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“There are days when solitude is a heady wine.” Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

The Abacos are one of the Bahamas most social cruising grounds.  We know vessels who spend months moored in Hopetown, a popular gathering spot.  Moorings, the bare-boat charter company, has its base in Marsh Harbor a short sail from Hopetown.  We understand why.  Within the Abacos’ protective outer reefs numerous small towns offer their version of conch salads and rum punch all within a couple hour sail of one another.  The VHF radio and cruisers net crackles with vessels planning their on-shore rendezvous.  By early May when we arrived, however, our Bahama clock was running down as other priorities pulled us north.  Thus, we generally eschewed socializing and shore for quiet anchorages as we moved steadily towards Grand Sale Cay to position ourselves for our return to the United States.  Grand and Little Sale Cays, our last two Bahamian anchorages, afforded two more nights of solitude.  Watching sun dogs paint the sky after an afternoon of snorkeling while lazily cleaning Elizabeth Jean’s hull, Eric wrote in the log “it is crazy to stop cruising.”

The above chart depicts the Abacos in relationship to Grand Bahama (where we began our Bahama visit in February at West End).  Grand Sale Cay, one of our last anchorages three months later, is immediately to the right of its label on the chart.  Grand Sale is approximately 100  nautical miles from West Palm Beach Florida.

Light refracting through ice crystals form sun dogs, or are they just magic?

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“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach” Tony Robbins

While we get little sympathy when we say it, cruising life can be exhausting. One thing that contributes to this exhaustion is the sheer number of decisions we must make. A case in point: our 50 nautical mile passage from Spanish Wells off Eleuthera to Little Harbor, on Grand Abaco.  As is common, we faced a weather window.  A couple of days between fronts would provide relatively calm weather to move.  Two factors complicated our decision, however.  First, the forecast included thunderstorms with high winds and lightning.  A lightning strike could render our electronic systems, including navigation, useless.  Second, extreme currents, called Rages, at times made impassable the entrance from the Atlantic Ocean to the protected waters inside the Abaco island chain.  If we mistimed the currents we could be stuck overnight outside the entrance waiting for the next tide.  The delay could bump us into the lightning storm time frame.  Just as we were comfortable with our calculations and casting off from our dock, a new vessel arrived with bad news.  They were planning a similar passage and had poked their bow out into the passage, only to conclude the conditions were too rough.  After considering our options, we decided to venture out.  We too concluded to wait a day or two to make the passage and tucked up behind a small island where we could watch the squall while riding at anchor in relative comfort.  Winds topping 28 knots drove rain past Elizabeth Jean as lightning knitted the skies above Spanish Wells.  Two days later,  the front gone, our faithful Perkins chugged the fifty miles on placid Atlantic waters and Elizabeth Jean entered Little Harbor Cut on a favorable tide without incident.  Our Abaco exploration was about to begin.

 

 

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Albatross on stingray

The Bahamas clear water provided many opportunities to view sting rays.

The stingray symbolizes sensitivity, restrain, protection and maneuverability.  Stingrays have a heightened sense of touch and the ability to pick up on the energy of others.

Stingrays blend into their surroundings on the ocean floor and are not aggressive unless provoked. When they feel threatened; they use a poisonous barb to defend themselves.

Stingrays go to great lengths to camouflage and avoid conflict, but will defend themselves when necessary.

When a stingray crosses your path

Stingrays may be telling you to not overreact to your emotions, to calm down and wait before reacting. Stingrays maneuver themselves quite well despite their size and shape and they tell us to also carefully maneuver the complex emotional waters of our inner world.

Balance and restraint are strong themes of this totem animal. When it appears to you; consider your actions carefully and allow your intuition to guide you rather than raw emotion.

Stingray Dream Symbolism

Stingrays in dreams represent your emotions and how you may be hiding them from others. A calm dream suggests maneuvering a challenge in your life with ease and grace. An aggressive dream means you may be reacting to your emotions, rather than using careful deliberation in your approach, which could be costly.

 

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“How do we live well in a place?” The Island School

Elizabeth Jean’s crew were early converts to the power of experiential learning. In sixth grade, at the instruction of her teacher Mr. Kolb, Lal brought home a muskrat skull and boiled it clean. Her love for hands-on biology dates from that early lesson. Eric’s mother, the Muz, cofounded the Junior Museum, an early form of the “do-touch” school of learning, which became Eric’s second home. In the intervening years, Echo Hill, Outward Bound, NOLS, and Salish Sea Expeditions variously fed Lal or Eric’s experiential learning jones. Thus, Eleuthera’s Island School, an experiential learning center on steroids, became a pilgrimage of sorts for our island visit.  Our half day tour of the school’s campus introduced us to the ways that it seeks to answer the central question it poses to its students” “How do we live well in a place?”

The Island School begins its quest for living well in a place by providing a spectacular place in which to be immersed.   Reef ecology and boat-based exploration are part of the curriculum.  Each course, whether in the science or humanities, includes a field component.

Modeling sustainability is central to the school’s mission.

Bicycles provide student transportation.

Recycled bottles provide light portals to this shop building.

To fuel the school’s motor vehicles it operates its own biodiesel facility.

Samuel, a former student turned biodiesel plant operator explains the its operation.  The green containers, filled with used vegetable oil, come from cruise ships visiting Eleuthera.  The school also works with local restaurants to obtain its crude inventory.

When we say “crude” we mean crude.  This bucket contains the used oil in all its unrefined beauty.

The refined product looks good enough to drink, but don’t.

The associated Cape Eleuthera Institute includes a hydroponic agriculture lab.

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“Eleutheria the bells are ringing” Lenny Kravitz

Upon our return to Nassau, we set our course for Eleuthera, 60 miles to the Northeast of New Providence Island. Upon arrival, we secured Elizabeth Jean at a marina in Spanish Wells and rented a car for a land tour to Eleuthera’s southwest corner. There, we enjoyed a guided tour of the inspirational Island School.  That evening near Gregory Town we enjoyed, dinner and lodging at the Surfers’ Manor.  We completed our whirlwind tour on Harbor Island, once the Bahama’s capitol.

Albatross outdid himself on this view of New Providence Island and the Exuma’s (to the picture’s left) and Eleuthera, the slender land mass to the picture’s right.  The image captures the shoal waters on Eleuthera’s western shore.

We sailed into Spanish Wells in the north east part of the island group and rented a car which we used to travel to Eleuthera’s southern tips.


Spanish Wells is home to the most productive Bahamas’ lobster fishing fleet.

The Island School, located on Eleuthera’s southern tip, teaches sustainability to high school children from  around the world.  Stay tuned for a more detailed post on the Island School.


Harbor Island’s waterfront boasts many well maintained colonial era houses.

Captain Lal with a vintage Harbor Island runabout overlooking the pink sand beach.

Lenny Kravitz, who spent much time in Eleuthera, sings about the island at the link below.

 

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“A new voyage will fill your life with untold memories” Chinese fortune cookie

Elizabeth Jean‘s crew believes in signs of all kinds, particularly the affirming ones. Thus, we were heartened when Eric opened his fortune cookie this March at a dinner with our friends the Ferrons at the conclusion of their Nassau visit. Among other things, we had shared with them our decision to conclude this sailing adventure in Chesapeake Bay later this year. The details of our “new [metaphorical] voyage” are still coming into focus. We hope that the new voyage, as has been the case with Elizabeth Jean‘s, will fill our life with “untold memories.” At a minimum, our decision heightens our appreciation of our remaining Bahamian visit and last summer of cruising.

A good omen of things to come.

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Radio check

Cruisers often wonder whether their VHF radio communications are still reaching the outside world.  At such times they will ask for a radio check and wait to hear back from those reached by their signal.  For some reason we recently lost our ability to publish these posts through Face Book.  I have refreshed the connection and would welcome hearing from those who receive our posts through Face Book that we are once again connected.  Comment or “Like” if you have received this post.

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“Hava Nagila” Traditional Hebrew Folk Song

“Let us rejoice” proclaims Hava Nagila. While Elizabeth Jean is not short of reasons to heed this message, her crew added yet another in late April when we flew from Nassau to Washington D.C. to celebrate our niece Sophie’s Bat Mitzvah.

Sophie, enjoying the traditional chair dance.  Her father Neil is supporting his daughter (and the chair) in the picture’s far left.  Kate, Sophie’s mom, is smiling brightly to the chair’s right.

Neil taking his turn in the chair.

For a rousing chorus of Hava Nagila, by Bahamas’ native son Harry Belafonte and Danny Kay click the link below.

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“We came for two weeks and stayed for fifteen years” Pam on SV Dejarlo

Almost every morning for the 27 days Elizabeth Jean rested and played in Elizabeth Harbor, Pam on Dejarlo would moderate the 8:00 cruisers’ net, the forum for sharing news and information for the Harbor and the greater George Town area.  Almost every day she would note the magnetic hold that the harbor held on her and her husband, Oliver.  It was easy to see why.  The cruisers’ net provided a menu of activities from beach volleyball, to water aerobics.  Painting sunset scenes on coconuts? Yep, you could do that too.  Bonfire socials and snorkeling with the resident reef expert?  Roger, roger.   Just listen to the cruisers’ net and then sample from the cruiser friendly smorgasbord.  During our time in Elizabeth Harbor, Elizabeth Jean rested safely through gale force winds at a dock and on a mooring.  In calmer weather, Elizabeth Jean enjoyed an array of pleasant anchorages that provided ready access to stunning beach walks, excellent snorkeling, free reverse osmosis water and restaurants, stores and shops.  The George Town International Airport provided easy access for daughter Jean and her fiancé, Max’s visit.  As a cruising cross roads, we also ran into Adam Hauck, one of Lal’s fellow captains in Seattle and Jupiter’s Smile, a sailboat we met our first season in Mexico and who we had not seen or heard from in more than three years.  As  Elizabeth Jean, headed north up the Exuma chain towards Nassau, only the encouragement of excellent sailing on the protected Exuma Bank, eased Elizabeth Harbor’s enticing embrace.

Elizabeth Harbor, home to Georgetown, is in the lower right hand corner.

Albatross-eye-view of Elizabeth Harbor.  Elizabeth Jean spent time at the marina in the upper left hand corner of the photo and at anchorages throughout the Harbor.  At the height of the season as many as 400 boats were anchored in the Harbor.

Elizabeth Jean is secure at the third dock from the left.  She is the brown masted vessel just right of center obscured by a sailboat with a blue sail cover.  We arrived in Elizabeth Harbor just ahead of a gale and weathered the storm at the dock.

AJ making conch salad at the Peace and Plenty, a very cruiser friendly hotel and restaurant.  He is dicing a piece of conch and another piece is to the right of his hand.  Citrus juices, onions and peppers complete the simple dish.

Just one of the beautiful beaches on the harbor side.

A beach walk on the more turbulent Exuma Sound side.

The mooring field where we left Elizabeth Jean for a short visit to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Jean and Max joined us for a week.

Max goes up to help restring our courtesy flag halyard which had frayed in the heavy winds.

Photo credit: SV Spiraserpula.  Elizabeth Harbor has an abundance of good snorkeling sites.  The numbers on this picture were provided by Gayle on SV Spiraserpula.  Gayle and her husband, Bill, are retired marine biologists who live on their catamaran, named for a marine worm named for Gayle.  One morning on the cruisers’ net Gayle announced she would be snorkeling at a reef near our location.  She invited anyone who wanted a reef ecosystem tour to swim on over.  Eric was the only taker and enjoyed one on one instruction with the local expert.  For more about Spiraserpula and local snorkeling see:

http://cruisingbiologists.com/

Anchor lights in Elizabeth Harbor the night before Elizabeth Jean departs for Nassau.

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Third Treasure: Warderick Wells Sperm Whale Skeleton

This sperm whale died from ingesting a plastic bag, as Marion Vokey correctly answered.  The skeleton is at Powerful Beach on Warderick Wells, the Island Headquarters for the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  The park is a no catch zone and the snorkeling is particularly good as a result.  Many of the reefs are in less than fifteen feet of water and have abundant and varied fish species.

Albatross-eye-view of Warderick Wells.  The park has mooring balls that make accessing the park for hiking and snorkeling particularly easy.

Thanks to those intrepid treasure hunters who participated in our Exuma exploration!

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