Don’t You Die On Me, Jacket! – Corrosion Hits

There are countless struggles living on a boat. On the surface, it seems so serene, picturesque, adventurous yet this image is blown to pieces with the simplest scrutinizing eye. I’ve found the lifestyle to be chiefly about maintenance, maintenance, and maintenance. Maintaining the rigging, the engine, the woodwork, the deck, the dinghy, the interior, the toilet, the shower pump, the bilge pump, the bilge pump float switch, the food onboard, the water, the batteries, the gaskets to the tank water, the gaskets on everything really…. need I go on?

When we left Boston for our year of cruising, we left with jackets, sweaters, pants, even wool socks until we managed to sail to a latitude where shorts and swimsuits were more appropriate. Once our dreams of coconuts and palm trees were realized we threw the bulky warm layers into ‘the depths’, aka storage lockers that require muscle sweat and perseverance to reach. In one excursion to retrieve a random item, I saw our jackets and took notice to the zipper. The friggin ZIPPER!

In a panic, I unearthed all jackets and sweaters wth zippers. All of our jackets had metal zippers… CORRODED metal zippers. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this. I’ve  had perfectly well working duffel bags & coats trashed because they were sealed shut by the evils of corrosion. Only the slash of a knife or if you’re lucky pliers could open it.

“Corrosion is a natural process, …the gradual destruction of materials (usually metals) by chemical and/or electrochemical reaction with their environment.” Commonly it is seen in the form of electrochemical oxidation.

Here are some ways to combat corroding zippers….

  1.  Chip away/remove the surrounding, what I call, “corrosion-dust”.
  2. Use pliers to gently move the zipper
  3. Apply lubricant to the zipper & teeth of the zipper – WD40, Zip Tech Zipper Lubricant, candle, beeswax, & a last ditch idea – bar of soap…

Mike and I were able to salvage most of our coats, but there are a number of pocket zippers that no longer have zippers and are permanently open… :(  But if you’re really desperate to get the zippers working again… try Coca Cola – corrodes everything else…….

For me, living on the water, I find zipped pockets to be invaluable in keeping my wallet, keys, and phone safe inside my jacket as opposed to inside the ocean.


This could be the end of the post… but I have a curious mind…. I’m an econ-nerd by virtue and finance major on paper and over the past 5 years on boats…. I’ve become more of an engineer and learning how things work has become a cost and a joy of ‘liveaboard life’.

Disclaimer: The below is explained from a business major (if my memory serves me right I think I got a C+ in High School Chemistry).

Corrosion is the chemical change that can undermine the functionality of a metal (anchor chain/shackles/stays & shrouds etc).

Very Brief & Basic Overview:

If we take a closer look at steel, the main component is Iron (Fe). In iron’s corrosion process, electrons are lost and it becomes positively charged bonding to other atoms. This is where oxygen plays a key roll. In the example of water, where oxygen is abundant and easily shared, Fe (iron) takes on a new name…. Iron Hydroxide. The process of electrons being passed around in a soup of iron hydroxide, water, and oxygen provides the fuel for brown rust, hydrated iron oxide.

I found a great website that goes into depth about the different types of corrosion

But for simplicity I’ll briefly underline them here (the first 4 being the more common forms on boats)

  1. Uniform Attack – most common – “chemical or electrochemical reaction which proceeds uniformly over the entire exposed surface or over a large area”
  2. Galvanic – where two dissimilar metals in contact with one another – don’t play nice together ” The less resistant metal becomes anodic and the more resistant metal cathodic” – cathode side  tends to deteriorate less. For example stainless steel screw in an aluminum mast – be sure to use anti-corrosive lubricant or the stainless steel screw will be moderately effected. Whereas an aluminum screw in a stainless steel fitting in water will corrode the screw faster.
  3. Crevice – Localized corrosion, think stainless steel in a small confined area.
  4. Pitting – extremely localized that leaves holes
  5. Intergranular – “Grain boundary effects are of little or no consequence in most applications or uses of metals. If a metal corrodes, uniform attack results since grain boundaries are usually only slightly more reactive than the matrix.”
  6. Selective Leaching – “Selective leaching is the removal of one element from a solid alloy by corrosion processes. The most common example is the selective removal of zinc in brass alloys (dezincification).”
  7. Erosion – “Erosion corrosion is the acceleration or increase in rate of deterioration or attack on a metal because of relative movement between a corrosive fluid and the metal surface.”
  8. Stress Corrosion Cracking – “Stress-corrosion cracking refers to cracking caused by the simultaneous presence of tensile stress and a specific corrosive medium. “

On a related tangent, we’ve both recently noticed light rusting on our anchor chain… so I’m currently looking into the corrosion of the anchor chains. Mike has heard its expensive to re-galvanize the chain and easier to submit to buying a completely new chain… but we bought our anchor chain about 2 maybe 3 years ago which seems disturbingly soon to see corrosion. But then again… we’ve been anchored almost every day since… last September (& the ICW water is brown heavy with tannic acid). Anyway…. that’ll be another post for another time and hopefully an inexpensive fix – fingers crossed.

Great Abaco part IV – Goodbye Bahamas You’ve Been Swell

We began our sail from Green Turtle to Allans Cay with beautiful wind and sunny skies. A rain storm came through and Mike took a few shots of me sailing in 25-30 knots. A bit intimidating at first but once you get your bearings, it’s all about minding your p’s & q’s, don’t cross the streams, keeping your eye on the ball…. paying attention.

DSC_0880 DSC_0879 DSC_0881 shorts and foul weather jacket.

Allans Cay was intriguing but the wind was a bit strong and we had our focus on getting home to the US at this point and less on exploring.

We had a truly beautiful last day sail in the Bahamas. Couldn’t have asked for better weather. Strong consistent downwind, sun with light puffy clouds, minimal waves… sigh… I’m going to miss this.


There were 4 other sailboats at Great Sale. The weather windows for crossing had been few and far between with the recent uprising of squalls so we weren’t surprised to see so many others staging for a crossing. Our last Bahamian sunset, probably for a very long while.


At 6:30 AM we listened to Chris Parker the next morning. Squalls in the northern Bahamas were diminishing today but down by Georgetown and Turks & Caicos told another story completely. Ongoing squalls throughout the day with gusts in the squalls up to 45 knots. Yikes, no thanks. Our wind forecast for the next 48 hours looked like it had weakened overnight unfortunately. Our sail was looking more like a motor with each weather update.

We had 120 nautical miles to cover from Great Sale to Fort Pierce Florida. And we did it in 21 hours.

The first 50 miles are in the outstretched Bahama bank with depths between 12-18 feet. Once you cross outside of the banks, open ocean takes over – sea monsters thrive, mast crushing waves pace the wild seas, and cargo ships are blindly roaring up and down the gulf stream. But it’s okay, we’ve got this, we’ve traveled the open ocean before and crossed the gulf stream once…. Really, we were set up for another run of the mill overnight. We watched the weather like a hawk a week in advance, we checked the boat over – oil checks, cleaned haul, rigging was good and we had a benign weather window. Nothing to fear but fear itself.

The next 70 miles include a 30 mile spread where we’ll cross the gulf stream and grab a 2-4 knot boost northward. We left at 2:00 PM and had a great 8 hour sail. Around 10 pm large oncoming storm clouds worried Mike (who had first watch). The wind became light and inconsistent and Gaia acted more like a cork in a bathtub being swayed back and forth rather than a sailboat cutting through waves with a purpose. Mike took down the sail and thus began the motor portion of our passage. I took over for the next four hours and I don’t recall it being particularly fun. We now entered the gulf stream and the ‘washer machine affect’ was in full swing waves sloshed from two different directions rocking us back and forth uncomfortably. I saw 3 or so cargo ships and a couple of sailboats taking the gulf stream North. Around 5 AM Mike took over again and brought us into Fort Pierce. I warily watched, having not actually slept during my downtime. It was beautiful but it definitely had a distinct American feel to it; large buildings and abundance of cars and hotels…all the amenities you could ask for and more.

We were back in the United States. Hey We Were Back!

Goodbye Bahamas – Goodbye Caribbean

We took a risk. We uplifted our lives in search for something new for different and wild places. We experienced everything from the surreal and eye opening unexpected experiences to the horrendous and brutal seconds that went on for days of discomfort. It is with a deep and heavy heart I leave the Bahamas, for me, our departure of the Bahamas recognizes the end of our Caribbean adventure. And what an adventure it’s been. We’re so grateful to have danced under the stars with friends new and old, to have explored both deserted and beautifully populated islands with new and beautiful customs. The food could have been better but what are you gonna do :) . We both have a new found respect for the environment and complicated infrastructures that allow for necessities like potable water, waste management, and transporting goods. The Caribbean is a vast and changing nook in the world, it’s definitely changed me and I hope we can share our experiences in how we live and what we do going forward. Thank you Bahamas for the all palm trees, white sand beaches, the wild life conservancy agencies, and thanks for all that clear water and fish.

Great Abaco part III – There’s A First For Everything

We made the simple motor to Great Guana Cay where we anchored next to a 36 foot Pearson. A father and two young daughters pulled over on their dinghy and we chatted about our shared bondage to a Pearson sailing vessel. Turns out they are a family of four vacationing through the Abacos for two weeks. We made loose plans to meet up on land for a drink.

We took the dinghy to shore and entered the famous bar Grabbers. I immediately loved it; palm trees, hammocks, the ring game, and other beach games scattered about the premise. We decided to continue onward to the infamous Nippers bar and to see the sights of the island. The island was simple and beautiful, streets and dirt paths were mainly ran by golf carts. Along a dirt path, we passed a rusting tractor, where it appeared a bunch of 8 year olds had taken it upon themselves to beautify. At Nippers we had the infamous ‘Frozen Nipper’. It was good and packed an equally potent punch. The view of the beach was astounding but the bar … well it had an odd funk to it…so we returned to the polished bar of Grabbers and had overpriced drinks that knocked my socks off (if I had socks).

IMG_8229 IMG_8236IMG_8245 IMG_8252 IMG_8253

On our return to Grabbers we bumped into the vacationing family on the sister Pearson. We ended up having a round of drinks with the couple while the two young kids played on the beach. They were a fun couple and we planned the next few anchorages together.

DSC_0821The following day we anchored on the northern point of Great Guana where we snorkeled some amazing coral beds and hunted for our nassau grouper… we had no luck in hunting. At least the motor over was beautiful.

From Great Guana we passed Whales Tail Cay and ‘Don’t Rock‘ as in literally, do not rock the rock….. at low tide you can see how precariously balanced the rock appears to boaters.


Green Turtle Cay has two harbors Black and White. White Sound Harbor is home to New Providence, a loyalist town, and scattered stores along old narrow streets. We anchored in Black Sound Harbor which really only has two places to visit via dinghy, a marina in the SW side, and another marina on the NE each with their own respective bars. The first night we went out for drinks with the family on the Pearson at the NE Green Turtle Marina. The bar inside the marina restaurant made me step back a little when I first entered. Every square inch is covered in US & Bahamian green-turtle-dine-bar1 dollar bills, signed or drawn on by a black sharpie. The patriotic economist in me cringed. I know it’s not illegal to write on a US dollar bill but it is illegal to deface or destroy it…. and … aren’t you destroying it by purposefully taking legal tender out of circulation and scribbling ‘I rule’ all over it in block letters….shouldn’t the only signature on that dollar be the Secretary of Treasury? Okay, okay, I’m done being a kill joy…. aside from those complaints, I thought it was really cool inside. Outside of the bar a Bahamian band played that had been practicing together for 30 years. We all danced and met other cruisers. It was a beautiful night.

The next day was a bit rainy so we stayed locked up on Gaia, I did make a dinghy ride over to our friends on the Pearson. It was their daughters birthday and I had vanilla frosting on board and some left over wedding bubbles. I decided to put them to better use and gave them to the Birthday girl and her Mom. Later that day we also had cake. :) Yum!

The First Time We Dragged

The weather wasn’t terribly great to move onward so we stayed in Black Sound harbor for another day. It was that day a great storm front passed. In the afternoon we watched as the dark clouds moved over, then the strengthening wind and downpour of rain. As conditions worsened we watched under the dodger as other boats dragged, picked up anchor and tried anchoring again and again in the strong winds. One by one we saw the boats retreat to mooring balls. We, thankfully stayed put through their ordeal and even opened a couple of beers, commenting on the fact that we haven’t dragged EVER – we should have knocked on wood, our hubris got the last laugh. We were down below when we heard a loud whistle. Curious we both poked our heads up…. Gaia was jack-knifing … moving parallel to the wind instead of nose first, a key trait of dragging. Mike moved quick to turn on the engine and got behind the helm as I moved forward, glancing at the wind indicator, which read 34 knots. We tried 3-4 times to anchor each time more difficult than the last. I began shaking uncontrollably from exposure to the wind and rain so I ran back and took care of the helm and put a jacket on. Mike took his luck in getting the anchor stuck in the mud as I found out how difficult it was to keep the boats nose into the wind. I saw the wind peak at 38 knots and thankfully the storm broke soon after. We were able to anchor in 15 knots and rest for the afternoon. What we believe to have happened was the mud and weeds will hold but only up to a certain point. It was a difficult anchorage to be in for a storm that’s for sure.


Great Abacos part II – Spilligate

Our spree of squall-ish days continued and we motored around the inner shallows of the Abaco Sound to Hope Town, Elbow Cay. En route Mike enjoyed programming down below as I, coated in foul weather gear, sang songs as loud as I wanted in the intermittent rain showers, I was in the zone. After a few hours he poked his head up and asked if I wanted a break, I smiled and told him to go back below, I wanted to keep singing in the rain. The sun finally began peeking out as we crept into Hope Town. Reviews of this harbor reported people running aground at depths of 4 feet near low tide…. For us, there was one worrisome instance where some skippy-little powerboat hogged the channel and we saw the depth sounder go from 4.7 to 4.0 to 3.7 (our aground depth) to 2.0 to 25 to 17. This indicated we muddled the bottom enough to confuse our depth sounder. Thankfully, we were able to power through the muck with no issue.

We were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and take in the quaint harbor once we secured Gaia to a mooring ball.

IMG_8182 IMG_8187

DSC_0795 DSC_0796

We walked around town where bikes controlled the streets and every summer home seemed to be decorated by Martha Stewart….We admired the beaches and crashing waves and took in the midday sun and greenery. One of the small plots of land was a cemetery with a sobering past. The cemetery marks the resting place for over 100 residence who died in the 1850 Cholera epidemic.

IMG_8196 IMG_8190 IMG_8193IMG_8192

We later went out to enjoy the nightlife and started at, bizarrely enough, a pizza and wine place….very unique  to the rest of the island and welcoming. We quickly began talking to the bartender and a local who was building a house around the corner. We learned that Abaco pine is extraordinarily dense. This also explains why we see so many homes built out of wood instead of stone and concrete. I learned from Bermuda that islands in hurricane locations build stone homes since it holds up stronger in the stormy weather and because pine is not as abundant. In the Bahamas there are four islands that still maintain and export pine: Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and New Providence. We continued to chat to the two locals who confirmed, everyone who lived on this island ‘are good folk’. After a glass of wine, we continued back to the main drag and had a blast at a bar where happy hour is from 12 to 12 and a live band kept rocking the house song after song. We danced to Wagon Wheel and chatted with the crew of a catamaran all night.

We also learned a few Bahamian phrases… thought I’d share a few:

Well Muddo! – exclamation of surprise

Spilligate – to go out and have fun

Kerpunkle – drunk

What da wybe is – what’s up

We spent longer than we thought in Hope Town, after all it had everything we were looking for, fun environment, cute town, friendly folks, and of course a coffee shop.

Marsh Habor, Great Abaco is located just across the Abaco Sound on mainland Great Abaco. It was our first introduction to traffic lights and multiple cars on the road since….. I can’t remember the last time I saw a traffic light to be honest, December in Bermuda perhaps? We were really hoping to get engine oil in one of the marine/car stores. When we found out the engine oil was $55 / bottle and it wasn’t even the brand we wanted… we kicked ourselves in the butt ….. again. We eventually sucked up the price and bought 3 jugs worth of oil. It was hot and we did boat work, we didn’t particularly like Marsh Harbor…. except for the grocery store….. the grocery store was amazing!

Great Abacos part I – Little Harbor & Sandy Cay

In the Bahamas, we became accustomed to infrequent and expensive grocery stores; restaurants which required a phone call in advance so someone could open the restaurant and catch food; secluded anchorages, and scant strangers. The Spanish Wells and the outer banks of Great Abaco were loyalist enclaves that have now been seemingly taken over by Floridians. For us, it was a stark contrast to the rest of the Bahamas. And all it took was an 8 hour sail from Eleuthera to Great Abaco. That’s exploring for you, traveling to new places, you find new experiences, people, and food you sometimes didn’t expect to see, meet, or eat (hopefully in that order).

Little Harbor – Southern Abaco

We anchored outside of Little Harbor, which is a shallow inlet to a protected little harbor. The dinghy ride into Pete’s Pub and Gallery is speckled with numerous green turtles. We even spotted the same colorful catamaran we saw in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. I took the sighting as a providential sign of good things to come, after all Guadeloupe was amazing.


IMG_8174We tied the dinghy to a piling on the beach and walked in barefoot to the open-aired bar. The ceiling was completely dressed in T-shirts stapled to the frame from undoubtedly rowdy, adventurous, and lively travelers. We meandered the sandy-floored bar and strolled over to the boardwalk which lead to a beautiful seaside beach. The bar was a bit dead at 5:00 so we were thinking of heading back. Until – a few sport fisherman wandered to the bar. We began to talk and suddenly, one of the men asked us out of the blue if we’d like a big grouper. Mike and I (stress on just Mike) have been attempting to spearfish – specifically hoping to get a grouper. We both laughed and said ‘hell yeah!’. We thought he was joking. He came back with another guy and asked, if we really did want IMG_8175their ‘excess’ catch of the day… We thought it through, we had a fridge, sure we could keep a fish. He had a deckhand wheel it on over. Within minutes, there was a guy and a wheelbarrow and the biggest dead fish I’d ever seen (42 pounds). The son of the skipper caught the mystic grouper at a depth of a thousand feet using an electric powered reel. They left it in the bin for us to take…. now what. The entry of this giant fish
gathered a few locals who told us they know people who could help us gut the beast on the dock here and share in the meat. I couldn’t think of a better scenario. Mike went off to grab the chef who was on a boat in the harbor and I stayed next to ‘little beastie’. I got to talking with one woman and her daughter who were so kind and entertaining. She came back and took the cart saying, why wait for the chef, I’ll gut the fish for you now. Impressed, I said why not. She wheeled the fish to the end of the pier and I found out she grew up on a trimaran here in this very harbor. She knew everyone there was to know and talked me through gutting a grouper. Mike eventually arrived and we both got a lesson on the technique of gutting. As we watched, other locals came in and began carving at the head, discarding bits and pieces to the sharks below. The community that gathered around were so wonderful, we had a mini impromptu afternoon fish gutting party.


Old lighthouse

The locals told us of the amazing history of Pete’s Pub and Gallery. It begins with Randolph & Margot Johnston. They moved onto their schooner, The Langosta, with their children Marina, Bill, Pete, and Denny. In 1950, they sailed off in search of an island and new home, escaping the ‘megamachine’. They found Little Harbor which had little more than a thatched hut at the time. On the North edge of the harbor is a soccer field sized cave, this is where they made a home. Along with the bats and the crabs, the family built a home in paradise. Pete grew to be an artist and opened Pete’s Pub where tourists come for afternoon libations to this day.

We returned back to the boat with a healthy amount of fresh fish and cooked it. Just as dinner came to a close a harrowing wind swept through the anchorage. We checked our GPS and surroundings, we were in good holding but our neighbors…. well it appeared as if our neighbors had conjured the flames of hell on their stern! Not kidding. They must have left the cover of their grill open and the embers had turned to a full grown flame. Our neighbors stern moved and rocked with the pounding waves and whistling wind. A ray of light illuminated someone on the bow trying in vain to get more scope out on their anchor (scope is the amount of chain you have on your anchor; more chain = a safer holding) – poor souls. We looked over to the neighbor anchorage, where the sport fisherman were anchored. It appeared their powerboat and a nearby catamaran were both dragging. We watched the show continue until the wind decreased to moderate strengths.

The following day we ended up motoring to Sandy Cay for what we heard was an excellent snorkel spot. Just before slack tide we dinghy’d around the point, secured the dinghy to a mooring ball, and dove in. The sky was becoming overcast and visibility was a bit murky, probably due to the recent tumultuous weather. Despite the strong current, we enjoyed the beautiful coral reef. We didn’t last very long, which worked in our favor; we made it back to Gaia just before another torrent of rain began.

.DSC_0758 DSC_0761

Bahama Scheming, How The Spanish Wells & Abacos Won

Bahama Scheming: Berry & Bimini or Great Abaco…

From The Exumas we were itching to head back home towards Boston. It’s been about 9 months of sailing and exploring many many islands so the idea of sailing West (WNW) to Nassau, the Berry Islands, and Bimini then visiting the Abacos was too aggressive of a touring plan for us. It boiled down to do we sail to the Berry Islands or the Abacos. By sailing to the Abacos, we’d be furthering our distance North and it’d be in beautiful Bahamian waters. It also meant missing out on Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and my beloved Bimini. On the other hand, Mike had been through that area and we’ve both visited Miami. For us, the best decision was northbound or bust.  (And since I’m part economist….on the other hand, we’d land in Fort Pierce from The Abacos instead of Miami from Bimini, a 120 mile gain on the FL coast or about 3 days of motoring.)

karte-8-804We had a beautiful flat sail from Sail Rock off the northern-most point of the Exumas, through the cut in northern Eleuthera, and straight to a small island to the west of mainland Eleuthera called St. George aka Spanish Wells. Worth mentioning is Current Cut, which we used, can be a harrowing ordeal if timed incorrectly. Tides tend to have about an hour lag from those posted in Nassau. For the greatest ease, aim for slack tide. If you cross during the right max ebb/max flood, you could gain as much as a 6 knot boost! Hit it at the wrong time, that canal just might shoot you back out like a bad bottle of rum…  ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin


Weathered posts in front of the Current Cut. Watch out for the 6 knots of current.

Brief History of the Bahamas

As we’ve traveled from Dominica up to the Virgin Islands and over through the Bahamas, it’s been interesting to learn the web of history different islands have witnessed. The Bahamas share a similar history that start from the Indian tribes taking to the lands and making it their home and transitioning to colonizers entering the picture.

Around 500-800, the Tainos used their dugout canoes and made the crossing from Hispaniola (the DR/Haiti) into what we know as the southern Bahamas. The Lucayan, which is a tribe of the Tainos, continued to migrate throughout the Bahamas between 700- 1500. It was around the 1500s The French, Spanish, English, even the Bermudians attempted to create settlements in the Northern Bahamas. The trouble was the lack of fertile soil and in some colonies factions within the settlement. English roots took hold here in the Abacos in the late 1770s. In 1783 1,500 loyalists left New York and landed in places like Green Turtle Cay, Marsh  Harbor, and Hope Town -Great Abaco. The Bahamas became independent of Great Britain in 1973.



We stopped behind Meeks Patch and enjoyed the anchorage before winding our way through Spanish Wells and up around Gun Point, Eleuthera. Pro tip, don’t anchor in the channel when you can anchor in Gun Point. Yes, there are some wakes and it’s a further dinghy ride to town but it’s night and day when DSC_0745you compare scenery. You could anchor in the murky water with industrial buildings and homes in the channel or look out on a white sand beach, palm trees, and an adorable villa at Gun Point…. up to you. Spanish Wells has marine stores but warning about engine oil, it costs $55 here. We needed just over 2 larges cases of it and began kicking ourselves in our butt when we passed the opportunity to buy it in Puerto Rico for $30. We decided to hold off and wait for the next port before changing the oil.DSC_0747

IMG_8168If you do stop in Spanish Wells, be sure to stop at Buddhas (aka The Schoolbus bar). A very industrious man who seems to know everyone and be everywhere. We sat down to a few burgers and beers and he told us his story of acquiring a liquor license. He also mentioned there are people out there who believe all of Eleuthera is without alcohol and so they don’t visit. For any of you wayward souls, this is not true. Mike and I enjoyed a few cold beers at the bar.

In stopping here, we needed to drop off trash, do laundry, and stock up on groceries. There’s a large grocery store on the NW side of town with similar prices to every other store (maybe cheaper than the Abacos). As for laundry, we asked the marina if we could use their facilities, they said no. We were told there’s a public machine a few blocks down. We lugged our dirty laundry in the sweltering heat over a hill to a closed convenience store. In the back was an overgrown yard with a shack and a broken down door. That’s where the public laundry facility was….. great. Now we just needed change to operate it… So Mike took off to go make change. I sat on the stoop and passerbyers would stop and make sure I was okay. Just as I began to wonder how far Mike would walk for a few quarters, in comes a golf cart with Mike on the back. The spirited woman in the passenger seat shouted ‘Get on in! I hear you have laundry to do.’ I laughed it off thinking ‘ thank god Mikes back, lets get this over with…’ No, that woman was serious.  We were going to do laundry at their vacation rental home. Turns out, they saw us get out of the dinghy with an oversized sail bag and pinned us as cruisers. Having been cruisers throughout their own lives, they decided to help us out. They drove us about a mile from our dinghy and opened their home to us, offering us water and food. We started the washer and sat down as they told us about cruising in the 70s. I thought we had heard some great stories from friends but wow, they took their boat out there and really experienced sailing life without all the safety gizmos and gadgets we use today. They even shared the story of how they were demasted and grieved of their poor vessel in shambles while sitting on a beach and how they bounced back and fixed it. And as we left, they grabbed their beach bag and spear gun and were off to the beach to go spear fishing and swimming for the afternoon, despite the evening clouds. I wish them well in their own active lives and look forward to when I see the next opportunity to pay it forward.

Next post… The Abacos!

Too Cool to Keep to Myself – Stromatolites

UnknownStromatolites, literally meaning layered rock, it is one of the oldest life forms on this planet! Stromatolites can be traced back to 3.5 billion years and we saw it while snorkeling/strolling the beaches! For the readers who are thinking ‘so what you saw a rock, … please keep reading, you don’t get it yet.

Highborne stromatolitesFirstly, stromatolites, what is it? They are “sedimentary structures produced by the sediment trapping, binding, and precipitating activity of phototrophic microbes” (including cyanobacteria/blue-green algae). These words are by someone far more intelligent than I in anything related to science. These underwater structures are not actually considered coral because unlike coral, they are completely organism based. Stromatolites are living fossils, they provide a record of Earths environmental change throughout history (similar to rings on a tree trunk) and an inside look as to what the bottom of oceans looked like billions of years ago around the preCambrian period. For anyone else who has forgotten their middle school geology class…. preCambrian is a SUPEReon! Yeah. sounds cool, right? Pre-Cambrian is subdivided by other eons, of which, also not much is known.  It is day 1 of Earth, spanning to 4.6 billion years ago; this is the largest amount of time on Earth.

The most prominent locations to find or study stromatolites are in the Bahamas or Sharks Bay, Australia. In the Bahamas, it is easily found in Lee Stocking & Highborne Cay. Happy searchings and as always, respect the marine life around you. All too often I see tourists tromping around on coral with fins and dinghies and anchors.

stromatolite-map stromatolites

Delayed Commentary on our Puerto Rico to Great Inagua passage – Apr 2016

Many of you may already know of the genius cartoons expressed by XKCD. If this is your first time hearing about it…. you’re welcome…. enjoy…

I wrote about our 4 day passage from Culebra, Puerto Rico to Great Inagua, Bahamas, briefly glazing over the wonders of the Puerto Rico Trench. My writing failed to serve it justice. Months later of this dormant guilt I found something incredible! I found an old xkcd comic giving the Puerto Rico Trench its’ well-deserved prominence in the below sketch including amazing detail and facts of the ocean. With resurfaced fortitude…. I give you… The Puerto Rico Trench on our blogsite via Kirsten’s account with visual aid from xkcd…

Prior to leaving, I was unaware of the trench. In fact, as I was sailing along a beautiful sunny beam reach with light surf, Mike down below sound asleep, I looked at our charts and saw depths of 16,000 feet I followed the contour lines further……19,000…. 23,000…27,000 feet! I thought to myself ‘Wow…. that sounds deep.’ And as I thought about it some more…. I recalled, we didn’t even see depths like that in our Bermuda crossing, in fact, it was a half of that. I scrolled in and out of the charts looking for details and I found it, starring me right in the face The Puerto Rico Trench. ‘Why hello there’ (I hope I don’t fall in).

The Puerto Rico trench is 28,378 ft (8,648 meters) deep or 5.37 miles deep. It is the second deepest trench in the world. They named the deepest part of the trench Milwaukee Deep, after the subpar beer of course……. NO, not of course. It’s named after the vessel that sounded the deepest part of the trench on the 14th of February in 1939. Now for the true genius….

*****Below is the great cartoon with seemingly accurate information – aside from the depiction of David Bowie at 6,000 m… Even if Freddie Mercury is under pressure, I don’t think he’d go that deep, I think he’s in the outer reaches of our galaxy.


Exumas – Shroud- Normans- Highborne- Sail Rock

We enjoyed beautiful Bahama Bank sailing to Shroud Cay. The anchorage on South Shroud Cay is beautiful and exciting to explore but the mangrove river in the south are non-motor crafts only. The reviews said it was a kayakers paradise and I believe it. We motored to the Northern end of Shroud Cay. In passing a cut that lead to the windward side of the DSC_0441Exumas, we saw a sprawl of coral growth. We dropped anchor and found some of the best snorkeling since Guadeloupe (Jacques Cousteau Underwater Park). Sharks, barracuda, schools of fish, COLORFUL corals at manageable depths. We stayed here for a few hours before moving on to the mangroves on Shroud Cay. We took our dinghy in past DSC_0449immaculate beaches through calm and clear waters, and entered the river with mangroves reaching out on either side. We wound our way around the twisting river turtles fleeing on every turn, eventually finding the famous, Camp Driftwood. I read that a hermit sailor carved out steps to the top of a hill to create his own little sanctuary. Over the years cruisers brought DSC_0454driftwood and plastic tokens to the top to add their own flair etching their boat name on the surfaces. In 2012, rangers came through and cleaned out Camp Driftwood. When we found it, the hilltop was pristine and beautiful. I was a bit dismayed to see that I missed out on the art of Camp Driftwood… but the more I come to think of it… so many islands, cays, and beaches (ex: Warderick Wells/Big Major) have tokens from cruisers. The Exumas are not missing out in having one less hill with plastic & driftwood from cruisers stating they’ve arrived. You want to make your mark & celebrate your travels? Fine, as someone who is also proud about our own travels I support that but make it in the sand, or etch your name on a barstool, let nature be. That’s my rant, sorry if I rained on someones parade.

Kirsten playing on the limestone.

DSC_0458 DSC_0468

Normans Cay

Normans Cay has seen a sordid past with drug trafficking playing a major role. An airstrip and a few dozen beach homes that lay in ruins are all that lives on from the stories. Oh and a wrecked airplane on the SE coast. Flipped upside down nose first in 25 feet of water.

IMG_8102 IMG_8104

The island itself is amazing and uncomplicated – beach, land, air. Me, I loved the beaches! On land there’s a bar called McDuffs. It’s throwing distance from the airstrip. Mike once visited this place years ago and since then, it’s had one heck of a makeover.

For the day, we traveled to North Normans Cay, Galleon Point where a most treasured sandbar flourished. I LOVED this place. We inched the big boat in before taking the dinghy in as far as that could go and then we walked the dinghy to the sandbar. Very much worth the voyage.

We were finally able to drop off our stinky garbage and lightly provision the boat with gas, water, and food in Highborne. Despite the Yacht Club being a bit pricey, we decided to splurge and share a phenomenal dinner. We split a fish sandwich. Sounds kinda lame and boring but the sandwich and fries filled us up and was the best damn fish sandwich we had enjoyed in the Bahamas. Heres to the chef! We snorkeled the reefs nearby and they were nice… we’d done so much snorkeling and exploring at this point we were both in and out within 20 minutes.

Leaf Cay / Allans Cay

Leaf Cay is host to the endangered Bahamian Iguana, only found here. They ask you don’t feed, scare, hunt, chase or agitate the iguanas. That all sounds redundant to me… they should have posted a sign saying ‘Leave the endangered iguanas alone. If you think you might be disturbing them, stop what you’re doing and walk away slowly, you probably are.’ We pulled up our dinghy on the beach and found that the iguanas  have poor eyesight and may stagger towards you but the tiny dinosaurs are actually quite timid.

Sail Rock

From Leaf Cay we sailed to Sail Rock, not a common anchorage. Most people sail to Allans/Leaf Cay via Berry Island and Bimini from Miami, FL. We considered taking the popular course, after all, one of my favorite songs from the Kingston Trio is about drinking rum on Bimini. But we’ve been traveling every day for 8 and a half months, going out of our way to further see remote islands with great snorkeling, ruins, and fun bars… was weighing less on our list of things to do. Our priorities were closer aligned with cute towns, seeing Spacex shuttle launch in June, and most of all Boston. It was settled we’d sail as far NE as possible on the Exuma chain (Sail Rock) then over to Spanish Wells to provision, then sail the Great Abaco Sound, eventually crossing over to Fort Pierce (which is just South of Cape Canaveral). But I’m getting ahead of myself… Back to Sail Rock and our remote anchorage.

Getting to Sail Rock was a slow sail we had a strong current on our bow and even needed to turn on the engine so we wouldn’t be pushed into a chain of large rocks and small islands. We passed Bush Cay and saw ruins on this little stumble of an island. Throughout the Exumas and the rest of the Bahamas, you don’t come across much green. Bush Cay, on the other hand, looked like something straight out of Ireland, particularly with our overcast evening skies. We made it in to Sail Rock close to sunset.  A string of rocks kept the windward waves at bay and coral flourished near the cuts in the rocks. It was dicey to navigate close to the rocks particularly since neither our charts or active captain/garmin had much advice on how to approach. We eventually found sand to anchor in and were quite pleased to find the swells and current didn’t rock the boat at odd angles. Sail Rock was unlike anything else in the Exumas, it felt more wild. It was you, a thin line of rocks for protection, and open ocean. When the sun dipped below the horizon there was nothing but wind blowing and waves and this foreign oddity of a boat visiting for the night. I would have loved to explore the string of rocks or spit of sandy beach but we had a full day sail in front of us with good wind.

NEXT STOP Spanish Town Eleuthera! YAY~

Continuing Up the Exuma Chain

We experienced the pigs and the grotto, what more did the Exumas have in store for us…

DSC_0203We motored around the corner to Pipe Cay by the old DECCA station, a concrete dock
used in the 1950s for British Navy supply ships. Oddly enough people refer to the pillars, which are just 4 steel I-beams sticking out of the water, as dolphins. On land there are several abandoned houses and fun trails to follow. We followed the trails to the DSC_0163other side of Pipe Cay and it was a desert. When the tide goes out it’s nothing but mushy sand. The anchorage we settled in was beautiful, ‘gin-clear water’. Mike & I went snorkeling and we spotted a lemon shark. Mike continued snorkeling and caught two lion fish which we panfried for dinner! Score!


Compass Cay Dundas Caves

DSC_0196We motored over glassy shallow water through conch cut. Despite the motoring, it was one of the more surreal and memorable days out on the water. We passed a marina on South Compass Cay (near His & Hers Cays) and radio-ed in to see if they would collect the two trash bags we had in our cockpit locker which were developing an odious funk. DSC_0210They said ‘sure for $25/bag’. $50 to drop off trash? No thank you, we’ll keep moving along. We continued to Dundas Rock and anchored near a mega power yacht. We found ourselves in 30 feet of clear water drenched in coral reefs all around. We were very cautious of where we anchored then immediately dove in. The reviews mentioned caves so we swam closer to the rock unsure where the cave entrances were located. By swimming close to the limestone wall we found 4 caves in total, all with easy ledges to swim under to explore the caves. Each cave was far larger than thunderball grotto in Staniel Cay. The rock formations looked smooth and eerie, stalactites and stalagmites dropped from the ceiling or stood tall from the floor. We expected to see bats but didn’t find any. It was an incredible experience and one of my favorite places to explore! If you do make the trip, just know it’s difficult to anchor your dinghy as there is so much coral growth, please don’t destroy it.

We moved over to Compass Cay N anchorage and had a heck of a time trying to get DSC_0261the anchor to stick all the while not sticking our but in the channel or running aground. It took forever but we finally settled and watched a barracuda sit under our dinghy. I named the barracuda Bartholomew. We’re decently sure he was looking for an easy snack out of Raymond. Raymond was the remora that now lived under our boat. Mike loathed the free-rider but I kinda liked seeing Raymond every day, I wanted to see how long he’d stick around. As you can see, it’s becoming evident Mike and I have been together in a confined place for a very long time.

DSC_0245Compass Cay is also known for its’ bubble baths’… at low tide, it’s less impressive but still nice. Pools collect on the banks side from crashing waves on the windward side. Very picturesque.  We even saw a crab in a conch shell making its way back into the ocean leaving a trail in the sand.
DSC_0256 DSC_0244 DSC_0265

DSC_0274 Bells Rock – the windward side

O’Brien & Bell Island

IMG_0921For the day we anchored and explored the underwater sea park by O’Brien. We ventured a snorkel on the plane wreck, it’s a Cesna about 20 feet down with the cockpit in decent shape. The wreck should definitely not be attempted at or near max ebb/flood, our endurance of a 5 minute snorkel lay testament to that.  The underwater park was terrific. Mike and I had a blast IMG_0936snorkeling the area looking for groupers. We ate lunch and spotted Johnny Depps house from our anchorage and admired the sheer beauty of the location. We continued up, skipping Hawksbill Cay, to Warderick Wells.  (I’ve read that Hawksbill is home to some wells and ruins from loyalists, the Russel family, who made Hawkbill home.) At Warderick Wells, instead of grabbing a mooring ball, we went West to Malabar Cay. One of the reviews reported excellent snorkeling. It took us a few attempts but we found some good coral patches and fish. For the first time in a while, no shark sightings not even the adorable nurse shark kind.

IMG_0962 IMG_1015 IMG_1037 IMG_1033

Warderick Wells

DSC_0295A paradise not to be missed. There are hiking trails all around the island, blow holes, crystal clear water, curly tailed lizards & adorable hutia scattering about the woods. The Exuma Land & Sea Park headquarters are located here and provide really interesting material on the marine and terrestrial life on Warderick Wells. The rangers continuously plant and promote DSC_0302the growth of mangroves, weeds, trees, and corals. In the 17th -18th centuries when privateers / pirates combed these waters they also cut down the local forests; stripping islands like Warderick Wells dry and turning it into the Bahamian desert-like island with small shrubs we know it today.