Its been awhile since I made a blog post. So this one might turn sort of long. But plenty of great things have been going on like sailing and diving and visitors. Plus I have now crossed all lines of longitude. Well, we did that a few weeks ago but at least that box is checked.

Slick and I left USVI and had a short and sort of unpleasant sail through the Virgin Passage and stopped in Culebra, Puerto Rico. The protection of the harbor is incredible and so off I went to check in. Yes, even though I left USVI and went to Puerto Rico I still had to check in, with customs at least. So I parked the dinghy at the “Dinghy Dock” bar and walked out to the airport. The airport had a grass runway that wasn’t even flat. But the check in went smoothly and I had to get some special sticker issued by Homeland Security. Weird, I think it is just a revenue generator but I am not sure.

I was only in Culebra a few days and spent the evenings at the very relaxed Dinghy Dock bar. They have a good atmosphere and good food. Best of all, as the name implies, there is a place to tie up the dinghy. They feed the scraps to tarpon which draws in a lot of frigate birds. On one of the nights the frigate birds even enticed a labrador to swim across the narrow channel and try to retrieve them.

I did some diving there too. It was very cheap which was nice. I met some fun people on the dive too but the dive itself was just OK. Actually I thought it was a bit boring. The best part was seeing an enormous slipper lobster but otherwise it was sort of run of the mill coral and not much else. The disturbing thing though was that the dive sites were littered with unexploded ordinance. See something new every time I guess.

I came into San Juan a few days later with the express purpose of picking up my friend Alex. He actually started the trip with Nate and I but got off in Newport. So just a short rider. The way into San Juan brings you by a tremendous walled waterfront culminating in two giant forts built by the Spanish a long time ago. Once into the harbor there are plenty of cruise ships to dodge but I finally made it way in to the marina. As I was pulling into the dock the lead dock boy yelled at me that I am not allowed to go boating alone. Eh, what’s that you say? There was obviously a huge dissonance between us but once Slick was secured in the slip I heard no more of it other than I must be stupid.

I went for a walk through Old San Juan which was quite nice and I guess I can see why so many cruise ships call here. I was having trouble finding dinner though so I relegated myself to eating at a Subway. So when I left the US I remember Subway being one of the few favorable chains and not really having any sort of problem with it. As opposed to fast-food burger places that severely damage my poor tummy. Well, eating at Subway turned out to be quite painful. So I went to pick up Alex at the airport.

Miraculously he arrived with all his luggage. That makes three guests in a row, which makes me think something bad is about to happen. Anyway, we headed back to the boat and he settled in. The next morning we went out to provision and the only place we could find for breakfast was another Subway. Well, fool me once… We provisioned up and fueled up and were basically ready to go early so Alex and I headed for a walk downtown and through the Old San Juan again. It was very good to catch up with an old friend. That night we were pretty hungry and wanted to have a nice last meal before setting off. The only place close by that didn’t involve crossing several lanes of high speed traffic was a Sizzler. I hadn’t eaten at a Sizzler since I was 12. It was a truly painful experience. I am not sure what it is with American food, or at least system gastronomy.

We left the next day on a double overnighter to Cockburn on Grand Turk. The passage started out easy, and indeed stayed easy. It was a good introduction to bluewater cruising for Alex. On the way we saw whales broaching in the distance and bottlenose dolphins swam with us awhile. Alex hadn’t seen that before and they put on quite a show, I think there was probably 50 of them playing around Slick. As we were coming up to the banks of Grand Turk a whale surfaced very close to Slick but went down fast enough all we saw was the disturbed water. These whales, humpbacks, are migrating this time of year through here and we expected to see them. They can be mean though, unlike the bride’s whale that came across the Atlantic with us. We landed in Turks late in the afternoon, and unfortunately we hadn’t caught any fish.

We anchored were all the day boats that service the cruise ships are. It was easy to get into and gave fine protection for the night. The next morning I went into customs and checked in. On the way back I stopped by the bar, Jack’s Shack, to ask a few questions. The owner, Jack, from West Roxbury started chatting and when he found that on the way we crossed off my last line of longitude he insisted I have a drink. It was 9:30 AM.

We tried to move Slick up to the town but the fringing reef was too shallow to cross so we ended up back down by the cruise ship terminal but a little further north, anchored off Governor’s Beach and the ominous but beached Mega Triton One. This turned out to be a great anchorage and once the cruise ships left it was very quiet except for the islands generator.

We headed into town and arranged for some diving. The town itself was quite surreal but in a way that is not possible to describe. This is the capital of the country but you would never know it. There are a few shops, mostly catering to tourists off the ships and when the ships blow the return horn the entire town closes down and some crazies get let out. While the ships are around though, you can take all sorts of wacky tours, like segways, quads and mules to tour the island. No one on these tours looks happy and I am not sure why, perhaps it is all the dust and salt flake off the salt ponds, or perhaps it is because they decided to spent their vacation on a cruise ship.

Anyway, we arranged for the dive boat to pick us up on Slick, which was very convenient. We headed out on the first day of diving. Alex hadn’t dove in several years and I paired up with the rest of the group. The dives are all big wall dives with plenty of coral and fish and with the amazing visibility the view off and down the wall into the deep blue. I really enjoyed it, and so did Alex until he ruptured his eardrum. No more diving for him. I did a few more dives there and then it was time to go. The group that we were diving with were staying a month, they also didn’t breath. So some of the dives were an hour and fifteen minutes long, it was pretty incredible. When we suited up with them the first time they all had thick wetsuits which confused us. After being underwater that long though, it was clear why because it got cold.

We had a fairly easy overnighter to Mayaguana. About an hour off Grand Turk, two humpbacks surfaced right next to Slick. They were so close we could have jumped out and rode them. Shocked, we were not really able to get a picture as we were busy turning hard to port. They left us alone after that and the passage was a bit boring. Just more dolphins and some good sailing, and no fish.

We arrived at the isolated outpost island of Mayaguana at about 8 in the morning and the entrance was very tricky. We had to traverse about 3 miles of ten foot water littered with coral heads. We, of course, couldn’t see them as the sun was in our eyes, so we went real slow. We could only get about 1.5 miles from town before it was too shallow for Slick so it was a long dinghy ride. I went ashore to check in, it was a Saturday and of course customs was closed. I met a man on the street and he told me to go to the house with the pink roof and yell for Ina, she is the customs lady. I did and she opened the shop for me. Abraham’s Bay is a settlement that has about 150 people in the most isolated part of the Bahamas. Nothing happens there. Nothing except the weekly mail boat that comes on Mondays and the whole town vacates to go meet it. This is only important as Alex and I really wanted lunch before heading off to San Salvador, but no such luck, at least not at first. We waited probably 4 hours to get our lunch.

We spent four days there, mostly riding out a cold front which can be very nasty down here. It was nice in the sense that it was a giant swimming pool. The sand banks of the Bahamas are stunning to be in, as long as they are deep enough for your boat. We had enough free time that we managed to improvise a fix for Jocelyn the wind turbine with some wrong sized blades someone gave me awhile back. She works away now and I think is even quieter than before. So with the wind blowing and her working we now have power to spare. We were not able to leave after lunch so we tried to spear fish for lobster on the last day of lobster season. No luck, but the water and the reef were gorgeous, so that made it worth it anyway. And we saw a giant sting ray, which was nice.

In the next afternoon we headed out following exactly our track as before and made for San Salvador. It was about a 110 mile sail and started out pretty heavy but by the evening died down. It was an easy overnighter and on the way in we caught two barracuda. I was hoping for tuna. We had to throw them back as it isn’t safe to eat them here. One was pretty big though and it took me awhile to get my hook back, so I had to revive him in the flow of the boat. Once he awoke he looked up and asked why his mouth hurt so bad and off he went. Anchoring in the sand flats off, yet another, Cockburn Town was easy and I made arrangements to do some more diving. The two islands with the same city name both claim to be the site of Columbus’s first land fall.

This place is very close in terms of diving to Grand Turk except here is full of sharks. The dive guide carries a spear with him and spears lion fish and feeds them to the sharks. Its a pretty incredible thing to watch. The wall is huge and there are parts that fall right to 7000 feet and the visibility is well over 200 feet. In fact I would say the Bahamas has the best visibility in the entire world except for maybe Niue. On one of the dives I saw a hammerhead shark come up briefly from the deep but he was only around for maybe ten seconds and I couldn’t get a picture. He was way down so it wouldn’t have come out anyway.

Everything has been closed due to the Easter weekend but that’s OK. We have managed to keep ourselves entertained on this isolated little island and have completely enjoyed the friendly locals and the gorgeous water. I was wondering how it would be coming back to the Bahamas, I liked them so much the first time and was curious if after going around the world if I still would. Pleasantly, I still do. I am just hoping the fishing gets better, I remember it being some of the best.

Next up we move to Rum Cay and then Conception Island and finally we will land in Staniel Cay. This will be the first port I return to and at that point the circumnavigation will be complete. Alex leaves from there too so I will be alone again, right now for the rest of the trip but I am sure someone is bound to visit for the trip up the East Coast back to Boston.