03/23/2013, Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas
We spent three days in Hope Town and could easily have stayed longer. We toured the lighthouse - see picture above, snorkeled in the ocean - which made us appreciate our snorkeling in the Exumas even more, walked all along the island and the beach, had a couple of restaurant meals, and had dinner on a friend's boat. We met even more really nice cruisers and spent some time talking to them in town and on their boats. We are nearing the end of our time in the Bahamas though so we had to think about moving closer to our departure port so when the weather was right we could go. With that in mind we looked at our situation yesterday and realized we were almost out of water, our holding tank was full, and most importantly, the weather was going to get bad over the next few days making the cut we had to get through to go north difficult. Time to leave.
Everything really does revolve around the weather. We knew what kind of wind was coming and from what direction. Every day Bill analyzes the weather report and looks at the various places we can go, and those places we want to go, and decides where we should head next. We knew we had to go past the Whale Cut yesterday because it was very passable and wouldn't be if we waited. We wanted to check out Green Turtle Cay which is another popular destination. It also was a good place for the wind that was coming, especially since we would likely be on a mooring.
These popular towns are often centered around a relatively small inner harbor. There isn't much room inside them so locals set moorings at reasonable distances from each other and charge a daily price to use them. If you go into the harbor and there are no moorings you need to go back out to the open water around the harbor and anchor in much less protection. We were lucky in Hope Town because our friend Muffin had grabbed a mooring for us when she knew we were heading over. To reserve a mooring people tie different things on the mooring ball and you are supposed to know that means it's taken. When we got into Black Sound in Green Turtle Cay we saw that almost all the moorings were taken. There was one open that had a bottle tied to it, but we weren't sure that wasn't how they all were. We took it and were settling ourselves when the boat next to us told us the people on that mooring were just out making water. You generally don't want to use your watermaker in these little harbors - the water is always cleaner outside. We let the mooring go and headed further into the harbor. We were lucky, there was one more mooring left. We took it and when we were settled we went and asked the boat next to us, a boat we had listened to on the VHF for the past few weeks, if they knew anything about the moorings. They pointed us in the right direction for information. We found just enough to know that no one was using the mooring and it was strong enough for our boat. Good! This was where we were staying for the next two days at least. We went back to the other boat to drop off our boat card and they invited us on for Happy Hour. We had a great time talking to them and when we went to get back in our dinghy I missed getting completely in for the first time ever. I just dunked my foot and my leg. I don't think I had too much wine, I just miscalculated. Sometimes it is just not that easy getting on to or off of boats, or docks for that matter, and into the little dinghy!
Today it is raining. We are having a lazy morning and are hoping to have it clear up so we can go check out the town of New Plymouth and Green Turtle Cay.
03/19/2013, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Bahamas
We spent a couple of days in Marsh Harbor. We did our domestic chores since it was our best shot for a Laundromat and supermarket in the Abacos. Marsh Harbor is a relatively big town, and by that I mean they have a road where two real cars can pass each other. We also saw something we have not seen since we've been in the Bahamas, a traffic light! Not to mention a KFC...
We took a long walk in town and had a quick breakfast and a nice lunch on shore. We have noticed that you should never go to a restaurant in the Bahamas when you are hungry to eat right now. It is better to go when you are a little hungry but not starving. Quick service is not their stronghold! We had taken a dinghy ride around the anchorage the night before so I knew there was a castle on shore that some doctor had built. I could see it from the dinghy. We decided to go looking for it on land. When we found it we were very disappointed. It looks much better from a distance - trust me on that one! It is a nice town though.
There is a cruisers net every morning at 8:15 am on channel 68 on the VHF radio. Different cruisers announce the weather and commercial establishments give their specials and some reason you should go to their business. Cruisers also announce their arrival and departure from this part of the Abacos. We heard on the net that a sailboat we had become friends with at the Exuma Land and Sea Park had just arrived in Hope Town, our next stop. We also knew that neighbors of ours from Annapolis, Will and Muffin, spend their entire winter on their boat in Hope Town. They are very well established in the community here. As a matter of fact, Will runs the cruisers net on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We called them after the net and told them we were on our way. It's not very far, just an hour and a half. Muffin found a mooring for us and when we got there she helped us pick it up. Will stopped by to say hi later and I mentioned I had heard on the radio he was taking the small power boat he has use of to Man of War Cay later today. He invited us to come with him. We jumped at the chance since we weren't sure we would get there by our boat. It was a fun ride over there. It's a nice little town.
When we got back we took a walk around Hope Town. It is a beautiful little town. It seems more tourist oriented than any other town we have seen in the Bahamas. The houses are all beautiful and colorful, especially the one in the picture above. On the way back we stopped at Will and Muffin's boat and caught up some more. Muffin has been making all kinds of cool things with the things she finds on the beaches around here. I am very impressed!
Tomorrow we will go out for breakfast and tour the lighthouse. Hopefully it will be nice and warm and we can go snorkeling!
At least we have good Internet in the Abacos! I am catching up with my pictures. Please check out my new album in the Photo Gallery!
03/16/2013, Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas
When we were leaving the anchorage this morning I looked over the side of the boat and saw a couple of fins in the water. I showed it to Bill just as I realized it was a shark! We were moving too fast to really see much of him, and we didn't have the camera ready.
It was a very low wind day so we decided to experiment with our whisker pole. We turned off the engine and just drifted for a while as Bill figured out the best way to use it. The pole holds out our jib sail when there isn't quite enough wind for it to fill on its own and to keep it from collapsing when sailing directly downwind . It's not that easy to use but we are trying to get more comfortable with it. It was the perfect weather for it though. Hardly any wind at all.
Once our experimenting was over we motored down the Sea of Abaco toward Marsh Harbour. There were lots of boats coming the other way. Everyone has been waiting for the weather to change so they can move around again, some are heading back to the U.S. There is one section that is very shallow so you have to head out into the ocean for a bit to get around it. While we were coming back in Bill found a dolphin swimming next to our boat. He finally had his camera and a playful dolphin at the same time. The dolphin liked swimming just in front of our boat under the bow sprit. You can see in the picture above that we were moving along with him. He was swimming underwater in our bow wake.
Unfortunately the Whale part of the title isn't because we saw a whale, I wish we had. No, the cut we had to go out to get around the shallows is called Whale Cay Cut. It's known for being rough sometimes. Luckily today it was no problem. We will have to go through it again in a week or so when we head back north. Hopefully it will be just as easy the next time.
We arrived in Marsh Harbour at dinner time and were lucky to find a good place to anchor. There are a lot of boats here. We haven't gotten to town yet but we will check it out tomorrow.
03/15/2013, Fox Town, Little Abaco Island, Bahamas
Now I understand why no one takes the Bight of Abaco route. Not that it was bad, it wasn't. We got up before sunrise and headed out to complete the Bight and head north. After the sun rose and we had been underway for a while we heard someone call us on the VHF radio. Well, actually they called "Sailboat going north on the Bight of Abaco". No question here, that was us. We answered and found it was a sailboat we had talked to in Hatchet Bay. They were off our starboard side and a bit further back. We had heard they were going to take this route too because they had to be in Marsh Harbour by Saturday. They are cruising with a two year old and a six month old baby! Bill and he chatted a bit over the VHF and then discussed the real reason why everyone was still sitting in Spanish Wells waiting for the right weather. When you leave the Bight of Abaco and head over to the Sea of Abacos you have to go through a very shallow area that is four feet at low tide. Our boat has a five foot draft, as did the other boat. We both planned to go through at just about high tide so we would not run aground. Bill offered to go through the shallow area first since our keel would handle a grounding better than theirs. I think we have better navigation equipment too, not to mention that Bill and I were communicating over our headsets while Bill was checking his charts on the laptop and also going forward to check the color of the water to see where the shallows were. They followed us through and everyone made it out safely. It was a bit nerve wracking, but not dangerous or scary.
So now we are on the "popular" side of the Abacos. We aren't quite to the exciting towns yet but we are going to be able to get to most of them before we have to leave the Bahamas and head home for a visit. We are anchored outside of Fox Town. It's a big enough town that we are able to borrow someone's Internet but we chose not to bother going into town to check it out. We had to go by these huge rocks before we got to the anchorage. The chart says Obstn - for obstruction. Yes, I would think so. The picture above shows just one of the rocks.
Tomorrow we are hoping to get to Marsh Harbour which is in the south part of the island and then work our way north from there.
03/14/2013, Basin Harbour Cay, Bight of Abaco, Bahamas
Today we are celebrating Pi Day, March 14th, 3.14, mathematical Pi. Yes we are geeks and cruisers. Bill discovered this holiday more than thirty years ago and we have been celebrating it by having pie ever since. Bill loves pie so this is one of his favorite holidays. In recent years we have had a big Pi Day Potluck party at our house. Everyone has to bring a pie related dish. We have some very creative friends so there were always some interesting ones. You can see our dinner in the picture above. Those of you who have been at our parties will recognize our banner. I made Shepherd's Pie and Bill made his specialty, cherry pie. He said it may be the best20 pie he ever baked and if you have ever had Bill's cherry pie you know that is saying something. He had to make the crust without the food processor this time. Maybe that is the key. We were hoping to be able to celebrate with other cruisers but due to the weather and our decision to deviate from the norm we are alone. Well, we thought we were really alone until I was sitting on deck this afternoon reading and I looked up just in time to see a seaplane, flying low, round the corner of the basin we are sitting in. Not more than two minutes20 later a small power boat with two men in it turned into the basin too. The plane was flying all around and the men were searching for something on the perimeter, in the shallows. We thought the two were related but now we don't think so. The men in the power boat were going very slow, obviously discussing whatever it was they were looking for. Finally they threw a net in the water and jumped in after it. They pulled the net together and then starting pulling fairly large fish out of it with their hands and throwing them in their boat. It was interesting to watch. After a while they left and now we are alone again.
Early tomorrow morning we are going to head out and hopefully sail for eight hours until we get into Fox Town. Tomorrow will be the best sailing day. The weather report says almost no wind on Friday and Saturday. We take what we can get!
03/13/2013, Basin Harbour Cay, Bight of Abaco, Bahamas
We left before dawn, in the dark, yesterday morning with the new plan of going straight through to the anchorage that would protect us from the strong winds predicted for Wednesday. We've learned to expect every plan to be subject to change. We knew it would be a long day. We had our sails up but we kept the engine on too. The wind was not in the best direction for us to sail at maximum speed. The water wasn't rough, but it certainly was ocean sailing. We had large swells but the boat moved effortlessly through them. You can see an example of the swells in the picture above. If we had Internet where we are now we would have posted one of the videos Bill made of the water. You will just have to wait for that, no hope of Internet on this side of the Abacos. Bill had been looking for Sturgeon - a sea sick remedy that is not available in the United States. He found some in the supermarket at Spanish Wells. We bought a supply and tried it for our trip up the west side of Great Abaco Island. Neither of us got sea sick but then again maybe we weren't going to. It happens sometimes, we never know. We seemed to have no side effects of the medication though so that is good.
As it turns out we were under way for sixteen hours. There really is nothing out here, and we saw nobody. We did go by the private island the Disney cruise line owns and one of their ships was docked there. There were a couple of commercial ships we had to watch out for too. I called one on the radio to make sure he saw me. I didn't quite understand his answer, but at least I knew he knew I was there. We had to go into the basin we are anchored in in the dark and that was a bit disconcerting but the opening was 300 yards wide and there were no rocks or reefs to worry about in the passage. You really can't see anything but you know there is rock on both sides of you. Of course we are the only ones here, so that helped a bit.
The weather is going to deteriorate throughout the day. We had a nice rain storm this morning before we woke up and I was glad to see that it rinsed a lot of the caked salt we had on the boat away. We had deflated our dinghy on Monday night, rolled it up, and brought it down below, in anticipation of heavy seas. We had to put it all back together today and hope that our failing dinghy pump doesn't fail yet. We were successful in pumping it up and need it to last at least one more time when we deflate the dinghy again when we head back home across the ocean.
We discovered that there isn't much to see where we are anchored right now. We will just relax for the next two days and then continue north, probably to Fox Town. It looks like we will be able to see all, or most of, the towns we've heard so much about in the Abacos after all.
03/11/2013, Meeks Patch, Spanish Wells, Bahamas
There is only one thing anybody is talking about in Spanish Wells and the surrounding anchorages right now. Everyone wants to head to the Abacos but all the entrances are raging! The seas have huge waves which are only really a problem when you are getting close to land. Someone got on the radio and said that the dive company in the Abacos has asked that no one come into the cuts today because they had to rescue a number of people yesterday. So, we are heading there anyhow, but we are doing it differently than anyone else. We are going to the Abacos, but we are going to go to the Bight of Abaco which is on the west side of the island and isn't affected by the swells. No one goes there because all the towns and fun things to do are on the east side. They also don't go there because the water is shallow and there are no beaches. They are all going to sit and wait until next weekend before they get underway again. We've never been to any of these places, and we don't care if no one else is around. We have only a few weeks left to stay in the Bahamas and we don't really want to sit and wait for five or six more days if there is a viable alternative.
With our rented golf cart on Sunday we went to talk to this fascinating sailor who has a house on the island over the bridge from the marina. We met him at the happy hour on Saturday and it seemed to us that he has sailed over every inch of the Bahamas. We had a little trouble finding his house, we were looking for a boat with the pink stripe on it. Finally we found it, and him. Turns out besides being a very accomplished sailor he is also a boat and house builder and an incredible artist. His house has the best view of any in the area. We sat with him for a long while and told him our idea for getting around the swell problem. He thought it was a great idea and told us a lot of places to go check out.
We finished the day with a pot luck dinner with all the people from the marina we were still staying at. The food was great and there were a lot of really nice people there. All people who wanted to go to the Abacos and didn't want to do it the way we were going to. No problem, I've been looking forward to exploring places and not having to worry about whether there would be room in the anchorage. We haven't had much opportunity to snorkel and we are hoping that we will be able to do more of that too.
So today we head out for a very long day. We are hoping to sail most of the way. Tomorrow we need to head right back out and get to the anchorage that will protect us from the next strong winds they are predicting for Wednesday night. We have heard that the weather in the Bahamas this year is worse than it's been in a long time. We don't know - it's all new to us. It's certainly an education on wind and wave protection though!
03/10/2013, Spanish Wells Yacht Haven, Spanish Wells, Bahamas
The wind we were waiting for in Hatchet Bay never materialized but we spent several days there waiting for it. I knew it would probably happen, Bill decided we would have to go back to the cave with all the caving equipment that we carted with us and explore it beyond what we had done the first day. We had a good time, and got much dirtier. Good thing we brought a change of clothes or no one would have picked us up on the way back!
All the weather reports have been saying that it will be some time before we can head to the Abacos. They are in the northern part of the Bahamas and the direction of the swells is making it very difficult to head into the cuts to get to land. It's called a "rage" when the swell causes the waves to break across the opening. A lot of people who were heading there were staying put. We decided to get closer by going to Spanish Wells. Friday was a perfect sailing day. We have been listening to other sailors who have a ketch like we do and decided to try just sailing with our mizzen and two head sails. It worked great and we had a really pleasant sail. Bill decided we should practice "heaving to". That is when you back your sails so that you basically stay in one place with your sails up. It's a good thing to do when the water is rough and you just need a break. It worked well, and hopefully we will remember to use that when we need it.
We had to go through a cut that has a strong current so Bill timed it so we could go through at the most comfortable time. We got there a little early but we managed to get through with no issues at all. On the other side of the cut the wind was on our nose so we had to motor the rest of the way. Bill was weighing all the options, something he has to do a lot of these days. He decided we should treat ourselves by staying at a marina for a few days since it is very close to the town. Spanish Wells is the most civilized of all the Bahamian towns we have been to so far. It is very modern and we had heard it has the best supermarket.
The marina is very nice and there are a lot of nice cruisers here. The tide is relatively high and the docks are fixed so that means it's hard for me and my short legs to get off and on the boat sometimes. The other issue is that we didn't put enough fenders out and there was a bolt sticking out of one of the pilings. The first morning Bill woke up and the boat was heeled. That is not a good thing when you are on a dock. When he freed the boat the bolt got caught on the rub rail and caused some damage. Bill was able to hammer it back in, but it's another blemish on poor Moonraker.
We walked all around town and met up with a cruiser who owns a house here that we had met in South Carolina. He invited us to a happy hour at his house. Bill decided we should rent a golf cart and explore the island so we went to the happy hour in our golf cart. It was very informative, the cruisers there really knew their stuff. So now we are trying to figure out what and when we can move on. Tonight there is a pot luck dinner on the dock of the marina. We will probably learn even more there!
03/06/2013, Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
The weather report indicated that the wind would not be too bad until later in the day so we decided to go check out the cave we heard was close by. It's about three miles up the road but everyone told us it's really safe to hitchhike here and that everyone did it. So we took the dinghy to the main town dock, headed up to the road, and, forgive me Mom, Bill put his thumb out for the first car that came by. Of course they stopped. They were two guys from the United Kingdom vacationing in Eleuthera and had no idea where the cave was. They were very nice though and we had a nice chat for just a couple of minutes until we saw a sign that said Hatchet Bay Caves. We thanked them and got out and walked toward the cave.
We had only brought our headlamps for this outing, figuring we would just be checking it out and would bring back the real gear later if the cave warranted it. We were really pleased to see that it is a full fledged cave. Bill and I are used to going into wild caves in West Virginia. It's been a while since we've been in one since the boat has taken all our time and energy for the past year. Surprisingly it is a beautiful cave, if you can look past the graffiti that is everywhere inside. Bill took lots of pictures and we put them in our Photo Gallery. Go take a look. Bill wrote the commentary this time!
We spent about an hour exploring the cave and then headed back out to the road. We wanted to see if we could find the road to this other pond that was nearby. Before we got very far though a pickup truck drove by and stopped and asked us if we'd like a ride to town. You can't say no to an offer like that so we climbed in the back of the pickup truck and had a nice ride back to town.
It would have been a perfect trip if we hadn't run into a man in a uniform by the town dock who asked us if we were from a boat in the pond. We told him we were anchored, not on a mooring. He had a form he wanted us to fill out and $30 for an annual fee for using the anchorage, whether we were on a mooring or not. Bill hadn't even brought his wallet with us, and he knew the moorings were free, so he told the guy he didn't have $30 and we walked past him and went back to our boat. We have no idea what that was about. We called another cruiser we had met in the anchorage who has been here for a while and asked him what he knew about that. He had no idea. It just irritated us and put a damper on our nice morning.
We are still waiting for the heavy winds to come. Maybe it won't be so bad after all. We are definitely in a very protected anchorage so maybe we won't even notice!
03/06/2013, Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Yesterday the winds were light but we were able to sail part of the way north up the Eleuthera coast to Hatchet Bay. Everyone here follows the weather, it's the most discussed topic when you meet someone or eavesdrop on their conversations on the VHF radio, which we always do! We have our radio set to scan the most common channels that people switch to so if anyone is having a conversation on those channels we hear it. It's what passes as entertainment these days. We knew that Hatchet Bay would be a good spot to wait out the heavy winds that are predicted for the next day or so. We never know how many other boats will pick that spot too. When we got close to the opening to turn into another boat was coming from the opposite direction. That always spikes Bill's competitive side and we have to accelerate to try and get in first to get the best choice of spots. We didn't realize the opening would be quite the way it is though. The picture above shows how you get into the Hatchet Bay Pond. It wasn't really difficult, it just isn't how most places are. They blasted the entrance out of solid rock to make a harbor here. It was just a natural lake before they did that. We ended up with what we hope is a decent spot to anchor. If the strong wind is in the direction they predict there can't be any boats in front of us to drag, we are close enough to the shore so no one will get in front of us. One less thing to worry about!
When we got here we thought we had great Internet. Then it disappeared in the middle of a Skype conversation. It was gone until this morning. Maybe we have Internet during the day but not at night. We aren't sure, but we will take whatever we can get!
We went to shore yesterday to check out the town. It is a typical Bahamian town. There are stores and churches and a school, most of them fairly run down. The school seemed like the nicest one we've seen so far. The school in Black Point had a couple of doors missing - apparently that wasn't a problem for them. We had a nice walk around and stopped in the General Store to buy a loaf of fresh baked bread. We are still debating whether we will head out to find the cave we know is here today or wait until after the wind is predicted to stop. Either way there are a few days of relaxation in our future. We are getting better at it!