Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On to Staniel Cay and Club Thunderball!!

Well we finally got our motor mount fixed but the wind is still whipping (1 out of 2 isn't too bad!)! We didn't get the welded part back on Sunday as we had hoped but then again, we're in the Bahamas and it's island time mon! With a lot of people's help, we did get it back on Monday despite the continued whipping winds - does Mother Nature never get sick of blowing so hard??? We heard from Movin' On who contacted Burkey in Staniel Cay that Jeff the welder had finished the part but we had to pay for it, pick it up and get it up to Cambridge Cay in order for Doug and our friend Bob, from September Song who had stayed with us, to fix the motor mount and then align the engine. Impossible you might think given that we couldn't drive Gypsies all the way to Staniel with one engine in the 25 knot winds. But not here in the Bahamas among lots of friends who all jumped into action and caused the VHF radio to hum.....Movin' On jumped on the radio to see if they knew anyone who could bring the part to us; Life's2Short, who was anchored outside of Staniel, offered to pay for it but couldn't get their dinghy over to the yacht club because it was too rough; so Silver Boots flagged down the folks on No Agenda who we don't even know but who have a huge dinghy and they ferried our (or Life's2Short's) money in to the Yacht Club; so Jamal could go pick up and pay for our part. Then Life's2Short talked Jamal into riding our part all the way up to Cambridge (for a mere $40) - a bargain at any price!!! No sooner was the part on board Gypsies when Bob came over and he and Doug disappeared into the hole (aka the engine room) - after a little grunting and groaning the engine mount was back on and the alignment of the engine commenced! After several hours they emerged from the hole victorious - at least we thought so but the real test would come the next day when we ramped up the engines!! What an all around amazing display of friendship - without getting mushy, Doug and I are really grateful to everyone for their support and their help - you guys are all the best!!

That evening we hung out for one last night in Cambridge waiting for the winds to blow themselves out - no such luck.
Mooring Field at Cambridge Cay

The next morning we were awakened by the boat rooster

to a beautiful sunrise - things were looking up!!

We fired up the "big dogs" or the engines as Doug has taken to calling them and set off from the mooring ball for a test run. With baited breath we waited for a telltale vibration that would indicate the alignment wasn't quite right - we had a little at first but once I cranked the rpm's up to cruising speed the engine purred!!! Doug and Bob had performed miracles!! - they truly rock!!

Off we went to join the rest of the gang down in Big Major Spot (yes that's really the name of an island!) After a fun steam across waters 50 shades of blue, we tucked in behind the island to anchor hoping to block the majority of the still howling winds - when we took the corner around Sandy Cay we headed into 30 plus knots of wind!!! I'm still peeling my contacts off my eyeballs!! But as soon as we came into the lee of the island the winds and the waves died down and we snugged into our anchorage and were greeted by the "Gang" - what a great feeling. No sooner had we settled in when the radio hummed with plans for a DeFever gathering for lunch at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club that afternoon!!!

After about 2 1/2 weeks on islands with a cumulative population of about 25 (not counting the iguanas), Staniel Cay is a metropolis - OK not really, but it has more than a couple huts!! It actually has a post office and a couple stores (although they don't have much of anything until the Mailboat comes in each week bringing not just the mail but fresh bread and produce - it was supposed to come in today, but sorry mon, tomorrow - island time)! After a very wet dinghy ride over to Staniel (I looked like one of those sagging diaper that leak commercials since my shorts were soaked through - very attractive!!!), 16 of us had a spectacular and very islandy lunch at the Yacht Club - Gypsies, September Song, Tide Hiker, Rickshaw, Life's2Short, Lucky Stars and Silver Boots (who we had last seen at the DeFever Rendezvous at the end of February)!!

What a great reunion

- lots of laughs, a few drinks, great food and Silver Boots even brought a DeFever burgee for us all to write our boat names on and staple to the ceiling of the Yacht Club - Dan and Jim did the honors!

Not wanting the afternoon/evening to end, most of us continued on to Club Thunderball by dinghy where there was a pizza night - where there is pizza, cruisers gather (or at least this crew!). Now happy hour wasn't supposed to start until about 4:00 pm but we radioed ahead and told him that 14 of us were headed their way and would they consider opening the bar sooner - no problem mon! I love these islands!! We dinghied over to Club Thunderball, which is a great bar up on top of the hill overlooking the Thunderball grotto (of James Bond fame!!)

It is a very funky bar with some picnic tables overlooking the grotto and the ever present addictive ring toss game (a silver ring on a string that you swing and try to catch on a hook - OK it doesn't sound like much, but it truly is addicting!!!) Probably after way too much Kalik, we munched on pizza and pasta while the sun started to set over the cut behind the islands. As we looked on, the current in the cut was ripping (what's called a rage here)

so we decided it was better for us to head home...besides we were getting silly and the troll was having too much fun (sorry there are some things you just have to be here for!!)

Today we are sitting outside the Yacht Club catching up on email and blogs drinking cold Kaliks and listening to Bob Marley on the sounds system - life could be worse - much!!! Later this afternoon we plan on exploring the island and maybe catching up with some or all of the gang for happy hour sundowners!!! Tomorrow it's on to Pig Beach....stay tuned!!

Click here to see a Google map of our current location at Big Major Spot.

Boat Troubles and Good Friends

If you thought our cruising life was all fun and games, guess again!! The other day we headed out of the North anchorage at the Park to meet up with our friends at the Cambridge mooring field, which is a beautiful little harbor situated between Bell Island and Cambridge Cay - it is relatively protected from the seas and the wind which is a good thing because it's been blowing 15-30 knots pretty much ever since we got here! And it is forecast to keep blowing like this for another couple days!! Right out of the North Anchorage our port engine starting vibrating really badly - we could feel it all the way up on the flybridge. Doug flew down to the engine room and I shut the port engine off - unfortunately one of the four mounts that hold down the port engine had snapped in two causing all the ruckus when the engine was on. We have big 225 HP John Deere diesel's so when they are not secured not only do they make a lot of noise but the constant shaking causes all kinds of other problems (3 of the 4 bolts that connect the shafts to the transmission had fallen out and were on the floor of the engine room - can you say not a good thing)!!! As if that wasn't bad enough, of course it is the port engine that drives our stabilizers (which keeps the boat from rocking and rolling from side to side) so when we shut off the port engine we also lost the stabilizers!!! Luckily we didn't have too far to go - about 10 miles - because the seas were kicking up a bit and we had to travel on one engine!!

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we then had to weave our way into the mooring field through a fairly narrow and shallow cut and try to pick up a mooring ball in a pretty heavy current with the wind blowing about 15 knots (not fun on a good day with both engines working!) We made it into the mooring field after one false pass (we got a little too close to a reef but backed out and found the deeper water) and got right up to the mooring ball, but the current and wind took us before Doug could get the mooring line tied down - with only one engine, I didn't have the maneuverability to keep us in place long enough. Rather than risk catching his fingers in the line or the cleat (more later....) he let the lines go free. As our luck was running that day, the mooring pendant caught on our props (of course)!!!! "Luckily" we had turned the engines off as soon as Doug threw off the lines so the pendant didn't wrap around our props but just got caught across them - Doug was able to don his flippers and mask and dive to free the lines. Meanwhile our friends had come over in their dinghies to help as had a guy on the next sailboat over (unfortunately all the snailbotter managed to do was almost drown Doug - he brought his dinghy so close to Gypsies that Doug hit it on his way up from a free dive with very little breath left - that's your worst nightmare!!!)

Eventually we got the mooring line freed and maneuvered around in the current until we were safely tied up - talk about Miller Time!!! But instead of a lengthy beer binge (which we figured we deserved after such a day), we donned our shorty wetsuits and headed out in the dink to join our friends on a snorkeling excursion.

The first place we went was a small island off the coast called Rocky Dundas where there was amazing fish and corals and even several caves with stalagmites and stalactites! Then it was on to Tom's Elkhorn Reef where we saw some amazing old elkhorn coral and swam with Barry the Cuda - barracuda look really menacing with their low slung jaws and really sharp pointy teeth but we've never had a problem with them and as far as I know there hasn't been a reported unprovoked attack (even when you wear shiny stuff - ie jewelry). This one just seemed to follow us around as we were snorkeling seemingly more curious than anything. The next stop was the Coral Garden which was right off Honeymoon Beach for a quick view of some great corals heads and sea fans.

But the piece de resistance (who knows if that is spelled right??? but pronounce it in french and it's close enough) was the Sea Aquarium over by O'Brien's Cay - it was down to just three of us by that time, but it was spectacular!!! It is a relatively small area of coral heads and rocky cliffs that harbor a virtual aquarium of fish - I jumped in the water and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of sergeant majors - all I could do was giggle as they circled my head!! But then I was transported to a different underwater world which you just can't imagine unless you have had the opportunity to snorkel or dive a magical place. There were scores of queen angelfish, damselfish, squirrelfish, various species of parrotfish, fairy basslets (half purple and half yellow), blueheads (part blue, white and green), yellow tail snappers and bar jacks, as well as grouper, other types of snapper and blue tangs - we even saw trumpetfish, smooth trunkfish and a spotted burrfish. Now I'm sure you don't know exactly what those all are and I had to look up a bunch of them in our Reef Fish Identification book when I got home (half the fun of snorkeling is trying to figure out all of what you saw!!!) but hopefully you get a sense that this was a pretty special place!!! Bob from September Song had an underwater breathing apparatus so was able to dive down and get up close and personal with some of the fish hanging out in the caves - unfortunately one such fish was a reef shark!!!
Stoplight Parrotfish


Blue Tang


Queen Angelfish

Yellowtail Snapper

Sergeant Major



Elkhorn Coral

Sea Clam

The group snorkeling at Rocky Dundas

Bob from September Song diving at the Sea Aquarium

That afternoon Life's2Short got back from picking John up down in Staniel Cay and they caught 2 mahis on the way back!!! That night dinner was on Tide Hiker - what a feast from the grilled pork tenderloin to the last bite of Stephanie's magic bars with little snickers in them (amazingly decadent)!!! We figured we'd worked off some of those calories with all the snorkeling that afternoon - maybe not enough, but certainly some!!

The next day was spent trying to figure out how to get our motor mount fixed - it needs to be welded before it can be replaced and then the engines will need to be aligned, but baby steps - first things first - where to find a welder in the out islands of the Exumas?? We talked to Compass Cay and got the name of a guy in Staniel - Jeff, just Jeff - who they thought was a welder - OK great. We tried to hail Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the next real port of civilization about an hour and a half by boat, to no avail but a catamaran in the anchorage (Moving On) radioed us that they would call the Club for us and assuming they could connect with Jeff, offered to bring the part down for us on Friday!!!! Moving On voluntarily watches over this mooring field in the southern end of the Park and have been truly amazing! They brought our part to Staniel and gave it to a guy named Burkey who owns part of the marina and several stores in town, and is the local minister, who would get it to Jeff to fix - they would then make arrangements through Burkey to get it back from Jeff and get it up to us in Cambridge on Sunday - WOW!!! We were a little concerned watching our part leave in a relay of people we really didn't know since without it we can't use our port engine, but that's how things get done down here and it was amazing that so many people were willing to go out of their way to help us!! We have found that as cruisers we are all very eager to help others not just because we are all out here living the life but because you know at some point you are going to need help and hope that some other cruiser is around to help you!! Hopefully we get the part back on Sunday and Doug and the guys (all of the guys on our buddy boats have offered to help!!) can get it installed and the engine realigned on Sunday afternoon or Monday so we can all head South when the weather breaks!!

As if all that wasn't enough, our watermaker has decided to be temperamental - OK it isn't working properly - the saline content of the water it is making is too high!! Poor Doug has tried absolutely everything and I believe he could recite the manual backwards and forwards and maybe even in Latin he's read it so many times. At this point we think it has to be some kind of defect in either the watermaker itself or the installation - as soon as we get to Staniel Cay we will try to find someone who knows watermakers and/or call the manufacturer! So what do we do for water in the interim --- conserve!!! We mostly shower off the back of the boat with a quick rinse down with fresh water - don't feel too bad for us, the water down here is gin clear and about 80 something degrees!!! The only thing you need to be careful of is the sharks that regularly swim by our boats but mostly after about 4 or 5 pm!!! It is very weird (but cool) to be standing up on the flybridge or the front of the boat and see a shark or a big ray passing by but the water is so clear that you see everything!!! Yesterday on our way in to the beach for an afternoon of beach relaxation, we actually saw a huge orange starfish that had to be over a foot long!!!! All of our buddy boats have graciously offered to transfer some water to us and the use of their showers (we think that was a request before the next potluck dinner....) but they have all been great!!

Remember how I mentioned that when we were mooring Doug had to let the lines go so he didn't crush his fingers.....well one of our buddy boats wasn't so lucky!! The other day Rickshaw decided to move to a mooring ball closer to the shore to get a little more protection from the winds and the surge. The wind was blowing around 20 knots and unfortunately Lynnie got her finger caught in the mooring line and managed to rip open one of her fingers pretty badly. Next thing we knew, the folks on Moving On were leading Rickshaw in their dinghies to Compass Cay at a high rate of speed where they knew there was a doctor on one of the anchored boats! The doctor fixed up her hand free of charge (another cruiser going out of his way to help!!!) and luckily it wasn't as bad as they first thought - she still needs to keep it dry and free of infection (both a challenge when you live on a boat) but should be just fine in a little while. Life's2Short was down in Compass Cay and also came to their rescue - they actually put them on board and steamed back up here towing their dinghy instead of letting them dinghy back through the rough cut - very cool!! Lynnie's close call made us all really think twice about this life we are leading - yes, it is a ton of fun but it is also dangerous. We are on a moving boat constantly fighting the forces of nature and what we do is very physical - we all joke about our ever present bruises and cuts and scrapes, but we know that a bad accident could happen to anyone at anytime. We all have extensive first aid kits on board (although some better equipped with prescription drugs than others - you know who you are), but knowing that you have friends and other cruisers out there who are always willing to lend a helping hand makes us sleep a little easier at nights!!

Last night we had a big fish grill on September Song - Stephanie and Bob grilled up the two mahi Colleen, Todd and John had caught on Life's2Short - Brenda had the tough job of keeping the boat steady in the rocking seas!!! I don't think I'll ever get sick of eating fresh fish - even if it's always mahi (I once ate mahi for every meal except breakfast during a three day Key West binge - I really like mahi!) The food and the company was wonderful as always - I really need to keep snorkeling and hiking and kayaking if I want to avoid weighing about 200 pounds by the time this trip is over!!! Now if the wind would just let up so we could do that......
Sunset on the Back of Tide Hiker
Sunset in Cambridge Cay

Click here to see a Google map of our location at Cambridge Cay

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Trek to Boo Boo Hill

The other day we all dinghied into the Park headquarters to check email, blog, catch up on news etc. one last time before we head south into the land of "no internet connection" once again. Funny how sailors used to cruise around the world with no phone or internet and do just fine, but in today's world, we feel so disconnected without them. It's actually a feeling I'm starting to get used to (and like) though - we haven't watched TV in over 7 months and the only news we get since we left the States is by internet whenever we have a good connection (or through Stephanie from September Song - they have Satellite TV and are kind of news junkies!) I'm finding I really don't mind not knowing all the crap that is going on in the world right now - we plug in when we can and don't fret when we can't anymore. Life is too good down here to sweat the little things.

After the blogs were written, pictures posted and emails checked, September Song, Tide Hiker and Gypsies hiked up to Boo Boo Hill to place our "boat signs" that we had all made out of driftwood and "natural stuff" we had found on our hikes - only natural materials can be used on the boat signs by rules of the Park. Rickshaw had already headed up and we saw their sign when we got there. Gypsies' sign was made out of a big piece of driftwood - it had our boat name, the names of our crew (including the boat kitties) and the date we passed through as well as a smiley face made out of shells and beach glass and a sea fan crown. It was pretty spiffy if I do say so myself!! Everybody's signs were great - Tide Hiker's had a pair of hiking boots and September Song's had musical notes! Wonder if they will still be there when we pass back through in a couple years??

Yesterday the "gang" headed down to Cambridge Cay (the southern end of the Park where there is great snorkeling) while Doug and I headed to the North anchorage to be close to the Park headquarters so we could take care of some personal stuff. We are headed down to Cambridge later this morning to meet up with everyone - think we will be there for several days riding out some strong winds but we'll keep you posted when we can!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Return of the Boat Rooster

The boat rooster is back - we thought she had disappeared for good but no, she's back!! Bootsie has decided that 6:30 am is really about as late as I should sleep - therefore I am sitting here in the pilothouse watching the first rays of the sun crest the hill on Hog Cay. Not a horrible sight to wake up to that's for sure but another even half hour of sleep wouldn't be such a bad thing!! She is sleeping peacefully next to me on the settee now of course with such an angelic look on her face that I have to laugh - she of course got what she wanted!!

Oh well, I guess I get the pleasure of some quiet time watching the sun rise over a perfect slice of paradise - thanks Bootsie!!

Mother Nature is still gusting about 15-20 knots so we have stayed in our protected anchorage between Hog Cay and Warderick Wells Cay and while we wait out the weather, we have been thoroughly enjoying the Exuma Land and Sea Park.

Two days ago we decided to explore Hog Cay which is the island that separates our quiet, tranquil anchorage from the often raging Exuma Sound (with sustained heavy winds the Sound gets downright ferocious!!) We dinghied in to Escape Beach (seriously, that's what it is called) and set out to see the blowholes - were we in for a show!!

The Sound side of the Cay is largely jagged volcanic rock that is pockmarked with sinkholes where erosion has had its way and the waves crash so violently that plumes of sea spray explode 10-15 feet in the air.

As we watched the violence of nature play out in the crashing of the waves against the rugged rock cliffs all of our senses were engaged- while you see the waves crashing against the craggy rock, you not only feel the cool salty spray against your skin but you taste it on your tongue as it permeates the very air around you and the sound you hear as the water shoots against and under the rocks is like thunder. You even smell the the salty seaweed that is hurled up against the rocks that collects in little puddles and crevices and combines with the scent of the sparse vegetation which grows on such a rugged coast like the seven year apple (which is reported to taste so bad that if you eat one, it would be seven years before you'd do it again) and the sea grapes.

The experience of Hog Cay is so distinctive though because the other side of the Cay (which is a mere 50 yards or so and in places not even that) has exquisitely tranquil turquoise and emerald water that could not be more at odds with the fury being unleashed on its less protected outer bank. What is so cool about this Cay is that from most places you can see both sides - the raging and furious Sound crashing with full force against the rocky cliffs and the gin clear turquoise water lapping gently against several white sand beaches!! The dichotomy is breathtaking and I'm sure our pictures won't even be able to do it justice!!!

As we explored the cliffs we came upon several cairns which are pilings of rock that have been built by passing cruisers as an offering to the Gods for safe passage and fair weather - they are often also used as navigation aids as the red and green buoys we are so reliant on in the States are virtually non-existent down here.

We of course had to add a rock to each one as is the tradition.

We also saw some funky birds with red beaks that had a cry/laugh that we heard long before we saw them.

They and the ever present geckos were about the only wildlife we saw though!!

That afternoon, after collecting driftwood and other natural things (sea fans, sponges and shells) for our boat sign which we need to make to bring to the top of Boo Boo Hill (it's tradition), we all hung out on the beach enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and playing with Cassie and Godiva (September Song's boat dogs). That evening after Colleen gave Vicki and Bob a haircut at Chez Gypsies, we had dinner on Gypsies! You know we're all having fun when the rum bottles (yes not singular) appear out on the table!!! Enough said....

Yesterday was a beach day - we all dinghied around Warderick Wells Cay to Emerald Beach, a beautiful strip of white powder sand situated between several cliffs and thus protected from the wind!! Lynnie and Rick on Rickshaw (who are in the North Anchorage) even met up with us for the afternoon. After several days of hiking the islands, sitting in a beach chair with my feet in the warm sand felt really good - as did the cold beers after we snorkeled several of the coral heads off the beach. This is the life!!! Even the "killer attack geckos" that seemed to love Colleen and Vicki (the small one was even showing off for them by doing pushups - I can't make this stuff up - I'm just not that creative!) couldn't drive us from the beach until well after the sun was over the yardarm...and the cooler was running low!!

Today we have boat chores to do this morning chief among them is to make our boat sign for Boo Boo Hill - but Doug has some oil to change in the generator as well. The glamorous life of the boat mechanic..... Later we will dinghy over to the Park Headquarters (where we can get the internet) to send emails and post the blogs (often now we post more then one blog at a time since our internet connections are so infrequent so make sure to look for multiple posts).

Weather dependent of course, but our plan for tomorrow is to all head down to Cambridge Cay at the very southern end of the Park so that we can snorkel Rocky Dundas on Wednesday when the weather is supposed to be fairly calm!! Rocky Dundas are two large scrub-covered rocks off one of the islands that have caves containing stalagmite and stalactite formations!!! Explorers on a mission!!!

Trekking in the Park

The other day we left Norman's Cay and based on the weather forecast we headed down to Warderick Wells Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park where we figured we'd get some protection from the weather - Mother Nature has sure been giving us plenty of windy days! We traveled on Exuma Sound (the outside) but unfortunately we couldn't fish!!! The Park is a complete no take zone - so the fish are unafraid and actually come up under your boat sticking their tongues out at you (or at least it seemed that way when a bunch of yellowtail tuna surfaced right off our swim platform knowing there was nothing we could do about it!!)

We tried to get into the North anchorage where the Park headquarters is located (think internet connection) but it was full so we wound up in the South anchorage between Warderick Wells and Hog Cay. If there is a more beautiful place on the planet I'm not sure I've seen it yet! We are in a totally protected little channel between two beautiful islands with white sandy beaches alternating with very rugged rocky coasts - in between is the warm aquamarine water that is so clear you can see clear to the bottom!!

Guess we lucked out...even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often. Instead of moving up to the North anchorage the next day, we all decided to stay here - why leave paradise??

That afternoon with our boats safely tied to mooring balls, we decided to head up to the Park headquarters on the Banks side (the inside route) in our dinghies to check in and get the lay of the land. With the East wind blowing chop on the Banks it was a very wet and wild ride for us - we could have gone swimming and been less soaked...but heh, the water's warm and the sun was hot so we dried out pretty quickly!! The Park headquarters is this great rustic wooden building with serious heavy duty Bahamian shutters where Judy welcomed us with open arms as she checked us in.

Things are pretty laid back down here - they understand the cruising life and are very flexible!! While Doug hopped on the internet, we explored the surrounding beach and soaked in the atmosphere and views from the balcony. The Park headquarters overlooks the North anchorage which is truly spectacular with its multi-hued water - a circular strip of deep blue water where the moorings (and deeper water) are located surrounds a sand bar that reflects the sun and makes the water look almost translucent!!

We watched several little birds eating sugar out of a feeder off the balcony on our way to the beach where we saw the carcass of a 52 foot sperm whale (of course we had to play around a little with that!)

The dinghy ride back to the boat wasn't quite as wet but it sure was a lot faster - thankfully we had the new 20 hp motor because we were being chased by a nasty thunder and lightning storm. We got back to Gypsies just as the skies opened up - but like a lot of storms down here, it blew through in a matter of minutes and half an hour later it was sunny again!! Tide Hiker and September Song had tried to radio us, but with the wind whipping and us running for our lives (OK, not really but it sounded good) we hadn't heard them - they were glad to see us back before the storm hit!! Bootsie doesn't really like thunderstorms so she jumped up on top of her sister - Puss didn't really seem to mind!!!

That night we had dinner on Tide Hiker - bring your own food to grill! Vicki made wonderful veggies and sweet potatoes while Norm was the grillmaster extraordinaire for the evening.

One of the highlights of the evening (besides the company of course!!!) was seeing a large nurse shark swim right up under Tide Hiker's swim platform. I got down with the looky bucket to check him out and Norm got a great picture of the shark which had two ramoras on top of him (ramoras are a fish which cling to a shark and feed off the particles that escape when the shark eats - a very symbiotic if not strange relationship) through the looky bucket!!! When we get internet connection he promised to pass it along and we'll post it!! The sunset that night was awesome - it reflected up into the clouds right over Gypsies!!

Yesterday the Gypsies and Tide Hiker decided to hike the Exuma Sound Trail which turned out to be 7 miles round trip from Capture Beach (which is one of the beaches in the South anchorage where we are moored) up to Boo Boo Hill by the North anchorage!!! What were we thinking???? No seriously it was an amazing hike! Bob from September Song played executive limo service and taxied us all in to the beach (he even got close enough so we could get out onto the beach without our hiking boots getting wet!!) - thanks Bob!!!

From the beach we entered another world - first we hiked to the Pirate's Lair where you could just envision pirates of old sitting around the fire drinking rum, wenching and eating meat off a stick! Aargh...

Then we hit a series of trails that brought us to the other side of the island where the beaches were snow white and the water a shade of emerald green that made you just want to dive in and float - one beach after the other captivated us - first Bush Basher Beach (no I'm not kidding even though we are a bunch of staunch Democrats!), then it was on to Alive Beach (which we figured was so named because we had survived the hike through the Poisonwood, No Touch 'Em Plant and the Bahamian Boa Constrictor habitat), Cockle Beach, Emerald Beach and Loyalist Beach, each more beautiful than the last.

As we crested one hill, we could look back to our anchorage and see Gypsies, September Song and Tide Hiker all floating majestically in our little slice of paradise - great photo op! We even got to wave to Bob, Stephanie and the dogs on SS who had chosen to do the Hog Cay hike that day instead (smart folks)! The trails themselves were unbelievably diverse - we walked through cragged volcanic rock with sinkholes and ceynotes that looked like something akin to a walk on the moon,

and then the next minute we were in palm shaded woods

or on a sandy path leading to yet another beautiful beach.

About half way up the island we followed a stone wall to the Exuma Sound side where we followed the Exuma Sound Trail along the rugged cliffs watching the waves crash in huge plumes of sea spray - thinking how glad we were that we were not out in those seas in our boats!!! The difference between the crashing waves against the cliffs and the ferocious Sound on the East side of the island

and the serene beaches and calm waters on the West side of the island made for a remarkable contrast and great pictures!! As we progressed along the Sound we saw a natural bridge with waves crashing under it (which I of course had to go explore!),

rock cairns (which were built by prior cruisers as an offering to the gods for fair weather)

and a really cool bird who let me take his picture up close (he lives in the Park and therefore doesn't seem to be afraid of people!)

With Boo Boo Hill in sight (our destination) we walked along Boo Boo Beach and were greeted with a message from our friends on Life's2Short who were in the North Anchorage - written in the sand was "Remember Life's 2 Short :-)"

How Kewl!! At the top of Boo Boo Hill is a pile of wooden signs with boat names and dates on them - we saw Life's2Short's signs from this year and last.

We plan on making another trek to Boo Boo Hill and leaving a Gypsies sign before we leave!! From Boo Boo Hill it was a short trek to the Blow Holes where we decided to stop and have lunch -

Doug and I unknowingly sat on one of the blow holes (that sure surprised us when we got soaked!) A crazy gecko decided he wanted some of Doug and my lunch and wouldn't leave us alone - he finally settled for a small piece of orange rind that I had accidentally dropped - aggressive little guy!

On the trek home we took some different trails and actually saw a hutia (a Bahama mongoose looking thing) - we were actually fairy surprised in that we didn't see a lot of wildlife or birds on the whole adventure (other than geckos which were everywhere!),

but....the scenery was plenty beautiful to capture our attention. About half way back, we were desperately hoping to find a beer stand tucked in the woods but no such luck....all we got was pure unadulterated and uncommercialized beauty. Guess we could settle for that - although I must say, the first couple cold beers back on Gypsies (after Bob's limo service delivered us safe and sound) sure tasted great!!

Dinner last night was on September Song - Friday night pizza and beer!!! Do we live large or what??

This morning the wind is gusting something fierce so we think we'll sit tight and do some boat chores this morning and then go explore Hog Cay this afternoon - sitting here in the helm station I can see the waves from the Sound crashing up and over parts of the island - should be fun...and wet!!!