Welcome to the cruising blog of Wayne and Michele Sharp!

If you want to learn a little bit about cruising, satisfy your curiosity, live vicariously, or be entertained, I think you've come to the right place.

Feel free to ask questions or post comments in the comment section of each post; I will respond to all of them. You can also email us at reluctantsailor@me.com.

We've written a book based on the blog from our first journey in 2007 - Adventures of a Once Reluctant Sailor: A Journey of Guts, Growth, and Grace. It is available online from my website at reluctantsailor.net, and from Apostle Islands Booksellers, Copperfish Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Your local bookstore can also order it for you. We've included over 170 color and black and white photos.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Final leg of our journey

Tonight is the last night of our trip and we are anchored on the southeast side of Sanibel. Tomorrow - home!

We haven't had much wi-fi lately, so I'm combining a few posts that I've worked on along the way. Photos will come later:

Saturday, April 9 - I'm sitting in a gazebo at Sampson Cay Marina, gazing out at beautiful scenery and relishing the soft, cool breeze. Life is good. Colby, a nine-year old boy, just joined his dad here with his bag lunch and asked me if I needed any cleaning done on our boat. After living on it for nearly six weeks? Um, yeah - it could definitely use a little cleaning. I told him to go have Wayne put him to work. 

This is probably the nicest marina we've seen in the Exumas - nicely maintained and scenic, with a relatively well-stocked (for the Exumas) grocery store. It also offers great protection from foul weather - whatever that is. We've only had one day of rain, one nighttime thunderstorm, and a couple of scattered showers since leaving home.

After our 112 mile crossing from the Ragged Islands on Tuesday, April 5, we anchored for a night at Little Farmer's Cay, then went in to the marina for a night. We used their free wi-fi to catch up on email, etc., then walked into "town."
JR the woodcarver, signing our purchase
Next stop was Big Majors for two nights, where we snorkeled Thunderball Cave (sure hope fish don't carry rabies - they got a bit over-zealous when I was feeding them),

visited the swimming pigs, popped in to Staniel Cay for a drink and cracked conch, and played dominoes on Windswept Dreams with Ed, Ann, Chris, and Sheila. We met Ed and Ann when we were anchored at Norman's Cay and, without knowing it, anchored near them at Big Majors. Also anchored right next to us there were a couple from Punta Gorda who are good friends of Marilyn and Bruce. That's how it is cruising the Bahamas - you keep running into people you know and you share common acquaintances with nearly everyone you meet.

Which brings us to Sampson Cay. A little while after we docked, we ran into Ed and Ann at the fuel dock. The four of us went for a late lunch of pizza and conch fritters, then after dinner they stopped by so I could give Ann a basket weaving lesson (she had gone to a class in Georgetown but forgot how it was done). Sunday morning Reflection called us on the VHF and they, too, were anchored at Sampson and coming in for fuel. They stopped over afterward and Marilyn gave ME another basket weaving lesson.

We left Sampson Cay about noon on Sunday and made the short but tricky trek down to Pipe Creek, which is probably our favorite spot in the Exumas. It's tricky because of the windy entrance with shallow rocks and reefs en route to the anchorage off Thomas Cay; good visibility is a must for safe navigation there. On the plus side, once you're in you probably have it to yourself because not many boats go in there. And it's beautiful, with good shelling and snorkeling (you have to snorkel at slack tide to avoid the current, though). Ed and Ann dinghied down from Sampson to snorkel with us. I was the first one in the water and about thirty feet from our dinghies when an Eagle Ray swam by. I yelled to the others, then took photos of him as he circled me three times before swimming off. It was magical.

Thursday, April 14 - Our two nights at Pipe Creek marked the official end of our vacation. We're heading home now, and for us that means we get up as early as 4 a.m., sail all day, anchor for the night, and repeat until we're home. We anchored at Shroud Cay on Tuesday and West Bay off New Providence on Wednesday. 

Normally when we anchor for the night we're tucked into a cove or at least on the leeward side of an island for protection from wind, waves, and current. But occasionally we're anchored as we are tonight - with nothing but water as far as the eye can see. We're in twenty feet of calm water about 30 miles south of Gun Cay (the nearest island) and will cross the Gulf Stream tomorrow to Rodriguez Island, off the coast of Florida.

Wayne's up in the cockpit and keeps calling me up to see the weird fish that seem to be skipping over the surface of the water. Hmmm... Of course, I haven't seen one yet. I told him he's been at sea too long. 

Last night some "neighbors" stopped by to chat for a few minutes, then motored off in their dinghy. A while later they came blasting back at full throttle to tell us they had just seen a 13 foot hammerhead shark. Um... no snorkeling this evening for us, thank you.

After an uneventful night anchored at Rodriguez Island off Key Largo on Friday, we took a short-cut through the Keys. Wayne had been skeptical of going that way because of the depth, but Reflection draws 5 1/2 feet (we draw 5 feet) and can get through there, so we felt safe. Five Mile Channel saved us one day of travel over our route through Marathon and the Seven Mile Bridge. We had to time it tide-wise to be able to get under the 65' bridge comfortably, but with enough depth to navigate the shallow water; it worked out well.

Last night we opted to skip anchoring in Little Shark River and instead anchored about eight miles north of there. It was very calm and we slept well.

Check back for more photos and videos.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spotted Eagle Ray and Friends - April 10

Ed and Ann dinghied down from Sampson Cay to snorkel with us in Pike Creek. I was the first one in the water and about thirty feet away from them when a Spotted Eagle Ray and two companion fish swam by. I yelled to the others, then took photos as the ray and his friends slowly and gracefully circled me three times before swimming off.

It was magical. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Return to Paradise from Paradise

As I write this, we are headed back to civilization - the Exumas - after spending two weeks in paradise. Which isn't to say that the Exumas aren't paradise; it's just a matter of degrees and yes, personal preference. We left Buena Vista Cay at 3:45 this morning and expect to anchor at Little Farmer's Cay around 6:30 this evening.

The Ragged Islands were everything we had hoped they would be: We overlooked long, pristine white beaches from idyllic anchorages, and from at least one spot, were nearly surrounded by MANY beautiful beaches. The crystal clear waters beckoned to us and our snorkels relentlessly, and the unspoiled and abundant reefs - teeming with countless varieties of coral, plants, and sea creatures - mesmerized and thrilled us, making it an effort to tear ourselves away.

Especially me. Except for being with loved ones, nothing makes me happier than reveling  in God's creation, and revel I did. Wayne enjoys it too, of course, but spent a lot of time following me and waiting for me in the dinghy, patient man that he is. At one spot we went to, near our anchorage at Double Breasted Cay, the ocean floor was littered with sea biscuits, as many as I cared to scoop up (and I did collect quite a few).

We saw a remarkable number of Barracudas while snorkeling, far more than we've seen in past snorkeling or diving excursions. They're curious creatures and show a disconcerting level of interest in us; it feels like we're being stalked. Wayne saw about a dozen of them at one time, which admittedly caused him a bit of anxiety. I seem to be the one who always spots the sharks, though; I saw probably half a dozen (only one per excursion), while Wayne spotted none. They don't pay us much attention, Mom.

We were only in Duncan Town one day to deliver books and school supplies with the Conklins (coordinators of Operation Bahamas Project), explore the settlement, have a burger, and make use of the restaurant's wi-fi. I use the term "restaurant" loosely because there is only one table and the few other patrons were school kids on lunch break, watching TV and lounging around an adjacent sitting area.

One of the major attractions of the Jumentos and Ragged Islands for us is the solitude. Many boaters cruise the Caribbean and the Bahamas, but the Jumentos and Ragged Islands are largely undiscovered (although there have been more visitors in just the past couple years). We were with Marilyn and Bruce most of the time, but there were days when we saw no other boats and the only conversations on the VHF were between Reflection and Lena Bea. That level of solitude isn't for everyone and two (okay, maybe three) weeks is probably enough for us, too. But we were blessed by the experience and will return.

We've enjoyed spending time with Marilyn and Bruce. They're dear people and oh, can Marilyn cook! One day she had us over for a breakfast of Eggs Benedict and that evening for a spur-of-the-moment dinner of fresh cracked conch. Bruce and Wayne had gone out in the dinghy in search of conch. Wayne dove for them and the guys came back with over a dozen conch, which they took to the beach to clean (Bruce mentored Wayne on that fine art).

I've never cooked conch and Marilyn has made cracked conch, conch fritters, and conch chowder, so she showed me how to prepare them. Our share is in the freezer, waiting until we get back to Punta Gorda for me to give it a go.

Of course, we had Marilyn and Bruce over for dinner a couple times, too, but I can't keep up with Marilyn. Did I mention her bread? She makes the yummiest artisan bread! Oh, and one day Christian and Martin - a couple of local fishermen - came by with a boatload of live, freshly-speared lobster (and a humongous Goliath Grouper).

Wayne and I bought half a dozen very large tails for $25. We froze five of them and shared one for dinner that night; I couldn't even finish my half. Anyway, Conklins bought some as well, and a couple days later Marilyn made lobster bisque and gave us a container of it to have for lunch. It was the best! 

Thanks, Marilyn and Bruce, for inviting us along and helping make our stay in the Ragged Islands a richer and more memorable experience by sharing so generously your food, your nautical experience, your knowledge of the Raggeds, your weather reports, and most of all - your friendship. We admire the work you do collecting books and supplies for the children in the Bahamas and we thank you for that on their behalf. Oh, and I certainly have to thank Marilyn for teaching me how to weave baskets! What a surprisingly fun and addictive hobby!

Basket-weaving is not something I ever imagined myself doing, but with no internet access, no TV, no cell phones, and few unread books remaining on my Kindle... well, basket-weaving while listening to music is a pleasant pastime.
Now I just need to figure out what to do with all my shells.