07/08/2012, Little Harbour, Abacos, Bahamas
The last time we were in Little Harbour was on our last extended "cruising" voyage, 17 years ago. The first thing we saw this time that had changed was the entrance channel: it's now buoyed carefully with red and green buoys. It was still as shallow as ever, but one no longer has to guess where the deepest water is!
Entrance to Little Harbour, from the inside looking out. 3' at low water.
The next thing we noticed was that Pete's Pub has a nice mooring field there, well-marked.
Yes, recycled tires are used in the mooring floats
We picked up a mooring. A green turtle surfaced near our boat -- the turtles still love this bay! How wonderful!
And the cave is of course still a major feature of the western end of the harbor:
And unlike last time, we could see the bottom... the waters are not gin-clear, but they are clearer than they were when we were here 17 years ago. Of course, that may have something to do with weather or time of year, but I'd like to think it's actually a bit clearer now.
Pete's is all grown up -- two huge docks out front:
Pete's Pub and Gallery with one of the docks, as seen from our mooring
The gallery seems bigger, too! Pete Johnston's father was a sculptor and professor who moved his young family to Little Harbour decades ago to create a foundry and make his sculptures in peace -- so Pete grew up here (his father passed on years ago), had his own sons here (one of his sons, Greg, just married his sweetheart Heather the weekend before we arrived!), and also learned the ways of bronze work from his dad. As with Bobby Little (coral rock sculptor) in Rum Cay, wherever you go in the compound, you run into Pete's sculptures:
Scratching a living in the natural world of sea and shore
Rays have a beauty that partakes of both the sea and flight
Can you see the turtle above the second ray? Pete grew up swimming with green turtles.
We wandered the road before settling at the Pub for sunset... here's the foundry compound gate.
While wandering, I noticed that Grant seems to be growing again...!
If he's this tall at 13, it's possible he really will get to 6'4"!
As with Bobby Little's mermaids, no male sculptor's oeuvre is complete without naked ladies! But we're not sure whether this one was Pete's or his dad's work.
The area is a sea park. Don't spear fish or catch conch in Little Harbour:
It was a beautiful, peaceful first evening!
Derek walking the beach by Pete's Pub dock, Little Harbour
The front of the Gallery faces toward the beach. There was something interesting on it...
Plaques on front of Pete Johnston's Gallery
On closer inspections, there was a "Sully" commemorative:
Pete's "Miracle on the Hudson" plaque
The restaurant/bar is open 7 days, from noon each day, and only dark Monday night. There are moorings charters out of Hope Town now, and one of the first stops these 37-to-42-foot catamarans make is to pick up a mooring at Little Harbour and visit Pete's. People making trips along Abaco in their cars also stop there. Wow!
There is also a small thing that has connected us to Little Harbour for all these years. Last time through here, we used some of my inheritance from my Mom to purchase a lot from Don Chambers, who had bought the whole hillside behind his house when he came to LH in the 70s. He had decided to sell the lots on the hillside, which were slightly more than 0.5 acres each, and eventually return to the States. So, after a meeting with the LH residents, we bought one. Almost the first thing we did after picking up the mooring was to visit the lot. What had been partially cleared 17 years ago when we walked it prior to buying was now, of course, jungly! But that is also a plus for the neighborhood, in that it preserved a feeling of nature that LH residents tend to value. So, our property is to the right along the road in this picture:
Partway up, there seemed to be a thinning under the casuarinas (they tend to poison the undergrowth), so Derek and Grant went in to take a look:
Derek and Grant inspect the property... I think we may need to clear a little...
The other really nice thing about this property is that there are quite a few mature coconut palms on it. Those will be staying, as much as we can manage.
The "narrow" end of the property, along the upper road
We also plan a fruit orchard at the lower end of the hillside, so as to catch drainage and stay well-watered. Mangoes and papayas, mostly, with maybe a small veg garden down there, as far from possible salt spray as we can get it.
We talked with Pete at the pub about gardening and casuarinas (they tend to absorb salt and thus protect gardens, but they also will poison your water supply if their needles fall on your roof!) and solar power. Here's Pete's solar forest on the roof:
Pete's Pub and Gallery: powered by the sun!
We also talked with several other residents abut house-building and gardening; people are wonderful and friendly here! Our next-door neighbor will be Kay. Her place is neatly kept, you can see the transition from our jungle to her carefully-tended coconut palms :-)
As you can see from this view shortly after one of our new neighbors threw down some table scraps, disposal of food wastes is not a problem. Those are hermit crabs. As we stood on their deck, more and more of them showed up for some struggles and good eats:
Hermit crab food waste disposal system
A lot of privacy hedges near our property are made up of, or thickened with, these plants:
We can't seem to find out what they are. Kay is away, and another resident told us they were pandanus, but they are not (pandanus has a woody stem from which the leaves radiate). These things rise right from the ground with a coloring like yucca but not as heavy a texture, but they get to 8' tall or more! Clearly, they will take over the place if allowed to. Helen, you're the plant expert, can you ID these? They can get HUGE.
Derek has another question, while we're at it: what kind of flower is this? He really likes it :-)
Kay has a nice little garden, and there's a path along the bottom of our property line, that we will create another path to join once we start clearing.
The path extends along our downhill property line and heads toward Don's -- which makes sense because when we bought from Don, there was an agreement that allowed us perpetual access to the dock by the big house and the right to put in a mooring. Kay probably has the same agreement.
As we headed back to the dinghy and on to Pete's Pub, I took this shot of the NE (downhill) corner of the property, a few very nice palms before the path joins the road, marking the easement.
Boundary Palms in fading daylight
At Pete's, we found Pete (in his signature bandana sweatband), and helpful, friendly, funny new neighbors!
Again, Pete's sculptures make the Pub more beautiful! Last time we were at Pete's Pub, it was a single leaning roof over a small bar on a deck, and it was only open when Pete had a reason to open it. Things have come a long way!
One of Pete's sharks
Like the Chat'n'Chill in George Town, people's boat tee shirts make up part of the decor as well:
The next day, we took a trip to Bookie's Beach and to visit Anthea and Roland to talk about good construction ideas for a local house -- theirs has survived well! Here's the beach, it faces the Atlantic side:
Derek and Grant love a bit of surf!
Auuuugh!!! ha ha ha
Noooo! Don't let that rock get me!
On the way back, Derek also took a liking to this salt-tolerant ground cover with the succulent-like leaves:
Should have taken that gardening extension course!
The Atlantic side of the Little Harbour promontory is a wild and beautiful location:
when the hurricanes come, they move the sand dunes around
On Tuesday, we are going up to Hope Town at Elbow Cay.
07/06/2012, Little Harbour, Abacos, Bahamas
Left SW Yacht Haven marina 8am saying farewell to Miz Angela, Treadwell, and the helpful Leroy (who found us one of the VERY few electrical tails they have to convert their 50Amp power to 30A for those of us with older boats). Long run north, and arrved Abacos Little Harbour 6 pm. Will be here 'til Monday (Hope Town is hosting a regatta and we don't want to have to struggle to get anchoring space or a mooring). More when I get better Internet.
07/04/2012, Spanish Wells, Bahamas
Been here in Spanish Wells three days, going to stay one more night and head out toward the Abacos first thing in the morning (first thing meaning 8 am since we have to settle the marina bill and they won't estimate, they need a reading on water and electricity -- and they open at 8 am). We will head to the fuel dock and meet A1 Broadshad, who is in his 70s now but still going strong -- we last met him when he came to collect a mooring fee from us when we picked up a mooring in the harbor or Royal Island in 1994!
Got showers and ate a couple of meals ashore and did laundry and went provisioning -- wow, it's nice to be able to do all that.
Today, CERN confirmed that a particle answering to the description of the much-sought-after Higgs Boson has been detected at the Large Hadron Collider:
The Higgs Boson has been found. Let's all go for ice cream!!!
This puppy is a real monster, says Derek, "It masses as much as a Barium atom!" Here's the BBC article on it.
07/01/2012, Spanish Wells, Bahamas
The early morning peace of Hatchet Bay Pond turned to a wake-up call as birds started visiting just after sunup:
"What kind of bird is this?" I asked Derek as I zoomed my lens, He answered groggily from our bunk: "A loud one."
Actually, I think it's a Gray Kingbird, AKA Pitirre
The Gray Kingbird is a kind of flycatcher, but he seemed to be checking our radar reflector to be sure it wasn't actually a birdfeeder. They are also a famously aggressive species: with other birds, including large fierce hunting birds, and even with humans. No wonder the cat didn't alarm him! Speaking of alarms, he makes a good one...
We headed NW toward Current Cut, with the wind having backed to SSW, we were even able to put the jib out. A little weather formed up ahead of us, but it was moving away as we progressed:
Sailing toward the weather
When we got to Current Cut, the weather was already northeast of it. Lightning occasionally lanced down toward Eleuthera from a gray cloudbank, but sunlight illuminated the near scenery in an eerily beautiful way. This set of pilings (wrecked dock) and moored small blue boat were on the southeastern side of Current Cut where a sandbank extends southward. Derek managed to take this picture at my urging (I was steering at the time) before we made a more-than-90-degree turn to port, putting the scene behind us:
I think he's a very patient and wonderful husband (indulging my "oh, please shoot that!" requests). Plus, he takes a good photo!
There is no anchoring allowed within the harbor of Spanish Wells -- not enough room. Checking into a marina for tonight. Spanish Wells Yacht Haven. Hooked up to power, access to a shower that includes walls, water 20 cents/gal, and nice neighbors. Tomorrow we will go to Immigration to get Derek's permission to be in the country extended. We're not sure why these permissions are not automatically as long as the cruising permit duration, since the people generally have to stay with the boat, but in the Bahamas typically you get 90 days at a time, only, while the cruising permit is good for six months (and can also be extended).
Tomorrow being Monday, we will also get provisions, gas/diesel, and look for a dive shop; the diving at the north side of this island is said to be wonderful. Certainly it should be dramatic: there are dozens of wrecks along the Devil's Backbone reef complex between Spanish Wells and North Eleuthera, and there is a huge "wall" where the depth goes from 20 feet to 300-plus in a short horizontal distance. This being an awesome fishing center, we'd also sort of expect to see many fish :-)
Spanish Wells is one of the most prosperous Bahamian communities per capita; the main industry here is fishing. The island is small, just a couple of miles long and not very wide, so view like this one are common:
The community owns its own supermarket (Food Fair), and its own power company (it's a co-op). The lady who checked us into the marina, Angela, explained that she just celebrated her 20th birthday -- she was born on Feb 29th. I could not believe it, she looks like she's at most in her 60s, but she has five children, 11 grand children and six great-grands, IIRC, she is 80. Wow! There must be something very healthy either in the Spanish Wells environment/lifestyle or in her genes :-) Genes here are similar to the out-islands of the Abacos: white Crown loyalists from the American Revolution, overlaid on British Eleutherian Adventurers who came looking for religious freedom. The accent is still faintly British, and the people are deeply religious and gracious, and very proud of the cleanliness and orderliness of their island. Because of its small size, many residents choose to drive golf carts rather than cars and trucks:
Spanish Wells home with hipped white roof and golf cart
The hipped roof is more hurricane-resistant, and white is not only cool for a roof, it is also the color often chosen for rain catchment roofs. Spanish Wells has its own wells, but some residents have cisterns as well: Yacht Haven Marina in fact has a cistern.
They are also proud of their gardens, and although I don't have many shots of those, here's one for Helen:
No alcohol is sold here, although residents and visitors may bring it in for their own use; to that end, the first large business at the Eleutheran end of the Spanish Wells-Eleuthera ferry is a big liquor store. Pascal and La'Tisha warned us about this a couple of weeks back!
The J42 sailboat (S/V Shazaam, from St. Petersburg, FL) that pulled in just after us completed the Newport-to-Bermuda race, then was supposed to be delivered back to its home in the US by way of the Bahamas -- but things were difficult, the owner and his brother were expecting another crewmember who suddenly ripped something in his knee and needed an operation, so two of his buddies stepped in to crew -- and then the whole boat encountered Tropical Storm Debby as it headed offshore and toward Bermuda: 19-foot seas and 35-knot sustained winds. These guys are glad to be here. They did not actually kiss the sweet ground when they arrived, but Derek gave them each a beer (which I followed up by giving two of them the Bahamian stout known as Strong Back: it tastes suspiciously like Guinness, which is to say it has a wonderful creamy head and it's delicious. I suspect industrial espionage, but hey, it's good stuff and it's brewed here!). Pictures of our supply of lager and stout follow: we knew we were coming to Spanish Wells and we knew the policy on alcohol sales, what can I say -- there was room in the cockpit!
essential cruising gear
So, tonight we are going to dinner: we'd just cook for the guys (who are down to beans and hot dogs), but there are four of them... maybe we could cook on Parallax and serve over in their boat, which is bigger :-) The guys took turns doing laundry and showering, pinned the clean clothes to the lifelines, then headed to Eagle's Landing (about 10 minutes before they'd planned, I guess), so at 7pm, we headed to "The Gap" (The Generation Gap), at the recommendation of Miz Angela.
We were afraid it was closed (after all, Sunday evening): no cars or golf carts out front. No one inside, either:
Church being the serious thing that it is here, there is a morning service, a Lord's Supper at noon, and an evening service from 6:30 to 7:30. So after 7:30 the restaurants expect the church folk to stop in. At The Gap after 7:30 were a fisherman and his large family, a family of boaters from M/V Wish For Fish who are also staying at SWYH (we hadn't gotten to talk to them much, earlier), and a couple of the young ladies of the town stopping in after services.
Took a walk to the eastern end of the island and back along the fishing docks after dinner. There was a tiny "tugboat" at the seawall, instead of having truck tires buffering its front it had golf cart tires!
06/29/2012, Hatchet Bay Pond
Finally left Governor's Harbour, heading north, with the wind from the west we decided to spend a night at Hatchet Bay Pond, a VERY protected circular anchorage with a narrow opening.
Leaving Governor's Harbour northbound, we passed Rainbow Bay, and the only "disguised" microwave cell tower we've encountered in the Bahamas. Can you tell which palm tree is fake?
Our friends the fish trap floats made a reappearance, too:
The approach to the protected harbor is narrow:
rock bluffs protect Hatchet Bay Pond's Harbor
But once you're inside, the water is very calm and there are government moorings:
The gazebo and lovely dock were very impressive...
Will write up what we saw (pics) and did there tomorrow evening (sorry!). We met a great guy named Derek, an aeronatical engineer for Bahamas Air, who likes anime.
When we got back, bearing conch salad, there was another boat here, S/V Mi Cielito, hailing port Charleston, SC, where we lived and taught for a couple of years.
They are from Bellingham, WA and traveling with their two wonderful little daughters. We hope to see them in Spanish Wells in a couple of days!
Heading to Spanish Wells in the morning.
06/28/2012, Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas
When we arrived in Governor's Harbour last Saturday, we picked up a mooring close to a raft called Antiki, whose owner/builder, 86-year-old Anthony Smith, had sailed her from the Canary Islands to St. Maarten, and from St. Maarten to Eleuthera. The voyage's end had come the month before, in early May, when Antiki touched the beach on the Atlantic side of Eleuthera, close to Governor's Harbour. The raft was then towed around the island and into GH, where there was a welcoming ceremony on May 9th. And so we found her, anchored here, on June 23rd:
Antiki at anchor, June 23, 2012, Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera. Note her position right on the line where white sand turns to turtle grass.
we loved the ship's eyes that had been painted on her. like Derek and me, she has four!
But then came several days of rain and winds from first the south, then the southwest, then the west (with waves into the harbor mouth, toward the beach). Here was some of the rain:
It was whipping the water into froth part of the time, but I didn't want to get my camera wet:
But rain didn't bother Antiki, here she was next to us the next day:
Parallax and Antiki. See, Antiki is still right over the dividing line between dark turtle grass and light sand.
Just to give you some idea of where the beach is, another shot:
But after the rain came a windy day, with the winds from the west and the sea very choppy in the anchorage (except at our mooring, probably the most sheltered area in the harbor). People were running along the street by the seawall to try to avoid getting drenched by the waves!
It actually got a lot wetter than this, I just didn't shoot pictures when the whole street was drenched.
And when it was over, Antiki had moved. That is, she'd dragged her anchor and was much closer to the beach than before:
Antiki dozens of feet inside the white sand terminator. She's been dragging toward the beach.
We're worried that one more good blow will beach her. She has many useful things aboard, like solar panels and a wind generator and so forth, and I am not sure how long she would last if she washed ashore, as seems likely, soon.
06/23/2012, Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Raised anchor after 10 am for the relatively short day to Governor's Harbour. Called La'Tisha and Pascal to say we were heading out (we had also told them yesterday at the Fish Fry, more about that yummy event later :-) We are going to miss them, and their wonderful kids JMia, Cirena, PJ, Brent and Kailen (sorry if I am spelling any of these badly!) They truly made Rock Sound the greatest place to visit! Here are a few more pictures of Pascal's and the Fish Fry last Friday:
Pascal's dining area - "outdoors" but covered
TJ's one man band plays music for the Fish Fry at Pascal's
Pascal and his very fresh conch for salad
This moth was bigger than some of the hummingbirds we've seen here!
Once it got dark, a lot more local people showed up to the Fish Fry, as well as another party of tourists having dinner, so I think it went OK, even though it kept LaTisha and Pascal working pretty late! The conch salad was as delicious as could be, the grilled/smoked whole red snapper delectable, the roasted potatoes simple and very yummy. Truly, we were sorry to have to move on from Rock Sound...
Governor's Harbour (GH) has restaurants, stores, a big library (2nd largest in the Bahamas) and is next to the Governor's Harbour (GHB) international airport -- which is the point. We need to get mail from our mail drop in the States. BahamasAir is the local FedEx representative, and they are based at GHB. They also have a newish breakwater that really makes the southern half of the anchorage much better protected than it used to be. Just look at this cool jetty:
jetty breakwater at Governor's Harbour mouth
As you can see, from where we are moored, it cuts out about 33% of the possible exposure angles (SW-W), so only NW would be uncomfortable in this location:
harbor opening from our location - jetty doing a lot of protecting!
So we called up BahamasAir at GHB to make sure that was OK. They said yes, they would hold our package and we'd have to pick it up at GHB at the BahamasAir desk.
Aerial view of Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera
You can see three little dots in the harbor that are boats in this picture. We are in the same position as the westernmost of the three dots, in the cradle of the curved cay, on a mooring, right beside the AnTiki raft that Anthony Smith, 86, sailed from the Canary Islands to Eleuthera by way of St Maarten. It's a fun-looking craft, basically a metal garden shed affixed to large sealed gas pipes made into a raft, with crossed telephone poles to act as mast and yard (square rigged). Lovely painted eyes on the bows. Pictures to follow, as usual, but here's one:
An-Tiki, the gas pipe raft that Anthony sailed across the Atlantic
Anthony himself seems to be somewhere else. But despite the exotic neighbor, we are just hanging out here, waiting for our mail. Tracking the package, it was shipped on the 20th and arrived in Nassau the same day. It cleared customs and was released for delivery on the 21st. You'd think it would be here by now.
Some of our mail package is a power supply replacement for Grant's computer, some is a replacement for Grant's Kindle. That has a monetary value, so we have to pay import duty. No problem, right?
Um, well... the Nassau FedEx office tried to call us and didn't connect on the first try, so they marked the package as "not scheduled for delivery." I called them back Friday morning when I noticed the missed call, but the number automatically goes to the call center 1000 miles away in in El Salvador. They tried (via in-system message) to get the Nassau office to release the hold and deliver the package, but instead this morning on tracking it was marked "hold for pickup in Nassau." So I called again this morning. The lady sent another message. And she said nobody will see the messages from the call center until Monday.
We should have used DHL! It's an option for international package express, while in the US, DHL is only allowed to do business deliveries and international, not domestic (protectionism for UPS and FedEx).
FedEx charged us over $150 to ship that 5-pound package to us, but they did not ship it to us, they shipped it to an island 50 miles away from the one we are on, and now it looks like they are going to make us travel 50 nautical miles or more -- across a bank full of coral heads (we were not planning on going in that direction) to New Providence Island (that's Nassau's island) -- to pick the silly thing up. When their "agent," BahamasAir, runs two flights a day into an airport just 8 miles from us.
This is just a broken way of doing business.
UPDATE Tuesday: We called back Monday afternoon, finally got someone in Nassau, were able to pay the duty by credit card, and they shipped it to us on BahamasAir's Tuesday morning flight to GHB.
06/21/2012, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, Bahamas
"Well, at least it's not raining," quoth Derek, who has been alternately working his way through a physics book so thick it has its own gravitational field and a thin, elegant Latin primer.
Over the last few days, the rain has been on and off -- Tuesday mostly on, Wednesday mostly off but still cloudy and breezy, today on again. It's that trough I mentioned, it's stalled over our section of the Bahamas and we're doing the usual boater-ly thing and waiting it out.
On the way over here to Rock Sound, I finally finished that little fruit basket I've been weaving out of silvertop palm fronds:
silvertop palm small basket, Heather's first
Otherwise, despite the "frass" (small bits of palm frond that get all over when you do basketry), it would have been a good rainy-day project.
Our new friends at Pascal's were very welcoming, and we have been trying to come up with ways to be helpful to them, as they have been so helpful to us!
I got out my Sailrite sewing machine and brought it over there on Tuesday (after the rain ended), and used some of the moons-and-stars material I had brought along to make a little sundress for La'Tisha's youngest daughter, the precocious and charming Cirena, and a "wrap-style" skirt for her oldest daughter, the quiet and lovely Ja'Maya (any misspellings are due to my faulty memory and/or not having seen the name spelled out). Those were both finished Tuesday (except for final hemming, we just left the selvage edge at the bottom of both pieces, as it was identical to the fabric and provides a bottom edge that will not ravel no matter whether it's hemmed high or let out all the way). La'Tisha will finish the hemming herself as needed.
I left the machine at the restaurant and came back yesterday to work on a bar apron for La'Tisha. I had bought some wildly tropical print remnant with parrots and toucans and jungly bits and sunsets, intending to use it to make one of those cylinders you hang up to take rolled-up grocery plastic bags, in order to recycle them as small trash bags. Hadn't done that yet, and can always do it some other time -- and there was just enough to make a full-sized apron for La'Tisha, once she provided, for the waist tie, a black stretchy neoprene belt she had that had stretched out from its original use. We had only a very small scrap of material left over, sufficient to use for perhaps one pocket, but with the designer name and pattern number on the selvage edge! Convenient if a'Tisha wants to expand on coordinating items. Here's the finished apron, modeled by the lovely Derek:
Derek modeling the Tropical Bar Apron since LaTisha was busy with customers at the time -- Grant suggested Derek needed a hibiscus blossom behind the ear for best accesorizing!
I darted the apron since LaTisha is definitely a girl, and managed to get enough material left over from the bib top to make self-ties for the neck (the waist, as previously noted, is black stretch fabric with neoprene backing and velcro closure, from a previous belt of LaTisha's). The coolest part was seeing that I could match the toucan body on the bottom with a toucan head that continues the bottom panel's theme (the cloth was side-by-side rather than lengthwise), and use the remainder of the trimmed-off section of that second panel for the ties, matching the color-theme of the design on the bib at right and left shoulders with the bottom end of the respective tie (even though the design on the tie is sideways to the design on the bib). So, molten orange is with molten orange and grassy fronds are with grassy fronds. I liked the way that worked out!
No sooner had I finished that apron than -- zing! Pascal tagged us back with a wonderful supper of pan-fried whole red snapper (marinated since the night before in lemon juice, salt and pepper by La'Tisha), roasted potatoes in a light, creamy sauce, and fresh (dressed) salad with all kinds of wonderful crunchy veg added in -- and small black olive pieces that provided little flavor focal points throughout the salad! The five of us had sat down to dinner at about 6:30, before the restaurant was officially closed, but no one had been in for some time, when -- zap! Customers showed up wanting dinner (probably having scented the red snapper delights within). When this picture was taken, Pascal was finishing up his dinner while La'Tisha had gone off to take drink orders and distribute menus. Once the orders were in, Pascal went off to the kitchen and La'Tisha returned to finish her meal :-)
Pascal's Snapper Supper -- come Friday for the Fish Fry!