05/09/2011, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
This morning we had Cynthia and Teddy from Topaz over as planned. Like always with cruisers, we had a lot to talk about. They were as fascinated to be aboard a same but different Norseman as we were when we were on Topaz. We talked for about 2 hours, then it was getting late for us to get things together and move on. So we said good-bye and they went back. They are going to Marsh Harbour tomorrow to pick up a friend who flew down to make the passage back to the states with them. They will leave from the top end of the Abacos and sail 6 straight days back to Annapolis, as long as the weather allows it.
Meanwhile, we tidied the last things up and raised the anchor. We had the perfect day for this trip, though. The Whale Passage is an area where you have to go outside the Sea of Abaco to avoid some shoals that run all the way from Whale Cay across to Great Abaco. Only shallow draft boats can cross the shoals. This is the area that can have a "rage" when the winds and current oppose, or when the winds are strong from the northeast, or when there is a big ocean swell rolling in from the northeast. We'd just had several days of light wind, and today the wind was light and from the west, so it was blowing out across the narrow Sea of Abaco and not in from the Atlantic. The picture above was a boat we passed as we were going along the outside of Whale Cay. It was and interesting boat, but you can also see that the waves were pretty tame. This is the area that gets bad enough to make the cruise lines abandon Baker's Bay, but today, we didn't even lift the dinghy aboard, we towed it with no problem.
Again, we weren't going that far so didn't put the main up. I did get a bit of a workout. As soon as we got on course we pulled out the jib. Not long after we got it out, the wind veered around too far and I had to pull it in. Then when we got to the Whale Passage itself we could carry it, so I pulled it out again. About 2 miles later we turned in towards the Sea of Abaco and I had to pull it in again. Then 3 miles after that, we turned and out it came. We managed then to carry it for the rest of the trip (the total trip was only 12 nm). It was still touch and go as the wind was swinging around under big puffs of clouds. It was still generally from the west, but kept veering towards the north, making it hard to carry the sail. When I wasn't unfurling or furling the jib, I was either sheeting it all the way in (pulling it tight to go more towards the wind) or easing it out again.
We found our way to White Sound, which is the northern most of the two harbors on Green Turtle Cay. It also has the deepest entrance channel, although we came in about an hour before high tide and Bud still saw 7' 9" on the depth meter. Take a couple of feet of tide off that and we'd be scraping the bottom. We were hoping it wasn't too crowded to anchor. There are two marinas in here, and some mooring balls. A lot of the bottom was grassy. We found a likely sandy spot and I started to drop the anchor. The chain got stuck before the anchor hit the bottom. I tried to get it loose but couldn't, so had to raise the anchor while Bud circled around and I went below to check the chain locker. It turns out that the chain was just down and back against the wall of the locker. I pulled some of it up by hand and came back up. We checked out one other spot while we were circling, but didn't like that, so headed back to make a second try. A boat I hadn't seen at all before was pulling up to that spot, and didn't they (successfully) drop anchor there. So Bud and I had to reassess and take a spot that was a bit closer to some other boats than we would like to be. We're really not that close, but we like to leave plenty of room around us. At least the anchor dropped with no issues this time, and when we went to check the anchor set with our viewing bucket it was buried completely, even the bail.
So now we are anchored in this busy little harbor. I'll post a picture in the gallery when I can that shows how close to us the boats run to get to the one marina. They go between us and the boats anchored closest to us. It's like living on a freeway...Bahamas style.
05/08/2011, Baker's Bay, Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Our life is not built around weekly schedules or calendars or holidays, but we did remember that today was Mothers Day (which means it must be Sunday). We aren't really doing anything different from what we usually do, though. We stayed at Baker's Bay. This morning we did some trouble-shooting on our SSB radio because we'd tried to talk to Passages last evening at the time and frequency agreed upon, and although we could hear Ed, he couldn't hear me. We checked everything we could. We don't seem to be getting any power on transmit. The only thing on the troubleshooting list that we couldn't check was the junction of the antenna lead wire to the insulated backstay. That requires a stepladder on the aft deck, and we don't carry a stepladder. I could go part way up the mast with the boatswain's chair and then try to work my way back along the boom and then grab the backstay, but it would be very difficult to work in that position. Since we're headed back to the states, we decided to wait until then to tackle the problem.
Bud went swimming and cleaned the boot stripe again. Our water line is at the bottom stripe of the triple stripe we have for a boot stripe. Because the water always covers it, and because it's not bottom paint, it grows an algae beard. Bud wanted to take that off before we crossed back. He's done it before and tried different tools. This time he used a Teflon pancake turner and it worked pretty well. We're going to have to repaint the boot striping and we will probably use bottom paint on the lowest one, maybe even both the lower ones.
We bought a new Abaco guide (to supplement our Explorer Charts) at Man-O-War Cay Marina. It has maps of diving and snorkeling sites. I wanted to walk across to the Atlantic side and snorkel from that beach. This area is being redeveloped now and there seemed to be a lot of activity on the island, so we weren't sure we would be welcome. Back in 1989 this was one of the areas developed as a cruise ship stop. They only used it for three years because the channel can get so rough in bad weather (they call it a rage, locally, and if the cruise ships don't want to use it, you can bet that no other boats are going through). Anyway, from 1993 until 2005 this beautiful beach and bay sat empty except for all the cruisers. Then in 2005 the area was purchased for development. There is a huge new marina here with a "marina village". We weren't sure how much more was developed, but as I said, we thought we saw activity and figured we shouldn't go wandering around. So we left Fuzzy on board (with half a stick of Pupperoni, thanks to Ed and Karin) and took off in the dinghy. I was VERY reluctant to try to take the dinghy to the Atlantic side. Even though it's very calm today, there were still rollers coming in that were breaking on the reefs. We went around the end of the island, and it got rough enough that Bud was willing to pull onto the beach there. It connected directly through to the Atlantic side. Besides, another sailboat had pulled in and anchored this morning and it looked to us like a Norseman. They'd gone off in their dinghy and there was a couple getting into a dinghy on that beach that we thought might be them. We called out to them as we approached and they were from Topaz and it is a Norseman. We had a brief conversation hanging on to each other's dinghies and decided to get together later for drinks. Then they went back to their boat and we went snorkeling where they had just been. The picture shows the beach at the cut out into the Atlantic. We snorkeled where you can see the darker water, that's a ridge of rocks.
It was nice snorkeling. We saw a lot of fish, some of which were big enough to eat and looked like good eating. Bud dove down and saw a couple of lobsters, one big enough for a meal for two. Lobster season is over, though, and we found out our fishing licenses for the Bahamas expired with our first visa, and we would have had to go to another agency (besides immigration, who extended our visas) to get them extended. Again, since we're on our way out, we'll forgo the fishing until Florida.
We stopped back at Topaz on the way back to the boat and all three of us (Fuzzy included) were invited aboard at 6:30 this evening. After we had supper and took Fuzzy ashore we went over to Topaz. It is the first Norseman we've been aboard since we bought Earendil. It was strange to be on a boat that was almost the same, but differed in little ways. The folks from Topaz, Teddy and Cynthia, are going to come over in the morning to see Earendil and maybe give us some tips. They've been living aboard and sailing on Topaz for seven years. And oddly enough, they spent three years in the harbor where we bought Earendil, and knew her former owner. In fact, Bud had seen their boat when we took Earendil out for her sea trial! The cruising world really is a small world.
05/07/2011, Baker's Bay, Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
We left Man-O-War Cay this morning. This is definitely a place we would be happy to see again. The winds are predicted to be light and variable for today and the next 4 days so we didn't try to go very far. We were going to anchor off the north end of Man-O-War, but found out that is a private area, so although we could take Fuzzy to the beach (ALL beaches in the Bahamas are public) we wouldn't be able to get from there back into town. So we decided to make a little progress. We came almost 11 nm to Baker's Bay on Great Guana Cay. This isn't a very well protected anchorage, but it's on a beautiful beach and we can see the entrance to the Whale Cay Passage, which is the last unprotected area until we make the crossing back to the United States.
It wasn't much of a sail. We put the jib out, but we were close hauled into a very light wind. When the boat speed dropped under 3 knots we put the engine back on. We could see rain up ahead, and sure enough, just as we arrived in the anchorage, the rain did. There was a bit of wind with the rain, just enough to make it easier to set the anchor. If there's no wind, you have to slowly back the boat so you don't dump the anchor chain all in a pile. With wind, you can let it push the boat as it draws out the chain. This is a large, shallow bay. It's shallow in that it doesn't indent into the island too far, and it's not deep. We came in as far as we thought we could, we were in 8 feet of water when we dropped the anchor at about mid-tide.
Bud snorkeled over to check the anchor and it was set. I let out a bit more chain and put on the snubber. As soon as we had the anchor all set the rain passed by and the wind stopped. The boat started to move the other direction, so the bow was facing away from shore. It didn't move far, there wasn't enough wind to pull the chain around. That's just as well because the tide was still falling. The lowest the water got was 6 and-a-half feet, not that it would be a big deal, it's all sand here. I would worry most about crushing a starfish. There were four big ones right around the boat. I took a picture of one of them.
We took Fuzzy ashore and he's pretty happy to have this big beach. He never goes in the water, but he loves to run in the sand. There's supposed to be some good snorkeling on the Atlantic side, so we will probably stay here tomorrow and check it out. Our next destination is Green Turtle Cay, but they are having their annual Island Roots Heritage Festival this weekend, so we are afraid it will be crowded and want to wait until Monday to go there. It's only another 15 miles or so, but it is on the other side of the Whale Passage, so we need to go on a calm day. Meanwhile, we will wait here on this beautiful beach; that's not hard to take.
05/06/2011, Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas
I finished the laundry in the morning and we worked around the boat. We had been concerned that the vent on the holding tank for the forward head wasn't working properly. Bud had tried to clean it, but today, while we had water and power, Bud decided to take it apart. Both the vent fixture and the vent hose were plugged. Bud got them cleaned out and I helped him put the fixture back on.
Meanwhile, Ed and Karin had been working on their boat. Karin came over to the marina around noon to do a load of laundry and we decided to get together for dinner and before that for a dinghy ride. They came with their dinghy and Bud, Fuzzy and I joined them. Their dinghy is 10 feet long, but has bigger tubes and a higher carrying capacity than ours. I was holding Fuzzy, so Bud took the pictures, so today you get a picture of me riding in the dinghy with Fuzzy on my lap. We don't put a life jacket on him for these dinghy rides because we're in harbors where things are pretty calm and he never tries to jump away from me.
We took the dinghy to the south end of the harbor. That's not where the business district of the settlement is, but there are pretty houses and interesting boats. Transients like us anchor there, or rent one of the moorings, and there are quite a few boats being stored there. You can tell the boats being stored because the sails are completely off of them. We came back and went all the way to the north end of the anchorage, too. There's a bigger opening there, but it's quite shallow. We saw many houses that we all agreed we would probably be quite content to live in once our sailing days are over. I put the other pictures Bud took in the gallery.
Later we had Karin and Ed over for supper. Bud grilled the second half of the snapper he caught at Rock Sound. The flavor was excellent, but the first time Bud grilled the snapper it was so thick he had undercooked it. This time he cooked it longer and he felt it was overcooked. We also had "baked" potatoes (done in the microwave, since we have shore power) and Karin brought some cucumber salad. After supper we walked up to the little ice cream stand on the corner and got ice cream for dessert. This was probably our farewell supper with Passages, as Karin and Ed have decided to move pretty quickly back to the US. They are having trouble with their windlass (device that brings the anchor in) and today their WiFi antenna broke, so they've decided to just head home. Home for them is St. Mary's, Georgia. We had a good time with them these last few days and we will stay in touch.
Bud and I are heading back to the US, too, but having never been to the Abacos before, we will take a bit longer and make a few more stops.
05/05/2011, Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas
We left Marsh Harbour at about 8:30 this morning. There is a front that is supposed to be coming here later today bringing winds up to 20 knots so we thought it would be best to leave early. We also wanted to time our arrival at Man-O-War Harbour for close to high tide, as it's pretty shallow here. There was no wind at all when we left, so it was a pretty easy trip. We followed Passages again, so that made it even easier. The whole trip was just under 5 and-a-half nautical miles. We arrived around 10 AM.
As we came in the entrance to the harbor we were glad for high tide and we were glad we were following Ed. The entrance had hard rock bars on either side and was only about 40 feet across between the bars. The water was 9 feet at high tide. Low tide is not as low as normal right now, so at low tide now we would still have had about almost 7 feet. Come the full moon later this month that would be closer to 6 feet. We had no trouble. We had made reservations at the marina, so I called them. They let me know on which side to set up the dock lines, and then as we entered the harbor gave us directions to the slip. The dockmaster was waiting to help so we got into the slip and got tied up with no problems. Ed and Karin had more trouble with the mooring. The moorings are really tight here. They'd gone on one but were told they might be aground at low tide there. There was another one just outside of that they were told they could take. Unfortunately, another boat had anchored right there, despite being asked by the dockmaster not to anchor so close to the moorings. He was leaving, but in leaving he almost hit Passages and may have hit a trawler. Eventually they were set with their mooring, also.
After Ed and Bud both bought diesel ($6.15/gallon - cash, $6.35 credit) we all walked over to the new Heritage Museum they opened in town. Now I understand the narrow concrete streets we'd seen in Cherokee. They have them here, too, and everyone drives golf carts. We saw one tiny car and a couple of tiny trucks.
Loyalists settled this island after the American Revolution. It's the first Bahamian community I've been in where almost everyone is white. There seem to be about three family names on the island, and they still build boats here, something they've been known for 200 years. I took a picture of a traditional wooden boat under construction, but they also build fiberglass run-abouts at the Albury Boat Works.
The town is very neat; most of the houses have stone, cement or wooden fences around them. The streets are all about 15 feet wide; there are flowering bushes all over. They don't sell liquor here, so it is very quiet. The Atlantic side is lined with beaches, then a line of reefs. It's altogether beautiful and the most unique place we have been. And I have Internet on the boat!
It's 6:30 PM now, some dark clouds came over, but the wind is not over 10 knots. I don't know if this is the front or not. I guess we didn't have to hurry, but I'm glad we got here in time to spend the day. I added more pictures to the gallery. Oh, and Jon and Arline, Ed and Karin do remember you and Kasidah.
05/04/2011, Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, Bahamas
I got to be a tourist today. We rented a car and went off to see the island. In particular, I wanted to see Little Harbour, the place we didn't go in. Karin had loaned us a book about it. Randolph Johnston, an artist, along with his wife and 4 children homesteaded in Little Harbour in the early 1950's. After years of trying to scrape out a home and a living from fishing, farming and running sailboat charters, they finally got to the place where they could set up studios and start producing art again. Randolph was a sculptor and he got enough commissions in terra cotta to afford to build a foundry and start working in bronze. Today his son and grandson still create and sell works of art at their studios, foundry and gallery. They also run Pete's Pub, which is where we went for lunch and where this picture was taken.
In the morning we drove down to Sandy Point, on the southern end of Great Abaco. There is a cruisers' net on VHF here and I had heard a restaurant advertised so we thought we could get a snack there and then have a late lunch at Little Harbour. We couldn't find a restaurant that we wanted to try. I took one photo looking back from the public dock. It's a pretty setting, but it is one of the saddest little towns we've seen. It's very isolated (about 55 miles from Marsh Harbour) and there's nothing around. Looking on the charts, shallow draft boats could get in there, but there were only two boats in the harbor. One was a strange catamaran that looked like a down on the heels charter party boat. The other was a small fishing boat. There were no other cruisers and no other visitors in the town.
So back we went to Little Harbour. That, at least was interesting. The road in is still dirt. Until 2000 the only way to get there was by boat. The harbor IS little and the entrance is too shallow for our boat, but it is very secure. There were probably 15 or 20 boats there. If we had come in the cut, we would have anchored either behind Lynyard Cay or just behind the inside point, Tom Currey Point. Pete's Pub was a series of tables and platforms in the sand with roofs and umbrellas for shade. You ordered your food at the bar. They told us we'd have a bit of a wait so we took the time to walk through the gallery. Sculptures by Pete Johnston sold for several hundred to several thousand dollars. There were a few sculptures by Randolph Johnston; one was priced at $120,000. We didn't by it. We saw a beautiful lamp by Pete Johnston with a ray (the fish kind) incorporated into the base. But as Bud said, we could buy the lamp, or we could get a watermaker.
The food was good and reasonable and we had a nice lunch. I saw people from a boat we were next to back at Rock Sound, Eleuthera. It was Carl and Jan from White Pepper, a C & C 41. They were eating with another couple, but after we ate we sat and talked with them for a while. It's fun to bump into people miles later. We'd sailed 134 miles since we'd last seen them. I could be 134 miles from home back in the states and never see anyone I knew.
The harbor is protected from the Atlantic by a narrow peninsula. There is a boardwalk from Pete's Pub to the Atlantic side. We walked up there and we could see the cut from the Atlantic to the Sea of Abaco. This is not a cut I'd like to take except on a very calm day. I took a photo and you can see the point of land, and beyond that you can see the breakers on the line of reefs you have to miss. I'm glad we came through at North Bar Channel.
After lunch we drove a bit further south in the area of Little Harbour to Cherokee Point. I wanted to see the area where we saw the huge breakers on our way into the Abacos. The road only took us to the Cherokee Sound side. The town was tiny and had neat little cottages with cement streets mostly too small to fit a big car through. There was a parking lot on the back side of town. I guess if your car was too big you left it there. The sound was really shallow there, but there were a lot of boats. It advertised itself as a bonefishing center. We didn't stop in Cherokee; instead we came back to Marsh Harbour and used the car to finish our grocery shopping. Bud stocked up on cheap liquor to bring home. He took the food and drinks back to the boat and fed Fuzzy while I returned the rental car. The whole drive (of about 10 blocks) I kept reciting "Drive in the gutter" to remind myself that I had to drive our American made Buick rental car so the driver's side was at the side of the road, to keep on the left and correct side of the road here. This is the first time I've tried driving where you drive on the left. I was glad to get the car back and walk back to the dock. I got a nice shot of Bud and Fuzzy coming in the dinghy to get me (and take Fuzzy for his evening stroll).
We are not going to a dock here. A marina at Man-O-War Cay is having a "buy one night, get one free" sale. Since we were going to go there and pay for a mooring ball, we decided to just go to that marina and get water and finish the laundry. Karin and Ed of Passages are going, too, but they are getting a mooring ball (they have a watermaker, so can fill their tanks at anchor). The marina also has Internet at the slips. My reception here on the boat hasn't been great, so if I don't manage to get these last entries posted tonight, I know I'll be able to do it tomorrow. I'll also post the rest of the pictures I have for the gallery.