02/03/2012, Marsh Harbour
Endangered Bahamas Parrot
It's been quite a while since we've posted an update and that's mostly due to the fact that we've been docked in Marsh Harbor for the past several weeks. We are staying at the Mangoes Marina and it's been very enjoyable. Mangoes is one of three or four marinas in Marsh Harbor and, as it's on the west side of the harbor, it's very convenient to shopping of all kinds. There are several grocery stores, including Maxwell's, a true supermarket, two marine stores, two hardware stores, bakeries, gift shops, at least two dive shops and four or five liquor stores. We've been able to get just about everything we need here, including a "lookie bucket", an item very useful here...but something we've never seen at home. The ferry to Guana Cay ties up at the next dock...an easy way to get to Nippers for the Sunday pig roast and the ferry docks to the other cays are only a short distance from here.
After all the 'get up and go' of our early trip, it's been nice to be in one place for a while. We pulled the bikes out of the 'garage' (aka the aft stateroom) and have put a quite a few miles on them. We've found a number of restaurants that we enjoy and a big surprise was Matilda's...a small take out place which served one of the best burgers I've ever had. We've really enjoyed the Wednesday 'rib night' at the Jib Room across the harbor, at the Marsh Harbor Marina, and have been several times. We've also met lots of very nice people here in Marsh Harbor. On Saturday nights, our full-time, live-aboard neighbors, Mars and Melanie, organize 'movie night' which is always fun and interesting. We've been snorkeling at Mermaid Reef, just around the corner from the harbor entrance. So, all in all, we've had lots to keep us busy and entertained here in Marsh Harbor.
On the 15th of January, we hopped in the dinghy, all set to cross the harbor and visit with our friends Gail and Hans on Badjaw. The only problem was that engine wouldn't start. After trying all the suggested trouble-shooting fixes, it became clear that a professional was required. On the recommendation of Hans, we contacted James at the Abaco Suzuki shop. Mars and Melanie graciously offered us the use of their Boston Whaler to tow our dink to the new public dinghy dock, where we took our engine off and brought it to the shop, just across the street. In the 45 or so minutes it took us tow our dinghy back, return the Whaler and walk back to the Suzuki shop, James had our engine apart and diagnosed: the ignition coil had failed and it needed to be replaced. While we waited for the part to arrive from the states, James was kind enough to loan us a small, 2 hp, outboard for use while our engine was in the shop which was wonderful as we had plans to head off for a bit. We now have our engine back and it's running like a top.
During the week of Jan. 16 - 22, we left Marsh Harbor and returned to Hope Town and Great Guana. While in Hope Town we did some of the things we hadn't been able to do on earlier visits. We climbed the light house and took the obligatory picture of Ceili in the harbor and we rented a golf cart and drove out to Tahiti Beach, a very beautiful spot. On our way there, near the Abaco Inn, we passed earth movers pushing sand up from the beach in an attempt to shore up the road, damaged in a recent storm. The road at that point is a little scary as it's narrow and there's quite a drop off, with only wooden pallets strung out along the edge
Yesterday, we rented a van with our friends Gail, Hans, Jane and Peter and drove down to Abaco National Park hoping to catch a glimpse of the Abaco parrot (A. leucocephala bahamensis). The Bahama Amazon once lived in Abaco, New Providence, San Salvador, Long Island, Crooked Island, Acklins and Great Inagua but today are rare and only found in Abaco and Great Inagua. Because they build their nests in the ground, the birds are vulnerable to predation by feral cats and dogs, snakes, crabs and other animals and heavy rains can flood the nests,drowning the birds. Habitat loss and capture for pets and for sale have also been a large factors in the decline of their population. Since 1952, these beautiful birds have been protected by the By the Wild Bird Protection Act and, in 1994, the Bahamian government set aside 20,000 acres in South Abaco to create Abaco National Park to help preserve the Bahama Amazon. Their primary habitat is in the Abaco National Park which is in Abaco's south east quarter and along the unpaved road to Abaco's other Lighthouse at Hole in the Wall. We were thrilled to see at least 8 of them snoozing in a palm tree.
In Cherokee Sound, we met some conch fishermen waiting for the mail boat from Nassau to arrive. Their catch of conch was sitting was sitting on the dock in a big pile; shells pierced and tied together by nylon rope. We learned that conch can live 2 days out of water as long as they are drenched in salt water periodically. A rain storm would kill them all quickly.
On the way home we grabbed dinner at Pete's Pub in Little Harbor.
All in all, this has been a lovely few weeks!
Another Album has been added "Hopertown and Great Guana"
01/01/2012, Marsh Harbour, Abacos
Strategies For Maintaining Connectivity In the Bahamas
When in the US, we primarily relied upon Verizon cellular and wireless (Verizon MiFi) to stay connected. However, Verizon coverage does not extend to the Bahamas. Once across the Gulf Stream, we lost our phone and internet service. We have discovered that there are several options available for cruisers to remain connected while in the Bahamas.
CELL PHONE: BaTelCo offers a prepaid phone service that provides a local phone number, and the ability to receive and make calls within the Bahamas and to/from the US. We purchased a phone for $30, a Sim Card for $17, and can now make local calls for .33/min, and calls to the US for around $1.00/min. Because of the cost, we use this phone mostly as an emergency phone where we can be reached directly if needed. For routine calls, we prefer SKYPE when internet service is available.
SKYPE: When we are connected to the internet, SKYPE is a less costly option to call the US at around .02/min. It works both with the computer as well as the Iphone, and call quality is nearly equal to cellular.
INTERNET: Most marinas have WiFi, but the signals tend to be weak even at the dock. A high-powered antenna, such as the Bullet HP-2, is mandatory for connecting to these sites. There are very few unsecured hotspots. However, Bahamas wide wireless internet is available through Bahamas WiMax or OutIsland Wireless, and is the only reliable option when away from a dock. Typical costs for this service is around $150/2months, and is less expensive with longer contracts. Subscription to one of these services will provide service to most anchorages, again with the help of a a signal booster.
RADIO: A SSB receiver is essential for receiving detailed weather broadcasts and monitoring the cruiser nets. A SSB transmitter is useful for keeping in touch with other boats at longer distances, and for backup emergency communications when outside VHF/cell range. VHF cruiser nets in places like Marsh Harbor are the primary means for communicating local weather, events, and messages.
OTHER: We have a NAVTEX receiver (Furuno NX-300), which is a good backup for weather information, and basically duplicates what is available on SSB and the internet. Since it constantly receives and stores individual reports, the data is always available if we miss a scheduled SSB broadcast.
Ceili Moored in Hope Town Harbour, near Hope Town Light
We arrived in Hope Town Thursday, after a short trip from Man O' War Cay. It is a well protected harbor with an interesting history.
"Transient fishermen, wreckers, and pirates knew of Hope Town's well protected Harbour and undoubtedly made use of it during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but there was no permanent settlement at Hope Town until after the American Revolution (1775-1783). Those who opposed this war for independence and favored continued association with Great Britain was called loyalists, and they were not welcomed in the new United States. Several groups of these political refugees arrived in Abaco in 1783 and 1784; they established settlements on Great Abaco Island which they hoped would grow into great mercantile centers.
This dream was not to be, but in 1785 a small group of the refugees settled in Hope Town. Wyannie Malone and her four children, formerly of Charleston, South Carolina, were among them, and the loyalists were soon joined by migrants from Harbour Island, Eleuthera, an older Bahamian settlement. An economy based on subsistence fishing as well as farming made the settlement viable, though it was certainly not prosperous. It did become the most significant settlement in Southern Abaco, and it was a seat for local government in Abaco until 1959.
During Hope Town's slow but steady growth during much of the nineteenth century, its economy was supplemented by the salvaging of cargoes from ships which wrecked on Elbow Reef lying just east of the town. Some wrecks brought relative prosperity for a few months, but then the town returned to subsistence fishing and farming. Wrecking ceased to be important after the construction of the Hope Town lighthouse in 1863. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century's many of Hope Town's residents became engaged in producing goods for export to the United States. These included pineapples during the 1880's and later sisal and sponges and lumber; the population of the town grew to about one thousand persons. Each of these commodities seemed, at first, to be the economic salvation of the town, but then simply provided sustenance for a period of years before being eclipsed by some new activity. During World War I inflated freight rated led to the construction of large schooners in Hope Town, culminating with the launching of the 150-foot Abaco, Bahamas in 1922. Unfortunately, freight rates declined after the end of World War I, and the vessel was uneconomic by the time it was launched. Hope Town failed to become a center for shipping, but the 1920's were years which brought change to the lives of the people of Hope Town.
In 1923 a diesel-powered mail boat provided Hope Town with its first motorized mail and freight service to Nassau, and in 1924 a wireless station at Hope Town provided the settlement with its first direct communications link with the outside world. Despite these modernization, Hope Town's economy remained depressed, and many persons, especially young people, left the town to find work in Nassau or in Florida. It was not until after the depression and World War II that Hope Town gained new viability as a tourist destination. First yachtsmen came. Some of them purchased land and built winter retreats. Later small tourists resorts were built and in 1959 the opening of an airport on Great Abaco Island made Hope Town much more accessible for tourists from the United States. Hope Town's present prosperity is based, in large part, on the continuing growth of tourism, but during the 1980's there were still men in Hope Town who fished from Abaco dinghies for a living.
Residential electric service and telephones came to Hope Town only during the last half of the twentieth century, and motorized traffic is still limited on its streets in the twenty first century. Hope Town remains, for the most part, a walking town. Clearly much of the past survives in Hope Town alongside the new and the modern, making Hope Town a very unique and charming place."
On Thursday night, we were able to join locals, tourists and cruisers singing Christmas carols from door to door in town. A local dish, Souse, was provided after the caroling outside the local clinic. This is a chicken stew with Bahamian spices, and is quite good(see Links for recipe). Yesterday, we explored the town, and spent some time Christmas shopping. Two small shops provide all of the local goods, and shopping was quite easy. Yesterday, a shipment of food and alcohol arrived from Marsh Harbor via surplus navy LST, and so we also dropped by the local grocery and liquor store as well. We plan to have Christmas dinner at the Abaco Inn tomorrow.
We have posted a new photo album "Hope Town".