31 March 2023
After spending a few days anchored off Hope Town we decided to move 12 miles north west to Archer Cay. We had spent a couple of days here on early trips and wanted to re-visit the area one more time. We were anxious to get the kayak back in the water and spent two glorious days paddling through the Mangroves in search of turtles and rays. Although the anchorage is only 8 miles from Marsh Harbour, traffic was very light and there were never more than 5 boats here at a time. The small secluded beaches were ideal for treasure hunting and late afternoon games of Bocce Ball. Our time in the Bahamas is winding down and we still had a few places to visit before our season ended and it was time to move again.
Our next stop was Treasure Cay another 8 miles further north, so under clear sky and light breezes we set sail for the relaxing trip. We had visited here on our previous trips and were keen to see how they had rebounded from Hurricane Dorian. The 3 mile crescent beach at Treasure Cay was on the list of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. During earlier trips we had marvelled at the beauty of the white sand and emerald coloured water that give this area it's name. The well protected harbour was home to a large marina and beautiful homes lined the numerous canals in what had been a very popular resort. We were saddened to see the utter destruction of the area, the canals have finally been cleared of all debris but the marina is gone. I mean gone, there were docks for over 100 boats, gone, there was a great harbour restaurant bar, gone, the clubhouse, laundry, showers etc., gone. We went for a walk on the famous beach only to discover the ever popular beachfront restaurant completely gone, the only thing remaining were two concrete footings. The once stunning beach is still nice however, there are areas of exposed rock where the sand has been dragged out to sea and a 200 yard long pond has been created right in the middle of the beach. There is a very popular golf course that the condo dwellers frequent; however, the condos are gone and the golf course has survived but sadly there aren't any players.
After 2 days we headed to Marsh Harbour to prepare for our return trip to the US east coast. Marsh Harbour is the supply Center for the Abacos but we had held off coming here until now. It had also been hit hard by the hurricane but once again we weren't prepared for the utter destruction that is still on display 4 years later. The harbour has been cleared of sunken boats and submerged cars but there are still several boats washed up on shore. Sadly as the city struggles to build new structures the old ones are left standing as stark reminders of the force of Mother Nature. "Abacos Strong " is the catch phrase that has been adopted in the area and our hats are off to the resilience of the people. Despite the hardships they've endured everyone has been friendly and helpful to us as they struggle to rebuild their lives. It's been an eye opener for us and we figure the best way for boaters to contribute to the rebuild is to frequent as many businesses as possible.
For a lighter note, today's picture is of a dog heading to the beach.
All Good Things Come To An End (Temporarily)
24 March 2023
Our weather guru, Chris Parker, had been warning everyone that our extraordinary run of great weather would come to an end by early March. Unfortunately he was bang on as the forecasted winter fronts rolled off Florida and through the North West Bahamas. Considering the winter that everyone at home is experiencing I use the term "winter weather" loosely. As it cooled off Bev was forced to wear a sweater to stay warm while I donned a long sleeve T shirt, but we're still barefoot and wearing shorts. We had planned on sticking around the Little Harbour area for a couple of days but by Saturday afternoon the winds had increased significantly out of the south making the Lynyard Cay anchorage very uncomfortable. As the temperatures continued to drop during the afternoon we decided it was time to head a little further north and find a better anchorage for the next few days.
By the time we hoisted the anchor the south wind was blowing over 20 knots making for a great northbound sail while we debated our best options for the next couple of days. The issue we had was that after 2 days of strong southerlies, the wind was forecast to roll around quickly to the north and blow harder until mid week. After
considering all options we decided Tavern Cay of all places would be a good choice. We enjoyed a great sail despite the cool rainy weather and settled in a well protected spot by 5 p.m. We knew that by Sunday afternoon we would have to move about a mile to the south side of the Cay as the wind was forecast to quickly clock around to the north. And just as forecasted, late Sunday the wind started to clock around so we upped anchor and scurried around the corner to settle in for 2 days of strong winds and heavy rain. Fortunately all the thunderstorms missed us and the heavy rain certainly washed the salt off the deck. Unfortunately this type of weather curtails our exploring since the dinghy rides are extremely wet; however, we did manage a few good game nights aboard Sandbox which helped pass the time.
The winds finally abated enough on Wednesday allowing us to move up and anchor off Hope Town. This charming settlement is home to the famous candy cane striped lighthouse and is a very popular spot. As usual the harbour was jam packed so we had to anchor outside and dinghy into the town dock whenever we wanted to visit. The Abacos were hit very hard by hurricane Dorian in 2019 and most of the houses were completely destroyed and numerous lives lost. Hope Town Settlement is a fairly affluent town that is well supported by a strong community group of second home owners. It's remarkable to see how much has been rebuilt in such a short time, especially considering the challenge of securing materials. Despite all their progress it's very sad to see the lingering signs of the destruction, between the beautifully rebuilt homes there are still a few remains of destroyed houses and boats scattered on the hillside.
As our time winds down in the Bahamas we're looking forward to a week of snorkelling, beach combing and hiking as the weather continues to moderate.
Today's picture is of yours truly enjoying some time in Spanish Wells.
The Abacos At Last
19 March 2023
When we arrived in the Spanish Wells area we decided to anchor on the east side of Meeks Patch for a couple of days prior to the arrival of the next cold front. The mile long island runs north south and with beaches on both sides it makes for a great anchorage in east or west winds. As mentioned in earlier posts there are a lot more boats around this year, and this was no exception as we discovered there were already 40 boats here when we arrived. Unlike Hatchet Bay there's a ton of room here and we managed to find a great spot on the east side of the island in 12 feet of water. It had been a while since we had easy dinghy access to a beach so we took full advantage of it. We were glad to get ashore and stretch our legs and just chill on the beach during the day while learning a few new card games in the evening.
The forecast called for the wind to shift north Tuesday afternoon in advance of the cold front's arrival with forecasted wind gusts to 40 knots during the night. As advertised around 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon the wind eased and shifted almost due north creating quite the scene in the anchorage. Within 30 minutes at least 30 boats hauled anchors and steamed 1 mile north to hide in the Lee of Russel Island. The high hills of the island provide great north wind protection and we found a good spot within 200 yards of shore and made sure the anchor was well set. During the evening we were treated to a spectacular light show as a huge line of thunderstorms rolled by 60 miles north of us. However, once again, we dodged a bullet as areas north and south of us we hit hard as the cold front passed through. At least 3 boats dragged ashore in the Exumas while the max gusts north of us hit 60 knots. Fortunately for us the high hills seemed to deflect the wind over us and we never saw gusts over 30 knots. By Wednesday morning the front had moved off to the south east leaving stiff northerly breezes that would keep us in the area until Friday.
We were anchored less than a mile from downtown Spanish Wells so we decided to take advantage of the downtime to replenish our stores. This would be the last good chance to provision and fuel for the next 2 weeks. We endured a few very wet dinghy rides to town
but we were happy to be able to explore this very picturesque town while tending to our needs.
However, after having been held up in Hatchet Bay and here, we were anxious to get moving to the Abacos. As usual plans were made, new forecasts were issued and plans were changed again and again. Finally we chose to leave Friday morning for the 60 mile trip to Little Harbour, the home of Pete's Pub. The alarm rudely awoke us at 5:30 so we could get a jump on the day and with coffee in hand we were on our way by 6. The day's forecast called for 12-18 knots of wind from the south east with 3-5 foot seas under sunny skies promising a good passage, and it was. We enjoyed a great sail as Dagny charged along in the rolling seas towing a green lure in honour of St. Patrick's. However, you guessed it, nothing again, not even a nibble and to add insult to injury one of our group landed 2 Mahi and lost a third.
Everyone made it safely through the narrow cut at Liitle Harbour and by 4 p.m. all the boats had arrived. The floatilla decided to head into Pete's for their St. Paddy's Day festivities where we could drown our sorrows while listening to everyone's fish stories. Following yet another long but rewarding day we were happy to crawl into bed by 10 for a well deserved sleep.
Today's picture is of a small sailboat we saw in the Exumas. A couple rented it from an outfitter in Georgetown, it came complete with all camping supplies needed for a week's gunk holing around the islands. The simplicity of it reminded me of my trip with Steve on my T22 all those years ago.
A Windy Week
13 March 2023
When we arrived in the Bahamas back in December we were only given a 90 day visitor's visa even though the cruising permit for the boat was valid for 12 months. We had been informed that we could apply for an extension via email within 2 weeks of the expiry date. However, as we all know dealing with any government agency can be an exercise in frustration. While we were in Rock Sound we had applied for our extension but hadn't received any news by the time we had hoisted anchor a couple of days later. We weren't half way to our destination of Hatchet Bay when an email came in saying we had to go to the airport in Rock Sound and check in at the immigration office. Following an exchange of a couple of emails we were advised we could check in at the Governor's Harbour Airport instead. We decided to push on to Hatchet Bay and find a ride back to the airport. As soon as the anchors were down we headed ashore and managed to rent the bartender's car for a couple of hours for the 15 mile drive. Did I mention government bureaucracy, upon arrival at the airport, Immigration advised us they only handled passengers arriving by plane and we would have to go to the dock office in town another 10 miles south. Oh and by the way they close in 40 minutes. Luckily we made it in time and the very efficient officer had us on our way in no time with a 45 days extension of visa. After a hectic couple of hours we decided we should enjoy a beer on the deck over looking the harbour when we returned the bartender's car.
The forecast for the week was for several days of strong breeze as a couple of fronts moved quickly through the area. Hatchet Bay Harbour is one of the few places that offers 360 degree protection. Although we had arrived early and staked out a good spot we knew it would fill up as the week wore on. The down side of this well protected anchorage is some areas are 12 feet deep while others are 30 feet deep plus there is a lot of junk on the harbour floor making certain areas pretty sketchy. We happily rode out the first blow from the north without any issue but on day 3 the harbour filled up with boats looking to hide from strong west winds and that's when the fun began. A couple of late arrivals had anchored in what I thought weren't the best spots and when the wind shifted it wasn't pretty. I awoke Friday morning to find a Passport 47 off our port side that would swing to within 20 feet of us in wind gusts and a 35 foot cat on our starboard side not much further away. When I woke up the guy in the Passport and explained the situation he quickly sprung into action and moved his boat; however, the cat was a different story. He was convinced by letting out some more anchor rode it would solve the issue, wrong. As the day wore on and one boat after another dragged anchor he finally saw the light and moved. Yes, we could have moved instead but we had already ridden out a couple of days of strong winds before he arrived and we knew we had great holding. Fortunately, he finally took the high road and admitted he never should have anchored so close.
Despite the extra carriculur actives we had a great time in Hatchet Bay as the hot sunny weather continued. Besides hiking 2 miles to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean where we could see the sea in it's full fury we strolled around town checking out the sights. However, after Saturday's sh.tshow of boats dragging all over the place we were anxious to be on our way asap. When Sunday dawned bright and sunny with light winds, plans were quickly changed and we decided to get out of town. We've moved up to Spanish Wells and are anchored outside the harbour for a few days. Once the strong north winds blow through on Thursday we'll be heading for the Abacos where we hope to celebrate St. Patrick's Day at Pete's Pub.
Today's picture was taken by Lana while we were exploring the Hatchet Bay Caves.
09 March 2023
We started off our stay at Rock Sound with dinner out at the Fish Fry with a group of 12 or so cruisers who were in town for the weekend. The Fish Fry was run by volunteers as a fund raiser for the various local recreation groups. A large beach gazebo was the base of operations for the evening as the volunteer staff served up tasty meals and of course sold ice cold beer. There was a junior Junkanoo competition scheduled for Saturday night so one of the local school teams ran their practice on the street in front of the fish fry much to everyone's the delight. A Junkanoo is a street parade with dancing, hand made colourful costumes and music often played on homemade instruments. At one point I turned to make a comment to Bev about the dancing only to find she and another girl were dancing down the street with the kids.
We had reserved a car for the weekend so we were up early on Saturday morning to pick up our ride and hit the road. Eleuthera is 110 miles long in a north south orientation but, in most places, is only a mile wide and good anchorages are few and far between. We had found renting a car is one of the best ways to see the sights. We set off with the crew of Sandbox for a full day of touring; our first stop was a visit to the Glass Window, a narrow 100 yard wide strip of rock that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Eleuthera Bank. The force of nature is on full display here, there are two rocks, bigger then a school bus that had been moved more than a mile during a hurricane. Our next stop was the Queen Anne Baths, which are protected tidal pools that are constantly filled and rinsed by the surging waves. The balance of the day was filled with exploring side roads, buying produce from a great local garden and visiting the pink sand beach that runs the length of the eastern shore. Our last adventure of the day was a return trip to the Hatchet Bay Caves which we had explored in 2019. We capped our day off with an early dinner in Governor's Harbour before heading back to the boats.
It had been a long fun filled day but we were a little anxious to get back to our dinghies which had been at the town dock since early morning. We had seen a few school buses heading south during the day and wondered what the attraction was. Well, when we arrived in Tarpon Bay we discovered that the Junior Junkanoo was scheduled to start at 8 p.m. The only road through town was jammed with traffic and both sides were lined with all the school teams preparing for the competition. With the help of the local police directing traffic we crept through town marvelling at the beautiful costumes. Unfortunately had we known the schedule we would have planned our day better and taken in the festivities.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, up early and head south to explore the bottom of the island. The south end of the island is less populated and has fewer attractions then the north end. There are a couple of beautiful high end marinas and gated communities that occupy the prime real estate. I am an admirer of lighthouses and looked forward to visiting the Old Point Lighthouse at the southern tip of the island. We were very disappointed to find that Disney has bought the whole southern tip of the island and are building a resort here. They have successfully closed off the road and the only way to see the lighthouse is to hike 2 miles down the beach at low tide. The gang was weary from the previous days exploring so we passed on the walk and headed back to town. It's a little sad to see the island being developed this way because in most cases the locals are not seeing any lifestyle improvements as a result of the revenue collected by the government. All in all we had a great two days exploring and Robert did a great job driving, we only had to remind him once or twice which side he should be on.
The tentative plan was to leave on Tuesday, so Monday was chores day. Rock Sound is a fairly busy town so food, fuel and water are readily available at decent prices. However, during our travels on the weekend Bev came in contact with what we think is poison wood, it's like poison ivy but worse. By noon there was a huge ugly blister on her toe and her foot was so swollen she couldn't bend her toes. We convinced her to stop at the local clinic and have it checked by a doctor. It's certainly not like a clinic at home, we paid 30 dollars to register, only waited 10 minutes to see the doctor who gave her a good check up and the 2 prescriptions were $21. As itchy as it was she refused to scratch it and after a day of the drugs there was a marked improvement.
Tuesday we moved 40 miles north to Hatchet Bay to stage for our run through Current Cut and our crossing to the Abacos. But all good plans are weather dependent and it seems we'll be held up here for a few days at least. There's a huge low sitting north east of Bermuda that is pushing rough seas into the area we need to cross. The 50 miles crossing can be a challenge at anytime so we'll hangout here for a few days to see what happens.
Today's picture was taken by Lana as we passed through Tarpon Bay.
Bye Bye Exumas
03 March 2023
The time had come to finally come up with some sort of plan to start working our way north. We were reluctant to even talk about starting home but sadly the time is near. However, we were determined to make the best of our last week in the Exumas and we were blessed with great weather. We spent our last couple of days in Williams Bay hiking in the morning and snorkelling the crystal clear waters in the afternoon. We came up empty in our search for conch but did score a few more coconuts to ward off any chance of scurvy. On Monday we bid farewell to some friends who we met earlier in the winter and set off for Rudder Cay. Bev was still pitching a no hitter so we headed out the cut to try our luck at fishing with yet another new lure, but unfortunately she struck out again.
We were travelling with Sandbox again and decided that a final stop in Blackpoint for a Scopio's happy hour would be a good way to toast our great winter while making a plan for the next few days. As it turns out a mutual friend was celebrating a birthday and as often happens at Scorpio's things got a little out of hand. The balance of the week was spent exploring a couple of great new snorkelling areas we had been told about. As the week progressed we kept a close eye on the weather as we were looking for a weather window to sail to Rock Sound. After numerous deliberations we decided to move further north to Warderick Wells to stage for a Friday crossing to Eleuthra.
The alarm was set for 6:00 a.m. with a ETD of 6:30, for the 48 mile crossing to Rock Sound. The forecast was for SE winds 15-20 with gusts to 24 so we wisely reefed the main prior to exiting the bank via the Wardrick Cut. Bev was determined to catch a fish and the line was in the water as soon as we cleared the Marine Park boundary and we dragged it all the way to Eleuthera, and you guessed it, zilch, not even a bite. However, we enjoyed yet another fantastic sail as the wind never topped 19 knots as we made the trip in 7 hours from anchor up to anchor down. Maybe Dagny is too fast for the fish to catch the lure.
There's a Fish Fry and Junkanoo in town this evening and the harbour is filling up in anticipation of a fun time. There are probably 8 or 10 boats here that we have spent time with so it should be a fun evening. We'll be here for a couple of days before we continue north and will probably cross to the Abacos early next week. In the meantime we're going to rent a car with some friends tomorrow for a land tour of the area.
Today's picture is of a turtle in the shallow waters of Rudder Cay.