Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Different Style of Cruising

We made an easy night passage from Mayaguana in the Bahamas to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, leaving about 4:00 pm and arriving early the next morning, with a beautiful sail most of the way.  In the middle of the night we were passed by a cruise ship.  It was HUGE.  Chris spotted its lights 13 miles away—it gave off more light than most of the islands we’ve visited—and he called them on the VHF radio to make sure they saw us.  The very pleasant radio guy on the ship answered, said that they were Explorer of the Seas, and that they’d deviate course a bit to stay clear of us.  The lights grew and grew until this enormous, brightly lit ship passed by about 1.5 miles away at 2:15 am.  I tried to take a picture of the ship (Chris woke me to see it), but taking a picture of a moving target in the dark from a rocking boat didn’t work well.  Instead here’s a picture of our radar display as it passed.  Normally, a contact will show up as a discreet little black bar.  Note here the huge return of the ship, which is the long, thick bar going around nearly half of the circle (our boat is the center dot).  That’s one big contact.  A ship like that is a whole different way to cruise: snug cabins, someone else cooks, unlimited bar, casinos and shows, ice-skating rink (yes, this ship has an ice rink).  But you know, I bet the guests on that ship couldn’t see the beautiful stars for all the deck lights, nor the ctenophores popping their little phosphorescent lights alongside the boat like we could.  So we’ll take our low-key and close-to-the-water style of cruising.  If you want more information and pictures of Explorer of the Seas, which is part of the Royal Caribbean cruise line, go to or

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beachcombing Treasures

You never know what you’ll find on a beach.  After a morning of snorkeling, we decided to take a walk on the long beach that runs along the northwestern shore of Abrahams Bay on Mayaguana.  We had to wind our way between the nearshore reefs, then walk the dinghy through the shallows to the beach, but we made it.  And what we found made it worth the trouble.  In the foreground of the picture to the right are four sea beans: one heart bean and three hamburger beans.  These are seed pods that float over from Africa and wash up on the beaches here.  The heart bean is large and dark brown, with an indentation that makes it look like a heart (a romantic heart, not a anatomical heart, which actually looks nothing like this ♥).  The hamburger beans have a dark band around the middle, sandwiched between (ha ha, pun intended) the lighter upper and lower halves; it looks just like a tiny hamburger – so cute!  Anyway, our big find was the bottle, which contained four messages!  They’re dated 2008, and we can’t read a single word.  If anyone can identify this language, we’d appreciate you leaving a comment to let us know.  Otherwise, I’m going to be trying out the translation programs online.  One of the messages included an email address, so we’ll email them, and let you know in a future blog what we find out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Happy Hunter

Chris was a happy man this day.  We were snorkeling on the reefs at Mayaguana when he caught these big spiny lobsters.  They were his personal records for size.  The largest one was large enough to have a good amount of meat in the head and thorax (everything but the tail), while the tails will serve us for numerous meals.  He also caught a couple of lion fish, which we had for dinner and lunch the next day.  The day before he caught these lobsters, we had traded a third of a bottle of rum (worth about $3) to a local fisherman for two smaller lobsters.  I’ve got to say, you can’t beat these prices.

Columbus Anchored Here: Samana Cay

Sunrise at Samana Cay

Yes, that Columbus: Christopher.  We stopped here for a couple of days recently.  Samana Cay a beautiful, out-of-the-way island with a large reef-encircled bay that’s tricky to get into.  Since we didn’t want to get stuck inside if the winds picked up, we anchored outside the western end of the reef in good sand.  It was beautiful and calm, and we were within easy swimming distance of numerous patch reefs.  Life is good.  That night we looked up a 1986 National Geographic article about Christopher Columbus (FYI, you can get a set of CDs with ALL the National Geographic magazines on it going back to the first one published – very cool and educational) in which they compared all of the proposed routes that he took and islands that he visited, based on his log book.  Well, they decided that it was most probably that his first American landfall was at Samana Cay, and on their little map, they had him anchoring right where we were anchored!  I guess great minds think alike.
The black spots in the water behind the boat are patch reefs that we snorkeled on