Photo Essay: Chillin’ in George Town, Bahamas

Turning up to George Town Bahamas for the annual Cruising Regatta felt a little like rafting up to a Carnival Cruise Liner or docking at a holiday camp for vacation.

There were announcements every morning at 8 o’clock on VHF channel 72 letting you know the schedule of activities and events for the day, along with general announcements like, “The George Town dumpster is now full. Please keep your garbage on board until it’s been emptied,” or requests like, “If anyone finds a pair of Costa del Mar sunglasses on Volleyball Beach, could you please call Seas the Day on channel 68?”

This would be followed by “Boater’s General” announcements, which included shout outs for parts or advice (like our own plea, “Hey, does anyone know how to clean out a fuel tank?”) and then the Oscar winners’ speeches like, “I’d just like to thank everyone who participated in the scavenger hunt yesterday. It was a big success and we couldn’t have done it without you. Also, thank-you to Joan on Seas the Opportunity for baking the cookies.”

All this organization and radio chatter after weeks of being on our own and practically ignoring our VHF took a little getting used to, but George Town’s busy schedule of events turned out to be just the excuse we needed to procrastinate from cleaning out our fuel tank. So instead of fixing our engine problem upon arrival, we spent the first few days of the Cruising Regatta hanging out on Chat-n-Chill beach, watching the opening day festivities, eating conch and walking up and down George Town’s main street.

Here is my photo essay from those first few days, before we fled the bad weather and anchored behind Red Shanks Cay.

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Opening Night of the Cruising Regatta: The “No Talent Show.”

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“Above-water Synchronized Swim Team.”

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The cozy Chat-n-Chill Bar, where you can get BBQ ribs or a stiff rum punch.

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During the show, I noticed this guy serving up fresh conch salad on the beach and couldn’t resist.

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AJ was happy to show me his method…”First you hammer a hole in the shell and run a knife along the back…”

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“Then you pull out the conch…” (He let me do that part.)

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“Then you cut off the tail and the skin…”

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“…and then his eyes…” (What? Conchs have eyes?!)

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“Then you chop it up with some peppers, onions, tomatoes, lime, orange, salt and pepper.” So good!

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Kidd Cove anchorage – the nearest anchorage to George Town’s dinghy dock.

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Elvis Water Taxi comes in handy when the seas are choppy and you have a long way to travel.

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George Town Water Taxi dock

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George Town may be the biggest town in the Exumas, but it’s still small with one main road.

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The water is as beautiful here as it is in the rest of the Exumas.

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Storm approaching over Red Shanks Cay – we missed the regatta sailing to hole up here for a few days.

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To see more photos, visit Turf to Surf’s George Town Bahamas Photo Album on Facebook.

Fuel filters, tanks and pumps, oh my

When we first started cruising, Ryan and I noticed some distinct differences between Hideaway and the boats of experienced cruisers:

  1. Most boats had much larger anchors and much more chain than we did.
  2. 9 out of 10 boats had a Honda eu2000i generator on board. Yet we didn’t.
  3. Jerrycans on deck were a tell-tale sign of a cruising boat. But we didn’t have those, either.

We’d done our research before refitting Hideaway with the essentials for our long trip south, but it seems you can’t always anticipate every single need. Some things required a little “time on the water,” as they say, and rubbing elbows with other cruisers to figure out.

By the time we left Annapolis, we’d replaced our Danforth anchor and 20 feet of chain with a 44 lb. Rocna and 100 feet of chain. And we slept much better for it afterwards.

By the time we left Vero Beach, we realized our solar panel would never cover our power needs and we couldn’t rely on motoring every day to top up our batteries. We needed an efficient and reliable way to charge our batteries without exhausting our engine. So, after asking a dozen cruisers their opinion, we bought a Honda eu2000i generator in December and called it our Christmas present to ourselves.

The jerrycans, however, kept us wondering all the way to George Town, Bahamas. I suggested to Ryan a few times that we just strap a few jerrycans to our deck and figure out later why everyone has them. But he isn’t one to follow an example without questioning it. “Why would we need so much spare fuel when we’re never more than 24 hours away from a fuel dock?” he asked. Plus, we had three 5-gallon jerrycans in our lazarette, which seemed like plenty. Maybe all the other cruisers were preparing to do much longer ocean passages than we were?

When we pulled into George Town with no engine power, though, and we narrowed the possible problems down to a bad batch of fuel or a dirty tank, we finally realized what the jerrycans were for. Cruisers filled them up so they could filter their fuel before putting it in the tank. We hadn’t even considered this, since we were so used to clean fuel in the U.S. Whoops.

Luckily, though, with 300 boats anchored around us and an active cruisers net on the VHF every day at 8 o’clock, we got plenty of advice on how to deal with a dirty fuel tank.

First Ryan and I got down to changing our fuel filters – we have a primary Racor filter, which we could see had collected black crud, so this was a likely culprit for our loss of engine power. It was just unfortunate that changing our Racor required four hands and a great deal of cursing.

The next thing we did was drain the fuel out of our tank and filter it into jerrycans (Aha! So that’s what these things are for!). We weren’t exactly sure how to do this with the tools we had on board, so we were grateful when our friends on Moonshadow lent us their electric pump, a Baja filter and some advice on how to go about the process of cleaning the tank.

It was a learning experience, like every repair we’ve done so far. It’s just that the problem with “learning” while at anchor is that it requires pulling everything out of the innards of the boat and stacking it up in our living space until the project is finished. For about two days, our boat looked like it had vomited its guts into our lounge and cockpit, making me cranky and frustrated that there was nowhere to sit. Boat work has a way of making me see Hideaway as a tiny, claustrophobic life raft, rather than a compact but comfortable home.

The other problem with learning as you go is sometimes you’re nowhere near a West Marine when you realize you have a large and infinitely growing shopping list for parts and tools. And then the question is always (other than “Where will I find this stuff?”), “Where will we put it all?”

By the time we finished the fuel cleaning job, our scrawled wish list looked like this:

And that was just the beginning. Once we decided we needed parts for our fuel system, the shopping list began to extend to things we needed for our continuing trip south, like:

And the list continued to grow while we wondered how we’d get all this into the Bahamas without paying a fortune in shipping and taxes.

Then Ryan had an idea. We could use our air miles to fly one of us back to Fort Lauderdale, fill up a shopping cart at West Marine, and use our cruising permit to exempt us from paying the 40% import tax on our already expensive shopping list.

And with the boat looking like it had been tipped upside down, shaken, then turned right side up again, I barely hesitated before blurting out, “I’ll go!”

Problem solved. Fort Lauderdale, here I cooooome!

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Ryan with our dismantled Racor filter.

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The black stuff that came out of our fuel filter.

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The disaster that results from working on Hideaway.

What to do when your engine loses power? Panic.

Let me tell you, nothing gets your adrenalin pumping like when your engine loses power in high winds while you’re sandwiched between two coral reefs.

We are in a hurry to get down to George Town before the bad weather arrives and the annual Cruising Regatta starts. Yet, we know from experience that being in a hurry pretty much guarantees something will go wrong.

We watch our ETA on our chart plotter very carefully throughout the day and compare it to the 6:04 pm sunset time, as we make the 50-nautical-mile jump from Black Point to George Town. With 20-knot winds on the nose, though, it is difficult to whittle our ETA down to a reasonable hour, even with full sails up and the engine running at 2200 rpms. I know, I know, sailing should be about the journey rather than the destination; but on this particularly bumpy, rolly day on the Exuma Sound, we are focused on the destination. So we spend a good 11 hours just staring at the time on our chart plotter as we race the clock towards Elizabeth Harbour.

And just as we manage to get our ETA down to 6:05 pm, and we think we might just make it in before dark, our engine drops to idle and, in an instant, we are going nowhere. We’re just 10 miles shy of George Town with no engine power and a virtual clock ticking in our ears.

The first thing Ryan does is ask (loudly) if I’ve somehow lowered the throttle from where I am down below (in the head). Meanwhile, I’ve just emerged from the head to ask why Ryan has suddenly stopped the boat. Once we establish there are, in fact, no engine controls in the head and Ryan hasn’t touched the throttle, we pull off the engine cover and stare blankly at our Universal M-25, then at each other, and back at the engine again while we wonder what exactly it is we are looking for. After all, I can’t see anything obviously wrong.

Now, this is when sails come in very handy. But even when we unfurl the sails and fall away from the wind, the boat speed only reaches about 3 knots. Which means, at this rate, we will never get to George Town before sunset. And arriving to an unfamiliar harbor in the dark, without an engine, is never a recommended navigational tactic.

So, as we float in the sound somewhere near Black Cay, I pull out our trusty Marine Diesel Engines by Nigel Calder and start running through the troubleshooting chart for what could possibly have caused the engine to lose power.

At first, I wonder if maybe we could have wrapped something around the propeller. But just as I asked the question, the power returns and we are off again. Feeling both relieved and confused, we continue on our course towards George Town while we cross our fingers that the problem won’t return.

When our engine loses power the second time, it seems our problem is no longer temporary. So, I pull out Nigel Calder once more and start throwing out diagnostic questions.

“Could we have wrapped something around the prop?”

“It’s possible,” Ryan says. “But why would our power suddenly return?”

“Good point. Okay. Well, it says here ‘air in fuel lines’ can cause loss of power.”

“Okay. But I don’t see where the air would come from all of a sudden,” Ryan replies.

“Okay. Hmm. Well, it also says “dirty fuel.” Could we have picked up some bad fuel?”

“Maybe?” Ryan says, thinking.

“It also says ‘plugged fuel filters.’ If we got bad fuel, would it show up in the filters?”

“Yes,” Ryan says. “Check the Racor in the head. It looks like a glass bowl under the sink.”

“Found it! Wait, was there black sludge in this thing the last time you looked?”

“What?!” Ryan asks, as he runs down the companionway to have a look. I take that as a “no.”

Now we aren’t sure if this is definitely the problem, but crap in our fuel filter seems like an indicator of some sort. Maybe we picked up a bad batch of fuel in Staniel Cay? Maybe some dirt in our tank got knocked loose and clogged up our filters? Either way, our filters are tricky as hell to change while under way, so we don’t have much choice but to carry on towards George Town praying that we don’t lose power just as we squeeze Hideaway between the two reefs flanking the entrance to Elizabeth Harbour.

But then we lose power just as we squeeze Hideaway between the two reefs flanking the entrance to Elizabeth Harbour.

F%$@! There is a lot of panicked shouting to unfurl the jib and fall away from the wind. We have no choice but to sail and tack our way out of the narrow cut. And as we make our way past the reefs in the dark and towards what looks like the world’s largest planetarium, with over 300 anchor lights shining like low-lying stars, Ryan and I exhale a tense, choppy breath of relief.

What seems certain upon our dramatic arrival to George Town is that we have a major problem. But, for now, we are safely anchored in the harbor and will be seeking some much-needed stress relief at Chat-n-Chill for a few days while we watch the Cruising Regatta kick off. After all, with 300 boats in the harbor, we are bound to meet someone who can help us figure out if clogged fuel filters are the only problem we are dealing with.

But we’ll deal with that later. For now, it’s time for a drink.

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Chat-n-Chill, the cruisers’ hangout in George Town

Route planning: More madness than method

Sometimes all you need is a pile of socks and a few rum punches to help you decide where to go next.

Ryan and I were ecstatic to be doing laundry at Ida’s in Black Point, Great Guana Cay because 1) it had been three weeks since we’d washed our clothes, 2) Ida offers laundry, showers, free WiFi and haircuts, but also conch fritters, carrot cake, coffee, coconut bread and pretty much anything to make me drool, and 3) we’d run into Dave and Alex from s/v Banyan over at Scorpion’s bar, where we went to enjoy two-for-one rum cocktails while we waited for the spin cycle to finish.

And though 3 weeks of laundry weighs about as much as Ryan, it seemed like a good idea at the time to bring our laundry back to the bar so we could carry on drinking rum with our friends until the wee hours. After all, there was a DJ playing tracks like Gangnam Style for those crazy half-Koreans like me on the dance floor.

The next morning, though, we woke up with so many questions like, “Did we go swimming last night?”, “Why are our clothes all wet?”, “Where’s your other flip flop?”, and “Why are there no sheets on the bed?”

It took a late afternoon dinghy ride over to Banyan to solve the mystery, as they answered, laughing, “Yep, you went swimming…Tasha jumped in when she dropped her sunglasses in the water…then Ryan went in after her…Tasha found her glasses…then Ryan lost his shoe…you don’t remember?!”

No, we don’t remember that. But we do remember quizzing Dave about sailors like himself who rush out to sea every time a northern gale blows through, while sailors like ourselves duck into safe harbors and hide. Apparently — as Dave explained it — though the north winds bring brutal waves to some harbors, you can also ride those winds south, since they’re strong enough to penetrate the easterly trade winds. And you can use that force to carry you clear through to the Dominican Republic and beyond. Which made sense, since we’re learning more and more that the farther we go under sail power, the more we conserve our engine, our fuel and our energies because we spend less time fighting the elements and more time going with the flow.

But it takes some understanding of the weather to do this. Which is why those sailors in the know catch the strong northerlies as early in the year as possible. Because the later in the year it gets, the more those winds die down, and then you end up fighting off the easterlies as you motor forth with the trade winds on your nose.

So having learned all this from Dave over rum punch #3, we went back to Ida’s to pick up our laundry from the driers and discuss this idea. And as we sorted our socks, we got to talking about what we should do in the spring. As hurricane season approaches in July, we wondered whether to take Hideaway back to Fort Lauderdale for the season or whether we should push further east and get the boat to Grenada, which is below the hurricane zone as far as insurance companies are concerned.

It seemed like a long way to go before July, though, considering Grenada is about 1300 miles southeast of Georgetown, Bahamas. And it took us over four months to cover 1800 miles from New York to the Bahamas. But then again, if we rode on the coattails of those north winds, it would surely be a lot faster than motoring down the ICW.

“But how many stops are we talking about between here and Grenada?” I asked. Which prompted Ryan to recreate a map of the islands using our laundered socks.

Looking over the socks, I scrunched my nose and thought about the route we’d come through. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to retrace our path back to Fort Lauderdale before hurricane season. “I don’t know. It just seems like such a shame to backtrack after covering all this distance,” I said. “What do you think?”

He smiled. “I think you just made the decision for us.”

And with that, we scooped up our sock map, headed back to the bar, and proceeded to drink our way towards swimming for my sunglasses and losing a flip-flop. But we’d made a decision we couldn’t forget: we were going to Grenada.

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Black Point anchorage, Great Guana Cay, Bahamas

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s/v Banyan and s/v Hideaway after a few rum punches in Scorpion’s

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The aftermath of two-for-one rum punches

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“This sock is Puerto Rico, this one is Cuba…”

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“We’re going all the way to the white sock. Grenada, here we come!”

Fitness Afloat: Learning to use our TRX

Like many a sailor preparing to transition to a life of cruising, I spent countless months in New York devouring sailing blogs, reading books and listening to tales of the disasters and triumphs of many old salts who once lived on the high seas.

From stories like Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, I took comfort and gained confidence; if a young girl with no sailing experience could sail the world single-handedly, I could probably sail it with a smidgen of experience and a partner on board. From books like Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey, I got the importance of studying the weather and maintaining good communication aboard (both for our safety and the sanity of our relationship). From blogs like Bumfuzzle, I absorbed the belief that you can do anything you set your mind to, if you can ignore the naysayers who’ll say you’re being foolish and suicidal. I followed Windtraveler’s posts for inspiration, fun and a photographic catalogue of the beautiful things cruising has to offer. And I was encouraged by Zero to Cruising’s ability to stay incredibly fit and active while living aboard.

From all of these cruising viewpoints, I started to form a picture of what I wanted my life aboard to be like. And at the top of my list of must-haves was fitness and staying active. My worry, though, was that sports and fitness would become elusive while life onboard revolved around maintenance, chores and navigation, and as we fell out of a regular routine. After all, routines have played a large part in keeping me involved in sports: between marathon training with running clubs, Saturday morning races in Central Park, roller derby practice three nights a week, cycling to and from work, and slalom ski racing every weekend in the winters. Looking at this list, I knew when we sailed out of New York, I’d have to give up most of these sports. But I also wanted to keep as much of it in my life as I could.

Okay, so obviously skiing and roller derby were out. It’s hard enough to stay upright at sea as it is. Imagine if I tried it on roller skates? Running and biking would stay, but probably not with any regularity. After all, some islands seem to consist of mostly sand and rocks with not much in the way of paths. Where there are roads, though, you can be sure I’ll be there with my sneakers on.

What we really needed was something on board to help us build strength and release those addictive endorphins when running and biking wasn’t possible. And then I read Zero to Cruising and learned how they used their TRX on board. The TRX is a simple set of adjustable straps that allow you to use your body weight as resistance to work specific muscle groups. And it looked perfect for the boat because we could hang it from the mast and use the small space on our foredeck to do a work out.

I have to admit, though, that it took us a while to get into a routine with the TRX. In fact, it’s traveled all the way from New York City to the Bahamas in an unopened box, buried beneath a dozen cans of cat food, while Ryan and I remained unmotivated to give it a try.

When we got to the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas, though, we started finding islands we couldn’t run or bike on. So on a breezy night in Allens Cay, when we craved some muscle burn and a little energy release, we broke out the TRX, watched the instructional DVD, and did our first 45-minute workout as the sun set over Hideaway in her secluded anchorage.

And it was good enough to make me regret not breaking it out of the package sooner. The TRX even comes with an easy-to-follow picture booklet that shows you easier and harder options for each exercise, so you can ramp up your workout any time you’re ready.

It wasn’t the kind of thing I would have chosen to do in, say, the basement of our house, or outside in cold weather. But with a beautiful view surrounding us, some music pumping from the stereo and a partner to keep me on task, the TRX suddenly became the perfect fitness accessory for our boat.

So here I am, like many a cruiser before me, trying to figure out what I want for my life aboard. It’s not always sunshine and sundowners, but I think we’re getting closer to understanding what our priorities are. And as Ryan would tell you, I’m a much easier person to live with once I’ve had a good sweat. So this TRX toy of ours may become more important than we ever realized.

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Sailing on a broad reach to…who cares?

I think there’s probably something in a sailing rule book somewhere that says you’re not a real sailor unless you have a favorite point of sail.

But to be honest with you, up until now, my favorite point of sail has been whatever got me to our destination the fastest and easiest. And, most often, that has been the engine, since it’s rare we get winds so perfect we can sail comfortably and quickly to our destination. Which, at times, causes me to wonder why we’re not motor-boat owners. Gas prices. That’s probably why.

In any case, we decided to do some sailing just for fun, after spending a few days at the crowded anchorage at Big Major Spot, near Staniel Cay, and thought it would be nice to skip north (a little unorthodox to backtrack, but why not?) to see the underwater Sea Aquarium at O’Brien’s Cay. And with the winds in our favor, we were able to just relax and enjoy the ride, rather than treat our boat like the transport mule we often think of her as.

And the weirdest thing happened… we set the sails for a broad reach and sailed almost all the way to O’Brien’s before I said to Ryan, “This point of sail… what is it? It might just be my favorite point of sail.”

The seas were calm, Jimmy Buffett was playing on our portable stereo, the cats had found their perches under the dodger and we were moving along at 5.5 knots with no engine.

Ryan said, “Yeah, this is pretty nice. But a beam reach would be even better. Less roll.”

And I thought about that for a while.

“But this is really, really nice,” I said. “The wind is just…perfect. If I ever had a favorite point of sail, this is it. Does that mean I can finally call myself a sailor?”

This question hung in the air as heavy as the hesitation I had about sailing around the world back in October.

“You can call yourself a sailor if you like,” Ryan said. “But a beam reach is nicer.”

“Well, I think I can say this broad reach thing we’ve got going here is my favorite,” I said. “This is the nicest this boat has sailed since we left Fort Lauderdale. For sure.”

Ryan wasn’t going to argue with that. After all, having a favorite point of sail surely meant I had finally fallen in love with sailing. As in, I had fallen in love with the act of sailing without a care as to what our destination might be. I was starting to care less about arrival times the longer we lived on the water. There was no turning back from here.

Even if a beam reach was better than a broad reach, in Ryan’s mind, it didn’t matter. His wife was finally hooked.

What’s the best point of sail? Whatever she says.

Yeah, mon. Don’t argue with the lady.

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Hideaway, on a lovely broad reach.

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To see photos of where we sailed on a broad reach from, visit Turf to Surf’s Photo Album of Staniel Cay and Big Major Spot.

Travel and Fitness: Running in the islands

One thing I’ve always loved about running is how simple it is. It doesn’t require any equipment — just a pair of sneakers and a stretch of road or beach in front of you. Of course, a little sunshine and a spectacular view doesn’t hurt, either.

Except back when we were constantly pushing Hideaway further and faster south to escape the cold, getting off the boat for a run was difficult. Ryan and I would go for days on end where we’d weigh anchor first thing in the morning and drop anchor in another cold harbor just as the sun was setting, leaving little time to stretch our legs, let alone go for a run.

But now that we’ve slowed down, the weather’s cheered up and each island is a mere two or three-hour sail away, we’ve found plenty of time to get off the boat and jog to the far corners of the most idyllic islands. And when we encounter an island that lacks paths, we don’t sweat it; we get our snorkel gear out and explore the underwater world around it instead. After all, there’s always plenty of time to go running on the next island.

The best thing for me about running, though (aside from the obvious health benefits), is how much you see when you lace up your sneakers and just go out exploring. And if you’re at all like me and you’ve been blessed with a terrible sense of direction, you’ll often find yourself lost, which is when you find some really interesting things. Sure, you may never be able to find those amazing spots again, but then that just enhances your experience of living in the now, right?

Staniel Cay turned out to be a great island for running (and getting lost on). There aren’t many roads, but there are some little-known trails that meander up hills to the highest points of the island, across an airport runway, off to hidden beaches and through the backyards of private homes.

The first day we went out running, I kept mumbling “Wow” under my breath every few minutes, as we would turn a corner and find ourselves on an empty beach, or as we reached the crest of a hill where I could see the entire island from one end to the other. And there was never another soul in sight. So, the next day we went running, I made sure to carry my old pocket camera with me, so I could capture some of what I was seeing.

These views are what get me excited to lace up my sneakers and get to shore as often as possible. I just never know what I’ll find out there on those trails. The most beautiful spot I’ve ever been to may be just around the corner, a few miles down a dusty trail.

And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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A nice little spot to stop and rest before running on.

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Running brings me to spots like this.

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What a view from up here.

5 reasons to visit Staniel Cay, Bahamas

When we first started making our way down the Exuma chain, we were a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of islands there were to see. 365, apparently: one for every day of the year. So to help us sort through which islands to visit and which ones to skip, we jotted down a list of 5 criteria for what we’d want in an island (with the baseline assumption that every island has a stunning beach). And if we could check off two or more items on our list, we’d stop for a visit.

Tasha & Ryan’s Island Criteria (in no particular order):

  1. Trails or roads for running
  2. A well-protected or secluded anchorage
  3. A point of interest (iguanas, sunken plane, swimming pigs, etc.)
  4. A bar (or restaurant)
  5. A store, laundry and/or WiFi

According to our criteria, Staniel Cay scored a whopping 5 out of 5. So, as soon as the winds died down over Warderick Wells, we let go of our mooring ball and made a bee-line for the burgers and social interaction we were so badly craving after a week on the boat with just each other.

And Staniel Cay did not disappoint. Well, that’s not exactly true; we couldn’t find anywhere to do laundry. But we’d heard that Black Point on Great Guana Cay was home to an amazing woman named Ida who offered laundry, hot showers, haircuts, homemade bread and coffee. It had been three weeks since we last did laundry, so what was another couple of days in dirty clothes, anyway?

In any case, Staniel Cay turned out to be the perfect place to stop after a period of isolation. Not only did we soak up our share of burgers, rum punches and cruising stories in the bar at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, but we ran the island from top to bottom and sweated out any dregs of cabin fever left in us. We also did all the touristy things, like snorkel at the Thunderball Grotto, a cave named for the James Bond movie it was featured in, and swim with the pigs at Big Major Spot.

We love disappearing and having a secluded island to ourselves as much as the next cruiser, but it’s also nice to find an island full of amenities after being out on your own for a while. But even the busiest islands out here in the Exumas are still, by no means, urban. You won’t find a Starbucks or a McDonald’s, for example, or even an island with a population of over 100 until you get to Georgetown. But you might find a little old lady who sells vegetables and does laundry for you in the back of her house. Or you might find a clapboard shack on the beach that serves grilled fish and conch salad.

And it’s those moments, when I’m eating conch salad on the beach, watching the sun set over Hideaway in the distance, that it feels like my soul is being fed, more than my stomach.

And I’d have to say, Starbucks would really struggle to compete with that.

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Could Ryan be the next grandmaster?

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Walking up to “The Blue Store,” where you’ll find a modest selection of grocery items.

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Swimming pigs are the main attraction at Big Major Spot.

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These pigs appear to like apples and lettuce, but careful when you feed them!

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Underwater world at the Thunderball Grotto.

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Enjoying the view of the harbor at sunset

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The sun sets over the pristine beaches of Staniel Cay.

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For more photos of Staniel Cay, visit the Staniel Cay Photo Album on our Facebook Page! Like Turf to Surf’s page while you’re there if you want to keep in touch with us as we travel.

Photo Essay: Warderick Wells Cay, Bahamas

I was all set to write about Warderick Wells Cay being the dullest island in the Exumas chain and how we would have moved on more quickly if it weren’t for the gale-force winds that kept us tied securely to a park mooring ball.

But then I downloaded our photos and had to laugh out loud. Who would ever believe my ambivalence towards an island so ridiculously photogenic that it belonged on the glossy pages of National Geographic?

So, rather than mention the unwalkable “trails,” the mediocre snorkeling, the park headquarters shop which sells nothing useful, or the island’s famous pirate landmark, which is really just a circle drawn in the sand next to a brackish well with a sign labeling it “Pirate’s Lair,” I’ll just leave you with this photo essay and the knowledge that even the most boring islands in the Exumas are laughably beautiful.

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Hideaway in the south mooring field.

warderick wells cay bahamas hiking trails

The island’s sharp, craggy rocks make for difficult and slow walking.

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A friendly island native.

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The north mooring field – the most popular of the island’s three mooring fields.

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Moorings in front of Park Headquarters.

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Boo Boo Hill, the main “attraction” on the north end of the island.

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“Hideaway was here February 2013.”

A cruiser’s tantrum: Things I hate about living on a boat

Looking over our photos of idyllic beaches and topaz blue waters, you’d think that life aboard a sailboat looked like a Chanel perfume ad. You can just see me swinging in a hammock on a sun-drenched foredeck as a breeze lifts the hems of my white linen trousers. And in my lap is a puppy. There’s always a puppy. Not a cat who likes to wake me up by clawing me in the head.

Then again, I’m sure you also know that living aboard a small, tipping weeble-wobble of a vessel is not all sunshine and Prozac commercial takes.

For starters, completing a simple task just takes longer on a boat than it does elsewhere. You need a roll of toilet paper? Well, you’ll have to remove your entire mattress and bedding first, then pull off the slab of wood covering your V-berth storage and pull out several items you don’t need so you can reach the toilet paper. Then you have to put all the items you pulled out back in storage and cover it up so you can put your mattress and bedding back together. But at least you now have toilet paper.

You just wish you’d realized you were out of toilet paper before you started doing the bathroom dance.

I guess that part got cut from the commercial with the hammock and the puppy.

Of course, I realize these are petty, insignificant complaints. After all, sometimes I do get to sit on a hammock and I often get to walk on beautiful beaches. Who wouldn’t trade a little comfort for the view I have each day?

But when the waves are tossing pots and pans onto the floor, my hair is crusty and there isn’t enough water for a shower, the little things start to eat at me. And then my mental monologue can sound a little like this:

Shit, are we out of water?

Where is that rattling coming from?

Music. That will drown out the rattling. Crap, are the speakers broken again?

What is that smell?

Has it really only been 4 days since we filled up our water tanks?

I need to use the computer. But the batteries are low.

Seriously, what IS that smell?

Did we put blue stuff down the head?

Where is the blue stuff?

It’s probably under the settee cushions, under 15 cans of coconut milk. I’ll get it later.

Wait, the smell is coming from the bedroom. What is that?

Can’t I just sit and read without that list of boat projects staring at me?

I need to get off this boat.

Is it just me, or do Ryan’s jokes get less funny the longer I’m on this boat?

I need to go for a run.

Damnit, that smell! It’s cat pee in my sneakers!

I NEED TO GET OFF THIS BOAT.

Crap. The waves are choppy. Can we get this dinghy down?

Okay, dinghy’s down. How am I supposed to balance on this bouncing surfboard of a dinghy to get the engine on?

Ouch! Damnit! Who moved that boom over here?

Ugh. My shorts are moldy.

Dinghy’s ready! We’re going to shore.

I am so ready to SWEAT.

WTF? The guidebook said there are “trails” on this island. These aren’t trails! They’re jagged lines of spiky rocks conspiring to throw me on my face.

Ooh. That rain cloud looks ugly. And it’s coming this way.

Damnit. Dinghy’s out of gas. Row faster.

How the hell are we going to cook dinner with the boat bouncing around like this?

Ramen for dinner?

Shit, we’re out of water.

Crackers for dinner?