Tag Archives: Bahamas

Exuma Islands Adventure: The New Sailor’s Perspective

ASA Exuma Islands Adventure Flotilla, April 2013

By Mary Clor
m & j in sea pearl
My husband, as part of his mid-life rediscovery, decided last fall to attend a weeklong sailing school. To entice me to enter the sport, he then signed us up for an ASA Flotilla to the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas. Knowing how much I love the outdoors, camping, and snorkeling/scuba diving, he saw this as an opportunity to combine his new passion, sailing, with the things I love. I knew nothing about sailing, and my only sailing “experience” had been as a passenger on a 4 mast, 440 foot long sailing cruise ship.

All of that was about to change.

We sailors arrived in George Town and were met by Dallas, owner of Out-Island Explorers, and our guide for the week. At our welcome dinner that evening, we met the rest of our crew – Brenda from ASA, and our two assistant guides, Chris and Anita. The next morning, with all our gear transferred from suitcases to dry bags, we were whisked away to the north end of Great Exuma, where we saw our little 21 foot Sea Pearls for the first time. From this point on, our adventure took place on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

Our boats were laden with gear, food and libations were stored, and last minute details were settled. Our two Sea Pearls took us out of the tiny harbor of Barraterre for a very short sail to Rat Cay – just 20 minutes or so – to familiarize everyone with the boats and the use of lee boards: something new to all our sailors. Being my first time in a real sailboat, I learned what close-hauled sailing, and heeling, was firsthand. In a small boat, heeling can be very scary the first time, but I soon learned to enjoy it.

We then headed downwind to Norman’s Pond Key. We practiced wing-on-wing sailing: in this case it was slower than a deep broad reach. After successfully tacking to the sandy beach, and being thankful that the leeboard configuration allowed us to sail in shallow water all the way to the shore, we affectionately named our campsite “Three Palms.” We set up our tents under shady palm trees, shared a celebratory drink for our first day, and told tall tales of our sailing experience. With a total sailing distance of 7 miles, and 1 1/2 hours, it was a great beginning.

The next morning screeching seagulls started our day early. The boats were reloaded, and we checked out the charts to plot our course for the day. We headed to Lignonvitae Cay to lunch, then to Big Farmer’s Cay for two nights of camping. Another 3 1/2 hours of sailing experience for all.

At Big Farmer’s Cay, everyone got to practice sailing skills in the shallow sandy flats in front of our campsite. Brenda gave me some basic sailing lessons, using the sandy beach and a stick as our chalkboard and chalk. Then she took me out on the sailboat and had me tack back and forth until I was dizzy! Back on shore, over evening libations, our discussion led to the difference between training and sailing in a flotilla. Training teaches you the fundamentals through repeated practice, and when you’re sailing long distances for fun, such as in a flotilla, you use that training to execute certain maneuvers, such as tacking and jibing, efficiently when you need to.
sea pearls at beach
Our next campsite was Gaulin Cay South, about 8 miles or three hours downwind from our previous campsite. Getting into our campsite was a bit tricky, as the beach was just past the strong ocean currents coming in from the Dotham Cut. At this point, our sailors were becoming experts at handling the little Sea Pearls, and handled the challenge well. Again, we spent two nights here – all of us were grateful that we were spared having to tear down camp every morning. On our “free” day here, Dallas took all of us on an exhilarating tour in his powerboat so that we could see highlights of the Exumas far north of where we would be sailing. Seeing the private island and yacht of everyone’s favorite current day pirate (Captain Jack Sparrow/Johnny Depp) were the highlights.

Every day there were opportunities to enjoy the best of the Exumas and it’s abundant wildlife. We were able to get into our snorkel gear at least once daily (sometimes 3 or 4 times) and see colorful reef fish living below our sailboats. Little lemon sharks and stingrays would visit the waters near our campsites, and we had more than one sea turtle sighting enroute. We hiked into a cave, snorkeled in other caves, and fed the swimming pigs. At one campsite, we even set up our tents under the watchful eyes of dozens of iguanas. This was much more than just sailing: it was adventure!

Even inclement weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of our sailors. During an afternoon of heavy pouring rain, our assistant guide Chris cut small shavings of wood from the dry inner part of wet firewood to start a small fire. How wise he was to start this fire on a large board– as he added more wood and the fire took hold, he was able to move the fire out from under the fly. Meanwhile, we sailors sat in dry comfort.

On our last morning, we woke up to totally calm weather – no wind. Our take-out point was only 2 or 3 miles away in Staniel Cay, but it took almost that many hours to get there. With no motor to help us out, our “running” was slower than a peg-legged pirate’s walk! Eventually, we arrived at our beach site, helped to disassemble the masts from the Sea Pearls, and had our final lunch together. Then we found our wonderful hot showers and comfortable beds before a celebratory final dinner.

Join us on next year’s Exuma Flotilla, April 12-19th, 2014. For more info, visit www.asa.com.

Photos from ASA’s 2011 Exuma Islands Flotilla, Bahamas

Enjoy this selection of excellent photos from ASA’s 2011 Exuma Islands flotilla, thanks to member Carole Walsh. This remote series of cays, known locally as the “Out Islands,” are one of our many popular flotilla destinations. It’s a very unique trip–you learn to sail small boats, camp on the beaches at night, and hang out with the local wildlife (see below). The folks on this trip earned their ASA 110 “Basic Small Boat Sailing” certifications, by the way, handling the gorgeous Sea Pearl 21 boats.

Click here to find out more about ASA’s flotillas, including Greece, Croatia, Tahiti, the Gulf of Mexico, Southern California, and more.

Scouting out the Out Islands!

charter checkout
Flotilla leader Dallas Knowles explains the unique Sea Pearl 21 sailboat. This will be the sailors' floating home for the week.

sea pearl sailing
The Sea Pearls in action.

farmers cay po
The festive looking P.O. on Farmers Cay!

A local.

Some more island residents. Everyone's so friendly!

sailboat sunset
Carib looking good in the evening.

foot in water
Wouldn't you like to dip your toe in that tropical water?

The whole gang looking tanned and happy at trip's end!

To see how this could be you on a sailing adventure somewhere in the world, visit us at ASA.com!

Bahamas Adventure: The Sea Pearl 21 Sailboat

This guest post by ASA’s Brenda Wempner is about ASA’s 2011 adventure flotilla in the Exuma Islands (or “Out Islands”) of the Bahamas. Find out more about ASA’s flotillas here.
sea pearl cruising

This was my first boat checkout standing knee deep in water for the briefing.

Most bareboat charter arrangements begin with a chart briefing and boat checkout, but this one was very unique. Dallas, our guide, explained the Sea Pearl 21 to the group.

The front sail is the Main and the back sail is the Mizzen. At the gooseneck there was a locking mechanism. When that mechanism was removed the masts would rotate, allowing the sail to furl around the mast. This is how we would reef and put away the sails.

Most of the boats had leeboards. This was a board on either side of the boat that would be lowered on the downwind side while sailing. The boats were wide open, putting a whole new meaning to the word “bareboating.” Our gear (tents and clothes) were stored in dry sacks aboard the boats.

Beaching the boats on the beautiful white sand beaches and camping at night: This was an amazing adventure.

This video shows the flotilla members gathered around as Dallas explains how this boat’s unusual rigging works!

Bahamas Adventure: What’s for Dinner?

mahi mahiThis guest post by ASA’s Brenda Wempner is about ASA’s 2011 adventure flotilla in the Exuma Islands (or “Out Islands”) of the Bahamas. Find out more about ASA’s flotillas here.

One of my favorite aspects of sailing in new locations is enjoying the local foods. Flotillas in Florida have gulf shrimp and stone crab, and flotillas in the Northwest have salmon and Dungeness crab. While in the Exuma Islands we were treated to grouper, hog fish, conch and mahi mahi, with one major difference: We participated in the harvest and preparation! Dallas was the expert and was patient with us as we gave first spearfishing and later deep sea fishing a try…way cool!

This video shows part of the group returning from a day on the reef. Some of us snorkeled while others helped Dallas and team catch the fish. Once we were ashore Dallas filleted the fish and cooked them perfectly on an open wood fire beachside. It doesn’t get fresher than this…fantastic!

Here flotilla participant Brent Yates poses with his speargun!
brent yates with speargun

Stay tuned for more videos, pictures and anecdotes from ASA’s Exuma Islands flotilla!

Bahamas Adventure: The First Leg

brenda and johnThis guest post by ASA’s Brenda Wempner is about ASA’s 2011 adventure flotilla in the Exuma Islands (or “Out Islands”) of the Bahamas. Find out more about ASA’s flotillas here.

As the ASA Instructor and Representative on the first week of the ASA Exuma Islands Flotilla, I did not know exactly what to expect. These were new waters for me, new people and boats that I had never sailed before. John Baker took the helm of the boat I was on and easily pointed it out of the small harbor. The water was breathtaking. It changed from emerald green to the bluest blue. It was crystal clear and I could see the bottom despite the depth. The guides for our trip were Dallas and Andrew. They followed the four Sea Pearl sailboats closely on a power cat motorboat. Our small group on small boats adventure had begun.

Stay tuned for more great stories and videos from Brenda!

Simply Messing About in Boats

There’s something about the Fourth of July weekend that invites us to abandon our big boats and splash around in little ones. Maybe because by the Fourth of July, it’s so hot most places that you want to be able to capsize on purpose. Or because you can pull small boats up on a beach and have a beer and a picnic without having to “keep a lookout.” For me, little boats have an element of nostalgia: They were always floating around at cabins and beaches, where my family congregated for the Fourth. People often “progress” to larger sailboats as they get older, so hopping back in a Laser makes many sailors feel young.

Most people get their start sailing in small boats (so many of us in Sunfishes), and with good reason. They’re easy to singlehand, they’re tender and responsive teachers, and they present only the essentials of sailing: a sail, minimal control lines, lateral resistance, and a way to steer. No engines to deal with, heads to pump, electronics to rely on. You concentrate only with the wind’s direction and the position of your sails.

ASA’s Exuma Islands flotilla that I went on this spring provided both an amazing vacation and a chance to earn our ASA 110 small boat certification. Whether you’re new to sailing or have spent lots of time on bigger boats, it’s a great course to take if you want to do more than just get from A to B. Small boat sailing emphasizes the fine art of sail trim, sail plan and balance, and boat balance. Sharpen these skills on small boats and you’ll see your big boat sailing mature as well. Take the class somewhere like the Exumas, and the capsize drill is a daily delight!

Investigate ASA’s 110 certification, if for no other reason than to give a nod to Ratty’s timeless wisdom, “There is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”