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Once in a lifetime adventure
Abaco Sunset
04/29/2012, Big Guana Cay, Abaco

A shot of our dingy on the beach at Fishers Bay at sunset. Foolish Heart is somewhere out there on the horizon.

05/10/2012 | becky
beautiful shot!
05/11/2012 | Kath
Love the shots, keep 'em coming. Hope your trip back up north is going well. Can't wait to see you!
Abaco Sailing
04/29/2012, Sea of Abaco

Foolish Heart making way in the Sea of Abaco. Thanks to Paddy on New Moon for the picture!

The Abaco Shuffle
Kevin / raining 70
04/29/2012, Hope Town, Abaco

We entered the Sea of Abaco on March 20th, after about nine weeks in the Exuma Island chain. Talking with cruisers in the Exumas, many would say to us: "You don't want to go to the Abacos, it's like Florida EAST." Now that we've spent over a month in the Abacos, many of the cruisers here have told us: "You liked the Exumas? There's nothing there! What did you do all that time?" Well to be honest, it's like comparing apples to oranges. Both very different, but both with their advantages and disadvantages. Both are fantastic in their own ways.

The Exumas were remote, with the clearest water I have ever seen. There are very few places to get fuel, food, water, and protection from the wind if it comes from any direction except the east. As a cruiser, you are somewhat on your own, and you better be ready for what nature throws at you. And that is what makes them so great. You're only a couple of hundred miles south of Miami, and you find yourself in a tropical paradise where you can run naked on the beaches if you desire. (I declined to run naked on the beach, because I didn't wish to scare the wildlife.) Sitting in the cockpit of Foolish Heart watching the sunset in complete isolation, these are memories I will hold onto the rest of my life.

Once in Abaco, things change quite a bit. The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the water. While it still is beautiful, and there are many places you can see the bottom as you sail by, it just lacks much of the "pop" you see in the Exumas. I don't mean to be complaining here - I'm just stating my observations. If the water in the Chesapeake Bay was half as clear as here in the Abacos, it would be a wonderful thing indeed.

Great Abaco Island is about 150 miles off the coast of south Florida, and is around 200 miles long. On its eastern side, a series of islands and reefs extend to create a protected sea where you can sail even when conditions out in the ocean are not favorable. Unlike the Exumas, most of these islands are inhabited, and have small towns or settlements which are entertaining to explore. There are quite a few resorts, hotels, beach bars, grocery stores, and gift shops to check out. A ferry service out of Hope Town which is the third largest "city" in the Bahamas on Great Abaco will take you back and forth to these islands for a nominal fee. The great thing about this geographical layout is that no matter what direction the wind blows, you've got an island you can sail to.

Dorothy and I have spent the past 5 weeks crisscrossing the Sea of Abaco, following the winds and visiting islands and settlements numerous times.

While in Fishers Bay on Great Guana Cay, we witnessed a large Spotted Eagle Ray twice jump completely out of the water - the first jump he came out of the water maybe two feet. Seconds later he breached again, this time clearing at least four to five feet in the air. He was only a few feet from the transom of our boat, and Dorothy and I just couldn't believe what we had just seen. Some other cruisers say they do this to attract or impress potential mates. I guess spring is in the air...

A couple of weeks ago we made a dive on the reef off of Fowl Cay, which is a protected preserve here in Abaco. Shortly after entering the water, we descended to about twenty feet where a large Nassau Grouper decided to adopt us for about fifteen minutes. He followed Dorothy around like a lost puppy, and at one point he approached to within maybe six to ten inches from my face mask. I guess he was used to being hand fed by divers, and was just looking for a handout, but he did really seem to like Dorothy. Maybe he was looking for a mate? Again, spring is in the air!

Hope Town is a very cool town on Elbow Cay only six or seven miles from Great Abaco. The houses there are painted every shade of pastels you could image, tiny structures that have survived over a hundred years of hurricanes. The streets are only wide enough for a golf cart to pass, the preferred mode of transportation here. Overlooking the harbor is a lighthouse which dates back to 1863. It uses a small kerosene fueled mantle with a massive rotating fresnel lens to send light twenty miles out into the sea. I have been told it is only one of three lighthouses of its type left in the world. Each time Dorothy and I visit Hope Town, we visit the light house and climb the 101 steps to the top for a view of the harbor. Yesterday for exercise, we ran up the steps three times.

Man O War Cay is only a one hour sail from Marsh Harbor. It is an island inhabited by descendants of British Loyalist who came here during the American Revolutionary War. The town is much like Hope Town, with small golf cart streets and brightly painted homes, although a bit less touristy in flavor. Most locals greet you on the street as you walk past, giving the town a very friendly vibe. While Dorothy's dad,Tom was here, we sailed over for the day and grabbed a mooring near the downtown area. I tracked the owner of the mooring down to pay him, and he refused my cash. "Are you here spending money in town?" I replied that we were, and he said that was good enough. That's pretty much the way it goes here - the locals are very friendly and just seem to be happy living in such a beautiful place.

It's just been an incredible experience sailing from one island to the next, following the wind. This is our fourth visit to Hope Town, where we have come to duck in from some bad weather forecast for the next few days. We literally have hundreds of stories, the places we've been, locals and cruisers met, adventures under sail, and interactions with wildlife.

In the next week, we will look for a window to "Cross the Whale." The Whale is an island where you must enter the ocean for a couple of miles, then cross back into the Sea of Abaco. It effectively divides the Sea of Abaco into a north and south section. We hope to spend three to four weeks sailing the north sea of Abaco before starting our way home. It is a bit less populated then the south sea, and we expect to have a bit more privacy during our travels there.

It's hard to believe this adventure is winding down. We both have obligations waiting for us back in Maryland, things to do, getting on with our professional lives. Our estimated time of arrival back home is for late June, almost two months away. Yes, that's a long time to be on "vacation", but the fact remains we have to start planning on our reintegration into reality: life and careers back in the good ol' USA. For something I've dreamed of and worked towards for so long, knowing that the end is coming, at times makes me feel a bit blue.

So for time being, I am going to try my best to focus on the now. To enjoy every moment, to extract every bit of fun out of the Bahamas I can muster, to dance like no one is watching. I may never get an opportunity like this again. I hate to quote a beer commercial, but "You gotta go for the gusto." And that is what I plan to do.

I encourage you to follow your dreams, what ever they may be. It's a short life we have here. Go for it.

Until next time...

Beach Crew
04/24/2012, Man O War Cay, Abacos

Dorothy's Dad, Tom visits the crew of Foolish Heart this past week. Here we are on the beach at Man O War Cay.

Tom pilots Foolish Heart
04/24/2012, Sea of Abaco

Tom "Big Daddy Hock" takes the wheel of Foolish Heart as we sail from Man O War Cay back to Marsh Harbor after a day of sightseeing.

Big Daddy comes to town
04/24/2012, Sea of Abaco

Dorothy's Dad, Tom came to spend a week with us in the Abacos. We needed a new VHF handheld radio, so we had it sent to his house in Baltimore before he left. Good thing, because the phone system was down when he go here, and the only way we had to communicate was through the VHF. We dubbed him "Big Daddy" and that's how we called him every morning at his villa. "Big Daddy, Big Daddy, this is Foolish Heart" All the cruisers we knew wanted to know who Big Daddy was! Here we are in front of Nippers Bar & Grill on Great Guana Cay.

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Who: Kevin Irwin, Dorothy Irwin
Port: Havre De Grace, Maryland
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