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Madcap Sailing
Beth - sunny days; light showers at night
10/01/2008/12:16 pm, Marsh Harbour, Abacos

We had a most delightful sail across from Great Guana to Marsh Harbour on Tuesday. Steve Dodge's book gave excellent waypoints again, and a very clear diagram of the approach. It was tempting to just tack back and forth out in the Sea of Abaco, enjoying the breeze and the colours, but we had things to do.

We anchored just north of the centre of the harbour - and there was lots of space around us. The water here is not inviting to anchor diving, but the bottom is muddy so we were pretty sure our CQR would hold - and it has. The first order of business was to go find that generator - and get to a bank to procure the money for it. There are several banks here; Scotiabank obligingly dispensed some cash into Jim's pockets and after he talked with Terrance Roberts on the phone, Terrance obligingly traded that cash for a neat little 47 lb Honda 2000 generator. Easy come- easy go!

The evening's entertainment was a chili cook-off sponsored by the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club. Jan and Cam from Te Amor had invited several of us to go as their guests and when I called Bob Mitchell - the RMHYC Commodore to let him know we were coming, he graciously seconded the invitation. A rainshower blew in just as we were about to leave the boat so I took a couple of pictures of the rainbow(s), we waited to see if there would be any gusts that might dislodge us, and when that didn't happen, we went off to the Abaco Beach Resort where the event was held. The Yacht Club membership is made up of folks who come here to hang out for the winter as well as those who drop in for a few days here and there as they travel around the Bahamas and they are a most welcoming crowd. We met many people whose boats we've seen around in the last few weeks.

Part of our surprise here is geographical. We expected Marsh Harbour to be an unattractive place where we would have a short and strictly functional stay. Yes - the area of banks and grocery stores doesn't have the charm of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, but the marinas and waterfront properties are lovely. We can watch boats coming and going in the harbour, and we can look out across that beautiful green water from many directions - off toward Man-O-War Cay, or back at Great Guana, or around the corner to Hope Town. We can see the towers of the Castle - built by Evans Cottman, the Out Island Doctor - peeking through the trees. The other surprise is the people part - and I should have known enough by now to not be surprised by that! Both locals and visitors have once again been unfailingly friendly, helpful, and fun. I was offered a drive as I walked back to the dinghy dock with grocery bags. A boater asked if we needed directions to laundromat, grocery stores and bakery. When I lost an earring on our walk this morning, a couple driving by stopped and got out to look too, and a walker said she passes that way every day and would keep looking for it.

We hadn't been in the harbour very long before we got a call from Windswept - an Ottawa boat. The last time we had seen them was in Georgia when they were heading out for an outside passage south while we were continuing on the ICW. There are a whole lot of Canadian boats here - and a disproportionately large number of Nova Scotians - some with NS on the sterns of their boats and some from other ports but with their "roots showing" within the first few minutes of a conversation. We Bluenoses sure know where we're from. It feels like old home week!

I took our ship's clock to Derek at Simcoe Jewellers (so named because of the 20 some years they spent on the shore of Lake Simcoe in Canada) on the advice of Patty on the Cruisers net. The cruiser's net is on the VHF radio every morning at 8:15 and consists of weather, news highlights, sports, invitations from local establishments, open mike - for requests and information, and just about anything else that is helpful for the cruising community. It's a terrific service - started by Bob and Patty Toller, and now carried on by Patty and various cruising friends. I asked the question about where we might get our clock fixed and the answer was immediate. Someone else asked if anyone knew if a couple of people were in the area, and again, a boater came up with an immediate answer, "Yes, they are, and you can find them at..." The restaurants tell what specials they have on, the dive shops tell what the water is like and where they are running trips. Readings and speakers and charitable events all get publicized.

The multitalented Browntips cleaned Madcap's bottom and replaced the zinc anode. This is our second replacement since we started - and Browntips said it was ready - and also that the bottom looked in good shape.

Debbie and Bill (Deborah Lea), and Jan and Ed (Windswept) came over for happy hour on Madcap last night and we sipped and nibbled as we swapped stories. This morning, we went for a lovely long walk with Sandi and Steve (Princess) enjoying the views of the water, hearing their stories of how things have changed - or not - in the years they have been coming here. The afternoon disappeared in a series of errands: internet, groceries, battery charging - yes that little generator works just fine.

Tonight we'll be joining new and old friends at a happy hour gathering followed by a visit to Snappas where Jan and Paul (Te Amor) will be singing and playing Bahamian music with Browntips. From all reports, it will be a fine time.

We'll probably move from here tomorrow ... if we feel like it when we get up in the morning!

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What a Difference a Day Makes
Beth - back in shorts
07/01/2008/10:12 am, Great Guana Cay

The wind dropped on Saturday night; the sun came out and we changed our wardrobe from jeans and fleecies to shorts and t-shirts again. With our batteries charged up, we headed out of Black Sound on Sunday morning. Because we were about 3 hours after high tide and the entrance into the sound is shallow, Jim went first in the dinghy with a hand held depth sounder, and I followed along in Madcap. We must have kissed the bottom a few times but never got stopped and once we were through the channel, we loaded the dinghy, put out a sail and were off to see the Whale.

The Whale is an important piece of geography in this area, because in order to move further south, boats with our draft must go out through the cut between reefs and cay, along the outside of Whale Cay and back in again on the south side of it. It sounds like no big deal but if the wind and wave configuration isn't right, it can be a miserable and even dangerous few miles. Fortunately for us, the combination was just fine. We could see waves breaking on the reefs but there were no whitecaps in the opening so away we went. The swells were about 6-7 feet but there was no chop so we just rose and fell comfortably. We followed the waypoints in Steve Dodge's book carefully and they led us right through with no difficulty.

We had just a short journey to Great Guana Cay and once back inside, we put out a sail and drifted languidly along with the sun over our heads and that amazing blue-green sea below. We dropped our anchor in Fisher's Bay along with about a dozen other boats; Jim went swimming and dove down to push that CQR anchor into the sand. After a reasonable time to make sure it wasn't moving, we dropped the dinghy again and went in search of roast pig. Sunday is Pig Roast day at Nippers - a famous Abacos Bar and we were anxious to check it out. We could hear the music from the dinghy dock and were amused to see that the lane off the main road led toward the cemetery and then took a sharp swing to the right, ending in a compound of ice-cream coloured buildings and patios. A sign at the turn warned us that "The wages of sin is death ..." It seemed a fascinating juxtaposition... and we kept on around the turn to Nippers, returning safely to the boat later in the evening - unlike those who remained at the cemetery!

Fortunately there was pork still available. The pig roast starts at noon and when it is really busy, they have been known to run out by midafternoon. If you are in the neighbourhood - be sure to stop in; the food was delicious and at $20.per person for all you could eat, it seemed very fair. The music was loud 50's and 60's dancin'music. We met up with lots of cruisers - Princess and Kilissa, First Edition and Debra Lea, Celebrian (another Bayfield 36) and at the end of the evening we found Te Amor from Nova Scotia.

The sunset was just amazing, our sleep was reasonably sound and we woke up to find ourselves in exactly the same place! Only a boater can understand the joy that evokes. (Well, maybe there are others who have experienced that joy?!)

Monday passed by in a pleasant series of events. I made a giant western omelet for breakfast and we lingered over coffee and our books. In late morning we set off to explore this part of Great Guana Cay. We passed by a large building with a "Bakery" sign on it. Unfortunately it also displayed a "closed" sign, so I asked a man sitting across the street if he knew when it was open. He said "Yes". I then asked if it opened every day and his reply was, "Sometimes". I figured that was about as much helpful information as I was going to get, so we smiled at each other and Jim and I continued on our way. The question about what day things are open is a practical one. The Post office here is open Mon, Wed and Fri. The Laundromat is never open anymore. The grocery store is open 6 days a week, and I still don't know about the Bakery.

We had a long and luxurious walk on the beach - on the Atlantic side - where the breakers were rolling in and the sand was white and soft. We sat and watched them for awhile -one wave chasing another - big ones often swallowing up smaller ones - footprints made and erased - shells deposited on the sand one minute and swept away the next - everything part of the whole. The whitecaps were brilliant white and the sea was a dozen shades of blue and green and aqua and turquoise.

We met up with Mary Jo, vacationing here from her home in Cape Cod and she ignited in us again the excitement of this trip. It is really such a fine thing - we never get blasé about it, in part because we keep meeting people who say "Good for you!" Another thing Mary Jo and Jim and I saw eye-to-eye on was that there is nothing to be afraid of in the unknown. The directions we take from here, and where we make our landfall after this trip will all unfold in time, and the choices we make will lead us one way or another, but none of them will be wrong. There is immense freedom in this view of a journey, and it bears considering as a metaphor of life as well.

On our walk we met up with other familiar faces, stopped to talk with them, discovered that Jan and Cam of Te Amor know several of our old friends in Annapolis Royal, and got a lesson on spear fishing.

Back on Madcap, the chicken that had been marinating in a spicy lime and ginger sauce for a few hours went into the oven to roast along with some yams. We added a broccoli salad and opened a nice cold white wine for dinner. The wind had come up again so we tucked ourselves in the cabin where it was nice and cozy and went back to our books. Mmmmm ...Mmmm... the end of another dandy day.

We'll head out in the morning to Marsh Harbour.

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Something Old and Something New
05/01/2008/10:05 am, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay

Let's start with the new: the weather has taken a significant change to cool and windy the last few days. It seems hard to believe that on Tuesday, New Year's Day, we were ambling around in t-shirts and drinking lots of liquid to keep hydrated. By Wednesday it had cooled some and we took a very comfortable long walk on the beaches to watch the surf on the Atlantic side and stretch out our legs.

The temperature kept falling and the wind blew harder. The thermometer in the last couple of days has been registering as low as 66 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind has been blowing consistently at 15 - 20 knots with some gusts up to the high 20's. Even inside our protected sound, we pulled and pulled on our mooring ball, swinging this way and that. Madcap is a heavy boat and we were sure giving that thing a workout, so kudos to Rick Sawyer for keeping his moorings in good shape.

Because of the high winds and the fact we've also been plagued by battery problems again (this is the old) we stayed put rather than go up to Manjack for a change of scenery. The power level dropped while we were back in Canada for 12 days and we could not seem to get it up by running the engine. So we were back to the same old solution of tying up and plugging in to get topped up again. The disheartening part of that is that both times the battery charge dropped (now and in early December) something happened to drain the starting battery too. Roger (Stout Wench) spent hours with Jim poring over the system and then used his dinghy as a tug to push us over to a dock. Once the batteries were up to full charge again, he spent more hours and the two of them could not find out what was wrong. Grrr. The good news is that Nancy and John (Panache) discovered a second generator in Marsh Harbour when they went to pick up theirs so we made a quick phone call to reserve it.

We tracked down and fixed a smelly head problem - there was a block in the air vent. We pulled up the floor in the salon and disconnected the vent hose to have a look at it. I thought maybe I would earn brownie points by being the one who crawled into the stern locker, disconnected the hose at that end and blew into it. Unfortunately, Jim got the points because he was holding the end that had been connected to the holding tank when the "stuff" blew out. Blech!! - he kept his cool and deserved the points. I dinghied over to do a load of laundry at the Abaco Yacht Services - enjoying a chinwag with Gail (Jabiru) in the process - and we made some inroads on the rust that appears with regularity on some of the stainless steel.

We also found time to read our books and socialize. Open these days have been Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay, Divisidero by Michael Ondaatje, The Race by Richard North Patterson, Crisis by Robin Cooke - all different and all recommended. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Macintyre's one day with Sandi and Steve (Princess) and their guest, Baird. (pineapple chicken with peas n'rice and plantains, cracked conch, macaroni, all appeared on various plates and went into various stomachs amid animated conversation. On Friday night, we discovered that folks gather at Dave's - otherwise known as the Liquor Store and Café. We had been in for lunch a few times, but hadn't known about the Friday evening gatherings. People started arriving around 5:30, and by 7 the place was packed. We all purchased our bottles of beer or wine or soft drinks there at Liquor Store prices, Dave produced glasses, a few people brought crackers and cheese and the standing room only crowd of locals and cruisers mixed and mingled. Those with wine left in their bottles had a choice of taking them home, or leaving them there for next time.

I talked with delightful Lana who has moved to White Sound. She and her husband cruised in the area for years, made plans to build a house here and then he died. She had a choice of living back in the States near her children but found that she had more of a purposeful life here, so she is staying. Another couple from South Africa has recently moved to New Plymouth. Yang is building a cabinetry business over on the mainland, Toni is gradually getting involved in community activities and their son goes to school in Marsh Harbour. He found a wonderful community of friends from Green Turtle so they decided to make this their home base. Jim and I are always so interested in the adventurous spirit and courage of people and we love these opportunities for conversations with friends old and new.

Pineapples continued to be another interesting stop. Many folks gather there for happy hour between 4 and 6 when the drinks are 2 for 1 and laptops are scattered around on the picnic tables. My "problem" is that I always find someone interesting to talk with and the e-mail and blog-postings take second place.

If the weather is agreeable, we'll slip away on Sunday morning from Green Turtle Cay - our home since early December, and head off to Great Guana Cay. It will bring to an end our long and pleasant visit here and leave us with a perfect place to come back to on the way north in the spring.

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