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A stunning cave at Rocky Dundas, our first of the trip

“Do you feel relaxed yet?” Brian’s mom’s question, posed to us once cell service was finally restored following the last big storm, is not so easy to answer. Sitting at anchor in Bell Island, located within the beautiful Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, we were feeling pretty good at that particular moment. Having spent the past few days exploring all the beautiful beaches and snorkeling spots that the park had to offer, we’ve been enjoying a reprieve from boat work and weather stress. It’s fun pretending that there isn’t another broken boat part or cold front just around the corner.

Each place we go just gets better and better. The park was full of great exploring: pristine, desolate beaches, pretty plant varietals, carefully preserved reefs, an abundance of beautiful and interesting fish. We reunited with our friends on s/v Basta for a day of snorkeling, and also made new friends, who invited us over for happy hour aboard their Catalina, s/v Bolario.

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You enter the cave by swimming in through a small hole in the side of a cliff. Here, Brian is about to push off and swim back outside.

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There is very good snorkeling just outside the cave’s entrance. Unfortunately, my photo session was interrupted by the sudden appearance of the largest, ugliest barracuda I had ever seen. (Barracuda not pictured).

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One of the dozens of lovely, desolate beaches in the park. This one happened to be right near Johnny Depp’s private island.

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There are enough great beaches here to serve the dozen or so boats in the anchorage, so everyone out exploring gets a spot to himself

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I spend a lot of time staring at the clear water. I can’t get enough.

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Yet another beach, near the Park’s “snorkeling aquarium”

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The plant life on the islands is succulent and lovely

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Some blurry photos from the snorkeling aquarium (doing the best I can with an iPhone in a plastic bag!). People often bring food to attract the fish in the primo spots, which has them trained to swarm visitors. It’s cool for about a minute, then it gets annoying, because they obscure your view of the rest of the fish and reef. In all of our snorkel spots, the offenders are usually these yellow and black Sergeant Major fish.

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A rare day of sailing, en route to Bell Island.

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Lacking reliable cell or internet communication, we’ve been hailing our friends on other boats via VHF to make plans or say hello as we pull into an anchorage.

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Nico, sleeping underway

Refreshed by this reprieve, we’re ready to take on this week’s batch of challenges. Underway yesterday en route to Staniel Cay, we discovered that our auto pilot is on the fritz and our “ticking time bomb winch” (with the temporary fix we did in Nassau) seized up again as I was trimming in the sail. Luckily, Staniel Cay is the first real town we’ve seen in weeks, and we’d already planned to be there awhile, waiting for another big cold front to pass through this weekend. With abundant internet and a reliable service to fly in parts, we’re feeling pretty lucky to be here. It’s all about the ebb and the flow. (1/16/16 – 1/20/16)