Friday, January 23, 2009

A Different World in Little Harbour

Day 52- Little Harbour and Pete’s Pub
Tomorrow is Pete’s Birthday so there will be celebrations here. FYI, when you are in Little Harbour, Pete (and his pub) are sort of the center of the universe.

Here’s what the cruising guide says:
Little Harbour is a beautiful, small, fully-protected anchorage. Randolph and Margot Johnston made Little Harbour their home during the middle 1950s, and founded an art colony there. Randolph, who died in late 1992, was an internationally known artist renowned for his lost wax casting in bronze, and his wife Margot worked with ceramics. Their son Pete now runs Pete’s Pub and Gallery, and makes life size marine bronzes and jewelry inspired by local motifs. The gallery is open seven days a week from about 11:00 to about 4:00. Foundry tours are available for a nominal fee. Pete’s Pub is an open air bar on the beach. It serves hot dogs and hamburgers, fish, ribs, chicken, lobster and bouillabaisse. It is open seven days a week beginning at 11:00 am, serving lunch from noon to 4:00 pm, and dinner from 6:00 to 9:00 with reservations (except Mondays). No other shopping or services are available.
The walk to the lighthouse and the ocean side is well worth it, and the caves on the west side of the harbour in which the Johnstons lived when the first came to Little Harbour, are interesting. –Steve Dodge, The Cruising Guide to Abaco Bahamas 2009

The ocean side of Little Harbour.

Who knows what these things are? Each about 6 inches long--no movement--just sat in this little tidal pool.

Continuing south to Little Harbour, Abaco.

Day 51- Thursday, January 22, 2009
Well—wouldn’t you know it—today we are missing the winds!
The gale force winds we’ve been experiencing are now down to 5 – 0 knots! It’s a feast or famine sort of thing—we couldn’t get Caribbean Soul out of Marsh Harbour due to the heavy winds (and even stayed on the boat one whole day as the harbour was too windy and choppy for a reasonable dinghy ride ashore). But, today we figured would be our second glorious day of light-air sailing with the spinnaker. John even trailed the dinghy—rather than strapping it to the deck—so he could jump aboard and buzz about the big boat with the spinnaker flying to take lots of pictures. You may have noticed that there are no spinnaker pictures on this blog page. The wind died completely! We watched the knot meter register 1 knot of boat speed for about 5 minutes with no promise of more wind. So, we fired up the engine and throttled up to an impressive 6.5 knots! Our rationalization is that although the boat will eventually get there at 1 knot per hour, it really is more like drifting than sailing. Sometimes the roar of that ol’ engine is not a bad thing.
Here are two pictures of Marsh Harbour as we were preparing to leave. In the second one, you can see the calm Abaco Sea in the distance.

And, one hour into our trip south we spied a bright yellow catamaran heading directly at us! We didn’t panic—it just had to be Bob and Laurel on Sunburst. These great folks who we first met in Marshallburg with Leslie and Andrew Porter keep popping up on our horizons. Bob walked out and chatted while Laurel was steering from inside. Is this what a GAM is? Seems as if that was when to ships passed close at sea to exchange the news by hollering from one boat to the other—yep, that was what we were doing. Sunburst was heading north to Marsh Harbour so after we got caught up on all the news, we pressed on south to Little Harbour.

The last pictures are of Little Harbour. There are two of a beautiful Hinkley that swooped into the mooring and some folks from Canada at Pete’s Pub—the outdoor bar & grill here in Little Harbour.

Good-bye to Marsh Harbour

Day 50- Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Today was our last full day in Marsh Harbour as the winds are predicted to die down a bit and make for a gentle sail down to Little Harbour, the home of Pete’s Pub and Gallery (and nothing else).
We had made plans to ride the Albury Ferry over to Hope Town with folks we’d met on Sunday—Kenyon and Austinique. Winds, however, raged on and we all decided that the 20 minute ride over and back to Hope Town would be very bumpy, so we stayed right there in Marsh Harbour.
Pictured here is the wind in the palm trees and a happy, fat iguana sunning itself on deck.

We should have snapped a picture of the bar tender at Snappa’s where we stopped for lunch and some dominoes. This lady was not at all pleased with the temperatures which had dipped to 60 degrees. She was wrapped in a heavy coat, a knit hat, and a glum look. Pretty funny! In all fairness, most of the bar & grills here are outdoors so the weather really makes a difference. Snappa’s had lowered its canvas and clear vinyl siding; it had fired up some big propane heater; but it was still chilly inside. The floor, as it turns out, was built right over the water, so the cold wind was whipping up through the spaces between the floor boards. Woo hoo!
We’ve enjoyed Marsh Harbour—windy, chilly, and everything!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Celebrating Obama!

Day 49- Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today Obama will be inaugurated—yay! Happy day! We are listening to satellite radio’s NPR morning talk about all the challenges ahead for the new administration. There is a lot to think about.
However, those of us off in distant islands are struggling with other challenges: gale force winds of 40 knots and choppy waters here in paradise. We understand that it may be snowing in Washington, DC for the Inaugural Ceremony, but we are mostly focused on how well our anchor is set. Thanks to John’s insistence, we have a super strong anchor and lots of feet of anchor chain. One of our first upgrades for Caribbean Soul was to buy a better & bigger anchor. “You know you’ve got the right anchor,” Capt. John says, “when folks comment that you may have an anchor too large for your boat!”
We all have great hopes for Obama and his administration, but last night our 44 lb. Rocna anchor gripped the muddy bottom of Marsh Harbor while the water got choppy and the winds howled. Yay! Let’s hear it for the Rocna and John’s good sailing sense! But it must be mentioned that just “anchoring” our country with a new president does not take care of all the challenges any more that just securing your own boat in the storm. There are about 40 boats (mostly sail boats) anchored here so it is crowded and worrisome when the winds blow and all of them start jumping around. John was awake most of the night checking on our holding and our proximity to neighboring boats. Finally, he turned on the VHF figuring that if boats got out of control in the harbor someone would sound a warning on Channel 16. I guess this is pretty simple compared to what will have to be done to weather the global economic, environmental, etc. storms for our newly inaugurated president.
However, when the sun came up in our part of the world, no boats had crashed together and we are still safe in Marsh Harbor. The Cruisers Net this morning reported that a boat broke loose in Hope Town Harbor last night, so we don’t take our good fortune for granted.
For the rest of today, we will try to wrap our thoughts around the challenges facing our new president and his administration. John—of course—helps me write these blogs, but today’s entry is bringing lots of eye-rolling on his part.
I—however—am sticking to my tacky little metaphor!

Continuing to Enjoy Marsh Harbour.

Day 48- January 19, 2009 Martin Luther King Day
Re-provisioning in Marsh Harbor

Our cruising goal is to get ourselves down to the Exuma Islands since it is warmer there and we’d like to so some swimming, snorkeling, etc. As most of you know, the Abacos are the Northern part of the Bahamas and very lovely, but can be chilly in January and subject to lots of windy cold fronts in the winter. We hope to get back to this area in April when things warm up. And, perhaps Finley and Karen & Drew could join us here.
On January 6th we made passage across the Gulf Stream to Grand Bahama Island at West End. From there we spent three days island hopping our way over to Green Turtle Cay (pronounced “key”). After a few days at Green Turtle, we used a rare windless day to motor south to Treasure Cay and tuck into a protected mooring there. Treasure Cay was fun and we found some free internet connection at the Tipsy Seagull Bar and Restaurant, but we needed to move on.
Anxious to go south and do some more sailing, we sailed down to Marsh Harbor. Marsh Harbor is not as protected as Treasure Cay, but it is more of a regular town with stores where we can boost our provisions—fill our propane tank, get a little filter thing for the Yamaha outboard, find an anchor for dinghy excursions, etc. Sure enough, Marsh Harbor has provided all of that and even more. We met some very nice folks and are planning a trip to nearby Hope Town via the ferry with them on Wednesday.
Sorry we don’t have pictures of this day (Monday, January 19). Mostly we were hiking round visiting marine, hardware, and grocery stores buying a little of this and that. Unlike 10 years ago when John was last here, we have been surprised to see stores with full shelves and lots of choices. Seems as though you can purchase most anything, you just have to do some walking from one end of town to the other. It is probably similar to the difference my mom experienced when she moved from Oak Park, Illinois to Wallingford, Vermont and then on to Plymouth, North Carolina in the late 1940’s. Supplies and services were pretty hard to find. It is the same here.
People here are excited about Obama’s inauguration. The local radio station did a piece on the local dignitaries who were on their way to Washington. The radio did point out that those who didn’t get to go, get to see it all on TV here where it is warm.

Life is good looking out on Marsh Harbour.

Day 47- Sunday, January 18, 2009

Although we hoped to provision here in Marsh Harbor, that will just have to wait until tomorrow as most of the stores are closed today (Sunday).

We happened on to Curlytails Bar and Grill which had free internet. I really needed to check on our online bills. The free internet in Treasure Cay was an unsecure site so we’ve waited to check on $$. Curlytails, however, is a secure site once you enter their secret password.

Here are pictures of Curlytails with some views out to the Harbor where the Caribbean Soul blends with all the other white fiberglass sailboats with blue canvas. It’s amazing that our boat looks so much like all the others.

As you can see from the pictures, John got to watch some TV football and I worked on the internet. The curlytail is a ubiquitous geckos around here which looks just like the lizards at home, except that they have—you got it—curlytails!
Finally, this is a picture of the couple we met at Curlytails—Kenyon and Austinique. We’re hoping to get together with them again on Wednesday to go to Hope Town via ferry.
Live is good here. Hope you all are happy and well.

We Sailed to Marsh Harbour.

Day 46- Saturday, January 17, 2009
Moving from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbor

The transit from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbor is a short hop. It only took us about two hours of sailing. We were happy to get out in the wind and let Caribbean Soul go under sail power.

When we got to Marsh Harbor, we topped off our diesel and fresh water tanks. We did not need much diesel as we’ve hardly motored here at all. Something like 5 or 6 gallons of diesel was all we needed. Fresh water, however, needed a complete refill. That was about 80 gallons of fresh water; and it’s not free here in the Bahamas. We paid $.20 per gallon of fresh water.

We met several North Carolina sailors at the Marsh Harbor Marina—new folks—no one we knew from home. One guy was aboard a beautiful Allied Princess—just like John’s old boat. When we chatted with him, we discovered that his hull is hull #3 and John’s was hull #1. He seemed to know John’s old boat and said he had once considered buying it. Again it is a small world.

Saturday evening a couple from New Bern dinghied past our boat and welcomed us. That evening we shared a bottle of wine and lots of cruising information with them on their well-appointed catamaran called Born To Cruise. Thanks Jill and Wayne!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Still Hanging Out in Treasure Cay

Please know--we are NOT complaining! We are still in Treasure Cay sheltering from the high winds. If you look at a Google satellite map of the Harbor at Treasure Cay, you can see what a wonderfully protected area this is. The 20-30 knot winds blow out on the Sea of Abaco, but we sleep soundly with little or no wave action here. We understand that severe cold weather is a big issue in the states so we are plenty happy to put on our long sleeve shirts to cope with the 60 & 70 degree cold front here.

These pictures were taken at the Tipsy Seagull here at the Marina near where we are anchored. The Tipsy is not open most of the day, but free Internet connections and electrical outlets are available if you care to hang out. As you can see, hanging out here is not exactly a hardship!

I'm concentrating on blogging and John's doing some Skype phone calling.

Tomorrow (January 17th) we are planning to sail down to Marsh Harbor to get our propane refilled, buy an anchor for our dinghy and stuff like that. Eventually, we plan to sail to Little Harbor which is at the very south end of the Northern Bahamas or Near Bahamas or Abacos. From Little Harbor, we wait for good weather to sail over night to Nassau. This is different from the sailing we have been doing around in the Abaco Sea--this will be another jump out into the Ocean. We want to be sure that the wind and the waves are right for a good & safe sail. From Nassau, we head down the Exuma Islands.

We did see Carolina Men's Basketball game last night--the Tispy has TV with the ESPN Channel. Glad to see the boys in blue winning again.

Life is good. We are getting pretty lazy here in Treasure Cay and need to get back to sailing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In Treasure Cay Hiding from the 30 Knot Winds

Day before yesterday, Monday, January 12th, we left Green Turtle Cay and motored just a little south to Treasure Cay. Going south from Green Turtle requires a little bit of sea travel around Whale Cay where the ocean is known to "rage" from time to time. Weather was predicted to be a very calm day so we set out and--sure enough--Whale Cay passage was easy and rageless! There were, however, no winds for sailing so we reluctantly ran the motor for the first time since we got to the Bahamas.

Yesterday, Jan. 13th, the winds piped up a bit. We dinghied to the Treasure Cay Marina from our mooring here and walked over to a beautiful beach. I had a Goombay Smash and a conch burger--yummm--at the beach side restaurant. Below are pictures of the beach. Folks say this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world--it certainly is pretty. This is a resort sort of place that just happens to have a protected anchorage. Everything here is new and pricey--but we continue to live at little or no cost.

Yesterday, we went grocery shopping for the first time since St. Augustine, Florida weeks ago. We still have lots of food supplies on board, but we are thinking about going back to buy some frozen lamb chops we saw. We visited other shops but the island power was off everywhere except the gocery--guess they had a generator.

This afternoon I handwashed some clothes and hung them out on the lifelines. Wow! It doesn't take clothes long to dry in 15 to 20 mph wind! The trick--as you may have guessed--is using enough clothespins to hang on to the clothes.
We have no plans for tomorrow--we'll just wait and see what the weather brings.

Enjoying Green Turtle Cay from Jan 9-12, 2009

Can't even begin to tell you what a wonderful place Green Turtle Cay is. And, the strangest things happen there. As we sat blogging you guys at Pineapple's Bar and Grill, we spied a bright yellow catamaran cruising past. Folks commented on the boat and John & I said we thought we knew that boat. Sure enough, when we got back to the Caribbean Soul, there was a note from Bob and Laurel of the Sunburst. We dinghied down to say hello to Bob and Laurel who we first met in November at Leslie and Andrew Porter's house in Marshallburg!

Then the other night we were trying to find a tv in the village that would pick up the Carolina basketball game when another interesting thing happened. We were at Sundowners and this fella said he had just sailed in from Florida. "Oh yes," we said, "the little black sailboat we saw motoring in today." Well, yes, and the fellow was Terry from Norfolk who knows Chris and Annie from Beaufort. Ahhh small world.

Here are pics of Pineapple's--a lovely spot in Green Turtle.

Also, here are random shots of the village of Green Turtle Cay. Nice to see all these flowers in January!

On Sunday, I went to the same little Anglican church I attended 10 years ago when I flew down to visit John. The little cinder block church is being replaced as one of the hurricanes did serious damage. We worshipped in the building next door as the new church won't be ready for a couple more weeks. The priest was at a conference in Nassau, so the lay folks were running the service--very interesting. They used the West Indies prayer book, but the liturgy is very similar.

Penny and John

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In Bahamas and Catching Up on the Blog

Hope you haven’t given up on this travel blog. These entries should get us all caught up and forgiven by those of you who thought we’d quit sharing our trip. We’ll go back to where we left off—St. Augustine, FL.
Day 31 (Jan. 2)-- We left early from St. Augustine, FL and headed south down the ICW to Daytona Beach, FL. The weather turned chilly (in the 50’s & 60’s) so we bundled up, weighed anchor and headed out. Our buddy Bruce left just ahead of us heading north to Jacksonville, FL. It was great to spend some time with him and he lent us a laptop, GPS sensor, and a chart plotter program. Thanks Bruce!
We motored all day down the Florida ICW and spent the night anchored near Daytona Beach, FL.

This is our last look at the St. Augustine waterfront—what a great place!
And here are some scenes along the ICW: Some pretty condos and an impressive rookery of pelicans.

Day 32 (Jan 3)-- Although the ICW in Florida was a dream compared to the ICW in Georgia, the Caribbean Soul (and her Capt. & Crew) were ready to do some ocean sailing again. Also, the weather reports were predicting another cold front coming through in three days! If we could get to the West Palm Beach area before the cold front, we could possibly get to the Bahamas a week sooner than if we continued to move slowly down the ICW and would have to lay over in Florida waiting for the front to pass. So on day 32, we headed out Ponce de Leon Inlet into a nice, sunny ocean. The wind was right on our bow so we motored. We did put the main sail up to add a bit of stability. Pictures are of Ponce de Leon Inlet with Daytona Beach in the background and the ubiquitous brown pelicans watching us leave.

Day 33 (Jan. 4) We put a couple of reefs in the main sail and motored on through the night. Waves were 3 to 4 feet and my scopolamine patch behind my ear worked great. We took turns standing watch for 2 or 3 hours each throughout the night. Got to the West Palm Beach area midmorning and settled into Lake Worth, FL. We topped up everything—diesel fuel, gas for dinghy, and fresh water—in preparation for our passage across the Gulf Stream. After anchoring in Lake Worth, FL, we stayed a board and started studying the marine weather reports in earnest. The truth is that no predictions are 100%, so deciding when is the best weather window to cross from Lake Worth to the Bahamas is a bit of a guess. John guessed that we should head out at 10:30 PM on January 5th in order to beat the front coming through the following evening. And, a good guess it was—seas 2 feet or less and SE winds of 8-10 knots. In ten hours of beautiful night sailing (motoring) we arrived at Old Bahama Bay, West End, Grand Bahama Island and cleared through customs. This was quick and easy as we seemed to be the last “Snow Bird” coming over from the states! We sailed for the next three days without seeing another boat close up—only a few in the distance.

Day 35 (Jan 6)—John hoisted our quarantine flag as we entered Old Bahama Bay, West End at 8:30 AM. After we cleared customs and changed the flag from yellow quarantine to pretty Bahama ensign, we sailed to the closest cay (pronounced “KEY”) to anchor for our first night in the Bahamas. This was a tiny cay called Mangrove Cay which might be hard for you to find on your maps/charts because it is so small and uninhabited, but it was just what we needed to get caught up on our sleep.

Day 36 (Jan. 7th—Happy Birthday Finley!) Our second day in the Bahamas was wonderful. Our task was to sail to Sale Cay which would protect us from the big bad front what had been threatening us for days. It was a great sail—main sail and jib full of wind—Caribbean Soul maintaining a boat speed of 6-7 knots! The clouds whirling ahead of the front dropped some rain on us for short periods of time, but we got to Sale Cay well ahead of the front. We tucked into an anchorage that provided good protection from the heavy W-NW winds we expected. Early that evening, the storm passed over us, but Caribbean Soul bobbed happily in her protected spot. Happy Day and a good night’s sleep.

Day 37 (Jan 8th) Our third day in the Bahamas was ABSOLUTELY OUR BEST SAILING DAY EVER! Not only did we figure out how to fly our spinnaker, but also we sailed wing-and-wing with the main and spinnaker. It’s hard to say it in words and we’re not sure the pictures give you the total feeling, but it was wonderful to have all these powerful sails out front and the beautiful blue of Bahama skies and seas all round us. Ahhhhhh! This is really what we signed up for!
These pictures were taken before we got all the kinks out of the spinnaker—but you can see how huge the spinnaker is.

This is the CENTER OF THE WORLD ROCK. At least that is what the chart says.

These shots hopefully give you a feel of the joy of spinnaker sailing in the Bahamas! Try a little “Buffet” music in the background and a tropical beverage. Ahhhhh!

Truth is that we didn’t do the tropical beverage part until we got to Green Turtle Cay the next day. On this day we anchored at Powell Cay for the night.

Day 38 (Jan 9th) We delayed leaving for Green Turtle Cay because the entrance to Black Sound where we planned to anchor is shallow and needs to be transited at high tide. While we waited, we cooked a great breakfast of Mary’s eggs and biscuits. The cockpit was sunny and the water was crystal clear. Then, we decided to bake up the Chili Chocolate Brownie mix Nancy and Tom sent from Tucson. Oh—yes—good stuff! Thanks Nancy and Tom!
We had a slow sail (3 to 4 knots) to Green Turtle Cay and motored carefully into Black Sound without running aground. We tried to anchor but the grassy bottom made it impossible for our anchor to grab hold. So, we picked up a local mooring, pumped up the dinghy and headed out to Pineapple’s Bar and Grill—our first time ashore in a week. Just so we remember that not everything is perfect in paradise, the dinghy outboard quit on us and John had to row the last hundred yards to the dock. Sorry we don’t have pictures of Pineapple’s yet—but certainly will have some later. It is a tiny little shack all painted bright yellow. A fresh-water pool is right between the bar & grill and Settlement Creek. We hit them at happy hour and sat at a bright yellow picnic table watching the sun go down near New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay. We met two couples who fly here each January to bone fish—one couple from Richmond, VA and the other from Raleigh, NC—small world.

Day 39 (Jan. 10)—We got up early to listen to the Abaco Cruisers’ Net. The Net is broadcast on VHF channel 68. Cruisers call in with weather, sea conditions, social functions, arrivals, departures, ball scores, local dinner specials, requests for local information & spare parts, and whatever! It is broadcast from Marsh Harbor about 15 miles from here, so we couldn’t hear all of it. We heard enough to know we are truly back in the Bahamas—mon!
Pictures are of John working on the outboard (and, he fixed it!), me working on this blog posting, and shots of Black Sound.