Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The World Famous Straw Market and Other Adventures in Nassau

Storyville - crossing the Great Bahama Banks

We are still in Nassau and have been here longer than we expected. One reason for the delay is the weather, it’s beautiful and sunny here but windy and we are expecting a front to come in on Wednesday. We got a good price on a dock in a marina here and decided that we would rather be here than anchored out during the front. It has also worked out well because we figured out that we need to replace our batteries and it will definitely be easier to do here in the city.

The other day we (Troy, myself, Matt, Christi and Steve) were looking for something to do and decided that we would walk down to Potter’s Cay which is a market where fruits and vegetables are sold and there are rows of tiny little restaurants selling conch salad, conch fritters, fried fish and other Bahamian specialties. We had a hard time choosing which place to order from, but we finally made our decision and ordered conch salad, conch fritters, peas and rice and some fried plantains. Of course we had a couple of cold Kaliks (Bahamian beer) to wash it all down. The conch salad is a lot like ceviche, which I love, but Troy is not so fond of. The fritters are much better here than the ones we had in Key West. The Key West ones were more like hush puppies with a conch flavoring thrown in. The ones we had here definitely have more conch in them. It was a great lunch and we moved on to shopping for some fruits and vegetables. We bought goat peppers (habanero), some dried thyme and pigeon peas. The pigeon peas are the peas used in the Bahamian side dish peas and rice.

I wanted to keep walking down to the World Famous Straw Market. I read about it in some of the literature that we had and it was described as a market place where local Bahamians sold their handmade straw products (purses, hats, etc.). It turned out to be quite a long walk but eventually we found ourselves right in the tourist area where the cruise ship terminal deposits visitors so that they can spend their money in Nassau. We saw Coach stores and jewelry stores and liquor stores and T-shirt stores. Finally, at long last, we made it to the straw market.

We knew we were at the straw market when a man came up to us and said “Welcome to the Straw Market. I have a free necklace for you.” He then proceeded to pick out a beaded necklace and put it around my neck. As he did so, he said “All I ask is a small donation for the island kids”. Not knowing exactly who the “island kids” were, I offered him all the change in my pocket which turned out to be a total of 26 cents. Apparently he was offended by that and I learned that 26 cents is not enough for a free necklace! That free necklace was whipped off my neck with lightening speed and he was on to the next tourist.

The straw market was a huge disappointment. I am willing to bet that there was not one locally made straw product in the whole place. In fact, I bet most of the products came from China. It was like a great big flea market with stuff piled as high as the ceiling and the rows so close together that you could only walk single file down them. It was stuffy and didn’t smell all that great, like a maze of flea market T-shirts and trinkets and junk. All of the vendors are calling out to you at once trying to get your attention. It is impossible to tell where one booth stops and another one starts. At one point I looked behind me at Steve and I thought I saw a look of panic on his face. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

We’ve been here for several days now and are more than ready to move on to the Exumas where we will find beautiful beaches and clear water for swimming and snorkeling. As soon as the batteries get replaced and the weather cooperates we will be moving on.

Click here for Pictures from Nassau

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Bahamas

Bahamas Greeting Committee

At long last, we made it to The Bahamas. Our crossing from Florida took two days. We crossed the Gulf Stream and the Great Bahama Banks without any problems. This was the first multiple day crossing with just Troy and I and Storyville. We had a perfect crossing. We took three hour shifts at night and shared the day shifts while taking turns napping. The sail across the Great Bahama Banks was just absolutely amazing. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Beautiful water that is so clear and blue it looks like a swimming pool. We were even greeted by dolphins. They escorted us for quite a ways, playing in our bow wake.

We made the crossing with several other boats and we were able to stay in touch with all of the boats, checking in with each other on the radio every three hours. Steve, on Anchor Management was single handing so we wanted to make sure to keep him in sight if we could, just in case he was trying to get a little sleep. The moon was full and moon rises and sets were stunning, so were the sun rises and sets. On both days I was on watch for the sun rise. It was awesome to see the full moon setting behind me and the sun greeting the day in front of me, both at the same time. Just beautiful, and absolutely incredible.


I wish I had the words to describe the colors of the ocean. We were in water that was around seven thousand feet deep and it was dark, dark blue, almost black, but still clear, reminding me of an obsidian blade, then we would cross over into water that was twenty feet deep and turquoise blue with patches of green, with white sand on the bottom. Such a change from the brown waters of Galveston Bay and Clear Lake.

 We’ve been here in Nassau on New Providence Island for a couple of days. It is a busy city and we are anxious to move on to the Exumas, a chain of islands (or Cays – pronounced Keys) with beautiful beaches and great anchorages. We plan on spending the next month or so exploring all of them. We’re looking forward to swimming, snorkeling and exploring.

s/v Kaleo
We plan on buddy boating with Steve on Anchor Management and Matt and Christie on Kaleo for a while. We also hope to meet up with some other friends that are already in the Exumas, Rene and Stacy on Pipe Muh Bligh and Steve and Alice on Ocean Star.

I can’t wait to get out there and try to spear a fish. We feel like the cruising has finally begun!
Unbeing dead isn't being alive. ~e.e. cumming

Monday, January 17, 2011

Marathon and Beyond

 We've been here for almost a week now and really still haven't seen much of the town. It's a long stretch of Highway 1 and we're back to foot power. Plus, I hate to complain since most of our blog followers have been in freezing cold weather, but I guess I'll whine a little anyway, it's been windy and a little chilly here. Not much fun for dinghy exploring and way to cold for swimming. Fortunately taxi service is cheap here and we have been able to complete our shopping and provisioning for the extended Bahamas cruise (more on that later).

The first thing we noticed when we made our way into Boot Key Harbor here in Marathon was how organized the City Marina is compared to Key West. We called the marina on the radio as we entered the harbor and were assigned mooring ball number Sierra 7 and Steve was assigned Sierra 6, right next to us. We dinghied into the office where we were checked in, given magnetic card keys to the showers and laundry room and received a nice welcome package from the local cruisers net which meets on VHF channel 68 at 9 AM every morning. They have wireless internet service and even a couple of TV viewing areas.
We tuned in to the cruisers net the next morning. This was our first experience with a cruisers net. Each day of the week there is a different moderator running that days net. They are very organized and they welcome new boats to the marina, have a "buy, sell and give away" time and also local announcements. Here are some of the fun things we did that we learned about on the cruisers net:

• Every Wednesday there is a pot luck at the marina. We attended the dinner and on the way in to the marina we met Matt and Christie on s/v Kaleo. They are from Kemah and kept their boat at Legend Point Marina, right around the corner from our home marina. They are also headed to the Bahamas and will be crossing with them tomorrow. We have had lots of fun getting to know them and have done some provisioning together. We look forward to spending some time with them exploring in the Bahamas and hunting lobster and fish.
Troy - It's a Good Day for the Blues!

• Every Saturday there is a gathering at the marina and everyone brings their instruments and plays music. Troy took his new guitar up and played a couple of songs. Of course he played Good Day for the Blues. We had a great time listening to everyone sing and play. We are looking forward to lots more times like this in the weeks and months to come.

• The day after our arrival the net announced a meeting for anyone interested in crossing to the Bahamas on the next weather window. We went to the meeting and found 11 other boats that are interested in crossing together. We have met a couple of times since then and I think we will have around 6 or 7 boats crossing together. Some of the boats have the same general itinerary as us so I have a feeling that we will get to know the people well as our paths cross along the way. Just one more great thing about cruising!

It looks like tomorrow is our big day. Everything is falling into place to make for a good crossing. There is not much wind predicted but and Gulf Stream should be calm and that is a good thing. We plan on leaving Boot Key at around 2:00 PM tomorrow, we will spend the night crossing the Gulf Stream and our plan is to arrive at South Riding Rock (apparently that's all that is there - a rock). It's important to arrive there during the day because the water depth will go from around 2500 feet to around 8 feet (or less) very abruptly. Then, suddenly - you are on the Great Bahama Bank! In clear, beautiful water!

We will take our time crossing the banks because our next arrival is at the Northwest Channel. It's about another 12 hours and we also need to arrive there in day light because it is a narrow channel from the Banks into the Tongue of the Ocean (I love that name, don't you?). Anyway, It's just the opposite of getting onto the banks, you go from really shallow to really deep through a narrow channel. We figure Steve will need to get some rest since he is single handing now so we will take most of the rest of that day and night to rest and cross the Banks to the Northwest Channel.

From there we have a few options but we are hoping to make it to Nassau on New Providence Island. The capital of the Bahamas, where we will check into the county and plan on where to go next. Watch the SPOT updates!

Fuzzy Stanley and Steve
Oh, yeah, I did mention provisioning.  We started provisioning back in Kemah and continued in Key West and in Marathon.  I believe that everything that we need will be available in the Bahamas - for a price.  We figured that the more that we can buy here, the less we will need to spend later.  Makes sense, right?  So we have purchased everything from shampoo to rice and anything in between that we could think of.  I hate to think of all the money we've spent, but hopefully it will save us in the long run.  One thing we learned was that, while rum is cheap, beer can cost as much as $40.00 a case.  We just can't seem to get our minds around that, and since we have been known to drink a beer or two, we started planning to see how much we can put on the boat.  The last count was that we have over 272 beers on Storvyille.  It will be interesting to see how long that will last.  I have also bought as many 2 liter diet cokes as I could.  I think I have about 15 of them. 

I feel like the adventure is finally beginning.  Getting across the Gulf was great and we have had lots of fun in Florida, but somehow getting to the Bahamas feels like the beginning of real cruising!

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. ~Alan Alda

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

True Story

The wind created just enough of a gentle breeze to lightly ripple the water and the moon shone just enough to make the tiny waves glisten like diamonds. The water, clear and green in daylight, was dark and black under the night sky.  Boats were lined up on their moorings in neat rows, their anchor lights glowing like stars.  All around Storyville we could hear the whoosh of dolphins as they broke the surface for a breath of air.  If we looked closely we could see their backs in the path of the moonbeam.  We could hear thousands of fish churning the water, trying their best not to become dinner for the dolphins.  Swirling, puffing, churning, activity everywhere in the water.  We were mesmerized by the magical moment.

“Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much...the wheel, New York, wars and so on...while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man...for precisely the same reason.”  ~Douglas Adams

Monday, January 10, 2011

This Is The Life!

We are still here in Key West.  It's been so much fun but it's time to move on.  We will head out tomorrow for Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.  One step closer to getting over the Bahamas. 

We enjoyed spending the last couple of nights on the town in Key West with our friends Christy and Allen Huff.  They just happened to be here on vacation to celebrate Allen's 50th birthday.  We have also had a blast hanging out with our friends Ron and Karen Parsons from Kemah, they are here on their boat, m/v Summertime.  They have a truck here and have been wonderful about helping Steve and ourselves with last minute provisioning.

Troy and I finally got to go on a kayak adventure the other day.  We paddled over to some mangroves and had a look around.  It's so darn cool to be able to see what's in the water.  We saw several horseshoe crabs and lots and lots of sea grass.  No manatees yet.  We did find a really nice dinghy that had washed up into the mangroves.  It was a Caribe with a 15 hp Yamaha motor.  It was obvious that someone had lost it.  We called into the City Marina to ask if anyone had reported losing a dinghy.  They said that, yes, there had been a call.  The marina gave me the number to the person missing the dinghy and I gave them a call.  Boy were they glad to hear from us!  We rescued the dinghy from the mangroves and towed it back to the rightful owner. 

Key West is an interesting place to visit.  We have really enjoyed all of the live music, everywhere you turn there is music.  Everyone is really laid back and, even though some parts are really touristy, we have never felt pressured by anyone to buy anything.  The bicycles have been the perfect way to get around.  The weather has been gorgeous, just a little chilly at night, but, as I was riding my bike home last night, I was thinking that I need to enjoy the chill in the air, soon enough we will be wishing for a little cool breeze!

Here are some links to my Image Event site with photos that I have taken in Key West:

Key West Photos

Welcoming in the New Year on Duval Street

Check out the site and live comments on the photos if you want to.  I love comment (as long as they're nice! LOL)

Life is Good! ~Jake

Monday, January 3, 2011

Key West

Here we are in Key West.  We're settling into the cruising life quite well.  It is really amazing to wake up in the morning and look out the ports on Stovyville's stern and see the sea grass on the bottom of our anchorage!  This is what I've been waiting for, and I know that it will only get more beautiful as we go.  The weather is perfect, just a little chilly at night, but shorts and swim suits during the day.  Too bad we are not brave enough to swim.  The water is too chilly!!!

Our crossing from Venice, Louisiana was great.  Once again, we didn't get too much sailing done, more motor sailing.  As a result we decided to duck into Ft. Meyers, Florida for fuel.  We stayed just long enough to tour most of the marinas looking for one that actually had diesel in their tanks!  We were waiting at one marina for 20 minutes because we called them on the radio and they told us there was a boat taking on fuel, just a short wait.  As soon as we saw the boat leave, we headed for the dock, lines in hand.  We made it to within 20 feet of the dock and the attendant was yelling at us that they were out of diesel!  Darn, we spent the next 30 minutes or so calling the area marinas on the radio, only to be told that most of them were out of fuel as well.  We were starting to get discouraged when we hailed Salty Sam's Marina on the radio and we given the thumbs up.  It was a tight fit getting Storyville in there but not to worry, Troy knows his boat and works well in those situations. 

I was happy to find that there was a ships store and was looking forward to getting some bread and diet Coke.  We we're about 6 hours out of Venice when I discovered that there was no diet coke on board.  I couldn't convince the crew to turn around so I was in withdrawal for 4 days.  So, while we were taking on the fuel, I headed straight for the store.  Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the only things stocked in the store were T-shirts and other souvenirs, they did have a cold case with a few beers and some sodas, but, alas NO DIET COKE!  Well.... I'm happy to report that I survived without a diet coke for a whole week!

We made it to Key West in time to welcome in 2011 on Duval Street with all the crazy people!  We had a blast.  We partied all night long and were amazed to discover that it was 4 am when we made it back to Storyville.  I don't remember that last time I stayed up all night.  Needless to say, we spent the first day of the new year recovering from the last day of the old year!  I did manage to cook cabbage and black-eyed peas for my crew.

I have taken lots of pictures, but haven't had the time to get them sorted, edited and posted.  Too much to see and do here.  I promise that I will work on that soon, but right now, there's a beach with my name written all over it!

Pay attention to your dreams - God's angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep. ~Quoted in The Angels' Little Instruction Book by Eileen Elias Freeman, 1994