Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 21, 2010.

We left our anchorage near Hopetown on a rising tide and had a pleasant 8 mile sail back over to Marsh Harbor. I know that I was just bitching about Marsh Harbor but we’ve heard through the grapevine that friends we haven’t seen in a while are working their way up through the Abacos towards Marsh Harbor.

We were reunited with My Destiny when they arrived in the harbor a few hours after we did. The next day we got the double bonus of having Sapphire and Solitaire show up an hour apart. It’s always nice to see Mike & Kathy on Sapphire but this reunion was especially sweet because on the way up from Royal Island, Sapphire had taken 2 Mahi Mahi in excess of 40 pounds. 2 large fish + 1 smallish freezer = lots of extra fish to give away. So thanks to Sapphire we had teriyaki Mahi for dinner.

The guys got together and helped Savage Son move from the anchorage into the marina to take a slip. The Savage Sons have to take a slip as they have over a dozen family and friends flying in over the next week to help Bev celebrate her birthday. Here’s Bev in her “Cotton Tiara”. Texans are a strange bunch.

In the evening we all got together up at the marina to eat and drink, make plans and say our good byes before heading off to different points.

We kid Bob & Bev about being the new kids on the block, with a lot to learn. But in reality they were able to teach me a new trick that I’ve found very useful. Never again will I ever snap a photo where half the subjects are frowning. You can see how happy everyone looks…..that’s the mark of an accomplished photographer. Thank you Bob.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 18, 2010.

Have stayed in Marsh Harbor for 2 nights and it was time to get going. We sailed out of the anchorage at 1000 in less than 8 knots of breeze. It was a little dicey weaving our way through the other anchored boats with so little breeze but all went well.

Our destination for the day was Hopetown. We’ve never been to Hopetown so we wanted to see it before we start looking for a weather window to cross back to the states. It was only an 8 mile trip but unfortunately the first 4 miles were dead to windward. Rather than start the engine we made several long tacks and traveled about 14 miles for the 8 mile trip.

Savage Son opted to enter the enclosed anchorage at Hopetown to pick up a mooring ball while we dropped the hook just outside the entrance channel. We enjoyed watching a Sunsail charter boat drop the hook while we were eating lunch. They came in, dropped the hook, never bothered to back down on it but then the "captain" loitered at the bow for a full 20 minutes just looking down at the water. I dunno, at least he was trying.

. We were in the lee of the island and with light wind and all was good so we hopped in the dink and headed in to do some exploring.

We did a little mooring field cruise to see who was here
before heading in to shore to meet Bob & Bev at the local watering hole.
After a single round of drinks it was off
to explore town a
bit. The town is very reminiscent of either Green turtle Cay or Spanish Wells in that it was extremely colorful and well kept. A really charming little community.

The biggest attraction was the light house. It’s still illuminated by kerosene that’s hauled by hand to the top of the light house. Even though the sign said “closed” somebody forgot to lock
the door so we had ourselves a private tour. We headed up the winding stairwell to the top of the tower. We slipped past the guts of the light house and out onto the catwalk through a small opening in the wall.

The view of town, the mooring field and
the surrounding area was fantastic. You can see us anchored in the lee of the island outside the entrance to town.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 16, 2010.

After a couple days of walking the beaches and swimming in the pools of Great Guana it was time to leave. Great Guana is one of those places that cater more to the spring break crowd. These places remind me of the drunken “sailors” that rent the charter boats in the area and think that’s the scene…….Drink and act like an 18 year old who’s just had his first beer. Bunch of annoying drunks…..they’re harshing my mellow and its time to go.

We put in a double reef, raised the sail, pulled the hook and sailed over to Marsh Harbor in a bit of a hoolie. The wind was cranking but we had a lovely sail and entered Marsh Harbor for the first time.

The anchorage at Marsh Harbor is shallower than I expected but we found a good, well protected spot. I thought that my mellow had been stomped on when we were in Great Guana. I was wrong. Marsh Harbor was like a punch in the face.

On some of the bigger islands that we’ve been to in the last 5 months there are a few cars; you might even see 2 at once. Here in Marsh Harbor we actually witnessed a traffic jam. Between the discourteous drivers and the smell of exhaust we found it to be a bit overwhelming.

Before the English granted the Bahamanians their independence they sowed the seeds of vehicular mayhem when they started these people out driving on the left side of the road. They almost exclusively drive American cars with the driver on the left side of the car. So instead of the driver being near the centerline of the road they’re on the side of the car near the shoulder. So cars passing each other going in opposite directions have a harder time judging how far away they are from each other. Instead of being a reasonable distance from each other across the centerline they both opt to hug the shoulder whenever there is oncoming traffic. So they pass each other with about 15 feet between them while they come as close as possible to mowing down pedestrians walking on the shoulder of the road. I felt like I was taking my life in my hands every time we walked along the shoulder of one of the islands narrow roads. We’d seriously probably be safer walking down the center of the street rather than along the edge.

We spent 2 nights, which when counted as hours translates into….a long f*#king time. We walked quite a bit including a side trip out to see the Bahamanian version of a 4-H fair.
A small petting zoo, some craft vendors and several displays of island grown produce. We hit the islands well stocked grocery store, spent an evening at a “Happy Hour” that truly was only one hour and only brought the price of a beer down to 3.50. Sheesh, I can’t believe that there are cruisers that come to the Bahamas and spend their entire winter here in Marsh Harbor. I just don’t get it. I mean, one night, see some people & hit the grocery store and get the hell outta here. That I could understand.

This place is also the headquarters of the big chartering services here in the Abacos. We watched from our second story Happy Hour perch as boat load after boat load of captains and
crew arrived to wreak havoc on the surrounding waterways. I know that you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I’m thinking that a lot of these people would be a more comfortable on a tractor than a sailboat.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 12, 2010.

We decided that a few nights in the lee of Lynyard Cay was plenty. There’s a bit of unpleasantness headed our way starting late Monday. It’s going to blow for 3 days between 20 and 30 knots outta the northeast. Theres good protection here in Lynyard but I’m not sure if I can stand another 4 nights here. Its time to move north a bit.

We opted to head 25 miles north to Great Guana. Contrary to what I had assumed, Great Guana is not a remarkable pile of bat shit. It’s a long slender cay that boasts some of the biggest tourist trap bars in the Bahamas. Great Guana is also just a few miles across the Sea of Abaco from Marsh Harbor.

We raised the hook and sailed a convoluted course northward. The Abacos are fairly shallow and you have to pay close attention to your course. We sailed with full main and a heavily reefed genoa in 20 to 25 knots of breeze on just about every point of sail. We dropped the hook right up next to shore in Fishers Bay on Great Guana.

The Abacos are sometimes referred to as “East Florida”. Its here that you’ll encounter pasty white, sock and sandal wearing tourons so common in Florida. Why do they call it tourist season if you can’t actually kill them? What has a larger impact on us is the fact that there are a number of charter boat companies operating out of Marsh Harbor.

It’s not unusual to be sharing an anchorage with a Moorings charter boat. It’s very common to have people driving a boat that they’re completely unfamiliar with trying to drop crappy undersized ground tackle right next to you. Listening to these people on the radio is absolutely frightening. You watch them drop an anchor and immediately back down on it as fast as they can. The anchor skips across the bottom for 200 yards before they retrieve it to try again, again and again. God forbid that after several attempts the finally get the hook to set just about on top of you. They think “Thank God that’s over with”. Think again Tonto, try again.

Last night Solitaire, Savage Son and we were anchored in a cluster because it’s easier for us to get back and forth from boat to boat that way. Evidently this institutes the herd mentality in the average charter boat captain. They think “They’re all anchored right there in a little wad so there must be something wrong with the rest of the island”. A Moorings Catamaran with 3 couples came in and decided that the other thousand vacant yards of the island just wouldn’t do. They had to anchor right in our midst. I teased and laughed at Solitaire on the radio as the interlopers dropped the hook over and over right next to them.

Solitaire thought they had the last laugh when after repeated attempts the catamaran pulled the hook and made a beeline straight for us. Evidently these people had metallic rectums and I’m an asshole magnet. Christy was grilling a steak on the aft deck while I was in the cockpit as the catamaran came down our port side only 20 feet away. We didn’t even have to deploy the “Bitch Wings”. Just the “Dead Eye” stare as they muttered something about us being from Jersey as they moved off 300 yards to resume their anchoring fantasies. Thank you Tony Soprano.

As aggravating as their lack of skills or common sense can be, they are a lot of fun to watch, as long as it’s from a distance. Like this guy. I watched him for 5 minutes after he "deployed" his head sail. Then it was circle after circle while he corrected whatever had gone wrong for him.
I can't wait to see how he handles anchoring....

Monday, April 12, 2010

April 11, 2010.

We’ve been here at Lynyard Cay for a few days now. Yesterday was a lazy day of beachcombing so we thought we’d apply ourselves today.

About 2 miles north of us is Sandy Cay. There’s a few small mooring balls that are designed for smaller boats like our dinghies. The attraction is a Coral Garden. There are several very nice patch reefs that are worth snorkeling. It’s a protected area with no hunting so we expected to see more than a few fish.

The wind has been blowing 20 knots from the ENE and we’re safe behind Lynyard Cay. The trip to Sandy Cay took us out into unprotected waters. There was a 2 foot wind chop when we tied the dinghies up to the mooring.

We spent an hour or so swimming along looking at fish that we weren’t allowed to kill. It almost killed me. Of course since lobster season has been over for 2 weeks I saw 5 of the little bastards without really even trying. I think one of them even gave me the finger.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 9, 2010.

I spent the evening reading everything I could about cooling systems to see what we could do about Savage Son. After refreshing my knowledge base I slept well and headed over to the Savage Son at 0830 the next morning.

We decided to remove the end caps from the heat exchanger to check for a blockage. So Bob went to close the raw water seacock to the engine. This was the first step in Bob’s downward spiral from esteemed former surgeon to cruising dumbass. You see, when he knelt to close the seacock just imagine both our surprise when he stood and announced that the seacock was still closed from the other day when we originally addressed his overheating issue.

That meant that when he left the anchorage yesterday the engine was doomed to overheat almost immediately. It all worked out well in the end but it was kinda fun as Bob crowned himself “Dumbass”.

We ran the boat for 15 minutes and found everything to be working properly. We had planned to dinghy the 2 miles into Little Harbor but instead Bob offered to take Solitaire’s and Veranda’s dinghies in tow and take the big boat closer to town. So, with all of us onboard that’s exactly what we did.

Savage Son dropped the hook just outside the towns narrow, very shallow entrance channel. We boarded the dinks and headed in to explore. Little Harbor is a tiny virtually landlocked harbor with a pub, a gallery, a cave and a scattering of homes overlooking the water.

The pub was still closed so we had to start with the gallery. The gallery is run by a guy and his family whose dad was evidently a little bit of an eccentric. Forty years ago the dad brought his wife and three young sons here on a small sailboat. There was nothing here so they were able to acquire the land around most of the harbor. For a short while they lived aboard the boat before moving into a nearby cave, which seems to be a recurring theme here in the Bahamas. I'm surprised that "Flintstone' is not a common Bahamanian surname.

While living in the cave dad built em’ a house. Dad was also an accomplished artist, working with paints and cast bronze sculpture. Dad has since passed on to the great studio in the sky. Two of the sons have moved on while the third son, Pete, works as an artist, maintains a gallery and owns the local pub.

There were a lot of neat things to see but after 20 minutes we were headed over to the cave. All I can say about the cave is…….
their sailboat must have been a pretty depressing piece of shit if they moved off of it, into this cave. The floor of the cave was wall to wall boulders and cracks with very little level ground. I’m sure that back in the day it sounded a lot like “Mom!, Petey fell into the crevice again!”. This place will never make the cover of “Better Caves and Gardens”.

Anyway, after the cave we were off to the pub. It was a typical waterfront beach pub with tee shirts and reminders of guests long past.
A sandy floor, shady seating, a cool bar and excellent food made Pete’s Pub a pleasant stop. Oh yeah, that and the cold beer.

After lunch we dinghied out into the mangroves and found the rumored blue hole. The tide was coming in and you could feel the cold ocean waters swirling up from the black depths of the blue hole. There were some large fish milling about and several schools of smaller fish. I considered fishing it but on the shore partially obscured by the mangroves was a bronze plaque dedicated to the memory of 3 guys who drowned there back in the nineties. Kinda gave me the heebie jeebies.

Back at the big boat it was once again, raise the hook and motor back over to the more protected anchorage at Lynyard Cay where we’ll stay to hide from a few days of gale force winds from the east north east.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 8, 2010.

After a peaceful nights sleep we were once again up and underway before dawn. This time the reason was that we had a forecast with favorable winds that were due to diminish as the day progressed, that and the fact that it was to be a 57 mile day predominately under sail.

We were the third boat of about 15 to leave the harbor. After 10 minutes Savage Son called us on the VHF and told us that they were once again overheating. Crap. We considered turning around or pressing on with the favorable sailing opportunity. The Savages decided to press on knowing that they would have to sail in through the cut at Little Harbor and into our chosen anchorage.

So we were hell bent for leather as we blasted northward under full sail. We had about 17 to 20 knots slightly behind the beam. The seas were up a bit as we crossed the Northeast Providence Channel. We were able to hold off Savage Son for the first 25 miles but then the winds started to abate a bit.
We still had 12 knots of apparent breeze but the lighter breeze favored the Valiant and they crept by.

Since the Savages hadn’t been here before, Solitaire motorsailed ahead to led them through the cut. Fortunately, the seas died with the breeze so the cut wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, the wind was dead astern for a little over a mile as we made our way into the cut. The sea state was a little rolly but not very bad all things considered. Once inside, the 12 knots of breeze made for a pleasant sail into the anchorage where we all found perfect white patches of sand to drop and set our hooks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April 6, 2010.

We spent a few days in Governors Harbor, Eleuthera. We really like Governors Harbor. There’s a really nice vibe to the town plus its got a bakery. We did some food shopping, jugged a little gasoline, had a beer at the local pub and then went on a photographic walkabout.

There’s one lane here in town that we really enjoy. Each yard and home is as close to idyllic as you can find here. Colorfully painted homes surrounded by lush vegetation are the norm.

After a few days enjoying Governors harbor it was time to head north towards the Current Cut. It’s 30 miles
away and because we have to ride an ebbing tide through the cut we’ve decided to move up to an anchorage near the Glass Window.

The Glass Window was a natural rock bridge that collapsed in the thirties effectively dividing Eleuthera into 2 separate islands. It wasn’t until the sixties that they got around to building a modern concrete bridge. That’s when it got interesting. In the nineties a rogue wave at least 5 stories tall came blasting through the narrow gap and lifted the entire bridge span up and redeposited it about 7 feet to the west. So in typical Bahamas fashion….they left it. They adjusted the flow of traffic to where the bridge now lies. In the last 2 years they’ve gotten around to adding some more support under the span.

After a night at the Glass Window we pulled the hooks in the predawn darkness for the 12 mile sail to the Current Cut. We arrived at about 0830 and motorsailed through the cut at 11 knots. Our friends on Savage Sun were making their first trip through the cut so it was only fitting that a memorable milestone should turn into a sphincter slamming event.

To traverse the cut when headed north you make a 90 degree turn to starboard and hug a series of small ironshore cays. Then as you reach the main channel you make a 110 degree turn to port. At this point your boat will pick up a few knots as you’re swept through the cut. As Bob and Bev were paralleling the ironshore their engine overheated. They had to shut down the engine which left them close hauled on starboard tack with the worst possible shoreline 50 feet off their port side. We had all been sailing but opted to start the engines for safety’s sake as the wind would be pretty close to the nose in the worst part of the trip. Thank God they had all sail up on their Valiant 42 and were able to claw along the shoreline and make the downwind turn into the cut. The channel is so narrow that there is no room to tack away, if they couldn’t make that point of sail they were screwed. It all worked out for them although I’m sure Bob’s turds will resemble linguine for a couple of weeks. To their credit though they kept on snapping pictures the whole way and captured one of us motorsailing with just the main up through the cut.

Once through the cut it was a run right into the anchorage in Royal Island. Savage Son sailed right through the narrow opening, rounded up and dropped the hook under sail like they’d done it a thousand times. Since it had only been a 20 mile day we diagnosed and fixed Bob’s overheating problem and then headed in to shore to explore the abandoned ruins.
It had been a palatial estate overlooking the harbor but has been in ruins for over 50 years. There are still recognizable features like a boat house,
a main house with at least 8 bedrooms, a separate building for cooking, an outside patio bar and a flower garden.