Sunday, February 26, 2012


Saturday, February 26

A week's worth of activity to catch up on!  (And for those of you who have been asking for more pictures, boy, do we have pictures!)  After leaving Nassau, we three boats (Wind Dancer, Emerald Seas and Orion) made it to Allan's Cay in the Exumas, a lovely little cay with a wonderful, protected anchorage.  After dinghying to shore the next morning, we were greeted by a horde of iguanas (some of whom were pretty aggressive in wanting their grape-on-a stick!).  In any case, we were glad we used the sticks to create a little bit of room between our fingers and the grapes.  But it was great fun and not to have been missed as one of the things you simply must do in this neck of the woods.  Allan's Cay is the only place on earth that these particular prehistoric (and not too attractive) iguanas exist, so it really is special to see them.  (It's the one place we forgot to take the camera.  Sorry.  They would have been great pics.)

After overnighting at Allan's Cay, we sailed just a few hours south to Norman's Cay and anchored out.  A couple of hundred feet from our boat there was a delightful little island (as in tiny island) that we dinghied Sophie & Chelsea to, and did they have a ball running around the island, splashing through the water, and getting loaded up with sand.  What fun!!  That was followed by a quick dunk in the ocean for the dogs, which was then followed by a quick fresh water rinse.  They loved it!  

The next day, the six of us (Jim, Renate, Lyle, Julie and ourselves) took a walking tour across some of Norman's Cay and had lunch (and, of course, rum & pineapple juice!) at a great little open air restaurant & bar called the Norman's Cay Beach Club.

While at Norman's Cay, we also saw Chuck & Marianne on their boat, Symphony.  We had met them while staying in Nassau at the marina there.  In any case, while talking with them at Norman's, the subject of boat names came up and we had to confess that when we re-named Wind Dancer (originally Ithaka), we had not been aware that a mandatory re-naming ceremony is required, involving much drinking and merrymaking with other sailors.  If this is not done, Neptune frowns upon you and you apparently are taking your life in your (or his) hands every time you set sail.  However, never having heard that the ceremony could not be done retroactively, we decided that the old adage "better late than never" applied and the ceremony was scheduled for that evening.  Lyle & Julie arrived in costume (he in a Scottish kilt, beret and scabbard and she in piratical garb) bearing a Tiki god, and Jim, Renate, Chuck & Marianne joined in the fun.  It was decided that any ceremony involving a Texas boat had, of necessity, to include the imbibing of margaritas, so Sue made her really, really good homemade margaritas (remember those, Nancy & Daren?) and a great time was had by all.  A marvelous poem provided by Lyle & Julie had excerpts read by all in attendance and, with a Sue & Al kiss and the obligatory splashing of alcohol on her bow, Wind Dancer was toasted by all and was officially christened, hence to be smiled upon by Neptune and his friends (hopefully).

Then the next day it was on just a little way south to Shroud Cay, where the draw is that the island is covered with mangroves.  We took advantage of a mooring ball at Shroud and the next day we took the three dinghies across the island, dinghying in an extremely shallow creek through the mangroves to a beautiful little beach and reef where we had lunch and then snorkeled.  The surprise of the day was when we returned to the dinghies, only to find that the tide had gone out, leaving them high and dry.  All we could do was take the motors off each dinghy and then everyone joined in lifting (and dragging) each dinghy, followed by another trip with each motor, carrying each one more than one hundred yards (approx. the length of a football field).  It was exhausting work and, boy, did we learn our lesson.  Pay attention to the tides! Once we were finally able to be afloat, we took another (almost equally shallow) route on the return trip, which took us to another cool little beach where everyone took a well deserved swim before heading back.

And this is what we were greeted with when we tried to leave.

After spending one more night at Shroud Cay, we left on Thursday, sailing south approximately five hours to where we are currently:  Warderick Wells Cay.  Warderick Wells is home to the park headquarters for the Exuma Land & Sea Park, a 176-square mile area set aside as a land and marine protected area.  The park is 22 miles along and extends out four miles on either side of the cays it encompasses (15 large cays and several tiny ones).  Its purpose is to "provide a safe haven and replenishment area for the wildlife native to the Bahamas and to educate the public in saving this beautiful environment for future generations."  It is a "no take" area, wherein no fishing, no conching, no lobstering, etc. is allowed.  Warderick Wells is a very popular destination in the Exumas, and we were lucky to get a mooring here.  A front with some pretty strong winds is due to arrive on Sunday/Monday, so we plan on staying here a few days before heading south to our next planned destination of Cambridge Cay, followed by Staniel Cay and then Georgetown, a large (by Bahamian standards) town with a population of a little over 1,000 people, which will allow us to do some replenishing and have our refrigeration system (which has been on the fritz lately) worked on.  In the meantime, we are able to buy ice here at the park headquarters, so all is well insofar as being able to keep our food chilled (heaven forbid if we couldn't have cold beer!).  The park even has a happy hour on Saturday nights, which we plan on attending this evening.  All the cruisers here at the moorings descend on the beach, everyone brings a dish to share, along with their own drinks, and the park provides ice for everyone.  What fun!

While I've been typing, Al has spent the the afternoon in the water, in his wetsuit, mask & fins, scraping barnacles off the hull of Wind Dancer.  Well, somebody has to do it (and it's not going to be me).  I put on my wetsuit, mask & fins, got into the water with him and two minutes later a six-foot shark swam by directly underneath me (and we're only in 12 feet of water, folks).  That was the quickest I've ever climbed a swim ladder, and no amount of telling me "It's only a nurse shark, babe" was going to get me back in there today.

Back to the Exuma Park.  Due to their being protected, the lobsters within the park area grow to be huge.  Al and I have decided that we need to buy a spear gun so we can catch (and eat!) our own lobsters after leaving the park.  (We'll let you know how that goes.)  Another delicacy enjoyed in the Bahamas is conch and according to park literature "The concentration of conch inside the Exuma Park is 31 times higher than the concentration outside the park.  This conservatively provides several million conch outside the park for fishermen to harvest each year."  That's a lot of conch.  And it's prepared in a jillion different ways:  cracked conch, conch chowder, conch fritters, fried conch, you name it.  It's a little chewy...but most people like it (Sue being the exception).  Also, daily at 6:00 p.m. it's traditional for those cruisers who have queen conch shells aboard (and who know how to blow them), to simultaneously blow their conch shells throughout an anchorage.  Too cool.

Was going to post this on Saturday but our internet connection got a little screwy and it didn't happen, is now Sunday.  The happy hour on the beach gave us a chance to meet the other cruisers here and we met one really nice couple (Hank & Trisha on Aventura) who is on the same page with us environmentally, knowledgeable about plastics, etc. so we have made new friends.  The front arrived overnight as predicted (we currently have 25-30 mph winds) so we're hanging out here for another day or two until the winds die down before heading south.  There are several marked trails on Warderick Wells and Al and I plan on walking on at least one of them today (we've chosen the Boo Boo Hill Trail that takes us to the other side of the island for starters).

Well, that's it for news.  We've tried taking pictures of the water to show you how magnificent the colors are but our camera simply cannot do it justice.  Exquisite water.  Easy to see why the Exumas are labeled the best cruising grounds in the western hemisphere.  Absolutely beautiful.

Sophie & Chelsea have come to expect their daily dinghy ride (so much so that they bug us until we take them).  Here's the typical ride, with Chelsea on the left, butt in the air and head as close to the water as she can manage, looking for dolphin.

Off we go trail walking.  Thanks as always for following us.  We'll keep in touch as we're able.  Until then,

Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer
Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Thursday, February 16

We've been having the dickens of a time getting wi-fi connections here in Nassau, so please excuse our tardiness in updating the blog.  We arrived in Nassau last Saturday after an overnight sail from Bimini.  A lot of conversation took place on the VHF in the morning concerning whether we (Wind Dancer) would accompany our friends on their three boats on their planned route or whether we would head north, going around Bimini and then down to Nassau (a longer route by approx. 40 miles but with deeper water for the entire trip).  Our draft of 6 ft was deeper than that of the other boats and there was cause for concern since we were slated to go over an area of very shallow water.  One boater (whom we did not know) got on the radio and said "Don't even think about it.  No boat with a six foot draft EVER goes that way!"  Well, we decided to trust our friends and go with them but, yes, it did get shallow (but gorgeous!).  It was between eight and nine feet deep for a substantial portion of the trip (the lowest we saw on our depth finder was 7.8 feet, so we were okay).  But what was funny was that after all the VHF discussion in the morning before leaving Bimini, when we four boats finally left harbor, four other boats (whose occupants we did not know) came racing to catch up with us and then stayed right behind us all the way to Nassau.  Al and I figured that they, having heard the VHF traffic, decided to follow hard on the heels of Wind Dancer.  If we could make it, so could they!  In any case, all of us managed to stay fairly close together for the entire overnight trip and arrived in Nassau harbor Saturday morning like 8 little ducks, all in a row.

While in Nassau, we took one day out to simply be tourists and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  We walked over the bridge to Paradise Island and toured the really impressive Atlantis aquarium there.  The battery on the camera chose that day to require a charge before it would continue, so we didn't take as many pictures as we would have liked.  Sorry about that!  It really is worth  seeing.  (Pictures will be posted next time; in our haste to get to the Texaco station tonight to take advantage of their internet access, where we are now, we completely forgot to bring the USB cord to download the pictures.  Sorry about that!)

As far as our time in Nassau goes, we have spent it doing what seems like a jillion things getting us and Wind Dancer prepared for the next part of the journey, which is heading for the relatively uninhabited Exuma cays where we'll be anchored out the vast majority of the time, using our dinghy to get to shore, and, in general, having to be more self-sufficient than has been necessary so far.  But it's the part of the trip we've looked the most forward to and we can hardly wait to get going.  We're leaving for Allan's Cay tomorrow morning (having stayed at the Nassau Harbour Club Marina while here, where Peter, the dock master, took great care of us).  Among other things, Allan's Cay is known for having a substantial population of prehistoric iguanas who apparently come out to see what you're all about when you dinghy in to shore.  They have been led to expect handouts from cruisers and we understand that they absolutely love grapes, apples and, of all things, weiners.  Unfortunately, they often can't tell the difference between the weiner and your finger...and they bite!  We had initially decided that there would be no feeding of the iguanas by Wind Dancer but have since been told that a grape-on-a-stick is enough to make an iguana happy and that sounds doable.  We'll see.

We sail tomorrow w/o Manatee; Rod & Eveline left a couple of days ago and are headed for Grenada.  But, as much as we will miss them, we have met many people here at the marina who are headed for the Exumas and we'll no doubt be running into many of them as time goes by.  We may even run into Rod & Eveline next year in the Virgin Islands.  Sounds good to us!

Sue celebrated her 65th birthday here on Monday and has decided that 80 degree weather makes for a much better celebration than does the typical February Houston weather!  

Well, that's all the news that's fit for reporting. Heaven knows when we'll have internet access again but we'll keep you posted as often as we can.  Thanks once again for following us!

Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer
Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Thursday, February 9

Leaving Boot Key Harbor

We made it!  We left Boot Key Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, with Chris Parker's blessing for an easy crossing of the Gulf Stream...and it was gorgeous!  We sailed overnight with three other boats (Emerald Seas w/ Jim & Renate, Manatee w/ Rod & Eveline, and Orion w/ Lyle & Julie), arriving in Bimini, Bahamas at approximately 10:00 a.m.  And what a crossing it was!  Beautifully calm seas with a full moon and a 3-4 knot current zipping us along.  Although we motor-sailed most of the way, at one point Al turned off the motor and, with all three sails flying, we flew along at 8 knots.  How nice!

Dawn on the Gulf Stream

The water here is simply not to be believed.  There's a reason The Bahamas are known as having the most beautiful waters in the world; absolutely exquisitely clear water with every shade of blue and green imaginable.  At one point when we were approaching Bimini, Al asked me what the depth was.  When I replied "60 feet," he said "I can see the bottom."  Truly breathtakingly beautiful.  And so remarkably clear!  How fortunate we are to be here.

Weech's Marina in Bimini

Bimini Island is a delightful little community.  Very quaint with extraordinarily friendly people.  Our group had cocktails last night at the End of the World bar and then went to a little restaurant overlooking the water where we feasted on fresh lobster (at half the price of lobster in the U.S.).  Since lobster is my favorite seafood and rum & pineapple juice is my favorite drink...and both are half the price we're used to paying...I'm happy!

Our group of four boats (we call ourselves the Moonlighters) is heading off tomorrow for Nassau.  It's another overnight sail with the weather forecast not quite as great as it was for the crossing of the Gulf Stream, but it s/b fine.  We hadn't initially planned on going to Nassau, thinking we would prefer to visit the less inhabited out islands, anchoring out as much as possible and dinghying around the various islands as opposed to staying at marinas.  However, the water here is chillier than we were used to when we snorkeled in the Virgin Islands and our friends have convinced us that we really do need wetsuits to be comfortable.  Did I mention that Bimini is quaint?  So much so that there is no place on the island to buy a it's off to Nassau we go.  Most of the trip will be spent sailing in approximately 15 ft of water and s/b stunningly beautiful.

Sue in a Bahamian sari (100% cotton, of course!)

We'll keep you posted as to our wanderings whenever possible.  We have lost the wi-fi access we had in the states whereby we could use our Sprint "hot spot"to connect to the internet.  We now have to go searching for free wi-fi on land (this post was typed in Bimini while sitting on the bench where you see Al sitting below; a rather odd place to find wi-fi but delightful nonetheless), so we may not be able to post to the blogspot as often as we would like.  In the meantime, now, more than ever, we truly do wish you could be here with us.

Our new open air "office" offering wi-fi (also known as Bimini's answer to Starbuck's)

Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer
Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea

Monday, February 6, 2012


Monday, February 6

Just a quick update (no pics today).  We have been anticipating being able to leave for The Bahamas almost every day for the last several days but the weather pattern has been very unusual (according to the experts) and forecasts keep changing.  It now appears as if we will be able to leave tomorrow.  (The trip will be an overnight sail taking approximately 24 hours total, with arrival planned for mid-day at Bimini on Wednesday.)  We will be traveling in the company of three other boats (new friends Jim & Renate on s/v Emerald Seas, Rod & Eveline on s/v Manatee, and one other couple [whom we have not yet met] on s/v Orion).  Emerald Seas and Manatee have both made the crossing to The Bahamas before so we're delighted to be in their company.

Our friend Jon Siewers on s/v JonNe drove up from Key West on Saturday for a visit with us.  His wife Renne couldn't join him; she's been out of town with her hospitalized daughter recently but the prognosis for her daughter's recovery appears to be good, so we're glad about that.  Jon & Renne had initially planned on making the crossing with us but boat maintenance problems have necessitated their staying in Florida for awhile.  Hopefully, they'll be able to leave soon.  We'll look forward to hooking up with them later in the islands.

Cross your fingers for us for the crossing, folks.  We are SO looking forward to getting to The Bahamas and seeing that exquisite water.  We'll include lots of photos in the blog once we're there.

Thanks again for following us.  We'll keep you posted with any new developments.

Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer
Sue, Al,  Sophie & Chelsea