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.