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New Providence to Emerald Bay - George Town Grand Exuma, Bahamas

So much to tell you all about from our travels the last few weeks.

We spent a few nights at a marina on the south east side of the island of New Providence, about two hours steaming time around from the city of Nassau. From Palm Cay Marina and rented a car and took a self-guided tour of the island, driving all the way to West Bay. Nassau has a thriving downtown area and the day we were there it was quite crowded with tourists from the many cruise ships in port, but by about 5:00 PM things got back to normal. Went to the straw market and picked up a beautiful handmade basket as I wanted something small with local flair.

We discovered the Fish Fry area just west of Nassau - which is a series of shacks on the coast where you can get all kinds of Bahamian local food. Of course we had to try the conch salad but they have grilled lobster, grouper, shrimp and even BBQ in some of the stands. Reminded me of a food truck village but more permanent. Last night we went to a Fish Fry in George Town - Shirley’s - and had the most incredible Grouper with peas and rice and garlic coleslaw. Seems every larger city has a Fish Fry area.

We departed Nassau on the morning of Monday, Feb. 5th and made way across the banks to the lovely island of Highbourne Cay. Our first stop in the Exuma chain of islands. There is a marina there but we anchored out for a few nights and finally got some major time snorkeling. The Highborne Cay marina has a beautiful restaurant and a small convenience store….and Nurse sharks. Yes, BIG nurse sharks that like to hang out by the fuel dock. Apparently, when the fishing boats come in and they clean their catch, the sharks are there for clean up - another reason I personally don’t snorkel late afternoon. The first night we caught up with the crew of the s/v XYZZY and a few other folks we had been tied up with at Bimini Sands Marina. We are now referred to as the BMC (Bimini Marina Crew) and they invited a group of us to dinner on their catamaran. We were on the hook in Highbourne until Thursday, Feb. 8th and then made our way to our next stop….the mangroves of Shroud Cay.

After a short hop to Shroud Cay we spend the day exploring the gin-clear mangrove creeks and made our way the far side of the island via dinghy. We only spent one glorious rum-soaked night at anchor in Shroud Cay and then lay a heading for Exuma Land & Sea Park in Warderick Wells Cay on Friday, Feb. 9th. A few days prior we had become members of the "Bahamas Trust Support Fleet" which is a conservation organization that helps fund the land and park system in the Exumas. The membership gets you two free nights on a mooring ball and preferred reservations for the same. Warderick Wells has the most pristine, beautiful clear water and beaches I have ever seen. We had giant (5 ft across) Spotted Eagle Stingrays that came to visit several times a day and the occasional shark that cruised by as well. I got in the water and tried to take a GoPro video of them. (See if you can see them.) This is a park where you can only take pictures/video and you can only leave bubbles. Not even a shell off the beach. There is a place on the island referred to as Boo-Boo Hill where you can leave your mark - we left a piece of driftwood with our boat name on it dedicated to our visit.

We left Warderick Wells Cay for Staniel Cay on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th and after a few hours of motor-sailing we tied up at the Staniel Cay Yacht club. Immediately felt at home there and it was such a great place to hang-out. Also the place to fill up with fuel, water, clean the boat, do laundry and get some provisions. Plus, they have a great restaurant/bar where we were able to catch up with fellow travelers. Too much fun! We were invited to a Lobster and fresh fish dinner by a neighbor boat F/V Black Sheep- 62 foot sport fisher. These guys were hoping to go fishing but there was no fuel to be had so Jeff loaned them some of our fuel - and they were able to go fishing. Upon their return that afternoon, they had one awesome 12 pound lobster and some fish- enough to feed 9 people! And now, we has some new friends for life.

I have to say, Staniel Cay Marina was a little daunting for me, because every time I got on or off the boat there were large nurse sharks right under me. So I just had to tell myself to commit to the take off and landing and not look down! Some of these sharks, sting rays and turtles are very large. I saw sharks that were well over eight feet - that’s 2.5 feet longer than me! But it was also cool to sit in the cockpit and feel like I was in an aquarium. We know that Nurse sharks are usually docile bottom feeders, mostly harmless to humans & people swim them routinely. But Liby no-likee sharks!!

From Staniel Cay Marina we went snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto - where they supposedly filmed the James Bond movie Thunderball back in the early 60’s. It’s no wonder with the plethora of amazing sea life and the way the sun light plays in the water from the roof the giant grotto-cave. The next day we made our way via the dink to Big Majors Cay to Pig Beach to see the swine swim and hang out on the beach. .(By the way - they’re protected and no, you don’t get free bacon!) Checked that box. Made me think of my nephew Alex that likes the beach and wants to be a pig farmer!@#$!$ Here he could have it all: beach, chickens and pigs.

We left Staniel Cay on Saturday, Feb. 17th bound for Little Farmers Cay - a two hour run, we anchored out for the night just off the airstrip. We arrived about 1:30 PM and had a great sail that day. Once we dropped the anchor and settled in, we dinghy’d over to Ty’s Beach Bar to catch the sunset with friends. Made some new friends too. Bubba from Houston Texas and his friends on f/v Whoa Nellie. No, it NEVER gets old. God gives us a different sunset and moon rise everyday. No two are the same. What a gift!

We departed from Little Farmers Cay on Sunday, Feb. 18th running for cover to Great Exuma Island and Emerald Bay Marina - as there has been high winds and high seas expected for the next several days. We are now at the Emerald Bay Marina, I’m writing this sitting in the cockpit of Liberator enjoying my coffee with the morning sun. The sky is beautiful blue and the water so clear and green I can see the sandy bottom. This Marina is managed by the Sandal’s Resorts and so far - it’s my favorite marina. Our run from the airstrip anchorage at Little Farmers was exciting - first, the current coming in the Little Farmers cut looked like a washing machine flowing onto the banks at about 4 knots. As we approached the cut of raging water Jeff looked at me and said: "here we go, more RPM’s baby!” We made out the cut into open sea at about 2 knots against the current. Secondly, We had a steady 15 to 20+ knots of wind and seas of 4-6 feet as we went outside and pointed Liberator southward towards Great Exuma Island. A great day as Liberator was pulling at the reins with every swell and we soon found our rhythm with the sea. Cheeseburgers await!

A few days ago we had lunch at the resort and then went exploring in George Town. Made it to Peace and Plenty for some sundowner's, Shirley’s Fish Fry for dinner and danced at Eddie’s to a Rake ’n' Scrape band. (see vid) Complete with Handsaw and a lively percussion section! Yesterday we enjoyed a massage and time in the spa at Sandal’s resort. Today, there is not much on the agenda. Made some Tuna and Grits for breakfast(keeping it Bahamian Baby) and thinking about spending a little time at Grand Isle Resort with a good book in our hands.

That’s the other thing, we will be here for a few weeks and we have some things to do before we decide our next destination but for this week….we are taking it easy. We’ve had a chance to read some awesome books lately. The Nightingale, The Steel Wave, Thomas Jefferson and the Ivory Coast Pirates. Books that would have taken us months to read are gone in days/weeks.

We had a bottle of wine one night for dinner and the cork had a quote: "The Journey is the Reward." While this is true, I also believe that we have finally reached our "reward" for all the hard work, planning, saving, studying and hardships along the way. We are in a beautiful place, enjoying the fruits of our hard work and yes, our reward! We sincerely hope that you too find your reward.

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