Nathan and Micki have been our staunchest supporters: they did NOT tell us we were crazy to sell it all and buy a sailboat. In fact, they threw us a tropical-themed going away party, and even came to St Petersburg to help us do boat projects in the yard. We wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting just anyone to stay aboard Sanitas for several days because it’s basically just camping out on the water (see: sleeping on the salon settee, cockpit showers, composting toilet….). But Micki and Nathan had been on two of our bareboat charters, and had seen Sanitas at her worst, so we knew they’d enjoy a glimpse into cruiser life. But first…. we needed to get ready to host!
We’d been living aboard now for three months, and while in the Bahamas we’d only stayed in a marina for a few days back in Bimini right after crossing the Gulf Stream. So Sanitas was a bit of a salty mess. We exited the cut at Rudder Cay with 3.5 knots of current against us (it took running our 50 hp engine at full power) and then pointed our bow toward The Marina at Emerald Bay on the island of Great Exuma.
All in all, we’d end up staying seven nights at this marina at a bargain rate of $1 per foot, appreciating our access to showers, laundry, internet, and getting a huge number of tasks crossed off our to-do list.
In fact, we worked so hard at Emerald Bay that the other cruisers staying of Dock D must have thought we were completely stuck up and antisocial, because every time they’d walk by headed to the pool or the beach we’d say “Can’t talk now, working.” Between polishing the stainless, stripping and staining more teak, defrosting the freezer, and cleaning inside and out, we weren’t allowed to have any fun!
We did bend our “No fun” rule slightly by sharing travel stories with Fellow Pacific Seacraft owner Ben of SV Loon who showed up on our dock the last full day we were there.
On the last day, we really broke the No Fun rules when we celebrated our accomplishments with some pool time and a delicious dinner out.
Finally, the exciting day arrived! We brought our rental car to the adorably tiny Georgetown airport to meet our first guests! After a Customs and immigration snaffu (who knew our visitors would need a copy of our cruising permit?) we drove to the closest beach so the Denver natives could trade long pants and running shoes for bare toes in the sand.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Exuma by car with a delicious lunch at Tropic Breeze restaurant and a stop at the Tropic of Cancer beach. We finally made it to the tropics – hooray!
Back at the marina, we gave Nathan and Micki the tour, and got them comfortably settled on Sanitas, because we were headed off-grid the next morning.
We used our newfound confidence in navigating shallow waters to cozy in close to Lee Stocking Island where we experienced the most stunning sunset we’d seen in weeks.
Nathan used the shallow sand flats as an opportunity to try out his new fly rod and fish for bonefish while Capt. Mike, Micki, and I explored the research center.
Lee Stocking was the home of the Perry Caribbean Marine Research Center from 1970 to 2012. When the grant funding ran out, the beautiful community was abandoned, leaving a ghost town of research buildings and residences still covered in flowering bushes and planting with stately coconut palms. It is a bit eerie to explore in 2019, evoking the tv show Lost with its dated PCs and file cabinets full of research material and the massive water making facilities and gardens. The living quarters were still furnished with funky 70s brown tile work, and even coffee makers and wet bars intact. I almost expected jump-suited scientists to step out from a well preserved doorway to ask if I’d hit the button, or if we’d seen a smoke monster.
Exploring was good fun, and we walked every road and trail on the island. But the best part of the day was learning to harvest drinking coconuts from the heavily laden trees that lined the main road. I’d done my research and learned there are many varieties of coconut palm trees; some that are just pretty, some good for eating the coconut flesh, and others bred for coconut water. Lee Stocking is covered with drinking coconut palms and even has a convenient wooden ladder available. We took turns harvesting as many as we could reach, drank our fill, filled our water bottles with coconut water, and brought a few back to the boat for future cocktails. The trick to harvesting is not to pull the nut off the tree, but to twist it until the stem separates easily. Then cut a little triangle in the shell and simply pour the juice out the hole. Simple!
We were a big hit at the cruiser’s happy hour that evening. “You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up. You put the lime in the coconut and call me in the morning”