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Sloop Les Miserables
Wiley's Birthday Present
Merry and Wiley - Sunny, 80+,

I got up early on the morning after arriving to Green Turtle and hurried Wiley over to Brendal's dive shop - at the end of our dock to find out about his gift - a trip on a dive boat with the renown Brendal. It turned out that we could dive on that day if we gathered our gear and met them at 9:30. We scrambled to eat breakfast, get our gear together and we were off. Brendal and his son B.J. (Brenal Jr.) were to be our guides and there were five other divers with us. We motored out between Green Turtle Cay and Manjack Cay to dive on the Caverns.

Brendal guided our first dive. He is also a musician - which we enjoyed listening to at our last stay at Green Turtle. He has the usual large Bahamian smile, loves people, and a good laugh. His son is following in his footsteps. He is a fabulous diver and pointed out many things that most divers breeze past - like the fish cleaning stations - tiny shrimp, arrowhead crabs, etc. He dives slowly so that you don't miss anything and is always keeps track of all of the divers. Additionally, he made sure we didn't miss seeing the large Tarpon, the Eagle Rays, and finally the Black Tipped Reef Shark. Wiley had really wanted to see large fish underwater - especially Shark and he was thrilled. Brendal kept pointing to the shark and waving him toward me - and then later told me - don't worry they are man eating sharks not woman eating sharks!

On our second dive B.J. guided us and once again we saw some of the same creatures as on the first dive but in addition we saw a VERY LARGE BULL SHARK! Wiley got within 5 feet of it. The Bull Shark did not move away from him but rather just kept on his usual path. We certainly were insignificant and after all we were in his territory.

Needless to say - Wiley loved the dive so much he signed us up for another the following Wednesday.

Treasures - When I'm 64 & Heading Home
Merry and Wiley - Sunny, 80+,

Florence's Cafe & Bakery, Golden Groceries, a gorgeous powdery pink beach, aquamarine waters and even a pizza! We landed in Treasure Cay sailing from Marsh Harbor and discovered all these treasures on Treasure Cay as we began our trip toward home. We are "schizoid" about heading home - on one hand we cannot soak in enough of the Bahamas on the other hand we are eager to get home to family and Chicago land. The Bahamas offer so many wonderful experiences in the water along with gracious and smiling Bahamians. The life style is S-L-O-W and each day seems to just flow into the next with few things to worry about other than what is the weather and how will we "play today"? However, being from the midwest makes it more challenging for us to just accept the Bahamian lifestyle of "go with the flow" - and we do miss multiple sources of entertainment, our information rich environment, and the cultural advantages of being near Chicago. However, more than all of this, we miss our kids, friends, pets, home etc.
We anchored outside of the Treasure Cay Marina after waiting to follow a couple of boats into the anchorage. It appeared to be a little tricky entering into the anchorage because of some sand bars near the entrance so we waited outside to follow in a large power yacht and a large sailboat. After entering and setting our anchor the sailors dinghied over to our boat to tell us that they too had never been in the anchorage - so following them may not have been the best idea! :-)
We anchored for $10. a night and were able to access all of the marina's resources - a great pool, bar, showers, etc. The local bakery - Florence's Cafe is where we met Captain 400 and Florence - very friendly and gracious Bahamians. She makes the best cinnamon rolls in the world - so once again we are eating our way across the islands. We were able to indulge in a pizza offered at the marina bar - so we brought it back to our boat and with some great wine (yes - we continue to drink as well as eat our way across the islands). It sure wasn't Chicago pizza - but put a small bandage on our missing home wounds.
It was Wiley's 64th birthday while at Treasure Cay and we spent the day singing the Beatles Song - When I'm 64 and heading toward Green Turtle where his birthday present awaited him - Diving with Brendal. In order to get to Green Turtle we needed to go through the Whale - an area all boaters monitor closely because of frequent Rages. It appeared calm, although there were dark storm clouds on the horizon. Since it was Wiley's birthday he made the call - and decided that we should go ahead and cross the Whale to get to Green Turtle.
The greatest gift Wiley could receive and a moment I will always treasure happened on the way. A large pod of dolphins - more than a dozen were swimming in the shallow white sand waters on our way. They swam under and around our boat. I was thrilled to have such a close encounter with these gorgeous creatures. We wanted to drop anchor and swim with them but a dark cloud was approaching so we spent a short time sailing among the dolphins before heading through the Whale. It is amazing to watch them turn to look up at you while you are on the bow of the boat - they appear curious - or maybe they are thinking the same thing about us looking down on them.
When going through "the Whale" boats go out through Loggerhead Passage - the Atlantic Ocean and then Whale Passage. The seas roll more here and at this time they were only 2 to 3 feet but we did watch the waves crash into Whale Cay. We were delighted that while we were rolling we were making a good passage. Wiley's birthday lunch was given him just as the seas and boat rolled from one side to another. The storm rolled over and passed us. It was a great passage and we arrived in Green Turtle excited to be on our way home with treasured memories of Wiley's 64th birthday and excited to be going diving with Brendal at Green Turtle.

Let the Good Times Roll!
Wiley/Sunny breezy 85

We spent a night at anchor off of Tavern Cay before heading back to Hope Town. This is just south of Elbow Cay, where Hope Town is, and we could see the alleged navigatable passage that goes to Tahiti Beach. A lot of boaters had raved about the beauty of Tahiti Beach and we were eager to go. The chart shows the passage to be narrow and shallow, however as we looked toward the passage we could see a large sailboat laying almost on her side in the low tide, hard aground and later learned that the tide floated her (Opa) off around midnight after she had spilled over 50 gallons out of her fresh water tank. We quickly decided upon seeing her aground that we we go to Tahiti Beach by land!

We rented bikes and rode a hilly 13 miles to Tahiti Beach. On our way we heard our names called and re-discovered friends that we met traveling the Dismal Swamp and at Elizabeth City. They planned on renting a golf cart and riding over to Tahiti Beach to meet up with us. It gets its name from its beauty - like the beaches in Tahiti. There are lots of shallow sand bars, powdery sandy, and you can wade out looking for shells and sea glass. It is also a great place for snorkeling and Merry found a great conch shell for Sean's saltwater aquarium there. Off the beach is a small Cay and a channel to the Atlantic - called the Tilloo Cut. We swam across the channel and snorkeled the edges of the cay. We saw lots of beautiful fish including a school of the largest Seargent Major fish we have ever seen as well a small school of the smallest juvenile Seargent Major fish. There were some young people kite surfing across this shallow area, as well as two dogs swimming and running across the sand bars. Our friends who own the boats Nauti Dory and Island Pursuit are from Canada joined us at the beach.

We hopped back on our bikes and rode to Fireflies to meet our Canadian friends for dinner and drinks. Then as storm clouds started to roll in we rode back to Hope Town.

The marina we stayed at in Hope Town has kayaks for its guests to use and we used these to explore a mangrove channel that goes up from the harbor. We enjoyed watching hermit crabs climb up the branches of mangrove trees, clouds of jellyfish surround the kayak, and of course - Merry spotted more turtles - that I didn't seen.

We joined our friends Kathy and John ( Sloop Aurora) in Marsh Harbor. We all did a little more shopping and reflected on the great times we have all had in the Sea of Abacos while dining and (of course) drinking. The time has gone by fast. John gave us the gift of changing the implellar on our engine as we prepare to start the trip home. After almost 2 months in the Bahamas it is time for us to start toward Florida, to put Les Miserables "on the hard" for the "hurricane season" in Indian Town, Florida.

Underwater Adventures

We decided to go diving at Fowl Cay again, and this time to dive near the dive mooring buoys on the Atlantic side of the reef. This involved going through the North Man O' War passage into the Atlantic, and then picking our way through the reefs to the moorings. There are only two of them, and they both had small boats on them, and in any event, the moorings are designated for use only by boats under 24'. We thought that we would be fine if we dropped our anchor on a sandy patch, but when we did this, a guy on one of the boats on a dive mooring yelled, "do me a favor and don't anchor there", and a dive boat from Dive Guana came by to tell us not to anchor there as well. We were subsequently informed that this was Troy from Dive Guana and he had apparently been calling us on Channel 16 to tell us not to anchor - which means, of course, everyone in the Sea of Abaco heard him! As he approached our boat, he told us that our anchor had dragged onto coral and could damage the reef, and that he would send a diver down to get our anchor out of the coral. He told us to anchor in a sandy area, which was maybe a quarter mile from the reef. Dive Guana's young diver removed the anchor from the coral we had dragged as I pulled the chain in, and we proceeded to the indicated sandy spot and re-anchored.
We geared up, entered the water, inflated our BC and swam perhaps 400 yards toward the reef. We submerged, and were successful in finding "Grouper Pass", an opening in the reef that we swim through underwater to reach the deeper and more interesting Wall - reef. The site is a great dive, and even justified all the humiliation I claimed to have sustained for improper anchoring! The "Wall" drops down to about 50 feet at its deepest point and is a beautiful reef with the usual reef fish that we love to see. On the way back from this dive we watched a large Southern Stingray - about 5 feet across munching its way across the sandy bottom. All the way back from our dive we had a large (4-5 foot) barracuda that was curious about us and so followed us back to our boat.

On another occasion, we took a three-day trip from Hope Town to dive Sandy Cay. Like Fowl Cay, Sandy Cay is a Bahamian national park, located not far from the southern end of the Sea of Abaco. We sailed south with a "buddy boat" from Hope Town - Hanalei. Hanalei is an ocean going sailing yacht which had sailed all the way around the world! There boat is so large that it even has a dishwasher!! To say that her owners Kristine and Stephan, are experienced sailors would be a classic understatement. We sailed and anchored off Bridge Cay. We were invited to dinner on Hanalei - cocktails, French Wine, pork chops, spinach salad! Yum! We played a game - Apples to Apples and even I - who normally hates games - had a great time. We returned to the boat under a quarter moon in a starlit night - there were only a few anchor lights showing in the bay.

The following day we sailed to Sandy Cay and were able to anchor (the holding is very poor). Kristine and Stephan snorkeled on the shallow reef on the south side of the Cay, while we explored it with SCUBA. The coral and small tropical reef fish on this shallow reef were beautiful. Merry spotted a loggerhead turtle. That night we sailed back to a safe anchorage at Lanyard Cay so that we could return to Sandy Cay the next day. This time we anchored north of the Cay - this anchorage must be popular because right after we anchored five other boats came in, three of them were big 45' Hunter sailboats (Charter boats). They all took dinghys to the dive moorings to snorkel the reef on the "Atlantic side" of Sandy Cay. However, I decided that we would gear up for SCUBA and swim 1/2 mile from the anchorage to the reef. This was a long swim even with BC's and fins. There is a big rock (maybe 50' across) that is out perhaps 150' from the Cay, and although waves were breaking over the reef between the rock and Sandy Cay, I decided that we could swim through these, over the reef, as a "short cut" toward the deeper water where the dive moorings were. Early on in this attempt, we struggled to get through this passage by holding on to coral by our fingertips - the current was strong. Merry poked her head up and said, "forget this!" and just after she did a wave lifted her up and tossed her down onto a sea urchin with one of the spines going all the way through the wet suit into her breast! Ouch! We backed out, and swam around the rock and finally reached the deeper part of the reef. This reef is called the Coral Gardens. We saw several of the dive moorings underwater and could see why they are limited to vessels under 24' - they are pretty flimsy looking. The dive was great - Merry spied another turtle - I missed it (AGAIN!) and we both saw a pair of Eagle Rays swim right over us. The Coral was magnificent as well as various colored sponges. The reef fish - Angel Fish, Barracuda, Midnight Blue and Rainbow Parrot Fish, Seargent Majors, lavender and blue Tang all showed up to entertain us. We used up most of our air and then swam the (over) 1/2 mile back to our boat with Merry in considerable pain from the mean sea urchin. Note to anyone who is punctured by a sea urchin - use antibiotic ointment immediately afterward or things get kind of ugly!

Guana Cay + Erie Canal Friends

We sailed from Hope Town to Guana Cay, where we took up a mooring in Settlement Harbor. The moorings are rented by "Dive Guana" at $20.00 a night, a sum that is collected just before 0800 by a not-overly-friendly young man who comes alongside in a powerboat and raps on your hull to wake you up.

We thought that our friends from the Erie Canal, John and Kathy and their 31 Hunter sailboat Aurora might be in the adjacent bay. The wind had shifted to the west at 10-12 knots (which would mean it was blowing into the adjacent bay and harbor), and we thought it would be fun to rig the mast, sail, rudder, etc. on Dimples and sail over to look for them. We had to tack Dimples back and forth to clear Settlement Harbor, and then sail little 8' Dimples through a 2' foot chop to get around the point to the bay. And we sailed into the bay, there sure enough was Aurora! We shouted to John and Kathy - who it turns out, had been watching Dimples and wondering who would be crazy enough to be sailing an 8' dinghy on the Sea of Abaco on a choppy day like this! After i botched an effort to bring Dimples along side Aurora, it was decided that the nasty chop made boarding Aurora impractical, and that we would meet at the beachside bar - Grabbers - at the end of the bay. This was an easy broad reach all the way for Dimples, followed by a soft grounding (daggerboard up) on the beach! We threw out our anchor and climbed ashore.

When John and Kathy got to the beach in their inflatable dinghy, they joined us in a mutual celebration of our respective journeys. We talked about the ICW, and Florida, and our mishaps. John had run their sailboat into a piling channel marker destroying their bow pulpit and $4,000. in damage (easy to do, because with the sun in your eyes, visibility otherwise blocked, you can't see the markers sometimes). We bemoaned our $4000. rudder repair. John and Kathy are amazing. They had not been into a marina since last December (this was early May) and had spent the winter & early spring in Boot Key, Marathon - Florida. On our sail back in the dinghy to Les Miserable we were amazed at seeing a Manata Ray about 5 feet across jump out of the water right near our boat. We had never seen that before!

There is a "locally famous" place on Guana Cay called Nippers. It is a restaurant with a pool, a long flight of wooden stairs leading down to a beautiful beach. We went snorkeling on the reef right off the beach, and it was the best snorkeling we have ever done. In addition to the beautiful coral and clouds of tropical fish, the reef has caverns you can swim into - although we didn't swim in very far without SCUBA!

Nippers is famous for its Sunday "Pig Roast". We thought the pig roast started at 4 PM; it turns out it starts at noon and ends at 4, so of course, we missed it. We did see our friend Sam, the lighthouse keeper from Hope Town, and his beautiful girlfriend leaving the pig roast, having taken the ferry from Hope Town. Sam was concerned about being able to get up the 101 steps to the top of the light house that evening as he had a number of Nippers famous rum drinks! The pig roast party is a big deal in the islands!

We went snorkeling off of Nippers the following day the water was about 75 degrees so we wore wetsuits. The stairs to the beach were being worked on, and the Nippers employee who was supervising this told us that we would have to climb down the sand dune (which is at least a "house high") to get to the beach.
The surf was very rough, the visibility was not as good, and we didn't see as much as the first time. When I was trying to swim through the surf back to the beach, a wave knocked the mask and snorkel off my face and I lost it! It was the first time since I was certified in 1969 that I had ever lost my mask in the surf. However, Merry ran into the water and saw the mask tumbling along the bottom, and I was able to recover it.

We clambered up the sand dune to Nippers. As we walked across the patio at Nippers, the employee who had told us that we could not use the stairs to the beach now began yelling at me that he had "too much sand"! and "you go over there!", which I, docile as always, did. The guy then began hosing me off, getting sand off my wet suit and water in my face!! - the guy seemed to be enjoying this! I was offended and annoyed so I decided that not only would we not have lunch at Nippers, as planned but we would return to our boat and leave Guana Cay immediately, - never to return! I have since relented, in part because I found out that you can get to the beach and reef without going through Nippers.

Leaving Guana Cay was a good idea anyway, because the forecast called for increasing wind out of the West, and the moorings and anchorage would become untenable. We warned John and Katy and said, "farewell for now," and set sail. John and Kathy did stay, but regretted their decision a day or so later because they dragged anchor and had to leave under stressful circumstances.

Playing In the Abacos

While the idea that we would use Man O'War Cay as our "base" proved to be unattractive after we actually visited Man O'War, the idea of having a "base" - temporary home turned out to be a good one. Our base was Hope Town. Hope Town is charming (check out the photos),with the famous lighthouse, 2 little grocery stores, one of which is Verns. Verns is famous for fresh baked goods, in particular Vern's Key Lime Pie. We bought one ($15.00!) and it was worth every penny - it was to kill for. Wiley reluctantly shared some with our friends. The restaurants in Hope Town - are right on the water front (Harbour's Edge and Cap'n Jack) on either the bay ( or ocean side (Fireflies). It is easy bringing the dinghy into town at the sailing school dock which is across from the marina (Hope Town Inn and Marina) where we stayed. It has one of the all-time great beaches, Tahiti Beach, with great snorkeling - white powdering sands, and good shelling. It is more than 13 miles from downtown, so we rented bikes and rode a hilly ride and worked off some of the rum drinks we have enjoyed so much. There is also a dive shop - Froggies where we get our scuba tanks filled by Lambert and Theresa.
The Hope Town Inn and Marina is in transition as it builds a brand new facility. It is getting closer to completion and includes 2 pools (one where you can be served a drink while you sit on a bar stool in the pool!), will have a small store, a small restaurant, showers, wi-fi, etc. Currently the resources are limited but we have enjoyed the safety of being at a slip, having electricity, and certainly enjoyed the bartender Katie's Yellow Bird. Additionally, Wiley found a path that led to a "private spot" to go swim in the Sea of Abaco. I found it less attractive after learning that Bull Sharks like to come past this area on their way to a shallow feeding ground near the entrance to Hope Town. In fact we took a dinghy ride out to this area to look for Bull Sharks. Wiley is eager to see some large tropical "beasts" - that is besides me in the water.
We took many trips from Hope Town to places to dive or snorkel in the Sea of Abaco but would always return when bad weather was probable. We never felt "stuck" there.
However, once a week we went to Marsh Harbor. We anchored there and went ashore in Dimples to grocery shop at Maxwell's (It is the only grocery store in the islands that compares with a grocery store in the states.)
We voyaged from Hope Town on several SCUBA expeditions.

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