04/22/2013, Treasure Cay
Treasure Cay has one of the worlds' most gorgeous beaches and we were excited to be able to spend some time here after leaving Guana Cay. Envision white powdery sand that goes on for miles, shallow light aquamarine waters that extend out, bright yellow and palm beach umbrellas, a beach volleyball court, swaying palm trees, and a restaurant on the beach On our first trip to Treasure Cay we were only able to stay a couple of days because we were heading back home and so were eager to have more time to truly enjoy this beautiful Cay.
After a glorious first day in Treasure Cay - we anchored in the harbor and paid our $10.00 a day for the next three days which allowed us full access to the pool, showers, bar, and nearby beach. What a fantastic deal. We excitedly ran across to the beach to begin to "take in all in"! Wiley swam without his wetsuit though it was a bit chilly.
However, we would not end up "treasuring" our nine day stay.
The next morning upon waking up I had a respiratory attack and could barely catch my breath. It felt like an asthma attack - but after resting for a short time we thought some time on the beach would be just what I needed. I went for a brief snorkel and Wiley swam. The water was its usual beautiful aquamarine even though the visibility was poor. We checked out the local stores and the bakery.
The following night a strong storm was predicted to come through, the air was calm, hot, and humid. Everything in the boat felt damp and sticky. This is when Wiley's thermostat and mine do not align. I want constant fresh air blowing around me and he keeps saying that it is not too hot - and if your hot just jump in the water! The man truly has gills and loves being wet - sticky saltwater and all. While he is jumping into the water I am on turtle and dolphin watch after showering with fresh water on the boat.
At around 4 am the storm came through and the boat was closed up - once again I had a tremendous amount of difficulty breathing and felt panicky as I grabbed at our battery operated fans to get air. There had been a prediction of possible 75 mph gusts during the storm and frightened by this prospect, not being able to breathe, and being closed up in the boat all caused great anxiety on my part. We had debated whether to try to come into the marina or stay at anchor and felt that it might be worse to be blown into pilings rather than be at anchor. During the storm, I kept asking Wiley if we were going to be okay and he lovingly sat with me holding my hand while I gasped to breathe as the strong winds blew our little boat all around. The storms winds never got to the 75 mph gust - but instead gusts went to 32mph - which was plenty. There was thunder, lightening, and we were swinging around on the hook like a yo-yo held by the end of string. It finally calmed down as well as my ability to breath - though a nasty cough began to develop.
We attempted once again to spend time at the beautiful 3 mile white powdery beach. Wiley went back to the boat to get his wetsuit to swim but upon his return I told him that I felt so lousy that I wanted to go to the marina office and find a doctor or pharmacy. They referred me to the wonderful clinic a short walk from the marina. I saw a nurse practitioner was prescribed prednisone and an antibiotic.
We returned to the boat and I immediately took the medicine ... to make a long story longer....I had an allergic reaction to the prednisone and turned an itchy and lovely shade of reddish purple. After loosing three nights of sleep, I knew I would not get better staying on the boat . If I could not sleep then this meant (in our little boat) Wiley would not be sleeping either. So, the next morning I dragged my old weary reddish hacking body over to the hotel and signed in. I stopped the prednisone and kept on the antibiotics and spent 3 days/nights at the hotel watching television and sleeping. Wiley wanted me to fly home immediately upon seeing that I had become ill but the idea of flying, leaving him with the boat, and all that this would entail seemed like a nightmare. I must say, I am spoiled - having access to wonderful medical care at home and it is scary to be sick and in another country - even one as close as the Bahamas.
As expected as each day past I felt a little better and one night they had pizza and live music at the marina restaurant. People come from all over for this Thursday fun and there was a long line of about 25 people ordering pizza and all of the tables were filled. You can imagine Chicagoans' craving pizza - so we went for it! We discovered it was as Wiley said, "Twice as expensive as pizza back home and 1/2 as good!" However, since Wiley was "bacheloring" on the boat (sardine sandwiches, canned chili, etc.) while I in the hotel had pretty much lost my appetite the pizza tasted pretty good.
So, our vision of a great time at Treasure Cay was not so this time and once again we hope that on our way back we will be able to truly enjoy this beautiful spot. We decided that after nine nights in Treasure Cay it was time to 'sail on' and our next stop would be in Marsh Harbor where we could stock up on groceries and other necessities.
The quiet of the Bahamas has set in. There is no television nor radio. We listen to our Ipods on our stereo and have each other to talk to. Now remember we have been married for almost 41 years so those conversations are often repeats ... so we simply now say, "You know story number 36 - okay?" "Got it - no need to repeat!" So what do we do to entertain ourselves in the Bahamas. Well for starters - (Wiley especially) we worry about all of the things that we can do, will do, or might do wrong. This starts with our decision to leave Green Turtle and head to the South Abacos.
The caravan of boats leaving Green Turtle to go through the "Whale" confirmed our decision that we picked the right time to go. Wiley had called on the radio to check and see if anyone had gone through earlier that morning and a captain responded that "it is the best he's seen". The "Whale" is known to have 'rages' that are caused by weather coming across the Atlantic and bouncing off of Whale Cay. This often rough area of water requires going out of the Little Bahama Bank into the Atlantic and then turning back into the Abacos. Jill and Steve Forsythe whom we met at West End on Teotwawki decided to join us, along with a long parade of other boats coming and going through. There were at least a dozen boats going toward the South Abacos (SV/ Carolina Moon, SV/ Soteria, were just a couple of the other boats and captains we had met in Green Turtle) and of course there was another dozen boats coming toward Green Turtle. It was a sailing freeway. It was an uneventful trip though it had 5- 6 foot rolls and a light chop. Our little boat's mast was swinging back and forth like the other boats we were accompanying we just did it a little more often. Boats would come up and disappear from view into the swells.
After getting through this section we sailed (actually motored - once again the wind was "on our nose" so we could not sail) to Guana Cay where we picked up a mooring ball in Settlement Harbor. Jill and Steve followed us on their 42 foot boat and also picked up a mooring ball a little further into the anchorage. We were concerned that they might go aground so we switched moorings with them - a little keystone cops in the harbor.
We arrived in time to have sundowners at Grabbers restaurant. We also discovered that there was an Easter Egg (snorkeling) Hunt held by Nippers at their Sunday pig roast. While walking around Guana we noticed a small church and could hear beautiful chorals. I mentioned that we might want to attend in the morning - and as they say on the boat radio "nothing heard" - no response from Wiley. Jill came over in her dinghy in the morning and that just the two of would go to the Easter Sunday service. The message was to count your blessings and the minister mostly focused on telling jokes that usually had nothing to do with his sermon - such as the old joke about a young girl asking an old married woman how she was able to have such a peaceful marriage. The woman told her the story about how her husband took her in a wagon pulled by a donkey to their honeymoon spot. The donkey was stubborn and would just stop and her husband would count each time he had to force the mule to move. He counted off, "That's one! That's Two!" When he got to the third time he counted "That's three!" and shot the donkey. His new bride was so dismayed she yelled at him and could not believe he was so horrible. He turned and looked at her and said, "That's one!" - Jill and I could not help but look at each other and burst out laughing wondering what that story had to do with counting your blessings. The church had a small - all white congregation with a black minister who is originally from Nassau. The service included pre-recorded music as well as two women vocalist (whom we had heard earlier). It was an interesting experience and most of the lessons offered were to "do good" and not let the devil take over you or you will go to hell! After the service Jill decided to join me and become a Unitarian.
We decided to go the pig roast at Nippers for our Easter dinner. Nippers is a party place with 2 pools. It is right on the beach and there is always lots of loud music and many drinks being served at their large bar. The young and young at heart of the Abacos love to come here to party. The egg hunt was on and a lot of young kids were out snorkeling to try to find the eggs and win prizes. It was packed with lots of people from all over the Abacos.
We were missing family and went back to the boat to call family and were delighted to hear everyone's voices. Wiley and I walked back later during the day to go snorkeling on the beautiful reef right off of the beach. Upon returning to the boat we discover that a number of boats have gone aground and some young captains were having great difficulty getting their boats off -since they have had a few too many refreshments at Nippers. We couldn't help but watch their many attempts to power their boats off. There was a lot of shouting, slurring of words, sand and water being thrown by the motors. We were glad we would not be on the water with them once they get off. Additionally, we watch as a private helicopter takes off from Orchid Bay Marina across from where we are moored - an easy way to party and island hop if you can afford it!
So no television or radio is really needed. Our Bahamaian entertainment goes from rolling along in the waves, playing keystone cops with our boats, watching the sun set from the beach, listening to old stories, watching the results of being a "tad over served" and the tide going out, and learning how the rich play. All of which results in our having more stories to number to add to our married retells. We can imagine someday being "in the home" where our children are always threatening to put us and saying do you remember story number 47 - the one when we were in the Abacos- Guana Cay?
04/22/2013, Green Turtle
We stayed at the Green Turtle Resort and Marina just like last year. This is the place where whatever you spend at their restaurant and bar comes off your dock fee. Our new friends Steve and Jill, on Teotwawki stayed across the sound at Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina. They stayed the same number of nights we did - seen but got a much better deal, because our stay cost us about 3 x's what they spent. They got a discount because of belonging to the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club (which is something we will do!) and they cooked on their boat much more than we did. Of course, they have a much larger galley with an oven and freezer. However, this may illustrate the great economic principal of some sort - if you think something is free, you use too much of it. In short, we ate too much and drank too much - but must admit we had a good time of it.
We had already experienced Green Turtle last year, so nothing was really new. We looked forward to revisiting last years' haunts - we went snorkeling off the Atlantic beach, and it was beautiful once again. Aquamarine waters, dappled with dark green reefs, and deep ocean blues run out toward the horizon. All the reef fish showed up! We took our dingy, Dimples, to visit Steve and Jill at their marina as well as over to New Plymouth. New Plymouth was as charming as ever. However, we missed seeing Vertrom Aubury who owns a little shop that makes sailing ship models. He had taken ill and been transported to Marsh Harbor, so his shop was closed. (We found out later that he is going to be okay.)
Merry struck up a conversation with an older lady who presides behind the counter at the little hardware store. She told us that her mother had been a teacher at the little school in town, for fifty four years! She said that a bust in the Memorial Sculpture Garden was dedicated to her mother. We promptly went there and found her mother's sculpture. The plaque confirmed her mother's more than 1/2 century of service as a teacher at the little school (beginning at age 12 as a monitor), and it also stated that she had been awarded the British Empire Medeal for her service - a very big deal indeed! What was remarkable was that the sculpture looked exactly like the lady at the hardware store.
Fifty-four years of experience in a profession is certainly remarkable - and with Merry being in the profession for about 30 years she was more than amazed.
Back at the marina, we met two couples who had much more experience sailing than we do. One couple owned a big expensive Benateau Yacht, and the other an ocean going Endeavor 31. They seemed to look down upon our little 30 footer. At one point, I was telling them that I had never seen any rust on Les Miserables fittings over 20 years on Lake Michigan, but started to see rust on the boarding ladder, and some of the bolts holding the toerail to the deck by the time we got to Florida last year, to which "Mrs. Endeavor 32 responded with obvious condensation, "Well, there are different grades of stainless steel.". yeah, and we must of course, be the low grade. They seemed unimpressed by us as well, since any experience we had that we told them about was NOTHING compared to this, that or the other thing they had done. Of course, they are correct. Neither us, nor Les Miserables, amounts to much in the sailing world. We are just a 30 foot family weekend coastal cruiser that muddled its way 2,200 miles from Winthrop harbor Illinois on Lack Michigan to the Bahamas.
On the other end of the experience scale were a young group of forty something (almost 50) who had come from Florida on a mostly open, fast power boat (it had three 350 HP outboard engines!) We met them at the marina bar on "steak night" which features a Bahamian musical group. We had lots of time to talk, because it took 2 hours before we could get a table (this is part of being in the Bahamas - there is never a rush). This wait was a bit embarrassing because we talked Steve and Jill into coming over to have dinner with us, in part by bragging about how great the service was! Steve and Jill joined us in listening with rapt attention as the power boaters explained that they had never taken any kind of boating or navigation course. They had just bought the boat and set out. Their boat was equipped with a Chart plotter GPS like ours, but they did not know to set up GPS waypoints. They did not have any charts - which they called "maps" on board. They had a tough time getting across from Florida, because they came across when there were fairly strong winds out of the north. They did not know that winds from the north cause big waves in the Gulf Stream, which consists of an amount of water equal to the combined outflow of every river in the world, moving at three to four knots in the opposite direction. They were friendly, self-depreciating, and very funny in describing their new found boating experience.
We left Green Turtle four days later to go out through through "the Whale" (Whale Cay Passage) to south Sea of Abaco. We had talked to the "experienced" sailors about leaving when they did, so that we would be in the company of other sailboats when we did the Whale, and Teotwawki would be sailing with us.
As we motored down the channel in White Sound to reach the Sea of Abaco, the big Beneteau was behind us, and the Endeavor behind them. There was a big ketch going down the channel in front of us, which suddenly slowed down, so much that at first we thought it had run aground. We slowed down too, to see what it was going to do. We were then called on the radio by the big Beneteau. He sounded crabby. He asked us to speed up, as he was having trouble keeping his boat in the channel at the speed he was going, because of the strong wind. The ketch had begun to move again, so I gave Les Miserables some throttle. We called back our response explaining that we were waiting on the ketch - however at the time we wished we shared a less kind response (these thoughts usually come to me about a week later)- such as "We had not anticipated that with your superior experience, and your big powerful, wonderful boat that you would have any trouble staying in the channel." But of course, we didn't and it is just as well - assuming that you are experienced or unexperienced - well none of it really matters because it is in having THE experience in the sea that is of greatest importance - it really is not a contest - we are all in the same waters together! I was thrilled when it was time to radio our traveling partners, Teotwawki - Congratulations you are in the famous Whale Cay passage!
We like West End. Not everyone does. It is a terrible anchorage with poor holding ground for anchors and very strong currents. If (of course) you are not going to anchor, you have to go into Old Bahama Bay Marina, where they charge $2.00 a foot, with a "thirty five foot minimum" (in other words we pay for a slip as if we were five feet longer than we actually are!) On top of this, they add hefty charges for electricity ($15.00) and a "mandatory water charge" ($12.00) for each day, whether you use water or not. However, there are compensations, including a beautiful beach and pool, a great restaurant - managed by our friend Harold and surprisingly good snorkeling off the beach, on a sand and grass bottom.
Because it is so expensive, most sailors - including us - have a fear of getting "stuck" in West End by bad weather, and we are no exceptions. After four days at West End we learned from Barometer Bob.com and some other on-line resources, that we had three days of relatively good weather before the next srong cold front was due, and we decided to "go for it". This year - unlike last - we would not be alone. We made two new friends - Jill and Steve Forsythe, who own Teotwawki, a huge 42 foot older Cal sailing yacht, which was actually sailed around the world by a previous owner. Jill and Steve decided to "buddy boat" with us to the Abacos - they planned on going to Green Turtle Cay, while we would "peel off" a few hours before that to go into the marina at Spanish Cay; at least, that was our plan. Our little Les Miserables would have a "big sister" as an escort.
The wind did not cooperate. We were fearful of trying the Indian Cay passage - a short cut that would have taken hours off the passage, but is very narrow and shallow. In fact, many sailboats use this passage and I said that we should have too, but I didn't because as I always describe myself, "I live life like a scared rabbit!" On the other hand, Jill and Steve also lacked enthusiasm for the Indian Cay Passage, since Teotwawki draws a foot more than us. If you run aground in the Bahamas, there is no Towboat US or Seatow or other service that will come out and pull you off.
So, as we did last year, we sailed north to Memory Rock and then turned east toward Great Sale. After the turn, we were too close to the wind to sail, and had to rely on "Tim McGee" our new engine. We had been worried about keeping up with Teotwawki, and in fact, couldn't have if both vessels had been under sail, but to our surprise we found that under power, we were faster than they were! We kept having to slow down. The wind picked up, causing a light chop and occasional whitecaps, and we experienced gray sky and rain. Teotwawki, like our boat, has AIS, and when the rain would close in so that we could no longer see them astern, they would still appear as a symbol on the chartplotter which is at the helm. The range lines on the chart plotter would tell us exactly how far astern they were. This is so cool!
We had to use the anchdorage on the north side of Great Sale, because by the time we got there, the wind was out of the southwest. It was almost dark, by the time we got there, the wind was out of the southwest. We got the anchor down and set just before dark. The water temperature was only 76 degrees so I put on my triathlon wetsuit and weightbelt before diving the anchor to check it.
We had been invited to dinner aboard Teotwawki, so after both boats were anchored, we climbed down into Dimples (our dinghy) and rowed over. Jill had made baked ziti in her oven and we contributed a spinach salad and a bottle of nice French red wine. We really like Jill and Steve. Both of them worked for LEXIS, a pioneering on-line legal research system. Jill is an Alabama girl, but she and Steve currently live in Ohio. They keep their boat in Oriental, North Carolina. They are born optimists (especially Jill) and both have great perspectives on what is important in life and what isn't. Jill is a recent cancer survivor with a great sense of humor. Steve is quiet, thoughtful, and the two of them are great company. After a nice evening, we rowed back to our boat. Only one other boat was n the anchorage, and Great Sale is uninhabited so to say the anchorage was uiet would be putting it mildly. In the calm lee of the Cay, we both slept "the deep sleep of the just", even though it began to rain not long after midnight, and was still raining when we woke up at 0700.
Poor Dimples! She was almost full of water, and it took ten minutes with a hand pumped to get the water out. We had continuing rain and lightening, so we used our "marriage savers" - earphones and mikes to communicate as I pulled up the anchor Merry is at the helm. We got underway, towing Dimples as we have for several thousand miles, but twice we had to stop, pull Dimples up to the transom and pump her out again. At long last around lunch time, it stopped raining, and we could see Little Abaco Island and Great Abaco Island to the south.
It was time to part company with Jill and Steve, and we radioed them to tell them we were changing course to go the marina at Spanish Cay and to wish them well.
We radioed Spanish Cay. The place was supposed to be expensive - more than $2.00 a foot, plus additional charges. it is a combination resort and marina, which was supposed to have a great restaurant, pool and amenities and besides we had never been there. When they answered our radio call, we asked if they had a slip, and the lady said "Yes, we are wide open". We asked how much and were delighted when she said $1.50 a foot, with no minimum. Another cold front was supposed to hit the next day with winds of 20 to 25 knots out of the northwest, so the idea of cozy luxury at the Spanish Cay Marina was very enticing.
Alas, when we approached the marina, we discovered that hurricane Sandy had to substantial extent destroyed the marina's north breakwall, so the marina offered scant protection from the strong winds expected in the morning. In addition, although it is a large marina, there wasn't even one boat - the rows of docks and slips were completely empty. We would have the whole place to ourselves as Les Miserables and Dimples were smashed to pieces against the docks and pilings! No thanks! We turned around, and headed for Green Turtle and docked at the Green Turtle Club and Marina just before sunset, after almost 12 hours underway. In two days, we had covered 130 miles, and boat and crew deserved a good rest! Green Turtle is a great, safe place to wait out a cold front.
At long last our weather sources indicated that a break between cold fronts was in prospect. After borrowing a car from our generous friends Barbara and Merle we were able to finish preparing to move south (groceries, prescriptions refilled, scuba tanks filled, banking, laundry ...etc.) Our first day took us to the Peck Lake anchorage where we spent a cold and windy night (35degrees +) Our second day involved getting through 7 different bridge opening before we finally got to Old Port Cove Marina in North Lake Worth where Tiger Woods keeps his yacht. We spent 2 nights here. The marina includes a new restaurant which is wonderful and with shore power a short walk to a French Bistro, West Marine, and Publix (grocery store) nearby- we certainly were not roughing it. We once again moved to an anchorage just south of the Lake Worth inlet to stage for our crossing to West End, Bahamas. We raised the anchor at 2:00am and were tied to the dock at West End by 1:00pm. Going across the Gulf Stream was easy with a new engine, a new radio, and our AIS (identifier of all vessels) working. We steered a course of 20 degrees south of the direct line of Lake Worth inlet to West End and it worked perfectly. We didn't have to change course except to adjust for passing ships until we were less than 5 miles from West End. Our biggest course change was to avoid a fishing vessel who's captain stated via the radio that he was trailing 1400 feet of line behind him. We also saw a Carnival Cruise Ship in the middle of the night heading for Lake Worth. Our AIS gave us the name, course, and speed of each vessel in our vicinity. The sky turned from a starry night to overcast and with no moon there were times that it was as if we were moving into some great black void. If there had been anything floating in the water we could not have seen or avoided it, but luck was with on this St. Patrick's Day crossing and we motored through moderate seas listening to the rumble of our new engine. We had a very nice passage.
Jamal greeted us at Old Bahama Bay as we came in this year as he had last year. It was wonderful to see him. We cleared customs and Clarence Johnson the Bahamian Customs' Officer was just as friendly as last year. We raised the Q flag - 3 miles out and after clearing customs we raised the Bahamian Courtesy Flag. For the second time the little sloop, Les Miserable, had entered the Bahamian nation.
After hard work both by us and Eric as well as his crew at the Indiantown Marina it was finally time to say goodbye. Although we were eager to get on with our journey we were going to miss Eric and his crew, because we had grown to like all of them as if they were old friends. After our goodbyes were said we departed and proceeded down the St. Lucie Canal and through the lock. Once we were through the lock our boat was in salty water again, - the St. Lucie River, a confusing collection of buoys where the St. Lucie River meets the north and south ICW channels. We had been through this before and encountered no difficulties, and after one bridge opening at Fort Pierce we decided to spend the night at a marina at Nettles Island. We found Nettles Island to be an insular, odd, but charming community consisting of small houses and mobile homes placed on odd parrallelogram lots. The island is a square with parallel and triangular lots. Golf carts and bicycles replace most automobiles in this community. The marina is welcoming with a small grocery store, shop, and restaurant. After one night we jumped back onto the ICW and north to Vero Beach.
We took up a mooring in the north field and spent more than a month there. We enjoyed spending time with the now new Vero Beach residents - Merle, Barb, and Mozart. During our stay we took a short trip home to see Wiley's play (Voices of the Middle Passage) produced at Elgin Community College. We were fortunate to have time to visit friends and family. We also had the opportunity to take in another play at Steppenwolf - "That Mother ****ing Hat".
Upon returning to Vero Beach we were surprised by a phone call from Ron and Mavis Barkley. Wiley and Mavis friendship goes back to 1968. We had a lovely dinner at their gorgeous home and dined at a beachside elegant restaurant -Colbalt. We were able to enjoy: a fine production of Les Miserable at the local theater, "Woody Sez" - a musical biography of the great Woody Guthrie, visited with our sister-in-law and her mother as we toured the Art Museum, took in the Art Fair - Under the Oaks with new friends Florrie and Lew, Wiley swam in the ocean in his triathlon wetsuit daily watched carefully by his new friend Murray the lifeguard, dined at outdoor cafes and mostly just thoroughly enjoyed being in Vero Beach. We waited for a weather window to move south to Lake Worth and then across to the Bahamas but were frustrated as one strong cold front after another swept over us. We had to use blankets and sleeping bags at night, and even used our alcohol heater at the mooring!