools were easy to spot thanks to our feathered friends and the fact they actually made the sea surface bubble they were so thick.  However, catching one proved difficult even with countless passes of our bait straight through the heart of the tuna schools.  Finally deterred we sailed back to the island and found some snorkeling that ranked as the "best ever" in my book.  Here we had our third up-close shark encounter. Mike expertly speared a good sized grouper with a sniper shot that didn’t even leave drop of blood for Jaws to come after.  On our way back to the Island I picked up the pole and fought a mystery fish for around ten minutes while Mike provided instructions to Sara the helm.  As any good fishing tale ends the monster fish slipped off the hook and was never seen.
Grouper speared through head.
Mike & Sara with speared Nassau grouper off south-end of Cat Island
The conclusion of the trip included a stay at Fernandez bay, located only a mile or so from our departure airport.  The bay was perfectly calm lined with nice beach bungalows and it even had other boats anchored nearby us.  This was the first time we even saw another sailboat on the entire trip.  This island really was remote.  We packed our bags and we all walked up the road, which is the only road running the length of the island.  We start walking to the airport hoping to hitchhike.  As luck would have it not a single car pass in our direction and suddenly our plane whizzes a mere 30 ft over our heads for landing.  With sweat dripping we hustle to the airport trailer terminal only to be told we are too late to make the flight.  Ten nerve racking minutes later the nice Bahamian airline lady succumbed to our pleas and allows us to board. Just getting our sea legs under us, delaying our departure wasn’t such a bad thought.

Seared black-fin tuna dinner
Kevin and Emy enjoying dinner aboard the Tanqueray
The trip of a lifetime is over and we part ways with Mike and Sara.  We THANK YOU again and look forward to seeing you back in the NW!   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fours Company

Fours Company
By, Cindy Sundborg

We started our trip in Nassau. Best decision #1: Choosing to stay at a quaint beach get-away called Coral Harbour Villa. 

Best Decision #2 Rent a car for our 3-day stay in Nassau.
It is beautiful here – we can hardly believe the color and clarity of the water. We have our own personal chef at the small restaurant there, and we nearly eat the entire menu during our stay – conch salsa, putine, chicken wings, conch fritters and fish tacos. Oh, and of course our favorite local beer – Sands or Kalik (FYI – Conch is pronounced like ‘honk’, but with ‘c’ J).
Blue waters at Crooked Island
Pitts Town on Crooked Island
Our stay in Nassau was an adventure in and of itself. Over 3 days we pretty much drove around the entire island (multiple times), tried to knock down coconuts (unsuccessfully!), survived a tornado (no joke, one actually hit land while we stayed there), explored Paradise Island, drank pina coladas & daiquiris on the whitest, white sand made in real coconuts and swam in the most brilliant blue-ish shades of water.

Mike & Matt pulling Tonic onto the beach
After getting our fill of the capital, we hop on a plane and head southeast to our first “out island,” Acklins (via Crooked Island).  Hook up a ride from Napi and meet up with two beach bums on the east end of the island – Mike and Sara!!  They look great – bleach blonde hair and sun bronzed bodies.   We jump into our new friend, Tonic (the dingy) and head out to our home for the next 12 days – Tanqueray!
Cindy & Matt on Tonic at Atwood Harbor, Acklins Island
Sushi dinner
Lighthouse at Landrail Point, Crooked Island 
Matt & Mike with tuna
Narrow entrance into Rum Cay marina
Sara & Cindy snorkeling
Matt underwater

Spearfishing adventure with the locals at Landrail Point
And in no time, we’re sailing.  Sailing!!  What a way to travel.  Cutting across the water powered only by the wind – no engine, no mechanized noise to yell over, hardly a wake, just us, Mike, Sara, and the indomitable Nelly.  And what better place to travel than in The Bahamas??  We see more shades of natural blue than I’ve ever seen.  You lose words to describe the hues – royal, aqua, teal, navy; we flash through each of them with every new anchorage and crossing.  And they never lose their luster.  How many times can you say wow in a trip?  Ahh, this is vacation.

First Tuna catch
Cindy & Sara with good size yellowfin tuna

Matt & Mike with the mahi mahi
But sailing’s not just pina colada’s and sunblock…  Wizzzzzzz - Fish on!!  Cindy, grab the reel! Sara, take the helm! Matt, pull in the jib (and try not to fall off the boat!), Mike grab the gaff hook!  Woohoo, we’re pulling in a tuna – and it’s a yellow fin!  Hardly a better meal in the ocean.  And we quickly discover that this isn’t going to be a vacation of snack bars and warm water.  No, we eat like royalty.  Would you like the seared tuna with soy and ginger, or would you prefer a three cheese mushroom rizzoto?  Pizza? – check. 

Strawberry grouper catch of the day
Sara & Cindy on the beach at Conception Island
Matt & Cindy on the beach at Conception Island
Lemon shark under the boat
Another beautiful sunset

Like your sweets for breakfast? – no problem, cinnamon rolls it is.  Need a break from fish? – freshly baked wheat bread just coming out of the oven!  Did I mention wow??

But back to the fishing – We turn out to be expert trollers.  Or at least very lucky.  Black fin tuna, mahi mahi, yellow fin tuna, and a couple that just got away – but they were big!  Not many places you can travel where you get the bulk of your food from the environment.  The fish are brilliant, too.  As mahi glide through the water it’s gold, and blue, and silver, and green, and a whole rainbow of other colors – until you kill it.  Then the colors drain out of it like water til all that’s left is a drab grey.  Almost creepy.

Besides our trolling booty, we “catch” conch, lobster, grouper, and pick up some hogfish from our adventure with our local Crooked Island friends.
Seared tuna dinner
Tanqueray docked at Rum Cay
Beach at Rum Cay
Snorkel time
Matt & Cindy with Mahi Mahi catch
Of course living on a boat has its drawbacks, too.  The casual warning – “watch your head” – is ominous foreshadowing.  I’ve discovered new ways to run my head into things.  On the boat, inanimate objects seem to jump out with just the intention of banging my head.  Top of the head, side of the head, forehead, in the nose – I’ve managed to whack ‘em all.  And just when I’ve mastered my body contortions to get around each obstacle, the sea throws in a big swell to throw off my balance and SMACK, a new lump.

We can both say that this trip was one of the most unexpected experiences. Before we left Portland, I remember asking eachother, “What do you think Sara and Mike do all day?” We decided to pack 3 books, of which neither of us finished one! We sailed to 5 islands, caught a variety of fish, lobster, conch, we spear-fished, explored the white sand beaches, rode not always the most reliable dingy (“tonic”), met some of the most friendly and welcoming natives and fellow travelers, and we even went on a scavenger hunt – finding a pirates booty! 

We mastered (well almost!) the art of crossing a large channel in the middle of the night, saw the moon set and the sun rise over the brilliant blue waters, saw more sharks than we ever dreamed of seeing, snorkeled amongst a variety of fish and coral, and we experience what it’s like to prepare food (or even stand) in a boat that’s heeled at a 45 degree angle!

Portlander's For Life - Go BLAZERS!
Now that we’re here back in Portland, we want to say “THANK YOU” to the most incredible, adventurist hosts – Thank you Sara and Mike! We LOOOOVED the trip we were able to experience together. Can’t wait until the next one! ;)
The Gang at Landrail Point, Crooked Island