Bahamas | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Stuck in Paradise! Bahamas sailing and Junkanoo

Feeling stuck these days? Well this video is guaranteed to lift your spirits! We got stuck in the Bahamas earlier this year (before the pandemic) and experienced Junkanoo celebrations! You can’t help but smile when you watch this one😊 since everyone, young and old, sailor and landlubber, is having such a good time! We also take the boat out to some very remote islands in the Exumas where pirates of old used to hide out amongst the shoals and give you an overview of the beautiful anchorages around the area of George Town, Great Exuma, a base for the cruising community where, at a beach bonfire we celebrate New Years.



OMG! A waterspout appears near us in the anchorage at Redshanks Cay, Exumas, Bahamas. Then it hits a boat near us in the harbour!

We were anchored in George Town Harbour Bahamas in the protected corner known as Red Shanks waiting out a few days of strong weather. We heard someone on the radio announce there was a waterspout in the harbour so I jumped up on deck and watched the spout hit a 40 foot powerboat. The waterspout appeared to be heading toward us and the catamaran in the front.

Then I got the camera rolling and you can see the waterspout … then you can see the powerboat in the middle so you can see how big the spout is since the 40 foot boat - Angela D gives it scale. The spout seems to be well over 100 feet in diameter. The Angela D leans over approximately 45 degrees and their dinghy is picked up.

The waterspout is still heading towards us for a few seconds and we see items from the dinghy flying everywhere then the waterspout finally veers away towards the small island.

Everything was over in just a minute from coming up on deck. No one was injured and the boat had only very small damages - missing parts from the dinghy and small deck gear.

Bahamas - Shallow Draft Sailing on the Exuma Bank


Friday November 7/14 dawned bright and sunny in Elizabeth Harbour near George Town, Great Exuma, where we had been anchored off "Hamburger Beach", Stocking Island (~ 23 31.8N 75 46.0W) for the last couple of weeks aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II. Paul and I produce a television series about the cruising lifestyle called Distant Shores so had been using the time here at anchor cataloguing the many hours of footage we've been collecting for season 10 episodes of the series, scripting narration, doing rough editing as well as updating the show's website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites. Around us were other cruising sailors working aboard their boats too doing website design, technical consultation, chartering and various types of online sales (see more on "Making Money while Cruising") as well as the endless boat projects that go on while you’re cruising.

Working While Cruising
We feel very blessed to be able to earn our living as television producers doing the thing we love best – sailing! However it requires that we fly home once in a while to do post-production work in the studio (a good chance to catch up with colleagues, friends and family) and pause in a place from time to time, usually where there is good fast unlimited internet access, in George Town we use Bahamas Wi-max. You can also get internet access while cruising through BTC Bahamas data plans for your open smartphone (we have iPhones) which is great since every main settlement has a tower meaning that even in remote islands you can usually get internet access. This service does not offer unlimited access so is good for e-mail and web surfing but not practical for uploading large video files, for example, which is necessary for our business.

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Cruising the Exuma Bank
But today it was time to unplug and get back to cruising! The Bahamas are one of the world's top cruising destinations and during the 25 years we've been sailing internationally and living aboard we have visited these jewel-like islands many times. There are over 700 islands and cays (pronounced keys) in the Bahamas which spread out over an area the size of the whole Caribbean so you can spend years here and always find new places to explore. Today was another example. We were heading to new destinations; for the next week we were going to sail the shallow waters along the west coast of Little Exuma and Great Exuma to visit and film our experiences in the small settlements and remote cays of the Exuma Bank, places we had never been before.

Shallow Draft Cruising
The word "Bahamas" comes from the Spanish "Baha Mar" or shallow seas so there are many places you can't go in the Bahamas if the draft of your boat is over 6 feet. However we cruised the Bahamas many times with our first boat, a Classic 37 named Two-Step, that drew 6 feet and we always had a fabulous time. However, our current boat, a Southerly 49, has a variable draft swing keel and with the keel raised Distant Shores II draws 2' 10” (0.88 m). With the keel down she is deep draft at 10' 4" (3.15 m). The shallow draft ability of this boat has changed the way we cruise since it has made so many more cruising destinations accessible for us. If you are considering buying a new boat we recommend considering shoal draft options.

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Our first boat Two-Step drew 6 feet and we cruised happily in the Bahamas

George Town Cruisers Net VHF 72
Before raising anchor we tuned into the George Town Cruisers Net on VHF 72 (daily at 8:00 a.m. local time) to say goodbye to everyone during the Arrivals and Departures section of the net and thank them for all the great hospitality - dinners on board and at the beach, happy hours, information exchange, you name it. The cruising community is very friendly and supportive!

Three Fathom Channel
By 9:00 a.m. we were underway. It's fun to stop in a place for a while but leaving for new places always gets us excited and energized. We never get tired of sailing to places unknown! There was a light north wind so we unfurled the genoa right away and sailed downwind south through Elizabeth Harbour waving to friends at anchor exiting the harbour an hour later at Three Fathom Channel (~ 23 29.4N 75 41.9W). Once out into the sound the breeze strengthened and we sailed along the east coast of the islands of Great Exuma and Little Exuma to Hog Cay Cut. The cut would take us out onto the shallow banks where we would then begin our voyage up the west coast along the Exuma Bank.

Hog Cay Cut
Hog Cay Cut (~ 23 24.2N 75 30.7W) is one of the trickiest cuts in the Bahamas since the current runs strong here and there is a hard bar (3 feet at low tide) so you have to time your passage carefully. Best time is at high water slack but we had timed our transit for mid-tide ebb so that we had enough depth for our shallow draft boat and were steering into a head current which gave us good control. The tide time is a little tricky to figure out at Hog Cay Cut since wind strength and direction can really alter the tide times on the banks but for planning purposes 2 hours after Nassau Tide (later than, add 2 hours to Nassau times) seems to the accepted time for planning. There are anchorages either side of the cut so if conditions aren't as expected you can wait at anchor until you get the tide conditions you are comfortable with.


The water is extremely clear so with me piloting from the bow and Paul at the helm we got through the cut without trouble and slid onto the shallow protected bank. It is like arriving on a different planet. The wind dropped, the seas flattened and the colours became brilliant. The bottom is pure white sand on the banks which makes the clear water a swimming pool blue, one of the great delights of boating in the Bahamas. The natural beauty and healing colours raise your spirits continually. The average depths we were seeing throughout the day and rest of the trip were 2 to 3 metres (6.5 to 9 feet) so with extreme care and attention to depths and tide heights you could do this trip with a draft of 1.8 m (6 feet).

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Onto the Banks
There were no other boats in sight except for the occasional local skiff whose owners gave us a friendly wave as they whizzed by. Unfortunately there was not enough wind for sailing so we puttered along under power taking in the wild scenery and viewing the birdlife as we made our way to the evening's anchorage off the tiny settlement of The Ferry at the west end of Little Exuma. There used to be a ferry there to Great Exuma that was replaced with a bridge in 1979.

Snorkeling on Coral Heads
Along the way we stopped and dove on some of the coral heads we were passing by and we have never seen reefs covered with so many fish! At one coral head Paul came upon a nurse shark and the largest hawksbill turtle we have ever seen. The shark took off when it saw us arrive but the old turtle stayed put for about half an hour before growing tired of our company. He slowly surfaced for air and headed off. Who knew they could hold their breath for so long?!

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Mosquito and No-See-Um Control
We reached our anchorage (~ 23 24.9N 75 37.3W) off McPhee's Creek just east of the channel through the mangroves into The Ferry settlement at around 4 p.m. (Our plan had been to go into the settlement to see if we could find a local place for dinner but with the recent time change the sun was pretty low already. (The Bahamas are in the Eastern Time Zone the same as New York and Toronto.) We decided to delay our trip ashore until the morning so that we weren't navigating mangroves in the dark when the mosquitos and no-see-ums (sandflies) would be out in full force. It's a good idea to have screens on your ports and hatches as well as the companionway when cruising shallow marshy areas in the Bahamas. We found a good companionway screen called a Bugbuster Companionway Screen made by Sogeman of Canada. (We're experts on mosquitos in Canada!). No-see-ums can fly right through mosquito netting so the best solution is to anchor well offshore so they can't get to you. You can buy no-see-um screens but they are so fine they don't let any air through so you might as well just close the hatches. If your boat has air conditioning and the power to run it at anchor you can close up anytime and avoid them altogether.

Green Flash
There was a lovely sunset that evening and we saw a green flash as the sun sunk below the horizon! This is a rare phenomenon to see! It happens when there is a clear open horizon and the last ray of sunlight refracts into a green glow. We would have missed it if we'd gone to town.

Green Flash as the sun sets

Dinghy Expedition
The next day was a mirror reflection of the day before so with sunshine and clear skies we jumped into the dinghy carrying water, bailing bucket, anchor, VHF handheld and navigated our way through the mangrove creek and main channel into The Ferry Settlement using the Navionics mobile app on our iPhone. It is a couple of miles from the outer anchorage to the settlement (there is an anchorage closer to town but too many bugs there) and when we got to the bridge two guys fishing from it directed us to the little ferry dock where we tied up our dinghy and walked up to "town". The settlement is really just a string of houses along the road but there was a little grocery store and snack bar where we were welcomed by the friendly owner, Freddy (short for Frederica) and across the street was a very casual outdoor grill, The Ferry Grillin', where we hung out with some local guys just shooting the breeze. We had lunch there sampling Richard’s (the owner) special conch salad (conch is a large shellfish) that included a crunchy local pink seaweed that the guys called Irish Moss. This was the first time we had encountered this recipe for conch salad in the Bahamas or seen this plant but the guys loved this stuff and swore that it had strong medicinal powers that prevent certain types of cancer. It is these types of encounters and experiences that makes traveling of any kind so wonderful!

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Jewfish Cays
Our new friends invited us to stay another day and go fishing and "conching" with them on Sunday which would have been great but we wanted to move on to take advantage of the weather and tides. Also we had a shipment of spare parts being flown to Staniel Cay in several days so couldn't linger. It was another day of motoring on Sunday to our next destination, the Jewfish Cays, where there is a narrow cut between this string of mostly uninhabited islands. The cut is marked by a light - a rare thing in the vast shifting sands of the Bahamas - but the cut is on a big rock on the mail boat route. The mail boats are crucial to the survival of the islanders since they bring weekly supplies. We went through the cut and anchored in the northeast bay (~23 27.5N 75 57.1W) just off an idyllic deserted beach where we went ashore for an evening walk. The next morning we went back for a barefoot run and swim off the pristine beach. We were sure to run lights during the night since we were close to the cut and local skiffs as well as the mailboat run through this area. Sadly, but not surprisingly, when darkness fell the light marking the channel never came on.

Rocky Point
Monday was a similar day of sunny skies and motoring into light headwinds. The wind was keeping to the north and northwest which is really unusual for this time of year and for so many days. But we continued along through the cays, stopping for a lunch stop and to dive on the coral heads around Hawksbill Rock (23 25.5N 76 06.3W) where there was another light which didn't look operational, then carrying on anchor at Rocky Point (~23 34.8N 76 04.2W) near the northwest corner of Great Exuma. We had a bouncy night since the wind picked up and blew uncharacteristically straight off the banks into the anchorage so we left at daylight.

Exuma Cays
Soon we were saying goodbye to Great Exuma and heading on to the rest of the Exuma Cays that we know well and love. Here’s a video clip showing some of the beautiful water you can sail in here, especially if you have a shallow draft boat.

Rudder Cut Cay
All though we’ve visited the Exuma Cays many times once again we had a new place to explore and a discovery to make. When we were in The Ferry one of the guys there was telling us about an underwater statue of a mermaid playing a grand piano that was off the coast of Rudder Cut Cay. We got out the charts and saw in a small bay an item marked 'piano'. That had to be it! We were on a quest now! We reached Rudder Cut around lunch time on Tuesday and sure enough we found it (~23 52.15N 76 14.15W). Paul played the piano for this patient mermaid and as you can see he had her full attention. The story of how she got here is that magician, David Copperfield, who owns nearby Musha Cay, commissioned this statue, hid it and held a contest encouraging people to find it.


Big Galliot Cay
The anchorage here was rather exposed in the continuing northwest winds so in the remaining daylight we headed north and tucked into Big Galliot Cay (~23 55.0N 76 17.3W). We saw two other sailboats that day, both catamarans, the first cruising boats we'd seen in three days.

Little Farmers Cay and Great Guana Cay
Wednesday the wind was really up and still from the north so we bashed our way to the protected harbour at Little Farmers Cay where we stopped at Farmers Cay Yacht Club (~23 57.9N 76 19.4W) to say hello to owner Roosevelt Nixon and top up our water tanks (40 cents/US gallon). The drinking water is really good here. Roosevelt takes good care of his desalinator changing filters regularly. If you've seen Distant Shores season 5 we interview Roosevelt and his wife in the Little Farmers Cay episode. After a good chat we carried on to try out the anchorage at Great Guana Cay at White Point (~23 04.1N 76 22.3) which is deserted and has a gorgeous beach. It was a little bouncy and exposed in the unusual north winds when we arrived but the forecast was for things to settle down by dinner so we hung in there and were rewarded for doing so. We spent two lovely days there beachcombing, swimming and snorkelling with the world to ourselves (but good internet through out phones from the tower at Little Farmers Cay).

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White Point, Great Guana Cay

Staniel Cay
Yesterday we arrived in time for lunch at Staniel Cay where we are anchored in our favourite spot off Thunderball Cave (a major scene in the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed here hence the name). Watermakers Air that handles freight forwarding from Fort Lauderdale had already delivered our spare parts for the generator and furling gear which we picked up at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We celebrated our mini cruise of the Exuma Bank with dinner at the yacht club.

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Bahamas - Green Turtle Cay and Boat Yard Fun

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This week Paul and I enter our second week of working in the boat yard at Abaco Yacht Services at Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco island group of the Bahamas. We had a couple of days delay with heavy rain and thunderstorms last week and now we're waiting for a part to come in by courier, a part we need to install before launching, and so it goes.

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But delays are common when doing annual maintenance or boat repairs especially in off-the-beaten-path places like Green Turtle Cay where communications and shipping can be more time-consuming in some situations.

Related: Paul's Tech Blog “Problems in Paradise”.

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But despite this, we like working and cruising in quiet charming places like Green Turtle Cay because life is good and the people friendly. When you are in beautiful and supportive environments the occasional things that go wrong just seem easier to handle.

Although Paul and I enjoy doing our own work on the boat, boat yard work can be messy and in hot climates can be exhausting, so finding a nice location like Green Turtle Cay and setting things up to be fun helps to keep your enthusiasm up.

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One of the major things we've done to make this year's round of boat maintenance more pleasant is to rent the cottage next to the boat yard office. We normally stay on board when working in the yard since it's convenient and saves money, but soaring temperatures in the boat yard in September in the Bahamas makes onboard living onshore pretty uncomfortable and with the mosquitos and no-see-ums that come out at night we decided to treat ourselves. (At anchor away from shore there is always a breeze and mosquitos are rarely a problem. It's just because the boat is ashore.)

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The Twin Gables Cottage is as convenient as living on board in the yard and it's nice to have a relaxing air conditioned place to retreat to for a shower and a rest when we need a break from boat work. The cottage has a huge kitchen and we're having fun cooking and baking things we wouldn't on the boat in the heat of the boat yard.

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There's lots of space so we've even had friends over for a meal and drinks. It is adding a sense of having a vacation to our yard work, part of our “keep it fun” philosophy. If you can work such a thing into your budget ($125 per day with discounts for a week or more) and the yard you're working in offers this opportunity we would highly recommend it.

Related: For photos of the cottage interior see “Back to the Boat in the Bahamas”

Many of our cruising friends in the Mediterranean do this each winter. They find a nice apartment or house to rent close to the boat yard and move off the boat for a couple of months while doing work and new projects on their boat. It offers a change of scene and an opportunity to become a part of the community in the foreign country that you're visiting.

Another thing we recommend doing to keep things fun during annual maintenance is to get out of the boat yard at least once a day. We can walk to the beach from the boat yard at Abaco Yacht Services which gets the blood flowing and a swim helps ease and stretch out those aching muscles. This too adds to the sense of having a vacation and gets our mind off bottom paint.

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We also made sure we had transportation so we could easily run for supplies (there is no public transportation) but also to go to the little settlement of New Providence for a drink and the occasional meal out.

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These gas powered golf carts are the main mode of transportation on Green Turtle Cay and can handle the potholes in the roads on the island. Driving them is fun!

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Yesterday the community held a fundraising dinner in town to raise money to buy new Christmas lights so they could expand their annual Festival of Lights in December. A heaping meal of fried chicken, macaroni casserole and coleslaw was just $10 plus we met a lot of friendly folks from town. We returned to bottom painting with renewed enthusiasm today.

Doing little things to add a sense of fun and “holiday” can make all the difference when you’re dealing with difficult tasks while cruising. It’s easy to get focused in on boat jobs and forget that the reason you’re “out there” is to travel, explore, make new friends and enjoy new experiences.


Back to the Boat in the Bahamas

Home in Canada still means boating!
Paul, his nephew Sam, Sheryl and her niece Giorgia at the LCYC Junior Sail Program

One of the joys of part-time cruising is that you can enjoy the best of both worlds – life ashore with family and friends at the best times of year and life afloat living a healthy outdoor lifestyle while enjoying new destinations and the camaraderie of the international cruising community.

This September Paul and I will be celebrating 25 years of cruising together and for 16 of those years we have maintained a home base and studio back in Canada. We need to get home to do post-production work in our studio for the Distant Shores sailing TV series as well as other video, writing and speaking projects but we love the time at home to reconnect with our loved ones and recharge our batteries and enthusiasm for the cruising life. When you cruise long-term you can start to take things for granted.

Related: “Maintaining a Homebase while Cruising”

This summer we were home for 6 weeks and last Thursday we returned to our boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49 sailboat with a variable-draft keel, where we had dry-stored her in the boatyard at Abaco Yacht Services (AYS) on Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is in the hurricane belt and July and August is right smack in the middle of hurricane season (June to November) but Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, our insurers for many years, offers a hurricane clause protecting us for a higher deductible in named storms if we prepare the boat correctly in the event of a storm.

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This includes dry-storing the boat with tie-downs which the boatyard at Abaco Yacht Services offers as well as a secure location.

So on Thursday August 28 we were up at 4:00 AM to be at Pearson International Airport in Toronto to catch an 8:00 AM flight to Charlotte NC, then to Nassau, New Providence, the main hub in the Bahamas. We flew over Green Turtle Cay and the boatyard en route which gave us a thrill.

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In Nassau we had a two-hour lay-over before catching our next flight on Pineapple Air, “the sweetest way to fly” to Treasure Cay in the Abacos.

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The Pineapple Express is a little 12-seater plane and since the 7 passengers booked were there in good time we left 15 minutes ahead of schedule for the half-hour flight to Treasure Cay.

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We had the same pilots flying us there as we'd had on the way home who we could watch at work as we flew, dodging thunder clouds, to our destination. It is a pleasure to watch them operate the plane. They hardly need to speak to each other but work in harmony, knowing what each has to do and when. And they are so laid back!

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We arrived at the little airport at Treasure Cay and was met by “Uncle Lou” the taxi driver who for $10 US drove us smartly to the ferry dock so we could catch the 4:00 PM ferry across the sound to Green Turtle Cay. The ferry ($13 US per person) delivered us right to the dock at Abaco Yacht Services where we received a warm welcome from the staff at the boatyard.

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All was well despite two tropical storms that had blown through in our absence. The boats are well cared for and properly prepared here at AYS. As you can see, Paul was very happy to get back to the boat :-)

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August and September are the hottest months of the year in the Bahamas and even though AYS allows you to live aboard your boat while you're working on it they also offer a charming air conditioned 3-bedroom cottage for rent right on the property ($125 per night) that we decided to take advantage of. There is a special rate for a week or more.

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Many boatyards offer some kind of accommodation so you can tear your boat apart while you’re doing work on it, but it's usually just a hotel-style room not a lovely place like this to retreat to for a break from the heat and to relax in at the end of the day.

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The kitchen is fully equipped and a pleasure to cook in. We feel as if we're on holiday!

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We also have “wheels”. The main mode of transportation around the island is off-road golf carts so the AYS office manager, Mary, organized a rental for us from Island Road Runner Cart Rentals. The carts are regularly $45 per day but you can get a discounted rate off-season from them. Most cart rental services offer this and special weekly rates as well.

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It's a great to way to get to the beach (which we could actually walk to easily from the yard) but mostly it’s convenient for running for supplies while we're working on the boat to get her ready for the upcoming season. We hope to launch by the end of next week and spend a few more weeks cruising around the Bahamas before heading south through the islands for another season. (We will be taking a short break in October to the USA to conduct seminars about Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising and Ocean Sailing at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis MD the weekend of October 9-13th. Hope to see you there!)

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Stay tuned for more adventures in the Bahamas and Caribbean!


Recipe - Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Potluck suppers and dock dinners are popular social occasions for sailors whether they are out cruising or at home moored at the local yacht club. A collection of good recipes for dishes to contribute to a potluck gathering seems essential to the cruising lifestyle :-)

So this week's recipe, Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole, is a potluck favourite of mine. It is simple and a hit with sailors of any age.

Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

It is also a good meal to prepare for a passage because you can cut it up into convenient serving-sized squares and eat it hot or cold. In bad weather at sea it is easy to digest and gives you lots of energy. You can dress it up by adding more vegetables or chunks of chicken, tuna or ham but today I am giving you the traditional recipe.

Paul and I are home at the moment and last weekend we attended a potluck supper at Lagoon City Yacht Club in Ontario, Canada, one of the many events being hosted to celebrate the club's 50th anniversary. Since we just flew home from the Bahamas, Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole was what I contributed to the meal. It is a very traditional dish in the Bahamas where it is often served at dinner as the main starch.

Potluck Supper at Lagoon City Yacht Club

My niece, Giorgia, and Paul's nephew, Sam, stayed with us last week and attended the Junior Sailing Program at LCYC so the LCYC Potluck Supper was also a nice way to conclude the week and celebrate having a couple of other sailors in the family!


Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
1 X 1 lb/500 gram box of elbow macaroni (about 5 cups uncooked macaroni)
¼ cup/1/2 stick of butter
2 Tbsp/30 ml minced onion (about ½ the onion pictured)
2 Tbsp/30 ml minced green pepper
1 scotch bonnet pepper (Bahamians call these goat peppers), seeded, deveined and finely chopped. (Alternative: a jalapeño pepper or hot banana peppers)
1 lb/500 grams of grated cheddar cheese (6 cups or 3 X 8 oz packages)
2 X 12 oz/370 ml can of evaporated milk (about 3 cups total)
½ tsp/2 ml ground black pepper
½ tsp/2 ml salt
a few dashes hot sauce
3 eggs beaten
2 tsp/10 ml paprika

Ingredients for Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

Preheat oven to 400º F.

Boil a large pot of water to which a couple of pinches of salt have been added.

Add pasta and follow package directions to cook al dente, about 6 or 7 minutes.

Drain pasta then return it to the warm pot and add butter, stirring until melted.

Add minced onion, green pepper and scotch bonnet pepper (or alternative) and stir.

Next add about ¾ of the grated cheddar cheese, stirring until melted.

Then add milk, salt, pepper, hot sauce and beaten eggs, mixing quickly.

Transfer macaroni into a 9 X 13 inch baking pan or casserole dish.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese, then paprika.

Macaroni mixture ready to go into the oven

Bake at 400º F for 35-40 minutes until top is golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow macaroni to cool for 45-50 minutes. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese Casserole is cut into squares for serving (which makes it a good potluck supper dish) so it needs to set. It is not scooped up with a spoon. It can be reheated before serving if you like but needs to cool first to set. It is also good served at room temperature.

Out of the oven golden brown and resting for 45-50 minutes to set


Bahamas - Exumas to Abacos

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A great sailing day on the banks along the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas

We had been waiting for the arrival of some spare parts for our Mastervolt generator to be flown in to Staniel Cay in the Exuma Island group of the Bahamas. The package came in at last, Paul did the necessary maintenance, and we were ready to depart. But it was Independence Day for the Bahamas so we decided to stay to celebrate. We'd been in Staniel Cay for Canada Day on July 1st, American Independence Day on July 4th and it seemed only fitting that we celebrate Bahamas Independence Day on July 10th before sailing on.

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Anchored off Thunderball Cave at Staniel Cay

Bahamas became a free and sovereign country on July 10th, 1973, ending 325 years of peaceful British rule, but is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Junkanoo parade and free lunch and dinner on Bahamas Independence Day, Staniel Cay

It was a beautiful day that started with a church service and then a local Junkanoo parade with local youth playing homemade drums and cow bells. Then it was a day of “Beach Eats”. The Bahamas government sponsors free lunch and dinner on this day. We showed up for lunch – BBQ hamburgers and hot dogs and pasta salad – and enjoyed speaking with the local revellers as well as meeting up with cruising friends we'd partied with down-island. The dinner was even more elaborate we heard – BBQ steak, fish, and lots of salads and vegetables – everyone welcome! The evening ended with fireworks which we enjoyed watching from the cockpit of Distant Shores II, a fitting end to our visit to Staniel Cay.


We set sail the following day with fresh breezes carrying us north through the Exuma Cays along the banks to Sandy Cay off Hall's Pond where we've heard that actor Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean fame has a home and classic boat. No sign of him though or anyone else for that matter. We had the island all to ourselves.


Next day we had similar conditions and island-hopped our way up to Allen's Cay, a protected anchorage and always an interesting stop since it is home of the Allen's Cay Iguanas (Cyclura cychlura inornata). These are Bahamian Rock Iguanas which are protected by the Bahamas National Trust and come out on the beach to greet you. Actually they're looking for handouts - fresh vegetables are best. Unfortunately their eyesight isn't good and on a past visit Paul got his fingers nipped when he tried to feed one a carrot. This time we just said hello.


Allen's Cay was our last stop in the Exuma Cays before jumping off across the banks to Eleuthera.


Beacon Cay is at the north end of the Exumas and is the last land you see for a few hours as you head for Eleuthera.


The banks are shallow, about 12 feet deep for many miles, with a white sand bottom. We could see the shadow of the sails clearly standing out against the white sand in the turquoise water as we sailed along.


There are also areas of coral reef patches on the banks which you have to keep an eye out for but they stand out darkly against the white sand so are easy to see.

Coral reef patches stand on the banks

We arrived in the Eleuthera island group in the late afternoon and sailed through narrow Current Cut at Current Island, anchoring for the night on the other side with another cruising boat and one of the local fishing boats. Following the example of the fishers we anchored about 1/4 of a mile offshore so the mosquitos and no-see-ums (sand fleas) that come out at dusk wouldn't bother us.

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Current Cut on the Navionics chart on our Raymarine chartplotter

We spent quite a bit of time in the Eleuthera archipelago on a previous visit which we documented in episodes of Distant Shores season 6 which is available on DVD and also download. This time it was a quick visit since our goal was to reach the Abacos, another 60 miles to the northwest.

Unfortunately we had light winds so spent the day motoring across deep seas on this leg of our passage. It was quite a change to see big cargo ships and freighters after sailing in the shallow water surrounding the Exuma Cays for so many weeks.

We arrived late afternoon at Tilloo Cay in the Abacos with storm clouds brewing and anchored there for the night. It was good to get off the boat for a nice beach walk here.

Public dock at New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos

Next day we made our final jump, 35 nm to Green Turtle Cay, anchoring off New Plymouth and today we lifted the boat at Abaco Yacht Services for annual maintenance.


The sky started to look rather exciting as the excellent crew at AYS were blocking the boat but got finished before the rain came in and the winds picked up.

Scary looking sky as we haul out the boat
Distant Shores II with her 10-foot keel partially retracted
Distant Shores II with her keel retracted completely. She is designed to take the ground.

We'll be storing the boat here at Abaco Yacht Services for a few weeks while we're home in Canada completing post-production on new episodes for season 10 of the Distant Shores sailing TV series as well as the first in a new how-to series we're producing - “Let's Go Cruising!: Anchoring”.

But stay tuned! We’ll be posting lots of articles on cruising topics to help you plan your escape while we're home in the studio. We’ll be back to the boat and more cruising adventures in just a few weeks.


Bahamas - Staniel Cay

We have been waiting for the arrival of some spare parts for our Mastervolt generator which will be flown in to Staniel Cay in the Exuma island group of the Bahamas. The package is coming in on a small charter plane, Watermakers Air, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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Distant Shores II anchored off Thunderball Cave at Staniel Cay

There have been delays with the shipment so we've been hanging out at Staniel Cay longer than we'd planned but it is a great place to be with lots to do and see despite being a small settlement with a population of a couple of hundred people. Not a bad place to be delayed.

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The Farmers Market at Staniel Cay

The Exumas are a 120-mile-long island chain-within-the-chain of the Bahamas Out Islands, strewn like a string of pearls extending north toward New Providence from Great Exuma. With the clear aquamarine water of the banks to the west and the deep sapphire water of the sound the water colours are the most stunning you have ever seen.

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We filmed several episodes about cruising in the Exumas for Distant Shores Season 5 which you can see on DVD and also download.

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The cottages at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Nurse sharks hover beneath the fish cleaning station hoping for goodies.

Staniel Cay, although small, is a hub in the Exumas. Centrally located it is a good base to explore the islands to north and south. Staniel Cay Yacht Club is a gathering place for boaters, both power and sail as well as private pilots who fly in to the landing strip and stay in the club's cottages. There are other cottages, hotels, boutique resorts and also villas for rent in Staniel Cay. A couple of other restaurants too.

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Taste and Sea Cafe, Staniel Cay

Rental at some of the cottages includes a small boat for getting out to the attractions on the surrounding cays. One of these is the grotto called Thunderball Cave since a scene from the James Bond movie, Thunderball, was filmed here. The cave is full of fish and to add to the beauty streams of light filter in from the ceiling overhead.

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Sheryl surrounded by fish in Thunderball Cave

“Pig Beach” on Big Major Spot, the next cay to the north, is another favourite anchorage where you can feed the swimming pigs - the most unusual marine life!

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One of the swimming pigs at Big Major Spot, Staniel Cay

On July 4th, American Independence Day, Staniel Cay Yacht Club put on a special dinner, party and fireworks that we attended with fellow cruising sailors.

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It was a beautiful evening with so many attending they put tables all down the dock – Paradise for boaters!

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In the summer there are more powerboats than sailboats and some of them such as Party Girl pictured below are pretty impressive!

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When the atmosphere gets overly festive and you feel like finding a quiet place, it's just a 40 minute sail up to Pipe Creek, a collection of little cays with ribbons of blue water where you can anchor surrounded by sparkling sand bars.

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Pipe Creek

Our favourite spot is in a shallow bay off Thomas Cay in Pipe Creek where we this week we filmed a couple of segments for a new how-to video we are producing about anchoring. It will be released at the end of the summer.

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Anchored off Thomas Cay in Pipe Creek

We'd love to know what your top two concerns about anchoring are? We want to be sure we're covering everything a new boater should understand about anchoring as well as techniques that experienced sailors would like to brush up on. Please send us an email. We value your comments.

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July 10th is the Bahamas' Independence Day and there will be more festivities to enjoy here. Hopefully our package will have arrived by then so that we can continue north to the Abaco island group, our next destination...

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Bahamas - Island Hopping and Dive in Angelfish Bluehole

Musha Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

Up-Island, Exumas
Following the festivities of the Long Island Regatta in the Bahamas in early June (see previous newsletter) Paul and I sailed back to George Town, Great Exuma, to wait for the arrival of friend Kuno Kurschner flying in from Vancouver, Canada, to join us for a few days of sailing together before we head north this weekend.

George Town has an international airport so it's a great place to have friends and/or crew fly in to meet you right in the heart of what we consider the world's most beautiful cruising and diving destinations.

Currently (June 2014) there are direct flights from Toronto to George Town via Air Canada on Sundays which for us Torontonians is fantastic but there are also great links from the USA from major hubs and several airlines and small charter companies fly here as well so there are lots of options. Many Europeans find the Exumas a pretty easy to reach too. Click here for more information about flights to George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Right in the main harbour there are several beautiful natural anchorages off Stocking Island, Crab Cay and others but with easy dinghy access to the shops, restaurants, and many services found in George Town.

Within minutes of meeting Kuno at the airport and settling him onto the boat, a friendly dolphin appeared and Kuno started his visit aboard Distant Shores II with a magical half-hour in-water dolphin encounter. Paul has had fun playing with this dolphin and has filmed her playing with people and dogs on previous visits to George Town. (See newsletter.) You'll see the footage in episode #122 of Distant Shores season 10.

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Paul and Kuno Kurschner at the helm of Distant Shores II

Kuno and his family cruised in the Caribbean and Bahamas several years ago aboard their sailboat, SV Blue Moon. His wife, Renata, kept a really good blog called “Once on a Blue Moon – Travels Around the World” that you will find interesting if you're planning a similar voyage.

After a day in George Town doing some more snorkeling at the Mystery Cave in Hurricane Hole 3 close to the Chat and Chill Beach Bar, a cruiser's favourite, we had a lovely downwind sail north in the sound up north to Rudder Cut Cay where we entered the banks and later anchored off Cave Cay for the night.

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Next day we motor-sailed back south on the banks to Lee Stocking Island on the banks side of the Exumas looking for sand bars where we could dry out the boat to inspect the cutlass bearing which needed adjusting. But with the large moon tides we couldn't find a spot that would dry out sufficiently to beach the boat for a long enough time so anchored at Lee Stocking Island off the abandoned marine research centre.

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Sangria sundowners aboard SV Distant Shores II anchored off Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas

The day before Kuno was to fly home we continued south on the shallow banks side of the Exumas to Barreterre (pronounced locally as Barry Tarry) at the north end of Great Exuma where we re-entered the sound for a close-reach back to George Town to see Kuno safely back to the airport for his flight home to Vancouver.

Dive on Angelfish Blue Hole
To conclude our own visit to George Town, Great Exuma, the last one for this season, we organized a scuba diving outing with Dive Exuma, the local dive operator in George Town, to do a dive to 90-feet into the Angelfish Blue Hole. You can snorkel over the entrance in Hurricane Hole #3 between Kevalli House Marina and Cottages and the St. Francis Resort and see the many fish that hang out there but Paul wanted to get down into the caverns to film the experience for an episode of Distant Shores season 10.

An hour to an hour and a half after high tide is the best time to dive here, Dive Exuma manager Tamara McGaw-Robinson told us. The water in the blue hole is flowing out of the hole at this time so when the current picks up you will be forced out, not in, to the tunnels that run under Stocking Island. (The flow of water in the blue holes are different to the surrounding currents due to their configurations.) Also the water from the sound is extremely clear and full of nutrients that attract many fish and often eagle rays so this is the best as well as safest time for diving, filming and seeing the most marine life. At other times of the tide the water is flowing from the sandy banks so the water is slightly murky and not as appealing to marine life plus the currents can be dangerous.

It's less than a 10-minute boat ride out to the dive site for the Angelfish Blue Hole which is in a very flat protected bay. The surrounding water is also quite shallow so is good for snorkeling too making this a great dive for all levels of divers, especially family groups where not everyone might be an advanced diver but everyone can have a fun diving experience together at the same location.

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Paul descending into the Angelfish Bluehole, Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas

In fact, a new diver did training at the surface in 10-feet of water for her Open Water Dive Certification with dive instructor, Danielle Scott, while the rest of the group did the advanced bluehole dive right in the same place.

The dive in Angelfish Bluehole was an exhilarating dive with a small friendly group of divers visiting from Alabama. (They limit this dive to 4-6 divers due to the confined space in the bluehole). Paul had free-dived into the entrance at about 15-20 feet but was in heaven exploring the large cavern and tunnels further down using tanks.

There were indeed grey angelfish feeding on the sponges as well as many other fish such as this grouper.

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Grouper at the entrance to the Anglefish Bluehole, Exumas, Bahamas

As the current started to build it became a real effort to move around the hole and dive master and boat captain, Jonathon Robinson, finally called an end to the dive which is about 45 minutes in length.

We are now back on board, Distant Shores II, stocking up the boat for our trip north through the Exumas to the Abacos.

Stay tuned for more adventures cruising in the Bahamas!


Bahamas Long Island Regatta

On June 2nd we sailed back to Long Island Bahamas and anchored at Salt Pond. The Long Island Regatta runs June 4-7th. Traditional sloops from all the island groups of the Bahamas come to compete. It's the second largest island regatta after George Town with 55 boats competing this year.

Before the event this ship arrived from Nassau carrying island sloops from New Providence and the Abacos. We watched them unload all afternoon and talked to the competitors who'd had a rough 14-hour sea voyage. Everything was totally covered in salt spray from the ride. We're filming the events as part of a new episode for season 10 of the Distant Shores TV series.

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There's a big party tonight as everyone celebrates the start of the 47th Annual Long Island Regatta.

The traditional sloops such as the B-Class “Ant’s Nest” use long boards to give the crew leverage to keep the over-canvassed boats upright. It makes for exciting racing!
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Before the Regatta got into full swing we did a road trip with Dawn Simmons of the Long Island Tourist Board in the Bahamas. We visited Clarence Town...
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St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Clarence Town, with its distinctive twin steeples.

And Dean's Blue Hole, the world's deepest blue hole at 663 feet. The dark blue area shows the deep water.
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World champion freediver William Trubridge swims past the 10 metre mark in a demonstration free-dive in Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island. We filmed with William, who offers training courses here on Long Island and he gave Paul hints to improve his free-diving technique.
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We also filmed in the spectacular Hamilton’s Cave with guide Leonard Cartwright. It’s the largest cave system in the Bahamas. Plan an hour for this fun and interesting tour.
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You can't go to Long Island without stopping at Max's Conch Bar and Grill for Max's famous conch salad (pronounced "konk", a large shellfish). Max prepares this delicious seafood salad freshly before your eyes...
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This seafood salad is served with Max’s homemade breadfruit chips. Wow! It’s good!
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Back at Salt Pond we film the Regatta...
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Sailing on B-Class Bahamian Sloop Susan Chase. What a great thrill! I filmed aboard as we practice-sailed on the way out to the starting line.
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Filming from out on the “Pry” the long boards used to get the crew/ballast out to balance the huge sails.Susan Chase2regatta

How it’s done!
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Anchored at the starting line. Rules state the boats are all lined up at anchor with sails down. When the gun goes the crew hauls up the anchor, raises the sails and sets off on starboard tack!
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Exciting sailing in a great venue. A super time was had by all and we got great film of it all for Distant Shores episode #121!

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George Town Beaches and Blue Holes


For the last week we have been anchored off Stocking Island in Elizabeth Harbour at George Town getting caught up on writing, editing and boat maintenance projects. George Town is a good base for cruising the Exuma Island group of the Bahamas and is the main town with grocery stores, chandlery, banks, restaurants and marine facilities.

Despite it being a cruising centre there is a lot of natural beauty and getting off the boat to stretch our legs we have enjoyed beach walking and running as well as interesting snorkelling right in the harbour.

Here are some images from our outings...

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The beach on Stocking Island is 3 km of white sand and you hardly see a soul here.

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There are lots of walking trails on Stocking Island as well which are maintained by volunteers from the cruising community.

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There are numerous colourful reefs in water shallow enough for snorkelling as well as deeper reefs for Scuba diving.

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There are also shallow caves and blue holes like the Mystery Cave on Stocking Island where you can snorkel as well as scuba dive. Exuma Divers in George Town can supply all the gear you need for scuba diving and lead interesting dives to the blue holes and fantastic reefs in the area.

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It’s crucial to watch the current when you’re diving around blue holes. Go at slack water so you don’t get sucked in!

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You’ll find many schools of fish around blue holes such as these Spade Fish which are the size of dinner plates at the Mystery Cave on Stocking Island.


White Cay Bank Bahamas

The Bahamas have many shallow areas and we have been enjoying navigating these stunning blue waters. Yesterday we poked into the shallows near White Cay in the Southern Exuma Islands. We came in at half tide and rising when there was just 3 feet covering the sand over the entrance.White Cay1
At low tide we took the dinghy ashore to film these amazing shallow waters.
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There is nobody here for and in fact no land either since all this sand submerges at high tide. All footprints will be wiped clean...
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Paul sets up the camera boom to get some higher views...
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Its a wonderful world we live in!
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Masthead view down to the deck - although it looks very shallow it is actually 6 feet deep.
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Here its about 8 feet deep but you can see the shallow water behind us which is the entry channel we came in at.
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Looking onto the banks the height allows you to see the channels and cuts in the sand.
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Sheryl explores!
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Salt Pond, Long Island

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Anchored off the settlement of Salt Pond, Long Island, in Thompson Bay

On Monday May 19/14 we set sail from George Town, Great Exuma, in the Bahamas and headed southeast across the Great Bahama Bank to Salt Pond, Long Island. The forecast had a little north in it for a change so we were looking forward to a nice sail. However it was not to be. The wind slid from NE to SE, then back and forth several times, until it finally settled in from the east. This was pretty much dead on the nose so we ended up motorsailing most of the 35 miles to Salt Pond. Oh well, it helped top up the batteries.

We arrived at Thompson Bay at 4 p.m. and anchored in front of the small settlement at Salt Pond. We have been the only cruising boat in the anchorage since we arrived two days ago but at the height of the season there can be 40 cruising boats anchored here at a time.

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A couple of fishing boats sharing the anchorage with us.

But we have not been not alone. Salt Pond is home to a fishing fleet and there are several fishing boats sharing the anchorage with us. There are also a few of the local island sailing sloops. June 5-7th the Long Island Regatta will be underway and many more sloops from islands all over the Bahamas will arrive to compete and party together.

The Long Island Regatta is the second largest regatta in The Bahamas (after the National Family Island Regatta in Exuma) and takes place over the Bahamian Labour Day Holiday weekend. The regatta is also a time of homecoming since many Long Islanders return home to visit relatives and friends, take in the races, and enjoy delicious local dishes.

Long Island Breeze Resort and Yacht Club on the left next to the town quay.

On advice from other sailors we anchored in Thompson Bay close to the Long Island Breeze Resort and Yacht Club (23º 20'.45 N 075º 07'.40 W) which has one of the best dinghy docks we have ever seen. Mike, who runs the resort is a well-known friend to cruisers. Long Island Breeze has a nice restaurant/bar as well as a patio bar and grill, a fresh water swimming pool, showers, laundry, wi-fi, plus rooms and cottages for rent. (Closed in July and August but if you cruise there in the summer Mike says to give him a call and if he’s around he will make the laundry room, showers, etc. available to you.) Mike will help you rent a car, find supplies, and make sure you to enjoy your visit to Long Island.

We came ashore in the morning to do some advance work for the Long Island episode of the Distant Shores TV series and also to pick up a few groceries. But Mike advised us to wait until later in the day to do our stocking up until after the island mail boat came in on it’s weekly run delivering supplies and fresh produce. It also carries passengers.

The arrival of the weekly mail boat is an important event in the Out Islands of the Bahamas.

Paul and I are planning on coming back for the Long Island Regatta in June. We're just here for a quick visit this week is to do some scouting and make contacts for filming the island's attractions as well as the events of regatta next month. We'll do a lot more exploring then when we come back to film a Distant Shores episode about Long Island. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, we have had fun wandering around Salt Pond.

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The people have a good sense of humour in Salt Pond which is located close to the Tropic of Cancer. Snowmobiling anyone?

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The Salt Pond

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The beach on the ocean side of Salt Pond, Long Island.

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Beautiful rock formations along the beach on the ocean side.

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This weather forecasting apparatus gave us a smile.

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At noon the overhead sun lights up the cave at Grotto Bay.

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The cave at Grotto Bay is like a movie set with vines, tunnels and even bats.

More news...
Check out the recent 59° North Podcast we did with Andy Schell. Also on iTunes.

Registration is now open for SAIL magazine’s “Secrets of the ICW” All-Day Seminar to be held in Annapolis, MD, on October 12/14 from 1000-1600 during the Annapolis Boat Show. Paul and I will be conducting a seminar on Provisioning and Outfitting for the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). Hope to see you there!


Dolphin Dive in George Town Exuma

We have been anchored in George Town on Great Exuma in the Bahamas for a few days now. It feels like coming home! We have been here many times since our first visit in 1990, on our first trip south. It is a great harbour and as always is welcoming, friendly and fun!
This time we had a special treat as we have had a couple of encounters with a dolphin that visited us right in the anchorage!
This is a young female dolphin and she seems to enjoy swimming with us. Two days in a row she swam around the boat and nearby vicinity for over an hour.
She almost seemed to dance, swimming at our very slow human pace - always maintaining a discreet distance of a couple of feet. What an amazing feeling to swim up close to a large marine animal.
Our neighbours have a cute little Schipperke who is quite a good swimmer and really likes swimming with the dolphin as well!
Note this shot from down under the dolphin, you can also see the dog on the surface!

The dolphin came up close and Bella the Schipperke paddled madly along trying to catch up.
Bella is quite good at spotting the dolphin and immediately heads off in her direction.
Bella Dolphin
Getting a bit tired (after swimming for an hour) Bella hitched a ride on her owner’s back, Peter from SV Freebird...
Watch Freebird’s YouTube video showing Bella and the dolphin playing together on another day.

What a special time to have a dolphin come and play! As sailors we know are very lucky to get such experiences!DolphinVCU

Anchored in Dollar Harbour

Dollar Harbour is at the south end of Long Island Bahamas.
Dollar Harbour
Its a bit of a tricky entrance with sand bores to avoid, but once inside there is nice sand in 4 meters depth for snug anchoring. You can see from the Navionics plot above how we are protected by the sandbanks to the north, islands to the east and west and are slightly open to the south. But although there was some surge coming from the southwest, the outer sand banks took care of that too. Calm as a millpond!
Sandbanks around protect us for a lovely sunset.
We were here 7 years ago and filmed for Season 5 of Distant Shores...
When we were here Paul said "this is so remote, no wifi no internet no nothing" (now we have 3G internet so we can post this :-) But there is still not human settlement or sign of civilization. At night it is wonderfully quiet but in the far distance you can see lights of some cottages on Long Island.
Calm night, tomorrow on across the banks towards Exuma.

Ribs purchased in the settlement of Lovely Bay Acklins Island - $6.50
Amazing sunset sky!

Acklins Island - Attwood Harbour

A 1 Mile long Bahamian sugar sand beach... a perfect morning of exploring, shell collecting and an amazing place for a run!

We are coming ashore in the morning for a run! This is Attwood harbour on an uninhabited cay near Acklins Island.
Sheryl explores and collects shells
Heading off for a 2 mile run (down the beach and back)
Barefoot running...

This is the first time I have ever done my run barefoot. There is perfect sand for the whole mile of this amazing beach!


See Distant Shores II in the background. We are the only boat in the bay and no one lives on this cay.

Clearing in to the Bahamas

Anchored in Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana, watching a passing squall

The morning of Friday April 25th dawned bright and sunny with good conditions for our sail from West Caicos in the Turks and Caicos to the island of Mayaguana lying about 50 nm to the NW, our port of entry for the Bahamas.

We had cleared out of Turks and Caicos the afternoon before in Provo (see previous newsletter) so we sailed off the park mooring at West Caicos at 0650 (we like to practice manoeuvres under sail whenever possible) and were soon making 7 kts under mainsail and genoa. We had to sail a little high of our course to keep up our speed since we wanted to get into Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana, in the afternoon with enough time to get anchored, dinghy ashore to clear in, and get a Bahamas sim card for our open iPhone. We wanted to be sure that we had phone and internet communications set up before things shut down for the weekend.

It was a delightful day as we soared along the sapphire blue seas towards the Bahamas, one of our most favourite cruising grounds. We've filmed numerous episodes about destinations in the Bahamas for the Distant Shores TV series over the years. Several years ago we made this same passage and saw humpback whales leaping and fluking so we kept a good lookout in case we might be blessed with another whale sighting but it was not to be.

All that we could see on the horizon were the sails of SV Rufus and Soliel II, two German boats traveling together that we had met earlier in the week in South Caicos. That morning they had set sail from another anchorage, the one on the west end of Providenciales, and were also headed to Mayaguana.

Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana
At around 1130 Paul I shouted “Land Ho!” as Southeast Point, Mayaguana, rose up on the horizon and by 1430 we were winding our way past the reefs and coral heads into the anchorage at Abraham's Bay. It was half tide and rising. The water is a pallet of multiple shades of blue in this large bay which is protected by barrier reefs. It is quite shallow close to shore so you need to anchor a little way out from the government dock where you can tie up your dinghy with the local skiffs.

Clearing in to the Bahamas
From the dinghy dock and public beach you walk up the road for about 5 minutes and just before reaching the small settlement you come upon a cluster of small yellow buildings where you'll find Customs and Immigration, the Post Office and the BTC Bahamas phone office. Very convenient! While I cleared us in with Customs and Immigration, Paul went to the phone centre to get a Bahamas sim card and data plan for our open phone so we would have a local Bahamas phone number and internet while traveling through the islands.

Clearing in to the Bahamas is quite expensive at $300 US for boats 31 feet and over. It's $150 for boats 30 feet and under. Distant Shores II is 49 feet. (The Bahamian dollar is tied directly to the US dollar and both currencies are used.) However if you consider that the Bahama island chain is similar in size to the whole Caribbean island chain where you are clearing in and out of numerous countries and colonies and paying for numerous cruising permits, it is a little easier to understand.

The cruising permit for the Bahamas is valid for two entries during a 90-day period and the fee includes government taxes, a fishing permit and the departure taxes for 3 people. Each additional person is charged $20 departure tax. At the Mayaguana office THEY ONLY TAKE CASH and there is no bank or ATM on the island. In fact, there is no bank or ATM until you get to George Town, Great Exuma, a few days sail away so it is very important to arrive with enough cash to clear in and cover your costs for any groceries (very basic supplies available so stock up ahead) or bar/restaurants in the small settlements you'll want to stop at on the way north. Credit cards are rarely accepted in the small remote villages of the Far Out Islands of the Bahamas so carry sufficient cash for all your needs when in these islands.

For more information about boats entering/exiting the Bahamas see the government website .

Communications in the Bahamas - Phone and Internet
Our very first trip to the Bahamas was in 1989/90 and to make a telephone call you had to line up at the local Batelco office where they assigned you a booth and you made your call from there. How things have changed!

Now at the local BTC Bahamas office which is found in just about every settlement no matter how remote, you can purchase a local pay-as-you-go sim card for your open phone so that you have a local phone number (goodbye roaming rates) and top it up as you go along. In April 2014 this was $15 US.

You can also add a data plan so that your phone acts as a personal hot spot so that you have internet access whenever you are in range of a tower. These large towers are found on all settled islands and we find that the range for internet is about 12-14 miles. The phone then acts as a modem for connecting other devices you have onboard to the internet too such as laptops, tablets, etc. We purchased a plan for 2 GB for a month, regularly $30 but on sale for $15 as an April special. It’s very fast and reliable service. You can top-up online on which is very convenient.

If you’re not interested in such plans, just up the road at the main crossroads of the settlement is a bar called Big Reg’s where for the purchase of a drink you can connect to the very fast wi-fi there.

We meet up with Yule Charlton at Big Reg’s Bar on our return to Mayaguana

Local Friends
We have visited Mayaguana twice before on various voyages through the Bahamas over the years and filmed there for the Distant Shores sailing TV series for Distant Shores season 5 “Mayaguana” and Distant Shores season 6 “Voyage to Eleuthera”. As a result we know a few local people here now and it was good to reconnect.

We stayed two nights in Mayaguana and concluded this year's visit with a lovely potluck BBQ with our German sailing friends, Heidi and Klaus of “Soleil II” and with Marion and Harold aboard their beautiful Lagoon 410 “Rufus”.

The next day we sailed on to explore more Far Out Islands of the Bahamas which we'll tell you about in the next newsletter.

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Passage from Bahamas to Antigua for Christmas

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