Hermit crab races!

By Jennifer

There were a lot of scheduled activities at the 5F festival and this was one that actually came off. The hermit crab races! In this video you’ll see Zach’s Florida, surf-shack hermit crab, Joey, race against two wild Bahamian hermit crabs. Joey is the medium-sized crab. You’ll also see Terry, the owner of Ocean Cabin, administering the race. Joey took third place after deciding to pick a fight with the small hermit crab, clearing the way for the large crab to cross the finish line first. We were so proud of Joey.

Good, happy times in Farmer’s Cay

By Jennifer

I have to say our stop in Farmer’s Cay was one of my favorites. It is a very tricky anchorage, at least from my novice point of view, because of the iffy anchor holding and the wacky current whipping through three openings. But, less technical, it was memorable because it felt like a neighborhood with all the boaters gathered for the 5F festival.

Here Madeline and I are during a happy hour at Ocean Cabin, one of the local taverns on the island.  At the close of happy hour, the owner lead us in a group song called “Little Farmer’s Cay.”

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Here I am (again) enjoying happy hour at Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club with a fun couple from s/v Oz out of Brooklyn, New York.

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Here we are (again) enjoying another happy hour at Farmer’s Cay Yacht Club.

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Great Friends — Magic and Veritas

By Jennifer

It’s great to be back on the blog after an extended hiatus due to the saltwater air casting voodoo spells on my laptop. But, that’s just one piece of several electronic gadgets that is battling the natural elements here and hopefully my lagging laptop will hold on over the remaining weeks.

We’ve met some great people along the way. Some of our friends back home imagined when we announced our trip that we would be “out in the middle of the ocean” by ourselves. That couldn’t be farther from the truth (well except for that first 12-hour Gulf Stream crossing…).

Here are some of the friends we have met and intend to keep:

Meet Jennings and Patty on s/v Veritas from Virginia — the Chesapeake Bay area. Jennings is a professional musician (we have two of his cds now). He plays acoustic guitar and is an excellent vocalist. He shared his musical talents at several of the anchorages throughout the Exumas all the way down to George Town. Jennings also is a microbrewer and can easily point out good microbrewery stops in several states between Florida and Illinois. Patty is awesome at making jewelry (made a pair for Madeline), a sophisticated wine connoisseur, diligent sea bean collector, and fabulous hostess and cook (thank you for the evenings spent on Veritas eating homemade pizza, popcorn and mahi mahi). Oh, how could I forget the big screen tv on Veritas where we all huddled around watching “Captain Ron.”

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Meet Tim and Diane on s/v Magic also hailing from the Chesapeake Bay area. Magic and Veritas are close friends and decided to cruise the Bahamas celebrating their early retirements. Tim is a former navy and American Airlines pilot. He is your righthand man and commands a wealth of knowledge on most everything except “Awesome 80s Trivia.” Diane is a nurse and an incredible go-getter who can find humor in all things. Good thing because nothing can test you or your boat more than sailing through the vast wilderness of the Bahamas and watching your boat break piece by piece. She also picked up the Bahamian craft of creating conch horns — two of which she gave to Madeline and Zach. The kids haven’t been the same since. We were truly touched. (Look for these conch horns in a future blog post).

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Magic and Veritas are making their way back to Florida now, but before we said our goodbyes, after traveling down the Exuma Islands chain together, we assured them it would not be the last time they would see the Taylors from Chicago. We hope to catch up with them in the Chesapeake before we head home.

5F Festival

By Kevin

The days leading up to 5F Festival were used by Terry Bain and the other organizers (ok, only Terry) recruit volunteers from the cruising community to host games and contests for the bulk of the cruisers who would be arriving for the Friday and Saturday event. We tended to congregate at both Ocean Cabin or the Farmers Cay Yacht Club for sundowners and conversation. We even did a group rendition of “The Little Farmers Cay” song one night, taught to us by Terry and his wife.

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The actual festival saw about 50-60 cruising boats in attendance. Interestingly, the vast majority were sailboats, with only about 10 motorboats. I think this is a reflection of the fact that Little Farmers Cay is pretty far south down the Exumas island chain. The farther down you get, the farther you get from boatyard facilities that can come out and tow you home if you break down. Whereas sailboats can always get home unless their mast or rigging fails.

During the festival we met more kid boats than the rest of the trip combined: S/V La Marou, S/V Prana, S/V Pour Dos, S/V Field Trip and S/V Bay Tripper. Prana was anchored next to us and the crew included a ten year old boy named Parker. Parker and his parents were from Idaho, where they ran a restaurant. The family took long, annual adventure vacations together and were planning to be out in the Bahamas for 2-3 months.

Zach had some good times with his friend Parker. We took him spearfishing with us off a few coral heads, where he almost caught a lobster and a grouper. Later, we went caving with his family and a few others.

There were two big highlights of the 5F festival. The first was the hermit crab race, where our pet hermit crab Joey came in last place, but did beat up one of the other contestants.

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The second highlight of the festival was the sailing regatta. Nine local bahamian sloops competed in races over two days. On day one, one of the boats capsized and sank, though the 5 crewmembers were rescued. The second day another of the sloops was rammed and also sunk, this time injuring the leg of one of the sailors. They take their sailing seriously and spend a lot of time and money perfecting their beautiful, homebuilt boats for competition.

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Knots You Need to Know

By Kevin

There are only a few knots that you need to know to cruise on a sailboat.

Essential Knots

  • Figure Eight: Used as a stopper knot on the end of a line to keep it from running free through blocks or clutches (gear on deck that lines run through).
  • Clove Hitch: A temporary knot used to secure fenders to lifelines, tie a dinghy to a pole, etc. (See rolling hitch below for a more secure version.)
  • Square Knot: Used to secure a sail to a boom, an item to the deck, etc. Make sure it is not a granny knot. Not very secure.
  • Sheet Bend: Used to join two different ropes to make a longer rope. Works well for ropes of different sizes. This looks similar to a square knot but it very secure.
  • Bowline: The king of knots. This useful knot is very secure but easy to untie when it has been under load. Use it to “loop around” something and secure it, to make a harness, to make footholds to turn a rope into ladder, etc.

Other Useful Knots

  • Rolling Hitch: Use this as a more secure clove hitch, I.E. to secure the end of a rope around a pole. I use this to tie up my dinghy at the dock and also to tie a backup snubber line to my anchor chain when I need an additional snubber in high winds.
  • Trucker’s Hitch: Use this knot to cinch down a load with good tension. For instance, when I tie diesel jerry jugs down on deck I use a trucker’s hitch to tension down the line.
  • Buntline Hitch: Use this knot to fasten the end of a rope to an object, very securely. It is a “slip knot” so that when you pull on it, it gets tighter, whereas a bowline is not a slip knot. Make sure you don’t tie this around a body part (use a bowline for that). I use this knot to tie a line to my dinghy’s anchor and to tie a halyard to a sail. If extra security is needed, I add a few half hitches.
  • Tautline Hitch: This is a slip knot that is tied to itself, allowing you to secure a rope to something and then adjust the length of the rope by sliding the knot up or down. The classic use for this is guy lines holding up a tent. But, I sometimes use it to secure my fenders to my lifelines so that I can then adjust how far the fenders hang down over the side of the boat.

There are many, many knots out there but you don’t need to know any more than the above to cruise successfully. And, you can get by with just the five essentials listed and some creativity.

Below is a little set of waterproof cheat cards from ProKnot.com that I carry onboard as a reference for when I forget exactly how a certain knot is made. All the knots above are found on these cards, so I highly recommend them as your only necessary knot reference.

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Arrival at Little Farmers Cay

By Kevin

After a few nights enjoying the several restaurants, bars, bakery, laundromat, and free WIFI at Blackpoint Settlement, it was time to get down to Little Farmers Cay for the legendary 5F festival.

The 5F festival is the First Friday in February Festival at Little Farmers Cay and has been held annually for over 20 years, originally organized by Terry Bain who runs a bar and restaurant called Ocean Cabin. This was a not-to-be-missed event and we expected to see lots of other cruisers, participate in events, and watch a sailing regatta of Bahamian sloops.

The sail down from Blackpoint to Little Farmers was uneventful and only took 3 hours. Since this was the Tuesday before the festival, we figured we would get a prime anchoring spot or mooring ball. But, come to find out, our friends on Magic and Veritas beat us there and grabbed the last few good mooring balls.

No problem, though. We grabbed one of the balls on the southeastern shore of Little Farmers for $25/night. It took us 6 tries to grab the mooring ball because there wasn’t any pennant to grab with the boathook! Finally, a boat on the mooring next to us dinghied out and inserted our mooring line into the mooring ball’s eye for us. Without them (thanks, S/V Voyageur), we wouldn’t have gotten onto the ball at all.

We only lasted on that mooring one night. It was just too rolly for us, with the boat rocking from side to side as the swells came in during flood tide (when the tide is rising). The “cut” or opening between the islands leading out to the deep ocean water was only a quarter mile away and directly facing us, so ocean swells came directly at us.

The next morning we motored a half mile north and dropped the anchor just off the beach on the southwestern tip of Great Guana. This little anchorage is shaped like a tongue and is only 50 feet wide and 300 feet long. It is very protected from wind and swells. It runs right along the beach, so you have to keep a good lookout. But if you run aground it is only sand. And, we briefly ran aground. But we were able to quickly pop into reverse and power back out of the shallows with our 75 HP engine.

Here is picture of the anchorage. Notice how the boats at anchor curve around with the beach.

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A few hours after we anchored with our 60# Manson Supreme, our friends on S/V Lutra can along next to us and dropped two anchors in a “Bahamian moor.” This is where one anchor is upstream and the other is downstream. This is the preferred technique when there is strong current that changes direction twice a day because of the tides. We hadn’t yet used this technique but when Lutra dropped two anchors it forced us to follow suit. Otherwise, we would be swinging on the full radius of our single anchor and they would not be swinging at all–which is a sure recipe for a collision if the boats are close.

Since we had one anchor down in deep water, we had to drop the other anchor in 5 feet of water, which is too shallow for Real Life. So we loaded up our Fortress FX-37 (only 21 pounds!) and 50 feet of anchor chain into the dinghy and motored out 50 feet to drop the second anchor by hand. This worked well and the Fortress really dug into the sand bottom. We didn’t move at all during our stay at Farmer’s Cay even when we had 30+ MPH winds later that week.

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My Sunglasses?

By Kevin

After a night of dinner and drinks at Lorraine’s Cafe, my sunglasses plunged into the water while I was climbing into our dinghy for the short ride back to Real Life.

The next day we thought we saw them laying in the sand under the dock. What luck! I took the plunge into the waist deep water hoping to rescue my $15 glasses.

After getting thoroughly wet, and having some curious locals wonder what I was looking for, we realized the glasses we thought we saw was just random seaweed. Oh, well. One dries off quickly around here.

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