Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bye Bahamas...We've Loved You

Well this is very weird since this may be my last post from the Bahamas (at least for this trip) since we are hoping to cross back to Florida tomorrow - I say hoping because Mother Nature always has the last say on our plans. Given that this is a 10-12 hour trip across wide open and really, really deep water, we pay even more attention to the weather for this crossing than we usually do (and that's saying something as we get up every morning early to hear the weather forecast!!) As I write this, we are sitting at a marina in Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island and I am looking out at the harbor watching it rain while the sun is shining brightly and there is a huge rainbow stretching across the channel - very kewl sight!!
Rainbow over Port Lucaya

It will be very hard to say goodbye to the Bahamas tomorrow - in fact we've already postponed our journey home by a day (I really needed one last Bahamian beach day!!) We've had a ton of fun while we've been over here and the past week while we have been cruising the Berry Islands was no exception - I know if you've been reading this blog you have a sense of how much fun we've been having!! We anchored at Soldier Cay in the Berry Islands for several days hoping to meet up with our friends Di and Steve on Aurora - they have just crossed from the US so we had hoped to meet them coming while we were going - so to speak. The weather wasn't very cooperative as we had one squall and thunderstorm after another - I don't think I've ever seen so many thunderstorms in my whole life as I have the past couple weeks!! Maybe it's just been that when you are on a boat, you are particularly sensitive to lightning!! One afternoon we even all got bundled up in our foul weather gear, hopped in Half Note and knowing that we were probably being idiots, we headed off for Little Harbor where Aurora was moored. Of course within a few minutes we were soaked, the waves and wind pounding us...but that didn't stop us - however, the fact that it was too cloudy for Half Note's GPS to pick up signal and the impending threat of even more and heavier rain we turned around and headed back to our boats...bummed but knowing it had been the smart thing to do (since when are we smart you might ask??)

Despite the weather, you can't keep this crew the next day we hopped in Hobos and headed on in to the Beach at Soldier Cay to explore. The landscape of the island was very funky - there was a beautiful beach at one end, very rocky shores at the other and then some really different trees behind the beach (think Charlie Brown's christmas tree with only a couple branches!)
Trees on Soldier Cay
We apparently stumbled onto a nesting site for some very perturbed laughing gulls - they lay their eggs right in the rocks - who started to dive bomb us as we got closer...we took the hint and left them alone. By the time we got back from our walk on the beach, Hobos was full of water from waves crashing over her stern - time to head back to Gypsies I guess. Later that afternoon (after several more squalls ripped through the anchorage), we saw a break in the clouds and made tracks to the island to do some more exploring. No sooner had we landed on the beach when Bob came by in Half Note wanting to explore some of the surrounding islands. Kewl....

So we brought Hobos back and hopped into Half Note for one of our better exploration days - the Berry Islands are largely uninhabited cays with amazing cliffs and caves along their coasts.
The coast of Hoffmans Cay
Kewl limestone cliffs
Underwater caves
More limestone cliffs
Because the wind was howling from the west, we had the rare opportunity to head on the outside of the islands - usually the wind is out of the east so it is too rough. But the rough water means that all of the rocky coast of the cays were filled with unbelievable caves and cliffs carved out of limestone. We stopped at one and climbed the cliffs to see spectacular vistas!! We found a trail through the woods, which I am incapable of not following to see where it will lead....on we went through this wild trail searching for the pond that the charts all said was there (we never found it) until we could stand the mosquitos no more (our first experience with mosquitos or any other bugs really on the islands - I think all the rain brought them out in force!!!) But along the way we got to see a ton of really large hermit crabs "racing" down the hills - more like a free fall at times - and we saw a huge land crab (very ugly with bug out like eyes!)
Hermit Crab
Back in Half Note for more exploring - we hit several great reefs with the looky bucket and then went in search of the Blue Hole on Hoffmans Cay. We found the beach supposedly right near it and then found the little half-hidden trail. Braving the skeeters once again we set off and this time we found what we were looking for - Eureka!

The Blue Hole is a perfectly round large hole cut out of the limestone and surrounded by vegetation - it just appears in the middle of nowhere and is reportedly over 600 feet deep. We tossed several rocks in to see how deep it was but we lost sight of them well before they hit the bottom! Doug found a little trail that brought us down to the water's edge - under a huge ledge of rock where there were caves carved out of the stone. The "roof" was full of stalagtites and other crazy stone formations that you had to duck under and around to walk around the Hole. It was eerily still there except for the callings of a couple tree frogs (we think - at least that's what we told ourselves they were) - and we saw several fish swimming past us in the Hole. We were running late so no time for swimming but.....later!
Bob and Tammy by the Blue Hole

We had such an amazing day, we decided to stay for one more day so we could explore some more and hopefully meet up with Aurora!!! Of course we had more squalls that night and the next morning which quelled our plans to move the big boats down closer to the Blue Hole...but that didn't stop us! We hopped in our dinghies around noon and motored back along the coast and to the Blue Hole so Stephanie could see it! This time I got to go swimming (along with Cassie and Godiva!!!) - it was very strange swimming in something that deep - you just knew the loch ness monster or a close cousin was going to swim up and bite you in the butt at any second!!!! The water was crystal clear and very warm in some places and then very cool in others - obviously fed by some underwater spring or something - way KEWL!!!!
Tammy swimming in the Blue Hole

The mosquitos drove us off again and this time we were off to meet up with Steve and Di on Aurora, Mike and Allison on Pokey and Dennis and Nellie on Dennel (who were all traveling together)!! We came around Devil's Cay and there ahead of us was an armada of 3 dinghies roaring at us - it could be no other. We made our way to a beautiful beach on Big Gaulding Cay and there proceeded to have a wonderful beach reunion!!! Cassie and Godiva even got to meet a new friend Tango on Pokey - Cassie tried to teach her how to swim while Godiva enjoyed having 10 of us to throw her ball. It was great to finally catch up with all those guys - we are so jealous that they are just starting their trip here in the Bahamas while ours is coming to an least for this year. But we know we'll all catch back up over in the States for more fun and games!!
Dennis, Stephanie, Di, Allison, Bob, Steve and Doug
The whole gang except Tammy, the photographer
Allison, Bob (hidden) Mike, Steve, Dennis, Godiva and Doug

The next day we headed out early for the 10 hour trip across the Northwest Providence Channel for Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island - the day was glorious with flat seas, calm winds and sunshine!! (at least until we saw the waterspout off our starboard beam - yikes!)
The lines went into the water as soon as we hit the deep stuff and Gypsies had a great fishing day!!! I caught a 36 inch mahi (now I ask you, how come all the mahi in the Bahamas are 36 inches??? maybe it just seems that way!)
The new Mahi Slayer!
and Doug caught 2 tuna (a blackfin and a skipjack - although they looked exactly alike)!!! YIPPPEEE!!! Can I tell you how much fun that was - there's nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of hearing that fishing line zing when there's a fish on!! Towards the end of the trip I even had a marlin (or something huge like that) on my line but unfortunately we don't have the tackle to be able to land something like that. I did get to see him jump clear out of the water on his tail several times before he took my line and lure!!! Boy what a sight, what a thrill!! It was September Song's turn to get skunked (boy we've been there, done that) which stinks but the good thing about buddy boating is that all it takes is for one of us to catch something and no one eats hotdogs that night!! Actually by the time we got to the marina and had cleaned the fish it was about 7:00 pm so we decided to put all the fish in the fridge and have someone else cook for us that night. We took the little water shuttle over to Port Lucaya where there are lots of little shops and restaurants. We zeroed in on Rum Runners (do you wonder why) and had some great cracked conch (can we ever get enough??) and some cold Kaliks (or Goombay Smashes in Stephanie's case)!
Dinner at Rum Runners

Yesterday we caught up on boat chores and emails and blogs as we have FREE wifi!!!! and we can even get it from our boats - we know we're back in civilization (which has some positives, but lots of negatives too!!) The afternoon we spent walking around Port Lucaya's shops and straw market - of course we got our cold Kalik fix as well as September Song's and Doug's ice cream fix!!!

Last night was the big sushi/fish grill on Gypsies - Bob, Stephanie and Doug (I only eat cooked fish) had a sushi taste-off - black fin tuna vs skipjack tuna - think everyone came out a winner as the plate swiftly disappeared (but not before we found out that both Puss and Boots are big sushi eaters too!!! I think we've created a couple monsters - Bootsie woke me up this morning screaming for some more sushi - luckily I put aside a couple small pieces!!) Then it was on to the main course - grilled skipjack in a lime rum sauce vs. grilled mahi in a citrus dill sauce.....YUM!! By the time the rum and chocolate cheesecake came out, I had no business eating another bite...not that that stopped me of course!!

Today we are hoping to do one last Bahamian beach/chill day - do you think Mother Nature can at least give us that?? We'll see although the rain has stopped and the sun is currently out - but there are lots of clouds too in the sky. No matter what happens with the weather, I'm sure we'll manage to have one more day of fun in this Bahamian paradise!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location on Grand Bahama Island.

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