Our final sunset on Bonaire.
Well it was hard to leave Bonaire and say so long to the great people we met as well as the beautiful island. We spent our last few weeks taking advantage of the wind for kiting and the fabulous reefs for diving.
We also said goodbye to many people we had the fortune to befriend while visiting. Jerome, Aga, Sebastian and Basi invited us to their home for dinner in their back yard. Aga made a delicious dinner and we enjoyed it in while watching the sun set beyond their dock as the boys played in the surf. Thank you all so much for sharing your lives, your local knowledge and your home with us!
Bonaire shirts and a mug depicting our day of sailing!
We also received this fun memento from the BSSA sailors! Now each morning we are reminded of them as Frank has his coffee. Thank you so much for the shirts and mug but mostly for welcoming us into your group.
Frank passed a Gatorade to Rudo, that day’s winner.
We loved having the BSSA kids sail by LIB and Frank often tossed them Gatorades. These memories are very special to us! Keep sailing kiddos. We look forward to hearing how you are progressing and we will truly miss seeing you sail or hearing you call to us from the shore!
In addition to leaving shore friends, we had to say so long to many cruisers. Because we were in Bonaire a long time, we made some very dear friends in the cruising community. We can only hope our wakes cross again in the future!
A huge pod of dolphins!
We left our Bonaire mooring ball for the last time on Sunday morning. Just past Klein Bonaire, we saw a large pod of dolphins in the distance. I’m guessing there were nearly 50 dolphins in the pod and we decided to turn a bit in their direction and get a little closer. Soon part of the pod came to play in front of LIB’s bow!
How cool is this?!
Perhaps 15 dolphins came to play and were cavorting just in front of us, looking up and smiling as Captain went crazy, barking at them from above.
I so wish I could jump in and swim with them.
The water was perfectly clear so I could get this picture of two dolphins swimming just below the cross beam of LIB. I, and nearly everyone I know, seem to smile any time dolphins come to play. Somehow they manage to raise the happiness level of the boat, even when we weren’t unhappy about anything!!
Our plan was to stop at Klein Curacao for three days and two nights and take the opportunity to be away from any city lights or traffic. The day we arrived, our plan looked golden. We knew there were some serious swells north of us but we hoped they wouldn’t arrive for a day or two.
A wide angle view of Klein Curacao from our mooring spot .
We grabbed a mooring ball and settled in for a quiet day. Klein Curacao has perhaps two little places to grab a lounge chair and drink. These are visited mostly by the day boat passengers and are fairly crowded until late afternoon.
Cappy’s friend is left on shore.
Frank paddled into shore with Captain and she managed to make friends with the only dog on the island. But after romping along the beach and rolling in the sand it was time to come back to LIB.
Private boats anchored off of Klein Curacao
Since we arrived on Sunday, there were several private boats from Curacao anchored or rafted up and enjoying the day. But we knew that before dark most of the boats would head back to Curacao and we would be nearly alone.
By late dusk only a few stragglers remained and they left just a little later.
The sun looks like it is melting into the ocean.
We watched the sun set from the deck of LIB and loved having a completely quiet evening. Bonaire is fabulous, but the street does have a good deal of motor noise in the evenings. It was a nice change to hear only the water playing across the beach and hear the fish jumping nearby while watching the sun wave goodnight.
The buildings on Klein Curacao have character.
While this old light house looks kind of charming, I wasn’t sure if it actually functioned, but sure enough, her beacon flashed through the night warning sailors of Klein’s shores.
We planned on scuba diving off of Klein Curacao Monday, but when Frank took Cap to shore that first morning, a group of surfers were unloading their gear. The arrival of serious surfers did not bode well for the comfort of our anchorage. Sure enough those northern waves began to roll in around 11 am. Rather than stay on Klein, we decided to finish our morning chores and head to Curacao and a protected anchorage.
Our decision was a good one as is evidenced by these surfers loving the waves on the north end of Klein Curacao as we motored by.
The waves were pretty close together.
The waves we saw were a decent size and they were expected to become larger over the next 24-48 hours.
That boat is partially hidden by the waves.
If our sons had been on board, I am sure we would have stayed on Klein so they could catch a few waves, but Frank and I aren’t surfers, so we think our decision to leave the unprotected shores of Klein Curacao and find a protected anchorage on Curacao was a good one.
So our big news is color! We have chosen the exterior paint color for our new boat. HH has kindly put together a rendering of the HH55 with an approximation of the color we have chosen.
A rendering of our pretty, unnamed, future boat.
I actually think the paint will be a slightly darker blue than this rendering shows. We are pretty excited! It seems like the HH66 owners have chosen bold and unique paint colors and the HH55 owners have chosen very subtle colors. We decided to go with something in between. How do you like our color choice?
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Bonaire has an active youth sailing group and we invited them to join us on Let It Be for an afternoon of sailing.
Fifteen kids and two adults from the Bonaire Sailing School Association boarded LIB around 2 pm. After covering a few guidelines, we released the mooring lines and took off.
LIB was in the hands of some very good sailors! It only took a few minutes to cover basic differences between the small boats the kids sail and the particulars of this catamaran, then the kids were completely ready to take the sheets, lines and throttles!
I was truly impressed with how well these sailors worked together and shared responsibilities. As is always true with a group, some children were very interested in sailing and others preferred to romp around the boat.
Once away from the mooring ball, we raised the main, unfurled the jib and sailed south toward Pink Beach. The auto winch and chart plotter were big hits. But once our sailors learned how to engage and work the autopilot, it was much more interesting to helm manually.
Any child who wanted the helm had a chance and the more experienced kids stayed right there to guide those who needed a little help.
After about an hour of sailing, we dropped the sails and grabbed a mooring ball at Pink Beach on the southern side of Bonaire. We broke out the snacks, lowered the ladder and unleashed the energy. We had already thought these kids were exuberant, but adding the snacks and allowing them to jump from nearly every surface of LIB caused the energy level to increase another watt or ten!
After a refreshing swim and plenty of sustenance, it was time to pop the chute. LIB’s spinnaker is slightly larger than the sails the kids are accustomed to and they loved letting her fly.
Our cat cruised down wind quickly and the kids monkeyed around on this smooth point of sail. Very soon it was time to drop the spin and raise the main and jib once again. Second time around for the main/jib and the kids were all over the job with little help.
I loved watching the kids access the sails, turn to Frank or me and say, “I think that main needs to come in a bit.” Then proceed to make the necessary adjustment. It is easy to see that some of these kids really have caught the sailing bug and they like their sails to be well adjusted.
Several of our sailors have folks who are expert fishermen and that knowledge has been passed along. We brought out the fishing poles and the kids worked the lines hard, but alas, we were not in prime fishing spots. Catching a fish would have been icing on a sweet day, but I’m not sure we needed the additional activity anyway!
Our awesome helmsmen and sheet handlers managed to sail around Klein Bonaire and, with only one tack, they sailed LIB on a perfect line to catch our mooring ball.
We absolutely loved having a chance to share LIB with the BSSA and having the opportunity to get to know these young people. I was incredibly impressed with so much about these kids; they were polite, they were appreciative, they were avid about learning and passionate about sailing, they cared for and watch out for one another, the older ones gently reined in the younger ones if things became unsafe or too wild, they worked well as a team, they were engaging and just plain fun! I could go on and on!
LIB has never housed as much energy as she did for those few hours with the BSSA kids on board and we loved every minute of it. (I would love to hear how other boaters have reached out to get to know the communities they visit. Please tell us in the comments.)
Thank you to the kids who participated and to Anneke and Thijs who took their afternoon to chaperone.
To the parents of this very fun group of sailors, we appreciate your trusting us with your precious children and allowing us to get to know them!
A special thank you to Anneke who took so many great pictures and videos while Frank and I were busy. We are so glad to have these photos! Also, thank you to Charles of Tusen Takk II for the group photo.
The construction of our new catamaran is moving along nicely and we continue to spend a lot of time working with the staff at HH to refine and define our future boat. It has been super fun to receive updates and a few photos from the builder showing us the progress of our boat.
She was just the bare hull when we visited in China.
Since our first visit in August, Frank has returned once to China and was able to be on board for the sea trial of an HH55 with the aft steering. That sea trial further solidified our choice for an aft helm arrangement.
Vacuum infusion of the bulkheads. (Exciting, I know)
While touring the factory, we were able to see vacuum infusion in process for another boat. Per the HH brochure, “the hull, deck and structure are all 100% carbon fiber composite foam sandwich and use post cured epoxy resin for super light, super strong structures.” It is fun to see this processing happening for our own cat.
Those partitions may be confusing to you, but to us they look like our future home.
She doesn’t look like a boat yet, but there is definitely progress being made. We worked with HH and Morrelli and Melvin to arrange the salon and galley to meet our needs and it is fun to see the one dimensional lines and boxes on paper become a reality.
Since this boat is being built in China we obviously can’t just drop by to see how things are going, so we really appreciate the progress reports generated by HH.
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We are amazed at how busy we have been in Bonaire! We showed you a bit about our travels around the island, but we didn’t share anything about the Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Driving the park.
We spent the better part of one day driving around the park which was formed by combining two plantations and is just shy of 14,000 acres. The Washington Plantation was donated to the government by “Boy” Washington upon his death in 1969 with the agreement that the land would remain undeveloped and open to the public. The Slagbaai Plantation was added to the Park in 1979. Originally, these two plantations harvested salt, charcoal, aloe extract and divi-divi pods and transported them to Curacao and Europe; today they are places of refuge for people, plants and animals.
The landscape within the park is dramatic with areas of barren, rocky coral; undalating hills that look lush but are actually dry and overgrown with thorny plants; or coastal perimeters where the water pounds against the edges of the land. The variety within the park reminded us of the power, beauty and even aggression of nature.
These giant “boulders” show the geological history of Bonaire. You can see the definitive line in the rock which differentiates two distinct “terraces.” The higher terrace is mostly limestone with fossils of corral reef within and is said to be over a million years old! Furthermore, the line between the “terraces” shows the level of the sea before the tectonic plates shifted and raised Bonaire.
There is just something I love about this picture.
The landscape displays a harsh beauty that is also prickly and hot. We were happy to observe it from the comfort of our rental car. I cannot imagine the hardships faced by those who lived here before food and supplies arrived from container ships!
Throughout the park are areas marked as scuba diving stops, but honestly, I don’t know how you would get OUT of the water after diving from some of them.
Yeah, we’re not diving from here.
Frank is standing on the edge of a park designated dive spot. You tell me, would you jump into the water from there? More importantly, how do you climb back out assuming you survived the entry? We searched and did not find a way to enter or exit the water. Perhaps that spot should be called “Last Dive?”
I wish I had a better pic these orange beauties!
Flamingos are a common sight in the park and around Bonaire and they are a vibrant orange color. Depending on their diet, flamingos vary in color but these birds obviously feast on the local crustaceans and plankton. Crustaceans and plankton are rich in beta-carotene which gives flamingos their pink/orange color. These were the most orange flamingos I have ever seen!
Captain and MG sporting their Santa hats.
Christmas festivities are beginning to flourish here in Bonaire and all of the shops have plenty of decorations and music. There have been some fun events, like the Santa Hat 5k, to help usher in the Holidays.
Kate and Captain won trophies for best dressed!
About half of the walkers in the 5k were cruisers, including friends Barb and Kate, who joined Captain and me on the walk. A small truck led the way and blared Christmas music the whole time. It was delightful to have a sunset stroll with friends while enjoying the Christmas music.
After the walk, the downtown shops were all open late to encourage Christmas spending. There is an annual parade which consists of only two groups of participants ~ some youngsters in Santa costume and these folks from a local retirement home. While the parade only lasted a few minutes, many people gathered along the streets to cheer and wave back to those in the parade.
A pretty sweet way to keep the elders involved in Christmas activities.
The only float in the parade was pretty impressive.
The next morning Frank and I were up early for a mini triathlon. The local Budget Marine sponsored the event which was really fun and so low key, especially compared to how such an event would be handled in the U.S.
Pre-race; numbered and ready to go.
Those who participate in races in the U.S. know a short triathlon would cost around $70, rules and waivers would be clearly and forcefully enforced, transition spots would be coveted and competition would be strong.
This tri cost $15 each. There were no waivers. Rules? Just follow the courses.
It was a simple event with the emphasis on having fun. And since neither of us is at all serious about training or running triathlons, this was perfect.
I am pretty sure Frank and I were the only cruisers who entered the race, but there were cruisers who volunteered to stand at corners and direct participants. Teams were a big part of both the long and short races including several families who made up a team. My favorite was the family of three generation! Granddad, dad and granddaughter earned second place in the short team triathlon ~ and the granddaughter was only 7!
Number two sporting his metal.
Of course Frank had to go out strong and he snagged second place overall in the men’s short course. I was less successful and finished around fourth place. But really, we just had fun and didn’t care about placing.
Honestly, I think we enjoyed this triathlon so much because it was so casual. There was no pressure to compete only a desire to complete it. This removed the burden I used to feel in the very few events I ran in Dallas and put the emphasis on simply getting some exercise and enjoying the festivities.
LIB gliding along under her new spinnaker.
Of course we have spent a lot of time exploring the dive sites. Ken and Judith of s/v Badger’s Sett and Barb and Charles of m/v Tusen Takk II joined us on LIB for a quick sail up to two northern dive spots. We left early one morning, dove Carel’s Vision, shared lunch on LIB, then moved to a second dive site named Bloodlet. Of the two dives, Bloodlet was by far the better one. Frank spotted another octopus and we spent several minutes watching him contort and camouflage as he settled into a new rocky crevice.
Mountains of salt lend a feeling of Christmas snow.
The wind has been pretty accommodating and we have kited a few times. Kiting with the brilliant blue water below and the stark white of the salt piles in the background is pretty unique here in Bonaire.
All in all, Bonaire has been a delightful place to while away the end of the hurricane season as we make plans for 2018 and continue to work closely with HH as our future boat is constructed.
Some delicious meals have been prepared in this galley.
As for LIB, our awesome boat is up for sale and we have already had at least three parties who seem very interested in her. I get a little catch in my heart when I think about selling Let It Be. She has been a great home for us and is extremely comfortable. We have had her long enough that we have worked out the usual boat issues so she is reliable and predictable, pretty and easy to sail. I will find it hard to let her go.
Merry Christmas to all who read this blog. We hope the peace of Christ’s birth fills you will comfort and joy.
Thanks a bunch for visiting our blog. This barely touches the many facets of Bonaire, but we hope it gives you a glimpse into her beauty and bounty. If you are interested in hearing from us more often, please visit our FB page.
So I have inundated my blog and FB page with images of the water and in the water in Bonaire. Who can blame me when the water is so magnetic because of its’ beauty and refreshing qualities?
But we have not allowed the allure of the water or the temperatures to dissuade us from exploring the land. Frank and I pulled our mountain bikes off of LIB and went for a “short” three hour tour of parts of the island. We quickly left the paved road surfaces and found some rocky byways to ride and climb. Seeing as how I was trying to keep up with Frank, there was no time to take pictures!
How is this for a view while biking?
My favorite part of exploring by bike was riding along the coast where we had a nice ocean breeze and a magnificent view… Or maybe it was the screaming downhills that seemed so much shorter than the climbs to get to the top?
We also spent a couple of days exploring in a car and Captain was able to join us the first day which made her and us happy. I did have ample opportunity to take pictures from the car!
The first day of driving, we managed to make a quick drive around pretty much all of Bonaire with the exception of Washington Slagbaai National Park as the Park doesn’t allow pets.
A display of the harsh, rocky parts
Even though Bonaire only gets about 22 inches of rain annually, this is the rainy season and we were impressed by how green things were in some parts of Bonaire. The terrain is surprisingly diverse, sometimes flat and harsh with coral as the foundation, other times hilly and covered in scrubby trees then other areas are arid with towering cacti.
While most of the land appears to be too rocky to grow crops, it is said that the island in the picture above has been farmed for three generations. You can actually see on the small island that the ground appears to be more of a loose soil than in other areas.
A touch of softness among the cacti.
Even though the environment would be difficult to cultivate, there is beauty here and birds are more prevalent than on many islands.
Such a vibrant bird!
This little bird was not at all afraid when we came by in our car and in fact he seemed very curious. Captain was in the back seat and I thought she would go crazy if the bird came too close, but she remained very quiet.
Our pretty little visitor.
Sure enough the little bird did come visit us at the car, but I think he was actually more fascinated with his own reflection than with us. He hovered about our mirror for several minutes admiring himself, sitting on the edge of the mirror and sometimes hanging upside down to see himself. The symmetry of his coloring is beautiful.
Bonaire produces 400,000 tons of industrial grade salt each year! The southern end of the island is naturally low lying and, using a system of traditional Dutch dykes, acres of land are divided into ponds which are flooded with seawater. The seawater is allowed to evaporate and salt is left behind.
Can you see the pink color of the water in this salt pond?
The seawater changes color during the process of evaporation and from what I have read goes through three main color stages depending on the salinity of the water and what flourishes in that environment. The pink color that I found so pretty, but hard to photograph, occurs during the final stage of evaporation when the salt content is very high. During this brine state, a microorganism called halophilic bacteria develops. This bacteria is actually a single cell life form and gives the water this pink hue. (For more in depth information, see this link.)
Mountains of washed salt waiting to be exported.
The salt is collected and washed, then stored in huge piles until it is loaded onto a ship for transport. The salt ponds have a separate, dedicated pier where ships dock to be loaded. On days when there is not a ship at the pier, the area around the dock is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving.
As pretty as these salt pools look, there is evidence of a sad history of slavery here as well. Driving along the road or from the sea you can see a row of tiny, stone huts which were used by salt pond workers. The houses are too small for a grown man to stand in and were simply a place for workers to keep their few possessions and sleep.
These tiny huts give witness to a life of incredible hardship.
According to the literature I read, a small number of African slaves as well as Indians and convicts worked the salt fields and lived in these huts. I read that the slaves would walk to the city of Rincon on Friday afternoons to be with their families. They were required to return to the salt huts on Sunday evening. That walk to Rincon? The literature said it took seven hours each way! So sad.
We had heard about a pretty area on the eastern coast of Bonaire called Lac Bay and that was where we planned to stop for lunch. Lac Bay is a shallow, well protected area with white sand beaches. This combination makes it seem like Lac Bay would be overrun with hotels and commercialization, but because it is on the eastern side (too rough to moor) and hard to reach by car, it only has a few cozy places that cater to windsurfing or lounging on the beach.
Our very casual lunch spot had a cool, sandy floor for Cappy.
We stopped at a casual, little restaurant right on Lac Bay, for a bite to eat and some sniff time for Captain. Lac Bay is perfectly protected by a reef and Frank would love to kite there but due to some mishap a few years ago, kiteboarding has been banned from this idyllic bay. Only windsurfing is allowed and even on a calm day, the bay is dotted with windsurfers.
As we drove around Bonaire, I was struck by how these folks have learned to use the resources available. There is a distillery here that produces a drink from the cactus plant. I understand that Cadushy Distillery makes the worlds only liqueur from cacti plants! We have not toured the distillery yet, but perhaps we will.
This cactus fence was less dense than most.
Cacti are also used as natural fences here on Bonaire. Many yards are lined with cacti planted so close together that they act as a natural barrier. In fact, I think these fences would be more effective than barbed wire at keeping people out if that is your desire. The fence above was a little more decorative and less dense than many that we saw along the road.
This post only touches on the many facets of Bonaire, but already it is long, so I will dedicate my next post exclusively to our visit to the Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Thank you for visiting our blog. I hope you can get a small glimpse into how pretty Bonaire is and how much it has to offer. If you have any questions or favorite places here that you think we would enjoy, please let us know! And if you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.
Flying with a dog is difficult and even with the proper paperwork, once landed, additional questions about which hotels accept dogs and are clean, where to leave the dog while taking care of many errands or appointments, makes travel and use of time a bit more complicated.
This year we have had to leave Captain behind three times and twice were for extended trips. Finding a place where Captain can be well cared for, get some attention and a decent amount of exercise, has been a challenge but the effort has been worthwhile.
I thought some pet owners might find it useful to know how we have managed this year, so here is the rundown for our three trips.
In May, Frank and I were in the Dominican Republic and we had a visit to Florida planned. We would leave together, conduct our meetings over the course of five days, then I would fly back to the DR and Frank would leave for his Atlantic crossing.
For this trip, we hired a delightful guy named Nelson who works at the Samana Marina. Captain remained on LIB, Nelson came by to feed and walk Cappy twice a day and Cap was able to be ‘at home’ while we were away.
Also, our dock neighbors, Andre and Josee, were simply awesome and kept an eye out for Captain. They decided Captain needed more activity, so when they walked their dog, Roxy, they brought Captain along.
How awesome is that?!!!
The second trip we took was from Puerto Rico and we planned to be traveling to multiple locations over a three week period. Fortunately I looked up rover.com, a U.S. internet based company where you enter your zip code and the bios for pet sitters near your location pop up.
It is through rover.com that I found Natalia, who took excellent care of Captain. Natalia’s home was very well set up for dogs and she really loved Cappy.
Natalia has two dogs for Cappy to play with and daily walks were a given. While Cappy was with Natalia, Hurricane Irma was heading toward PR and Natalia was very communicative about her plans should evacuation become necessary.
We were extremely happy with Natalia’s care for Captain and had planned on leaving Cap with her again for our October trip to the States, but our escape from Hurricane Maria rendered that impossible.
Our final trip this year we had to scramble and find last minute accommodations for Captain in Aruba!
Fortunately we found the Dog Hotel Aruba where a young couple boards dogs in their yard. Rose and her husband are clearly dog lovers and assured me they would take great care of Captain.
The Dog Hotel Aruba has several kennels and two large fenced areas on site. The dogs are outside pretty much all day and large dogs are separated from small dogs. The dogs are also taken to the beach to swim once or twice a week. Not a bad way for Captain to spend her time when we have to be away.
I consider each of the dog stays successful though obviously very different. I think Captain was most comfortable when she stayed on the boat and was at home in our absence. I am sure in that situation Captain felt the least ‘abandoned ‘ but she was probably a bit lonely. Still, this is similar to dogs who stay home while their owners are away.
Staying with Natalia was where I think Captain received the most amount of human attention and love. This was a very good fit for Captain and us. Plus it was easy to find a sitter with good reviews and paying online was convenient.
The dog hotel in Aruba was a good find. I doubt this is Cappy’s favorite stay because she usually prefers to be with people more than dogs. But like a child who has to play with others, this is probably a good experience for Captain.
Even though finding a place to leave our dog takes a little time, so far it has worked out well for us. Plus, there is the added comfort of being able to receive pictures and updates to make sure our furry loved one is doing well.
I acknowledge that we have been fortunate in finding great options for Captain, but I still feel a little guilty leaving her behind. I have really enjoyed our travels and visits with friends and family but I am glad we don’t have any other time off the boat planned for a while!
And I am confident Captain will agree completely when we get back and I tell her.
Thanks a bunch for stopping by. Please share your thoughts on pet care while away from home.
For the first time in my life I truly understand that the difference one day can make in my life is huge. I have so many examples recently that have driven this home and unfortunately they have mostly been sad examples.
Our dear friends, Ken and Laurie, sent a video of their sailboat Mauna Kea while they were finalizing preparations for Hurricane Irma which devastated St. Martin a mere 24 hours later. Mauna Kea had engine problems and it was unsafe for Ken and Laurie to sail out of harms way. A picture taken from the same place 24 hours later would show Mauna Kea in a much different condition.
We were in Chicago glued to the television as we watched Hurricane Irma swirl toward Puerto Rico where we had left Let It Be and our sweet dog, Captain. We were very lucky because in the last 24 hours, Irma took a slight wobble north and our boat and dog were spared! What a difference a day made.
Fast forward about a week to 5 pm Saturday, September 16th. Frank and I were sitting at the pool at The Yacht Club in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico. We were chatting with other live aboard folks lounging in the pool and we all agreed that the morning forecast of 60 mph winds for Hurricane Maria were not a problem for our boats. We could be comfortable about staying in the marina.
An hour later, when we read the 5 pm hurricane forecast, the story was dramatically different. Hurricane Maria had changed from a category 1 to a category 4 forecast! And she was barreling directly toward our marina!
The Yacht Club from the top of the mast the morning we left.
Frank and I immediately began redressing Let It Be; returning her sails to working order, putting the enclosure back on the helm, replacing the broken anemometer (luckily the new one had arrived in the mail the day before!), walking to a nearby mini market for canned goods and plotting our departure for early the next morning.
We left Palmas del Mar on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours later, and had a beautiful passage of about 375 nautical miles to Bonaire. We sailed for the first day, then motor sailed the remainder of the trip. We had mostly following seas that were never greater than 1 meter. Surprisingly, this was one of our most pleasant passages!
Twenty four hours later, our friends Greg and Shelly on s/v Sempre Fi had found the quickest flight they could back to Puerto Rico to prepare their sailboat and leave the marina. Shelly and Greg left Palmas del Mar on Monday, about 24 hours after we did. They experienced 21 foot seas and a lot of wind. They could see the very outer bands of Hurricane Maria and tension was high on board! Eventually they encountered ‘a parking lot of tankers and barges drifting in the sea,’ Shelly said. This was their indication that they had run far enough to be out of harms way and could continue more comfortably to Aruba.
Once we arrived in Bonaire, we found wifi and checked on our friends back in Palmas del Mar and learned that Maria’s eye had passed directly over our marina! Thankfully our friends are all safe, but not all of their boats survived.
What a difference 24 hours can make!
Frank and I like to tease that since moving aboard, we live our lives at 6 knot. Thankfully over a 24 hour period, that seemingly slow six knots was enough to remove us from harm!
There are many times in our lives when one day makes a lifetime of difference; one day you’re single the next day you are married; one day you are pregnant and the next day you are a parent. Yes, there are many life changing moments, but somehow this hurricane season, the changes that can occur in a mere 24 hours has become shockingly real!
Drone photo of Palmas after Maria (sorry don’t know who took it!).
We mourn for our friends, their homes and the beautiful islands that have been devastated this year by hurricanes. All those suffering loss from Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria are in our thoughts and prayers!
Although this season has been a challenging and heart wrenching one, we are trying to take away the positive aspects as well. For instance, we have some friends whose boats survived hurricanes with nary a scratch! We have seen many people step up and make huge inroads in gathering and delivering food and water to those in need. We have seen friends drive from Dallas to Houston, towing boats to help rescue stranded flood victims. There are silver linings to every cloud if we look hard enough.
On a personal note, this season has reminded us that we cannot be complacent about weather while living this nomadic lifestyle that is much more vulnerable to weather and storms. We are reminded that we must do our best to keep Let It Be movement ready at all times. We have agreed that we should try to keep our fuel topped off in case we have to sail away from a weather event. We are reminded that we must make our own decisions and allow friends to make theirs as well – what works for us might be all wrong for someone else.
We are reminded that we are blessed to have survived this season without injury or damage to property! (So far.)
Though this blog post could be construed as a negative reflection on sailing life, in truth, Frank and I enjoy living on our boat. While others might dislike the need to pay such close attention to the forces of nature, we find this lifestyle requires us to be more observant and respectful of the power of nature. We are constantly learning to improve our ability to understand what surrounds us. We can no longer jump in a car regardless of the weather and without regard for tides and seas and upcoming storms.
No doubt this life is a greater challenge than living on land, but for us it works. We like the learning aspect and prefer to be caught up in weather and seas and trip planning rather than being concerned with the daily news or which Hollywood star has returned to rehab or who was this years biggest loser. (Plus we were too cheap to pay for cable tv!)
Over the last two years we have learned many things, but in the last two weeks we have learned to appreciate that 24 hours can bring humongous life changes.
As always, thank you for reading. Next post I hope to report more positive things, like about the amazing diving in Bonaire!
Since we aren’t moving around much right now, I thought I would share a story I wrote as an assignment a few years ago about how this whole “living on a boat” thing started for me. Originally, this was a three part story, per the parameters of the instructions, and it focuses on my experience. Sorry to be so egocentric today. I hope you enjoy reading it…
Deshaies, Guadeloupe river hike.
Water and sound. Two things that invigorate me. From the time I was very young, think three or four, I loved to swim. I was a fish! In fact, during the summer, missing a trip to the pool might have caused my gills to dry out and I could have died! Thank goodness my mom was pretty dedicated to making sure I had plenty of time for swim team and spring board diving!
Sound is also essential to me. But sound goes two ways for me. I love all sorts of music, but there are times when noise overwhelms me and I need silence or the simple sounds of nature. Take jet skis. Man those things are great! They fuel my desire for speed and do it on the water! However, I just can’t take the engine noise for long. Pretty quickly I seek out a quiet cove, turn off the engine and allow myself to soak in the beauty of the water and the fabulous harmony of nature’s songs.
Knowing these two facets to my person, how did I manage to live for half of a century without discovering sailing? A sailboat combines water, movement and quiet! Sailing had never really entered my radar, but once it did, I was convinced it would be perfect for me! And since Frank had grown up sailing, he was interested in picking it up again and thought it would be the perfect sport for us to share.
Let It Be “racing” in Georgetown, Bahamas
Not one to let opportunity pass me by, I signed up for my first sailing class: American Sailing Association 101. And Frank, who is like the Chinese water torture once he gets an idea in his head, decided to take sailing matters into his own hands. He signed us both up for a 4 day, live on board, sailing class which would begin the day after I finished ASA 101. He grew up sailing and was determined I should catch the sailing bug.
I thought for sure sailing would be an easy and natural fit for me, but…
Have you ever heard a sailor talk? It’s a whole new language on a boat! Why can’t a rope be a rope? Because on a sailboat it’s a halyard or a sheet depending on its function!
I tried so hard to learn all the terms and jargon before my first sailing class, but I was lost. Words and I are friends, but wow did the sailing terms throw me for a loop! I finally managed to learn all the parts of a monohull sailboat once I actually stepped on board for my sailing classes.
Have you ever been on a monohull on a windy day, when you aren’t very sure of what you are doing or which “line” goes to what sail? Well add in the experience of heeling and I was in a whole new world! For those of you who don’t know, heeling is when the boat tilts to one side because of the pressure of the wind on the sail. Holy wind force, Batman! That was a seriously unexpected and upsetting experience for me.
Here I was trying to put my new sailing terminology to use only to be thrown about by the inanimate boat from hell that arched up on one side and left me clinging to anything stable to remain on board!
Photo from internet
Needless to say, learning to sail was not the seamless, docile experience I had expected. Do you remember that song, “Sailing” by Christopher Cross? Yeah, well, that song is misleading! My first sailing experience was anything but relaxed and lackadaisical! Mostly what I remember from my very first sailing experience was having strange terms thrown at me, “come about!” and ducking for dear life as the sail swung from one side of the boat to the other, barely missing my head!
Still, I was not willing to give up on sailing and I soon managed to become proficient enough to stay on board, understand the language and adjust to life on a tilt.
However, after the first four day trip Frank and I took on a sailboat, I was really sad. There I was, on a boat in the British Virgin Island, sailing on the clearest water you can imagine and I was not loving it. My little, sprouting dream of adventurous sailing with sea spray bursting around the boat and me smiling at the helm was dying as I tried to adjust to my new hobby.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I now possessed certifications for Sailing 101 and 103, but somehow my sea legs had not developed and Frank had become more and more enamored with the idea of LIVING on a sailboat!…
Swell. My husband is now convinced that our future should include LIVING on a sailboat and all I can think is, “There is no way in hell I can live out my life on a boat, looking out a tiny window just above the water line, hanging on as the boat tilts to 45 degrees and I try to make some sort of dinner in the galley!”
By the end of our four days on the monohull, I didn’t care how beautiful the surroundings were or how “cool” it was to move from place to place using only the forces of nature. I was not going to live on a boat. I love Frank but this was not the life for me.
To make matters worse, we had already paid for another four more days of sailing, this time just the two of us. No instructors, just us! I was ready to forfeit my money and head back home. However, my resourceful husband had a plan. He is a tenacious person and was not willing to give up on this whole idea of living on a boat.
No need to hold on when we don’t heel.
So, he leased a catamaran instead! For those who don’t know, a catamaran has two hulls and much of the living area is above the waterline, and there is NO HEALING! Have I told you that I love my husband?
Some people refer to catamarans as “condo-marans” because of the extra space they have. Sailing purists don’t appreciate cats much, but for me, this was a whole new and fabulous experience! No longer was I stuck “down” in the galley (kitchen). Instead I could cook above the water line and have a 360 view. I could set down my coffee and the cup would not slide off the counter and throw the contents all over the boat. Life could be lived the way it was supposed to be – upright, not at an angle!
No heeling, no sliding.
Five years ago Frank leased that catamaran. Today, I am a fairly accomplished catamaran sailor. I have taken two girls only trips where I am the captain and even my non-water, non-sailing friends have a great time swishing through the water, propelled by wind, without the sound of an engine. And all of them know a good bit about how to handle a sailboat.
While a monohull is a beautiful, graceful sailboat, give me a cat any day! Let those sailing purists live at a tilt. Me, I’ll take the grief for my “condo-maran” and enjoy my coffee while sitting or standing perpendicularly, just as God intended!
Regular readers know that we have realized our dream and have lived on board s/v Let It Be for almost two years. My sailing experiences have taught me to better appreciate the beauty and benefits of monohulls too, but I’m still partial to catamarans.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44
Frank is a lot happier than the tuna is.
We had an excellent passage from Conception Island to Providenciales and we managed to catch some yellow fin tuna on our way!
Beautiful tuna steaks!
And what is the best thing to do when you finish a passage and arrive at a dock with fresh fish? Share it with you dock neighbors!
New neighbors and familiar friends!
I am surprised to report that we have spent nearly three weeks on Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos. While many cruisers stop here just as a layover until they have a good weather window to or from the Dominican Republic, we chose to have our kids fly in to visit us, so we are hanging around a while until they arrive.
Turquoise waters draw many tourists.
Provo is an upscale island with a well established tourist trade for those arriving by airplane or cruise ship. The island has several very cushy, all inclusive resorts on white sand beaches overlooking turquoise water where visitors can lounge all day, play golf or visit nice boutiques.
A view of South Side Marina from a nearby hill.
As easy as this island is to access by air and cruise ship, as cruisers we found it less accessible than other islands we have visited. The people here are very nice and extremely welcoming, but the anchorages tend to be exposed to wind or swell, so cruisers must hunt for quiet waters. Once a protected spot is found, we did not find any support facilities nearby unless we went to an actual marina.
Provo is well developed with many amenities, including beautiful groceries, but a car is necessary to get around unless you are prepared to walk a long way.
The ladies hanging out at Bob’s Bar – Captain too!
Even though access to the island is a challenge, we have enjoyed Provo. When we arrived, we stopped at South Side Marina, owned by a great guy named Bob. South Side is very small with about a dozen slips and Bob’s Bar; a fun place to gather for drinks and Bocce Ball. Plus Bob is super helpful and will arrange to have Customs and Immigration come to the marina, and he offers to take folks to the grocery every day around noon.
Bocce Ball ~ where spectators have a ringside seat!
While we were in South Side, we became friends with the other cruising boats and almost every night we gathered for drinks or bocce ball or pot luck dinners.
We went to the Provo Fish Fry with Ken and Laurie of Mauna Kea.
The social life was in full swing for those first 10 days before our friends took advantage of an excellent weather window to go either to the Dominican Republic or back toward the States. But we stayed behind to await the arrival of our sons.
Captain enjoyed free roaming and a new friend, Maddie, while at South Side!
In addition to the social time, the wind was exceedingly cooperative and we were able to kite board several days! Long Bay is the most perfect place to learn to kite I have ever seen! The water is beautiful and shallow and the floor of the ocean is sand with only an occasional seashell to mar its surface.
Long Bay has miles of shallow water!
Frank kited 6 days in a row! I kited four times and loved that I could be completely self sufficient in this location! That is a huge accomplishment for me as a new kiter.
A bit sad to see this abandoned resort.
When the winds settled and we had had as much marina time as we could take, Frank and I sailed to West Caicos Island, home to an abandoned Ritz Carleton Resort. Apparently the Ritz invested $150 million in this resort, then halted construction. The partially finished buildings remain but those are the only structures on West Caicos.
Love those pictures using a red filter!
However, on the western side of the island are several buoys placed by scuba diving companies and each one is named on the electronic charts of the area, theoretically giving you an idea of what you will find below.
Why does this make me think of Dr. Seuss?
We had a very nice dive along a deep wall in a current free area that allowed us to relax and enjoy the scenery. This dive was not as clear or colorful as the one on Conception Island, but it was definitely worth the effort.
We see you Mr. Ray.
After the dive we needed to move LIB to the east side of West Caicos to protect us from westerly winds. As we rounded the southern end of West Caicos, we saw something in the water and were not sure what it was. We were in about 25 feet of water and wondered if it was an unmarked obstacle…..
Whales in the shallows.
But as we approached, the “obstacle” blew out spray from its’ blow hole – WHALES AHEAD!
We were able to get pretty close to the whales so I drove and Frank jumped into the water to swim with the whales. Once below, he found two humpback whales – a cow and calf!
I didn’t realize that humpback whales have all white flippers! It was very easy to see the solid white appendage in the water even from above. Fun fact – a humpback’s flipper can be up to 1/3 of its body length! I guess that is a good thing as it helps propel their huge bodies.
After a very peaceful evening anchored off of West Caicos, we sailed to Blue Haven Marina on the northeastern part of Provo where we hung out and prepared for our kids to arrive.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you.
Frank caught a beautiful bull Mahi on our way to Emerald Cay Marina.
After our Sail to the Sun Rally friends left from New Providence, Frank and I spent the day provisioning and trying to buy a few things only available from a large city like Nassau. I had thought the ongoing search for the elusive red filter for my GoPro was completed in Nassau when I bought a very nice red lens cover and GoPro adapter from a dive shop.
However, much to my dismay, the adaptor they sold me does not fit my GoPro 4**, so once again I do not have the correct equipment to get beautiful underwater pictures….. which I find very frustrating! Not bringing my GoPro into town was a really dumb move on my part and the result is that I have a beautiful red lens just staring at me, waiting to allow me to share fabulous underwater pictures, and I can’t get it to fit my GoPro!
Gratuitous sunset photo.
Speaking of big cities, Frank and I spent more than 30 years living in Dallas, Texas which is truly a large city with a population of 1.258 million as of 2013. It is a very different experience here in the Bahamas when we visit various Islands and find them sparsely populated yet boasting of many “towns.”
Our visit to Long Island really drove home how incredibly different this new lifestyle is for us.
Physically, Long Island is large island by Bahamian standards. It is approximately 80 miles long and the width ranges from 3/4 of a mile to 4 miles, for a total of 230 square miles; yet Long Island has a total population of only 3,094 as of 2010! The people who live here do not gather into small cities, but are spread among many small villages usually where their ancestors settled long ago. Even well known towns have very few residents, like Clarence Town, the capital, which boasts a population of only 86 folks!
A modest monument to Columbus.
Long Island was originally called Yuma by the indians who settled there and later was named Fernandina by Christopher Columbus. After the American Revolution, many Americans from the Carolinas moved to Long Island and tried to recreate their plantations but the cotton crops didn’t last long and only ruins of those homes remain. Today farming is still important on Long Island but the planting is “pot farming.” My understanding is that soil accumulates in holes in the limestone and it is in these holes that most planting is done. I admire the tenacity of these people and how well they use the resources of their island.
Regardless of the relatively small population, Long Island has a lot to offer, so Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and ourselves, rented a car and set out to explore. Car rentals are on a 24 hour basis and we could pick up the car at any time. We decide to begin our tour at noon and explore the south part of Long Island one day and the north part the next.
Our first stop was right on the road where a local man is in the process of building his sailboat in preparation for the upcoming Long Island Regatta. This regatta is raced by locals who make and sail their Bahamian Sloops.
As soon as we stepped out of the car and began looking at the boat, two residents came over to chat and tell us all about the boat. Apparently their son is building this boat and has been working on it for two weeks. We were amazed by how much he had accomplished in so little time! He must work quickly though as the race is the end of May!
The pool and buildings at Flying Fish Marina are great.
Our next stop was Clarence Town, population 86. There is a very large marina in Clarence Town called Flying Fish. Flying Fish Marina was completely renovated and reopened in October 2016 after damage from hurricane Joaquin.
The exterior of Fr. Jerome’s Catholic Church
Clarence Town also boasts two churches designed and build by Father Jerome. Father Jerome was born in England in 1876. He began studying architecture then changed to theology and was ordained in the Church of England. Father Jerome patterned his approach to religion after St. Francis of Assisi and later converted to Catholicism. Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Father Jerome had designed and build an anglican church in Clarence Town. After his conversion, he wanted to build a larger, catholic church and did so on the highest available point in Clarence Town. Though he is best known best for the Hermitage on Cat Island, Father Jerome also built and repaired churches as far away as Australia. All told it is said that Fr. Jerome built five churches on Long Island. We visited the two largest ones in Clarence Town.
Churches seem to be the preponderance of buildings on Long Island behind residences! The one below is said to be the oldest Spanish church on Long Island.
The Spanish influence is visible in the beautiful arches.
Perhaps the most beautiful stop during our exploration of the southern side of Long was Dean’s Blue Hole. This hole, where the world free diving competition is held, is said to be 660 feet deep with a cavern that extends 4,000 feet laterally once you get to the bottom.
Yeah, we don’t have any pictures of the 4,000 foot cavern!! But here is a stunning view from above.
Guana Cay was another pretty stop and Frank was quick to observe the kiting potential of this bay. For you kiters, Frank definitely kept his eye on the wind and later in the week managed to get in a bit of kiting here.
Long Island has many caves that were once used by ancient residents as dwellings or places to hide during hurricanes. We sought out Leonard, an older gentleman whose family has owned Hamilton Cave for many generations, to give us a guided tour. Leonard had many stories about the history of the cave and pointed out five different types of bats that live there…. Laurie and I were NOT thrilled when some of those bats swooped down toward our heads!
Sunset was approaching so we turned toward Chez Pierre, a well known restaurant on Long Island. Like every place we visited off of the main road, Chez Pierre was found down a long, rocky, pot-holed road that meandered several miles without any signage to reassure first time visitors. We did manage to find Chez Pierre and had a fabulous Italian meal?? Yep, Italian at Chez Pierre!
The picture isn’t great but the food was!
Pierre was the waiter, chef and check out person, so he was a busy man. The bar was self serve and on the honor system which was unique and fun. We highly recommend Chez Pierre if ever you visit Long Island.
Locally grown produce and homemade breads.
Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 am to noon. We arrived at 8:30 but already most of the produce was gone.
Sarah displays her woven goods.
Straw and sisal work is common on most islands in the Bahamas. You will find straw markets and stands in front of homes where locals sell everything from purses to placemats to hats and baskets.
Sarah’s sample board.
Sarah, at the Farmer’s Market, had a wonderful display of items and she had a poster of the various plaits available. This is the first time I was able to see all the weaves used and I found it interesting.
The boating community at Thompson Bay, Long Island has to be one of the finest I have encountered. The boaters and the Long Islanders have developed a wonderful relationship in which both recognize the positive skills each brings. The people of Long Island are kind and welcoming and clearly enjoy the boating community. The boaters are very aware of the needs of the islanders and contribute tangibly to those needs.
Most recently, there was a push to bring trees to Long Island to donate to the islanders. After hurricane Joaquin, boaters brought much needed supplies and food to Long Island and helped rebuild many damaged buildings. In fact, the day before we arrived, a group of boaters volunteered and replaced the roof on a home.
The relationship between the boaters and islanders seems unique and wonderful to me. I can certainly understand why so many sailors return to the area every year. This is the first time I have seen island life and boat life completely intertwined and it was truly beautiful to see.
Lest you think we are neglecting Captain, let me assure you that she goes with us on most of our escapades. Here she is enjoying the pool and view at Latitudes on Great Exuma Island.
**For those who own GoPros, apparently their is the standard underwater housing and the “diving” housing. We have the regular underwater housing and the attachment I bought was for a diving housing.
Our sail from Eleuthera back to the Exuma Islands was more and less exciting than we expected. We anticipated an easy spinnaker sail but the wind was shifty and we ended up changing sails two or three times. So that was a little “more” than we expected.
Spinnaker sailing is probably my favorite!
On the other hand, Frank diligently employed the fishing techniques Paul, our Eleuthera guide, had taught him, but our only bite was a barracuda. So the fishing was “less” exciting than we had anticipated.
The fun news is that we were able to raise s/v Radiance on the VHF and made plans to meet at an anchorage on Compass Cay. Surprisingly they ended up entering Conch Cut, an entrance from the Bahama Sound into the Exuma Islands, at the same time we did! So we followed them through the cut and we anchored right next to each other.
We shared sundowners that evening and plotted activities for the next few days. S/V Radiance only had a few days before they were off to Nassau to pick up guests so we wanted to pack in a lot during our days together.
Celebrating our reunion!
Susan had saved some “bubbly” to share and we managed to consume all of it… waste not, want not!
The first day together, we packed into our dinghy, Day Tripper, and headed to the marina where we could swim with the nurse sharks then hike on Compass Cay. We trekked from the marina all the way to the Bubbly Bath at the north end of the island.
Frank, Susan and Kevin on Compass Cay.
At five miles round trip, the walk was a bit longer than we anticipated, but the views along the way were great.
Frank “dunks” a rock at Hester’s Gym, an abandoned bar on along the walk.
The Bubbly Bath was a fun place to hang out in the shallow water and enjoy the waves as they broke over the rocky ledge that separated us from the ocean. We agreed that this was a place we wanted to revisit!
Susan is making a beeline for the Bubbly Bath at the right end of this picture.
When we returned to the marina, Kevin and Captain found a breezy, shady spot to cool down and Susan and I watched Frank swim with the sharks. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I don’t have pictures.
Next we moved the boats to Cambridge Cay which is the southern most part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. We grabbed mooring balls and were delighted when we realized that s/v Tatiana was on the very next mooring ball!
I think these fish were looking for nibbles.
Kevin, Susan, Frank and I went snorkeling the next day at “the Aquarium.”
Sorry for the picture quality, I don’t have my red filter yet!
There was only one other dinghy at the snorkel site and they were just about to leave when we arrived. I was busy getting out gear when I heard, “Frank?!” HA! The folks in the other dinghy had shared our dock in Annapolis during our last few weeks at Jabin’s Yacht Yard! Art and Celeste were doing some refit work on their catamaran in Annapolis and we knew they were headed to the Bahamas, but we were surprised to run into them! What a small world!
Susan and I decided we really needed a second visit to the Bubbly Bath, so we invited s/v Tatiana to join us. We packed a cooler and some floats plus our snorkel gear. The six of us, and Captain, took off in Day Tripper and stopped at the Rocky Dundas snorkel site. We swam into the caves and poked about checking out the coral and sea life.
Kristen, James, Frank, Kevin and Susan…. Cap and I are in charge of pics.
After an arduous snorkel (not) we really needed to relax, so the Bubbly Bath was next up.
It’s important to have plenty of toys and snacks!
Frank and I on the edge of the Bubbly Bath
Cappy divided her time between a shady hole in the sand and my lap in the water.
We had a great time floating about, sharing drinks and stories as we watched the waves begin building and breaching the rocky surroundings. What a fun way to while away an afternoon!
It was great fun meeting up with Susan and Kevin again and we enjoyed several days together exploring Compass Cay and Cambridge Cay. Although we were only together about 4 days we managed to hike, snorkel, share dinner aboard both boats, gather at an anchorage beach sundowner event, listen to Kevin and a new Canadian friend jam on guitars and float about in the Bubbly Bath twice.
Susan even managed some down time on the hammock she and Kevin made from beach ‘finds.’
We were sad to see s/v Radiance leave head north, but we have plans to meet again very soon!
Frank kiting off Cambridge Cay
The wind has piped up a few times and allowed us to kite board. Frank had probably three days of boarding and he continues to try to increase the height of his jumps. Our kids gave Frank a small electronic device called a “Woo” that attaches to his kiteboard. The Woo records the height of jumps and Frank loves trying to improve his “personal best.”
Sundown after an afternoon of kiting.
My kiting on the other hand seems to go two steps forward and three steps backwards. Some days I am comfortable and don’t need any support, but other days I am very happy to have Frank “on watch” to help me if I become discombobulated!
After s/v Radiance and s/v Tatiana departed, Frank spent the next week or so exploring Black Point and Pipe Cay, then returning to Cambridge Cay. We resumed our usual activities of hikes, biking, swimming and general dinghy exploring. Instead of boring you with details, here are some pictures.
The anchorage at Black Point.
Regardless of location, all little kids love to play with smart phones!
Probably the most beautiful spot we have seen; Pipe Cay.
Hiking along a rocky ledge.
A small private island. They seem to have a few extra comforts available!
Who needs a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card?
Just another sunset!
Thanks so much for reading about our journey. Let us know if you are nearby! Next up – George Town; cruisers central in the Bahamas!