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A SAILING Experience: Bahamas to Turks and Caicos

Monday morning 4.21 we pulled anchor at 8am in George Town after making breakfast, coffee and getting through our morning routine with the dogs. SV Krow was about 20 minutes ahead of us. We navigated out of the harbor south from San Dollar Beach and watched anxiously as Krow’s mast flung wildly back and forth like a metronome as they made their way into Exuma Sound. If the waves were rocking a 50′ Valiant that much, we would surely be experiencing more action than that very soon.

Previously satisfied with the way everything was stowed below deck, I did one more sweep of the entire boat to triple check that nothing would go flying. The dogs were happy and looking around. Peter put us on course to the northern tip of Long Island.

2-3′ seas and 10-12 knots carried us away into Exuma Sound on a beam reach with all sails up. The motor was off and all was great.

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Rounding the northern tip of Long Island got a bit scary. The winds picked up to 15-20 knots with gusts of up to 25. The seas quickly grew to a relentless army of 5′ waves with the next charging at us right after the last as we traveled downwind. Another reminder that “when it’s time to reef, it’s too late”…

Sailing in conditions like this is new to us and we had a heck of a time getting the boat back under control and getting the sails down. 5′ following seas in 20 knots was just too much for us to keep any sails out that day so we turned the engine on, pointed straight into the pummeling waves to get the main and mizzen tied down. Peter had to bring them both down by himself since there was no way our autopilot was going to let me get away from the helm. It took every ounce of concentration I had to keep us dead center into the waves. As each one crashed over the bow my knuckles grew whiter and whiter. Peter was out on deck doing a fantastic job tying up the sails despite the stormy conditions. The whole ordeal took us about half an hour.

We were finally ready to fall off the wind and make a 180-degree turn to port. Mary Christine flung around like a ragdoll as we got back on course. The smallest slip of the hand or over-correction of the wheel would push us back broadside to the waves as she yearned to point dead into the wind. Every second had to be anticipated. All afternoon we held our compass heading and steered by our peripheral vision watching the rolling waves sweep under our stern gushing toward the bow.

Of course it wouldn’t be a passage if our fishing lines weren’t out. The zinging of the reel quickly changed our mood from high anxiety to bubbling with excitement. We landed our first Mahi Mahi while aboard the Mary Christine. It as about 20 lbs, not too bad! Somehow the fear fo the 5′ waves slowly disappeared as I helped Peter filet the fish on deck. The autopilot held well enough now that the winds had died down a bit. This fish would give us 5 meals each with plenty left for the dogs.

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That night as the sun went down, we pulled further and further away from Long Island towards the Crooked Islands. The swell grew and the waves rose from 5′ to 8-10′. Eyeballing the steering was no longer an option as darkness engulfed the boat. I couldn’t see the waves sweep underneath us anymore which meant we had to rely strictly on our instruments and feeling the waves. At 5′ it was hard to “feel” our way downwind. Luckily, our course happened to be dead on downwind all night long.

We slept in shifts, sometimes two hours and sometimes three. We held our shift until we couldn’t stay awake anymore. Staring at a chartplotter in the dark is a little like driving on a lonely county road at night. Boredom sets in and it becomes hard to see with tired eyes.

As the sun came up the next morning the seas were much calmer. The gentle rolling of the ocean surface rocked us slowly. The weather was perfect with moderate winds and sunshine on our shoulders. All three sails went up and we made great time. We were just far enough away from our buddy boat SV Krow to not be able to see anyone or anything all around us. The overwhelming feeling of peace and serenity set in. The wind filled our sails and the sun kissed our faces. Mary Christine glided through the waves effortlessly and silently. All that could be heard was the cool ocean spray refracting off the bow. The water was a rich blue, so crisp and powerful.

The coast of West Caicos grew closer. Our friends on SV Krow took the northern cut to Provo. We anchored in solitude tucked inside the Southwest Reefs. The exhaustion of the completed passage wore on and we were fast asleep for a few hours of rest before continuing on to the Dominican Republic later that evening.

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There is something so incredibly enchanting about being on a boat in the middle of an ocean. It was just Peter and I out there, free from all the troubles and worries back on land, free from rules and free from the standards of society as we know it. There is so much more out there to discover and experience. The world is a beautiful place and what better time in our lives to feel the joy that sailing off into the sunset brings us!! Dreams really do come true!!

 

Dog Leashes For Beaches

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Our beach adventures with Betsy and Gunner are sponsored by Softlines, Inc.!

Softlines outfitted us with two extra long floating leashes for Betsy and Gunner. The leash itself is made of polypropylene and FLOATS behind them tangle-free as they swim. A regular leash would sink to the bottom and could potentially get tangled around their legs taking the paddle out of ‘doggy paddle’!! The material is mildew and rot resistant, sheds water easily and is very lightweight and easy to store.

The hardware is made of quality stainless steel to stand up to the harsh salt water. It’s often hard to tell what quality of stainless steel our old leashes are made with until we expose them to the ocean. Gunner wears a pinch collar when going for walks on shore and that has begun to rust. We have several other old leashes that have started to disintegrate and are not doing well now that we live on a boat. The spring snap hardware on our Dog Leashes for Beaches, however, is still looking shiny and new after months at sea.

‘Dog Leashes for Beaches’ come in 10 different lengths from 1′-50′ with custom lengths available but we chose 20′ to give our dogs plenty of room to play around with.

Diameters available are 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 5/8″. We selected 3/8″ so as to not be too big or too small. It’s easy to hold onto and thick enough to see easily in the water.

There are a ton of different colors to choose from, all UV resistant and colorfast. To match some of our other doggy gear we got Betsy a Hot Pink leash and Gunner a Pacific Blue one!

Softlines offers free custom labeling so each leash has Betsy and Gunner’s names on them with our website listed :)

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We are traveling to new beaches in different countries all the time. While it would be so great to just let the dogs run free, we like to go exploring with leashes on for the first trip to each new shore to make sure there are no lurking dangers that Betsy and Gunner could get into.

Betsy doesn’t stray far. She prefers to sprint up and down the sandy stretches of paradise always coming right back to us. She stays out of trouble and doesn’t eat stinky dead creatures on the beach like her brother.

Gunner on the other hand is always looking for trouble. As soon as we unhook his leash he bee-lines it to the perimeter of wherever we are and begins his patrol. With his nose to the ground he inspects every inch of land, hunting for anything that moves or anything that smells like food. If the beach disappears into the island brush, he heads directly into the thick of it with no regard for safe passage or thorn-free footing. Heaven forbid he sees a small creature, for his hunting instincts kick into full effect and he’s long gone.

In dog parks back home Gunner had no interest in playing with other dogs. He preferred to go exploring on his perimeter checks solo. It’s SO much easier to just keep him on a leash at all times if there’s any chance he could get too far away. The Dog Leashes for Beaches are great for Gunner because we can hold onto the leash from a distance and still let him swim around wherever he wants to go. He can explore on the beach without being right next to us and we’re still able to rein him back in if needed.

Betsy’s floating leash is great for her too. Sometimes she decides she wants to go back to shore before the rest of us so the extra 20′ of reach is helpful to grab onto before she gets too far away. One afternoon we took a family swim off of Sand Dollar Beach in George Town Bahamas and Betsy wasn’t too sure about staying out away from shore so long. She’s an excellent swimmer but she likes to swim TO something, and then swim TO something else. Gunner will do laps in the water with no particular direction in mind at all. Since we were swimming along side the coast it was easy to grab the end of Betsy’s leash floating conveniently behind her to keep her out by us.

We have really enjoyed discovering products and services that help make our adventurous lives safer and easier for both us and the dogs. Dog Leashes for Beaches have been a wonderful addition to our equipment inventory. We feel much more at ease now taking the dogs to shore with equipment that was designed specifically for helping keep our dogs safe in the water and on the beach. As we travel to far off lands, Gunner and Betsy will always be safely within reach :)

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Softlines, Inc. carries many other great products for dogs, boats, horses, etc. Be sure to check out their website!

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING… We are PROUD to share these awesome products and services with our readers. There are so many different solutions out there for everything we could possibly need, but these are the solutions that work for us.

We gladly accept discounts or samples when a company feels generous enough to support our cause. In return we support the manufacturer or local service by sharing their links and writing about our experience with them. We only seek out sponsorship and affiliate programs from products and services we actually WANT to use and likewise only accept offers for products or services that we WILL use.

We are not paid for any reviews we write or feedback we provide. We simply like to spread the word and share great experiences we have had that could also bring joy to others.

**If you’re in the market for any of our favorite products, please consider using one of our Amazon Affiliate product links. Just access Amazon by clicking through from the right-hand sidebar on our website first and any subsequent products you search for during that same internet session will help us out when you complete your purchase. It’s no additional cost to you and puts a small percentage in our cruising kitty. We appreciate your support!

Photo Recap of our time in George Town

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every day sea life
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entrance to Lake Victoria where the dinghy dock is
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Prime Island Meats for provisioning
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After a trip to Exuma Markets
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Crystal Clear at Sand Dollar Beach
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We found Sand Dollars at San Dollar Beach
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Like bath water
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View from Chat n Chill at Volleyball Beach
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This is what it looks like driving to the store
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Directional signage Bahamas style
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The highway
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By 2:00 they are out of everything! Popular with the locals
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Braving the rain coming back from town
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A wet ride
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Underwater Date for bottom cleaning day
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Fish Fry Village
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We heard Shirley’s is the best at Fish Fry Village
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We’re covered here ;)
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Friends Patti and Dave on SV Dream Ketcher (whitby 42)
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Friends Bob and Ellen on Shibumi – We crossed the Gulf Stream with them and saw them all through the Exumas
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Betsy is waiting on weather to leave the Bahamas and head to the DR
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Morning dive on the inside of the reefs

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Crystal Clear at Sand Dollar Beach

At the southern most end of San Dollar Beach on Stocking Island lies a shallow sand bar with crystal clear water. At low tide it’s a giant bathtub. Grab a mask and snorkel to float along on your belly. Picture perfect for a relaxing afternoon floating in paradise! On the other side is a drop off into the harbor for the more adventurous divers. One of the many beautiful things to see in George Town…

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Provisioning in George Town

In preparation to continue traveling south from the Bahamas, our fridge, freezer and pantry needed some restocking. Everything is expensive in the Bahamas, but there’s no way around it. We need food! Shopping smart and watching for substitutes can really make a difference.

Exuma Markets:

Exuma Markets is the main grocery store in George Town. This is the last place (that we know of) to reprovision before leaving the country heading south. From what we gather, they have a much better selection now than they did in the past. There are frozen goods, fresh fruits and vegetables (when the truck comes in from Nassau) and staples as well.  If you’re as lucky as we were, you might be able to grab the last jar of Nutella! It’s close to $13 for the larger one but SOOO worth it! For all the times we went in that store, we never saw them restock it.

The frozen meat section has gotten much better now that they are in competition with Prime Island Meats. It’s convenient to grab a couple of New York steaks at Exuma Markets for dinner and head back to the boat on your dinghy. They are actually really good steaks.

Sticker shock:

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Really??? Someone please tell me what these are doing in the grocery store!!
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Good stuff. Completely sealed and safe from bugs. I bought a few bags and haven’t had any trouble yet with weevils. I wish they packaged oatmeal like this in more places!!
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Yes, $7 for crackers.
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There were only tiny tiny tiny bottles of generic local brand bleach. Bring enough from the states if you think you’ll run out while in the Bahamas!
Good thing we stocked up at Costco in Florida!
Good thing we stocked up at Costco in Florida
Peter LOVES papertowels! We didn't buy enough at Costco. The quality here sucks.
Peter LOVES paper towels! We didn’t buy enough at Costco. The quality here sucks.
Is it worth it? Bar rags work great but sometimes its just nice wiping up spills with throw away material.
Is it worth it? Bar rags work great but sometimes its just nice wiping up spills with throw away material.

 

For those of you that need "good" coffee... I had to give up my requirement for good coffee until we reached the DR :)
For those of you that need “good” coffee… I had to give up my requirement for good coffee until we reached the DR :)
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Not many options for buying in bulk
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Good thing Gunner isn’t picky! If we put some fresh fish on top then Betsy will eat anything too :)

 A note about dog food:

We were terrified that switching dog food often would be hard on Betsy and Gunner’s tummies. Gunner has had a sensitive stomach his whole life. We’ve had to change brands twice in the last three months and both dogs are doing surprisingly well. We supplement with fresh fish and table scraps of fatty steak or other meat often. Although the brand selection of dry dog food in bulk isn’t great in other countries, we try to at least stick with the same ingredients. Gunner does better on Chicken than he does Lamb lately.  If your dog has a hard time switching food, try mixing in other brands before you leave the dock so they have a chance to get used to the change in diet. We did this only once on land and it seemed to be all the time we needed. It was a GOOD thing we were on land for that initial switch ;)

Getting everything back to the boat:

We shopped at Exuma Markets several times to stock up on some of the staple items as well as groceries during our time in George Town. One of the employees helped us take two shopping carts outside the store and down to the dinghy dock. Apparently this is common here. Exuma Markets owns the dock so it’s no problem. There are a couple of concrete stairs before getting to the floating dock. We carefully lifted the carts over the gaps in the dock at each new section. We loaded everything into the dinghy and made sure everything was double bagged to prevent from chaffing and tied shut. It’s usually a wet ride across the harbor.

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Buying in bulk:

If you are ready to buy in bulk, consider checking out Prime Island Meats. They offer free shuttles several times a week. They pick you up at the corner of the Exuma Yacht Club and the main road. You can ride in the back of the white pick up (at your own risk) and they drive you north up to their store.

If you want to be really smart about your provisioning, take a ride up there to check it out at least a few days before you need your food. See what they have, talk to the owners and put in your order. They are SO helpful!

Here’s a link to what they carry.

Mon. 10am-3pm, Tues.- Fri. 1-6 pm

Sat 10am-3pm (Closed Sun.)

Their phone number is on the website and you can contact them by email as well. The morning cruiser’s net will sometimes mention special pickup days or messages about hours or the shuttle.

Prime Island Meats will cut your selections to any size you like and package them in ziplocks with freezer paper in between each piece and they will even PRE-FREEZE everything for you!! This is extremely helpful so we don’t spend a whole week trying to get everything frozen in our little freezer on the boat. They put everything in their giant SubZero freezer and they will have it ready for you when you want to pick it up. We brought a cooler with us to pick everything up on the second shuttle trip but I think they will even deliver everything to you in both George Town or Emerald Bay Marina.

Peter is the kind of guy that likes meat with every meal so we were lucky to find this place. We of course plan on always having fresh fish aboard with reserves in the freezer but it sure is nice to have a Filet Minon or choice deli meat with pre-sliced pepperjack! You can get any kind of meat, cheese or deli item you want. Just let them know in advance and they can get just about anything in.

The prices compare to the States but the quality is well worth the price. Prime Island Meats and Deli has a great service here, definitely worth checking out if you’re in George Town.

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