Green Horizons- Blog 8- An Island to Remember
After a three-month adventure at sea, my brother Jake and I are safely docked up back at Sampson’s Island in our Hometown of Satellite beach, FL! It’s been a wild journey full of hard work, excitement and learning! We’ve learned how to live off the earth and what is most important in life. Quality water, healthy food, and taking the time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life! Our retrofitted 1978 sailboat Valhalla is tied up at dock, the battery systems are fully charged from our solar array and the water tank is full of 60 gallons of fresh rainwater that we captured off our solar panels! The water, sun, and wind are our lifelines. Each element allows us to harness their powers and direct the energy to different systems aboard Valhalla. The wind drives Valhalla’s sails as the sun warms the solar panels and charges our ten six volt batteries allowing us to convert power to our electric motor and other essential equipment! The fresh rainwater hydrates our bodies powering us through the hot summer days. The appreciation of collecting our own water gives us a new understanding of how precious water really is.
On Wednesday May 21st Jake and I awoke to a more easterly wind and decided it was time to head out of Marsh Harbor! Around 8am we pulled the anchor with sails up we made our heading of 355 degrees toward fishers bay in Guana Cay! We sailed the seven-mile run in an hour and a half only turning the motor on while setting the anchor in fishers bay! After anchoring we got our surfboards and gear together to head to shore and explore the Atlantic side and maybe catch some surf too! After kayaking to shore with our boards we took a quick walk to the beach. The waves were still sloppy from the strong onshore wind and Jake and I decided to swim and scavenge the beach for goodies (rope, seashells, and driftwoods)! It was sweet being back on the beach and enjoying the clean water to go with it! We hung out for a while and then headed back to the boat to eat a delicious almond butter, honey, bee pollen and banana sandwich! After lunch I climbed to the top of the mast for a view from above! It’s cool to see the world from this perspective! You can see far away with such good detail, the reefs, the Atlantic Ocean, and far off islands! I finally have lost my fear of heights!
On Monday May 26th after a couple days in Guana Cay we awoke to a nice southeast wind and headed out of fishers bay and slowly sailed through Whale Cay passage up to No Name Cay on our path to Manjack Cay to meet up with Bill and Leslie! While heading through the infamous Whale Channel we spotted a giant 4’ long fender from a mega yacht and after three tries pulled it aboard Valhalla! Around 4:30pm we were nearing No Name Cay and took a heading toward the southeast into the wind motoring our way into the anchorage! No Name Cay is a marine preserve so our intentions were set on filming the reef and wildlife abound! Around sunset we went ashore and captured images of the domesticated pigs that roamed the island and enjoyed a sweet sundown over the Abaco Sea! Exhausted from a long day on the water we hit the bunks early, Jake watching the Hobbit as I fell asleep shortly after!
Tuesday morning Jake and I awoke to a beautiful day, winds southeast @ 10 mph and sunny as can be! We kayaked to shore to cook, potatoes, onions and eggs in the Dutch oven for a delicious meal! Ocean water added to the oven steamed the potatoes nicely adding a good flavor! A quick stretch and a dip in the bay and we were back aboard Valhalla and heading toward Manjack Cay! Sailing around 3 knots for the first half of the trip until a thunderstorm suddenly neared us powering Valhalla up to 5 knots! We sailed into the anchorage and tied off to Bill and Leslie’s mooring ball! After relaxing for a little bit we made our way to shore to meet Bill and Leslie! We pulled up to the coconut lined beach amazed to see a picturesque seashore, scattered with little sailboats, kayaks, and other toys ready for an adventure! A fire pit, coconut-splitting tool, picnic benches, all made from driftwood found on the local beaches. A sign that pointed you to a trail on the ocean beach and a sign for “pet chickens” made you feel like you were in a peaceful and homey place!
After admiring the awesome beach we followed a separate trail toward the Herrington’s house! Hearing shouts we followed the noise thru the woods to a gorgeous house, passing a bunch of chickens to a garden oasis where Bill and Leslie were working on a shade cloth to protect their veggies from the brutal summer sun! Bill reminded us of a modern Ernest Hemmingway and Leslie a version of our close aunt that emitted a strong and pleasant spirit! They gave us a tour of the magnificent property that was comprised of their open aired house, chicken coupe area, a massive workshop area, tool barn, the garden area and their own harbor tucked deep in the mangrove estuary!
22 years ago they bought the property working on transforming the land to a humble fortress! They took their knowledge of cruising on boats to land and created a self-reliant heaven! They incorporated solar into their home and powered all their needs from it! Water collection from all the roofs allows them to capture 4,000 gallons of fresh water from 1’ of rain! They are our idols! We hung out with them sharing our knowledge and by the time we knew it there was six other friends on their porch! All the creatures, from birds, to their chickens, to curly tail lizards, were so friendly and allowed close interaction with them! Around 5pm we went down to their seaside palapa (tiki hut) on the coconut beach and ate h’ordourves and drank the Manjack island’s infamous coconut rum and fresh lime drink!
One of Bill and Leslie’s friends, a couple named Chris and Sandy were from our hometown of Satellite Beach and we laughed at how small the world is! They’d been sailing through the Bahamas for the last couple months and were leaving in the morning for Savannah aboard their 44’ Sailing Catamaran! They invited us to check out the boat so Jake and I came by after our time on the shore with the rest of the crew. Chris and Sandy prepared a delicious red curry dinner that was to die for! After dinner Jake showed Sandy the bracelet weave we’d been making and she showed us some awesome pine needle sticking she had been working on as well! It was cool to hang out with people from our hometown! We said our farewells and wished them a sweet sail back home!
June 1st Manjack Cay Winds East 15mph Sunny Sunday
Jake and I are relaxing this morning! Jake’s reading and posting Facebook pictures while I’m catching up on the journal. So many new friends and experiences to remember! Bob Marley is jamming in the background as we are preparing to venture into the mangrove creek for a filming and spear fishing adventure! The first day of June is here! Crazy how it’s already been two months on the journey! Valhalla has performed wonderfully! The renovated 1978 vessel has brought us this far with no fossil fuels aboard. Our two-man kayak has allowed us to explore areas unimaginable! We’re learning more and more about how to live sustainable and it’s importance for the next generations! What will the kids enjoy when we are gone? This morning we paddled into the creek working a large stretch of mangroves in search of mangrove snapper! Jake got a nice one deep in the thick mangrove roots and missed a big muttonfish! We pushed further into the cut to explore the channel that ran out between Manjack cay and crab cay. While cruising Jake found a keeper conch and saw a bunch of babies! I spotted a nice snapper deep in a forest of mangroves and took a shot and wrestled it out from the branches! We headed back to the boat excited with a good catch of fresh seafood! We prepped the Dutch oven and materials to work on our solar cooker and headed to shore. We did some brainstorming on our cooker with Leslie who was very anxious to see it work! We planned to help her build one out of some scrap material she had around the barn! I worked on the cooker while Jake fixed Bill’s axe he’d broken splitting Iron Wood. We finished up the solar oven and headed to the shore to cook our snapper in the Dutch oven along with some sweet potatoes, onions, Malabar spinach, Kale and coconut water! A quick 20-minute steaming over the open fire cooked the delicious medley to perfection! Leslie had brought us each a piece of fresh corn from the garden that we enjoyed raw as an appetizer! We devoured the mouthwatering meal and heading back to Valhalla, with a strong easterly wind blowing! Back on the boat Jake and I relaxed listening to Moby’s new cd Innocents that had become one of our favorite albums of the year! When we finished all the renovations on Valhalla back in Titusville and splashed the boat in the lagoon Jake first put on the blank unmarked Moby cd and we fell in love with it! We spent the evening going over the storyline of Green Horizons and decided to keep it from our POV and passionate which we feel people will connect deeper with.
June 2nd, 2014 ENE Wind 20 MPH Manjack Cay, Bahamas
Today looks to be a beautiful day! Its like spring still! Cool, windy weather, amazing for June! Last month while in Marsh Harbor we met a Norwegian couple named Stein and Diana aboard a 44’ Baltic cat called White Admiral! We befriended them after Stein was excited to see other sailors paddling to shore. He said,” Why doesn’t anybody else paddle ashore, it’s so close to the dock?” They invited us over for dinner one night and we were stoked to share an evening with these awesome people! They actually raised their family on a 39’ Ferro-cement sailboat while sailing around the world and wrote a kids book named Red Admiral to go along with it! They told us their favorite spot to sail was the San Blas Islands off of Panama were native Indians have lived unchanged for thousands of years. They recommended we go and experiences it first hand! After a wholesome dinner of fresh snapper, veggies and potatoes, we told them about our adventure and they loved how we converted Valhalla over to a green sailing machine! They told us their stories and how they just decided to head back across the Atlantic Ocean to Norway in the next week, to relax and retire from sailing. We gave them a jar of sprouts and other goodies for their journey and they were pleased with the gifts offering us a new chart book of the Bahamas that we gladly accepted. It was fun sharing stories with the White Admiral and hearing all the incredible places they had enjoyed along their travels! That evening they showed us how they made baggywrinkles, a type of fluffy string that runs along your shrouds (rigging) to protect your sails from stray rigging. A couple days back we found a bunch of orange line and decided to make a set of baggywrinkles for Valhalla! Now we are halfway done with one side and I think they’re going to turn out pretty awesome!
Early in the morning we cut and soaked a breadfruit Bill and Leslie had given to us and headed to shore to meet with them and eat it along with fried eggs in the Dutch oven! Jake prepared onion, breadfruit, and coconut water in the bottom half of the cast iron pot and used the lid to fry eggs on! The combination was insane! Breadfruit taste like a mix of banana and potatoes! Bill and Leslie were stoked on our breakfast and how we used the Dutch oven so versatile along with our little fire to heat it!
We spent the morning working on tuning up our Solar Cooker and helped Leslie construct one. Cooking with the sun is awesome; it cooks food at lower temperatures, holding in the essential nutrients that provide our body the best meal possible! The reflectors force the sun into the insulated box using a glass lid to hold in the heat bringing the cooking temperature up to 275 degrees! Our design incorporated a mason jar instead of a glass lid that steams the food in the jar holding in the moisture! Leslie had some leftover insulated board and an old styrofoam cooler that we assembled into a larger solar oven that she planned to test out with a grumpy rooster she harvested a little while back
Around 2pm Jake and I headed into the mangroves to hunt some dinner. With a hard tide flowing out the water depth decreased yet we found some deep water holding some nice fish. Jake speared some nice grey snapper while I got a nice mutton hiding under an old log! 3 fish later and we were back at the boat preparing dinner to be roasted on the beach! Around 11pm we met up with a sailor friend named Keith who was nice enough to show us how to hunt for land crabs! We survived the journey climbing through poisonwood-infested trails chasing down monster land crabs! We captured the land crabs and caged them up, feeding them fresh coconut meat to clean their systems out making them super tasty when dinnertime comes!
The last week has been a time warp. Everyday going hard on building projects to make Valhalla one step closer to being fully sustainable! Jake and I made a rain catchment system out of old gutter that we installed on Valhalla to capture fresh rainwater for our water system! We also copied a concept from a commercial composting toilet from Bill and Leslie’s boat Sea Story! A very simple idea that uses a small fan attached to a 6-galloon jug that vacuum out moisture allowing the waste to break down faster. We added a steel mixer that also accelerates the breakdown process better! Bill was amazed by our creation saying, “ You guys made a $900 toilet for less than ten bucks!” Later that day, knowing we had no fans aboard Valhalla, Bill and Leslie went out of their way to dig up some old frameless 12v fans that we quickly installed allowing us to sleep very comfortable even in the tropical conditions!
Today Leslie tested out the solar cooker with a magnificent feast she prepared of stuffing, sweet potato, kale and chicken all gathered from the property! The massive meal was put on at 9:30am and the temperature slowly rose to 270 degrees! Around 1:30pm the meal was done to perfection, which we enjoyed on their beautiful porch overlooking the Manjack bay! They were amazed by the power of the cooker and labeled it a great success! Another self-reliant way to use the sun, and cook a meal that parallels a five star restaurant!
After 2 1/2 weeks at beautiful Manjack cay we said our good byes to our new friends and set off on another adventure to test our new found skills. We sailed north, island hopping from Powell Cay to Allan’s Pensacola, to Great Sale Cay, to Mangrove and eventually West end on Grand Bahamas Island. Each Island unique with its own flavor to taste!
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Thanks again for inspiring us on our journey,
James and Jake Smith AKA- Vision and Truth
Crew aboard the 100% emission free 1978 31’ Bombay Clipper “Valhalla”
Massive thanks to our Sponsor U.S. Battery company for providing us with the best renewable energy batteries available! Check out their article on how they partnered with Green Horizons and provided us battery’s that are both reliable and durable in all conditions of our journey!