11/01/2008/10:35 am, Marsh Harbour, Abacos
We joined a lovely group of cruisers on Princess for Happy Hour on Thursday where we made another one of those "six degrees of separation" discoveries. Carol happened to mention their friends on Wind Ensemble. When I commented that we knew a boat by that name back at our yacht club in Ontario, we quickly learned that it is the same boat; Tom and Ginny are members of Trident Yacht Club and good friends of Richard and Carol (Kilissa) from Solomon's in the Chesapeake Bay. So, if you're reading this, Tom and Ginny, we all say Hi!!
After enjoying Sandi and Steve's hospitality, we all moved on to Snappa's - a very casual waterfront bar at Harbourview Marina - for great music and more partying. Browntips was centre stage - chatting up the crowd, filling the DJ role, playing the saw and dancing a bit. We were absolutely entranced by Christian's dancing - that young man could move every part of his body - up down, sideways, in a hundred rhythms. Little Brendan, Browntips' 4-year-old grandson, looked to be well on his way to being an entertainer too. He played the saw and danced and was an all round sweetheart. If you're not familiar with Bahamian saw music, it is a pretty interesting thing, and ranges from basic percussion to complicated pitch and percussive rhythm. The performer uses a regular handsaw and a knife to "rake and scrape". He bends the saw to change the pitch, and scrapes the teeth or the side of the saw to produce the different sounds - all this while moving in time to the music. We've seen it a few times now and this was real art -and my description doesn't do it justice at all. Browntips says the music is in his genes, and now, having seen him in action, I truly believe it!
An extra plus on Thursday was the presence of Jan and Cam, and their guest Paul from Te Amor. Besides being a person of extraordinary sociability and generosity, Jan sings and plays drums, Paul is an accomplished drummer, and I've never seen anyone fly around the dance floor like Cam! Jan brought 2 big drums - and reportedly has several more musical instruments on board - and that beat just vibrated right into our bones. By the end of the evening, some of the rest of us got into the flow of things too. Deb and I had a go at the drum and loved it. Paul commented, "Everyone is a drummer" and I think he's right; it's a matter of eliminating all the head "stuff" and falling back into kinesthetic knowledge. We were a tired and happy crowd as we retrieved our dinghies and made our way back out to our boats in the harbour. In my "regret" column: I didn't have a camera there so no pictures. In my "yeehaw" column: Jan and Paul play in a band back in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia so we'll catch them next summer when we'll probably be cruising NS waters again.
On Friday, Jim and I ran a few last minute errands - more coconut bread, batteries, produce (there's a good stock in right now), a bottle of smooth, sweet Nassau Royale for late night sipping - and then headed off to Man-War Cay for a change of scenery.
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!
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 blasť 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.