Thursday, March 13, 2014

Back in the USA

We made it.  The wind kicked up during the night before our crossing, causing noise, worry and insomnia.  We got up early and followed a 49' Defever to the small inlet that leads directly to the Atlantic.  Watched him tip about 45 degrees up and down going through the breakers, so we turned around and tied back up at the dock.  The west wind against the outgoing tide had set up a bit of a rage.  "You made the right decision" said an old salt in a 49' Grand Banks, so we sat and felt the wind die down for about 2 hours.  Watched another group go out and decided to go for it.  It was definitely a ride, but after we were out just a couple of miles the ocean started to lay down and it got calmer and calmer.  What a pleasant experience to be able to walk around the boat, make a sandwich, etc, without holding on for dear life.  BUT, about 10 miles from the inlet at Lake Worth, the wind turned hard to the south and began to increase so the rolling motion began.  We can do the up and down, but we hate the side to side.  By five miles from shore, we were in some of the biggest waves we have ever experienced, right on the beam.  Steve had to tack diagnonally about 4 times to get to the mouth of the inlet.  We had a crazy hour, bracing ourselves for each impact, but Steve really appreaciated the way the boat handled.  At last, we scooted sideways into the inlet and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

Back at the great anchorage in North Lake Worth, we felt at home.  A call to customs, a meal and off  to bed.  The next day was an easy 50 miles up the ICW to Harbortown.  So the old girl made it, and the boat performed well too.  Steve admits there was stress involved in having this old boat so far away, we don't have the confidence in it yet that we had in the Mainship, but we are getting there.  The only thing that broke was the anchor windlass, which is not the greatest anyway.  Designed for rope only, Steve makes it work with our 30 feet of heavy chain (kind of a lift assist), but it bit the dust and he had to lift 45 pounds of chain and 45 pounds of anchor by hand four days in a row.  At GTC, he tore it apart, and cleaned up the ground connections and it worked again. 

Back at our home marina, we were greeted by our good friends here.  Arriving just an hour after we did, Brent and Susan came in on Once Upon a Time having completed their Great Loop.  Last night they introduced us to another delightful Looper couple and we all celebrated together.  The boat needs a scrub, covered with salt.  A grocerty shopping marathon today and then more celebration and gaming tonight.

We plan to stay here a month to recuperate and prepare Shingebiss for her summer storage, so more later ... thanks for reading. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

GTB to OBB

A few pictures of Green Turtle Club, this is the office, gift shop, and restaurant.

The screened in part of the restaurant, where we had the best lunch we've had in the Abacos one day with our new sailor friends.

 
The beach, in front of the rental cottages.

The pool.
 
The resort lounge, decor is old school elegant.
And, finally, the bar, with the "dollar bills on the wall" and "yacht club burgees hanging from the rafters" from visiting sailors theme going  strong. 

We hung out here the evening before we left in these lovely chairs, telling tales and trading stories with the sailors.
 
It's a two day journey to Old Bahama Bay (OBB, aka West End) which is the jumping off point to cross back to Florida.  First day was eight hours of rolly seas. We dropped anchor at Great Sale Cay, a well known, very protected, and strategically placed island.  With almost unlimited room for boats, there were only about 10 others in this quiet, isolated anchorage, with no phone or WiFi. 
 
The following day, we had a smoother and shorter cruise to West End.  This is a very fancy resort and marina and they charge accordingly, but their location, just on the edge of the crossing, means almost everyone stops here on their way in and way out of the Abacos.  The sailors we had met at GTC skipped it and did an overnighter from Great Sale to Florida, but I (the Admiral) have nixed nighttime cruising and Steve (the Captain) wanted the assurance of another weather forecast before we crossed.
 
Well, sure enough, the weather had changed a bit, so rather than crossing today, we spent the day here and will go tomorrow.  A group of sailboats went today, but many of them need about 20 hours to get across at their motoring speed, so they really needed  today and tomorrow.  About 8 power boats came in today, and they all reported an easy crossing.  So we find out tomorrow if we made the right choice (the models all say tomorrow's seas to be less than today's) and/or if we are really just a couple of woosies who aren't cut out for this ocean stuff.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Another Beautiful Beach"

On a calm sunny day, we set off in the dinghy's to find the blue hole.  The lagoon behind Snake Island was filled with marine life.  Hard to photo, but here's some coral ... 

 
... and there were plenty of large (at least a foot across) starfish.


We were told to go on a rising tide, but we were still too close to low, and found ourselves paddling through some shallow water.  When it got deep again, we started seeing sea turtles, at least 25 of them, but they swim really fast and are impossible to photo.   Using his small hand held GPS, Buck lead us right to the blue hole.  We put on our snorkel masks and leaned over the edges of the dinghys to see this amazing phenomenon.  It looked like a big underwater bottomless cave, and I was quite impressed.  We  tried to dinghy further into the backwater, but kept running into shallows, so we turned around.  Linda stopped us all to look at the sea urchins, which somehow end up with shells stuck to their spines. 

On the way back, we had lunch at Lubbers Landing, a very charming beach restaurant.  Bahamas lesson #1:  have a dinghy that is easy to launch and can get up on a plane with your crew ... so much to see by dinghy.

A few days later, it was finally time to leave Sea Spray.  Buck and Linda were also ready for a change of scene.  First stop was of course Marsh Harbor to go to Maxwell's for the good groceries. We had a tour of the Jib Room, a popular marina for cruisers located on the "far side" of the harbor and spent the night in the safe protected anchorage.  The next day, we had a short cruise across the Sea of Abaco to Great Guana Cay, where we dropped the hook in Fisher Bay and dinghy'd to the dock at the settlement.  We walked across the hill to the famous "Nippers" on the Atlantic side ... also well known as being one of the most beautiful beaches in the Abacos, so we walked to the rocks at one end.  Wide and flat, a great walking beach.  There's also a large coral reef fairly close to the shore and on a calm day, you can swim to it from the beach.
Alas, this was not a calm day. 

Meanwhile back at Nippers, the party was in full swing, it was "pig roast Sunday". The views from the upper levels of the bar are great. 
As you can see, Nipper's is a popular hangout for the party crowd, here's the view of the pools. 

We dinghy'd around the corner to the other bar, Grabber's ... seemed like a more grown up kinda place to us ... where we had beverages and the best conch salad we'd had in the Abacos.


Later that evening, we had dinner with Linda and Buck on their beautiful Oasis III.  The next morning, we took the big boats just three miles up Great Guana to Baker's Bay for a day stop.  Disney's Big Red Boat used to anchor in this bay and we took a cruise on on it in about 1991.  We recall that they trolley'd us across the island for some great snorkeling, so we wanted to see if we could get there by dinghy.  We went north on some beautiful water. 

In recent decades, the developers have moved in building big houses, a golf course, and private clubs. We wanted to see if we could still get to the reef as we remembered it being right off the beach.  At the end of the island was the clubhouse and a beach with chairs.  We saw some open sand (to the left in the photo) and beached the dinghy's ... no one kicked us out, actually the place was deserted except for the bartender. 

Behind the resort was, yep, you guessed it, another beautiful beach. 

Huge luxury homes were built on top of the sand cliffs you see, one has to wonder if/when they will topple into the ocean.  It was finally time to part company with Buck and Linda, we will miss them, and are so glad we met them.  Our destination for the night was Treasure Cay, back across the Sea, actually on what they call the "mainland", Great Abaco Island.  Treasure was developed as a resort and marina about 20-30 years ago, and it's still quite lovely, if a bit worn. The protected harbor charges you $10 to anchor and you have use of all the facilities.  There are canals where you can build a home and dock your boat and the whole complex is "self contained" with a small shopping strip for groceries, bakery, etc., pools and three restaurants.  The beach is billed as one of the top ten "in the world", so we had to see it.  The sand is not sugar sand, it's powdered sugar sand in a perfect 3 mile cresent, calm (because it's on the Sea of Abaco, not the Atlantic) and a beautiful turquoise color.  It was cloudy, so you'll have to take my word for it. 

 The next day, we crossed The Whale, which you may recall, is a short open ocean jaunt to get around Whale Cay.  It was smooooothhh this time.  Since the calm weather was continuing, we decided to anchor for the night at No Name Cay, right after The Whale.  We dinghy's around the corner to ....
No Name Cay has a band of feral pigs: 2 large and 3 small ones, so we had to take a look and a picture. 

They wade out into the water when they hear a boat approach, but since we didn't have any food for them, they lost interest in us quickly. We spent the afternoon relaxing on Shingebiss, watching at least 6-8 small boats come in to feed, pet, and photo them. 

Next day, we came into Green Turtle Club Marina and Resort on Green Turtle Cay, White Sound, across from where we stayed (Bluff House) on the way down.  Just our opinion, but this really is one of the nicest places we've stayed at plus very friendly folks on the docks.  We've been here through a front that produced alot of wind (30 mph +) and rain over the past two days. 

The internet is a bit iffy right now, so I am going to close for now, and hope to get back to you in a couple of days. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One More From Sea Spray

Shortly after my last post, the Elliot Clan departed to return to Florida.  Elizabeth, daughter, Janet, and granddaughter Hali pictured here on the Marina porch. Janet has to get back to work at her new job at a Canadian National Park on Vancouver Island. 
The past couple of weeks have flown by and we are now in our last week on lovely Elbow Cay.  The weather has remained perfect, dare we say a little too warm at times ... but then there is a pool.  Every visit to Hopetown is fun, whether by dinghy or by bike.  The cottages are darling.
There is a significant art community and the Hummingbird Cottage is an art gallery.   The gallery is actually the larger building seen on the far right of the picture.  In addition to selling their work, they host events and conduct art workshops.  The two cottages, like many of the island buildings, have been restored, but always keeping the original design intact. 
This is the School House.

Across the harbor is Hopetown Inn and Marina, a bit fancier than Sea Spray.  It's only accessible by boat, but they have a pontoon that shuttles visitors across the harbor at all times of night and day for those who don't have their own dinghy.  
We pulled up to the dinghy dock and had a look around.  It's gorgeous ... this is the resort they picture on the marketing websites for Hopetown. 

 Buck and Linda, aboard Oasis their lovely 44' Catalina sailboat, are the ones who originally told us about Sea Spray.  Here they are getting into their dinghy for one of our adventures. 
They are fun company, always up for an adventure, a meal, or a card or domino game.  The dive boat was ferrying people over to Man O War Cay one Saturday for their annual Festival and Flea Market that raises money for their school.  We thought it was a good opportunity to see another island, so off we went.  It was very rough that day, and even on the top deck, we got soaked with spray. 

We dried off quickly in the warm sun and set off to see the island.  Man O War was also settled by the Loyalists, and there are many families there descended from these original settlers, resulting in clean, industrious, and family oriented island.  We had a great lunch at the food tent.  Cooked by the locals, there were several varieties of side dishes, beans and rice, potato salad and baked macaroni and cheese to choose from, so I quizzed  the serving ladies on who made the best.  The Albury family has been hand building boats on Man O Way for generations, and their sturdy elegant fishing craft are seen in all the harbors. 

The Albury family also own the ferry service and a canvas shop where they used to make sails, but now sew up all kinds of good looking and useful bags, very expensive.
Here we are at the festival at the classic sign telling us how far we are from just about everywhere else.   
One of our favorite spots to visit is Tahiti Beach, just a short dinghy ride, or bike ride, or walk to the south.  It's one of those perfect sand beaches, and if you go at low tide, you can walk out a long ways on the sandbar or in the water.  The water is warm, the boats go by, it's heavenly.  Getting more crowded as the month progresses, some days there are as many as 10 other people there !!!
 
 
 
The Bahamas are known for its many "Blue Holes", and Buck had gotten the coordinates for one about 6 miles down the Sea of Abaco, through a little "inlet", and then another 2 miles through a maze of islands behind Snake Cay.  We took off in the dinghys one day to see it, but the Sea was way too rough for our 9'6" RIB's so we turned back, went around Lubbers Quarters and found a beach on the back side that was deserted.  We landed, walked and discovered a "party place" complete with a swing... 
... and a bar, built out of beach flotsam where we had a picnic lunch that Linda had packed for us.  
Will try another day for the Blue Hole, stay tuned !!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Little Harbour and Pete's Pub

One fine calm day last week, we decided to make a journey to Little Harbour and Pete's Pub, only 15 miles south of us, but necessitating a transit across two of those nasty "open to the Atlantic Ocean" inlets that produce the big rollers.  In bad weather, crossing these inlets (just crossing them, mind you, not actually going out in them), can be impossible.  On this day, we were told, it would be as good as it gets.  A word here about beam seas ... this means that the waves are directly hitting the side of your boat ... and the difference between sailboats and motor boats.  When a sailboat has a sail up, the wind helps to hold the boat steady and lessen the rolling of a beam sea.  We have no such, so beam seas tend to roll us quite heavily.  Even on this "as good as it gets" day, we were rollin', but only for a short time until we got back into the lee (protection) of the next barrier island.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Here's the view looking south as we leave Sea Spray in White Sound and enter the beautiful Sea of Abaco...
... and here is a particularly lovely shot of the water.  I don't enhance any of these photos, the colors are sensational.  The "ripples" are actually the bottom of the sea bed reflecting in the sunlight.

It felt great to be out on the water in the big boat, rather than the dinghy.  We made it across the two inlets and entered Little Harbor, a destination with a wonderful story, which I am going to take verbatim from Dozier's Waterway Guide: Bahamas 2013 because they tell it so well.
 
Little Harbour probably comes close to anyone's dream of a Bahamian hideaway.  It certainly met the critical demands of the extraordinary, dynamic, eccentric runaway Smith College professor, Randolf Johnston, one of the great sculptors of the 20th century.  Johnston and his wife, Margot; daughter, Marina; and three sons, Bill, Pete, and Denny, left Northampton, MA, on their schooner, Langosta, to escape the maddening rush of civilization and live out their lives in sight of no man, in the pursuit of a free life and devotion to art.  With no particular place in mind, Langosta sailed to Little Harbour.  The family, in true Swiss Family Robinson style, lived in caves, built thatched huts, and eventually constructed a foundry for Randolf's work.  Johnston, who died in 1992 in his late 80's, spent the last 40 years of his life in Little Harbour, pursuing his dream of living free to sculpt in an unspoiled natural environment removed from the fetters, constraints and pollution of life in the developed world. 
 
Today, much of Little Harbour remains in the hands of his three sons.  Only Pete maintains a relatively high profile with a gallery devoted to his father's work and his own, as well as that of other local artists. 
 
The small harbour has mooring balls, 'er make that mooring tires, so we grabbed one ...

... and dinghy'd in to see the gallery. 
The sculptures are beautiful, but a bit out of our price range. 

 

 
 
We settled for a new hat for Steve and lunch at the funky open air beach bar, Pete's Pub. 

View of the Harbour from the roof.

We walked over the dunes on the board walk to take a look at the ocean... 
... and hiked down the road and up the path to the remains of an old lighthouse.   
 
It's a rugged coast line here. For cruisers heading further south to Eleuthera and the Exumas (the southern island chain, very popular cruising ground) Little Harbour is the last safe port before heading out for a 40 mile open ocean crossing. 

 
For us, however, it was the furthest south we would go on this trip.  On our way back to the boat, we met Pete on the dock.  He denied he was Pete at first, but after we chatted for a while and asked him about the caves, he owned up.  He told us where the caves were and how to best see them (we did), but said he couldn't really remember living in them.  We slept well safely attached to our mooring tire, glad that we had made the journey to see this famous place.  The next day, we anchored at Sandy Cay, met up with friends Steve and Elaine, and snorkeled a small reef that is part of the Bahamian National Trust Land and Sea Park.  The huge spotted manta rays that Elaine promised did not show up, but we saw some decent coral and several schools of colorful fish. 
 
The rest of the ride home was beautiful, cruising in the Sea of Abaco is great.  We get a little restless sitting in our slip, so today took the big boat out to Marsh Harbor for provisioning.  After paying the Elbow Cay prices for produce and dairy, Maxwell's prices looked pretty good.  Just a day trip, back home tonight. 
 
so here's a little map of where we've been so far, the Sea of Abaco is the water between Great Abaco Island and the Cays ... pronounced "keys".  The English apparently spelled it Cays, but when the Americans decided to use it to describe small barrier islands, we decided to spell it like it sounds.
 
 
 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Hope Town & Sea Spray

This post is gonna be views around Sea Spray and pictures of the quaint buildings in Hope Town.  First up is Elizabeth, in her inflatable kayak.  We have an open slip next to us now, ahhhh, the huge sport fisher boat next to us has gone back to FL, so she paddles over most mornings and we share coffee and chat.  Granddaughter, Hali, is with her today; mom and dad of Hali are also here on their boat, but both boats are leaving very soon, so we will miss their company. These blow up kayaks are really cool, and Elizabeth paddles fair distances in hers.


Here's the view from our aft deck.  It faces east, so we get lovely afternoon shade for sitting in our chairs and with no boat behind us, we get a good view.  Just over the dunes in the background is the ocean.
In addition to hearing the waves break, we also get a great deal of salt spray.  You can't see it when it is happening, but the two screens Steve added this year face aft and they get covered in salt after a week.  Hmmm, I guess that's why they named it Sea Spray.  This is the entrance to the lovely pool...

 and this is the lovely pool, where currently I sit in the shade under the covered area you see back left. 
A brief word about the weather ... it's been above normal temperatures this winter, so the pool is warm and the sea and ocean waters are nice also.  The north winds that plagued us earlier have pretty much gone away and the southerly's are prevailing, but light.  Perfect, really.
This is the tiki bar, located between the pool and the outdoor dining area.   
And this is the front view of the humble Shingebiss, among the big boys.  

Our slip fees here, until March 1, because after all, this is the 'off season', are almost too cheap to be true, $10/day ... but water is 40 cents a gallon, and electricity is 85 cents a kilowatt.  Compare that to our prices in the USA, and we realize again what a bountiful country we live in.  So we use water and electric very parsimoniously, and take all our showers in the bath house, located just steps from the boat, and very nice.  The marina staff will give you a lift into town, but so far we've preferred to take the dinghy.  The town is full of old, well maintained, adorable (there's no better word) buildings and homes.  Here's a couple of them, starting with the post office/police station. 

 The Clinic
... and the Museum.  Like New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, Hope Town was founded and settled by the Loyalists, so the architecture is sort of a New England style with pastel colors. 

No cars or golf carts are permitted on the narrow streets and you can walk the entire thing in about 30 minutes, stopping at each of the 2 grocery stores to see who has the best stuff ... supply boat comes on Thursday. 

Here we are having ice cream cones with crew from October and Whisper, both on mooring balls in the harbor ... which I might add are $20/night, but people love them because they are at the center of all the social life of Hope Town.


For the land lubber that wants to visit, there are rental properties all over town and throughout the island.  This one is my favorite, located right at the harbour entrance. 


So, that's it for now !!!  Time to decide if it's a pool day or a beach day.