11 May 2008 | Man O War Cay
January 6, 2008 Sunday
Marsh Harbour to Man O War Cay
We begin the day by pulling up the secondary anchor we had set for the weather front that has passed. In settled weather it is best to have just one anchor set. If the boat were to swing around 360 degrees while on two anchors, the anchor rhodes twist together making retrieval difficult.
Cindy and Rick stop over to say goodbye as they are heading to Little Harbor. Hopefully we will see them again. We have enjoyed their company.
Today we are heading to Man O War Cay, which is just a little northeast of Marsh Harbour. After another quick trip into the market for additional provisions the anchor is up and we are out of the harbor by Noon. It is only about five miles away. So we run the motor instead of sailing there to charge the batteries.
Our guidebook tells us the entrance is very narrow and to avoid meeting another boat within the channel. Once you are at the channel entrance you are supposed to line up with a piling that is in the center of the opening. Once you are within 50 feet of the piling you need to turn sharply to port or starboard. We check this out at the opening and we are an hour passed low tide. I stand on the bow as we navigate the channel. We pass through without a problem. At the piling we turned to port and head towards town. The water is very clear in the channel. We notice a barrel and a cement mooring block in our path. We maneuver around these obstructions as we go. We arrive at the marina and try to find an unoccupied mooring. A man on one of the moored boats points to an empty mooring. As we approach the mooring I can see the water is very shallow so we reverse direction. The moorings are positioned too close to one another to allow anchoring in this harbor.
We head back down the channel to the piling. South of the piling we find depths of 16-18 feet. We pick up a mooring here in "American Harbor". What a beautiful spot. There are about twenty boats in this area that is protected from all directions. Most of the boats are locally owned. There are about four transient boats on this side.
Kelly and Danielle lower the dinghy from the davits and we go exploring. There are about 250 people that live on this island. Most of Man of War Cay's inhabitants are descendents from the Loyalists. Recently foreigners have been purchasing land and building homes here as well. Man O War Cay's residents are deeply religious and among the most industrious here in the islands. The Albury boatyard is located here. They make a line of very sturdy open fiberglass power boats. They have been building boats here for over two centuries. At one time they made wooden sailboats. As we were getting ready to get in the dinghy, a man sails by in a 16-year-old wooden Albury sailboat. It was definitely a sturdy boat.
As we cruised around the harbor in the dinghy Kelly recognized the boat name Mixed Blessing. It was the boat that reported our dinghy on the rocks. We stopped and talked with John and Myra, who are from North Carolina. We told them the story of what happened and chatted awhile. We thanked them for reporting the dinghy sighting. We then went cruising around both harbors and then came back to the boat.
January 7, 2008 Monday Man O War Cay
Today we talk to Gram and Granddad on skype. It was good to hear their voices. We then had a visit from John and Hasty. They are from Cataumet. They have house here on the island that they use in the winter. They offered us the use of their dock to tie up the dinghy. They told us where to go exploring. We pack up and head off to explore, by tying up to their dock it will enable us to see even more of the island. The main road on the island is called Queens Highway. It is in no way a highway, rather the main road. As we dinghy in and see a manta ray before reaching the dock. As we approach the dock to tie, we are greeted by John and Hasty's dog. We then walked up the winding path that was cut into the limestone. At the top was a small dirt road that was lined with all sorts of vegetation. The road is more like a cart path. It is not wide enough even for two golf carts to pass. There are places along the road that allow a vehicle or people to stand clear while another vehicle passes. As we meander down this road there are scattered paths and driveways off of it. These are private residences. The paths are long so you are unable to see the houses through the thick vegetation.
We finally come upon a paved road, Queen's Highway. At the first intersection, we take a right and head towards the ocean side of the island. Just before we get to the beach, we pass an old cemetery. The markers have fresh flowers placed around them. Some of the markers appear very old. As we approach the beach we can see it is very windy. The seas are definitely rough today. The beach doesn't look inviting due to the weather so we head towards town.
The houses along our walk in this area are old and very close together. Most homes have an abundance of flowers in the yards. These homes are brightly painted and nicely kept. Curly tail lizards are everywhere. They are quick to move when you are near them. We get back up to the intersection and continue to walk along the Queen's Highway. We pass a small school and a tiny library. We then come upon a grocery store and checked it out. Kelly and the girls get ice cream and Popsicle's. Next door was the Island Treasure Gift Shop. This is where we pay our $15.00 mooring fee. Instructions on where to pay the fee were written on the mooring float.
A sign for a T-shirt shop was hanging on a nearby house. This shop was literally the front porch of someone's house. The shirts were grossly over-priced. The stock appeared very old. We were uninspired to purchase anything here.
Down at the town's main harbor waterfront area where we couldn't find a mooring, we entered a small shop where a woman was sewing canvas bags. She worked alone making bags and displayed some items made by others from the island. Though the girls liked some of the items we continued on without making a purchase.
Further down the street Kelly checked out a small marine hardware store. This shop is part of the Albury boatyard. The items available were mainly items used on the boats they manufacture.
Past the grocery store was the Albury's Sail Shop. The entire shop was filled with brightly colored canvas hats and bags of all types. There were items displayed on shelves and hanging from the ceiling. Five women were busily sewing more bags and another woman came in with fabric that was a pattern cut in her home. This was an organized factory producing nice quality products. I bought a neat pocketbook and the girls each get a backpack. They are all truly unique and made on the premises. So we made our purchase and headed out back to Queens Highway.
Along the road Kelly and Kristen point out a crocodile statute. It catches me off guard and I scream thinking it was real. We all got a good laugh out of it. The statue was displayed at the entrance to a dive shop. The grounds were decorated with various animal statutes and eclectic artifacts including a Pagoda.
Back on the road heading north we pass some pretty homes. One home had chickens running around which captured the kid's attention. The yard was fenced in with chicken wire that was not readily visible due to the dense vegetation. Another house displayed a British phone booth and mailbox at the driveway entrance.
We walked anther quarter mile or so to the point where the island is very narrow. It is only about 75 feet wide at this spot. A gazebo is constructed on the limestone proving a nice place to sit view the sights. The kids walk on the sandy beach below which was very pretty. They also walked out on the limestone ledge that reaches out over the water. We decide not to walk further since Kristen in now getting tired. So we start heading back.
As we passed by the house with chickens there was one on the mesh fence hidden in the brush. We were pointing it out to Danielle when the chicken squawked and jumped down to the ground. Danielle got startled, and again we all laughed.
Arriving back at the harbor waterfront Kelly checked out the Albury boat building area. The workers were working barefoot while applying polyester resin and cloth. The odor was very strong and no one was wearing protective masks. Kelly stayed a while to talk to them while they worked. The girls and I got away from the odor by walking across the street to the pier to look at the water for fish.
We all then looked at wooden ship models that were displayed in a small shack. Across the street from the display was the workshop where the models were made. Kelly introduced himself to the man in the shop. The man in the shop was the son of the original designer and builder of the models. He carried on the business of building the models. The man referred to his father as "Daddy" in conversation which was a little weird. This was probably normal for the small island culture where everyone knows everyone after all. While Kelly spoke to the model maker the girls and I went to the grocery store. Before entering the store Kristen spotted a bunch of fish swimming close to the store entrance. The store is built on a pier extending out over the water. The lady working in the store brought out some bread for us to feed the fish. Evidently this is a ritual the fish are use to. They were hanging around waiting to be fed. As they are feeding the fish and a few ducks, the bread bag falls in the water. Danielle climbs down a ladder to the shore and walks out to under the dock to get the bread. The water is midway up her thighs. She climbs out and the woman brings her some paper towels to dry off. A man then came over and pointed out the different types of fish, which include snappers, sergeant majors and grunts. Kelly then shows up and checks out the fish as well. We get a couple of items in the market and move on in the direction of the boat.
We make a final stop at the marina and gift shop. We look around and see we are not missing anything by being on a mooring in the other harbor. The amenities are minimal at the marina. There is a tiny pool but the water was very cold and that was about it for the extras.
On our walk back to the dinghy Kristen finds a large land hermit crab. We study it for a while but leave him where we found him. Kristen's pet hermit crab Ellie, back on the boat, doesn't need any room mates.
As we walk down the path to the dinghy we see John and thank him again for the use of the dock. We head back to the boat for dinner. What a day! We walked around for five hours today. We all enjoyed this island.
Kelly talks on Skype to Jim Dalton and then to Mary McCarthy. It's good to hear their voices. The girls and I start a 500-piece puzzle. We assemble half of it before Kelly joins us. The girls fall asleep around 10:00PM. Kelly and I continue to work on the puzzle until Kelly hears dolphins. He takes a flashlight up on deck to take a look for them. These are the largest dolphins we have seen yet. They appeared very muscular and lighter in color than those seen previously. They are chasing pipefish. It was so neat to watch them hunt. We tried to wake the girls to see the show, but they were out and couldn't be woken easily. The frightened pipefish would make a run from the dolphins by sprinting on the surface. Doing so, they could not turn and often struck the side of our boat. Kelly was able to find some pipefish lying still on the surface with his flashlight. Lying still and illuminated by the flashlight, they were easy prey for the dolphins which would strike from below. We finish all but two pieces of the puzzles around midnight. We left the last pieces for the girls to do in the morning.
January 8, 2008 Tuesday Man O War Cay
In the morning we clean up some banking and emails. We take down our Christmas decorations. We hear from our friends Debbie and Paul and they are going to be Hope Town this coming weekend. So we plan to meet up with them. The girls get through a full lesson. Kelly worked on the sliding hatch that leads to the aft cabin. He took the tracks off and made adjustments before reinstalling them. Now the hatch works great. He also repositioned our ladder in our cabin.
We were going to go swimming but the skies opened up for quite awhile. After dinner I finally get on Skype and talked with my mom. It was good to hear her voice. I really miss her. We caught up regarding what she has been doing and everything about the family. We hope to see each other in February. In the meantime we would keep in touch by email whenever possible, as well as with Skype. Kelly and Danielle played cribbage. I went through some email and checked on other marinas to see the prices for fuel, laundry and water. Tomorrow we will make a decision on where we will go. I read another Magic Tree House book to the girls, and then we all read our own books for awhile.
January 9, 2008 Wednesday Man O War Cay
We decide to spend another day here, since we enjoy this picturesque island. We have breakfast then decide to go ashore and pay for our mooring. This time we pack our cameras so we can go back and get pictures of places we saw when we went exploring two days ago. This time we took the dinghy and went out zooming, as the girls call it, into the Sea of Abaco. There was some chop, but the girls definitely enjoyed the ride. We then came back in the entranced and head to the public dock. We tied up not thinking we would spend as much time as we did on the island. We went to the grocery store for rolls and we checked out Joe's Studio, which had a lot of neat jewelry and house decorations, but not much was made by the locals. We then went got pictures of the sail shop and the crocodile statute we went by the other day. We then explored two other roads that we didn't check out before. One was Schooner's Landing. This spot had a five-room inn on the ocean with a pool. We walked all over the place as it appeared that no one was around though the pool filter was running and the AC was on. We then went down another road that had 3 Albury (a common local family name) homes on it. These were good size houses for the island.
Back on the road to the town we saw another road called Coconut Grove. It led down to the water and had two gazebos. We walked on the little beach and sat in the gazebos that were painted with bright colors. Danielle found a coconut and between her and Kelly they got the nut out. Kelly had a knife on him so he cut holes so they could try the coconut water. Kelly and Danielle enjoyed it. We then head back to a road that had some neat flowers on it that I wanted to take pictures of. As we are walking on this road a golf cart stopped next to us and a woman asked if we would like fresh home made bread ($3) or home made cinnamon buns ($5). Of course we buy both. This elderly lady makes them fresh everyday except Sunday, and then goes around with her husband and sells them out of their cart. As we head back to the waterfront Kristen finds a neat shell and inside it was a hermit crab. We check him out but he didn't want to come out of his shell.
When we got back to the dock where we tied up the dinghy we find it pretty much suspended in air as the tide has gone out. We all have a laugh looking at our mistake. With the help of the girls, Kelly manages to get the dingy back into the water easily. We get a lot of comments from the locals. We have provided them with some cheap entertainment. We then head back to the boat for some snorkeling before returning to schoolwork. In school Danielle learns about casting out the 9's, which is a neat concept. You cast out 9's to check your addition. We finish up the lessons and have dinner. I then read a Magic Tree House book to the girls, and then call it a night.
Ya gotta be flexible!
11 May 2008 | Marsh Harbour
December 29, 2007 - January 5, 2008
Marsh Harbour is the third largest city in the Bahamas. It is the transportation, government and commercial hub of the Abacos. Yet it is the only town in the Abacos that requires a traffic light. Boaters also regard Marsh Harbour as the best place in the Abacos to obtain provisions.
We plan to settle in here for a few days because a cold front is coming through with north winds blowing 25 knots. Boats are entering and leaving the anchorage all the time. A better location to ride out the wind and waves becomes available closer to the lee shore so we raised anchor and moved there. The lee of the land protects you somewhat from the wind but mostly the seas. Being positioned upwind of the rest of the boats in the anchorage also reduces the worry of one of them dragging anchor into you. The wind speeds increase at night here in the islands and settle a bit during the day. This is directly opposite of our experience at home in New England where the wind speed usually settles down in the evening allowing everyone to rest at night. Kelly sleeps in the cockpit on the really windy nights to keep an eye on the situation. We have not dragged our anchor yet. This is mostly due to following good anchoring practices. It is the other guys we have to watch out for.
Maintenance and repairs to the boat are ongoing. Kelly works on the forward head toilet. An internal valve has come apart inside the inlet pump which he repairs (a clean job). It hasn't been functioning properly for awhile. It is nice to have both heads fully operational. Our wifi antenna extension cable has a loose connector. The end fitting is secured with a crimp sleeve which has failed. It is an odd style connector and is not readily available so Kelly shortens the cable a bit and solders the connection. It will last for awhile but will fail again in the future. He also replaces our propane regulator which has a leaking diaphragm.
On the eve of December 29, 2007 we had the chance to see some fireworks off to the south of us. We see all the high ones. About an hour later we hear a loud bang. The fireworks barge was coming into Marsh Harbour and they set off four large fireworks. That was really neat.
Cindy and Rick on the catamaran Dragonfly are also in the harbor. On New Year's Eve Day we went snorkeling and scuba diving with them on a reef southeast of Man-O-War Cay. The reef was about 6 nautical miles away from our anchorage. We both have 25 hp outboard motors on our dinghies which can move the dinghies quickly in smooth water. We got out to the reef in no time at all. Unfortunately Danielle feels seasick from the rough ride and stays elects not to swim. Kelly goes off scuba diving with Cindy and Rick. Kristen and I go snorkeling around the dinghy. Kristen was so excited to see all of the different kinds of fish. We had fun but decide to head back because Danielle is feeling really seasick at this point. We had a slow ride back since the seas had built-up even more. Back in the harbor we cleaned up and rested a bit. Around sunset we headed over to Dragonfly for the New Year's Eve celebration.
On Dragonfly we met two other men each single handing their sailboats. Everyone brought something to share. We brought painkiller mix and rum as well as cheese and crackers. We all sat around talking the night away. We watched a fireworks display while sitting on the bow trampoline. Tired from a day of swimming we returned to our boat around 11:30 PM. We stay up until midnight to wish each other a Happy New Year.
The New Year begins with a loud bang noise waking us up around 1:00 AM. Kelly got up immediately to check on the cause. Passing the electrical panel in the hallway between the aft cabin and the main salon he switched on the breakers for the deck lights and proceeded to the cockpit where he switched on all the deck lights. The deck was lit up like a ball field at night spoiling his night vision beyond the brightly lit decks. He searched the deck for the source of the noise and returned disappointed not finding the cause. Everything appeared OK so we returned to sleep.
During the morning Cruiser's Net broadcast on the VHF radio the following morning, we heard a report from a motor sailor named Mixed Blessing of a white inflatable dinghy without a motor on the shore near the harbor entrance. They said the boat had Mississippi registration numbers. Our dinghy is registered in Massachusetts where all registration numbers begin with the letters MS, not MA like one would think. Hearing the boat was registered in Mississippi doesn't catch our attention. Another hour goes by before we are out on the deck for the first time that morning. Kelly is the first on deck. He is going to move the boat to a better spot to sit out the wind change that is predicted to blow soon. It is at this time that we realize the dinghy is missing. We call Dragonfly on the VHF to let them know of our situation. Then we broadcast a general notice to all stations of the missing dinghy. Rick heads right over with his dinghy to our boat and picks up Kelly. They take off towards the harbor entrance to look for the dinghy reported by Mixed Blessing. They find our dinghy up against the iron shore. The engine has been removed, a beat up looking paddle and a new claw hammer, both of which do not belonging to us are found on the dinghy floor. The boat has been pounding on the rocky bottom while the bow and portside tubes were trapped under the limestone ledge jutting out over the water. The boat is badly damaged. The thieves have not taken the fuel line or the full tank of fuel. The anchor, lines, lights and various other items are still on the boat. Evidently, all they wanted was the motor. We are bummed beyond explanation with our loss. This dinghy after all is our transportation to shore and back. It is more important than having a car when you live on the land. The dinghy cannot be paddled in windy conditions or against current. So having a motor is a must.
Rick and I towed the dinghy back to our boat and then he brought me in to town so I could make a police report. The police took down all the information and requested me to make the dinghy available for the detective to see it. I borrowed Dragonfly's dinghy again to bring the dinghy ashore for the investigation. I met the officer at the dock. He took a look at the dinghy, kept the paddle and hammer for evidence and departed. I towed the dinghy back out to our boat at anchor and raised it up in the davits to check the bottom for damage. Careful handling of the dinghy for ten seasons has resulted in only one minor scratch in the gel coat. The bottom is now a disaster not to mention the tube damage on top.
While attaching the dinghy to the davits I spotted a white scuff mark high up on Kwitcherbitchen's transom beneath the starboard davit. I suspect the thieves drifted up to our transom in a wood or fiberglass boat with a tall freeboard. The boat must have been painted white where it struck our transom leaving behind the paint scuff mark.
This scuff mark is most likely related to the bang noise we heard. We never heard any motor noises so they must have cut the engine some distance away and coasted up on our transom striking it. Then they untied our dinghy and used the wind and current to drift away from us to remain undetected. The motor was then removed from the dinghy before it was set adrift.
I was on deck within two minutes of hearing the bang noise. The thieves must have been very close to our boat while I was searching the deck. Had I used a flashlight instead of my deck lights to search, I might have seen the thieves. Who knows what outcome spotting them might have produced.
We make an announcement on the cruisers net just so people can make a decision about locking their dinghies. Kelly makes daily trips into the police station to collect a copy of the police report which never is supplied. Upon making the initial police report to the station, Kelly requests a copy of the report to forward to our insurance company. He is told to return the following day to pick up the report which needs to be typed up by the secretary. The excuse for the report not being available the next day was the secretary did not come in to work that day and he is asked the question , when are we planning to leave the island?. Different officers tended the desk each day he returned to get a copy of the report. Each day a different excuse was made for not having a report and the question of when we plan to leave is asked. On the fourth day he had his fill of this Baloney! Everyone was able to hear his loud American voice announce his disgust with the situation. One of the officers asked him to step outside to have a conversation. Now he gets a new story. The report he returned daily to request and was told would be provided the following day, is never given to the individual making the complaint! No reason was given why the rouse. In order for my insurance company to receive a copy of the report, they must request it in writing! Kelly bore this guy a new orifice for the mistreatment and makes him write out the procedure and address to obtain the report. He also makes the officer write his name down. We sent the information to our insurance company by email.
On the 4th we purchase a new Yamaha 30hp. Not Kelly's first choice, but it was in stock and we need transportation.
The motor is the only item stolen. The dinghy damage repair estimate is higher than the cost of a replacement boat. Our insurance company is fair and settles the claim quickly. The claim pays for a new motor but that is it. The dinghy was under insured. We will have to buy a new one when we get back in the states. For now we will have to keep it pumped up as it leaks.
Lucky for us, Rick and Cindy are here in the harbor and ferry us back and forth to shore for a few days. Thank you both so much for the help. We end up going into town one day to walk around with them. We checked out this place called Buck a Book. It is a little container trailer stuffed with used books. Each book is $1 and they rent movies for $1. The money raised goes toward helping the Wild Horses of Abaco. We purchase a book for Kelly and then walk to the Abaco Resort. They have a nice view of the Sea of Abaco. The water was rough with white caps. We then went to get ice cream. Meanwhile, Kelly was at the police station and checking around to see if the outboard came in anywhere. We end up meeting him at Curly Tails for Bloody Marys. We continue with the drinks out on our boat. We had a great time just talking. It was good to get our minds off the stolen outboard.
In the evenings while at anchor we watched the Harry Potter Movies 2 and 3, SpongeBob Squarepants episodes on DVD and we played Yahtzee a bunch of times.
Kelly receives his first haircut from me. We purchased an electric clipper at Walmart before we left. I was nervous at first because if you screw up you have to live with it. In about a half-hour, I give Kelly what I think is a decent haircut. Kelly's not so sure.
We explored the rest of the harbor near Marsh Harbour Marina. Kristen captains the dinghy with Kelly's assistance. In this area, we walk around down near some villas on the north side of the peninsula then we head back past the marina. We see some beautiful homes and go down by the water at Mermaid Reef. From here we took the dinghy across to the Conch Inn Marina. We walk around and check out a few shops. We watch a man make conch ceaviche. We saw how he gets the conch out of the shell and how he strips the muscle. There is definitely no health codes here, since this man has a cut on his finger and he just wraps it with a paper towel, plus there were flies everywhere around the food he was using. It must be good because people were buying it up for $30 a pint.
We went to Curly Tails bar/restaurant at the Conch Inn. It is on the second floor of the building and it is open to the harbor. We have some drinks and some appetizers. While we are there the girls look over the edge and see in the water below a bunch of fish and a turtle. They are penned in and are fed by the restaurant.
On the Saturday night we went to the Jib Room restaurant for dinner. We signed up for dinner, as they need a head count for the buffet style dinner. We hoped that there would be kids there, but none of the ones there were around the girl's ages. We met a couple that was Falmouth. We had our dinner with Cindy and Rick. There were a lot of people here for dinner. We had steak and mahi-mahi, which was really good. There was a guy that was performing Rake and Scrape" music with a saw and a screwdriver. He also did the limbo. Both Danielle and Kristen joined a line of people giving the limbo a try. We all had fun. The band leader then performed his limbo show where could limbo under what the stick set at a height that was set no more than a foot of the ground. He did this under a limbo stick that was on fire. He lit a cigarette as he went under! Pretty wild! We put some money in his tip jar, he definitely was entertaining. We all danced to the music. During the band breaks customers were encouraged to try the instruments. The girls and I gave the bongo drums a try.
Of course schooling is going on through all of this fun. Danielle has her 3rd round of testing in math and aces it. She also did a drawing of pigs. It shows how distance is done within a picture as with the Mona Lisa, which she studied. She completed reading the "Sign of the Beaver" for school. One day she got to play teacher and had to write five questions from one of the chapters to ask me. I read the chapter out loud to Kristen so she could answer some of the questions as well. Danielle did very well with her questions. She had fun with this. Kristen is doing addition with double digits and she picked right up on it. She is doing awesome with addition flashcards and will be moving on to subtraction flashcards soon. In science she is learning about heat, and in social studies we reviewed the Revolutionary War.
We do a lot of food provisioning here since it's the biggest grocery store we will see in awhile.
20 April 2008 | Green Turtle to Marsh Harbour
December 22, 2007 Saturday Green Turtle Cay to Spoil Cay to Great Guana Cay
Today we are going to raise anchor and head south. We have been anchored in White Sound far longer than we planned. The White Sound entrance channel has a sandbar that prevents us from transiting with less than mid-tide water level. We make our exit at mid-tide, around 9:00AM, without touching the bottom and raise the mizzen and genoa sails. The wind is on our beam blowing about 12 knots. We are headed for Great Guana Cay with a short stop planned at Spoil Cay to do some shelling.
To reach our next destination we will have to pass through the Whale Cay Passage. We have been hearing daily passage condition reports on the VHF radio since we have been in the area. Evidently, it can be quite rough during certain conditions. The guidebooks warn mariners to only transit it in settled weather as strong northerly through easterly winds can produce breaking seas. The passage leads eastward out to the ocean and off the bank. Once clear of the pass most boats will turn south only to travel a short distance before coming back onto the bank on the other side of Whale Cay through Loggerhead Channel. You have to go out to the ocean to get by Whale Cay, since there is a sandbar that extends from Whale Cay west to Sand Bank Point at Treasure Cay. The Bahamian term "Rage" is used to describe the rough sea conditions that occur when large offshore swells break over reefs, sometimes rendering harbor entrances impassable. These conditions worsen when the tide opposes the wind direction forming steep, almost vertical waves. As we transited the channel we have some waves about five feet. Fortunately, the wave period (distance between wave peaks measured in time) is about 5 seconds. This spacing allows the boat to rise and fall with the seas instead of trying to punch the bow through the waves and covering the decks with tons of water. We see these same waves crashing on Whale Cay creating lots of spray. We make our passage out and around and through Loggerhead Channel with no problem. The total distance out and back in is about five miles.
I had read about a little island off of Guana Cay called Spoil Cay. The cay is uninhabited with just foliage and casuarinas trees on it. The guidebooks state it offers some of the best shelling in the Abacos. So we decide to anchor here for a couple hours to check it out for ourselves. We attempt to set the CQR anchor several times with no luck. The bottom is hard and scoured by current so the anchor just skids along the bottom. Kelly then tries the Bruce anchor, which set on the second attempt. After a quick lunch we lower the dinghy from the davits and head in to shore. Close to shore we see a ray swimming in the shallow water. A sight we are not yet accustom to seeing. We try to get a closer look but the ray keeps a safe distance from our dinghy. We anchor the dinghy in shallow water and everyone heads off in different directions to explore. I find lots of shells including many small ones. The girls build a "sand" man for Christmas while Kelly explores the other end of the island. Later we all meet at the dinghy with our treasures in hand. The girls do some cartwheels on the beach, and are ready to move on. We get back to the boat, raise the dinghy into the davits, pull up anchor and head to Settlement Harbor on Great Guana Cay.
Our guidebook mentions Bakers Bay on Great Guana which we can see about a half mile to the northeast of Spoil Cay. This location was developed by Disney Cruise Lines as a destination stop for their ships. In 1993 they discontinued the stop because of too many cancelled trips due to bad weather in Loggerhead Channel. They basically up and left the resort in one day leaving behind everything. Some time recently, a developer purchased the land and is now constructing an upscale resort with a golf course and marina. Many such projects are started at great expense here in the Bahamas and never get completed. So far a large clubhouse and a number of cottages have been completed. This particular development is being opposed by the local inhabitants of the island.
The Settlement at Great Guana Cay is one of the smallest in the central part of Abaco. The principal asset has long been its beautiful ocean beach, which is the widest in Abaco and extends almost five and a half miles - the length of the island. A famous place on the island is Nippers Beach Bar and Grill. It opened in 1996 on a sand dune and rocks overlooking the beach and reef. We enter Settlement Harbor and see there is little place to anchor, so we decide to pick up a mooring. The moorings are huge cinder blocks with lines tied around them. We pick one, tie to it and relax for a while.
Kelly wants to go exploring on land, but the girls do not. He takes the dinghy for a cruise around the harbor and spots kids on the boat behind us. We will meet them tomorrow. Kelly and I then head to shore with a VHF handheld radio to keep in touch with the girls. As we walk down the dock, we see cardboard signs made by the locals, protesting the golf course construction at Baker's Bay. They state that the chemicals from the golf course will ruin the reef.
Up the street we stop at a little fruit stand where we buy an orange before setting off to find Nipper's. A sign heads us in the right direction which is only a short walk over to the other side of the island. It is a neat little place where Kelly and I sit at the bar and have a drink. It is "pink night". If you have pink on or buy a pink drink you get a $1.00 off. We have pink drinks, which is cranberry in your choice of mixers. We talk with the bartender who calls himself "Easy" for a while and another customer. Easy tells us how busy it can get at the bar. He lives on his boat in Orchid Bay where we are moored. We inquire about the Sunday pig roast. He says it is really good and to come early. It starts at 12:30. We finish up and head back to the make dinner. The girls enjoyed their time alone on the boat.
After a chicken dinner we play UNO. Kristen wins overall with points.
December 23, 2007 Sunday Great Guana Cay
Today is pig roast day. We get our bathing suits on and pack our snorkeling gear in hopes to check out the reef before the pig roast starts. We head to the beach at the base of the dune that Nipper's is located on. The ocean is definitely rougher today then it was yesterday. No snorkeling today. The girls and Kelly climb the rocks nearby and I go for a long walk on the beach. Danielle joins me for part of it. There are not many shells on this beach. When I get back Kristen and Danielle are playing in a big tide pool with their body boards.
At 12:30 we head up to Nipper's. Most of the seating is outdoors and it is decorated with bright pastel colors on the walls, benches and picnic tables. There is a salt water swimming pool that set on two levels connected by a waterfall. There is also a tiny gift shop. All of the facility faces the beach, and there is a long wooden staircase at the top that leads you down to the beach. The pig roast buffet is served under a one roofed section. Kelly and I placed our order for the pig roast while the girls order off the kid's menu. The pig roast is served buffet style. It included homemade mac and cheese, rice and beans, cabbage and mustard, pork, barbeque pork, potato salad, and Johnnycake. We tried everything and it was all delicious and filling.
On our way to the pool we met Don and his kids Rachael (age 7) and Rebecca (age 11). They are visiting on the boat moored behind ours in the harbor. Don's girls are waiting in line to have their hair braided with beads. Kelly talks with Don and I bring our girls to the pool. The girls go in and out of the pool numerous times. Danielle and Kristen also end up getting a single bead braid before we all settle down to relax around the pool for a short while. Lying around is not our style and we all head back to the beach where we meet up with Don and the girls. The kids take off together playing in the sand and water while we talk with Don. Around 5:00PM we head back to the boat to have dinner.
We invited Rebecca and Rachael to come to our boat to play for a while and to watch the movie "Night at the Museum". Meanwhile, I wrap some presents. I can't believe Christmas is almost here. After the movie, Kelly brought the girls back to their boat, and our girls hit the bunk.
Kelly opened a nice bottle of red wine we got from our neighbor Paula and enjoyed a glassful under the stars. Thank you Paula!
December 24, 2007 Monday Great Guana Cay Christmas Eve Day
We like this spot and decide to celebrate our Christmas here. Our food supplies are running low so we make a list and head into the market which is going to close early today for the holiday. The market is located just a short walk from the dinghy dock. The store is small but well stocked. We pick up our items and continue walking to the Orchid Bay Marina. The marina is part of an expanding housing and resort development where there are nice looking condos and homes and restaurant. This is a gated community and we do not enter. I do not think the locals like all of this building. There is a lot of real estate here for sale. You can purchase land for about $100,000 but then building it is what costs a lot since you have to pay to bring everything here by ferry.
Turned back towards the dinghy dock and headed to the other side of the harbor and followed the road north until we came to Guana Dive Shop. There were no dives scheduled today due to rough surf. We talked with the lady tending the shop about the costs of things. She says to ferry a car over to the island costs $300 each way. If it breaks down, there is no place on island to have it fixed. So before any repair is made it will be $600 just to get it to Marsh Harbour and back. We comment on the high prices for items for sale here that are sold for much less in the states. She goes on to explain it is more expensive for items back in the states. When you figure it out she is right, we have federal, state, and local taxes that affect our pay. Then we also have gas, sales, and meals tax in the states. Here in the Bahamas they pay no taxes, whatever they earn they keep. After our conversation we leave to head back to the boat as it is starting to get really warm.
Just before the dinghy dock is a restaurant call Grabbers, and it has a fresh water pool and a bocce ball court. We decide we will come back here later on. We get back to the boat and do some schooling, while Kelly goes ashore to get some last minute refrigerated items. Around 4PM we get ready to go to Grabber's Restaurant. Kelly, the girls and I get our suits on. I bring a book in case the water is too cool for me. When we get there Kristen and Kelly jump in. It was too cold for Danielle and me. Kelly and I order a Guana Grabber. The girls each had a Coke. Kristen meets a girl and plays with her until she has to leave. Danielle and Kelly obtain the bocce balls from one of the owners and get a quick run down of the rules. They then play a game. We all give it a go at various times, until the bugs came out and we were getting bit all over. Kristen jumped in the pool for one more time and then we went back to the boat around 6:30.
Back on the boat we made some chocolate chip cookies for Santa, and got the boat ready for Santa's arrival. We then watch Polar Express with cups of hot chocolate with marshmallow. The girls mixed up a batch of reindeer food (oatmeal and glitter) and spread it on the decks. We put out the cookies and milk and hung our stockings (socks) on our small stove. With Christmas music playing in the background on the stereo Kelly read "The Very Snowy Christmas". At 10:00PM the girls crawled into their bunks in the v-berth to go to sleep. They brought a two-way radio with them to call us with in the morning, as we will keep our cabin doors closed so we don't see Santa. Kelly and I sit out in the cockpit for bit looking at the stars, moon and Mars before retiring for the night. Mars is the brightest and closes it will be in nine years. It is a full moon tonight so Santa has plenty of light to guide him. Kelly and I come back in and put our gifts out for the girls. We then close our door and wait for Santa to arrive!
December 25, 2007 Tuesday Great Guana Cay Christmas Day
Merry Christmas! The girls yell to us and we check the clock. Its 5AM. We talk on the radio and tell them we need to sleep at least until 6AM. Danielle had a clock, but she didn't turn it back in the fall, so it was an hour off. They wake us at 6AM sharp. We get up and get the video camera and cameras ready as the girls see all of their presents. They open them in no time at all. Santa put tons of candy in their stockings and we all get oranges. Kelly and I have our coffee and enjoy watching the girls open and play with their gifts. Danielle and Kristen made Kelly and I gifts. I received a pretty shell and bead necklace made by Danielle and Kristen gave me a shell that she colored my favorite color blue. Kelly received a boat drawing from Kristen and a bead key lanyard from Danielle. We love our gifts. Danielle had received Oceanopoly from Santa and we decide to play it around 9AM. We finally end up teaming up and calling the game a draw at 12:30 PM. During the afternoon, we relax. We talk with Gram and Granddad, Rick and Ann, Peter, Meagan & Jack, Penni, Tom and Katie. Any conversations were not long since it was busy online with skype. We decide to call my Mom later since the connections were so bad. Kelly and I sit out in the cockpit and enjoy some mimosas. They were good. The girls play with their new toys. Kelly decides to go snorkeling for some lobster, but no luck. I finish reading the "Kite Runner". What a great book. Thanks to Joan D. for recommending this book. Kelly makes us a wonderful steak dinner with asparagus and mash potatoes. After dinner we play Uno Spin. What a fun game. Danielle wins the game! I try calling Mom a few times with no luck. We then settle in and watch Ratatouille. Kelly watches the whole movie while the girls and I fall asleep. We hit the rack at 10:45PM. What a nice and relaxing Christmas Day!
December 26, 2007 Wednesday Great Guana Cay to Treasure Cay Boxing Day
As we awake to a sunny start after a night of rain, we decide to head to Treasure Cay, which is located on Great Abaco Island. We leave around 10AM just as high tide is approaching. We take some pictures as we leave Great Guana Cay. We have some wind, but it is right on our nose so we motor to Treasure Cay, which is about 9 miles. Danielle reads her Spiderwick Chronicles book that we got her for Christmas. Kristen plays with her little toys out in the cockpit. Kelly and I clean the winches and lifelines as we travel.
We arrive in Treasure Cay about 2 hours later. Kelly sees a turtle just before we enter the inlet. The inlet is well marked and arriving at high tide with no problem getting in. We motor around and check out the marina. While traveling up the inlet we see a sign stating you must register at the marina whether you are anchored or moored. We get to the mooring/anchor area and decide to drop the anchor. Kelly can see our anchor and thinks it may not be set so he swims to check it out. During the dive the he sees a mooring block with heavy chain attached beneath our bow. He opted to dive down and tie a line to the mooring instead of anchoring. So we hauled up the anchor.
He then swims over the anchor of the boat behind us and can see their anchor is not set either. This boat is also right over another mooring which has a chain and pennant attached lying on the bottom. He tells them and they tie up to this mooring with Kelly's assistance.
The girls get some schooling in and then have lunch. After lunch we registered at the marina. A fee of $10.00 allows us to tie up the dinghy at the marina and grants access to the use of the facilities, which includes a bar, pool and restaurant. The beach is a five-minute walk from the marina and we give it a look. The beach is beautiful. It is said to be one of the nicest in the Abacos. We decide we will come here tomorrow for the day. There is a beach bar and a rental shop for chairs and umbrellas. It is now late afternoon and we run into the people that Kelly helped with the mooring. They are from Ottawa and they have their son and his girlfriend visiting. We talk for about an hour.
We then leave the beach and take a walk to see the various shops around the marina. Most of the shops are closed because they celebrate Boxing Day here. The shops consist of a small plaza with a small grocery store, bank, rental carts, and a bakery. I don't think we really missed anything interesting. The bakery was very small and was still open. We stopped to look in the bakery and decided not buy anything today. There are condos between the plaza and the water so we looked at them next on our way back to the dinghy.
Back on the boat we had dinner and relaxed a bit before I read to the girls while Kelly sewed our flags that were coming apart. The girls then went to bed and while I got schoolwork ready for tomorrow.
December 27, 2007 Thursday Treasure Cay
Treasure Cay is an upscale area on Great Abaco Island. This is area includes Carlton Point. The point is where the first loyalist settled in the Abacos. We found this interesting because we were recently discussing the loyalists in Danielle's history lessons.
Today we tried to get online, with no luck. The girls each completed a math lesson before breakfast. We then got ready to head to the beach. This is the first time we actually are going to spend a day at the beach since we left Massachusetts. We made some sandwiches and drinks to bring with us to the beach. We motored around the harbor before we go to the dock. As we do we see a Piper Cub seaplane preparing to takeoff. We headed back up to the main channel to watch it leave. We then went to the dinghy dock and walked to the beach. We picked a spot that was just past the resort area. Kelly tried snorkeling but found the water was too murky to see due to the surf kicking up the fine white sand. The girls played in the sand and used a deck of beach cards that they got from Santa. They drew outlines of their shadows in the sand and then used beach items to decorate them. They created monster tracks and make up a story about them. Kelly and I relax on the beach blanket. I went swimming and the girls join me with their boogie boards. We stayed in for a while. The waves are not that big, but the girls have fun. We then have lunch and then go for a walk down the beach. We find some shells and a stone that has a smile face worn into it. We keep the rock for Kristen, since she is always drawing smiley faces. We walk about a half-mile to where there were houses on the beach that looked like they were heavily damaged from a storm. The roofs are destroyed. After we walk around there we head back. We pass a sand bar that has some small waves breaking on it. The girls go back and get their boogie boards to use on these waves. Kelly and I watch them and then decide to go in too. We body surf with them. After a while it starts to get cool and we head back to the blanket because it looks like rain in the distance. We get to the marina and take showers and sit by the pool. Kristen goes swimming again. We then check out the pizza prices for Pizza Night at the pub. A small cheese was $20, so we decide to go back to the boat for pasta. Kelly makes dinner as the girls and I get things put away. At dinner we discuss the plane we saw and about electricity. Kelly builds a paper airplane to show the girls how they work. I clean up the dishes. Kelly reads the book "Grayson" out loud to all of us.
December 28, 2007 Friday Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbour
Today we are headed to Marsh Harbour, which is about 15 miles away due south. Since Kelly had tied us off to a mooring here, we have to depart differently. We get the boat ready to go, and then Kelly has to get into the water with his snorkeling gear. We have the boat idling in neutral. The girls are on the bow and untie the lines we have leading to the mooring. Kelly then undoes the line at the mooring and gathers up the line. I am at the helm just letting us drift in neutral. When Kelly is ready I now have to back up to him. Once I was close enough to him he climbed up on the ladder with the assistance of the girls taking his snorkeling gear and the line. Wow, that went easy. I then motor us out of the channel. Once out of the channel I decide I will set the course on our chart plotter. I get it all set and put the autopilot on and it doesn't work. Kelly looks at me and says I forgot one easy thing, which he says he has done numerous times himself. I forgot to switch on the main auto pilot switch, once this was on it worked. Kelly then altered my course to make it a little shorter. Before we had left Kelly had taken off the sail covers thinking we could sail, but he had his directions wrong because once we were in the Sea of Abaco the wind was right on our nose. So we motor all the way to Marsh Harbour. This was good since the batteries needed charging. We entered Marsh Harbour and cruise around to find a good anchorage spot. We then set the anchor. Kelly dives in and checks on it to ensure that it was set. We then did some schooling. We then all headed ashore to see part of the town. We asked someone where the grocery store was and they sent us a block away to Maxwell's. We walk inside and it is like a real supermarket with some expensive prices but doable. We go up and down each aisle and check prices and decide we should provision here on Monday. We have to go through our list and see what we need to get. We then leave and walk around the town some more It is not real pretty in this area. There are a lot of the local shops for lawyers, doctors, clothing, CDs, cameras, hardware stores, etc. We actually saw a Subway and a Kentucky Fried Chicken, but did not go inside. Once we saw everything in this area, we head back to the boat. Kelly makes us some awesome BBQ chicken on the grill. After dinner Kelly sits out in the cockpit and I read a Magic Tree House Book to the girls. Kristen and I then play war and fish and she beats me at both of them. Danielle decides to read while we play cards. We then call it a night.