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Conception Island and Rum Cay… The Beautiful Islands of the Far Bahamas.

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We left Thompson Bay and sailed to Calabash on the northern tip of Long Island.  There is a lovely establishment called Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort where we enjoyed lunch with Laurie and Ken and friends from s/v Sand Castle.

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The next morning as soon as our sails were set for the completely uninhabited island of Conception, Fisherman Frank put out his fishing lines.  We were about to take in those lines when I saw several MahiMahi jumping out of the water on our starboard side. Seconds later the fishing line “zinged” and Frank had another fabulous catch!

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Another bull Mahi…. fish tacos tonight!

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White sand as fine as powder.

I seem to say this repeatedly, but Conception was the prettiest place we have visited.  The beach sand is as fine as powder and almost as white.  There are no buildings or cell towers anywhere on this small island and the water vacillated between turquoise and deep blue.

We spent our days lounging on the beach, walking the shore, exploring creeks, sharing dinners with Ken and Laurie and generally relishing being disconnected from time, electronic devices and even communication.

Once again the pictures are better than my descriptions so I’ll show your our activities.

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Captain on alert as we explored a creek. 

(I will try to put up a video of traveling this creek on the FB page when we get internet again.)

While the water was aquamarine or perfectly clear in most of the creek, we came upon a deep pool that was very green and murky.  Turns out, this was also a popular swimming hole for turtles, so we donned our masks and jumped in.  We saw about 20 turtles!

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I had to really mess with the colors of this picture so you could see the turtle in the murky water.

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Ken hoisted Frank up on Mauna Kea to fix a problematic flag halyard.

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Those rocks and coral heads are in about 20 feet of water.

We walked to the opposite side of the island and climbed up a rocky point for an eastern view.

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Laurie, a professional hairstylist, cut Frank’s hair on the back of LIB.

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Frozen margs… a first on LIB.

Payment for said haircut was frozen margaritas!  We lucked out and found frozen Bacardi mix in Long Island, so we shared it with Laurie and Ken.  Frank used to make margaritas often when we had friends visit back home and it was a big treat to have frozen concoctions on LIB!

After a week on Conception, we decided to hop over to Rum Cay; a mere 15 miles away.  On the way we stopped to dive the Conception Wall on the southeastern side of the island.

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Sorry for the quality of the picture… at least you can see how vibrant the growth is.

This is the best dive we have had in the Bahamas!  We dove to about 100 feel along the wall and saw scads of healthy, vibrant coral!  It was a feast for our eyes.  There was very little current and the dive was extremely relaxing.

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Frank leads the way through some coral.

There were a decent number of little fish and a few larger trigger fish and angel fish, but the only schools of fish we saw were of very small fish.  However we did see a huge lobster having a stroll along the nooks and crannies of the wall.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that lobster’s body was three feet long!

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Rum Cay was decimated in September 2015 by hurricane Joaquin and then took a lesser beating by hurricane Matthew in 2016.  There was a large marina on the island, but Joaquin dumped so much sand in the channel that the marina entrance was blocked and remains that way today.  The main peer, a government dock, has not been repaired and getting weekly supplies to this island via the mail boat is a challenge.

The lack of rebuilding of the government dock and the closure of the marina have caused difficulty for the few remaining residents of Rum Cay.  But you would never know it from the incredibly warm and welcoming attitude of everyone we met on the island.

A young man named LeMont and his dog, Spicy, strolled the island with us and introduced us to everyone we met and the dogs as well.  Even the free roaming dogs were welcoming and didn’t get territorial with Captain!

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Cotton grows wild along the road.

Though I am no agriculturist, Rum Cay seems to have the best soil we have seen so far in the Bahamas.  Grass, cotton, trees and flowers grow here unaided and LeMont told us locals grow a wide variety of food.

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Principal Ann and Frank

The local school has grades one through nine and a total of 11 students! We stopped by one afternoon and donated a few toys and toothbrushes to the Principal.  The school is spotlessly clean and appears to have a good supply of books.

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The church and evacuation location

– can you imagine water up to mid-thigh rushing down this street?

During hurricane Joaquin, 40 people took refuge in this church.  LeMont told us that the water began encroaching from three sides and they had to move everyone to a different location. LeMont said it was frightening to walk through the thigh high water rushing across the street and that there were elderly people who had to be carried through the rising water. How brave these people are!

Unfortunately our visit to Rum was short because the wind turned south and the anchorage became too rough, so we returned to Conception.  Of course we stopped and dove the wall again because who can skip such a great dive opportunity?

Our plan is to stay in Conception until the morning of April 7th, when we will leave at first light and sail toward the Turks and Caicos.  Originally we had planned to stop at Mayaguanna, but it appears we will have a W-NW wind so we are going to take advantage of it and go to the Turks in one jump.

The trip to the Turks and Caicos will be a bit over 200nm and should take 30-35 hours.  Your prayers for a safe passage and that Captain is accepted into the country are appreciated.

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The perfect blue waters welcomed us back to Conception Island.

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Bougainvillea is commonly found in the Bahamas.

It is hard to leave these beautiful Bahamian Islands with their unmatched waters and hospitable inhabitants. Everywhere we have visited we have felt welcome and safe.  I completely understand why so many boaters choose to return here year after year.

Sail to the Sun Rally Reunion on Let It Be

Wow! Who knew a week could pass so quickly? We had the pleasure of having two couples from our Sail to the Sun Rally come and stay with us on LIB for a week.  And several other boats from the Rally made the effort to come and join us in various anchorages.  The result was a week of fun, laughter and adventures with a pretty large number of people.

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Waiting for guests in Staniel Cay.

We sailed LIB to Staniel Cay, where Brad and Terrie of s/v Reflection and Steve and Janine of s/v Second Wind flew into the Exumas.  We had rented a golf cart, so on arrival day the six of us tooled around in a golf cart to explore the island and introduced the newcomers to “island shopping” at the local groceries.  We had already provisioned for the week, but part of the experience of the boat life is poking about in local markets.

The wind was pretty strong so we decided to explore near Staniel for a day or two, but the wind could not intimidate our intrepid Rally friends. Tom and Louise of Blue Lady, Tina and Bill of Our Log and Laurie and Ken of Mauna Kea fought the wind and arrived in Staniel to reunite with our guests.

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Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club was our restaurant of choice for our first reunion night. We figured we should go to the Yacht Club since this would probably be one of the only places during the week that had a bar or restaurant. The food was good and the company was even better.

Our days were filled with snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and general poking around the islands, followed by dinner aboard LIB most nights for whichever Rally boats were nearby. As is usual with boaters, every boat contributed to the dinners so we were not at all burdened with feeding everyone.

Instead of itemizing our itinerary, here are a bunch of pictures from our week.  A special thank you to Tom and Steve and Brad for contributing photographs.  I wasn’t very good about photo documenting so I really appreciate the use of their shots!

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Frank swimming out of the James Bond famed Thunder Ball Cave.

Thunder Ball Cave was our first snorkel site right by Staniel.  We enjoyed poking about in the cave, though it was pretty crowded when we first arrived.  Several of the guys were dropped off on one side of the cave and they drift snorkeled through the cave allowing the current to propel them along.

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Light from the hole in the cave ceiling pierces the water.

Susan and Kevin, plus Sue’s brother, Brian, of s/v Radiance, made a fast trek north from George Town to meet the group at Compass Cay. Susan and I were adamant that our guests had to experience the Bubbly Bath since we had had such a great time on our previous visit.

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We dinghied to a beach on Compass Cay and walked about half a mile to the Bubbly Bath. As you can see, the scenery and the path were not too strenuous and even if they had been, the effort was worth it to reach the pool.

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Thanks for this areal view, Steve.

Steve climbed up the hillside for a look from above and took this picture.  On the left you can see where the water breaches the rocks and feeds the Bubbly Bath.  At the back of the picture, behind where we are standing, is the shallow inlet that we walked across to get to this spot.

Although the weather was not warm, the clarity and color of the water begs for swimming and we obliged often.  We moved LIB over toward O’Brian’s Cay where the Aquarium awaited.

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Frank and Brad diving at the Aquarium.

Rather than simply snorkel the Aquarium, Tom, Steve, Brad and Frank pulled out diving gear and dove the site.  I think this was the first time Tom was able to use his new gear and it was the first time in quite a few years that Steve had been for a dive.  It was an excellent place to explore without much current to fight.

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Here fishy, fishy…

The ladies snorkeled the Aquarium and Tom was able to get some great photos from the bottom while he was diving. As you can see, the fish are very friendly!

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The picture isn’t great, but the gathering was fun!

While traveling the ICW with our Rally group, I was surprised to learn how many of the ladies did not know how to drive a dinghy or at least were not comfortable starting one.  So one afternoon Terrie, Janine, Louise and I went out in Day Tripper for a driving lesson.  These ladies were excellent drivers and only needed a little confidence boost.  Within an hour all of them were able to start the dinghy, move forward or backwards, get the dinghy on a plain, rescue a fallen object and dock the dinghy….. We all learned some things and now they can confidently get themselves from boat to shore and back again.  This might prove to be a retail boost for local economies!

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We had the chance to fly the big red asymetric spinnaker which proved very relaxing.

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Terrie and Brad found some quiet space on the trampoline but Captain wanted in on it.

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We had to visit the crescent anchorage at Warderick Wells!

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The full moon brought a certain magic to the scene.

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Blue Lady waving goodbye after our drift snorkel through Conch Cut.

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Steve gives knot tying lessons as we travel.

Spending the week with four guests who are sailors was a first for me.  Because they are all familiar with the limitations and compromises of living on a boat, they were exceptionally easy to have on board.  Additionally, although they own monohulls rather than catamarans, they have more sailing experience than I do and they jumped right into the line work, helming and anchoring.  As a result, I had a pretty leisurely week!

A special thank you to s/v Blue Lady, s/v Mauna Kea, s/v Our Log and s/v Radiance for making the time in your schedules to make the “reunion” happen.  I know Brad, Terrie, Steve and Janine had a much richer experience because you joined us!

St. Barts – a Little Piece of France?

We left St. Martin and had a quick and easy motor sail to St. Barts.

IMG_1201St. Barts is in sight.

Our first stop was Anse de Colombier which is exactly the kind of anchorage we love…

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Clear blue Colombier

The water is beautifully clear – I counted 5 starfish on the sand 12 feet below our boat while at anchor!

The French are trying to restore the bay after damage from anchoring and have installed several free mooring balls which we were happy to use. And their efforts are working as much of the sand is gaining sea grass and we saw a lot of turtles and other marine life.

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This turtle posed for the photo!

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Rays and fish just below our boat.

While moored in Colombier we went scuba diving two times on the south side of Ile Petit Jean. The coral and fish were more plentiful than any other Caribbean diving we have done so far.  Our camera wasn’t graded for the depth of our dive, so I don’t have photos, but we saw many schools of fish in a variety of types and sizes.  Also the sponges were HUGE! They looked like giant planters that could be used in a garden.

We also spent a lot of time hiking from Colombier. Here are some of the beautiful scenes from our hikes:

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LIB nestled up close to the shore in Colombier.

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Just another beautiful bay, but too shallow for us to anchor here.

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Gustavia in the distance.

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Gotta have a selfie.

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We managed to exhaust Captain!

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The public pier of Gustavia is clean and landscaped.

The public dock in Gustavia was our next stop on St. Bart’s.  I have to say, this is a gorgeous town where you can buy all kinds of beautiful baubles, clothes, food and wine.

We spent three nights in Gustavia and sampled food from several delicious restaurants. And we managed to find chocolate croissants again! YUM.

After sampling Gustavia, shopping and not buying the rather expensive clothing, we decided Colombier was more our style.

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Kathe and Gary ready for our walk.

So back we went to Colombier to meet up with our friends Kathe and Gary on Tribasa Cross who braved a slog into the wind so they could meet us on St. Bart!

It was great sharing sunset drinks with Kathe and Gary, then hiking with them the following day.

I much preferred St. Bart to St. Martin, at least on this trip. St. Barts was easy to navigate and everyone was very friendly. I was able to practice some very rusty French and my efforts were kindly received. Gustavia feels like a quaint, clean, upscale European city and everything we needed was easy to reach on foot.

An added bonus is that the French are very nice to dogs. The restaurants welcomed Captain when we stopped to eat. In fact in every restaurant the staff immediately brought Captain a bowl of water.  She usually received her drink before we did!

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Sunset in Gustavia, St. Barts.

We really enjoyed the remote and the city life on this island.  St. Barts is definitely on our repeat list.

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