Ins and Outs

A boat is just a moderately slow island.

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the chance to appreciate the similarities between living on a boat and on a small remote island. Life in either environment requires management of a fairly basic set of resources. Food, water, fuel and supplies/parts are key inputs — and all are in limited supply, expensive, and available irregularly and infrequently.

Like some boats, many islands (including Staniel Cay) have their own reverse-osmosis water plant powered by either electricity (locally generated from diesel fuel) or solar power. Andante does not have a water maker so I lug 10 gallons (80 lbs) of water from shore every few days.

Trash and sewage accumulates and generates bugs and smells on both boat and island if not regularly offloaded, buried, burned, or otherwise dealt with. I did not see any evidence of recycling in the central Exumas but did find myself anchored downwind of the dump on several occasions. Based on the number of derelict cars and machinery strewn about the islands I expect the cost of shipping waste off the island is prohibitive.

Visiting boaters deal with these resource issues as best they can knowing they will eventually relocate to somewhere else where food and supplies are plentiful and water is free and poop disappears down a pipe never to be thought of again. But the islanders have to live with these constraints all the time. The friendly laid-back nature and great patience of the out-island Bahamians seems a perfect coping mechanism for the many things they cannot control.

Food and fuel for both boat and island depend on regular mailboat and tanker deliveries. Fuel (especially gasoline) and certain supplies and foods (especially fresh stuff) can quickly become scarce when weather or mechanical difficulties prevent the arrival of the weekly mailboat. Here a mailboat is preparing to offload supplies (including food and liquor but also cars, building materials and propane tanks) at the government dock on Staniel Cay. Always best to shop the day after a mailboat comes!
The east-facing Atlantic beaches collect a substantial amount of plastic waste including fishing gear and packing materials from commercial ships. The biggest chunks are often collected (sometimes by visiting cruisers) and piled up for eventual removal. By whom? To where? I don’t know. The small bits most easily ingested by wildlife will persist in the soil for a long time.
Osprey nest on White Point partially built from plastic trash.
It is very expensive to move heavy equipment to a small island for a building project. And if that piece of equipment fails or becomes obsolete it must be similarly expensive to remove it. Here just off Samson Cay is seems somebody decided this front-end loader was of no further use and would make a nice artificial reef. It is far enough from shore to be certain it didn’t get here under its own power. And it was a really strange thing to come across underwater in an otherwise barren area.
On Andante I collect trash and dispose of it ashore when possible. In the Black Point settlement a trailer is provided to boaters by the community for trash drop-off for a small donation. Unfortunately these small islands don’t have the ability to deal with large quantities of trash other than by burying it or burning it. Not sure what happens to on-island sewage. Probably septic tanks. On the boat sewage gets manually pumped overboard when well away from land.

Oven Rock and Little Farmers Cay

Close but far away.

Some days ago we sailed a few hours south to Little Farmers Cay, a small island with minimal services that has not yet been fully corrupted by tourists and comfort-seeking cruisers. I hesitated to make the trip because this can be a tricky area to approach in a deep-draft boat. In the end I decided to anchor Andante far away and dinghy in to avoid the shallows and strong currents. We found a nice spot in the lee of Great Guana Cay about 1.5 miles north of Little Farmers and just north of Oven Rock.

Oven Rock is a big chunk sitting by itself on the beach of Great Guana Cay. The rock has an almost rectangular hollow in the western face that does make it sort of resemble an oven. Our reason for visiting wasn’t the rock but a very pleasant hike across the island with a stop in a cool cave in the middle. There is a freshwater pool in the cave that is supposed to be swimmable and diveable. I did neither but did enjoy the cool air and the intricate rock formations. The view of Exuma Sound was pretty spectacular from the rocky windward beach.

Then I took dinghy another mile or so south to Little Farmers Cay. First stop was the Farmers Cay Yacht club to look around and take a long walk. The only connection to town from the yacht club requires walking the length of the 3000 ft runway — but the runway is open on three sides to beautiful blue water so it was a very enjoyable walk to nowhere. At the southern end I turned around and walked back, then used dinghy to go a little further south to the cute and quiet government dock that was swarming with sea turtles. No throngs of tourists or visiting cruisers here — yet — which makes the whole place feel more remote than it really is. Which is just fine with me.

Dinghy at Oven Rock, Great Guana Cay, Exumas. The “oven” is on the opposite face of the rock so nothing to see here. Move along.
View from the top of the hill on the hike across Great Guana. Exuma Sound is on the right. There is a small, shallow lagoon with a nice white sand beach fed by breaking waves from the sound.
Inside the spooky cave. The water is fresh and very clear and the ceiling and floor are covered with interesting formations. I didn’t see any bats.
The Farmers Cay Yacht Club is a tiny laid-back place with one of the nicest dinghy docks I’ve run across.
Dinghy at Farmers Cay Yacht Club.
Walking the runway. It is long, straight, mostly flat, and not at all smooth. I didn’t see anyone land during our visit — and I was definitely looking over my shoulder — but understand the runway is used regularly by private planes and charters.
Little Harbor on Little Farmers Cay inshore of the government dock. Much evidence of fishing and conching activity. At lunchtime there were locals sleeping in hammocks tied to pilings on the docks. Very peaceful.

Boat Food: Andante’s Walking Pace Rum Punch

Like everything aboard its a work in progress. But its joyful work.

Not too sweet, not too strong: Andante’s Walking Pace Rum Punch, version 2022.

There are endless varieties of rum punch throughout the Caribbean. I’m happy to have sampled quite a few from Ti Punch in Martinique and French Guiana, to the Caipirinha in Brazil, to Pusser’s Painkiller in the BVIs to local mixtures in Barbados, St. Lucia, Trinidad and elsewhere. I suppose rum punch is to the Atlantic what the Mai Tai is to the Pacific. But the best rum punches are anything but syrupy sweet like many of Mai Tais I’ve enjoyed.

Over the last several weeks I’ve worked on developing a rum punch that is not cloyingly sweet, not crazily alcoholic (some recipes add vodka for no reason other than to boost the alcohol content. Eew.) and complex enough that you want to enjoy it slowly and not down it like Gatorade. I think I’ve reached a happy place with a nice balance of sweet, bitter, and spicy notes and just enough kick to take the edge off after a stressful day of relaxing.

Tastes vary. I take zero responsibility for yours. But I suggest the following as a starting point for your own exploration. Here then follows the basic recipe for Andante’s Walking Pace Rum Punch.

Dark Rum1/4 cup
Coconut Rum1/8 cup
Campari1/8 cup
Pineapple Juice1/4 cup
Orange Juice1/4 cup
Cranberry Juice1/4 cup

Shake all ingredients with some ice. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg (optional, but definitely recommended) This makes approximately 2 drinks depending on the size of your glass and the amount of ice involved. The recipe is easy to scale up should you have friends aboard. I don’t, so this serves one.

Note the measurements provided are in cups rather than ounces as is traditional for cocktail recipes. I don’t have a cocktail jigger aboard so I’ve been using a 1/4 cup (2 oz) measuring cup for my experiments. You’ll have to eyeball the 1/8 cup measurements – or just double the recipe and plan to sleep in tomorrow.

Things you’ll need. Specific brands don’t matter much so use what you have. I prefer Goslings but other dark or golden rums should be fine. If you don’t have Campari then Aperol might be a substitute. But really? The coconut rum and canned juices are what was available locally in the Bahamas — fresh squeezed juices would probably be wonderful. And if you have a fresh nutmeg to grate over the top that would definitely beat the flavor of stuff in a jar.

Enjoy responsibly. And preferably while afloat somewhere warm…

Here and There and Back Again

Lots of random movement. And lots of sunshine.

For the past week or so I’ve been moving almost daily from island to island in the central Exumas. The weather has been nice with consistent easterly trade winds that allow easy north and south sailing. All of this movement has been within a day’s sail of Staniel Cay and Big Majors Spot and I’m starting to think of this area as home. The anchorage is roomy and protected and its easy to get fuel, water and food — so I keep coming back after spending a few days away in quieter, more secluded spots.

The Black Point settlement on Great Guana Cay (just a few miles south of Staniel Cay) has a great natural harbor and some nice facilities for cruisers including a couple of restaurants, a small grocery store and possibly the most scenic laundromat anywhere. This is the government dock and dinghy landing.
Clearly conching is a local industry. There were hundreds of shells on the beach near the government dock.
Black Point is known for their boat builders and sailors. This one is called “Smashie.”
Just opposite the harbor there are some dramatic rock formations in Exuma Sound. This is the windward side of the island and the surf was pretty intense.
Cool blowhole I understand the spray is much taller at high tide.
One of several green turtles that hung out around Andante while anchored in Black Point.
A bit further south is White Point. No settlement here but a huge and gorgeous beach that was great for walking.
At the end of the white sand beach the rock was particularly jagged and sharp.
Back at Bitter Guana Cay in a small cove a little south of Iguana Beach. One of my favorite anchorages so far. Will be back soon.
Andante in a small cove on Bitter Guana Cay. I like the contrast between the shallow Exuma Bank and the deep Exuma Sound.
No sharks. But cool ripples on a windy day.
Today we sailed north to a nice snorkeling spot near Soldier’s and O’Briens Cays in the Exumas Land and Sea Park. Probably the clearest water yet. And some giant sea turtles.
Fishy fishy fishy fish.
Beware discount airlines.

Bitter Guana Cay

I’m not sure what the ‘guanas are bitter about. This place is gorgeous.

The island is a protected habitat for endangered iguanas. Most are 2-3 feet long. They generally move around pretty slowly but I’ve been surprised at how fast they can scamper when something exciting is happening.
The island has some pretty tall (and seemingly fragile) limestone cliffs. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, both on the protected (west) side facing the bank and on the windward side facing Exuma Sound.
This guy was pretty curious about the camera. I learned yesterday (via a friend with first-hand experience) that they will bite if you try to feed them by hand.
We are less than 3 miles from the settlement at Staniel Cay (top of the photo) but the little anchorage feels very isolated. Exactly what I was looking for.

Not sure how long I will stay here. For the first time in a while the weather is not pushing me in any particular direction. I may just stay put for a while and enjoy the environment for a while. I’ve found a few little patch reefs that I’d like to explore this afternoon. Will take the camera with me and try to share what I find underwater.