Of all the places Peter and I have visited, the Tobago Cays are my favorite.
The water is warm, clear and the most spectacular shades of blue. The islands are scattered far enough away from all civilization so it really feels like you’ve traveled to a secret paradise. Turtles, rays and fish are everywhere.
Our first time to the Tobago Cays was in September. There were no crowds, no other boats, no one to bother us. Just us and our buddy boat, Brett Ashley. Patty and Luis had been there countless times before. They led us in, weaving between the islands as I sat on the bow with my camera and a tried to take it all in.
The little white boat with orange trim belongs to the Rangers that come around to collect the nightly park fees. When there are only one or two boats visiting, the Rangers may not even bother to come collect the fees. They came to visit us the first two nights, but didn’t bother coming by again for the last three nights we stayed. If they do collect, it costs 10 EC per person, per night.
We anchored near the main beach and watched the waves breaking along the reef.
Luis was excited to go kiteboarding. With no crowds, launching from the beach was easy and he had the entire anchorage to himself.
During our stay we saw a good number of squalls come through. The holding was excellent and the reefs provided a good amount of protection. It felt much safer than most of the anchorages we’ve stayed in, despite the high winds.
It rained and rained.
We had lots of visitors…
We snorkeled and swam with the turtles. The sting rays scoured the anchorage for food scraps like puppies.
On the inside of the reef in very shallow water, the four of us went out snorkeling one afternoon. We were all exploring on our own, but stayed fairly close together. I took a routine glance around to check our perimeter when I spotted a very large 300-400 lb Caribbean Reef Shark checking us out. I looked behind me and disappointingly realized I was the only one that had seen the shark. My initial reaction was to swim backwards as quickly and calmly as I could to alert the others, but it was harder than I thought it would be to control my heartbeat. Peter immediately knew something was wrong just by the way I was swimming toward him. A familiar feeling came over me as I grabbed onto his shoulders and swung myself behind him kicking as fast as my fins would take me.
As a Southern California native, Peter has been in the water with more sharks than I care to count. He felt that the shark was swimming in an aggressive nature and motioned for us all to make our way back to the dinghy as quickly as possible. We kept our eyes on the big grey beast, got out of the water and called it a day. Though we probably were not in any danger, this fearful moment underwater was as equally terrifying as our Bull Shark encounter in the Bahamas.
After the adrenaline rush dissipated, we explored the beaches and hiking trails.
Dogs aren’t allowed to go to shore here, but Betsy and Gunner were happy doing their daily patrols on deck. In such a remote place, it was very reassuring to have guard dogs on watch. We had heard of several recent boardings in the area so we were on high alert.
The view of Petit Tabac was picture perfect.
At night, the golden sun would set over the horizon and darkness fell. The stars would fill the black sky and I would gaze up from our cockpit with amazement. It was the most incredible place I had ever seen. If it didn’t cost anything to be there, I would stay forever.
We are currently in the USVIs while Peter completes the courses needed for his USCG 100 ton Near Coastal Masters Captain’s license.
After a frustrating attempt to find the elusive 2.5″ exhaust hose and elbow we desperately need, we decided to head back up to Emerald Bay Marina, just north of George Town, to catch up on some chores last week. Peter’s birthday was March 30th so we splurged and spent a good 6 days at the dock.
There was a special for $1/foot per night if you stay three days minimum on their “no power” dock. It’s $2.25 otherwise. Water is .40/gal and power is .85/kw on the power docks. Pump out is $25 and available anytime you want. Diesel was $5.73 with a nice long dock to pull up to on your way out. We managed just fine with solar alone especially since we were using much less water on board with free showers on shore. This means we didn’t need to run the watermaker, which is one of our biggest power draws. The showers were the nicest we’ve seen since arriving in the Bahamas. The water was hot and there was never a wait for an empty stall. The second night we were there the hot water heater for the facilities died but they got a new one installed within two days. The laundry is free with four HUGE new front-load washers and dryers. Wifi was free though the connection was never very good. Coffee was provided in the office every morning and the lounge felt like a huge house. Monday evenings the Harbormaster puts on a “happier hour” where they serve conch fritters, sandwich bites, fruit, and homemade rum punch. All these perks are free, but when you check out, they do add a 10% service charge to the bill to recoup some of the costs for the free services.
The no-see-ums got us bad at night. The breeze inside the marina just isn’t enough to keep them at bay. Those little suckers inflict a wicked itch from the very second they begin their feast and the itch lasts about a week. Peter and I can’t help scratching all the time and even the creams don’t help. Let me just tell you… shaving your legs with 30 bug bites per leg is NOT fun!! Near impossible without further damage to my poor skin. It could be worse though… at least we didn’t have any other critters welcoming themselves aboard. We were lucky to have a slip at the end of the dock because the boats closest to land were getting ants blown off the trees into their boat!
There was a resident turtle that swam around the marina. He spent the majority of the time at our dock.
Gunner sure wishes he could swim as fast as the turtles!
For us, staying in a marina isn’t a vacation. It means double the work while taking advantage of a still boat, hookups for power and water, and access to facilities on land. We probably did 10 loads of laundry during our entire stay, from clothes to towels, to sheets to cockpit cushion covers. Not only was it SO nice to be able to wash all the salt out of every piece of fabric on the boat, but we had access to DRYERS that made everything soft again! I really don’t mind the crisp air-dried and sun-baked effect when we do laundry at anchor. There sure is something satisfying about not relying on machines and doing chores the way our grandparents did. Every once in a while, though, it’s pretty wonderful to have soft towels and sheets again ;)
The huge concrete floating docks served as an excellent workspace for servicing our 12′ dinghy. The aluminum floor boards needed to be removed and cleaned while a bit of 5200 was applied to some areas needing reinforcement. Peter didn’t worry too much about making a mess in hopes of making the dink look a little run down and less desirable to any potential thieves. Who would want a dinghy that’s been patched up a few times? We haven’t heard of any theft in the Bahamas but as we travel south into the Caribbean we’ve been warned to make sure to remove and lock the outboard back on the big boat every night.
Another bonus of coming to Emerald Bay? We finally got to meet Rebecca and Brian (and Lucie and Stevie) of SV Summertime Rolls!! These guys are awesome. It was so nice to finally meet them in person after getting to know them in the blog world for several months. One of our favorite parts of being in the cruiser community is that everyone is so kind and always helps out wherever they can. I believe in Karma and it’s always such a gift when someone helps you out. Rebecca knew I didn’t have any cake mix or eggs to bake for Peter’s birthday so she offered us some peanut butter brownie mix that she had on board. We thought we were going to be able to go to the store a few days back but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we decided to just head up to the marina instead. Many of you know how much I like to bake and a few of you know how important it is to me to stick to tradition and make sure there is always a cake or baked treat on birthdays. Rebecca, I can’t thank you enough for helping make Peter’s birthday a special one. Now that we are living on a boat in the islands, we have to make due with what we have and get creative to keep special traditions. Finding a substitute for birthday cake turned out much better than we could have ever imagined!
Peter and I had a nice dinner at a restaurant inside the neighboring resort for his birthday. We treated ourselves to a few meals there and sucked up the island vacation feeling while we had it :) After a bit of R&R we got back to chores. Peter had to go up the mast to retrieve one of our halyards. The mizzen halyard (attached to the smaller mast in the back – for the non-sailor readers) wasn’t fastened all the way during our trip down to George Town. Peter intended on greasing up the threads but forgot it wasn’t attached all the way to the sail when he attempted to raise the mizzen last time. The halyard popped off and immediately pulled to the top of the mast 35′ in the air. While we were in still water at the marina we were able to get some help from one of the neighbors who winched Peter up the main mast with the main halyard. He then had to clip on to the triadic stay (49′ in the air) connecting the top of the main mast to the mizzen mast, and SHIMMY DOWN the stay to the top of the mizzen mast where he clipped onto the lost halyard. Then I slowly lowered him down the mizzen mast, bringing both halyards with him. There were no photos of this ordeal – we were a little busy :)
While finishing up our laundry, we decided to move over to the dock with power hook-ups to top off our batteries. Without shore power its pretty difficult for us to get above an 80% charge. When we do connect to shore power we always take full advantage of the power to charge up our electronics and make microwave popcorn! Unlimited electricity is a luxury we don’t get often. The most important cleaning task on the agenda was using our shopvac to get in all the nooks and crannies of the entire boat. Having two dogs on board really isn’t too much of a hassle but it is challenging to keep up on all the shedding. Both Betsy and Gunner are short-haired dogs and they shed significantly less than some, but it still needs to be kept up on. Since our generator isn’t connected right now, we can only run the vacuum when connected to shore power. It was so nice to have a sparkling clean boat again!!
The marina landscapers were harvesting coconuts and cleaning up the palm trees. One man stabilized the ladder, one went up with a machete and began chucking the coconuts back into the truck while a third man picked up the branches and coconuts that had fallen to the ground. They kindly offered to cut open a few coconuts for us and Peter filled our Bubba (52oz insulated mug) with fresh coconut water. The men scraped out the jelly from inside the coconut to infuse our water a bit more. The jelly sits at the bottom inside young green coconuts where the meat starts to form. Wow was that a treat!! Coconuts were EVERYWHERE! There were several floating by in many of the slips and they were littered on the ground everywhere we went.
The other great part about staying at the marina last week was talking to the girls at the reception desk who suggested we use Reggie Express Services to ship the parts we need from the U.S. to George Town. The air freight service receives packages at their Ft Lauderdale address and puts them on a plane every Wednesday heading to George Town. We spent a few days finding the parts we needed and lined them up for shipping.
We left the marina Saturday April 5th and headed back down to anchor in Elizabeth Harbor while we wait for our parts. The plane arrived today 4.9 and everything should clear through customs by tomorrow morning. We’ll make a trip in to town and get started on our exhaust system repair along with a few other installations of replacement parts!
As everyone says, Cruising really means fixing your boat in exotic places… we fully understand the meaning of it now :)