Just when you think the adventure is over for another season. Something like this happens. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Last week, on the Today Show, there was a feature on the restoration of the presidential yacht, Honey Fitz. The yacht was built in 1931 for the founder of the Montgomery Ward Stores. During World War II it was commissioned into the Navy for coastal patrol. After the war, it was returned to its owner who said, "keep it, it's a mess. I don't want it." The government then decided that maybe Harry Truman would like it. They cleaned her up and turned her into Truman's Presidential Yacht. After Truman, Eisenhower took her over, and then Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. However, it was during the Kennedy years that the yacht gained its greatest fame. Named after his grandfather, the Honey Fitz became the nautical playground for the Kennedy clan during JFK's brief presidency.
She later was sold to a charitable organization that could not afford to maintain her and wound up in Louisiana literally rotting away. Two years ago, she was sold for nearly $6 million to a wealthy entrepreneur who had her towed to West Palm Beach in Florida. $5 million later, the vessel has been completely restored. She is magnificent. She is now on a journey north to Boston where she will be exhibited near the Kennedy Library.
Peg and I were sitting on our boat having dinner, when we looked up and saw the Presidential Seal on her funnel at our marina. We thought, is that the Honey Fitz and what is she doing here? So after dinner, we walked over to the dock she was on and sure enough, it was the Honey Fitz. We saw the First Mate and started talking to him about the boat. He asked us if we wanted a tour. Wow. What a piece of history. She's 93 feet long and has only one state room. I wonder where the Secret Service slept? But if that stateroom could only talk. Jackie, Marilyn, who else? Anyway, you should check out their website for more info at:
Also, check out the photos I took in the photo gallery. I hope this adventure never ends.
We had a wonderful time in the Bahamas and Dick has done a great job with the blog. Most of it was true. Since it was our first time in the Bahamas, it was an especially extraordinary trip and I thought I'd add my two cents worth titled:
Things I learned in the Bahamas
1. We kept seeing people that we knew. Many of them we met in Florida and some we met on our trip down in 2011. That was a nice surprise.
2. Channel markers are rare even in shallow areas where you have to stay in the channel. The most challenging area was the Indian Cut because you have to make several turns to stay in the channel. The cruising guide actually shows a picture of the markers that were there before they were destroyed by the hurricane in 2006. No, they have not been replaced.
3. When in the shallows, you steer via GPS waypoints. It works.
4. Water depths in our Explorer charts are noted in meters. Our boat draws 1.524 meters.
5. Provisions are more expensive, but overall, not as bad as we thought they would be. Some things are very extremely more expensive. A case of beer is $36-54. Liquor is cheap so it's a good idea to drink a lot of rum.
6. Bottled water is extremely expensive. A case of drinking water is $14-18 so we often filled our water bottles with water at the marinas. Since there's no natural water source, much of it is the result of reverse osmosis, basically desalinization. It tastes a little salty, like they need to reverse the osmosis a little longer.
7. Believe it or not, marinas are generally less expensive than in the states. Mangoes Marina in Marsh Harbor, one of our favorites, costs less than half of what it costs to stay at Portside Marina on Kelly's Island.
8. Always call a fuel dock before you go to fill up. They may be out of fuel as the boat to fill their tanks may have been delayed. We carried three 5 gallon cans of diesel and one 5 gallon can of gas for the outboard on the dinghy. That was plenty and we never had any problems.
9. There are no pump out stations. The best option is to dump your holding tanks near the passages to the Atlantic. I try not to think about this since it grosses me out.
10. Marsh Harbor/Hopetown has a cruiser's net on VHF channel 68 at 8:15 daily. If you've never experienced a cruiser's net, it's like a boater's meeting except everyone is on their boat. It's a great way to get updates on weather and activities in the area.
11. Buying a BTC (Bahamian Telecommunications Company) cell phone with pre-paid minutes was the cheapest option for calling home. Texting was even cheaper. "Topping off" (buying additional minutes) can be done at grocery stores, except in Hopetown, where it can be done at the liquor store or Captain Jacks, a bar.
12. Connecting to the internet was challenging. Marinas and coffee shops have wifi but, of course, band width is limited and many boaters are trying to connect. We also subscribed to OII (Out Island Internet) wifi. That cost $100 per month and also worked sometimes. That seemed expensive but the days we could Skype with our grandkids from an anchorage was worth a million bucks to me.
13. For weather reports, when we were too far to connect to the Marsh Harbor Cruisers Net, we used Passage Maker and Barometer Bob, however both are internet dependent. When we didn't have the internet and were too far to get a report on VHF, we used our single sideband radio (the marine equivalent of a ham radio). I admit I used to just dust this radio and had no idea how it worked. Now it's my new best friend.
14. American and Bahamian dollars are at parity and are interchangeable. No one seems to care that you are paying with money from another country. Mix and match.
15. Green Turtle Key has a marina with a very elegant restaurant, The Green Turtle Club. The chef is very creative and there is a dress code, "smart casual". When we registered at the office, the marina staff told us we were dressed just fine for dinner. We were wearing foul weather gear as we had just sailed there in the rain.
16. No shoes, no shirt, no problem.
17. The First Caribbean Bank, the bank in Hopetown, is only open on Tuesdays 10-2, and there are no ATMs. No problem. We enjoyed talking with all the other boaters and locals when we were standing in line.
18. The post office on Man-O-War Cay is open M-F 9-4, except that the lady who works there might leave for a while to do something else. Mailing a package home takes 4-5 weeks.
19. If you're on Man-O-War Cay and don't have any luck fishing, talk to Fred whose dad owns the hardware store. He fishes almost every day and will drop off a fresh catch to your boat. I have his work and home number. He gets off work at 3.
20. Manjack Cay is a private island with a great anchorage. Trespassers are welcome. The owners have placed several colorful hand painted signs directing visitors to the ocean beach.
So life is different in the Bahamas and despite some inconveniences, we really enjoyed our trip. We plan to go back again next year.
Our journey is winding down for this season. Joe and Joy aboard High Spirits, and we left Marsh Harbor on Saturday, April 13th and headed northeast towards Whale Cay and then north to Manjack Cay. Manjack was a place we did not visit on the trip South in the Abacos when we were travelling with Wendell and Linda. The winds at the end of February were not suitable to anchor in Manjack Bay. This time the winds were easterly and the bay was settled and very sheltered. It was also beautiful. Getting there was not without its excitement though. The Whale Cay is a land mass that separates the Sea of Abaco from the Atlantic Ocean. In order to proceed north you have to go out into the ocean, around Whale Cay and then come back into the Sea of Abaco. Just after we rounded the Whale, we were hit with a squall that dumped a couple of inches of rain on us and kicked up winds that were close to 30 kts. Joe and Joy were about a half mile ahead of us and were invisible to us until the rain subsided. Some fun, but it didn't last long and things settled down for the remainder of our trip to Manjack. We arrived around 1500 hours, dropped the hook, and jumped into the crystal-clear water for a well-deserved swim. Then the next squall hit and we tested the integrity of our anchor for about 20 minutes. We held strong and that ended the squalls for the remainder of our trip.
We stayed in Manjack for two days. On day two, we went exploring on this mostly uninhabited island. A couple that live there provides beach chairs and signs directing you to the ocean-side beach and warn you of the free-range chickens roaming the area. They also have a sign that says, "Trespassers Welcome"! Marg and I hiked through the mangroves to the ocean beach. We saw curly tailed lizards, sand crabs, unspoiled mangroves and miles of completely deserted beach. That was worth the price of admission.
Later that day, Marg and Joy and Corky (another boater we met) and I took our dinghies across the bay and went fishing. We had a contest, boys vs. girls, about who could catch the most fish. It was a tie. We each caught 6 fish. Marg baited her hook with a shrimp, caught a fish, removed it from the hook and actually cleaned it. I'm surprised she didn't eat it raw. That night, the six of us had a fresh fish dinner that was better than anything I have had in a restaurant.
The next morning, we pulled the anchor and headed north to Great Sale for our last night on the Little Bahamas Bank. It was a long trip from Manjack, about 8 hours. After we had travelled about 2 hours, our voltage regulator quit working so the batteries were no longer charging. We estimated that we would be completely out of battery power before we arrived at Great Sale if we didn't figure out what was wrong. Marg was driving while I had my head in the engine compartment checking fuses and connections when I saw a broken wire that ran from the alternator to the voltage regulator. I re-connected it and Voila, all was well with the universe. We actually sailed a good ways to Great Sale and spent a very restful night at anchor.
Finally, on April 16th we set sail for West End on Grand Bahama Island for our last night in the Bahamas. We decided to stay at the Old Bahama Bay Marina. This is the port of entry where our Bahamian adventure began back in February and we thought it fitting that our visit to the Bahamas end there. We went out to dinner with Joe and Joy, got a good night's sleep and headed back across the Gulf Stream to West Palm Beach.
The crossing was bumpy but not eventful despite the fact that we broke the first rule of Gulf Stream crossing, "Never go across the stream if the wind has any northerly component." The winds were predicted to be northeasterly at 8 to 13 knots. Of course, the weather report was wrong, more like 10 to 17 knots, but we did fine. We arrived at the Lake Worth Inlet in West Palm at 1630 hours, right at slack tide which made the entrance to the inlet very easy. We were back in the US of A after nearly two months of cruising the Abacos. The next day, on the 18th, we left West Palm and sailed up the Atlantic to Fort Pierce and returned to our home port arriving at about 1500 hours. We were sad the adventure was over, but glad to be back to reliable internet service, cell phones that worked, well-stocked and reasonably priced grocery stores, good pizza and affordable beer. We'll return next season. The Abacos are huge and we only saw at most, a third of them. We now know the places we liked and the places we'd skip on the next trip and we have six months to plan our next adventure. Stay tuned.
We are back in Marsh Harbor for Don and Sue to catch their plane back to Ohio on Weds the 10th, but the adventure for them is not over yet. Anyone who has ever tasted conch either in conch fritters or cracked conch sandwiches or conch salad, can say that conch is interesting and flavorful with the right ingredients. I like conch but I wouldn't say I loved conch. But one thing for sure, it is very plentiful in the Bahamas. In fact, a cracked conch sandwich costs less in a restaurant than a not-so-good hamburger. The point of all of this is we took Don and Sue to a place called Conchy Joe's in Marsh Harbor for lunch on their last full day here. The place juts out into the water and is surrounded by piers that have been destroyed by recent hurricanes. At first glance, the place looks like a dump. In fact, it is a dump, BUT, a very good dump. The bar is designed like the bow of a boat. It goes from the pointy end to the beam which is about 15 feet wide. You sit on either the port side or the starboard side. We sat at the pointy end so the four of us could face each other. When we sat down, the bartender asked us what we wanted to drink. I said we would like to get some lunch. He said okay, what do you want? We said what do you have? And he said, conch. We asked for a menu which he had to go look for. When we finally placed our orders, Peg and I had cracked conch sandwiches and a conch salad. Don and Sue had mahi mahi sandwiches and a conch salad. The bartender recommended High Rock beer which was the local version of Heineken but more potent. We ordered too many.
The bartender then went to the ladder used to go down to the boats on the docks that are no longer there. We thought where is he going? He reached down and pulled up a rope that was tied to one of the piers. On the other end were about six, big conch. He proceeded to pull the meat out of three of them and dispose of the yucky stuff. By the way, it all looked like yucky stuff. He handed me a piece and said, eat this. Excuse me? What is this? Is this the pee pee? No, he said. Even the Bahamians won't eat the penis of a conch. I was relieved and ate the piece he gave me. It actually had a slightly citrus taste to it and was slightly crunchy. He told us that it was the part they put in the salad - raw. It is seasoned with lime juice and is quite delicious.
So he brings the meat he harvested from the fresh conch, back to the kitchen for preparation. The next thing we hear is a tremendous amount of pounding and banging. I wasn't sure if they were building an addition onto the place or tenderizing our meals. At that point, I asked the bartender if he was Conchy Joe. He smiled a huge smile and a young Bahamian woman who was sitting at the bar started laughing. What's so funny? Did I say something dumb? He said his name was Marquis and the woman was his sister Maxine. There is no one named Conchy Joe. It is what you are. What?, I said. He then showed me his hand. On one side it was very black, on the other side it was very white. He explained that black Bahamians who have white relatives in their families have very dark skin on one side and light skin on the other and are called Conchy Joes. Check out the picture at the top of the post. That's me. OMG! I'm a Conchy Joe.
Oh yes, our meals were fantastic.
They play a game on Saturday night. Someone spins the ships wheel and where it stops either the house buys everyone a shot, or the starboard side of the bar buys the port side of the bar a shot or a bunch of other options that are designed to get you to eat the penis of the conch. Can't wait to return. Check out the photo gallery for some great conch photos.
After Don and Sue got their fill of rakin' and scrapin' at the Jib Room in Marsh Harbor, we headed over to Hopetown to show them one of the prettiest places in the Abacos. But this time we had a great opportunity to experience something that no one else gets to experience. The dockmaster at Hopetown Marina, where we stayed, was also the light keeper at the Hopetown lighthouse. This is a job that has been handed down from one generation to another for the 150 years that the lighthouse has been in existence. Sammy's father, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather had all been light keepers on the Cay. I asked Sammy if we could watch him light the light and he said "YES". We couldn't believe it. He said to come up the lighthouse at 7:30 pm and we could not only watch but help him. OMG!!!
The light is nothing more than a kerosene lamp. The wick is about three inches wide and is sprayed with a mixture of kerosene and air, like an aerosol. The wick has to be raised every two or three hours and the kerosene needs to be pumped up to a pressure of about 60 lbs. per square inch. In addition, the mechanism that rotates the light has to be cranked up every three hours. It's like a grandfather clock mechanism. A 700 pound deadweight is cranked to the top to the lighthouse and as gravity pulls it back down, it moves a series of gears that rotate the light 360 degrees. The Fresnel lenses that surround the lamp, magnifies the light to such an intensity that the light can be seen 17 miles away. This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about a lighthouse but I thought this was one of the best moments of our trip and one that we were very fortunate to get to witness.
We will stay in Hopetown for a few days and then head up to Great Guana Cay. Stay tuned for more adventures.
We left Man O' War Cay on Friday, March 29th and sailed over to Marsh Harbor to await the arrival of our friends Don and Sue from Granville, OH. We anchored in the harbor until Tuesday, April 2nd and then went over to Mangoes Marina. This cruising thing is amazing. Everywhere we go, we run into other cruisers we have met in other places. It's like long lost friends reuniting, sharing sea stories about places we've all been and what storm or crappy marina we've experienced. This time, we ran into Dwight and Carol from Toronto whom we haven't seen in a month, and Joe and Joy from Cleveland whom we keep seeing in various places since we've been in the Bahamas. Joe and Joy introduced us to Dominoes (not the pizza). The game is very addictive. We didn't do too badly for being newbies. The restaurant that we were playing in closed, but the owner said when we are done to just lock the door when we leave. Gotta love the Bahamas.
After Don and Sue arrived, we took them to the Jib Room at Marsh Harbor Marina, where we had a fantastic ribs dinner. Afterwards, helped along by a few vodka tonics, Peg took to the limbo pole and I decided to join the band for some rake and scrape on the saw. Don and Sue joined in also.
Check out the photo section if you want a real laugh.
We're going to stay in Marsh Harbor until Thursday, April 4th and then sail over to Hopetown for a few days. But first we need to resupply food, liquor, beer, wine (not necessarily in that order), and Don and I desperately need haircuts. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Dick and Peg/Marg.