Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Berry Islands - Devils - Hoffmans Cay

We were sad to leave our friends on Great Harbor Cay, but we can't stay in one piece of paradise for ever. Try explaining this to Emma and Ally. They never want to leave where we currently are. But, we entice them with what is to come at the next anchorage.

The passage down The Berry Islands to Devils Cay was great. We were back out in the Northwest Passage in deep water, so we threw the trolling lines in and the excitement began. We didn't have time to pull in the first fish before the next hit the line. In all, we caught 2 Gray Snappers, 1 Grouper and 1 King Mackerel. We released the Mackerel, but kept the others. Don't think that this was an easy job. At first, we had no idea what type of fish we had caught or whether they were safe to eat. Our fish identification book was of little use because it was mostly identifying reef fish. But, we finally pieced it together from other guides on board.

Since then, we have been eating tons of fresh fish. Jennie found a great recipe and prepared the snapper with garlic, ginger, basil, hot pepper and soy. We grilled it for a great dinner. The next day, we cooked the remainder of the snapper, that had been marinating all night, over a bonfire on a palm studded beach for an awesome lunch.

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to let you know about our arrival and first night. After the snapper dinner, we retired to the beach for a bonfire and smores. The girls had collected the firewood during the afternoon. We were the only boat within miles and the sky without light noise pollution was studded with millions of stars. The weather has been pretty consistent with perfect temperatures, a few fluffy clouds, nice breeze, awesome sunsets and no rain.
The next morning, we decided to explore White Cay.
This is the small island were were anchored behind. Here is a great shot of the girls out on a towering pillar of rock off the seaward side of the island.
We moved Miakoda around to the back side of Devils Cay to be more protected from the surge and found a beautiful little beach with palm trees full of coconuts. After harvesting some fresh coconut, we cooked the remaining snapper on a bonfire. For dinner this night, we made fresh grouper fish fingers.
The next day, we decided to explore Hoffmans Cay where there is a blue hole. This was a real highlight. After a short hike up a hillside covered with trees, you arrive at a cliff towering over a deep blue lake. This is extremely deep and sheer. You can jump off the cliff into the beautiful water. It was too high for the girls, but Brian jumped several times and even Jen overcame her fear and did the jump!!It is a little unnerving with the water being so deep that it seems to go on forever.
Of course, after working up an appetite swimming, Jennie made some great lobster salad. For dinner at Hoffmans, we found a recipe for curried lobster - to die for!

Next order of business, find some Internet. We have been without cellphone or Internet for several days now. Finally, we picked up a signal on a nearby island and have moved there to update the blog. Our plan is to post these updates and then move on south to Whale Cay tonight and leave at the crack of dawn for Nassau on Friday.
Until then . . .

Friday, January 23, 2009

Great Harbor Cay - Berry Islands

Monday morning Jan 19th, was a beautiful clear day. We raised our yellow quarantine flag to indicate that we had not cleared customs and immigration yet. A call to the marina on the VHF for a slip assignment and we were ready to make our first landfall in the Bahamas. The marina has to call the local airstrip to have the customs officer come to the marina. Nathan arrived fairly quickly and the check was painless. The immigration officer was delayed and didn't arrive until later afternoon.

While waiting for immigration, the girls found a local bahamian that was trimming the palm trees and collecting coconut milk. It always seems that Emma and Ally are attracted to locals with machettes.
Next, Kenny aka. "Bubba" shows up with his catch of fish and lobster. He is a mainstay at the marina and is known for his abilities at spearfishing. We hired him to take Brian out for a day and teach him how to catch and clean fish.
Brian and Bubba made quite a haul (4 porgies, 2 marget, 1 hog fish, 33 lobsters, 10 conch). We have been eating fresh fish and lobster for almost every meal.

Emma, just like her sister and mother, is determined to sink the boat with shells. Here she is showing off a nice conch shell given to her by Bubba.
We found the people on Great Harbor Cay to be warm and friendly. Everyone waves and life is laid back. The girls were invited to attend the local school for a few days. They fit right in and loved it. Ally read books to the class and Emma taught the children how to make paper snowflakes. The local children always wanted to hug the girls or touch their blond hair. The girls would have loved to stay in school here. Here is a picture of the second grade class.
Great Harbor Cay has some beautiful beaches. Here is Emma and Ally's first beach / shelling experience in the Bahamas. They are yelling "We finally made it!"This beach is called "Shell Beach". You can see the first haul of sand dollars. The girls are getting spoiled. Just look at the setting for school today.
It is almost time for us to leave the marina, but not before one more surprise. We have been looking for Manatees for months. We finally had a mother, father and baby cruise by. Here is a picture of the father.

Until next time, goodbye from the crew of Miakoda.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Crossing

We finally got a window of opportunity to leave No Name Harbor on Sunday morning. A front had just passed and we enjoyed light South and South East winds for the majority of the day. Crossing the Gulf Stream was uneventful. Our plan was to either bail out in Bimini to clear in, or continue on to the Berry Islands to clear in at Great Harbor Cay.

This passage was our first attempt at fishing since we left in July '08 and it paid off. The girlies were very excited about trolling across the Gulf Stream. As we approached North Bimini at sunset and the water was sh0aling from 700+ feet to 50-60 feet, we finally got our first catch. The excitement was palpable.
We were rewarded with a small blue fin tuna. OK, this is where our lack of experience really showed. The boat was total confusion. How do we bring it aboard? How do we kill it? How do we clean it? How do we cook it? And most important, what kind of fish is it?

Finally, we figured out that it was a Tuna. It had already died by the time I was ready to clean it.And Jennie made up a great sauce to sear it it.

On full stomachs and with a beautiful sunset over the Atlantic, we decided to continue on to the Berry Islands instead of stopping in Bimini. Customs was already closed in Bimini, so we might as well venture on. It was a very dark night with no lights. During the passage, we didn't see any other vessels.

In the wee hours of the morning, Jennie was standing watch when she started yelling for me to come up that she had a problem. There was a strange light we were about to hit. I quickly looked around and then imparted the wisdom that "the next time she felt she was going to hit the moon, don't! Just enjoy the view." The moon was a huge cresent laid on it's side just coming over the horizon and it looked like you could touch it. So cool!!!

Around 3:30 am, we were approaching Great Harbor Cay and decided to anchor outside until the morning. Once the sun came up, we realized how glad we were that we waited. The cut is very narrow and it was extremely dark. Here is a picture of the cut.

Until later . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Key Biscayne - NoName Harbor

We are waiting in No Name harbor for a narrow weather window to make our crossing to the Bahamas. It looks like Sunday, Jan 18th is the day. While waiting in in Key Biscayne, we have picked up some last minute provisions.

The harbor is located in a Florida State Park and has a great lighthouse that the girls couldn't wait to climb. The park is perfect for bike riding through the miles of trails. We had a few last minute fedex packages arrive on Friday and Saturday. The Park Rangers were incredibly helpful.

Say goodbye to Verizon Wireless. This is the last place they will work for us. We will have to find a new way to communicate in the Bahamas.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Miami, Florida - Waiting for the weather

Hello friends and family. We are still located in Miami, Florida waiting for decent weather to cross to the Bahamas. We were lucky to have some visitors over the past 2 weeks. It was wonderful to see our good friend Doris, Brian's sister Laura and Brian's Aunt Susan, her daughter Kristen and Brian's cousin Sara. The last 3 were down in Ft. Lauderdale for the Orange Bowl.

For New Year's Eve, we spent it with friends in Coconut Grove, Fl. It just happened that as we entered the harbor, we came across a couple that had kept their catamaran at our dock prior to the Annapolis Boat Show. Gary and Lisa sailed the Admiral 40 "Siya Sinana" from Cape Town, Africa to Annapolis. The evening was fun and was followed by fireworks from many different locations surrounding us. No New Year's Eve celebration would be complete without dressing up. Here is Emma in her self designed outfit. Emma and Ally were in heaven with Gary and Lisa's kid sized dogs.Miami is our last U.S. port of call prior to crossing to Bimini, Bahamas, so we are making sure to stock up on all our parts and food items. Parts are very difficult to get in the Bahamas and are subject to 40+% duty.