14/01/2008/10:40 am, Man-O-War and Sugar Loaf Cays
We had a gentle sail for all of an hour over to Man-O-War Cay. The distances are so small here that one could go cay hopping back and forth every day. Since we haven't been here before, our emphasis is on exploring each cay, and we'll enjoy more sailing later. One of the books had an anchorage marked at the north end of Man-O-War and, being a little tired of harbour life, we joined the two boats already anchored and dropped the hook. Once again, the sand was very hard and the CQR was not dug right in the way we would have liked, but the wind was light, we had about 80 feet of chain out in 10 feet of water, and we didn't move other than the swing caused by tide. On Friday evening, we just stayed on the boat to read, eat (BBQ pork chops, peas n' rice, cole slaw) and sit for hours under the glorious stars.
After the weather report on Saturday morning, we dinghied in to the beach and enjoyed a blissful walk along the little sandy road - called The Queen's Highway - that runs the length of the cay. It wound around and under mangrove trees, past carefully tended gardens, allowing glimpses of beaches on both the Atlantic and the Sea of Abaco. The houses at this end have fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean with rollers splashing up on wide stretches of sandy beach interspersed with coral. On our way back to Madcap, we stopped to talk with Thomas and Linda who run charters on their gaff rigged ketch, Ciganka. In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the harbour - going aground as we tried to take a shortcut in the northern entrance - and did a little more exploration. We weren't quite as enthralled with this part of the cay - the shops were filled with pretty much the usual kind of tourist "stuff" and the little streets and houses weren't as pretty as those of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay. We were surprised that, despite it being Saturday, there were hardly any children and very few local people at all around.
A couple of encounters made it worth the trip though. We enjoyed a conversation with Andy Albury in his woodworking shop where he builds half hulls and fine furniture. Between spits of the chewing tobacco from the plug in his cheek, he talked about his father, Emmerson, and the traditions of the cay. It's a dry cay, with at least 3 churches that we saw, and seems to be holding onto a more simple way of life. As we strolled along Bay Street, Miss Lola came by in her golf cart offering fresh cinnamon buns. Neither Jim nor I can ever pass those up so we bought one - about 8 inches in diameter for $5.00 - and proceeded to devour it as we walked. Oooh - it was gooood.
After a dinghy ride past the marinas and through the harbour, we returned gratefully to our spot "outside" and went back to our idle ways of reading, swimming and appreciating the scenery.
On Sunday morning, after a vigorous walk on the beach with calves burning from moving through ankle deep sand, and a cool-down swim, we hauled anchor and motored over to Sugar Loaf Cay where we tucked in on the eastern side. We had good protection there from the Northwest wind that was due to come through. The rest of the day passed easily and although the wind direction changed, we never did get much in the way of rain or wind. I finished the third of the Mark Burnell books - espionage/suspense/thriller types. Jim and I both liked the first one - Rhythm Section - didn't care much for the next two, and now I'm going to read the fourth - The Third Woman - just to be finished with the series (Jim says it's better than books 2 and 3). Jim is reading Pat Conroy's Beach Music right now and enjoying it.
We did manage to throw off our slothful habits on Monday and do a few boat jobs. Jim did some repair work on wooden bits that have had rough encounters with docks over the last few months and I applied myself to cleaning lockers and brass. We could use a really good beating rain to rinse off the salt (and fill our water tank) but that hasn't happened. Then we'll find time to add a couple of coats of cetol on the brightwork and some wax on the decks and we'll start to look good again. Note - that poli-glow that we applied a year ago and don't like now is the very devil to get off!!
We took a dinghy ride around the area and were delighted to spot three dolphins fishing along the bank. I got out my camera and they dove and moved off. I finally put it away and they surfaced - guess they were camera shy! We watched them for a bit and visited our neighbours - Lynn and George on Ketch'n Dreams. They came over to Madcap for Happy Hour - Lynn bearing her signature drink, a smooooth Bailey's/Cinnamon/Butterscotch Schnapps concoction. We enjoyed both the drink and the conversation.
On Tuesday morning, we motored over toward Johnny's Cay, anchored and dinghied out over the reef where George was waiting for us in his dinghy. He gave us a terrific introduction to snorkeling from the dinghy and to fish hunting. Unfortunately, neither he nor Jim was able to catch dinner, but Jim tried his spear a few times, and we had a fine hour of watching the fish. We realized after we got out there that we hadn't taken a bucket to hold the fish or a knife so we would have been dependent on George for more than know-how if Jim had gotten one! Every time we go snorkeling, we are both awed all over again. It is so amazing to just float around over the coral and watch these brightly coloured fish darting or swimming slowly in and out around the reef. This was a nice reef too - with lots of holes to peer through and twists and turns to follow - all within a few metres of the dinghies.
Then we were off to Hope Town. We're planning to spend one night in the harbour on a mooring ball and another night outside. It's time to do laundry and get water and a few groceries along with exploring the town.
I sure hope we can find a wifi connection somewhere. There has been absolutely nothing since the spotty connections we found last week in Marsh Harbour - no wifi and no cell phone coverage. Jim hasn't been able to make a winlink posting either so we have been quite out of touch. But then the sun is shining brightly, and it's 76.1 degrees Fahrenheit. We're not complaining!
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!