Mangrove

Mangroves are a very interesting saltwater tree that can help hold a shoal together and begin the formation of dry land by preventing erosion of surface substrates. Their name in Spanish "Mangle" is very similar to the word Mangled. When you look at them, you begin to wonder which word came to be first? As the trees do look rather mangled! 

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Mangrove trees sit a top aerial roots that raise them far out of the water, allowing the tree to remain in dry air while the roots penetrate into the substrate beneath. Amongst the roots, you will see small sticks protruding from the soil with no leaves on them. These are snorkels of Black Mangrove, and used by the mangroves to gain fresh air when the tide is in and their roots are submerged.  On the surface of these snorkels, you will see small pores called Lenticles. Red Mangrove simply has these lenticles on the stilt roots that hold the plant high out of the water, so you won't see these snorkels around Red Mangroves.

Mangroves serve a few very important purposes. Like all trees, their roots hold soil and prevent erosion. This is especially important in the marine environment where waves are constantly moving substrates from one location to another. The roots help break apart wave forces while holding onto the soil they are planted in. This means that the erosive forces on the substrate are minimized while the depositive forces are not dampened. As waves carrying debris break apart against the roots, they will leave behind small traces of substrate, slowly adding to the height of the shoal until dry land will emerge. 

Aside from holding onto soil in the marine environment, Mangroves offer refuge to a whole host of organisms. Insects, birds, and smaller animals live in the canopy, while a whole host of fishes and other aquatic lifeforms seek shelter in the roots of the trees. Mangrove reefs are a collection of different forms of life, all living in a very small and dense area. 

The last great benefit from mangroves is for the water they live in. Mangroves slow the speed at which water passes through and provide a wonderful environment for filter feeding bivalves. Oysters and mussels will grow on the sides of roots and filter the water that is slowly passing by them, helping to clean the water that comprise the mangrove reef.

Mangrove are amazing trees that have adapted to life submerged in brackish to pure salt water. They are great at changing their environment to better suite them while protecting environments near them from erosion and damaging waves. 

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Sand Ridges

When walking along the perfectly sandy beach in the Bahamas, you will notice small ripples in the sand. At low tide, these can come out of the water creating what almost looks like a fingerprint on the shoal. 

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These sand ridges are actually caused by the oscillation of surface waves as they come upon the shore. Based on depth and wavelength, the period between the ridges can be determined. This also means that if waves are consistent, so will the ridges in the sand.  

Areas where the ridges differ from the norm or run at a new pattern are indicative of changes in the wave period as it approaches the shoar. 

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Another cool thing, especially if you encounter these ridges at low tide, is they will tell you which direction the waves were coming from. 

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The ridges always have the short side facing the direction the waves were moving towards and the long side facing the direction the waves were coming from. In the picture above, you can see that the long sides are to the right, and the short side is to the left. This means that the waves that formed these ridges were coming from the right and running from right to left.

This information is useful if you are walking along an exposed sandbar and want to know where the waves will be coming from as the tide returns. All you need to do is look at the ridges! 

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Provisioning in the Bahamas

Food in the Bahamas is much more expensive, there is no way around this fact. Now, if you are going to pay more, you might as well get better food for your money. 

We have found that the produce sold at the local grocery stores, while more expensive, is pathetic. Apples have brown spots on them, lettuce is already wilted and rotting. You pick through and hope to fill your basket with enough good produce to make a nice salad back on the boat. 

We then discovered that the marinas who cater to the very wealthy have "mini grocery stores" in them. The brands of food on the walls are those sold in Costco in the United States. What they do is send a fast boat to the US to stock up, then run back to the marina to supply the shelves. This means that you are getting American portions at Bahamian prices, but most of all, fresher foods. 

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The selection and bulk may be limited, but we have found that the foods are of wonderful quality and it is easy to fill up your stores with fresh and wonderful produce. 

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Cost Effective Dinghy

When shopping for a dinghy, you might be looking at the cost of owning and operating the dinghy. How much fuel will it burn, how fast can it go, how many people can it carry. In the US, dinghy docking is a flat rate, so it is rarely considered in the equation. If you plan to travel internationally, it should be on your list of considerations. 

In the US, we found that dinghy docks ranged in price from Free to $5 per day. They didn't care how big your dinghy was, if you tie up, you had to pay a flat rate. For a long time, we towed behind us our 13 foot dinghy. It was very stable, rowed quickly, and gave us a very dry ride. The problem with this dinghy is it didn't fit on our deck, and since we were going to be crossing oceans, we wanted to carry our dinghy instead of towing it. 

We began the search for a dinghy that would fit on our deck, and due to size constraints, it needed to be rather small. 

We found our current dinghy on Craigslist for $300. It's a 7 foot catamaran dinghy that is stable and can carry a lot of load, but it isn't a very dry ride if the wind is against you. It also doesn't tow as well, and since it has such a short waterline, it doesn't move very quickly either. That being said, it get us to shore and back, and it fits on our deck. 

In the Bahamas, there are two types of cruisers: 
1. Rich people in marinas 
2. Not rich people at anchor

The rich people in marinas are usually sporting yachts that are around 100 feet in length. They tie up in marinas that range in price from $4-$14 per foot per day, meaning that these people are paying around $400 to $1400 per day to be in a marina. For not rich people, this sounds ridiculous, so we anchor near shore where it is free. 

The way the not rich people get to shore is they take their dinghy and land it on a beach. In deserted islands, this works wonderfully well, as you land on your own private island with no one and nothing around you! When you get to developed islands, things change.  

In the Bahamas, all beaches are considered public property. The issue is very wealthy people will build their mansions along the beach and would rather not have people walking by their vacation homes. Since they can't restrict people from the beach, they simply restrict people's ability to get to the beach. 

If you land by boat, you can relax on the beach, but you can't get into land to provision or go out for the night. If you are on land, you can't get to the beach because they have built a wall that literally runs the entire length of the beach and road. In one rather extreme situation, the entire peninsula was privately owned, blocked off by a tall wall and patrolled by several guards. The beaches were also patrolled by guards, making sure that you don't try and "sneak" your way to the main road. 

In other words, the only way to get to shore in these areas is to pay to tie up at the marina. Instead of paying to tie up your large cruising yacht, we have found that you can just as easily pay to tie up your dinghy. They don't have a dinghy rate here, but instead charge by the foot. 

In this case, having the shortest, but widest, dinghy you can get will pay huge dividends when it comes time to tie up in a fancy marina to go to shore. 

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Beer, it's cheaper than water!

In the Bahamas, drinkable water is a premium! At a restaurant, a single tall glass of water (1L) can cost as much as $10! Local beer, on the other hand, costs $4 for a draft glass. In other words, drinking water costs about $37.85 per gallon, at a time when fuel (which is considered very expensive here) can be purchased for arou $4.80 to $6.50 per gallon. Water costs more than gasoline!!

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Before you head to shore to get your meal, drink a lot of water on the boat where it is cheaper, then go to the restaurant and have yourself a Kalik. This beer is practically water, but at a fraction of the price!  

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