On Deck $9 FOR SPAM?

Get­ting ready for a two-month trip to the Ba­hamas is no easy task, as An­nie Dike found

SAIL - - Features -

An­nie Dike preps for a cruise in the Ba­hamas

“The ‘Ex­plorer’ chart­books. All three.” “An un­locked phone. But good luck with BTC.” “Spam. It’s ‘spen­sive there!” Th­ese were just a few suggestions we re­ceived from fel­low sailors who had cruised the Ba­hamas when we asked how to best pre­pare for the trip. In fact, sev­eral re­ported, in­de­pen­dently, sticker-shock over the price of Spam there. So, what did my part­ner, Phillip, and I do? Stowed Spam ev­ery­where! In cans. In pouches. Un­der the couches. (Or set­tees, rather.) But here’s the thing...

WE DON’T EVEN LIKE SPAM. We never eat it. But other cruis­ers do. For them, it is a cov­eted sta­ple, and what they were try­ing to do was help Phillip and me—soon to set off from Pen­sacola, Florida, on Plain­tiff ’s Rest, our 1985 Ni­a­gara 35, bound for the Ba­hamas—not find our­selves in need of some­thing that may be sparse or ex­pen­sive over there. And now, hav­ing made the trip to the Ba­hamas our­selves, fully stocked up on our own pack­ing, pro­vi­sion­ing and prepa­ra­tion tips, we want to help spare oth­ers a few “$9 for Spam?” shock­ers with the fol­low­ing Ba­hamas prep tips.

KNOW WHICH WAY YOU WANT TO GO “What should we bring?” we asked. “What way will you go?” they re­sponded. “All the way, peo­ple,” I thought. “To the Ba­hamas and back. All we need to know is what to pack!”

I felt a lit­tle like Alice and that crazy cater­pil­lar, each ques­tion an­swered with an­other ques­tion. What I soon learned, though, is that there are dif­fer­ent “ways” folks nav­i­gate the Ba­hamas—ei­ther check-in at Bi­mini or West End and tra­verse north through the Abaco is­lands first; or shoot straight across the Great Ba­hamas Bank, check-in at Nas­sau and plunge into the Berries and Ex­u­mas be­fore head­ing north. Not only that, but the route you choose will have a ma­jor im­pact on what ser­vices, gro­ceries and other pro­vi­sions will be avail­able and where.

Pre­par­ing for the Ba­hamas starts with a thor­ough study of the Ex­plorer chart or charts (ex­plor­ercharts.com) for the ar­eas you want to ex­plore: Near Ba­hamas, Ex­u­mas and Ragged Is­lands, or Far Ba­hamas and Turks & Caicos. How much wa­ter, al­co­hol, pa­per, cash, cell data, etc. you will need in or­der to get you from one re­pro­vi­sion point to an­other will de­pend heav­ily on where you go. The Ex­plorer charts also pro­vide help­ful in­for­ma­tion on Ba­hamian weather, ser­vices and mari­nas, as well as spe­cific lat-and-lon way­points and head­ings to and from each is­land, so you can con­fi­dently make your way through the Ba­hamas, even with a 6ft draft.

Your “way” should also take into con­sid­er­a­tion your “when.” Be­cause Phillip and I were plan­ning to go right on the cusp of hur­ri­cane

sea­son—in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, when many cruis­ers told us brief but in­tense north fronts can strike—we chose to en­ter at West End and work our way through the Sea of Abaco where the bar­rier is­lands of­fer many an­chor­ages with good pro­tec­tion. For good hold­ing, ask 10 sailors and you’ll get 20 opin­ions on what type and how many an­chors you should bring. Fol­low one, your gut, or which­ever your dart lands on, then go. We trav­eled with a 35lb CQR on 200ft of chain (and a backup Dan­forth on 200ft of rope, which we never used). We never had an is­sue, even an­chored in 20-25 knot winds.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO Do you want to fish? Snorkel? Dive? Maybe just sit on beau­ti­ful beaches and read all day? (That was half of my plan.) Bring what­ever fins, masks, fish­ing rods and lures you may need for your ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as back­ups and spares in case your “only mask” breaks right af­ter you’ve found the per­fect reef in the pris­tine but re­mote Ex­u­mas. You will also find sev­eral char­ter boats at each ma­rina that you can rent or aboard which a cap­tain can take you out on an ex­cur­sion. You can pet stingrays, swim with sea tur­tles and even feed swim­ming pigs! “What should I bring to feed them?” you might be won­der­ing. “Any­thing long enough to keep your hands and feet away from their hooves and teeth,” Ed­die the Rock, a friendly fish boat cap­tain at Green Tur­tle Cay, told me with a chuckle. And he was right. Those pig­gies are ag­gres­sive!

In fact, the lo­cals ev­ery­where are full of great tips like th­ese, so look for­ward to im­mers­ing your­self among them and, while pro­vi­sion­ing, keep many meals open for fresh catches from the day (think lob­ster tails for $5),

fla­vor­ful conch sal­ads made dock­side and fresh-baked Ba­hamian breads. Hav­ing cash or other stateside trin­kets (small toi­letries, gourmet snacks or drinks, and, yes, even Spam) on-hand for bar­ter­ing can prove handy.

Much like your an­tic­i­pated “way,” your planned ac­tiv­i­ties will also be largely weather-de­pen­dent. While two weeks of cloudy, of­ten rainy days with 15-30 knots of wind were great for Phillip and me as kite-surfers, other cruis­ers sat cold, grumpy and idle. Pack wet­suits for win­ter wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties as well as warm lay­ers so you can get out and ad­ven­ture dur­ing the fre­quent fronts. Un­for­tu­nately, the mos­qui­tos were pretty ram­pant at times, so make sure you have screens! Be­cause Phillip and I were of­ten ban­ished from the cock­pit when it was windy, wet or skeeter-rid­den, we are now se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing adding a full cock­pit en­clo­sure for more com­fort­able win­ter cruis­ing in the fu­ture.

KNOW WHAT “SPAM” MEANS TO YOU

They weren’t kid­ding about the Spam. When you do find it, it will be ex­pen­sive. That said, the big­ger les­son here is know­ing what will be im­por­tant, per­haps even nec­es­sary, for you to have that may not be read­ily avail­able. Per­haps your par­tic­u­lar “Spam” is:

AL­CO­HOL: While many stores in the Aba­cos stock al­co­hol, the choices can be lim­ited or pricey. Cock­tails will run you around $8-$10 at the tiki bars, so pack plenty of wine, beer, liquors and mix­ers if you want your happy hour(s) to be both cheap and happy. We stowed bagged wines (re­moved from their boxes and la­beled) and all drinks (cans, bags and bot­tles) in lower lock­ers in large Hefty con­trac­tor’s bags. This proved in­valu­able when we had a blonde ale ex­plo­sion dur­ing our first off­shore leg and found the bag con­tained the en­tire stinky mess, sav­ing us from a likely long-last­ing case of “beer bilge.” Thank you Hefty.

WA­TER: Strange I should men­tion al­co­hol be­fore wa­ter? Prob­a­bly not. We are sailors. Phillip and I had heard wa­ter could be sparse and ex­pen­sive, so we car­ried mul­ti­ple shower bags, a 5gal jer­rycan and 12 1gal wa­ter jugs aboard for the trip. Some (not all) cruis­ers dis­cour­aged us from drink­ing the wa­ter at cer­tain mari­nas, so we of­ten picked up ex­tras (around $2.00-$3.00 per gal­lon jug) at the many lit­tle gro­ceries in the Aba­cos. We do not have a wa­ter­maker aboard and did not find we needed one. How­ever, we also take fairly con­ser­va­tive show­ers aboard and are al­ways pre­pared to in­dulge in the com­plete “spa ex­pe­ri­ence” any time we stay at a ma­rina. Tran­sient slips typ­i­cally ran around $1.50/ft. in the Aba­cos, with wa­ter typ­i­cally charged at $0.35/gal­lon.

IN­TER­NET: For Phillip and me, the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with our part­ners and clients back home is crit­i­cal, as we work re­motely while we travel. A buddy had rec­om­mended we buy an un­locked phone that we could put a BTC (Ba­hamian) SIM card in and use to pur­chase BTC data (15GBs for $30). How­ever, we had some hang-ups ini­tially and also trou­ble find­ing BTC stores that were open. The same buddy told us the first store in the Aba­cos, at Green Tur­tle Cay, is only open Thurs­days from 0900-1400 and “they take a long lunch.” Af­ter wait­ing out­side for hours with a pile of other cruis­ers on a Thurs­day morn­ing, we learned the store had not opened last Thurs­day and would not be open­ing this Thurs­day ei­ther. Just be­cause. No ex­pla­na­tion. “Maybe next year,” one cruiser said jok­ingly and shuf­fled off.

When BTC wasn’t an op­tion, we com­mu­ni­cated via our DeLorme, which we al­ways highly rec­om­mend for weather, safety and other mis­cel­la­neous com­mu­ni­ca­tions as well. Un­lim­ited plans start at $69/month and can be sus­pended when you’re not trav­el­ing. Phillip also ac­ti­vated a travel plan through AT&T, which for a $10 fee al­lowed him to use his data just as he would in the States for a 24-hour pe­riod. This proved con­ve­nient and af­ford­able, and we used it a few times in a pinch.

SPAM: What we quickly re­al­ized about the re­peated “Spam” warn­ings was that they re­ally were a sug­ges­tion to pack a lot of the niche foods you like. Per­haps for you that fa­vorite snack or drink is cheese crack­ers, straw­berry Pop-Tarts or a par­tic­u­lar Bloody Mary mix. What­ever it is, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to find it in the Ba­hamas, and if you do it’s go­ing to be ex­pen­sive.

My own “Spam” is Sriracha Peas (spare your­self the ad­dic­tion) and stove­top pop­corn. In a freak pack­ing mishap, we left the dock with­out a sin­gle jar of the lat­ter, and when I fi­nally found a bag at the seventh store in the Aba­cos, it had long since ex­pired. The les­son? Pack your “Spam.” Plenty of it. In Hefty bags if need be. Then go! Par­adise awaits. s

NEXT MONTH: An­nie and Phillip ex­plore the Ba­hamas

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