Happy New Year! We’ve been in the Bahamas for a little over a month now and have definitely relished in the shallow snorkeling over beautiful coral heads in 10′ of water, the abundant wildlife for spearfishing (dinner hopefully), the family friendly Bahamian communities and the recent holiday arrival of several ‘kid boats’ which have brought friendships closer despite our transient lifestyle. Here is our relatively up to date travel log of this lotus flower they call the Bahamas 🙂
Travis caught his first fish for the trip (actually 2 of the same kind)- after talking to multiple people, he finally gave up the fishing lures that the tackle shops recommended and just used some bait and a hook (no bright looking skirt lure to hide the hook)… of course it wasn’t a fish that we could eat, but he can use it as bait fish for others. (They were remora, shark suckers). The biology of the fish was amazing, the head had a large sucker on it where it attaches to the larger fish, ie sharks or sea turtles. We enjoyed learning about it in the field guide book and its symbiotic relationship with the larger animals, which makes sense that we would catch them as earlier that day we had seen two 4-5′ sharks swimming under the boat… I’m attributing it to the canned tuna water which went down the drain shortly before they appeared… but either way, the decision to not swim to the dock before/ after our run will now be standard in deeper waters 🙂 The manager here seems to not recall anytime there were sharks in the harbor, but someone did report dolphin and just this AM Travis and Madeline reported seeing several green sea turtles foraging on the seafloor! Pretty lively over here in Treasure Cay Marina, never thought we would see this much action moored in a well protected harbor!
This town is the largest in the northern Bahamas and THE place where we were hoping to pick up some boat parts and provisions. We traveled here with our new friend Jenny Lantzer Goings and after introducing her to some snorkeling, she treated us to some awesome mango ice cream at Jamie’s Place! Kind of neat to find a store that share’s my name… and I only had to travel 1200 miles to find it! Samuel also officially caught a fish, his was much smaller than what we would keep, but he still deserves honorable mention for his efforts! Unfortunately Marsh Harbor didn’t have the parts we wanted so we decided to continue south to warmer snorkeling waters of the Exumas as the longest we’ve lasted in the water was 30 min. and a weather window was about to open up.
Hopetown, Elbow Key
This town shared its Christmas Tree Lighting with us and we got to visit an 1800s WORKING lighthouse (it also turns out to be one of the most photographed in the world). The keeper actually refuels the light every 2 hours each night (talk about horrible work hours)! We enjoyed the 101 steps, barely breathing hard despite the 30′ above sea level 🙂
Little Harbor Anchorage
This was our last stop in the Abacos, a perfect jumping off spot for the next leg of the journey. We got to explore the bight which offered shallow sandy beaches, seclusion, blue holes, sea turtles and a ray.
Allen’s Cay, Exumas
Here we were pleasantly surprised to find the anchorage not quite full and some overly curious iguanas ready for visitors. They definitely surprised us with their quickness and rapid darting, really if I didn’t know they were herbivores I would have had some serious nightmares from the craziness. We also tried out a favorite dive spot right near the anchorage… and yes, the water is warmer, I’d say atleast five degrees.
Norman’s and Hawksbill Cays
Norman’s was our second stop down the Exuma island chain. We were super stoked to hear they had a road (for running) had an airplane wreck in 4′ of water (for snorkeling)! Yes, we are still trying to keep in shape somewhat while we’re away, Travis usually runs double/ triple of what me and the kids like, but it keeps us feeling not as guilty about those evening treats!
In regards to snorkeling, I have to admit, the kids are getting better at the open water dives, but this one would entail quite a bit of current and of course the continuing possibility of some larger lurking predators. Thankfully we didn’t see any sharks at the dive site, but sting rays seem to be the norm as we saw a larger one hidden beneath the sand and a several smaller rays swimming around. Even when we were exploring the tidal pond in the interior of the key, there were shadows of what once was there… (see pic below). As for sharks (lemon and nurse), we are noticing that we are seeing them (adult and juveniles) in the shallows (less than 8′) and have yet to see any in deeper water. Their ominous dark outlines are the first to be spotted in the clear blue, but we are thankful we haven’t had any close encounters to share, desite other cruisers around us who actually plan to get in the water with the sharks!
The majority of the afternoons we spent in the water…searching for coral heads as they offer some great fish hotels and holes where we are hoping for a lobster. We didn’t find exactly what we wanted, but the kids had a great time seeing the many varieties of fish and after everyone was out of the water, Travis got to try out his spear. The barracuda has been our biggest nemesis while snorkeling, on more than one occasion he has scared us off with his close proximity and visible sharp teeth… apparently they are quite territorial and have been know to shadow divers around the reef.
Waderick Wells, Exuma Land and Sea Park
There are many good things about the park, one of them is that you can’t spearfish or take anything from the islands or sea in the park, so when you dive you get to see all of the abundant sea life! On our first snorkeling experience here, I got to see that first hand, a five foot reef shark was patrolling his territory and I quickly motioned for Sam to get out of the water (the others were still in the boat and thankfully hadn’t gotten in yet). The other divers in the area had said there was a small shark there, but the one I saw didn’t seem like the same one. After talking to several other cruisers, they intimated that swimming with nurse, reef, or sand sharks isn’t a big deal (as long as you’re the biggest out there, and you aren’t spear fishing or feeding isn’t going on). Apparently we need to get our game faces on and get back in the water! Today is that day… we will let you know if it works, if not… you know where to find us 🙂
I’m coming back to this after 2 additional snorkeling expeditions in the same area… and sure enough both a 3′ black tip shark and the five foot reef reappeared enough for us to snap a shot and we even got to see two pairs of beautiful eagle rays as they patrolled the area as well. Christmas Day was perfect snorkeling at slack tide, so Travis and I were able to snap some pics as we drift dived.
We decided to stay longer in the park as there were several kid boats who arrived and planned to stay through Christmas. We enjoyed the plentiful hiking trails on the island and we not only got to make new friendships all around, but we shared in some Reindeer Games and a Christmas Potluck dinner with over 30 boats. We are going to learn some lobstering/ spearfishing techniques from some fellow cruising parents and kids at Pipe Cay, our next stop. Here is what we’re supposed to find hopefully for dinner 🙂
Wahoo, we got the lobster (and enough fish for 2 nights in a row and the freezer)! Samantha and Samuel have blossomed into the newly learned skills of spearfishing and filleting. They all have done a great job supplying me with the fish for dinner, mostly Glass Eye Snapper, but Samuel surprised us all to be the first to get the lobster! It was a Spanish Slipper, so not as spiny yet just as delicious! We feel like we’ve just been introduced to the best seafood bar around, it has been a great learning experience and we’ve been pleased to see how much the older kids take on much of the fishing responsibilities for their families as well. Here are the kid’s catches:
We anchored here at Staniel for a couple of nights… planned to explore the underwater grotto (James Bond: Thunderball), the swimming pigs, and some cliff jumping. Again we were surrounded by some wonderful families and were able to enjoy the dynamics it created. Here are some fun pictures of the past few days-