04/22/2011, Jib Room picnic table
Abaco residents swimming alongside Jascat in the Sea of Abaco
With the departure of Bruce and Ruth, our stay in the Abacos has come to an end. We've had a great time touring the Abacos and entertaining our guests and being entertained by them, but all good things must come to an end. And besides, if we don't start now, we won't make it home to Texas before hurricane season.
Here are some of our favorite memories of the Abacos.
Best conch burger: Harbour View Restaurant in Hope Town (I actually didn't have a bad conch burger anywhere, Harbour View won because they served the best sweet potato fries with the burger)
Best fish wrap: Dock and Dine on Man-O-War
Best ribs, steak and sandwich (the Fish Ruben): Jib Room, Marsh Harbour Marina, Great Abaco
Best grouper gourmet meal: Curly Tails in Marsh Harbour followed very closely by the Green Turtle Marina Restaurant
Best story teller: Bill on s/v Tortuga (ask him about the wahoo they caught on one line while fending off a baracouda on another)
Best dock parties: the cruisers in Treasure Cay Marina
Best advice givers: Lou and Jean on s/v Pika
Best service providers: tie, Troy with Dive Guana and Jason and Steven with Marsh Harbour Marina
Favorite anchorage: the shoal off Delias Cay in Fishers Bay, Great Guana Cay
Favorite local flavor restaurant: The Wrecking Tree in New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay
Favorite coffee shop: The Daily Grind in Hope Town
Favorite marina (by a long shot): Marsh Harbor Marina, Great Abaco
Favorite snorkel site: Mermaid Reef, Great Abaco
Favorite Beach: Tahiti Beach
Favorite tourist sight: the Lighthouse in Hope Town
Favorite artifact: a 1783 New York newpaper containing George Washington's farewell address to his victorious army in the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum in Hope Town
Favorite barber (and beauty parlor): Catherine with Catherine's Beauty Parlor in Marsh Harbour
Favorite gift shop(s): tie, Sally's in Man-O-War and Ebb Tide in Hope Town
Favorite destination: Sunday thru Tuesday, Hope Town, Wednesday thru Saturday, some place else (the bars, Captain Jack's and Harbour View, saturate the harbor with loud music till midnight on those nights)
That concludes my thoughts on the Abacos. Later this morning we are leaving Marsh Harbour to start our trip home. We'll be taking a northern route back to Florida. The potential stopping spots are Manjack Cay, Cave Cay, Great Sale Cay, West End and finally, Lake Worth in Palm Beach, Florida. We'll be taking our time sight-seeing as we go so the trip may take anywhere from four days to a week.
04/22/2011, Conch Marina in Marsh Harbour
Enjoying "stories" while we wait for our steaks at the Jib Room
It doesn't seem like it's been nine days since we landed at Marsh Harbour airport to begin our trip with John and Ann through the Abaco's. As has happened to other guests, our luggage was left in Miami and didn't arrive until late the next afternoon - too late for us to begin sailing.
Our trip has been filled with new adventures for Bruce and me - rib night and steak night at the Jib Room; music and cocktails at Nippers; and sunsets that may rival those we see in the Texas Panhandle. One sad thing has been seeing the smoke from the fires on Great Abaco and the "death" of the reefs we snorkled with John and Ann. Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay was my favorite beach, especially watching the tide changes. We were fortunate enough to watch the tidal stages ending with an awesome full moon. We never awakened early enough for the sunrises, that I'm sure were just as awesome.
Ann and Bruce have made mouth-watering meals while aboard Jascat - pork tenderloin with new potatoes; shrimp scampi with grilled vegetables; grilled grouper with rice and fresh vegetables; chicken varacruze; and finally grilled snapper with stir-fired vegetables and rice.
At Man-O-War we walked across the island from Sea of Abaco to the Atlantic, which was amazing because the only other time Bruce and I have "walked" across an island was at Hobox in Mexico.
Our sail to Guana Cay was slightly rainy and this may have added to the beauty of the evenings sunset and provided clear skys for a beautiful moon rise that evening.
At Hope Town on Elbow Cay we climbed the Elbow Reef Lighthouse - as most of John and Ann's past guests have. Bruce and I enjoyed the Wyannie Malone Museum and I took lots of pictures of the quaint cottages with their unique names.
Today we made our way back to Marsh Harbour where we helped John and Ann prepare Jascat for their return trip to Texas and Bruce and I will make our last "tourist" purchases before we fly back to Texas.
Finally these points of view from a Texas Pahandler:
Sunsets in Abaco and the Texas Panhandle are both beautiful.
Waves on the Sea of Abaco remind me of the "amber waves of grain" in the Texas Panhandle.
"The stars are bright" both in Abaco and in the Texas Panhandle.
Mouth-watering "homemade" meals are delicious no matter where they are served.
Sharing stories around "kitchen tables" are always special times.
But most importantly - making new memories with family and friends will last a life time.
04/22/2011, Conch Marina in Marsh Harbour
More dinghy rush hour: Steak Night at the Jib Room
Our ever steadfast reader has complained that the blog has not been updated in a very long time. That's true. With back to back guests staying with us for the last two weeks, there just hasn't been time to write. The first pair of guests were our in-laws, Carol and Elliott. They were followed immediately by our friends, Bruce and Ruth. We did the Jascat Abaco Loop with each set, that is Guana/Nippers/Dive Guana, Man-O-War, Hope Town, Tahiti Beach, Rib and Steak Night at the Jib Room, and Mermaid Reef (though in a different order for each cruise). Both sets of guests had all or one piece of their luggage lost for a day by American Airlines. This continues the trend set by our first two sets of guests, our daughter Sarah and then our in-laws George and Fran, who also had luggage lost by American. This isn't world class service American Airlines.
Carol and Elliott arrived aboard Jascat just before a storm hit Marsh Harbour with 50 kt winds. We were safe and secure in our slip at Marsh Harbour Marina and just barely noticed the storm as we caught up with each others comings and goings. We stayed in the marina the next day to allow the winds to drop back to normal (we had to wait for Elliott's luggage anyway) and then the weather was perfect for the rest of their trip. The only inclement weather during Bruce and Ruth's trip was a little rain shower off Guana Cay their third day out but nobody got wet but Jascat.
More info on Bruce and Ruth's trip will be provided by Ruth in the next blog entry. Thanks a bunch Ruth for helping catch the blog up to date.
04/06/2011, The Abacos
Rush hour at the public dinghy dock in Hope Town Harbour
With the departure of George and Fran on March 28, Ann and I had a week to ourselves which we wanted to spend exploring the southern end of the Sea of Abaco. The main southern attraction is Little Harbour, which is at the southernmost tip of the Sea. Besides being a beautiful harbor to spend the night in (reputedly), Little Harbour is the home of a famous sculptor (now deceased) and some of his work is on display.
The weather forecast wasn't very favorable for heading south, however. Winds for the next several days were expected to be out of the south and strong, up into the mid 20's. Tacking our way down there against heavy winds would be really tough work.
We considered adjusting our destination to fit the wind direction but nothing quite worked. The most logical destination was to make a downwind run to Guana but the harbors over there were expected to be a zoo. Nippers was hosting the "Barefoot Man" concert that weekend which attracts cruisers from far and wide (see www.barefootman.com). Every available anchorage would be crowded.
The other feasible destinations had their own drawbacks so we decided to set out south as originally planned and just see how far we could get. The plan was to tack our way down to Tahiti Beach just south of White Sound on Elbow Cay, anchor there for the night, and decide the next morning if the conditions would allow us to continue on.
Before you can go south from Marsh Harbour, however, you have to go ENE to get around a peninsula that stretches out from Marsh Harbour to an island called Matt Lowes Cay. This we did in a near beam reach in 15 to 20 knots of SE wind. Tacking around Matt Lowes Cay, we set up close hauled to make as much southing as we could. This took us down the south side of the peninsula to a point west of Sugar Loaf Cay (and only a couple of miles SE of Marsh Harbour but on the other side of the peninsula of course). Tacking again, we set up close hauled on the other tack running back east toward White Sound on Elbow Cay. On reaching a point just north of the entrance to White Sound, we dropped the sails, fired up the engine and motored the mile or so down to Tahiti Beach where we anchored.
Our afternoon and night at Tahiti Beach were very pleasant. Although the SE wind was still blowing strong, the large sandbar that forms the beach kept the sea calm in the anchorage. In the afternoon the wind abated a bit so we snorkeled to the beach to search for a pair of flip-flops that Ann left there the last time we visited the beach (they were gone). Passing by the anchor on the way to the beach, we noted that the anchor was buried so deep in the sand that only the shaft was showing. We slept very well that night.
The next morning the wind was still howling out of the south and neither of us felt tough enough to continue tacking into it. We did consider motoring down to Little Harbour, and actually motored out past Tavern Cay to check out the conditions, but the seas were too rough to make that a pleasant option. Reluctantly, we turned back north and headed up to Hope Town with the intention of anchoring off Eagle Rock, which is next to the entrance to Hope Town Harbour. On our previous trips to Hope Town, we have always gone into the harbor and taken up a $20/night mooring buoy. Being the cheap-skate I am, I'd been wanting to try out the free option.
Arriving at Hope Town, however, the anchorage off Eagle Rock was rough. The wind was showing signs of shifting around to the west which is the open side of the anchorage. C hosing discretion over parsimony, we motored into the harbour and took up a mooring buoy.
Hope Town is always a great place to visit. We grocery shopped, drank excellent coffee at the Java Coffee Shop, shopped for ear rings (Ann), and dined at the Harbour Edge Restaurant where I can attest that the Conch Burger is delectable.
The next morning the weather conditions we could observe from the harbor appeared to be improved. The wind at least seemed to be back down into the upper teens. Early on many boats were on their way out of the harbor presumably to hop over to Guana for the big concert. We had already decided to head back to Marsh Harbour which is only a couple of hours away so we were in no hurry to leave. A check of the weather forecast while relaxing at the coffee shop verified our assessment of the wind conditions and even improved on it - the winds were supposed to drop to around 15 kts in the afternoon.
As we left Hope Town around noon, we were expecting to sail back to Marsh Harbour in moderate west winds. We even discussed that since we would have to tack to get to Marsh Harbour anyway, we might as well sail past Guana to see if the anchorages were as crowded as we expected them to be. As soon as we cleared the harbor entrance, however, we could see that the forecast for moderating winds was completely wrong. The wind was out of the west but it was blowing 25 kts. The seas, however, were not bad at all, only about 2 to 3 feet.
The first decision that we came to as we motored out into the wind and waves was that we didn't want to raise the sails. There was too much wind for a short handed crew like us to tack into. This was the kind of weather for 3 young, athletic guys who think they're invincible. We could have turned around and gone back into the harbor but the boat felt very steady running into the waves so we decided to keep on motoring to Marsh Harbour.
This worked fine for the next 30 minutes or so. The wind was limiting us to 4.5 to 5 kts cruising speed (in calm air and water, Jascat makes about 6 kts under power) but we were making comfortable progress. As we neared Matt Lowe Cay, however, the wind began to increase eventually rising to a peak of 34 kts. This cut our cruise speed down to less than 4 kts and we began to start thinking about finding some place to get out of the wind.
Fortunately a good option lay right in front of us on Matt Lowe Cay. The eastern side of the Cay just below Point Set Rock offers excellent protection from western winds. So we tucked in there and anchored in about 4 feet of water. The annemometer located at the top of the mast was still indicating winds above 25 kts but down on deck, due to the screen provided by the shore, the winds were quite comfortable and the sea nearly calm. We had an excellent late lunch and watched the weather deteriorate further. A squall came through drenching the bay as we napped. After the squall passed on, the wind and rain subsided and the sun came out. We pulled up the anchor and finished the motor back into Marsh Harbour. Thus ended a very pleasant three day excursion even though virtually nothing went according to plan.
04/06/2011, The Abacos
Ann, John, George, Frances at Hope Town lighthouse
3/26 Saturday: Saturday morning we motored down to Tahiti Beach, which is a small beach and a large sandspit exposed at low tide. We had seen the spot on charts and had passed by, but had never stopped. It was really fun. (John and Ann came back on a later trip and spent the night. The holding was good and the beach and water views very what cruising is all about.). George, Frances and Ann dinghied to the beach but John snorkeled his way there, and George and John snorkeled their way back. I took off my flipflops and left them on the beach (at low tide) to walk around. Then I got back in the dinghy and went back to the boat. It was 3 days later before I missed them. I guess that shows how seldom we need shoes. We sailed back to Marsh Harbour, skipped steak night (at the Jib Room) in favor of grilled mahi on board. It was awesome.
3/27 Sunday: There was a morning snorkel for all at Mermaid Reef. Lunch at Mangoes. Afternoon snorkel for George at Mermaid Reef. Lobster grilled by Frances. Awesome! Frances had never even eaten lobster much less cooked it. We looked up on the internet how to prepare our lobster.
3/28 Monday: Departure. No time for another swim on Mermaid reef, but it is definitely our favorite.
04/06/2011, The Abacos
Hope Town Harbour, Atlantic Ocean beyond
3/25 Friday: We sailed from Man O War to Hope Town and took a mooring buoy. 1st stop was to tour the lighthouse, which is one of 3 keresone lighthouses remaining in the world. The view were awesome, as in the above photo. We had lunch back on the Boat and then went ashore again. We saw the Wynnie Malone museum for the first time, and then toured shops, had ice cream, and bought Mahi and Lobster from Mr. Albury. (Mr. Albury has a little building out behind his house with two refrigerators, a scale and a calculator. From 2-6pm he sells fresh fish and whatever extra vegetables he has out of his garden. He says he's slowing down; he doesn't fish as much anymore, only 4 days a week. I think he is getting fish from other people too. So far I've bought Mahi, Wahoo, Lobster, beans, and cabbage from him. He also has grouper, Rock Crabs, and couple of other fishes. The first time you go is a little intimidating, because the signs are hand lettered and you are going into his back yard. Luckily he saw me and invited me to come on in. Now I get fish there almost everytime we are in Hope Town.) The 4 of us went back ashore later for dinner at Captain Jacks. We really enjoyed our dinner, but won't ever be in Hope Town Harbour on Friday night again. In fact, John is mad at Captain Jacks and probably won't eat there again. Captian Jacks had loud music from about 9 till past midnight and that competed with the loud music from some private event at the Harbours Edge Restaurant. You have to know which bars have music which nights, and plan your anchorages accordingly.