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Shark Week, The Bahamas Edition

In honor of Shark Week, we’re showcasing our experiences with some of the best Bahamas’ shark spots.

Feeding a nurse shark in Compass Cay

From friendly to fiercesome, you can find a range of species making their home among the 700+ Bahamian islands and cays. We’ll give you a glimpse of our experiences with them at Compass Cay, Conception Island, and in the Jumentos.

Compass Cay

The best place to get up close and personal with dozens of relatively harmless nurse sharks is located 65 miles southeast of Nassau. Compass Cay is home to a large population of these bottom feeders who prefer crustaceans, stingray and the steady flow of marina scraps over humans for snacks. Toss out a few pieces of stale bread from your boat and they’ll be swarming around in no time. You can pet them, take pictures, and even join them in the water if you’re feeling adventurous. Their skin feels like wet leather and even though they’re benign, their beady eyes and slithering motion still make them seem ALL SHARK.

Nurse sharks at Compass Cay

Up close and personal

You can read more about our time at Compass Cay here.

Conception Island

Only accessible by boat or seaplane and mostly surrounded by a maze of coral reef, Conception Island offers unparalleled snorkeling and fish spotting. Which, also means unparalleled amounts of shark food. This “out island” is surrounded by deep Atlantic waters (as opposed to the more shallow sandbanks of the Exumas) that run right up to the shore of the island, which provides an attractive habitat for the sharks.

It was among these reefs that Christie set a new speed swimming record when she spotted a shark less than 50 feet away. A blacktip reef shark, about four feet long, was hovering near a reef as she rounded the corner and locked eyes with it. Most likely the shark was searching for small easy-to-snag reef fish (not a skittish swimmer) so we respectfully changed our direction and continued taking in the majestic underwater show.

Snorkeling the reef at Conception Island

For more about our time at Conception Island, click here.

The Jumentos

The Jumentos are the southernmost islands of the Bahamas. They’re pure wilderness with only a few small settlements that are home to the hardiest of islanders who share their waters with the largest and fiercest of Bahamian sharks.

Down there, you’ll likely spot large hammerheads, bull sharks, black tips, tigers and nurse sharks in abundance. And often times they’re swimming right by your anchored boat as the sharks are lured into the shallow waters by all the fish scraps tossed overboard from the plethora of fisherman in the area.

While there, we spotted a hammerhead behind Kaleo and swam with a few aggressive reef sharks who wanted the fish Matt had speared. He graciously obliged their demand and swam away from his catch (i.e.; their snack). If you’re ever that far south, be sure to keep your eyes peeled while in the water as you’re sure to be sharing your playground.

Well hello there!

Our trip to the Jumentos can be found here.

A Clear Shot to Spanish Wells

Saturday marked the first time in a long time that we were sailing somewhere as a fleet of one.

Kaleo and crew’s shadow on the ocean floor

Having left “SYL” in Hawksbill, we headed to Ship Channel Cay, a long rock in the northern tip of the Exumas. It was a 20 mile motor sail up to a wide open spot of shallow sand on the ocean floor where we set the hook. In front of us was the low-lying rocks of the cay and behind us open ocean. There wasn’t another boat to be seen, further proving we were in transition between the cruising grounds of the Exumas and Eleuthera.

Taking in the fresh air and clear water

After a short swim and quick dinner, we spotted a yellowfin tuna hanging around the boat. It seemed to be attracted to the spaghetti scraps we had thrown overboard. And, always looking to fill the freezer, we baited a hook with a small meatball and tossed the line over. Moments later it went taunt as the tuna swam away unspooling yards of line from the reel. After a brief tug of war on the line, we had the large tuna right up to the boat. With gaff hook in hand (a large hooked pole used to pull a fish onboard) it bit clear through the wire leader on the line and escaped to freedom. It returned soon thereafter, much wiser to our fishing attempt, and circled us (possibly in mockery) waiting for another course in its dinner.

Just before sunset, we were treated to a figurine-sized fireworks show on the clear ocean’s horizon from the Atlantis Resort in Nassau almost 40 miles away. Over the distance, the colorful explosions looked about the size of a quarter and the boom made its way rumbling across the water to us about a minute later.

Backyard sunset over the Tongue of the Ocean

At sunrise on Sunday, with the wind gauge reading 0.0 knots, we motored for Eleuthera cutting through the ocean’s glassy surface along our way.

The trade-off for no wind was the spectacular and unique view down to the ocean floor at depths up to 50 and 60 feet. With no wind to create ripples or waves, we felt like a toy boat being pushed along an aquarium’s surface as we peered overboard to take in the magic of the exposed sea world below. Within it, we caught glimpses of radiant starfish resting against the white sand, colossal-sized sea turtles lazily cruising by, sea cucumbers vegging in their ocean gardens, and our lone sailboat’s shadow clearly trailing our progress.

By late afternoon we sailed into Royal Island Harbour in northern Eleuthera and set our anchor in a protected cove for a good night’s rest.

Kaleo amongst neighbors in Spanish Wells

Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

Monday morning we moved Kaleo a few miles over to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera to grab a mooring ball and to meander about the town. Spanish Wells is quaint well-kept settlement with many boat yards and an industrious waterfront. It’s also the stopping place for the Bahamas Fast Ferry, which we planned to take to Harbour Island the next day.

N 25° 30.90 / W 76° 50.72

Returning Through The Exumas

The past week has been punctuated by the sweetness of revisiting some of our favorite Bahamian islands and the inevitable departure of good friends.

The sands of Hawksbill beach

Over the past week, we’ve:

  • Sailed with “SYL” up to Little Farmers Cay and met back up with “Morning Glory.” We hiked across the island to walk along the Atlantic beaches, went to boat church and explored Oven Rock Cave.
  • Set the hook at Castle Beach near Black Point, where we first met “Morning Glory” a few months ago. Ranking as one of our top anchorages on the trip, we swam off the back of “SYL”, snorkeled and spearfished the nearby rock walls and conversed well into the night over highlights of the trip so far.
  • Docked for the day at Regatta Point in Black Point to do laundry and visit Lorraine’s cafe for Internet, home-baked bread and above all, her famous cracked conch.
  • Glided up to Staniel Cay on Thursday for groceries and more snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto. It was just as spectacular as before but this time the water was much warmer. In the afternoon we moved the big boats over to pig beach at Big Majors Cay to anchor for the night and see our grunting swimming friends one more time.

A colorful reef fish in Thunderball Groto

These folks didn’t know the pigs were hoping for a dinghy ride

  • Hugged goodbyes with “Morning Glory” as Friday made their departure for Florida.
  • Sailed with “SYL” up to Hawksbill Cay as Rusty radioed sail trim tips over to Matt. He was ecstatic at having Kaleo sailing so sweetly and grateful for Rusty’s advice.
  • Marveled at the most magnificent oceanside beach we’ve seen yet. A long hot hike over Hawksbill led us to a vista overlooking electrifying turquoise water with a powdery white sand beach that can not be done justice through pictures or words. Rusty even found a message in a bottle from a 5-year-old Bahamian boy named Truman. That’s two message in a bottles found on this trip so far!

The crescent beach at Hawksbill Cay


  • Reminisced with “SYL” about first meeting them one cold November day back in Kemah. Over dinner and Mexican Train we laughed at all the trials “SYL” encouraged us through as we made our way down the Gulf Coast, Bahamas bound.
  • Motored away from “SYL” on Saturday morning as we made our way north for Spanish Wells, Eluthera and The Abacos.

Overall, it was an enjoyable way to wrap up our time cruising throughout the Exumas. And while we will dearly miss “SYL” and “MG”, plans to meet back up while cruising the east coast have already been discussed.

Regatta Results

Friday arrived with one thing on our mind. The results of the races were to be announced that evening at the Regatta Awards Ceremony.

We won 1st Overall in our class!

“Around the Island” Race Crew with 2nd place finish flag, custom caps & bottle o’ rum

“SYL” volunteered to be the water taxi back to Volleyball Beach, allowing us to leave our boats in Red Shanks. The gals headed to the beach for the info-session “Eating Well While Cruising” and the guys dinghyied into St. Francis Resort to track down Internet. They soon returned to the beach where Matt was recruited to play a round of tug-o-war.

As the cooking class wrapped up the guys smelled the food being prepared and we all decided it was time for an early dinner. We feasted on racks of ribs and fresh Grouper at the Chat N’ Chill moments before the awards were to be announced.

Admirals and Captains enjoying dinner & sundowners at Chat ‘N’ Chill

The guys were too antsy to sit, so they hovered behind us on the beach as the first round of awards were called out. The “longest fish caught underway” went to “Guiding Light” who caught a Mahi, the first fish to be caught in the race in the last three years! Various awards for photographs taken during the races were handed out next and the well-deserved “baking underway” prize went to our very own, Deana, who made her famous cheesecake, which was voted first place by all three judges!

Then it was time for the multi-hull results. First up, the “In Harbor Race”. Third place was “Sun Burst”, the crowd applauded and we drew in a breath. Second place, “Guiding Light”. And taking first place, by 8 seconds … “Sea Yawl Later!” We all jumped up and ran forward to hoist the huge 1st place pennant (flag) awarded to Rusty and crew.

Pictures, cheering, and awards for the other boat classes and soon enough we were back in the same place waiting on the results of the “Around the Island Race”.

Third place went to “Guiding Light”.  Second place to “Sea Yawl Later” and first place to “Sun Burst” with only a 20-second lead. While another first place would have been great, “SYL” won first place overall with a first and second place finish. Congratulations and talks of next year’s race filled the canopy under the trees as we all reveled in the fun of racing a craft powered only by the wind.

“SYL” nearly floated above the water on the ride home as we all laughed, joked and held out the immense first place flag.

Retreat to Red Shanks

All the activity and action from the past two weeks’ Regatta had taken its toll and we were looking for a great place to relax.

The gals soaking in the sun

Red Shanks is an anchorage about five miles south of George Town but no where near the same pace. As we motored into the secluded cove, only three other boats were around to greet us. As we set the hook, it reminded us of the private protected anchorages that we enjoyed in places like Black Point, O’Briens Cay and Shroud Cay. Surrounded by sandy mangrove covered cays, the water was glass and Kaleo floated without a tug on her anchor chain.

We dinghyied over to “Morning Glory” to relax in the sun, swim, and live the cruiser’s dream. The guys talked boats, solar panels, and other technical topics while the gals played Bananagrams and lounged on the trampolines. All the while, Ted and Mili were generous enough to run their watermaker for us, filling up our empty jugs as we wait for our Cruise RO watermaker to be delivered in the next week or so.

Matt and Ted jumping off “Morning Glory”

A few hours later “SYL” came into the anchorage and joined the afternoon swim and sun while we all made plans for a potluck dinner. Everyone returned to their respective boats to make a dinner dish and wash the salt off. We then headed over to “SYL” to be greeted by a table set with real linen napkins and glassware. A touch that brought the dinner from a cruiser’s potluck to a gathering of friends over fresh fish, filet mignot, chicken and a plethora of delicious side dishes.

Dinner & great company aboard “SYL”

Kaleo quietly floating at anchor in Red Shanks

Sunset turned into twinkling stars and as the night wrapped up, a crescent moon was our street light on the ride home.

N 23° 29.09 / W 75° 44.29

GT Regatta “Around the Island” Race

The Kaleo crew was up early to enjoy a warm and filling breakfast of Migas before boarding “SYL” at 8:30 to prep for the day’s race.

The “Around the Island Race” is an 18.5 mile course that starts and ends in Elizabeth Harbour and makes a circle around Lee Stocking Island with more than half of the sailing in the open waters of the Exuma Sound.

The next hour and half was a flurry of activity as lunches were made, gear was secured, sails were hoisted and “SYL” was tacking and jibing through the harbor. Each crew member prepped for their assigned duties with Rusty at the wheel and mainsheet for upwind, Matt at the wheel and starboard jib sheet for downwind, Ted on the port jib sheet and camera for our photography entries, Christie on the port jib when Ted was snapping photos and thinking through how to make the dessert for the baking entry in 5′-7′ seas.

Ted taking timing notes

“SYL” found her groove and the race horn sounded as we blazed toward the start line, crossing just behind “Guiding Light” and “Sun Burst.” Having run the course a few times before, “SYL” knew where she needed to be as Matt kept her in the wind slot for the fastest speed. Rusty and Ted trimmed sheets as Christie shouted the distance behind and ahead of our competitors, and we all melded into race mode.

Crew of “SYL” underway

Rounding the in-harbour marks (buoys that denote the race course), the bows were pointed toward the open water of Exuma Sound as we plowed forward into ever growing seas. The overnight winds had built large 5′-7′ rolling seas and white froth would spray over “SYL” as we sailed down the back of each one. More than once Matt had to run out front to adjust a line and every time the water would wash over him like it was spit out of a blender.

Matt and Ted adjusting the downhaul on the wet foredeck

When all the other boats in our class tacked out to stay away from shore, Rusty decided to try and save some time by staying in close. The advantage was less current and better wind to continue on course but the disadvantage was sailing breath-holdingly close to the jagged cliffs of smalls cays that could have quickly put an end to our race that day (not to mention any sailing thereafter.)

The captain proved himself to be made of steel as “SYL” came within about 30 feet of the rocky outcroppings while we maintained a very tight course. At one point we could feel the spray ricocheting off the rocks with each wave crash. Rusty was confident in his vessel’s ability to point high enough into the wind to stay clear of the danger. The rest of us pretty much said our prayers, held our breath and waited to jump on any command that would signal evasive action. Once the danger had passed, we all agreed that it was a move that just might have put us as top contenders in our class.

Trusty Captain Rusty

Not willing to give up an inch by patting ourselves on the back, we rounded the final mark and set course for the finish line by twisting, tweaking and trimming every sail for maximum speed. Within minutes, we sailed across the finish line and back into island style, lazily returning to the anchorage area to unwind. Linda and Mili had been prepping a late lunch and we soon were dining like monarchy aboard “Morning Glory”. Full enough to warrant a nap, but almost late for the post-race party, our dinghies ferried us to St. Francis where crews gathered to share stories  and strategies of the race. It was an incredible sunset on Gaviota Bay as we looked at all the race photos displayed, tasted the “baking underway” entries, and sipped sundowners with good company.

The race crew of “SYL”. Stance inspired by the movie “Wind”.

We returned to Kaleo with great anticipation for Friday evening’s Regatta Awards Ceremony where the final results of the races and contests would be announced.

In-Harbour Regatta Race

Recharged and ready for the day, we enjoyed a warm and filling breakfast of Migas, then dinghyied over to “Morning Glory” and “Sea Yawl Later” who were rafted up together.

The “SYL” crew ready to race

It was the Regatta’s “In-Harbor Race” Day and Matt was crewing aboard “SYL” with Ted from “Morning Glory” under the trusty Captain Rusty.

The guys prepped the boat and soon sailed off leaving the Admirals aboard “Morning Glory” to cheer on the team and enjoy some girl time.

The In-Harbour Race is two laps around a race course marked by large floating buoys and involves sailing both up and down wind. This type of course means that each boat/team will have to make multiple tacks and jibes in order to successfully run the course, which translates into a lot of work for each crew member.

Three fleets of mono-hulls started, then the gun sounded for the multi-hull race as five catamarans sped toward the start line (in a sailboat race the boats are already sailing and can cross the line after the gun but not before, so each team tries to time it as close as possible).

“SYL” crossed the start third in their class and were disappointed as their start had given the leader at least 20 seconds on them. Over the next hour, boats of all sizes and colors battled for the best time on the course.

At one point, “SYL” was neck-in-neck with two other cats, “Guiding Light” and a St. Francis 50, “Penelope”, but in the end, the St. Francis pulled away from “SYL” and “SYL” shouldered in front of “Guiding Light.”

Once more around the marks and “SYL” was third cross the finish line with country music blaring from the loud speaker. Each boat has a (PHRF) rating to help level the playing field, otherwise it would be no contest for the 33 foot “SYL” to compete with the 50 foot St. Francis, as the bigger the boat, the faster it can typically go. The official results won’t be released until the Friday night results party but according to our calculations we think “SYL” came in first or second place.

If there was an award for having the most fun underway, the guys on “SYL” would taken top prize. Their music filled the harbor and had other racers dancing on deck while the guys practiced their “Wind”-inspired choreographed race chants and stance.

The Texas Navy at the Regatta Post Race Party

After the race, we napped and then headed up to the post-race party at St. Francis Resort where “all the racers tell stories about how well they did.” After spinning a few yarns and talking with others, we dinghied home as Matt grumbled about his sore back, neck, shoulders and arms, all from grinding on the winches. He won the prize for first one to bed and soon thereafter, we we’re both sound asleep.

A Drag of a Night

Friday was an R ‘n’ R day aboard Kaleo. Not only were we wiped out from the action of the Coconut Harvest, but we had a eventful and restless Thursday night.

The calm waters before the evening winds picked up

At about midnight, our anchor drag alarm sounded and Matt popped his head out of the companionway to survey the situation. The anchor drag alarm is a handheld GPS with a pre-set radius which goes off if the boat moves beyond a certain distance. We set the alarm in tight anchorages (too many boats close together) or in strong winds as a way to alert us should the anchor come unset. Both conditions were the case for our George Town anchorage.

Matt stuck his head below and said “we’re dragging” over the howl of 25+ knot winds. At a calm but quick pace we started the motor, turned on the depth sounder and dug out the spot light. Several boats were anchored behind us that we needed to avoid dragging into.

Though the hook reset it self and stopped the boat, it placed us uncomfortably close to other vessels. So through hand signals, our hand held radios and shouting over the clamor of the anchor chain being raised we negotiated our way through the sleeping boats out into open and deeper water.

After twenty minutes of motoring around to find a good place that was clear of other boats, we dropped the hook with about 125 feet of chain out (vs. the 70 feet we had down before). Once the hook was firmly set, we fell into an on-and-off sleep while Matt got up every couple of hours to check our position.

We owe a huge thank you to Storyville who responded to our call, offered help, and stayed on the radio with us until the hook was reset. The hook held through the night with no problems and in the morning we moved back to our original spot with more scope.

Later in the afternoon, Morning Glory mentioned there was a calm and protected spot over near them so we picked up the hook and reset closer to the beach and in smooth water. Dead tired and with the in-harbor race the next day, we sunk into the v-berth and slept soundly thorough the night.

Dragging anchor is a reality of cruising and every windy night we hear someone on the radio having the same problem. It’s certainly not something we’d like to experience again and we’re grateful that no damage was done. Matt attributed the anchor working loose to not enough chain out (though we couldn’t put any more because of the proximity of other boats) and the strong wind shifts.

It was a stressful situation for both of us, yet it proved once again, the strength of the bonds we’ve made out here. The following day our “Fleet Family” stopped by to check on us, see if we needed anything and offer reassurance that Kaleo was securely anchored once again.

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