Archetypical Bahamas, sort of

sailboat tropical sea cruising the bahamasCruising boats flow back to the US for hurricane season this time of year. Our path is counter-current thanks to our seasonally late departure from Florida and slow pace through the Bahamas. It’s less than 300 miles to Florida from where Totem lies at anchor near George Town; more than 1,100 nm of sailing stand between us and our hurricane season destination of Grenada. Compounding our situation: it is against prevailing conditions (easterly breezes) instead of with them. Yes, it really is time to get a move on!

Being off-sync means missing out on some of the expected (and anticipated) experiences of these beautiful islands. I have a long list of “must see” spots, favorites from respected friends seeking to share their love of the Bahamas. We’ll miss most of those spots. I don’t know how to justify our acceptance of this without sounding jaded, but we aren’t too fussed at the prospect of missing many of lauded Bahamas cruiser experiences. We’ll do we do best: make the most of where we find ourselves.

Meanwhile, Totem crew is hardly missing out on the rituals of Bahamian cruising life with various rituals and shenanigans to indulge in though a handful of stops in the Exumas–near Staniel Cay, and at our current anchorage near George Town.

At Big Majors Spot, sundowners were hoisted each evening on “Pirate Beach” (there’s a sign and everything) at 5 sharp.

Jamie brings in our Meori trug: nibbles on one half, beverages in the other side's nested compartment.

Jamie brings in our Meori trug: nibbles on one half, beverages in the other side’s nested compartment.

3- beach gathering

Sailboat 50 50 underwater photo Bahamas clear blue water

Boston whaler, Float toy, and red wine: what could possibly go wrong?

6- Pirate beach view 3b- float toy 3c- what could possibly go wrong

The same setting held a handful of health-conscious cruisers gathering to exercise in the morning.

5- vessel relics hang over the potluck buffet

The gentle workout is led by former nurse and unfailingly upbeat Laurie from MV Forever Young, who lends her considerable positive energy to make fun for all: she organizes potlucks periodically too, typically to share from the bounty of mahi she and her husband catch.

Anchor lights come up as dinghies head home

Anchor lights come up as dinghies head home

Game time on the beach: whiling away an afternoon in the shade playing Mexican Train dominoes with new and familiar cruisers.

7b Mexican train dominoes beach

Beautiful view, cool drink, good conversation, and a fun game—OK!

A few minutes dinghy ride away are the pigs. THOSE pigs, the famous Bahamian swimming pigs, which now crop up on Cays all over the islands but reputedly originated here. They’re cute—I guess? Juvenile piglets are charming, but the bigger pigs—and they get BIG—have a reputation for literally biting the hand that feeds them. I think I know more people who were injured by the pigs than not! We had to check them out but with some apprehension.

pig girls beach bahamas

Mairen and Siobhan’s body language express how we all felt

swimming pig bahamas

This large sow (300 pounds?) did an effortless lap around the dinghy hoping for a handout. Pork belly!

The anchorage would fill and drain cyclically with weather forecasts, as boats took advantage of good conditions to get across the Gulf Stream. Silver lining: as boats intersect heading in the opposite direction, we’ve been able to have some memorable meetings. Many moons of following Allison and Bo from Sailing B+A, messages traded, and they were even more fun in person than I ever imagined.

Love meetups with people we've 'known' online!

The dynamic and engaging crew of Selah: love meetups with people we’ve ‘known’ online!

Snorkeling with them and the awesome Ruby Rose crew, Nick & Terysa, to Thunderball grotto and taking advantage of Bo’s skill for the “us-ie” to get a group shot:

12 Us-ie with Selah and Ruby Rose

Biggest treat for the kids: TEENS, as we converged with multiple kid boats in their age range. A real treat and one that buoyed their spirits.

dinghy sailboat thunderclouds

Speeding their way to hang out with other teens on Allegro

Tracks that converged, intersected, and moved on in different directions refreshed an aphorism of the cruising life. Goodbyes happen all too often. It can be especially hard on the kids, who have fewer opportunities to hang out with peers.

beach sunset

Teen conversation circle on the beach

The flip side: these encounters grow a circle of amazing people in our lives. Goodbyes aren’t forever, and the other reminder is that in a round world there are ample opportunities to meet again. Next to Totem: SV Infini, who we last shared an anchorage with in Thailand more than three years ago!

kids dinghy exumas bahamas

Land your dinghy by the kiln-looking rock, then look for cairns to find the path

I do wish we could have stopped in more of the “amazing—you’ll love it!” spots along the Exumas. We made a few and tips from friends and readers here lead us to great spots, like the cave north of Little Farmer (thanks Jessie!).

cave swimming stalactites swimming

20 sweaty uphill minutes later, Mairen cools off in a stalactite hung cavern

But the out-island experiences we hope to find ahead draw me even more! We’re stocking up in George Town, with an eye on winding through out islands on our way to the BVIs. This is THE scene for cruisers in the Bahamas, with over 300 boats during peak season a couple of months ago. Organized activities cover every day and night of the week, from “beach church” to water aerobics and poker / hold-em nights. I’m pretty sure there’s a coconut painting class. The small-scale taste of this near Staniel Cay was a lot of fun–the bigger cast, not quite our bag. A blast for folks who make this their home-away-from-home but the quieter, more remote islands ahead are what I’m excited about. That said, WOW is George Town convenient for getting things done! We filled a propane tank, topped up some diesel, and chose from a grocery store spread that included such Bahamas-luxury-items as asparagus, leeks, shallots, and mushrooms… and the best price on lettuce I’ve seen since we arrived in the Bahamas. I think there are 11 heads of romaine in our fridge right now!

With luck we’ll have weather to go offshore from Mayaguana and make easting; the route is as certain as the forecast two weeks out! Along the way, enjoying wherever Totem’s anchor drops.

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18 Responses to Archetypical Bahamas, sort of

  1. Brooke May 30, 2017 at 3:55 pm #

    We’ve been following your journey and I’m pretty sure we’ve been just a few weeks behind you every step of the way! We just made it to the Exumas, currently anchored at Allen Cay. (We too had several setbacks for our departure from the US which has messed up our travel/hurricane plans just a bit!) Safe sailing from here, hoping one of these day we might eventually catch up with y’all! 😉

    • Jamie Gifford May 30, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

      Are you heading south or back north for H-season?

      • Brooke May 31, 2017 at 7:51 am #

        Hey Jamie! We are still weighing our options but currently deciding between posting up at the hurricane hole in Georgetown for the major months of hurricane season or moving further south, possibly PR. Neither puts us in the free and clear, though, so there’s some unease about the decision either way!

        • Behan May 31, 2017 at 8:07 am #

          Possibly we’d see you if you choose PR, we may only pass through there later in June– keep in touch! Your blog is so gorgeous, btw. Mouthwatering!

          • Brooke May 31, 2017 at 9:10 am #

            Thank you, Behan! Means so much. Let’s definitely stay in touch, fingers crossed our paths cross at some point 🙂

  2. Erin brown May 30, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

    Great article and some great pictures here Behan. Nicely done. Too you and Jamie, thank you for sharing and the email guidance. We finally untied the lines a week ago and are currently on the gulf coast of Florida, working our way south towards the dry tortugas and then will be heading up the east coast for the summer. Before we follow your tracks down through the Bahamas and Caribbean…and them to points unknown.

    Y’all rock and we’d sure love to catch up with you in a cool anchorage sometime.

    Erin & Kara
    SV – Vela IP40

    • Behan May 31, 2017 at 8:01 am #

      thanks guys- appreciate the kind words! So happy to know you’re on your way, hope we get to share an anchorage someday!

  3. Jonathan Caldwell May 31, 2017 at 7:48 am #

    Seriously folks, be very careful around the big sows. Because some cruisers feed them scraps, they think that all cruisers are hiding scraps and they can be quite aggressive in their pursuit on land.

    On another topic, Behan. Skipping T&C? Because of time crunch or entry fee? Or more fair wind angle to windward from Mayaguana?

    • Behan May 31, 2017 at 8:00 am #

      Trust me Jonathan, VERY careful around the big pigs. I was reluctant to go to the beach at all and have a lot of respect for those teeth… let the Nassau daytrippers feed them, keeping my distance! Re: T&C, it’s the cost. About $100 to clear in if you stay less than 7 days, but go an hour over that and you get to buy a bonus $300 cruising permit. Given the unpredictability of weather that could happen way too easily even if it’s just a brief pit stop– and $100 is a lot for a pit stop! So yeah, if it didn’t come at such a price it would be an easy and welcome visit, but we’ll almost certainly sail right by.

      • Kathi Cuffel June 1, 2017 at 11:51 am #

        I also read pigs were getting sick from junk fed to them by visitors…..

  4. Carla Barrett May 31, 2017 at 7:55 am #

    Fun to read your trip report. So happy that the kids found other teens finally!

    • Behan May 31, 2017 at 8:08 am #

      It really was good to finally hook up with teens– kicked off with meetups in Rock Sound and Staniel Cay was great. Too short but very sweet!

  5. Mark and Cindy - sv Cream Puff May 31, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Hi Totem Crew,

    So glad you enjoyed the Exumas. It is truly a wonderful place to sail. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. We too are heading to Grenada for H Season. If you happen to see us. please say ahoy.

    Mark and Cindy
    sv Cream Puff

    • Behan May 31, 2017 at 8:06 am #

      Absolutely Mark & Cindy– and great to know– we will keep an eye out!

  6. Ken Page May 31, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    Hi Jamie, Behan and family. Been following you guys a long time and hope to get to meet you all when you arrive in Grenada. I happened to be working in Falmouth, MA (Quisset Harbor) while you were recently there, but didn’t get a chance to break away.
    We too were southbound laggards this time of year in George Town, two years ago. We left the states so late, with so little time in the Bahama’s we had to decide, go back or go long (east). We went long, straight out of George Town during a predicted week of very little wind and our easting was more like northeasting headed for highway 65 south. Never made it past 63 and ended up just squeaking down into El Faro, PR nine days later. Then still feeling a little rushed, sailed down through the islands and made Grenada by July. Hope you guys have better luck easting if you jump out.
    Ken&Vicky
    s/v PAINKILLER

    • Behan June 1, 2017 at 7:07 am #

      Cheers for going long! Honestly we are likely to have a similar outcome. Fingers crossed and hoping for the best but weather has that pesky way of not doing what we want! Will see how this unfolds.

  7. Richard June 6, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    Hi Behan,

    Weather is what it is. I once motored a big Oyster all the way from Bermuda to St. Marten with not more than 6 hours of breeze that we could have sailed in. And that was burning $7.50 Bermuda diesel– at least the owner had the deep pockets for it. Anyway, I wouldn’t be shy about hitting the starter button and beating feet south at this time of year. Looking at the sea surface temps it could be the year when the Cape Verdes get active again.

    PS there is always downwind to a place like Bocas. And if my one experience is any guide, the sail back up to Cuba next fall can be a nice 5 day reach.

  8. Stefanie June 13, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    Woow, this looks really amazing,
    This is really on my have to do list before i get into my 40’s

    Keep posting,
    Kind regards
    Stefanie

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