Renting a car from Enterprise, we ran last minute errands, got hair cuts and did some sightseeing before crossing to the Bahamas. Enterprise is great as they will actually come pick you up wherever you are and return you to your ‘home’ or boat when you return the car and rental rates are very reasonable, especially week end specials.
My greatest fear was finally realized………the bane of a female’s existence on a boat is where and how to get one’s hair cut and more importantly, get those gray roots colored. Me, the gray grows so rapidly I need a color every three weeks. Seeking out someone of talent where you know no one is hard. I’ve been lucky thus far since retiring - thanks to friends I’ve been able to find someone ‘recommended’ and never suffered the fate of green hair.
Taking a deep breath, I walked into one of those instant cut places, choosing it because I found it along the side of the road as we drove. Into my FOURTH HOUR in the chair (lordie she was so very impossibly slow!) as she took the foil off my highlights and rinsed my hair, she began to move FAST, calling over a contemporary. As both stared at the back of my head I just KNEW this was IT! I figured I was (a) green or (b) balding . Never a good thing when two beauticians STARE and whisper between themselves. After all was finished, I left with a large blonde skunk streak splashed on the back of my head among the rest of the thinner highlights. No matter, with the sun and salt, my hair turns weirdly bleachy and orangey brown quickly anyway. Besides, no one knows me anymore where I go…….Maybe natural gray isn’t so bad after all &. would certainly save me many hassles!
Andy got a haircut while waiting for me and in between running most of our errands – the guy is very philosophical…says to stop staring and fussing….his hair WILL at least grow back…….Bah.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I amused myself cleaning the boat inside and preparing dinner for my cousin, Becky, her husband, Eugene, and twin daughters. We had a great evening together, catching up on all the family stories and news.
Too bad the weather is so cold that having the kids have fun jumping and swimming off the boat is impossible. I promised them fun on the flip side when we return from the Bahamas in May.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Always the call one never wants to hear. News of the death of a very good friend and neighbor from Clearwater had us packing and calling Enterprise to come get us again so we could rent a car to travel to his funeral. Another reminder that life is too short, that life is too unpredictable and that life is certainly not fair. Somehow, the phrase, ‘the good die young’ is not comforting. I continue to be grateful that I’m still here and am able to do what I want. I want NO regrets, NO ‘I wish I had…”
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, February 6 – 9, 2009
Time spent in Clearwater, attending John’s funeral, catching up with friends and spending a lot of time with my youngest daughter, Lindsay, her husband, Walker, and 9 month old grandson, Pickett.
|Oh dear. He hates the sand under his feet!|
|Rubbing corn cobs in my hair makes it taste better!|
Ah, how great grandkids are!
|Stuffing food UP the nose is always interesting.|
We had such a good time together. One more final run to a grocery store before turning in the rental car – one does NOT want to purchase anything in the Bahamas as it is 3x at least the normal price!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I used the water from the dock to wash all the lines and a bit of the boat – last time we will have a clean boat for awhile.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
We are OFF. Again, on a rising tide, we pulled away from the dock, traced our way back through that tricky waterway toward the ICW and southward on to Lake Worth where we will reconnoiter hopefully with other boats waiting to cross the Gulf Stream and to hook up with Orient Express and cross as a group. Hope that phrase, ‘Safety in Numbers’ holds true! We dropped anchor at Peanut Island in Lake Worth, very close to the Inlet we will travel out of in the early morning on our way to the Bahamas. Orient Express is further north in the Lake and we’ll join them as they pass us in the early morning. . It will be the two of us crossing the Gulf Stream and onward thru the evening to Sail Cay, Bahamas. We are a little nervous about cruising in the Bahamas after dark, but Bruce & Gail have done it numerous times and all say if one stays on the waypoint co-ordinates, one will miss all the reefs. A test of faith is coming up….
Late in the evening, Andy went below to fondle his new boy toys and to check out the inner workings of this newly installed equipment. Would you believe he found that the water maker was NOT working, was NOT showing any pressure in the lines. These are the moments I HATE this boat. We specifically added this equipment in FL where we could find individuals experienced in adding water makers – versus adding one up North where they are hardly ever used!
|Supposed to be simple|
We need this water maker as water in the Bahamas is hard to find and expensive to pay for when you can find it. We do not want to spend our cruising time in search of water all the time.
After cursing, stamping my feet and screeching against all those that tell us, “get used to it, it is a BOAT’, I tried to accept that we were NOT headed to the Bahamas in the only weather window day in two weeks. Andy cancelled us out with Orient Express who went on alone the next morning. He also scheduled a meeting and repair with Steve, who agreed to meet us at a local marina near Peanut Island early tomorrow morning.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Unbelievable. I am tired of hearing the MANAGER of the Little Wonder water maker manufacturer who came aboard after frantic and angry calls, telling us that….” It can’t be not working’; ‘these always work’. He was so unbelieving that it wasn’t working (now, how dumb does he think Andy is?) that he did not even bring any new parts or anything. Bottom line, 7 hours later, piece by piece, by piece, trip back to the watermaker manufacturer plant by trip back, our wate rmaker got ALL its parts replaced one by one and finally it began to work again.
I stay so annoyed about all of this and that phrase I mentioned before…”it is a boat, get used to it’ someone is going to get smacked if I hear this one more time! That phrase is used by EVERYONE we have had contact with and seems to be a way by which one can ABSOLVE themselves of any responsibility for (a) poor workmanship, poor installation (b) crappy, broken new parts that don’t work because they are broken. ‘It’s a boat’. Yeah, it is a boat. It is a NEW boat. Month after month of broken this or that.
My goal is STILL to go one full week where EVERYTHING on the boat works. Unbelievable. I have zero patience with this and have an expectation that things should work…….at least for awhile. How off base can that BE??? I long ago lost my sense of humor about all this very expensive, brand new stuff that DOES NOT WORK. Smacking someone might be the answer to making ME feel better. Whether or not it helps the boat is another matter……….
After repeated assurances all is now well, we cruised back to the anchorage in Peanut Island and frantically sought via our VHF radio any other boat planning to cross over the Gulf Stream. We are newbies at this long crossing and just want the security blanket of another cruiser around somewhere.
There appears to be a two day weather window which we need to catch or be stuck again for another week or so. Luck prevailed and we met up via VHF with Amigo II with John and Ellie aboard who were planning the same trip – only to West End, Bahamas. Fine with us…we will follow them anywhere rather than go by ourselves. As they have sailed the world for years (but not to the Bahamas), we felt comfortable. Their trawler is new to them, having crossed to the ‘dark side’ as we say when an aging sailor gives up the hard work and life aboard a sailboat and moves aboard a trawler, a slow moving ‘RV’. Departure is set for 6:30 AM.
Friday, February 13
What happened? After consistent weather reports for several days, and a good weather window predicted for today, wind is now blowing from the North…a major NO NO . NO GO. Good thing we checked one more paranoid time. Lost our weather window!
Update: We late met some boaters later at West End who had NOT checked the weather early that morning - relying on the weather report from the night before. Their expression, that I have heard since ...."got the snot beat out of us" and "my wife says she DID NOT sign up for this." They got beat up badly - a very rough crossing with the wind from the north...pounded all the way across.
Well, maybe tomorrow now. The issue with crossing over to the Bahamas is crossing the Gulf Stream, a 45 mile wide powerful ‘river’ of current. The warm Gulf Stream travels northward at about 2.5 knots and will certainly move your boat along. One must carefully plan your route to take ADVANTAGE of the Stream and not fight it along the way. For every hour our boat is in the Stream, we will be carried about 2.5 nautical miles northward. We can’t shoot directly across, but must compensate like a crab traveling sideways.
|The Gulf Stream Route|
So, we spent a lazy day just waiting for the next day’s weather. Maybe this is a good thing. After all, it IS Friday the 13th today!. Ultimately, we got bored, lowered the dingy, invited John & Ellie aboard Amigo II to explore with us. We had a delightful lunch at the marina and went on over to Peanut Island, taking a long walk around it. Nice to meet face to face the folks we will travel with.
February 14, 2009 V
Valentine’s Day and a good weather window! Pulling out at 6:30 a.m. at first light, we are finally on our way to the Bahamas! We are in search of warmer weather, turquoise seas, white beautiful uninhabited beaches and new experiences! Although there are more than 100 miles of island chains, with over 700 tiny islands, most are uninhabited. The Spanish called this area ‘the grin bahamar’, meaning the ‘great shallow sea’, which it clearly is! From that, we ended up with the GRAND BAHAMAS.
The Bahamas, along with the Turks and Caicos, further south, are great tables of limestone, coral and sand, with lots of reefs. The shallow depths, averaging 10-30 feet, drop to 1,000s of feet in the surrounding Atlantic Ocean. The islands themselves are only about 100 feet in elevation, making it difficult sometimes to figure out what you are looking at while cruising! These islands, however, rank right up there in terms of cruising popularity, along with the British Virgin Islands, the Aegean and the Polynesia. The high season here is more in the Spring and Summer, so we will miss the crowds – thank goodness!
|Amigo II w John & Nellie aboard|
|Ahhh, so very good!|
Radio in hand; I invited Amigo II to a fish dinner when we got to West End that evening. Putting out TWO rods, impressed with how easy it was to catch a fish……and looking forward to putting a few in the freezer, guess what. Nary a nibble the rest the day. Figures. My luck.
Successfully cleared customs in West End, grilled that fish, met a few people in the marina and had a great evening celebrating our safe passage. Amigo II planned to travel with us onward to the Marsh Harbor in the AM.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Another Murphy’s Law. Amigo II broke a belt in the engine room and needs repairs with no parts available. After a lot of discussion and realizing that if we DID NOT go immediately, we would be stuck in the expensive West End Marina for 3-4 days due to coming weather, There is nothing in West End or the surrounding area. It is a ‘resort’ with couple of restaurants and a pool, none of which we were interested in at the prices they charge. So, we took a deep breath and pulled out by ourselves, heading to Little Grand Cay northward where we were told it had the safest anchorage to wait out the coming weather. We were told it would be safer to go there, given the weather, even though it was farther north, than to anchor at Sail Cay - the normal route to the Abacos from West End.
|Andy getting lesson from John @ West End on how to crack a coconut|
|Trying it crack the coconut open|
|Success! Drink the milk & eat the meat!|
Woo, we rocked and rolled out of West End, but the seas settled down after about 45 minutes and we traveled smoothly to Grand Cay all by ourselves. By the way, the word CAY is pronounced KEY.
There is not much here at Little Grand Cay, just lots of shallow water with mangroves and bonefish flats. About 200 people live on the island. There is not anything to see or do in the settlement. (Settlement is a Bahamian word for ‘town’) We picked our way in, making certain we had the correct channel, oohhing at the large white house on the hill that President Nixon used to visit a lot when he traveled here. It is so isolated here – absolutely nothing going on or anyplace to go. I guess Nixon liked the solitude & the Secret Service must have loved that they could see anything coming for many miles! Wonder if Nixon fished?
|Little Grand Cay|
Monday, February 16, 2009
Nothing doing here for sure in this area of shallows, mangrove channels and a beach somewhere we never saw. Lousy cold weather so we just hunkered down in the boat til boredom took over. We launched the dingy & motored a few hundred yards into the Settlement and walked this very poor town of about 200 people, most of who fish for a living as there is no other industry around anymore.
|Don't dock here - pretty run down|
One of the last hurricanes through here took out a major marina on the next island over, collapsing the job market. We’d read about ‘Rosie’s’ place with fabulous conch – everything was closed, but after our inquiry, a gal scurried over to the restaurant, opened the door and began cooking for us. There was a bit of a mix-up in our order, so we ended up w two orders of fried cracked conch and one order of fried lobster. Total price $55 + $18 for a couple of beers…+ tip. Phew. Welcome to the Bahamas where EVERYTHING is expensive!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Still stuck in Little Grand Cay. There are two boats at anchor - a U.S. catamaran and a local small trawler. Sipping coffee about 8:00 a.m., we suddenly THOUGHT (but not certain!) that we had moved closer to the old fishing trawler anchored near us. Watching for a few minutes, I wasn't certain either. "Okay - let me go get some clothes on & then we can move & reset the anchor." Our anchor had let GO and the current and the wind suddenly began pushing us rapidly toward the Bahamian boat in the anchorage. As Andy raced forward to start the engines to try to get us away from an imminent collision, screaming SHARON, I, buck naked in the master bedroom, hopped about, trying to get my feet into shorts. Racing to the aft, I untied a bumper and stuffed it between us and the other boat just as we hit. Much scrambling and moving the rubber fender about between the two boats on my part as we bounced off each other. Then, a sudden shout from Andy -- “#*#*#*#, we are caught on his anchor line!” The boats were entangled. All I could do was keep moving the fender in an attempt to lessen damage to our boat or the other one as Andy tried without success to free our boat.
|Bahamians trying to free us|
Thank goodness the guy in the catamaran in the anchorage saw our trouble, racing over in his dingy to help. After a quick discussion, it was agreed that there was nothing any of us could do unless we were willing to dive below to try to free the boats – cold, risky business for us three older folks in not so great shape. This Good Samaritan raced off in his dink to the local dock and located a couple of willing Bahamians and their boat who agreed to help.
Long story short, after a lot of difficulty on everyone’s part, one of the local Bahamians dove down over and over, trying to free the line to no avail. Finally, he cut the thick mooring line to that other boat and we pulled away. The two Bahamians struggled to retie the line in order to re-secure that boat and were finally successful. Andy said to me, "I'm telling you now....if they can't secure that boat & it heads for the reef, we are OUTTA HERE. That junker boat will suddenly become a million dollar boat." He might have been right....hummmm.
|Struggled for over 2 hours to free us & resecure the other boat|
Luckily for us, we had NOT wrapped the line around our props – a potentially expensive disaster that could have left us unable to power away. We had hooked the line with our rudder, which was easy to free once the pressure was off the taut anchor line.
|Right past those mangroves is the large reef!|
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Dawn finally came to two bleary- eyed people. Neither of us slept much during the night, as one or the other continually popped our head out to check our location and the GPS anchor alarm. The folks on the catamaran decided they had had enough of sitting in this desolate place awaiting good weather and pulled out, heading toward West End and back to the US. One look at the large waves splashing many many feet straight up off the reefs in the water outside of the anchorage we are hunkered down in was enough to convince us we were not going anywhere today. A short time later, the catamaran let us know via VHF radio that it was rough going. Another ‘piddle’ day aboard Finally Fun. Still hard for me to not be totally busy all the time!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Can’t stand it anymore and having been totally unable to pick up any weather reports, no computer reports, and not even any VHF radio transmissions, we decided that we would use those huge breaking waves just out of this anchorage as our weather indicator. Since we could not see much in the way of raging waves smashing over the rocks and reef, we decided to go for it. If it was bad, we could turn back. Off we went, south toward Green Turtle Cay located about halfway down in the Sea of Abacos, and about 8 hours away.
We are careful to calculate the tides as everything is shallow here. Finally Fun draws about 4’8” under our hull so there are times we must wait for higher tides. We’re also very careful to follow the GPS routing waypoints that we input, double checking ourselves a couple of times each day on the inputs.
Most importantly, we also constantly try to read the water as we cruise along… a skill that we are not certain we have developed and are not comfortable with yet. This eyeball navigation technique is the art of reading water depth by the color of the water. Our cruising guide says, “The dangers are color-coded. All you have to know is the color code.” Easier said than done.
|Coming into Nassau from ocean. Note deep blue water.|
There are six colors, ranging in order of safety from Deep Blue (absolute safety – deep ocean water) to Light Blue (30’ and you can see the bottom, which makes me crazy because I can’t figure out 30’ from 10’).
|Green water hiding a dark coral head|
Green water is next, becoming shallower from that 30’ to about 12’. If you see Yellow water, running into some White water – look out you are heading into shoals and reefs. When you see that most spectacular color of Pale Aquamarine that makes you stare with your mouth open because it is so beautiful – don’t stare too long as this is a WARNING color you are getting shallow!
|Shallow waters! Green, Aqua & white water breaking on some reefs off Hope Town|
|Note the hues - shallow, shallower & more shallow|
|Pretty obvious - More shallow, sand bars & water breaking on reefs off Staniel Cay|
|Boat is anchored in a tiny channel of darker, deeper water. Rest is ankle deep|
It is assumed that if one is staying on the GPS waypoints, you should be clear of the reefs! BUT, all the charts and plotted waypoints have the ‘buyer beware’ and instruct you – clearly due to the US system of liability and lawsuits – to also use eyeball navigation and that NOTHING is guaranteed! And NEVER EVER cruise at night.
After a couple of hours at sea, cruising toward Green Turtle Cay, a small three mile long island, we finally heard VHF radio transmissions and nearly cheered….civilization somewhere and people on the water! We picked up conversations between Freedom’s Turn and Kismet, both cruising trawlers also headed to Green Turtle from Great Sale Cay. We conversed for a couple of hours off and on and finally got them in our sights!
|Finally Fun at the dock at Black Sound Marina|
Together, we all pulled into Black Sound harbor in Green Turtle and we were unsuccessful picking up a mooring ball, forcing us into a marina while the other two grabbed moorings. (Although we are a faster boat, we thought it bad form to scoot ahead of either of them and snatch a mooring ball out from under their hook!!) We docked behind Bermuda Shorts, a power catamaran from Bermuda with Bruce & Sue aboard.
Eager to get off the boat, we walked into New Plymouth, the only settlement on this island. This is a tiny, cute town, rich in history. We visited the local Capt. Roland Roberts House & Environmental Center (all about the local vegetation, fish, etc., including an herb garden of the plants and their medicinal use) and toured the bronze sculpture garden dedicated to the memory of the Loyalist settlers. It was so interested to read the stories about each of the individuals honored here, including a few strong women who made a difference.
|Interesting memorial to their former leaders -- black, white, male, female.|
|Typical street scene|
|Old jail from long ago|
Friday, February 20, 2009
From here, in order to get to Marsh Harbor, Abacos, and the other islands in our cruising area, we must traverse through The Whale Cay Passage. Like traveling across the Gulf Stream, one must pick a very good weather day to traverse The Whale or frankly, risk your boat and/or your life. Whale Cay is the cut between the Sea of Abacos and the Atlantic Ocean and has a ‘shelf’ and shoals. Weather – even weather miles away from the Bahamas – can generate heavy swells, very close together, which produce dangerously rough conditions as the water piles up on the shoals. The resultant powerful, turbulent and lethal seas are called RAGES and are characteristic of all similar ocean passes. In unfavorable weather under NO circumstances should one even poke the bow of their boat out there to see what it is like! When a full blown rage is present, it is considered suicide to attempt to pass through the cut. Many a boat and the boaters on board has lost their lives and their boats attempting these passages during the 'rage', Given the weather already, we know we’ll be at this dock at Black Sound Marina for a few days.
The marina owner, Roy, from Gainesville, FL, decided to make true believers out of us and Bruce aboard Bermuda Shorts. He loaded us in his golf cart and drove us to the ocean side of Turtle Cay to see the raging sea a few miles south in The Whale. Phew HUGE breaking waves and rolling waves out at sea. Okay, seeing is really believing and we promised to always heed the weather!
Later in the afternoon, Andy & I explored the island and the beaches via our bikes, traversing a number of miles into Green Turtle Cay Club over in White Sound Harbor. Green Turtle Cay would definitely be the place to be with the grandkids as it has pools, restaurants and bars and also is on the beach. We bumped into the folks aboard Kismet and joined them for a late lunch & fun conversation at the Resort.
Doesn’t take much to make friends while boating and to band together in search of fun. We spent the next couple of days sampling rum drinks with Bruce & Sue at Pineapples at the Other Shore Club in Black Sound and having the best ever Goombay Smash at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar in downtown Plymouth, the only town in Green Turtle. The entire island population is about 450. Miss Emily’s a very fun place, with dollar bills and business cards and t-shirts hanging everywhere. We had great conversations with some of the locals and a couple of the very great Goombay Smash’s. Later, a great fish dinner at a local restaurant which I cannot remember the name of…..
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Another sleepless night for Andy as he sweated the potential crossing thru The Whale! I admit, I also woke up once in anticipation and a little sweat! Still crummy radio transmissions and not much weather and no ability to hear anyone’s report on The Whale conditions for today. Knowing we needed a high tide to get OUT of Black Sound, we threw off our lines and pulled out, promising ourselves that if The Whale looked nasty, we would head back to the dock. Getting close, we could see a sailboat ahead of us, sticking its’ bow into the Inlet and then back. Conversing on the radio, we learned he wanted to wait for slack tide – 3 hours away. We couldn’t tell that slack would make much difference and so we headed out into The Whale. Guess what, a non-event, just some rolling and not even much rocking. An adrenaline let down, for which we are thankful!!!! Again, picking your weather is crucial to one’s success and survival!
PS The sailboat, seeing we were successful, traversed The Whale behind us. There is comfort in seeing someone in FRONT of you. Tag, we were the front runner this morning!
|The Abacos- with the Abacos Sea in the middle between the little out islands & the solid green land portion. Atlantic to the far Right.|
Finally, a full week after we left Florida, we finally arrived in Marsh Harbor, our destination…and a destination that should have taken 3 days, max. We were able to hook up with our friends, Dann and Char, who had arrived the previous Tuesday and who had to depart on the next day. That goes to show you – a schedule is a killer when cruising. Luckily, Dann and Char had made plans to stay aboard another boat with other friends of theirs and perhaps split their time between them on Black Pearl and with us aboard Finally Fun. Hope they are all still friends after 6 nights together as we never arrived in time to ‘share the load’!
|All the costumes are made of paper!|
We met Brie and Noal, the sailors aboard Black Pearl, and we all spent a fun evening together at Marsh Harbor’s annual Junkaroo Festival. The street parade lasted til 1:00 AM with floats, bands and beautiful costumes…a mini mardi grau. Except here, the crowds are well behaved!
|Think he is losing his headdress!|
We left before the street dancing started as we were whipped. We could hear the music from our boat going strong the last I remember at 2:00 AM.
|Not about to miss a beat!|
|The colorful costumes are just overwhelming & beautiful!|
|Young, old, talented or not - all participate|
|There is a lot of pride in being the BEST & prizes too!|
Brie & Noal, from Black Pearl, l are a wealth of information, freely sharing all their local knowledge of where to go and what to do based on their previous trips to the Abacos. I was like a sponge, writing it all down so we don’t miss anything.
Type A personality me, super organized, spent the next day cataloguing all I learned and making up master lists by island of what is happening, what bars to visit, what times and days the happy hours are and who has the live music and best beaches. I plan to build some fun itineraries for those that visit us aboard Finally Fun here in the Bahamas.
Sunday, February 22 through Wednesday, February 25, 2009
|Someone has a sense of humor in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas!|
We entertained Brie & Noal aboard one evening. On Wednesday, Andy & I walked around the island in a 4 hour marathon, checking out Mermaid Bay around the other side, ending up at the Jib Room at the Marsh Harbor Marina. With tired feet, we ordered a beer and began conversing with the sailing couple aboard Homeward Bound, who were gracious enough to give us a ride back across the anchorage in their dink. I think Andy would have killed me if we had to walk all those miles back around the island to our dink!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Enough of Marsh Harbor…been there, done that. We pulled anchor, joining John & Ellie aboard Adios II, to head to Great Guana Cay, about an hour away via a direct route across and by not following the GPS waypoints. Back to visual navigation and I hoped my skills were better than they were last week! After an uneventful, easy cruise across the Sea of Abacos to Great Guana Cay, we arrived, picking up a mooring ball in Settlement Harbor. It is poor holding here, with a grassy bottom.
This Cay is about 6 miles long, with a continuous beach on the Atlantic side and is also higher in elevation than the other islands, making it a little easier to locate while cruising over. The claim to fame here at Great Guana Cay is Nipper’s Beach Bar & Grill...the 'wild, happening place".
|Entrance to Nippers - RobertE & Riley enjoying it all during their spring break|
|AARP crowd getting it on @ Nippers|
|Sharon enjoying the music @ Nippers|
|RobertE & Riley @ Nippers beach|
There is also Grabbers Bar & Grill here on the Cay overlooking Fisher’s Bay with good food and drink and a pool and a more protected beach as it is on the ‘inside’. After a day of exploring and sampling the fare at both Nippers and Grabbers, we settled in for the evening.
|Pickett & Gram @ Grabbers Beach on a later trip|
A pounding on our hull brought Andy out of the shower and me ducking below….Dive Guana arrived to collect the $15 mooring fee and to inform us that “mon, you have too big a boat to be on my mooring ball.” After discussion, it was decided that we could stay another night but must depart on Saturday as another cold front was expected, with winds over 25 mph. Dive Guana said, “mon, you break my mooring line you pay. Mon, you break my line, you also pay for your boat. You will be on the rocks before you know it!”
Easy decision. After rechecking the weather and wind directions expected to come along with the cold front, we decided to head to Treasure Cay on Saturday morning where we could tie up at a marina during the blow. Keeping a close eye on the winds and our mooring line, we went to bed. One dragging anchor experience is enough!
Saturday, February 28, 2009
A beautiful cruise from Great Guana Cay to Treasure Cay. The water is Bahamas’ finest, with the blues and greens and the ability to see individual blades of grass 10 to 30 feet below our hull as we cruised. I kept looking for sea life, shells and whatever else might be hunkered on the bottom, to no avail. Only saw grass – so clear I could see each individual strand -- and sand.
Nearing the channel into the harbor, our GPS went blank, which includes the depth sounder. Andy raced down below to the salon helm station to attempt navigation with the GPS there. Back and forth with the GPS on/off at the fly bridge, we were able to pick our way in visually to the marina with mishap. A smooth docking, aft in, much to Andy’s delight at the beautiful Treasure Cay Marina! Since we had to pay for water and electric while docked, we made the most of it and spent about 5 hours scrubbing sea salt off the boat and doing three loads of laundry.
|Treasure Cay Beach|
|Pickett & Gram enjoying Treasure Cay pool on a later trip|
Breathtaking! We walked this beach every day and enjoyed sitting at the beach bar & grill, taking in the view. We enjoyed the sunset sipping a local rum drink at the Tipsy Seagull Bar with John and Ellie and wondered together what this predicted cold front with high winds would bring. After rechecking all the lines, we turned in for the evening, fully expecting a blow with microburst’s of high wind. I awoke about 2:00 a.m. to the sound of the fenders rubbing and squeaking against the dock. I added another line to pull us closer to the dock to eliminate the squeaking and went back to sleep.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Much ado about nothing. No blow at all. Just a brief rain shower during the night and that was it. Couple hundred dollars to be at the marina for the two nights to be safe, and we didn’t need to be safe. However, on the flip side, a decision to not go into the marina would most likely, with our luck, meant that the blow would have been MORE horrific than expected and we have been in a hum, worrying about dragging anchor! Ahh, the price of sleep! Since we’d seen much of this area and it is too cold to swim, we pulled out with Marsh Harbor as our destination. Great anchorage, good grocery stores as well as any other service one might need or want.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Lazy day…managed to get ourselves off the boat for a lunch at Mango’s with John & Ellie and walk to the grocery store. We need more days like this to do nothing. Doing nothing today means Andy is changing the oil in the generator….could he be picking up some Type A traits?
Marsh Harbor is the third largest settlement in the Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport are the other two) and certainly the activity hub for the Abacos. The airport is here for all Abacos, numerous restaurants, several marinas, grocery stores, bakery, banks and all the other ‘stuff’ one thinks one needs. There is one traffic light that is used as the directional point – “mon, turn at the light”.
The harbor is full of boats at anchor, including us. Many cruisers become semi or permanent residents, living aboard in the free anchorage of the harbor. There is a Marsh Harbor Cruisers Net on VHF Channel 68 every morning at 8:15, which is a wealth of information. Weather, announcements of happenings and events occurring on shore and on the various islands, comings and goings and an ability to ask questions (where is… how to…) and an ability to request assistance from fellow cruisers make this a mandatory listen in each morning for us!
Tuesday, March 3 through Thursday, March 5, 2009
We must be getting into island mentality. We blew off plans to cruise to Man O War to see a conch blowing contest and on over to Hope Town on Elbow Cay on Wednesday to hear the Sherwood’s, a Cornell University singing (oldies but goodies) group. The weather is chilly and we are just lazy. We did take time to do housekeeping aboard, using minimum water to wash the outside windows, deck and rails carefully in an attempt to get of the sea salt that is rising to a measurable height aboard our boat and is so grody to touch!
It happened AGAIN! I got my hair done at the only place I could find. I explained that this orange stuff on my head was not really my color, that I did not want orange, did not want the skunk splash on the back of my head, but wanted BROWN with lighter brown highlights. I also wanted a slight trim, spare the bangs please. You know, I go thru the same explanation every time, and rarely get what I want. Something wrong with my explanation???
I KNEW sitting in the chair with dye on my head that this one too was not going to go well. Sure enough, brown became BLACK BLACK. That, plus the fact that Andy came into the shop, telling me he’d picked up a SKYPE voice mail for me and that I needed to call Fidelity before 4 – an emergency as I was trying to get my 401K moved out of Fidelity. So, I left before the highlights were added. As the woman dried and trimmed (forget about sparing the bangs…bah) she told me several times that the color would fade with tine. I did not even recognize myself. I left, made the return phone call (there was no crisis, no issue! A waste of time to call Fidelity back) and went back to the boat. By evening, I’d washed my hair three times, to no avail. Still BLACK BROWN. Nuts.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Pulling anchor in Marsh Harbor, headed to Guana Cay for a three day party became a scary action. Suddenly, as the 80 pound Rocnar anchor was within a foot of being up and on the boat, it or the chain slipped, dislodging the chain off the windlass.
The anchor quickly and loudly plunged back into the bottom of the harbor with the chain singing its way down. Scary for me standing there, unable to control anything. By now, with the anchor having been up and us in tight quarters with boats anchored all around us, Andy focused on keeping us from hitting any other boat. I focused on getting the anchor back up, wondering what the h--- happened.
Again, I brought the anchor up to within a foot of success and the same exact thing happened. BAM, loud noise, slipped chain and the anchor plunged back to the harbor floor. Again, now even closer to other boats, and me, unable to fix the chain that again had become slipped off the grooves, Andy & I switched places, me racing up top to the fly bridge helm and him racing down to the deck. Desperately trying to reattach the chain., and me nervous about my skills to keep us away from other boats, Andy got the chain fixed, grabbed the metal bar that tights the windless and successfully got the anchor up and secured. No, I did NOT take my foot off the anchor controls…I did not do anything but what I’ve successfully done since we moved aboard to raise the anchor. Hope this never happens again! Very scary.
On a happier note, we’ve made reservations for a slip for Friday & Saturday at Orchid Bay Marina as we can’t risk the mooring as the winds are 15+ knots. Upon arrival to Guana Cay & the Marina, with wind pushing us about, a strong current, and tight quarters Andy successfully backed into the assigned slip. He could not hear me on the aft deck shouting at the dock hand that the slip was too narrow for out 16’ beam. Even though Andy successful got the boat IN, there was not enough room to drop a fender over! The dock hand quickly agreed (now that we are IN!) and we pulled out, carefully negotiating our boat over two more spaces, into a wider slip. Success again! Andy has really gotten GREAT at this! We do congratulate ourselves from time to time on how our skill sets have grown! I can tie a fender every which way quickly and now always have all the lines ready to toss to a dock hand as we come in! No more Chinese fire drills – well, most of the time! There is always the surprise, such as the anchor problems we had earlier this morning.
|RobertE @ Nippers after the party was over - a month later!|
Off to the party at Nippers Bar & Grill. The Barefoot Man is playing (don’t have a clue who this is, but sounds like a party and fun!) as are a couple filler groups and steel drums, which I LOVE. Hiking up the hill to Nippers, we joined a full house, listening to GREAT music.
Seems The Barefoot Man is the islands Jimmy Buffet. … with local lyrics, great stories set to music and the steel drummer pounding away. Super afternoon, listening, watching the crowd, walking the beach with the surf pounding and back up to Nippers for a thirst quenching beer and some dancing.
|GREAT music @ Nippers|
Around 5:00 PM, we left Nippers and walked to the other side of the island to Grabbers. Grabbers, not to be outdone, had booked three bands, one from Cocoa Beach, Coco Loco and the party was on. We joined in, sharing a beer and a shrimp boil dinner cooked outside on the grill. We had fun dancing & chatting with the many cruisers in attendance until we couldn’t take it anymore. I think we were asleep aboard Finally Fun by 9:00.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Another day of the same -- walking the beach with its roaring surf breaking over the reefs and walking the island for a couple of hours.
We ended up back at Nippers and later at Grabbers to listen to the music & partake of the parties. Around 7:00 PM we decided we go back to the boat for a quick dinner and then return to Grabber’s party. Guess what, once on the boat we decided we’d had enough of the partying and crashed. Three different sets of fireworks throughout the late evening and wee hours of the morning woke me. Some folks certainly know how to party. Given that the average age of these cruisers is certainly AARP plus plus, I am impressed!!!!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Enough of the parties. We headed back to Marsh Harbor to anchor and await the arrival of Leslie and the two grandchildren on the 14th. We figured we can cruise to the places we have not yet been to with her on aboard. We found John & Ellie aboard Amigo II, back anchored in Marsh Harbor, having aborted their trip further south to the Elutheras.
As I was fooling with dropping the anchor, carefully selecting our spot and waving my arms in hand signals to Andy, a sea turtle surfaced, with large head watching my every move. Amazingly, he stayed around the entire time, ducking under the water if I looked over at him and then he’s peek his head back up to watch some more. Seems like he was studying my every move! I could hardly concentrate on my task at hand – the turtle was so cool!!
John & Ellie dinked over for wine and conversation. What is so amazing is that Ellie and Andy’s paths have crossed several times over the years. She was at Pease AFB when Andy crashed landed the F-111 and remembered every detail of the story and was fascinated to hear the story from ANDY’s perspective! She then worked for Boeing and as they both were in procurement (Andy not with Boeing), they worked independently on many of the same military projects. John’s experiences in Vietnam as a Marine brought many memories back to me – none of which are good -- but the conversations were great nevertheless. Always, a small world.
Monday, March 9, through Thursday, March 12, 2009.
Hanging out, walking to town every day and to the wifi shop so we can get online. Seems our wifi does not transmit back from our boat so we dink in with the computer. I hope the day never comes that we drop the computer overboard! We stop into one or another restaurant/bar each day for companionship, always meeting new people, seeing those we have met somewhere along the cruise and in general, just getting off the boat. Bumped into the couples aboard Kismet and Freedom’s Turn who had come from Elbow Cay across the Sea of Abacos in their dingy! It is very calm, but that is a long way in a tiny dink!
Funny, one of the gals told me she didn’t recognize me and hadn’t I changed my hair???? Actually, NOT so funny. It is still Black/Brown. Thursday night we dinked over to the Jib Room to share a beer, split their rib dinner special and to watch the limbo dances that are there each Thursday. How low can one go? The local Bahamian was less than a foot off the ground at the end, with the bar in flames as he went under! Very impressive!! A nice evening, again meeting a number of new cruisers. Dinking back to our boat about 8:30 PM, under a full moon was absolutely lovely with all the boats, mostly all sail, outlined in the evening sky.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Another ‘hang out’ day spent getting ready for the arrival of Leslie and the grandchildren, RobertE and Riley. Picking up some fresh bakery items from the local bakery and some produce from the grocery story can certainly fill a few hours…good thing we are retired. Again, looking for action (ie retired folks notion of ‘action’), we dinked over to Mangos to hear the local entertainment, Brown Tip, doing his ‘rake and scrape’. Amazing use of a saw to make music! Danced the night away, always dragging Andy to the floor. Maybe he is shamed as the DJ danced with me when would not…….Probably, I should be shamed, but I love to boogy. Screw it, I’m old enough not to embarrass myself anymore….
Saturday, March 14, 2009
The normal cooking for company and making up the V-berth in anticipation of the kids arrival at 6:00 PM. A great reunion, snacks & beer at Curley Tails and two trips in the dink to get everyone and all the luggage (didn’t I say, bring next to nothing!) back to Finally Fun. One would have thought RobertE had sipped a beer. He fell/stepped into the water off the dock within the first minute he was here! The week is ON!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Pulled anchor early headed to the Pig Roast at Nippers and to snorkel and swim, weather and waves permitting. The anchor pulled its trick again, jumping the windless and crashing back into the harbor! I’m done – it scares me to death.
Cruising back to Guana Cay and into Orchid Bay’s Marina as we are too big for the moorings, refusing the water as they want 40 cents a gallon and to fill us up would be $160! No thanks – let’s see if we can get enough water from our new, expensive watermaker. Problem is it makes 12 gallons a hour and we are not making water in the harbors for all the obvious reasons! These islands are so close that we aren’t cruising very long on any given day, hence not making much water!
|No, Riley did not drink this beer @ Nippers|
A great day at Guana Cay, walking the beach – no snorkeling or swimming as its too cool still; watching the party at Nippers and over to Grabbers to watch more party. The kids swam in both pools, having a great time.
|RobertE & Riley enjoying the beach|
A huge treat was the US space shuttle launch that passed over the Bahamas – a most spectacular sight of light, flame and which left the most eerie sky for at least a half hour afterward. Andy thought the unusual light show long after the launch was ice crystals from the fuel illuminated by the setting sun. Whatever it was, it was something else to see!
|RobertE liked the Goombay Punch - a local soft drink|
Monday, March 16 – Friday, March 20, 2009
A fun week, cruising the Abacos with the kids. From Guana Cay, on a high incoming tide, we went outside to the Atlantic with the fishing rods set, trolling on the theory that the big fish are coming into the Sea of Abaco on the incoming tide. So much for that theory – nothing caught to our disappointment. Looks like we’ll have to pay for seafood!
Two nights anchored at Treasure Cay with its beautiful curving beach with pink and white sand and a great swimming pool. RobertE was able to practice snorkeling in the pool – I think he likes spitting in his mask to clear it the best of all……
|RobertE & Andy checking the anchor via Lookie Bucket early in the AM|
A couple of nights at Hope Town on Elbow Cay– what a cute town that can only be accessed by a boat with our draft on a rising half tide. No moorings left in the very crowded harbor, so we docked at Hope Town Marina with its pool for the kids. The weather has turned, with higher winds and scattered showers, cooler temps and cloudy. Bah! We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with dinner at Captain Jack’s celebration in Hope Town, complete with free jello shooters (why?!). The dingy dock was more than packed and was quite an exercise to keep from falling in as one climbed down then steep ladder to get into the dink – and hopefully, getting into the RIGHT dink as the dingy were tied 4 deep everywhere!
Hope Town was founded around 1785 by loyalists who fled the US because they favored the British during the American Revolution and wanted to remain within the British Empire. Many of these loyalists came from New England and their architectural influence is still seen in the homes today. This quaint town of about 350 Bahamians is a mixture of old and new with pastel painted cottages decorated with gingerbread and filigree lining the narrow streets. No vehicles are allowed in the town limits – good thing as the streets are so narrow, people can barely pass each other….
|Hope Town Lighthouse|
|Finally Fun at Hope Town|
|Hope Town Beach|
The kindly staff brought out towels and more rain gear for us and we settled in for early happy hour, drinking those island rum drinks to get warm by and to await the celebratory lunch in honor of RobertE’s 9th birthday. We had a great time, watching the waves crash on shore in the stormy day. The key lime pie & staff singing Happy Birthday for RobertE’s birthday was also outstanding. This rainy day was also a great day for touring the local museum – very informative! And very DRY!
|View from Lighthouse|
|Hope Town as viewed from the Lighthouse|
With another cold front on the way, we headed back to Marsh Harbor on Friday. Rather than anchor, we settled into a slip at the Conch Inn Marina. We did not want to be transporting Leslie and kids and all the luggage in two or three roundtrips in the dink at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning and potentially in the RAIN! They will be so MISSED.
March 21 – April 3, 2009
More of the same, lazy days spent traveling about various islands, staying anchored in Marsh Harbor doing minor repairs or whatever; evenings spend conversing with friends we’ve met around the Harbor. For two retired people with ‘nothing to do’, we seem to fill the days and never get to the “To Do” list, nor certainly never getting to the most important, “Honey Do” list…. We are tanned and finally able to shed our winter fleece. …finally.
Quite a scare while anchored in Marsh Harbor during this time. Another cold front (seems they arrived in the Abacos every week or so the entire time we were here) arrived about 2:00 AM, announcing itself with wild pops of thunder, crashes of lightening, and winds hitting 30+ MPH. Within seconds, every boater (well, almost every boater!) was out of bed and on deck. I swear I could see the ‘whites of their eyes’ from our boat to theirs as the lighting lit the sky like daylight.
Andy quickly went to the fly bridge, starting the engines in case we had to dodge another boat or in case our anchor dragged. I stayed on deck, fenders in hand, ready to fend off any loose boat dragging anchor that might come our way. We stayed safe and in place, but two boats in the Harbor dragged anchor – one with the couple aboard STILL ASLEEP until all the boat horns blaring woke them up. The other boat had NO ONE on board! Finally, several trawlers went to the rescue of this lone sailboat careening around the Harbor out of control. It looked like a bowling ball in a lane, scattering pins ie boats! The trawlers placed fenders around each of their boats and finally corralled the runaway sailboat. How they got the anchor re-set is beyond me as I could not see that far in the driving rain. Heros, all. A little bit scary!
April 4 through April 11, 2009
|Pickett under the stool aboard Finally Fun|
Lindsay, Walker and little grandson, Pickett, age 11 ½ months spend the week with us. We had already loaded aboard in the US the portable crib, a case of Pampers, baby food, baby toys – so we were ready.
Pickett’s other grandma was back in the States having that Southern ‘come apart’ ---- with visions of her baby falling overboard or whatever. As if THIS grandma would allow that to happen! Grin
Pickett is the BEST baby, sleeping in his little crib smack dab in the middle of the salon in front of the TV….four hour morning naps and to bed about 8:00 PM with all the conversation, clanging of pots, TV and whatever other noises grownups make as they drink rum drinks or wine aboard….
|Walker, Lindsay & Pickett @ Hope Town|
|Daddy Walker & Pickett on the fly bridge @ Hope Town|
|Love the hat & glasses. Cool dude!|
|No nap Gram, No dice|
|Loving the waves|
Swimming in Nipper’s Pool and sleeping on Gram in the hammock at Grabbers were highlights, as was discovering the beach at Hope Town.
Pickett had the entire beach laughing and coming up to watch him discover the ocean…..he clearly thought the waves were there to play with him and him alone. Every time a wave came in he splashed and patted and as the wave went back out, he looked around in amazement---‘where did it go?’ and when the wave came BACK, he would laugh out loud!! So funny!
|OOPS! Rolly bottom went over!|
|All is well, still grinning!|
A great week for us all and again, another sad departure when they had to fly home.
April 12 through 14, 20009
A few days spent cleaning up the boat after Lindsay and family left and getting ready for the next group – the wild and zany bunch we had cruised with so often over the years in the British Virgin Islands. John, along with a new girlfriend, and Suzette and Marlene arrived on April 15 – all ready to take in the sights and reconnect friendships.
April 15 through April 19, 2009
|The gals: Sharon, Tracy, Suzette & Marlene|
|John & Tracy|
|Sharon & Andy w the group @ Hope Town Lighthouse|
Let the party begin. Too brief a visit to see it all, but we did try to hit the high spots. The bars at Nippers and Grabbers made the list of Top Five places to see, as was Hope Town.
The most fun was anchoring at the north end of Guana Cay in Baker’s Bay. Andy made a lot of excuses as to why he needed to stay on the boat while the rest of us took a very long bouncing dingy ride around the island to the ocean side to snorkel. He can take or leave snorkeling while I could snorkel all day long….he was relieved I had someone to go with besides making him go……We loaded the dink with lunch, drinks and towels and our gear and headed off, John in charge of the dink. After about 10 comments…’are you SURE mooring buoys are out here?’ as we bounced about getting further and further away from civilization…..and wetter and wetter as the waves splashed over us. I’d been there the week before with the kids, so knew ultimately we would see little white mooring balls in and among the whitecaps…. Finally, we located a buoy and secured the dink. Over the sides we went.
|Sharon in the water. Note the pink fins....I want to be seen!|
Exploring for about an hour until we all were so chilled we could not stand it anymore. We pointed the dink in the direction of to shore for a picnic lunch. Great fun, but we all agreed….not as pretty as the BVI waters. We are a spoiled and jaded group…..
|Turtle poking along under water|
|She likes the spanking|
We had a great time concocting rum drinks (Marlene readily accepted her old ‘job’ as our bartender!) Much mango, coconut and banana rum was consumed by all, as well as a new addition to the bar stock, “Fire in the Hole” – labeled as an EXOTICA rum from Jamaica. Only $8 a bottle too….
John’s new girlfriend made for an interesting addition to our group – a lively gal for sure!
Ah, the boat was much too quiet after the fun group left...Almost as much fun as we all had together during our numerous charter trips to the BVI's and to Belize in the past.