05/10/2011, White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
New Plymouth is the town on Green Turtle Cay. It's at the opposite end of the island from the harbor where we're anchored. It would be about a 3-mile walk (this island is pretty small) but it was a fairly easy dinghy ride. There are two government docks and two dinghy landings listed on the chart, so we went to both. One is on the Sea of Abaco and that looked like what was used by the mailboat and other little freight boats. The other was inside the shallow Settlement Harbour, and that looked like where the cruisers went, so that's where we tied up. The sign in the photo is at the end of the dock, as you're walking towards the town, so I think we picked the right one.
This was another little town with concrete streets and little fences. Unlike Man-O-War, this town is a mix of black and white Bahamians. It's the first really mixed town we've seen. Many of the houses are more than 100 years old. We started our tour at the Captain Roberts house. This was a restored house with an environmental education display in it. It also had a medicinal garden in the back with the plants named. Most of them were shrubs and small trees. The kitchen was a separate building a few steps behind the main house. We asked for a recommendation for lunch from the docent there and she sent us to the Wrecking Tree restaurant. Bud wanted conch stew, which was on the menu, but not available. Bud settled for a conch salad and I got a conch burger. The restaurant, like most of them, had some seating on a porch, so Fuzzy was welcome.
After lunch we went back to look at the town. Bud wouldn't pay the $5 per person admission for the historic center, so we didn't get to see that. It probably was overpriced, but I should have lobbied harder. We wandered around for a while and I took pictures. Bud went in one of the grocery stores and picked up a few snacks. One bag of snack items came to $55. I'm not sure I agree with Bud's idea of what's worth it!
I had Fuzzy in the front pack for the ride in the dinghy and he ended up back in the pack for a good part of the walk. He has a habit of walking over to a little piece of shade and standing there looking pathetic, old and feeble until we pick him up and carry him. After we left New Plymouth we decided to dinghy over to the other harbor on the island, so it was nice that Fuzzy was in the front pack. We went into Black Sound, that has an even shallower entrance than White Sound, but it's actually roomier inside. There's a big boat yard there and a lot of cruisers have their boats pulled and stored and come back for them next season. On the way out of Black Sound we noticed a man way out between the harbors in a dinghy, just drifting. As we came closer we saw it was the same man we'd seen at the dinghy dock in New Plymouth with someone working on his little outboard. So we took him in tow. He wanted to go into Black Sound (we'd seen him in Settlement Harbour) to a Yamaha dealer. He was pretty grateful for the tow, and it was pleasant for us. He was a single hander from Texas on a C&C racer/cruiser. He said the fix in New Plymouth lasted about 10 minutes. The second fix must have worked because I saw him go by our boat at anchor back in White Sound later in the day. I didn't notice him until he was past us, I tried to hail him but he couldn't hear me over the dinghy engine.
Bud and I left Fuzzy on the boat (again with a piece of Pupperoni, and again he was quiet) and went in to the marina here. Bud was looking for some Neem salve for his poisonwood. Both of us got poisonwood. Mine came on faster and is mostly gone. Bud's is really bothering him now and Neem slave, made from a local plant, is supposed to be the best thing for it. Unfortunately, the marina store was out of it. When we were in the marina office, we heard a boat radio in for a slip, an 85-foot motor yacht. As we left we saw they were coming in the entrance channel. Ahead of them were a power catamaran and a sailing catamaran. I stayed up on deck to watch them all juggle for space. The power cat was headed for the same marina and ended up having to back out while the big yacht maneuvered into his slip. The big yacht's tender was following him. They must have been towing it, but then had someone go aboard and drive it in. It was at least twenty feet long and had a center console and a bimini top. The sailboat cruised rapidly around the harbor and then after a couple of tries snagged a mooring ball. The power cat docked safely another pier at the marina, so all made it in without mishap. That was a lot of traffic for a small space, though. I'll put a picture of Earendil at anchor in this harbor in the gallery. There's not a lot of room for an 85-foot boat to move around. Of course it helps if you have twin engines and bow and stern thrusters, which I'm sure he had. Both the catamarans were charter boats, so there was probably more chance for some excitement from them.
We plan to leave here tomorrow at high tide. I'm not sure that any of the islands in the northern Abacos have Internet, so this might be my last post until we get back to the US. We are thinking we will leave Saturday or Sunday, so will probably have Internet Monday or Tuesday, so if you don't see any postings for a week, don't worry. (Since our SSB isn't transmitting properly I can't post via Sailmail either.) Anyway, the weather patterns are very settled right now, we are much more likely to suffer from too little wind than too much.
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.