01/05/2008/3:17 pm, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
After a leisurely morning at Fisher's Bay, we motored a couple of miles up the way to Baker's Bay, still on Great Guana Cay. We didn't go ashore there, although despite the private club that is present now and the new development that continues to go on, visitors are still welcome on the beaches. Instead, we dinghied over to Spoil Cay, the little island created from the dredging of the channel cruise ships once used to enter Baker's Bay. They no longer visit because, the way we heard it, coming in the Whale Cut is so weather dependent that they couldn't count on a regular schedule.
Spoil Cay, being straight in line with the cut, is a repository for all sorts of pretty little shells that sweep in on the tides.
After a perfectly wonderful afternoon of strolling along the wide swaths of sand ringed with the usual multihued ribbons of water, with sun on our bodies and wind brushing our cheeks, Mike and Cathy (Sapphire) joined us for some sipping and dining. I tried a new recipe for spicy coconut chicken and it was a hit. The combination of chicken cooked with red peppers and pineapple in coconut milk with ginger, garlic and lime, and a dollop of green curry paste is guaranteed to please.
When we got up on Thursday morning, the Whale looked to be navigable so we packed up everything loose, hoisted the dinghy on the davits and headed out. Solitaire had gone the day before and found the trip relatively smooth. The wind was scheduled to stay NE at 15-18 knots so we thought it was worth trying.
We motor sailed through rollers of 6-8 feet and a little bit of wind chop but it was perfectly do-able. The tide was ebbing and gave us a boost on the way out; we angled across the waves as we passed east of Whale Cay so that we were never broadside to them, and headed back in on the north side with a following sea that didn't seem bothered by the gentle ebb flow.
There are about 18 boats anchored off Settlement Point in New Plymouth - more than we ever saw here in December. Ashore, we met up with the crews of Solitaire, Sapphire and Werplayin' as we stood on the steps of Sid's Grocery Store and scooped up spoonfuls of ice cream. We visited the environmental centre at Captain Roberts house, purchased red snapper at B&M Seafoods and raisin bread at Sid's. Cathy and I bought Festival T-Shirts so we'll be fittingly attired for the Island Roots Heritage Festival this weekend. We'll head over to Pineapples for Happy Hour and internet time, and then will attend the welcome reception back at Captain Roberts.
The next couple of days will be spent here as we enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the Festival, and then we'll gradually work our way along the cays to the north - Manjack, Moraine, Double Breasted.
29/04/2008/11:31 am, Great Guana Cay
With a little help from Madcap's resident anchor diver aka Jim, we got ourselves settled in Fisher's Bay. There is very little sand over the rock here and the CQR didn't bite into it very well so Jim and I used the system we've developed to get it set. He places it as well as he can and then I back down on it; he dives and pushes it as the boat backs up and he gives me the single to cut the power. The sand settles so he can see, and he either gives the thumbs up sign or we do it again. It took several tries here but eventually we were satisfied.
Solitaire came in shortly afterward and went through the same drop/back-up/try again routine until they switched to their fortress anchor that bit in first time. Hmmm... interesting. I'm sure I heard Madcap Jim telling Solitaire Jim not to let me know because I would start pressuring him to try switching anchors too and he is loathe to do that. I suppose as long as he wants to be the one doing the diving, we'll do it his way!
The four of us went exploring along the roads and beaches - finding gorgeous stretches of sand with waves roaring in from the ocean. I found the most wonderful description of the colours of the water in a book on Eleuthera, and it applies here too.
"They range from the deepest purple, through every blue imaginable to jade and aquamarine, ending up with the palest yellows, where the sand bars touch the surface in long ripples forming fantastic patterns like watered silk." - Eleuthera: the island called Freedom by Everild Young.
Add to those colours the varying shades of brown and hazel and charcoal of the reefs off shore with a few whitecaps thrown in for contrast and you may almost be able to picture it.
The beach was barren of shells and seabeans so we just enjoyed the walk, stretching out our hamstrings and muscling up our calves, cooling our feet in the water sweeping up over the sandbars. Once we'd worked up a thirst we headed for Nippers - oddly quiet that day - and downed glass after glass of ice-cold water before the usual Kaliks and a plate of conch fritters.
After dinner onboard, Jim and I watched the fireworks set off in honour of a man whose funeral service was held here today. It was a nice way to celebrate a life, and we could hear the cheers of the folks on shore.
The wind shifted through the night, blowing SW in the morning, and will clock through W to N during the day. We had been contemplating moving on Tuesday but have decided to stay here for at least another day, followed by a move to Bakers Bay and then through Whale Cay Cut to Green Turtle before the weekend.
27/04/2008/11:29 am, Man-O-War Cay
We moved over to Man-O-War on Sunday, anchoring up by the narrow bit at the northern end of the Cay. When we stopped there in January, we were one of 2 boats. This time there were 10 during the day and 5 overnight. We had been warned that Abaco anchorages are much busier in the spring and it has sure proven to be true. We're really glad we took the time to explore this area early in the winter when there was lots of space everywhere and the weather was only a couple of degrees cooler than it is now.
When we visited Man-O-War last time, we had mixed feelings about it so we decided to have another look. We also had a mission - to see the new house owned by a colleague of my sister's at Acadia University in Nova Scotia - my alma mater.
If I may just go off on a little tangent for a moment, when we were in Eleuthera, we picked up a brand new local paper, "The Eleutheran" (www.theelutheran.com) and discovered that the publisher/managing editor, Elizabeth Bryan is also an Acadia grad. Yeah Acadia!
And so..."our" anchorage was lovely as always even if more crowded with daytrippers, and the scenery just over the narrows on the ocean side was breathtaking. The beautifully kept properties along the Queen's Highway down to the centre of town were just as fine. Flowers bloomed, the houses were all painted up in pretty pastel colours, yards were swept, beaches were garbage free. Along the waterfront, boats were lined up at the docks and the boatyards were pristine. So why did we still feel uneasy here? What was missing? People!
Our last visit was on a Saturday, and although there were folks working in the boatyards and the shops were open, there were no local people casually around on porches or in the streets. Man-O-War is a dry cay and its inhabitants have a reputation as skilled carpenters and boatbuilders - people who work hard and take their religion seriously. This visit was on a Sunday, and we knew stores would be closed, but being a day of rest, we fully expected to see families out and about.
We started walking about 1 pm, went pretty much one end of the Queen's Highway to the other and strolled along 2 or 3 of the streets leading out to the beaches. We passed playgrounds, a ball field and gazebos. We passed 4 or 5 churches with doors and windows closed (services were listed for morning and evening) and ended up back at the boat at about 4:30 pm. That is roughly 3 ½ hours of strolling. In that time we met probably 7 or 8 golf carts - all but 3 I'd wager were visitors. One of the local ones had an older gentleman and his dog. He gave a careful nod and answered our waves. Another held a beaming and friendly grandparent-looking couple with a pretty little girl on their laps, and the third held a young couple with a baby, none of whom nodded nor smiled.
We saw not one single person relaxing on a porch, not one single child on a bicycle or playing in a yard. No one sat on the benches; no one walked the beaches (except the visitors to the beach where we left the dinghy). There was not one single shop open for an ice-cream or a bottle of water - even the marina store was locked up tight.
We are used to finding folks out around, going to and from work or visiting; we are used to seeing children laughing and playing; we are used to waving to folks on their porches as we pass by; we've visited stores where, even if no one is there, we could grab a bottle of soda or water or beer from the cooler and leave the money on the counter.
Man-O-War is lovely - there is no doubt about that - but it didn't feel like a place to linger. In fact, it felt just plain weird.
We did find Mike's new house and a beautiful one it is. We stood on the wide breezy deck and looked out through the trees to the brilliant green water. We took the sandy path to the beach and listened to the waves roar in. The property looked like a fine spot from which to enjoy the Bahamas weather. And perhaps if one spent months here instead of days, it might even become a place from which to enjoy the community.
We enjoyed a beautiful evening from the deck of our boat and then headed out on Monday morning to Great Guana Cay.