Monday, 8 June 2015

 March 22, 2015

Before we left Gun Cay in the morning, we toured around the anchorage trying to spot Stingrays that are written about in the Cruising Guides but we didn’t see any.  Our plan was to time our departure so that we would arrive in North Bimini at slack tide.  All the marinas are located on the east side of the island between the island and a mud flat, which is exposed at low tide.  The three foot tide coming in and out of this narrow channel creates a very strong current that changes direction four times a day.  Our trip to North Bimini was sunny with calm seas and very light winds and we had to motor all the way.  We arrived at Brown’s Marina late morning where we planned to spend the next four weeks. 

Once we had cleared Customs and Immigration, Bimini was ours to discover.  The Island  of North Bimini is only about 7 miles long, with only 2 roads, the Queen’s Road and the King’s Road that run most of the length of the island.  The Island has 2 towns Alice Town and Bailey Town, except for the signs saying that you are entering the town, it would have been impossible to tell which you were in.  The traffic on the Island runs the full range from golf carts to full size garbage trucks that are all travelling on a road that is the width of 2 golf carts.  If you are walking you had better be prepared to get well off to the side as they don’t give pedestrians much room.  They also drive on the opposite side of the road, so we always seemed to be on the wrong side at first.  
The islands only source of income is tourism, with the main focus until recently, being sport fishing as they are located close to the Gulf Stream.  In the last few years there has been a large condominium complex built on the north end of the island complete with a casino, mega yacht marina and soon to be completed large hotel.  This is serviced by a high speed ferry that runs between Miami and Bimini. 

We spent our first few days on the island exploring the different shops trying to find where we would be able to go for supplies.  The island has several grocery stores none of which could supply us with all the things we would expect to find in a grocery store in Canada.  This meant we had to find which store carried which products and also plan our shopping around the once a week island supply ship. 

At first it didn’t appear to be a lot to do on the island but as we explored and slowed down to island time we found loads of things to do when you factor in walking everywhere and the hot weather. 
  • Our first take away meal was from ‘The Taste of Home Bakery’ in Alicetown and we were invited by the lady who operated Jontras Grocery store across the road to join her and eat in the grocery store out of the flies and heat.  It was fun as we were included in the conversations with the local people as they came and went from the store.
  • We got a ride on the Tram that was used to transport the people from the resort on the north end of the island down to the towns on the south end for shopping. We wanted to see the resort and casino that we had heard about.  What we found was a gated complex with a subdivision of condos with perfectly manicured lawns, a yacht harbour that was set up to cater to the mega yachts, and a casino that was empty except for the employees.  We caught the first tram we could back to the south end of the island. This was not our idea of the Bahamas.
  • We had read in the tourist information about a museum called the Dolphin House.  We went to see and found a museum, gift shop and motel rooms all built by the owner Ashley.  The Dolphin House is one one of those places you would expect to see on a TV show about incredible homes.  The building was the standard concrete block construction seen everywhere here but he had stuccoed the outside of his building with conch shells, sea glass and ceramic tile all of which he had found on the beaches or diving nearby.  This unusual exterior was matched on the interior with things he had collected or been given such as licence plates for every state in the US as well as most of Canada, and a complete 20 year collection of National Geographic Magazine.
  • Talking to the dock master we found that we could buy lobster tails off a fishing boat that had just come in.  The Freedom Rider was a larger fishing boat that would come into Bimini when the weather was too rough for them to be out fishing off the Bahama Banks.   At $20.00 a dozen you could get tired of eating lobster ;) .  All the lobster that is caught is speared so any lobster that are too small for export are sold from the boat on the island.
  • We have been hearing a really annoying tune being played each evening near our Marina.  This would last for about 15 minutes and then the music would disappear.  We found out after several days that it was an ice cream truck.  Ice cream was something we hadn’t had in some time and the music stopped being annoyance and something we started  to look forward to hearing.
  • Our first trip to the beach, we saw 2 Stingrays swimming at least a hundred yards off shore (the water clarity is just incredible) as we watched, one of them flew completely out of the water.  What an incredible experience seeing something that large, powerful and beautiful doing something we weren’t expecting to see.
  • Between the beach and the road back to our boat, is a small building called Sherry and Erik’s Sunset Beach Bar, which makes some really good and powerful rum concoctions.  We stopped in one afternoon to try them out and asked Sherry where we could find some shade to sit and enjoy our drinks. Her answer was that we could sit on the deck around the beach side of her building or we could sit with her in front of the bar.  We chose to sit with her and had a great visit with her and several colourful local individuals that hung around there.  Sherry had just reopened recently after being closed for cancer treatment, when Dave questioned her about her health care and her treatment, she lifted her top and pulled her pants down enough to show him the scar. He was speechless.  A wonderful lady and a must place to stop for a drink on North Bimini.
  • On South Bimini a professor from the University of Miami has set up a lab to study sharks.  Bimini’s  closeness to the Gulf Stream makes it is a good spot to find and tag many of the different species of shark.  The lab is staffed by grad students and they will give tours of their facilities.  We took the water taxi over to see and were taken out to pens that they use to hold sharks for study and after listening to a talk on the work that is being done here, we were allowed to pet a Lemon Shark.
  • A marina down from where we are staying has set up a cage, that for $100.00 you can get into, while they feed very large Bull sharks in the water around you.  The second option here is to stand on the dock and watch the guy feed these huge sharks for free staying dry and $100.00 better off.  We took the second option, eight to ten foot Bull sharks are really something to see that close up. 
  • Before we left Bimini, we needed some rubber gasket cement so we went to  Moonglow Battery and Tire.  We ordered it and were told that it would arrive on the mail boat on Thursday.  When we arrived back, no one was in the store but we could hear a TV in a room off the store and knocked on the door.  When the owner Sol opened the door, the walls of the room were covered with trophies which looked like something from body building competitions.  We asked Sol about them and we found out that he had won competitions all over the Caribbean, was a member of the Bahama’s Sports Hall of Fame  and at 78 years of age, was training to possibly compete in a senior’s body building competition this summer.
  • After our first 2 weeks on the island watching a lady serve take away lunches out of the trunk of her car, we got up enough nerve to try it.  The food was incredible for $9.00 each we ended up with enough food for our lunch and the leftovers were enough for supper.  That day, she had a choice of 3 styles of chicken, either coleslaw or mac and cheese served on peas and rice.  We managed to go a second day when it was pork chops or ham steaks and we left with the same opinion as our first meal -great food served Bimini style.

After almost 4 weeks on Bimini we hadn’t run out of things to do and see but it was getting to the time when we needed to find a weather window to get us back to Florida. On March 22, 2015 at 6:45 AM we left on a slack tide and pointed Time 2 Go towards Fort Lauderdale.

The Dolphin House, Alicetown, North Bimini

Art work inside Dolphin House

Mermaid corner in the Dolphin House

Shark Research Lab on South Bimini

Petting a Lemon Shark

Bull shark feeding at Bimini Big Game Club

Beach on North Bimini

Sherri and Erik's Beach Bar

Cary the Coconut Man preparing a coconut for us

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

February 24, 2015

We left Florida University Cove, in the morning January 27 and  started south.  Our main goal being to find a pump out as our holding tank was full.  This should have been easy with all the marinas in and around Miami but several we tried didn’t work, or the facilities were only for guests at the marina.  So we continued south to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne where we knew they had a free pump out, hoping that it was working. The trip south down through Miami takes you by the downtown area of Miami and past all the cruise ships.  There were six giant cruise ships there when we went by.

Key Biscayne is at the south end of the city of Miami and we were heading to the southern end of it.  In the north end is the Olympic Sail Training Centre.  This is where teams from all over the world come to train in the smaller racing sailboats and catamarans.  Now you would think this would be something neat to see as they race around Florida Bay and it would be, if there was only one race going on at a time.  The reality is that they had a least three races in different classes going on, on different courses at the same time.  These racers are well aware of the rules of the road that make big boats give way to little boats and showed no fear of tacking and heading straight for us.  We performed several evasive maneuvers and one 360 to prevent running head long into them before we had gotten south of their race area.  Not fun.
We arrived in No Name Harbor in the middle of the afternoon after emptying our holding tank (thankfully it was working).  We dropped the anchor in a very crowded anchorage.  No Name Harbor is a very popular spot for people waiting for good weather to cross to Bimini and there hadn’t been any good weather windows for a while.

We used our first day here to restock our supplies and fill our water tanks.  There is one washing machine and one dryer here and they are always busy.  We got a bit of a break as one person found a four foot Iguana trying to stay warm near the dryer in the laundry room.  It seemed to slow people’s urge to have clean clothes.  We were able to get ours done sooner making sure the door stayed shut to the wildlife.  

Dave had been noticing the bilge pump running more than usual, so he pulled the cover off the engine and looked in the back.  What he found was a small amount of water coming through the hull.  So he decided to try and put an epoxy patch on it until we could get to a marina, where we could get hauled out and a permanent repair done.  

We left No Name Harbor and headed north towards a marina, north of Miami, that was advertised in the guide books.  This took us back through the sailboat races, bridges and back to Florida University Cove to wait for our appointment to be hauled out.  While waiting, Dave called and found out that there was a great number of hidden costs and getting hauled out was going to be extremely expensive, even without repairs.  We decided to cancel our haul out at this marina and try someplace else.  We called Jay, our friend in Marathon, to ask if he could recommend any reasonable marinas.  He suggested Key Largo Harbor Marina.  We turned around again and headed south to No Name Harbor.  When we arrived back, we noticed that the bilge pump was running every 7 minutes, instead of 40 minutes before.  Dave called Tow Boat U.S. and arranged to have us towed to Key Largo Harbor Marina.  We left No Name Harbor  about 5:00 PM and arrived at  Key Largo Harbor Marina just before Midnight not a fun trip.  We were pulled out of the water Monday morning and found the weld around the strut holding the cutlass bearing had cracked.  It turns out that there was a slight bend in the prop shaft and the vibration from it caused the crack. So 2 weeks later a new prop shaft, cutlass bearing zinc anode and a whole lot of welding later we were back in the water. We had to wait here for another week and half till we got a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini.

February 23rd the weather looked good for crossing , we got up early and left about 5:30 AM and headed down the canal. We got as far as the entrance to the channel and came to an abrupt stop, apparently they have 16’ in the canal and only 5’6” at the entrance at low tide. After a leisurely breakfast we floated free and started our trip to Molasses Reef and on to the Gulf Stream. The trip across the Gulf Stream was a lot different from last year as we were a lot farther south than our destination so we felt the effects of the Stream for most of the day. Normally with our boat we are happy to be doing 6 knots but with the motor running a nice breeze in the sails and the Gulf Stream , we saw as high as 9 knots on our GPS chart plotter. Our late start was going to put us into Bimini after dark and the current would be very strong. We anchored at Gun Cay in Honeymoon Harbour just south of Bimini 12 hours and 77 miles later. 

Anchoring in Honeymoon Harbour was very rocky ( missed the small print mentioning the surge in the anchorage). We left late in the morning timing our arrival in Bimini for slack tide ( the time between the tide going in and when it starts to go out) this made for an easy time docking at Brown’s Marina on North Bimini. Anyone who has tied to the dock in Little Currant in the North Channel on Manitoulin Island would be able to relate as the currant was very similar. After clearing through Customs and Immigration we have officially have arrived back in the Bahamas.

Miami skyline from the ICW

Olympic Sailing Teams practising in Biscayne Bay 

No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne

Our new prop shaft and bullet proof strut

The original African Queen completely restored and offering cruises out of Key Largo

New friends we met at Key Largo Harbor Marine

More new friends we met at Key Largo Harbor Marine
Everyone was so helpful when we broke down

Arriving at North Bimini channel. Back in the Bahamas :)

Friday, 20 February 2015

January 26, 2015

In early December we travelled down to Indiantown and Time 2 Go.  We wanted to be home for Christmas and still be able to take off cruising early in the new year, so the trip was a work week.  Time 2 Go was moved to the work yard on December 9th and we spent the next week cleaning, polishing, painting, fixing and stocking up, before flying home on Dec. 16th.  

After a great Christmas with family, on January 8th we left Port Elgin in typical Bruce County weather (white-outs, closed roads and knee deep snow), we headed to Niagara to visit family before flying out on January 10th to West Palm Beach, Florida.  

On Monday January 12th, Time 2 Go was moved from the work yard to the water, where we started our final preparations.  By Friday we were feeling comfortable with the boat and ready to go.  The following morning we left Indiantown and headed for the mooring field at Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart.  The Intercoastal Waterway can get extremely busy, with very big and very fast boats on the weekend.  So our plan was to spend the weekend in Stuart, buying more provisions and visiting the Farmer’s Market in old downtown Stuart,  before proceeding on.  

On Monday we left Stuart and started south, our planned destination was Peck Lake.  Peck Lake is an anchorage off the Intercoastal Waterway that has easy access to a really long ocean beach.  The temperature in the low 60’s and high winds out of the north, made our decision that Monday was not going to be a beach day, so we continued on to the Lake Worth anchorage.  Our plan was to go offshore to Fort Lauderdale, rather than the ICW, but the continued high wind speeds from the north are forcing us to travel the ICW south again.  The stretch of the ICW from Lake Worth to southern Miami is noted for the large number of bascule bridges that only open at a set time.  We remember these bridges well from our first trip south.  It felt like we were constantly racing from bridge to bridge to make the next opening.  We were not looking forward to this again.  On our first day travelling from Lake Worth to Boca Raton, we did 12 bridges, all opening at a set time.  The surprising thing was, it was slightly easier this year, as we had recorded the times before on our last trip through.  We ended our day anchored in Lake Boca Raton, a square lake surrounded with high rises, definitely not like a  North Channel anchorage .
Eight bridges the next day got us to Lake Sylvia, an anchorage in Fort Lauderdale just off the ICW.  We spent the weekend here hiding from all the weekend boaters on the ICW, catching up on shopping and doing odd jobs on the boat.  While we were out, we found a store called Sailorman.  It is a combination of used boat parts, new stuff and just plain boat junk.  Dave had fun. 

Monday morning we still couldn’t go off shore so it was back down the ICW again.  After 4 more bridges we were nearing Florida University Cove, an anchorage we had wanted to check out, when a Severe Weather Warning sounded on the VHF announcing a severe storm for our location.  We barely had time to clear all our stuff from the cockpit and had just started to put on our foul weather gear, when it hit.  The rain came down like a wall of water and the wind was so high it heeled us over as if we had all our sails up.   Thankfully it only lasted about 5 minutes.  We  made it safely into the anchorage and dropped the hook, feeling less exposed to the wind.  This is a really nice anchorage, on one side is the Florida International University and on the other, Oleta State Park.  It was relatively quiet and the only high rises were in the distance.  

Ready to leave Bruce County

In the water in Indiantown

Antique bikes at the Stuart Farmers Market

The Stuart Farmers Market

Lake Sylvia sunset, a great location to watch Cruise Ships coming and going

Saturday, 22 March 2014

March 10, 2014

We have started planning our trip back to the U.S., watching the weather and stocking the boat in preparation for a good weather window.  

On Tuesday night the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club had organized a meatloaf dinner at Jamie’s place.  From past experience, these events are not to be missed.  This was no exception, the restaurant ‘Jamie’s Place’ serves Bahamian style food and is a favourite with locals.  It was an excellent meal.

The following morning we left Marsh Harbour to either go to Treasure Cay or go around the Whale Cay Passage.  The Sea of Abaco between Whale Cay and Treasure Cay is very shallow due to sand being shifted by many hurricanes.  The Whale Cay Channel is  a narrow passage that bypasses this area by going out into the Atlantic Ocean and back in.  Being a narrow passage, in certain wind conditions, the Atlantic Ocean makes it impossible to safely navigate through it.  The weather forecast for the next few days was not looking that great, so when we started out with no wind or waves on the Sea of Abaco, we decided to try the Whale Cay Passage.  It was a good decision.

We went to the Bluff House Marina on Green Turtle Cay as the weather forecast was still not good.  We met up with Pat and Tutti on ‘Keltic Kat’, friends from Indiantown.  They gave us some good suggestions on places to visit on our way north.  

It was rainy and windy for the next few days, but not as bad as they had predicted.  When the weather broke, we left Green Turtle Cay and headed to an anchorage on Manjack Cay.  Manjack Cay is a privately owned Cay, whose owner enjoys having the boaters around.  He has cut a path through his property so you can walk across the Cay to the beach on the Atlantic side.  The walk along the trail to the beach was a long one, but the miles of beautiful white sand beach with only a couple other boaters on it, at the end was worth it.  

Dave recognized a catamaran in a far corner of the bay as a James Wharram design, so we dinghied over to talk to the people.  It turned out this was the Wharram 38 that we thought we would build if we liked sailing our 17 foot catamaran.  We met Ron and Gail, the owners, and they invited us aboard for a tour.  They had been sailing the boat on the Chesapeake for a few years and Ron had planned on working on the interior during their trip south.  This idea wasn’t working too well as they had made it all the way to the Bahamas and it was still looking rough.  It was interesting to see the boat and some of the things that had looked good on the plans, just didn’t work in full size.  

We wanted to break up the trip from Manjack Cay to Great Sale Cay, and friends had mentioned Crab Cay, so we decided to check it out.  It was a large horseshoe shaped bay with what looked like a beautiful palm tree covered beach at the end.  The weather forecasters are again calling for another storm front coming in, in a few days, so we decided to stay here, then move to a marina before the storm hit.  We spent 3 days exploring the shore, beach combing, swimming, reading and relaxing.  We had hoped to be able to swim off the boat, but there was a 3 foot Barracuda whose territory we had apparently anchored in.   We were more intimated by him, than he was of us, so we dinghied to shore when we wanted to go for a swim.  

We left Crab Cay and travelled 4 miles east to Spanish Cay Marina with the hope of a safe place to tie up during the predicted gale force winds.  This turned out to be a mistake.  We noticed as we arrived that the break wall was not very far above water level, but we really didn’t think anything of it at the time.  The dock master helped us tie up to the slip he had assigned and we went exploring the Cay.  This Cay is privately owned by a person from Texas and it had it’s own private 5,000 foot air strip which we found was now only 3,000 feet long after Hurricane Sandy.  It turns out that the low break wall that we noticed earlier, had also been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, thus providing us no protection from the storm that had now arrived.  We spent the next two nights with our stern to the wind with the boat hobby-horsing up and down with the back end slapping the water, we got very little sleep.  The third morning the wind let up a bit and shifted direction so we untied and left and started heading north west towards Great Sale Cay.  

Great Sale Cay is a deserted cay with a large horseshoe shaped bay that provides good protection in everything but a south wind.  It is a very popular spot for people to anchor on their trip to or from the Abacos and when we arrived we found today was no exception, with 11 or 12 boats anchored there.  Our plan was to leave early the following morning so we set the alarm for 5:30 am., this would have got us to          the Indian Cay Channel on a rising tide.  We had not remembered the time change and ended up getting up at 6:30 am., the new time which was going to make us late for reaching Indian Cay Channel.  As we left, the wind picked up a bit and we were able to use the jib to add a few knots to our speed.  This got us to the channel just a half hour after high tide, and gave us enough water to go through this narrow channel and on to Old Bahama Bay Marina.  

The weather forecast had been, 4 good days of weather before it turned nasty.  Day 2 had got us to Old Bahama Bay Marina and we decided to use day 3 to go across the Gulf Stream to Lake Worth Inlet.  We set the alarm to the correct time and left just before sunrise and sunny skies with a light breeze.  On our way we saw what looked like a lot of sandwich bags floating on the water, these turned out to be Portuguese Man of War.  We also saw a lot of flying fish.  They looked pretty shining in the sunlight, and it was surprising to see how far they could actually fly!  As we got into the east end of the Gulf Stream the weather changed to light rain and the swells increased to three to four feet.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride till we got nearer to the west side of  the Stream and things settled a bit.  You can see the Florida skyline a long ways out and we were able to see the outline of high rise buildings not long after we were out of the Gulf Stream.  The weather also changed as it got sunny and the winds picked up allowing us to put the sails back up and give us a few extra knots of speed.  This was a real boost as it had been a very long day since leaving the Bahamas.  As we neared the entrance to Lake Worth Inlet, we spotted two water spouts in the distance and we think they were whales, but we never saw anymore after that.  We dropped the anchor around 6 pm. in Lake Worth Inlet, Florida - tired and glad to have the day behind us.           
The path to the beach on Manjack Cay

30 minutes later the beach on Manjack Cay

Crab Cay wild life

Crab Cay 

Our 3' neighbour at Crab Cay (Barracuda)

Sunrise leaving Old Bahama Bay Marina, Grand Bahama Island 

Friday, 28 February 2014

February 23, 2014

We once again have returned to Marsh Harbour to restock.  One of the things that Dave wanted was varnish for the boat and none of the stores in the downtown area had it in stock.  It was suggested that we try the boat yard on the far side of harbour, just a five minute walk.   After fifteen minutes of walking and not getting anywhere close to the boatyard, we stopped and asked at Wonderland Garden Nursery for directions and met Andree Albury, the owner, who gave us a ride in his truck to the boat yard, only to find they didn’t have any either.  When we returned to the Nursery, we asked if we could have a tour of his Nursery.  From the front of the building it didn’t look like much but when you walked through to the back, he had created a yard that held all the plants and trees that would grow in the Bahamas.  It was amazing and we left with a bunch of different samples that  he gave us from the unique plants he had growing in his backyard. 

Barometer Bob (the website for weather in the Abaco’s) is calling for a big storm in the next couple days with gale force winds so we are staying put in Marsh harbour for a few days waiting it out.  So we were spending time walking through stores for something to do and went into Dive Abaco, the local dive shop.  The owner asked where we were from, we said Ontario, he asked where in Ontario and we told him Port Elgin.  He told us that he really enjoyed staying at the Port Elgin Motor Inn when he used to come up the Bruce.  Keith the owner, used to work for Ontario Hydro before he quit to buy his dive business  in Marsh Harbour and he knew a few people that Dave did at Hydro.  Small world... 

We had been looking for someplace to get my hair cut and found Najah’s Salon and Spa.  Novia did a lot better job then Dave had at the Barber shop!

Every evening at sunset all the people who have a Conch shell, blow them.  A new boat has come into the harbour this afternoon from Ottawa and he played the bagpipes at sunset.  I don’t know from the shouts if it was appreciated by the conch blowers but it did sound like harbours back home.

The storm hit us the next afternoon right when Barometer Bob said it would with 40 knots of wind and just a solid wall of water.  Thankfully it didn’t last long and none of the boats near us, including us, had their anchors drag.  During the storm it would have been impossible to have reset a dragging anchor if they had dragged.

We left the next morning to go to Treasure Cay and about half way there, the Dock master came on the VHF radio and announced that for Valentines Day they were offering a free night’s dockage.  We took it plus another night.  Laundry was on our to-do list so we went to a small laundry mat at the resort.  The lady-owner had a hand written sign posted saying that they had fish for sale.  Dave asked her about it and we ended up with a meal of Grouper and 5 lobster tails for $16.  

While we were at Treasure, we took the dinghy up a shallow long bay and then got out and hung off a rope on each side of the dinghy, with our masks and snorkels, drifting with the tide towards the outlet of the bay.  Our friend suggested this and we saw a bunch of fish and also got a sea urchin.  Shortly after we got back in the dinghy, we saw a Nurse Shark and a turtle.  Was a fun afternoon.  

The following morning we left Treasure Cay and sailed south to Tilloo Cay and anchored for the night.  We had heard there was a nature preserve on the Atlantic side for nesting sea birds on this Cay.  The person from the Bahamas National Trust, that we had spoken to, told us that there was a dock, in a small bay called Tilloo Pond that would allow us access to the preserve.  The following morning we dinghied over and found the dock, but could find no path from the dock to the  Atlantic side.   If there was a path, it was overgrown.  We followed the shoreline with the dinghy looking for another possible access point and didn’t find one.  We did find 5 or 6 sea turtles in this area.  

We returned to ‘Time 2 Go’ and loaded the dinghy on the back and started south again.  Lynyard Cay is the last Cay in the Abaco chain of keys that people go to wait for the weather to go the the Exumas. It is uninhabited and we were told that it was a really quiet anchorage with nice beaches. So that’s where we were headed for some quiet walks on the beach. We had no trouble finding the anchorage as there had to over 20 boats already there. The beaches on the Atlantic side were all on top of rock ledges good beach combing but not good for swimming.  The thing that made our time specially here was we were invited to watch the sun go down at a bonfire on the beach and to enjoy munches and sundowners with a bunch of the other boaters.

We started north the next morning not sure where we going to stop for the day, Tahiti Beach or Hope Town.  When we got near to Tahiti Beach, we saw that the anchorage was really crowded so we decided to go on a few miles to Hope Town.  There was a few things that we didn’t do on our first visit that we hoped to do before we had to head home.  One was to climb to the top of the lighthouse and check out the view.  It was spectacular and we got a lot of good pictures.  The following afternoon a couple we met from Owen Sound, Ben and Jane Eckensweiler, dinghied over and invited us to a Songwriters Festival that evening.  These songwriters were the folks who wrote songs for the big name Country and Western  stars and they performed and talked about the songs that they had written.  Dave met a young lady at the bar who was from Tiverton, Ontario and her parents lived in Kincardine.  Small world... 

The next two nights the annual Junkanoo was scheduled to take place in Marsh Harbour, so that’s where we headed.  The first evening was the junior Junkanoo, this included 16 groups from schools around the Abacos.  The Bahamians treat Junkanoo competitions similar to what we in Canada treat kids’ hockey.  They get very involved.  Each group had a theme and the costumes of all the members of the group were made to represent that theme.  The kids were from kindergarten age to high school.  They were  being judged on many different things.  The little ones were really cute to watch as they tried to perform the dance routines that the older kids did.  

We had planned on going to the senior Junkanoo the following night but found out it wasn’t scheduled to start until 9 pm. and thought it would be too late a night, by the time we would get back to the boat.    The next day we heard it didn’t get started until 10 pm. and with only 2 groups, it was after 1 am. before it was done.  

Just outside of Marsh Harbour there is a small reef called Mermaid Reef, that we had been hearing about.  So we loaded our masks and snorkels into the dinghy and went to check it out.  The Reef was loaded with all different colours of fish that would swim right up to you, because people had been feeding them.  It was fun swimming with the fish and we got some really great pictures.  It was awesome!     

Atlantic ocean beach on Lynyard Cay

Sundowner party on beach at Lynyard Cay

Hope Town Lighthouse

View from the top of Hope Town Lighthouse

Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Abaco Junior Junkanoo 
Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Abaco Junior Junkanoo

Fish at Mermaid Reef, Marsh Harbour

Anne and friends at Mermaid Reef

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

February 9, 2014

This is January 27th and the first time that it has been warm enough for us to go swimming in the ocean, since leaving home!  We had a great day snorkeling and collecting sea glass.  Tuesday morning while we were listening to the Cruisers Net on the VHF radio, we heard our friends on ‘Silver Maple’ had arrived in the Abacos, so we called them and found out their plans.  We wanted to go to Hope Town after we left Tahiti Beach.  It is located about 2 miles north but has very shallow water between us and the harbour, so we had planned to leave in the middle of the afternoon and catch the rising tide.  Not long before we left, a couple from ‘Diva’ dinghied over to our boat.  They had seen our Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club burgee and Ben is the membership director for the club, so he and Margaret came over to introduce themselves.  We had a nice visit and they asked what news we had from our friends, Vic and Wendy.  

We made the short trip down to Hope Town in 7 to 8 feet of water on a rising tide.  The instructions for entering Hope Town Harbour are very interesting.  You must locate the range markers by finding the double Adirondack chairs and they are to the left of it.  You then go straight in on these markers until you come to the first red marker (post with a red mark on it) and turn a sharp 90 to the right and follow the channel markers in to the harbour.  Once you are in the harbour you have to find a mooring ball but the first red one that you see when you enter, is not a mooring ball, but the edge of a shoal.  We finally found a mooring ball and  tied up.

The next morning we set out to explore the village of Hope Town and it’s shops.  One of the first things we noticed was all the multicolored buildings in the village were well taken care of and the streets were very narrow (barely golf cart width).  We visited some of the gift shops and other stores and restaurants.  One of the more interesting shops was Vernon’s Grocery.  Vernon is also the baker, the minister, the Justice of the Peace, and a member of the town council, besides for the grocery store owner.  

Another one of the attractions at Hope Town is the red and white striped lighthouse.  It is one of the last kerosene powered lights in the world and in the evening, after dark, you can watch as the lighthouse keeper lights the light.  We didn’t have time, this trip, to climb the lighthouse.  We’ll have to try on our next visit.  

We decided to return to Marsh Harbour the following morning and go to a marina to get caught up on things (laundry, internet, showers and get water).  We also hoped to get a visit with our friends on ‘Silver Maple’ who were staying at the Marsh Harbour Marina.  We had a nice visit with them on their boat in the afternoon.  We spent the next day finishing up our jobs, one of which was Dave getting a haircut, the shortest since he stopped going to Walter’s Barber Shop in Thorold South with his Dad.  

One of the nice things about sailing and exploring the Abacos is the closeness of all our destinations.  So the following morning we were able to walk to a flea market, get some groceries, go to the hardware store and still have a nice sail to Guana Cay before supper.  

The next morning we dinghied to shore to explore Guana Cay.  There were 2 things that we really wanted to see.  The first was a bar called ‘Nippers’, which is located on a beautiful beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island.  One of the things they’re famous for is the ‘Barefoot Man’ concert that is held in the middle of March.  He sings many songs about Nippers in his concerts.  One of his other songs is called ‘Log Cabins by the Sea’.  This was the other reason we had come to Guana.  These log cabins are located directly beside Nippers and the special thing about them is, that they were built by our neighbour, on the 12th of Bruce, Andrew Hill.  They share the same beautiful Atlantic Beach and have very easy access to Nippers next door.  As we were leaving, a local stopped and gave us a ride on his golf cart, back to the other restaurant ‘Grabbers’, on the Sea of Abaco side of the island.  We decided to have lunch here, a far quieter location with a really good Wahoo and Tropical Salad.  I asked if I could use the washroom and the waitress said she’d have to check with her manager.  We thought this was a little strange.  Some other people overheard this exchange and said they thought she was thinking, I wanted to do my laundry, which was the case.  I guess the lesson learned, is that it is referred to as the ‘bathroom’ in the Bahamas.  

We decided to spend another day here visiting the beach and looking around the harbour area before returning to Marsh Harbour for a pasta dinner being put on by the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club the next night.  This group really likes to have social events, the afternoon started with a short annual general meeting, followed by wine and cheese, which was followed by a beautiful dinner and $2.00 cocktails.  One of the members who lives on the island gave us a ride back to our dinghy, thankfully.  

We left Marsh Harbour the next morning and sailed to Man-O-War Cay.  Each community we have explored so far has a totally different feel from the others, while only being a couple of hours away from each other by sailboat.  The settlement on Man-O-War Cay is no exception.  It is a dry island (no alcohol for sale) with the main employment being the building of boats, they are known for their runabouts in the 20 to 30 foot range.  They really seem suited for the waters here whether Atlantic ocean fishing or just going fast across the Sea of Abaco.  There wasn’t a lot for us to see on this Cay and we decided to leave the next morning.  

We had planned on returning to Marsh Harbour to restock, but neither of us was ready for another crowded anchorage.  Instead we headed south past Elbow Cay and Tahiti Beach to Tilloo Cay.  The charts show 3 anchorages along the western shore of this Cay.  The northern most one is in front of a bunch of homes, the southern most one has a beautiful beach, but no wind protection.  We chose the middle one, it had no beach, but also no homes, but was protected.  We had most of 2 days to ourselves to swim, snorkel and explore the shoreline with the dinghy.  It was fun and relaxing.  

Next day we came back to Marsh Harbour for supplies and a plan where we’re going next.  

Hope Town Lighthouse

Narrow roads in Hope Town

Navigation aids 2 Adirondack chairs showing location of range markers

Colourful Homes Hope Town

Colourful Homes Hope Town

Colourful Homes Hope Town

Guana Cay Atlantic Beach

Nippers Bar on the beach on Guana Cay

Log Cabins by the Sea 

Anchorage at Fishers Bay, Guana Cay from Grabbers Bed, Bar and Grill

Home in the Settlement at Man-of-War Cay

Home in the Settlement at Man-of-War Cay

Tilloo Cay Anchorage

Fish at Tilloo Cay

Fish at Tilloo Cay