Sailing the Exumas

Day 1:

We arrived to Nassua on a Sunday afternoon and after waiting in line at customs for over an hour we found our driver waiting for us outside ready to head to Compass Cay Marina (Navtours base). We pre-paid for our transportation to and from the airport and a trip to the local grocery store, which was very convenient. After about a 45 minute drive we arrived to a beautiful marina on the East end of Nassau. The check-in was not as seamless as we had hoped as they originally thought we were going to be on a monohull rather than the catamaran we had booked for the week. After everything was sorted out and provisions were purchased we went for our walk-through of Carpe Diem (2014 Lagoon 39), or as we liked to call her “Crape Diem.” Although the marina facilities were fantastic the boat was not well-maintained considering her age. She looked at least five years old when compared to other boats we have chartered. The staff was very nice, but definitely understaffed with only one person completing check-outs and unfortunately none of the equipment we had rented was on the boat. This meant we were not able to complete our check-out until 9pm at night and were sorting through a pile of old, broken, and moldy equipment (snorkel gear, fishing pole, Hawaiian sling, etc). and left hauling it back to the boat ourselves. Thankfully the restaurant at the marina was open until 10pm so we managed to enjoy a cocktail and a delicious grouper sandwich before calling it a night.

Day 2:

We planned to leave the docks at 8am, but had to wait for the staff to find equipment we identified missing from the boat. We finally cast off the lines around 9am and were the first one out of the harbor, despite four other boats who had been stuck due to weather for the last two days and were still trying to rectify equipment issues on their boats. We had a five hour sail from Nassau to Highborne Cay and decided our hand at fishing along the way (no discernable bites, but our lure was missing when we went to pull the line in). We spent a night in a small anchorage along with two other boats and spent a few hours snorkeling and checking out the resident nurse sharks near the dock. We had hoped to grab dinner on shore, but they were closed for the evening. We fired up the grill and enjoyed our first meal on board watching the sunset.

 

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Sailing the USVI’s

Day 1: After we land we grab a taxi amidst the chaos at the aiport and head to Compass Point Marina where Chris and Calla start organizing the boat and I head to the store for provisions ($750 later and we are set)! It is almost 1730 so we cast off the lines and motor around the corner to Secret Harbor beach for the evening and enjoy our first dinner on the boat. After just a few prompts Calla used the facilities (AKA: astro turf pee pad) we bought her on the back of the boat. The next morning we are up bright and early excited to start our day.

 

Day 2: The winds are howling (30 knots) as we head to Water Island and Honeymoon beach. It was a spirited sail as Chris would say as we had 10-12 foot waves and we were beating into the wind for the entire 1-1.5 hours to St. Thomas. Once we arrived we found a crowded anchorage with live music playing. We headed into shore for some playtime on the beach with Calla and shared a pain killer and a bushwacker drink (very boozy) before heading back to the boat for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Calla’s First Sailing Adventure

 

My husband’s lifelong dream was to have our labradoodle (Calla) join us on a sailing vacation on our new boat. This sounded like a daunting task given my countless hours of research and the lack of clear guidance available, which is why I wanted to take the time to share the intricacies of importing your furry friend. The BVI vet was very responsive from the get-go and was probably tired of my emails by the time we arrived in the islands.

The number one thing I would recommend is to plan in advance as you will need to complete FAVN testing prior to your arrival (the results are sent directly to the BVI and your vet will receive a copy of the results). You will also need to make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date to include not just Lyme disease testing, but a two part vaccination (something we were not aware of until the last minute). The biggest hassle was having to mail the health certificate overnight to a USDA veterinarian along with all of your ORIGINAL proof of vaccinations for endorsement and ensure you have it back prior to travel. The USDA takes 24-48 hours from time of receipt, so plan on at least three days minimum before it arrives back to you. Also, don’t forget to include a pre-paid overnight envelope in the package you send or else it will be sent back “snail mail” and you could end up missing your trip after spending a lot of time and money. 

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Our Itinerary and Experience

Day1:

Left DC early in the morning and had a layover in the Orlando airport… Arrived in Marsh Harbor around 1330 and asked the taxi driver to stop at the grocery store and were happy with the wide selection of provisions (over an hour later we were finally ready to head to the liquor stConch Cowderore). The power was out at the liquor store and we had groceries in the back of the taxi so we quickly grabbed a few bottles of wine and a case of Kalik. Chris was encouraged by our taxi driver to try a beer so he grabbed one for the road and I was not a huge fan so on to the next liquor store for a case of Sands for me… We arrived at the boat and were greeted by Angie from Cruise Abacos who helped us unload our luggage and provisions onto the boat and we all agreed to meet back up at 0900 for our check out. Next stop the Abacos Beach Bar for our first vacation libation (I ordered a goombay smash and Chris had a rum punch). Shortly thereafter we headed down the road to Snappas for our first taste of Bahamian food and my love affair with conch began! We had conch fritters to start and I tried the special minced fish (amazing grouper chopped up with peppers, onions and a spicy sauce), while Chris had a grouper sandwich.

Calla (our labradoodle) trying to decide what to pack for her next trip!

Packing Tips For Charter

The initial consideration is not what to pack, but what to pack it in… Because storage space is at a premium the best idea if you are planning to take a charter is to use a duffel bag. I love the hard bottom duffel I bought from Eddie Bauer a few years ago.

Also, make sure to pack your travel documents if you plan to visit the British Virgin Islands you will want to have your passport. The currency that is used in the BVI is the US Dollar. Most businesses are equipped to handle credit card transactions, just be sure to notify your credit card company in advance so they do not place a hold on your account. Due to the high bank charges in the BVI most establishments will charge a 3% to 5% fee on all card transactions. Always have some cash with you to pay for moorings, or to use in some of the smaller bars and restaurants.

There is less access to medical care in the islands so I would also make sure not to forget any of your prescription medications and I usually pack ear drops because I am prone to developing ear infections. There will be a basic first aid kit available on the yacht.

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Highfield CL340Things that matter for a Dinghy:

Size: Contrary to the proverbial saying “it’s not the size that counts it’s how you use it,” when it comes to Dinghies size does matter. A Dinghy is your water-based car equivalent and you will want that extra size for anything from groceries to dive gear. 

Engine size: You have to have the horsepower necessary to move all that fun stuff and your friends to and from the boat.

Weight: Nobody likes trying to pull an elephant onto the beach or lifting it onto your davits…so make sure your dinghy is slim and trim, if not, better put it on a diet.

Cost: Everybody likes a deal and for most of us, this becomes the overarching factor that determines Dinghy selection.

What we chose and why

We compared multiple vendors and narrowed things down to Highfield and AB mainly for their construction, reliability, and cost. Like many people we went back and forth on the material selection: aluminum or fiberglass. Both have pros and cons but in the end we went with aluminum for that oh so important weight savings. (a comparable aluminum RIB is about 70-100lbs lighter than its fiberglass sibling). Ultimately we chose the Highfield (Classic 340) mainly due to the reviews from others, cost compared to AB, and some of its features.

As for engine size, well to us that was a no brainer. We went with a 20HP 4 stroke outboard. Why? Simply because we want to have enough HP to move 6 people and gear with no problems. Most likely we could have gotten by with a 15HP but the reality is a 15HP and 20 HP outboard have the same motor and weight, they’re just tuned differently so for a small amount of $$$ you might as well get the stronger motor! Oh and why a 4 stroke you might ask, simply put it’s better for the environment and more fuel efficient. Bonus, no mixing oil and gas like in a 2 stroke.

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Moxie has finally splashed in La Rochelle, France.

She was a little delayed at the factory but is now sitting comfortably in the water and has had her initial commissioning.  Moxie is getting prepared for her big Trans-Atlantic Ocean crossing. Hopefully she  will set sail soon and have a speedy journey to Annapolis where she will continue with some additional commissioning and upgrades.  Then its off for the Virgin Islands and her first Charter guest.

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French Polynesia 2014

We had the opportunity to spend a week sailing in French Polynesia with our good friends in May 2014.  Thanks to Erin for documenting our trip and taking the majority of these amazing  photos… You are welcome to sail with us anytime!

 

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Good Morning Tahiti

After a few months of excitement building and a lot of time in the air we finally arrive in Papeete. Our first morning in Tahiti is overcast but still very warm due to the humidity. The Intercontinental Tahiti  was a great property with a couple of infinity pools and one even has sand on the bottom. We spent the majority of late morning and early afternoon at that pool and its swim up bar.

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We have one more day before our charter starts so we decide to take a day trip to Moorea.  The day started out overcast again, but all is forgotten when we arrive at the snorkel site with the rays and sharks.  The guide has snacks for the rays so they are all over him the entire time. It has to be one of the best things we have ever done.stars_of_the_show

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Another rainy day but we are hoping that with our flight to Raiatea we will leave the bad weather behind. Not so as our tiny airplane has to make three passes over the airport before we get to land. So our third island of the trip also has nothing but rain for us. A short drive away is the marina where we meet our catamaran from Tahiti Yacht Charter. We pick up our snorkel gear and are greeted by our crew with a coconut drink. Our stewardess is Candace from Paris and the skipper is Fabreese from French Guiana.  

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We had the opportunity to visit several islands during our sailing adventure to include Huahine, Tahaa, Bora Bora… Each island was more magical than the last!  Our favorite part of the entire vacation was the amazing sealife, pictures truly cannot do it justice.  There was everything from sharks to sting rays and even manta rays!

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We have a delicious lunch of Poisson Cru along with some Tahitian wine!

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The promise of seeing the sacred blue-eyed eels are what prompted us to sign up for the 4×4 tour of Huahine. The eels turned out to be a bit of a let down but it was fun to see the entire island of Huahine. We did Poe Island Tours which is guided by Poe whose family appears to own most of the island. She points out her family or their residence for most of the drive. We make lots of stops along the way, first of which is for some archeological ruins, then a vanilla plantation and my favorite a pearl farm!

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After our tour and one last photo over looking the turquoise waters we head back to the boat for an amazing lunch of sashimi with curry, tomatoes, garlic, onion and goat cheese.

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We spend most of the next day relaxing, fishing and snorkeling…  just_anoth..on_the_boatview_from_the_boatB07B550A2219AC6817E509583B4791F2  more_anemo..h_clownfish nap_spot 270_love_in_French_Polynesia

And yet another day of snorkeling and beautiful views!

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Before departing Tahaa, we head to another pearl farm where the owner gives us a lesson on how pearls are made and we have a chance to make purchases from the showroom that is part of this lady’s house. Pearls in Japan have a center of plastic but those made in Tahiti have a center made from pieces of shells in Mississippi. This particular location has a Japanese man who does the surgery on the oyster to insert the shell from Mississippi. Pearls are graded based on roundness, color and defects and of course we are mostly shown Grade A for purchase.

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Having significantly depleted our budget we move to a coral garden in Tahaa that is free! This is a drift through the corals but first you must walk down the beach to the start. The water is very shallow so it can be a challenge to find a way out but also means great photos. Fabreese attracts some fish with bread and we are off. There are TONS of colorful fish and they don’t seem that afraid of us so it makes taking pictures every easy.  Curt_snorkeling end_of_coral_gardenfeeding_the_fish_bread 

We head back for lunch, Tahiti drink (we thought this would be delicious so we bought almost 10 cartons and I think we only managed to drink two of them during the entire trip) and we are off to Bora Bora.

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We head off on a four hour sail to Bora Bora and enjoy some great sunset views as we arrive.

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We are trying to find a way to distract ourselves from the fact that it is our last full day on the boat so the day is packed full of activities. We get a tip that the motu we spent the night anchored near does not have tourists until later in the morning. If we go before breakfast we could have the island all to ourselves so that is exactly what we do :) We can easily walk around the entire thing taking in the surrounds and looking for any shells without a tiny crab in residence.

 

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After breakfast we head to the main island for some shopping.

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Our next unbelievable experience is to dinghy to the lagoonarium which is on a private island. It has sharks, turtles, rays, etc fenced in and we can swim with the sharks. Apparently there are not many sea turtles in French Polynesia because people still eat them! I don’t even know how many hours we spend working up our appetite swimming with lemon and reef tip sharks.

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As we move to a new place to anchor for the evening we try to decide what we want for dinner.  Eventually we settle on The Lucky for dinner which serves pizza and is just what we needed after a long day of working up our appetites.

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Our last day on the catamaran dawns very rainy and ominous. Fabrees tells us the swells are going to be up to 15 feet in the open ocean. Right after breakfast the rain pours down but he gives us the option to snorkel at one last coral garden.  We can’t see much so don’t waste time getting back to the boat. The weather clears as we sail on to our hotels and the land part of our adventure….

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