Wish You Were Here

So I have to admit, I’ve been a terrible blogger.  As you can see I’m about a month behind in current events, and while I sit here in Jamaica, posts are still going up from our time in Long Island Bahamas.  Do you know how much has happened since then?  We’ve been down and then back up the Jumentos and Ragged Islands, hung out for a few days in a beautiful harbor back on Long Island, made a 36 hour passage down to Great Inagua, and then a took two days going through the Windward Passage to Jamaica.  I blame the slacking on rolly anchorages in the Bahamas that made my stomach turn every time I picked my computer up to do a little work (although honestly, sometimes I was just out having too much fun and therefore too exhausted to pick up my computer), and so now I have gotten even further behind.  I promised myself ‘Once we get to a calm anchorage in Jamaica I’ll sit down with the computer every night and do some writing’.  But do you know what happened?  We arrived here with Nila Girl waiting, Rode Trip a day behind, and then met some great new buddies on Tamarisk that have kept us out every night.  So now we’re leaving Jamaica and I have nothing to show for the blog.

You stuck around the last time there was a few weeks of silence (hopefully) and I promise I will try not to do that to you again.  I may not have a bunch of post prepared that I can schedule while we’re traveling, but what I do have is a TON of photos from all the gorgeous places we have been visiting.  So here I introduce to you ‘Wish you were here’.  Each day we’re gone and I don’t have a story to put up of our travels, I will at least leave you with a beautiful photograph of where we’ve been.  That will keep you hanging on until I get back, right?

Compass Cay, Exumas, Bahamas


Sunday April 7, 2013

It was apparent that we had waaay too good of a time on Thursday night when we woke up on Friday and couldn’t get ourselves off the boat.  The impending storm that was keeping us in Long Island for longer than we had originally planned was also making it’s way in and tossing the seas up with it.  Our normally calm anchorage was now rocking Serendipity back and forth and I can’t even tell the moment where the hangover ended and seasickness set in.  We tried to get ourselves motivated to make it into the Breeze on Friday night for happy hour and live music, but after moving to the other side of the bay for a little more protection we could not get ourselves motivated for the 30 minute dinghy ride over.  An evening of movies and nothing else was in order, and it was actually a nice little break from all the running around and projects we had been doing.  Yesterday we did move the boat back to where all our friends were in front of the breeze and even had a nice dinner of grilled fish after Ren caught one of the biggest groupers I’ve ever seen.  Throw in some sides of coleslaw and potato salad compliments of Long Island Breeze (ok, there was still a per person charge on those), and it ended up being a really nice night that just came together without any pre-planning.

Today was our last day in Long Island, and Ren and Ashley wanted to take us for one more outing.  They described a grotto that was supposed to be behind an old abandoned church and it was supposed to be filled with little red shrimp.  We not usually ones to turn down a hike anyway and the promise of a red shrimp grotto made it sound even better.  Once again we piled the six of us into their little coupe and wound around the deserted roads until we came to the abandoned church they were talking about.  It was definitely old and definitely run down but at the same time it held a little mystery and charm to it.Even though the walls were crumbling down, faint hints of a once bright paint still stood out on shutters and walls. We stepped over strewn 2×4’s and avoided hornets nests as we took in the beauty. One of the things our guidebook recommended doing most while in Long Island was visiting one of the many churches. I’m not sure if this was one of the ones they had in mind, but if we had to pick only one to see, I’m glad this was it.

After the quick tour we wandered out back to where we were supposed to find the trail that would lead us to the grotto. Neither Ren nor Ashley had actually been there before themselves and were just going on simple Bahamian type directions of ‘look for a marker behind the church and follow that trail’. It was the same kind of directions that got us lost going to the beach for Easter service. ‘Take the road across from this restaurant and follow it to the beach’. Simple and direct. We looked for a ‘marker’ and found what looked to be a previously worn trail leading up a hill that we followed.  After bushwacking for nearly an hour we were dropped out at a salt lake, but no grotto to be found.  Matt and I seemed to fare the best as far as cuts and scrapes while the others nursed their cut up legs and blistered feet. We sat for a minute while catching our breath and playing with the foam washing up on shore before setting back out to find the real trail.  Once we were all but back to the church the guys began taking path they saw a bent blade of grass and eventually their calls let us girls know that it had been located.

Changing into our suits, everyone but Stephanie jumped into the chilly but crystal clear salt water to do a little exploring.  Sprinkled across the bottom were tiny red shrimp with long antennas extending from their heads.  Holes at the top of the grotto let in beams of light and we’d swim back and forth between shade and sun.  No one stayed in too long since it was far from the bathwater we normally experienced in our shallow, protected anchorages.  It was another well kept secret of the area that we felt special for being one of the few to experience it.  The drive back to Salt Pond was long and lazy with a few detours along the way.  We drove down beaten up dirt paths and picked sea grapes off vines that grew just off the road.  Finally getting back to our boats we gave ourselves a few hours to freshen up before joining again in the evening for dinner on Nila Girl.  The grouper that Ren had caught the night before gave enough leftovers that we were doing fish tacos with sides of tortilla chips (our ready to serve contribution), along with Ashley’s guacamole, and Brian’s homemade tortilla shells.  Another perfect day in paradise.

4.7.13 (6)

4.7.13 (7)

Beach Bungalow Dancing

Thursday April 4, 2013

We think things are finally winding down to an end for us here in Long Island, so it was time to take care of last minute business like stocking up our measly grocery supply and making sure we grabbed the bracket for the davits.  Sweating it out once more on the pavement we walked up to the local garage where the owner Les who told us the part was all ready. He brought it out and explained that although he did weld and grind the two pieces back together it may not be as strong as it originally was. We half expected this prognosis and may be ordering a new bracket as soon as we have the option, but we figured a fixed one, even if it wasn’t as strong as before, was better than the ghetto rigged contraption we were using at the moment. Plus with some of the big hops we’ll be doing in the near future we’ll need all the strength we could get. We paid the $20 to Les and continued to see what kind of goodies the mail boat brought to the grocery store.  The store was fully loaded, but the problem was that we were completely indecisive.  Walking up and down the aisles with a little basket in our hands we kept exchanging looks of ‘What do we even need?’.  We’re horrible at grocery shopping and never go with a list or even a plan so we just threw in a few basics like lunch meat, potatoes, and a staple of ours, cereal and milk.  Once we were satisfied that we could survive on the boat for another week we grabbed our Meijer bags (yes, they put our food in Meijer bags, how strange and cool!) and went back to Serendip for a little R&R.

We had a few hours to kill before the big event for the night which was dancing at a beach bungalow a few miles up the road from the anchorage.  Since there was no way we’d be able to walk there or even back and I seemed to be the only one up for hitchhiking, we grabbed a ride with Shiv and his friend Nick.  We had heard that this bungalow was the happening place to be on Thursday nights and as soon as we walked in the door we were flooded with familiar faces of other cruisers and locals that spend a fair amount of their time at the Breeze.  While happy hour was still going strong we made our way up to the bar for a couple of Sands before trying to push together a few tables to accommodate our large group.  In addition to the six of us that arrived in Nick’s rental there was also a group of five Austrian’s joining us.  We had met Jakob back at the blue hole as one of Ashley’s students and was at the bungalow that night and had brought along his group of friends.  We started out with polite conversations about travel and their time in Europe, all while enjoying a batch of conch fritters that had been brought out to the table.  After watching the girls slurp down some delicious Bahama Mamas there was a quick change in beverage choice which also soon helped me to get enough courage to get on the dance floor.

I came prepared for Shiv and his Speedy Gonzales feet tonight and was even picking up on some of the moves so that I was spinning when I was supposed to and to the untrained eye it may have looked like I knew what I was doing.  There might have been a few accidental head butts on my part but I think Shiv was still happy to have me as a partner versus one of the local women that had her eye on him and looked like she might club him over the head and drag him home.  Everyone was getting on the dance action at some point, Brian and Stephanie, Penny and John, Jakob and his girlfriend Claudia.  I had  a great dance with John who says he doesn’t have much skill but really doesn’t give himself enough credit, and we even got Matt on the dance floor for a little bit after the Bahama Mama’s became bottomless.

Since the week had been busy and we were all still a little tired the original plan had only been to stop by for a max of two hours while we grabbed a drink, said hello to friends, and I satisfied my need to get on the dance floor.  Before we even knew it though the sun had set long ago and we were having the time of our lives.  Getting into lengthy conversations with ex-American locals, cruisers, and our new Austrian friends we let go of our self-inflicted schedules to enjoy the here and now.  Intoxicated on rum and on life I looked at the bungalow style bar we were sitting in, the beach just past my reach with it’s waves lightly lapping on shore, and all our great friends surrounding us when I realized we are finally out living our dream.  This is why we were out cruising.  Up until this point there had been plenty of good times, sure, but promises of moments like this were what kept me going while I was back on shore struggling with getting the boat ready and sitting around waiting in a life that I just wasn’t satisfied with.   With a wave of content and happiness washing over me,  smiling I looked over at Stephanie and exclaimed, “This is our life!”.  Grinning back at me she raised her glass for a toast and repeated just as excitedly, “This is our life!”.

music at beach bungalow from Jessica Johnson on Vimeo.

dancing at beach bungalow from Jessica Johnson on Vimeo.

Lazy Afternoons

Wednesday April 3, 2013

Yesterday Thompson Bay finally opened back up for business, so it was back to running a few errands. Nothing much, just walking up to the body shop to grab the hopefully fixed bracket for the davits. The sun was high in the sky and as soon as we walked away from the water after tying up the dink, all wind seemed to disappear. There were beads of sweat forming on our heads as soon as we stepped out onto the main road. Going just about a half mile up to the body shop we found the shop was closed up for the day. If we had been planning on heading out that afternoon it would have been a little more upsetting, but since there’s a front coming in over the weekend and it looks like we’ll be here for a few more days we figured we could just stop in the next day and the next if necessary. Back at the boat the guys decided to try their hand at some fishing. I took the opportunity of having the boat to myself for the first time in ages to just lounge around and enjoy a little peace and quiet. There was also a little cleaning to be done, but I just straightened up until Matt got back where we dove into dusting and scrubbing and making sure everything was polished and pretty. We even tackled nasty projects like removing the wooden boards from the floor of the head and and Cloroxing the hell out of the whole area.

The reason for this major clean up is that back over the weekend, us, Rode Trip, and Nila Girl had all been talking about the set-ups of our boats and everyone was curious to see each other’s layouts (with the exception of us and Rode Trip for each other). We decided to have a boat crawl, a little more tame than the one we did on Thanksgiving, just to get the tour of all the boats. Each boat was to make some kind of snack or appetizer and we’d go from boat to boat while munching and maybe enjoying a drink at each one. While discussing our meals on the drive back from Dean’s Blue Hole, it sounded as if everyone was going very simple. Our supply was looking a little meager so Serendipity was going to have cheese and crackers, Rode Trip was going to make bruschetta with some fresh tomatoes we’d actually picked on the way back from the blue hole, and Ashley also had something that sounded quick and easy planned. Just as the sun was starting to make it’s way down we had everyone gathered on our boat first. Ren and Ashley were very impressed with the layout and even more impressed by the t.v. Mounted in the salon. We joked about having a movie night with the six of us since unlike all of our other buddy boats we’ve met so far, we wouldn’t all be gathered around a laptop to watch it. Ashley was also surprised that we had a full queen bed in the aft cabin, although the cushions have been taken out and it serves as our ‘garage’, telling us that we too should have a baby since we have an extra birth we could use for it’s room. Thanks Ashley, but I think we’ll hold off until we either have a bigger boat or we’re back on land. Congrats to you and Ren though, can’t wait to see a little rugrat on Nila Girl!

Literally moving down the line as to how we were anchored, we stopped at Rode Trip next. Spreading out on the long settee set-up they have, we each opened a new drink while Stephanie pulled a crab dip out of the oven that she had made earlier that afternoon. What happened to the simple bruschetta? Either way it was delicious and it didn’t take long before the whole casserole dish of dip was licked clean. While sitting around, Brian and Stephanie talked about how they pretty much gutted the boat once it was purchased and kept very few original items. Brian went on about how he built the cabinets, redid the wood for the galley, and installed an ice box which unfortunately sits warm at the moment since they’re finding that in the Bahamas ice can be hard to come by and is pretty expensive when you do. Then after we finished our one drink on Rode Trip it was time to head over to Nila Girl, and the four of us who already knew each other’s boat’s inside and out we very excited to see something new.

We each took a side to clean off to and and hopped over the life lines while moving back to the very extended cockpit. Spending only a moment there looking around, we then moved below where there was a nice spread of food laid out on the table. Black bean hummus and a serving of spinach and collared greens mixed with other vegetables and spices which were then placed into a portabello mushroom caps. What the heck? Is everyone trying to show up my cheese and crackers? I swear I can cook things sometimes, I promise! While enjoying the savory food cooked up for us we checked out the nice little set-up they had going on below deck. The galley was directly behind the companionway and an open floor plan spilled into the salon. White Christmas lights decorated the salon, outfitted with multiple photographs and books on the walls and leading down to an earthy green design on the cushions. It was a very warm and homey environment and reminded us a little of being aboard Anthyllide (it’s actually a little erie how similar these two couple are). We talked and snacked until our stomach could hold no more food or drinks. No night hanging out with Ren would be complete without a little palm weaving and soon him and Brian were busy at work. The arts and crafts project for the night was not a basket or a hat, but instead, cup holders. Even though a project like this had never been attempted by either before, pretty soon they had pretty little designs accessorized with handles that fit my beer can cozily into it. Ren gifted his to Matt and I as we cleared out for the night.

Today was another day for lounging around the boat without any big plans. While Matt and Brian were out fishing once more in t/t Serendip, Stephanie and I went into LIB in her dinghy to connect to the internet and get a little work done. With a nice cold Sands in front of me I sat out on the patio ready to respond to a few e-mails and get a couple of posts up on the website. Stephanie was busy getting things done on her touchpad, but for the life of me I could not get my computer to connect to the internet. Between the two of us we tried everything we could to get it going since we knew the connection was there, but nothing would work. Succumbing to defeat I decided to enjoy my beer and the pretty view while working on photos and doing a little writing. We watched the mail boat come into the harbor to drop off the weekly supplies, kicking up all kinds of dirt and sand in it’s path as it passed through. When we finished up and got back to our boats we found that the guys had done alright while fishing a wreck about a half mile from where we were anchored. On the menu for us that night was crab and lobster, the first items that Matt has speared this trip.

Now this is the kind of meal I’ve been waiting for. There are few things I really had to do while in the Bahamas, but eating a freshly caught Caribbean lobster was one of them. This guy happened to be pretty small, but I didn’t mind, it was lobster. Funny part is, Matt didn’t even mean to get this guy because of his small size, he just happened to be hiding behind the ginormous crab and ended up getting speared along with it. Pulling out the largest pot we have, I went about ‘prepping’ dinner. I had never cooked a lobster before and the only time I’d done crab was watching Brian throw some into a pot of boiling water to be steamed back when we were in Annapolis. So I put a little water in the pot, sprinkled in some Old Bay seasoning, and dropped in our already dead catches to steam to perfection. Once they were nice and red we brought the plate outside to eat al fresco under the moonlight. Starting with the crab I dove into it’s big claw only to find there was no meat in there. A bunch of water did drain out though and made my rice a soupy mess. Tearing apart the crab piece by piece, we found out the other legs held minimal meat and the body had none. For his big size he was not giving us much at all. Splitting up the lobster, Matt took the body while I took the tail. Even though he was a little guy he was full of meat and I joyfully dipped him in butter, savoring my first Caribbean lobster. I can’t say the meal was quite filling so I still ended up making hot dogs a little later, but when there’s free lobster on your table, can you really complain?

Regatta Get Outta Here

Monday April 1, 2013

The holiday weekend festivities continued today with the Long Island Easter Regatta. Stephanie, Brian, and myself were all off our boats in the late morning to make our way over to Fairhaven where Penny and John were hosting a pre-regatta get together while Matt stayed on Serendipity to get a little extra sleep. He had been up all night after this little scenario happened. Him and Brian had been out fishing, and while he went back to drop Brian off on Rode Trip I started the cleaning of the fish up on deck. I had my cutting board, fillet knife, and fish all ready to go. Having this be the first time we cleaned fish on Serendipity and knowing that Georgie would be a little curious we had locked her down below to keep her out of the way. Somehow she had jumped from I don’t even know where to out of our back hatch and onto the deck where I was busy gutting and filleting away. Around this time Matt had come back and quickly tied the dinghy off to the side so he could stick Georgie below before she ended up on the wrong end of my fillet knife. (She escaped twice more even when the hatch was closed for all but two or three inches. I swear that cat can get in and out of everywhere). Later that night after I had been exhausted from making my way to three different beaches that day I was going to bed while Matt went out to secure the dinghy on the davits. I was half asleep and in quite a daze when Matt yelled down to me “The dinghy is gone!!”.

If we were in any other country my mind might run to theft first, but we were in the safest and friendliest place you can be and the only people we had to blame for losing it were ourselves for not cleating it off properly. It was pitch black out now so there was no sense in going out to search for it, we just had to hope that the wind was moving in a direction that might wash it up on one of the little cays behind us instead of out into the Exuma Sound where it’s likely we’d never see it again. My mind raced with thoughts of where we would get a new dinghy, probably Georgetown or Nassau, what it would cost us, and what we’d be able to use in the meantime. Still exhausted from my day though it didn’t take me long to fall back asleep although Matt was up through the whole night wondering the same things that I was. I do remember having a very delightful dream where I had still been in the v-berth sleeping and Matt’s calls out to me “I can see it, it just washed up on the cay behind us”. But then I woke up to pitch black and realized it couldn’t be true since it was not yet light, and even if that were the case, he would not have been able to see it. My dreams must have been sending some powerful signals though, because once dawn did come I looked up to see Matt on the steps of the companionway with binoculars in hand saying “I think I see it washed up on the cay behind us”. He had me take a look as well and I could tell right away that it was ours. Thank God. After breakfast we had Brian come over in his dinghy to run us out there, and besides washing up on some jagged coral that did a good bit of scratching to the bottom, it was otherwise fine.

So Matt had slept off his worries, and since I had been able to do that the night before I joined a group of others to do some pre-regatta partying. About 10 of us were hauled out from Long Island Breeze to Fairhaven between a pickup truck and a minivan. Pulling up the steep driveway we were greeted by a stone wall with a beautiful wooden door, and a big sign that said ‘No Goats’. Apparently the goats that roam free on the island are always trying to get into their yard and eat up all the plants and vegetables. Taking a small tour of the yard we walked up to the house and admired the wraparound porch. It offered spectacular views of the bay below and all the little sailboats bobbing happily around in it.  Sitting around Fairhaven was a great chance to get to know a few more of the people we had met at the sunrise service the day before and also a lot of other cruisers in the bay that we had not yet met.  For a few hours we just lazed around and let the cool breeze wash over us as we traded stories and sipped on cold drinks.  When the food was gone and the drinks were getting low we piled ourselves back into the truck where we were carted back to Long Island Breeze and the regatta site.

We found some disappointing news when we got there that the regatta was actually no longer happening since so few boats were going to race that none of the locals wanted to go through the hassle of getting their boat in the bay.  It was a bit of a let down that we wouldn’t be seeing the sloops glide through the water anymore, but there was still friends and food and music to enjoy.  Buying myself a beer before Matt got there and could give me the evil eye for not saving our money after the extensive amount we had just spend in Florida and  Nassau, I relaxed at a picnic table next to the bay with Ashley and Stephanie squeezed next to me.  It was a pretty similar day to the fish fry, all of the same people in the same area doing the same thing.  At least this time we had our pre-made group of friends before we got there and tried to squeeze as many people into and onto one picnic table as possible.  A little rain passing through sent most people running for cover but now that we were in the tropics (we crossed the line on our way to Long Island), I relished a little cool down and didn’t even care that my painstakingly straight hair was now going curly again.

Listening to the beats thumping from the speakers the whole time we were sitting, I was getting a little excited to get out on the dance floor but knew I wouldn’t find a willing partner in Matt.  Stephanie and I made a pact that we’d go dance together a little later, but some errands sent her back to Rode Trip for a little bit and I thought I’d lose out.  Luckily Shiv who was sitting next to me was also keeping time to the music and and we just kind of looked at each other and were like, “Hey, let’s go dance!”.  So the two of us wandered up to the stage and wedged our way in between the locals already having a good time.  I tried to take a lead from Shiv except his feet were moving ten times faster than mine.  We twisted and turned and fast steps until the song ended five minutes later and my legs were ready to give out.  I had to wait one out before I was ready to go again and was almost relieved when an older Bahamian man cut in with me and we were able to move at a nice slow swaying pace.  When I was able to get my breath back Shiv cut in, and we spun and twirled once more until the song ended and I was drenched in sweat.  By this time all of our friends had come closer to watch the show and I staggered over to the table to pass out on the bench.  Next time I go to a rake & scrape I’ll have to be a little more selective about my dance partner so that my heart doesn’t give out on me.