April 17, 2009.
My first impressions of the Abacos…..the good, the bad and the ridiculous.
During our trip north to Abaco we were in radio range of a boat christened Bananas. The guy was single handing and trying to take his newly purchased boat home from the British Virgin Islands. His last stop was in the Turks and Caicos and after 30 hours or so he was off of the southern tip of Abaco.
He made several calls for information during the day. He needed weather updates as he had been thrashed pretty good by a storm early in this leg of his journey and had gotten pummeled by the storm that delayed everyone’s departure from Royal Island just this morning. He sounded practically delirious from lack of sleep and the beating he had been absorbing.
When we finally left Royal Island he was 7 miles ahead of us and somehow he ended up 13 miles behind us (we never saw him)as we approached Abaco. He had no charts of the area, I’m pretty sure he was misreading his GPS when he was relaying his position and he was surprised twice in the last 30 hours by vicious storm cells.
Some of the other boats were trying to offer him some help. Norm gave him a weather update and one of the other boats tried to talk him into stopping in at Royal Island to get some sleep. He stated that his intention was to keep on going until he got to Miami. Miami is 30 hours away even in good conditions. He was facing a building breeze coming straight out of the west. As the day went on he showed up on the radio every few hours sounding more confused about what to do. He said I’m not declaring an emergency but I’m getting close, the boat is fine but I’m just so exhausted. People tried to get him to alter course and follow us into Abaco but he had no idea where it was and was really unable to grasp simple directions. Columbus had a better idea of what was out there.
Finally the captain of a 102 foot motor yacht asked him to confirm his position and said he would alter course to lend a hand. It turned out he was only 35 minutes away and he changed course to rendezvous with him.
When the captain arrived the guy was practically delirious and saying things like “I’ve got a wife and children” “it’s just been too much” “I was taking the boat to Miami and then on to Texas but I’m gonna leave it in Miami and have it delivered, I just want to see my kids again” etc. True to the tradition of the sea the captain of the power yacht offered to take the guy in tow and drag him all the way to Abaco. The offer was joyfully accepted.
This power boat could probably cruise at 20 knots and yet he dutifully towed Bananas 30 miles at less than 10 knots. We listened as they had to reorganize as the tow rope snapped twice during their trip. The power boat captain chatted with the guy for the entire trip to try and keep him alert. True to his word the captain towed him all the way to Abaco. Then he towed him in through the cut and right into the anchorage. They didn’t drop the hook until 2100 hours. Then the captain sent one of his crew over in the tender to pick the guy up so he could get a good meal aboard the huge motor yacht.
The guy was obviously overwhelmed by the weather and the scope of the trip he was trying to undertake. He was completely unprepared and this power yacht just happened along and made a huge difference. The captain of the La Dolce Vita earned more than a little respect from everyone in radio range that day.
In Abaco they have a morning radio net a la Georgetown complete with weather info, local happenings and such. During the morning net a guy called in and said that a sneak thief had boarded his boat in the middle of the night and stolen several pieces of hand held electronic gear. He felt violated and wanted to know if this was more common than he realized. He asked “Was this a dirty little secret of the Abacos?”
The net controller kind of swept him off to the side and said she’d get back to him at the end of the net. At the end of the net there was a flurry of calls from people that were saying things like “I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I’ve never had a problem”. My thought was “What the hell does that have to do with anything”. This guy was robbed and instead of announcing to everyone within earshot that there had been a robbery, be careful people, watch your stuff. They kinda spun their own little version of damage control. I mean, you could live in New York City for 40 years and never be the victim of crime but if the old lady upstairs gets murdered I think it might be a good idea to tell everyone in the building that it happened. But that's just me.
We stopped for a few days at Green Turtle Cay. The settlement of New Plymouth specifically, and I have to say that it’s utterly charming. Every street is a narrow concrete One Way lane. There are few cars and trucks and the most popular form of transportation is the golf cart.
The buildings are mostly in a good state of repair and brightly painted. There seems to be a good bit of community pride and the town’s appearance reflects that pride. Clean streets, friendly people are the norm. There are a few small grocery stores and places to eat.
As with much of the Bahamas the main influx of settlers came here at the end of the American Revolution. The Bahamas had been already settled by the English in the 1640’s. So it was a natural choice for loyalists that were fleeing persecution after the colonial rabble in America won their freedom from England. The buildings architecture and age along with the English manner of speech remind me of what an old English seaside town must have been like. It really is a great place to visit.