Abaco Christmas Trip 2002
Sitting in a booth at "Dadís Place", (a breakfast and lunch diner in Hickory, NC) our trip to the Abacos began a year and a half before departure. I had come in to have lunch and ran into another local real estate broker, Ted Cook. Both of us enjoy sailing, and so it didnít take long for the focus of our discussion to turn to areas of travel.
Ted, an experienced Caribbean traveler, began to spin tales of a place north of Nassau, called the Abacos. What he revealed were small Cays (pronounced Keys) scattered on the Atlantic side of Great Abaco Island. Water depths range there from zero to about 18 feet. Channels arenít well marked, there is occasionally a rage-sea running from Whale Cay, a trip into the Atlantic Ocean is occasionally necessary to get to Green Turtle Cay, and all in all, he described the area as virtually unknown- what the Caribbean was some thirty years ago around the Virgin Islands.
Being a bit of an Internet junkie, I researched the area on the web and found all that Ted had described. I was intrigued and most importantly my wife, Diann, was captivated with the idea of taking our three adult daughters and their spouses/ friends on a weeklong Christmas adventure. That concept was formed in the summer of 2001.
Then in March of 2002 Diann challenged a six-day off shore sailing course with Blue Water Sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale. Her rational for taking the course was to overcome her dislike / fear of mono-hull sailboat heeling. I chose to stay home, knowing that she would grow more in her sailing capabilities if "the spouse" werenít on board to lean on for support.
Her trip was more than a success. She came back with a passion for being onboard. One of her days provided six hours of sailing without ever having to change the set of the sails- a continuous all day run! If anything, she is now more comfortable in the open water of the coast than in the run-and-tack confines of Lake Norman (near Hickory and Charlotte NC).
With increased confidence and desire, she announced to our daughters (Leigh, Alix, and Melissa) her intent to provide the accommodations aboard a catamaran out of the Abacos for Christmas week 2002. All the "kids" would have to do is get there. Our Christmas presents to each other would be the trip.
Sail Abaco, based out of Marsh Harbor, bareboat chartered to us a 38-foot long, four cabin, two heads (bathrooms), Fountaine Pajot Athena model. Cats donít tack as well as mono-hull sailboats, and they donít have the ability to carry as much cargo as mono-hulls- but cats are one heck of a platform for eight adults sharing a 38í x 22í space for a week. But the koolest part about the cats are that they donít heel- which translates into less anxiety.
Melissaís friend, Brian, had never even been on a sailboat until late October when we had a Lake Norman weekend training exercise aboard Real Estate SAILS , our Catalina 30. Others of our crew were to be new to the salt water sailing experience as well. The catamaran was in fact a good choice of boats.
Pre-trip Christmas Celebration
So how do you celebrate the holiday with the rest of your family when not even in town during the week of Christmas? We chose to do it with my mother.
We decorated her home instead of our own. On Saturday evening of December 14th Melissa came in from Charleston, Alix from Raleigh, and Leigh (with husband Shawn) from cross-town Hickory. Everyone brought something to include in the meal.
First there was apple juice and spice wassail, then there were assorted cheeses, nuts, and spiced sausage sticks. Rum added to the wassail made for "sleepy time punch". Those of us, who tried it, were almost too relaxed while sitting in front of the fire waiting for the main meal.
Dinner included: honey baked ham, corn pudding, string beans, broccoli casserole, sweet potatoe casserole, cranberry salad, orange and cottage cheese whirl, croissants, and assorted beverages.
After the table-cleaning break, we opened presents in front of the living room fire. The evening finished up, just before midnight, with a champagne toast. Frost on our windshields added the effort of scraping to the evening, enhancing our celebration. It was truly a celebration of the Christmas spirit, even if it was not done on the "prescribed" date.
Celebration with other respective families would be a scattering of contacts continuing after everyoneísí return.
By George, there are a number of web sites dealing with the Abacos. Some, I think I skimmed more than twice over many months as I periodically Google-Searched with criteria including: Abaco, sailboat, charter, bareboat, restaurants, marinas, reviews, weather, provisioning, and so forth.
Stephen J. Pavlidis has an artsy looking cruising guide to the Northern Bahamas entitled "The Abaco Guide". In it, he covers many of the basics to boat operation including anchoring Bahamian style and the reasons for doing so. His writing style is somewhat folksy, with the accompanying charts done in blue, green, and yellow (to indicate deep, shallow, and land areas). Some of his comments on restaurants, bars, and snorkeling were, I thought more informative than the Dodge Guide.
Considered by many to be the standard for cruising guides of the Abacos, Steve Dodgeís Guide to Abaco (updated each year), has three means of communicating safe steerage and hazards to approaching the many Cays and harbors. There are charts showing Cays and surrounding depths as well as compass bearings and distances. Zooming to harbors, there are drawings of land shapes and shallows shown.
Providing a true view of the harbor are aerial photos. Due to the camera angle watercolor changes can be seen- providing a birdís eye view of the channels and shallows.
Some might consider the advertisements within the Dodge Guide to be unsightly intrusions into island reading. I found them to aid in planning where we were to provision. More than likely, the advertising revenue is what has allowed the publishing expense of the triple-detail of harbor entrances.
Neither of the guides provided information about the restaurants and attractions in the way Frommerís Guides do. Also, I didnít really find the level of web-based information to be as "tight", as say, information on Key West. Perhaps that is illustrative of why Ted felt the Abacos to be less known and therefore less invaded by tourists. (I guess the more tourists we encounter, the less away from home we feel?) But once we visited restaurants in Marsh Harbor, Guana Cay, Green Turtle, and Hope Town- I can see why the reviews arenít as detailed. Many of the best restaurants offer seating at picnic tables. The food-fare among the ones we tried was similar. The Green Turtle Club restaurant being the exception during our trip.
Down to the Final Plans
Daughter Alix, being the engineer that she is, emailed all of the group a list of suggested items to bring in coordination. Her concept was simple. Why should each of us bring separate bottles of shampoo, separate tubes of toothpaste, pouches of razors, and so forth? As part of her research on our collective needs, she knew that a couple of folks had specific formulations of products that had to be used- so those folks would provide that formulation for everyone.
An Excel spreadsheet was the result of her coordination, and with only minor glitches, it worked well to keep down the bathroom and cabin clutter that could have resulted from eight adults being confined to only 760 total square feet of in and outdoor living space.
The puddle jumper plane that carried us to and from Ft Lauderdale to Marsh Harbor limited passengers to 40 pounds of luggage per person. No one really wanted to have to deal with multiple bags, yet there were some economies that had been suggested within the web pages and the Pavlidis Guide.
Top most of the suggestions were to bring paper goods, chips, and specialty alcohol with us. To do this, we used one hard sided large suitcase. The suitcase, being checked baggage, would also be the shipping bag for razors, nail files, and other items not allowed to be carried on board the planes. The plan was to ship breakable souvenirs back in hard case- and to some extent the plan worked.
I guess everyone has his or her own style of preparing for a major trip. Mine is somewhat simple. I dedicate the spare bedroom to laying out all the items on the list. That way, as Iím sitting in the living room contemplating the vacation and think of something that wasnít on the formal list, I can take it to the packing pile right then and there.
When the final packing, of the bags, is done- culling of less essential items can be done. It sure beats getting to the destination and saying, "if only I had packed my what-zit". We weighted our bags before hand and thought we were going to be okay with our excess (balanced against the kidsí presumed lower baggage weights). Island Express charged us $32 for excess weight when we left Ft Lauderdale- probably due to an extensive bar brought by Melissa and Brian. (Thanks though- M&B)
Diann and I hike the Blowing Rock area of the Blue Ridge Mountains and have found the lightweight pants with zip off legs to be very travel friendly. If itís cool, you zip on the extra length to make full pants. As the weather warms, unzip the legs to make shorts. We each wore a pair and carried a pair.
It can get down into the fifties at night in the Abacos. With that in mind, we carried Polar-Tec pants. Temperatures ranged, for us, from the low sixties at night to the upper 70s in the day.
Since we were sure that we would encounter rain during parts of the week, we packed our foul weather Gore-Tex. Our children arenít as aggressively into all-weather sports and so simply bought and carried Wal-Mart $10 plastic rain suits. Both means of staying dry worked- but no doubt the breathable Gore-Tex was less sweaty on the inside. Our rain came only during the morning of Christmas Day.
Diann and I wore our deck shoes and packed our beach walking slip-ons. Iíve found the neoprene slip-ons to be good rain gear. Taking boots was not part of the plan. If your feet are going to get soaked from a dayís rain, why not keep the deck shoes dry? It works for us.
Bathing suits- we carried two each. Wear one today. Rinse it and hang it to dry. Put on a fresh dry set. The system provides great comfort when compared to putting on a wet outfit from yesterdayís swimming- knowing that you wonít be back into the water for some time. In reality, except for snorkeling twice, we didn't swim.
The Trip Out
Alix left from Raleigh, Brian from Cleveland, Laurel from Atlanta, Melissa from Charleston and Diann, Leigh, Shawn, and I from Charlotte. We converged on Ft Lauderdale and met in the central terminal area after midnight. Thanks to Ft Lauderdale for having travel friendly seating- there were no arm rails on the seats to prevent sleeping. We all (except for Leigh) stretched out for about a three hour nap. Leigh remained awake to watch out for the two baggage snatchers who were checking us out. Baggage snatchers are a reality to deal with.
Numb brained and dry eyed, we awoke around Four AM and got coffee and bagels to wake back up. Waking up felt like coming off of an all night study session from my sophomore year at UNC!
At Eight AM we were at the Island Express counter getting checked in to hop over to Marsh Harbor. Leigh was now exhausted- having been up since early Friday morning. She cat napped on the floor of the Island Express waiting area.
The plane carried ten people (including the pilot) so except for a lady from Lubbers Cay, we had our own flight to Marsh Harbor. My only misgiving was that the pilot over-revved the engine during take off. I wondered if that was done to overcome a possible overweight issue for the plane. At about 3,500 feet, he throttled the engines back to the green area of the tachometer. Seeing the RPM gauge over into the red area was not a good feeling.
Touch down at the Marsh Harbour airport was smooth. We found the small facility to be crowded with baggage helpers and taxi drivers. You donít ask for luggage assistance, you are given luggage assistance- but the experience was not unexpected.
Our cab fare via minivans was $22 per van to the marina. We should have called Sail Abaco for taxi coordination to obtain a cheaper fare, but such coordination was lost among our eight (me included) happy and excited vacationers.
Mike, the charter operator, was cleaning up the 38í catamaran when we arrived (about 3 hours earlier than he expected). We let him know we were there and asked if he would check in with us at the Jib Room Bar (part of the marina complex) when he was ready to let us on board with our luggage. That was around 11AM.
Well that got us started on the Kalik Beer. Jason, the bar / restaurant manager (might be owner) had no problem serving us before noon- it being "noon somewhere". Kalik Gold is 7% alcohol, the Light and Regular versions are 5%. I liked the robust flavor of the Gold- and it being vacation, it made sense to me.
Then there was the moment of "oh my goodness I think itís time to eat"- the realization that breakfast had been eight hours earlier. So we had our first $8.50 cheeseburgers. Burger King Whoppers were still 99 cents in Hickory and arguably the better value. But $8.50 cheeseburgers arenít bad when you are starving and in need of food in the Bahamas and you know your friends back home are freezing their katushes off.
Mike let us on the boat around 1:30. We unpacked and decided that we were all too tired to even think about a "check ride" with him that afternoon. So we arranged for a 9AM check ride on Sunday morning and went back to the Kaliks and an early NY Strip steak dinner. The bunks felt good around "dark thirty".
The Check Ride
Check rides are mandatory the first time you charter with a company- thatís so they know you can handle their multi-thousand dollar toy. For your own sake, itís also a good idea to have a staff person familiarize you with that boat so you know where all the controls are- before you leave the dock.
When it comes to water sports- call me a prude- but when Iím on a boat, Iím cautious. Iím very much into the safety thing. I want to know where the life jackets are, where the fire extinguishers are, and so forth. As captain, Iím responsible for everyoneís safety.
So as we were getting prepared to leave the dock I asked charter operator, Mike, where the dinghy paddles were. His response, "itís a boat look for Ďem", was not what I expected. So that afternoon, while underway- we found them on top of the front starboard bunk.
Not once, during our check ride, were we asked to unfurl the Jib or raise the Main. My only exercise was driving the boat to the dock to be sure I wouldnít ram it. After that, we were on our own. We had no problems with the sails, but next time, I'll use them during the check ride- just to be sure.
Off To Guana Cay
Coordinates 26.33.774 / 77.04.384
2000 RPMs making 5.2knts
We exited Marsh Harbor using the shipping channel to be sure and miss the small islands and shallows to our starboard side. What an adventure to begin. Diann and I were on our first catamaran charter. Our kids were on their first boat charter ever. Eight adults together for seven nights "at sea".
Nippers was our destination. www.nippersbar.com Our previous web research had let us know that on Sundays they have a pork roast dinner that is awesome. It was our prime destination for that day. You can snorkel off the beach and swim in the pool there too.
When we got to Orchid Bay( to anchor or moor to go to Nippers), there were no decent moorings. I called over to the Orchid Bay Marina and announced that we had a beam of 22í and asked if their slips were wide enough for us. We were wrongly told by the dock hand, "oh yes, come on in".
After wedging into two of the undersized slips, we opted to leave. Before doing so however, we bought three bags of ice at $4.25 per ten pound bag. We were prepared for high priced food on the trip, but shocked at the price of ice. $4 or so for ice was consistent where ever we bought it.
After leaving Orchid Bay, we rounded the point to adjoining Fisher Bay- where we found many $15 a night moorings! Ooops, where is the boat pole? We needed a boat pole with a hook to pick up the loop on the mooring float. We ended up using one of the dinghy paddle handles as our boat pole. Not until the end of the week did one of us "find" the boat pole. So much for Mikeís philosophy of "itís a boat, look for it". But what the hey- it worked out.
Once moored, it was dinghy time. Then it was Nipper Time.
We tied the dinghy to a run down dock at a facility that is now closed. The closet resort's concrete walkways passed by a number of foundation slabs without buildings on them. An abandoned pool and Tiki bar sat idle. We could not tell if a prior storm had taken the structures or if the failed complex had run out of funds before completing the buildings.
Continuing along the widening concrete path, we circled the Orchid Bay harbor area and followed signs on a dirt path toward Nippers. Three of our group had left us, earlier, at the marina and had let the Nippers staff know to be on the lookout for us. As a result we were picked up by a golf cart shuttle for the rest of the distance.
Nippers has grown with its success. From an original building and deck overlooking the surf of the Atlantic Ocean, the complex now has a full kitchen building, a gift shop with pavilion on top, and two swimming pools- one cascading into the other.
The owners had held the buffet open for us! The pork roast luncheon was boar meat and included rice, cheese noodles, pickled cabbage, tuna pasta salad, and corn bread. We got into the barís signature drink called the Nipper- think grapefruit slushy with lots of clear liquor in each.
Warned by Mike that two of the frozen drinks would be enough and that three would be lethal, we had dinner and ended up meeting the owner, dancing until exhausted, and almost staying until the bar closed for the night. Then it was dinghy time again to get out to the boat.
Eight folks will not safely travel in a ten foot dinghy, so I transported four to the boat as the initial run. The anchor light had been left on so we had a beacon on which to track. That worked for the first shift. But one of the first on board- accidentally turned off the anchor light while switching on other lights.
So when I returned with the last three passengers, I steered to another catamaran whose mast top anchor light was on. Opps thereís a dinghy already there, so whereís our boat! Fortunately it was relatively close by.
Upon our return, Shawn had a bit of Otis Redding playing in the background- sitting on the dock of the bay.
"My eyes are burning and my teeth are numb...... I must be drunk", was a quote said by one of the Nipper patrons we met while having the buffet. When the sun went down, the place became "party central".
Monday morning and afternoon was a time of rest. We opted to remain in Fisher Bay and snorkeled during a return to Nippers for fewer Nippers.
Walking back from the beach and passing by Orchid Bay, we stopped by a vegetable stand and picked up fresh tomatoes and green peppers. It was a lazy, relaxed, "family at the beach" kind of day.
Our First Cooked Dinner On Board
The galley on the boat is on the main level, as opposed to being down a step in one of the hulls. This is really nice from a socialization point of view. It was equipped with a three burner propane stove with oven.
For refrigeration, we had an electrically powered cold plate system- which requires being plugged into dock power or having the engines run for a while to recharge the boatís batteries. That cold plate system worked well enough to actually freeze some items on the bottom of the refrigerator box.
Tuesday, 12/24/03 @ 7:12 AM
Coordinates 26.40.301 / 77.08.08
We dropped our mooring lines with no problem. The, finicky to start, starboard engine cranked on the second try. We began making way directly toward "Donít Rock" which marks the opening to a cut thru a sand bar shoal on the direct route to Green Turtle Cay.
Our weather from NOAA at 7:44 Am indicated that the wind was from the Southeast at 15-20 knots and would be shifting to the Northwest on Christmas day
We picked up the VHF radio "cruiserís net" and go a more localized forecast which indicated that winds would pick up through Thursday. We did not fully realize that we would be weather bound at Green Turtle for three nights or we most certainly would have stayed south of Donít Rock and the passage to Green Turtle. However, Green Turtleís romantic name called to us.
The sailing became exhilarating as the day went on. After motor sailing through the cut, we headed for the GPS coordinate for Green Turtle Cayís entrance to White Sound and the marina complex. We reefed the jib to take some of the power out of the sail as the wind began to build.
Entering the channel and docking at Green Turtle Club
Steve Dodgeís guide was invaluable in being able to clearly recognize the two white rectangular markers for the mouth of the narrow channel to White Sound. The channel turns ninety degrees to port as soon as you enter- thus eliminating the "runway" effect one might prefer in recognizing the way thru deeper water
I had radioed earlier to Green Turtle that we needed a boat slip and that we were 22í wide. During that call I had been informed to come in and they would direct us.
The wind was blowing so hard from behind us that I did not have to put the engines in gear once in White Sound- except for control. Without the sails up, we quite literally blew into the harbor. All the while, yachts we passed, that had wind generators, were "cooking off some juice" from the whirl of their wind driven propellers. (The accompanying photo was taken days later.)
When we were a half mile away from the marina docks, I radioed that we had arrived and asked for directions to the slip. The instruction that came back was to "go passed the large yacht on the north side".
Well, when we got to the docks, the yacht was on the end of, and perpendicular to, the northernmost one. It was not clear whether to pass the yacht on the bow end or the stern end. With the wind blowing as hard as it was, I was now in full reverse engines to keep from sliding by the docks into the shallows. I had Diann keep asking for directions- finally they dock hand radioed back for us to "stand off"
Now my idea of "standing off" -is to use your engines to maintain position in adverse winds for maybe ten minutes. If the wind is really adverse (which it was) or if the wait is going to stretch beyond 15 minutes, then temporarily docking at a finger or fuel dock is much more logical- to me, at least.
I held that 38í twin engine beast, relatively, in place for over twenty minutes among moored yachts away from the docks of the Green Turtle Club. The wind was getting so bad that I had to use extra power on the port engine to overcome the twist effect on the stationary position I was maintaining for the boat.
Exasperated at the effort, I added enough forward RPMs to motor back out into White Sound and did a figure eight to regain my emotional composure.
I came back to the docks and again asked for directions, only to be told to "stand off". I chose to instead touch down at the fuel dock and assess the to be assigned slip and the route to it. With only a couple of feet to go to ease up to the temporary slip, the dock hand radioed, "no, no, come around we are ready for you. Come around the bow of the large yacht. Which I did.
We got tied up, broadside to the wind- with much effort. But the docking ordeal was over. We could relax.
The Green Turtle Club
Absolutely charming is my best description, if I could make no other. The water is clear enough to see the bottom. Reflections of docked boats are ghostlike as you see passed their reflections to the bottom below.
Water and power is available for each boat. Providing limited provisions is a small convenience store at the end of the dock on the way to hot showers and a coin laundry.
Screened porch dining
Formal dining room
The lounge has yacht burgees from all over the world. and signed money that has been stapled to the barís walls. One thing that we noticed was that the staff makes a point to remember the guests and serves them accordingly over a multi day stay.
A private dock and home.
The beach to the right of the above residence.
First Trip To New Plymouth
We were checked into the marina, had decided on what we would eat for Christmas Eve dinner, so it was time to explore. Leigh, Shawn, Diann, and I decided to rent an electric golf cart and dash to the town of New Plymouth- some 20 minutes ride away.
Here you see Diann with a cart at Lowes. She is only 4'11" so you can tell how small the carts are. The store was very well stocked with a variety of meats, canned goods, and vegetables. After our shopping we headed back to the marina.
The Hot Showers
Until you have been on board a boat for threes days with the requirement to conserve water, you canít imagine just how good it feels to take a really good hot shower. Onboard showers are sequences of getting wet, soaping, and rinsing. Even if the water is warm when it gets you wet, you donít stay warm as you soap down.
The Green Turtle showers were large, clean, cobalt blue tile wonders of luxury. No one later complained about being at the facility for the extra night, perhaps in part because of the hot showers!
Shawn started the galley at 7:15 AM. At 9AM, we enjoyed scrambled eggs with green pepper, chunks of red skin potatoes with cheese and Italian seasoning, bacon, and cranberry bread. To add to the Christmas breakfast celebration, we also had Mimosas
The onboard wind meter showed 10 knot winds with gusts to 19 knots- and that was in the protection of the marina. Then it began to rain. Thank goodness it lasted only for a couple of hours.
It is a tradition among cruising boaters to have pot luck meals as a means of entertainment. Quite often the gatherings afford boat crews to discuss other aspects of ports of call. The White Sound Christmas day PotLuck was announced over the 8:15 AM cruiserís net and all boats in the harbor, including those at Bluff House and Green Turtle docks were invited. This confirmed the personal invitation we had gotten a day earlier from PotLuck organizer John, who was currently vacationing on a boat from Hilton Head Island, Georgia. John is Captain of a Hilton Head based tour boat called Voyager, that runs nine months out of the year. The months out of the year he takes as vacation- this time in the Abacos.
It was a hoot to help set up the plywood and block table and clean up the timber that was used as an additional food service spot. Everyone was in charge and no one was in charge- if you know what I mean. It worked out well though. The variety of food was incredible. We brought a chicken Alfrado pasta dish and a bag of miniature Reese's Cups as our contribution.
One of the couples with whom we spoke was from England. They own an electrical parts company and come to the Abacos for extended holidays about three times a year. The boat they own is berthed in Marsh Harbour year round.
Gully Roosters Band and Christmas Dance
The way the Gully Roosters band had been built up in the web postings and materials I had read, I expected the members to be older gents and around for ever. That was not the case. Early middle aged is a good guess. They had a beat that they liked and used it as the background for almost every song they played. Apparently an Abaco favorite, the song "shake it up, shake it up" was played by the Gully Roosters as often as it had been played at Nippers.
The girls, Shawn, and Brian stayed up and danced. I went to bed early- Captainís prerogative.
We had planned to leave on Thursday morning. I had listened to the cruiserís net and felt it to be safe, though the wind was still 9.5 to 15 knots and seas off the Whale Cay were five to seven feet high.
John, the boat captain from Hilton Head Island in Georgia, suggested that we use our lines to turn the catamaran around in order to more easily leave the dock. This we did in conjunction with the twin engines. I drew out the maneuver on note paper during breakfast and had a review with my crew family. It was a good suggestion on his part and worked like a charm.
Brendal, the dive shop owner, dropped by as we were preparing to leave and indicated that he was not doing a dive operation that day due to the water conditions. He strongly suggested we not try to cross the cut at Donít Rock due to possible wave action there.
If Brendal wasnít going to earn money due to the wave action, I took that as gospel and we stayed put for another day and evening.
Melissa and Brian decided to take a combination of water taxis and cabs over to Treasure Island. The rest of us dinghied to New Plymouth.
The dinghy trip through White Sound and around the land tip to New Plymouth was pretty much uneventful except that the transom of the dinghy was beginning to pull away from the rubber tubes of its sides. I used a small cord to tie the two rear cleats toward one another thus keeping the boat intact.
Really neat, we encountered small boys who were playing on the roof of the old abandoned jail. They were eating frozen drink from small paper cups and frolicking around like puppies. When Leigh asked if the frozen treats were good, they insisted we follow them through some back yards to the small store for some. The cups were 25 cents a piece. A bit too sweet for my taste, they were "okay".
Though the girls had made, and brought, sandwiches for a picnic, Shawn and I wanted something more substantial for lunch. Shawn got a cheeseburger, I got conch fritters. We then took our carry out meal to a sculpture park and combined our picnic with the girls.
Then it was souvenir time! We bought very colorful tee shirts at Lowes Foods gift shop. Then picked up some boat related goodies at Sids FoodStore. If in New Plymouth, donít miss either location.
Flyers tacked to power poles indicated that Pineapples, a restaurant and bar, was located around the cove. Being in the mood for a walk, we all hiked over to it. Brendal, the dive shop owner was there, enjoying the camaraderie of local friends and tourists.
Alix and I hiked back to the dinghy and brought it to Pineapple's dock so we could leave before sundown. The ride back hummed to a stop in the channel leading into White Sound- the engine overheated. Smoke poured from under the cover. Later we realized the smoke was from the heavy petroleum sprayed on the engine to minimize salt water corrosion. For what we knew at the time, it could have been the result of a warped engine head.
We hailed an incoming yacht called "Crisis Management". That was a hoot, to be towed back to the docks by a boat with that name. Later we shoved a wire up the "pee hole" of the engine and that cleared an obstruction. The engine ran fine after that. (We kept the wire in the dinghy as a precaution.)
Meeting Up With New Found Friends
Richard and Harriet, from a PDQ brand catamaran had befriended us on the day of our arrival to Green Turtle. They had observed my action during "standing off" at the docks. Richard stated, when we met, that "we cat owners have to stick together". A really nice couple from Florida, they had sold their house, packed their remaining belongings into a ten foot storage shed and moved onto a 36 foot long catamaran. Their plan is to enjoy it Ďtill it isnít fun any more. (photo is of a sister ship)
During our encounter Thursday afternoon, after the dinghy ride back from New Plymouth, Richard invited us to their boat and to the eveningís activities at the Bluff House Resort.
Around 8:30PM, he pulled up to our boat on his dinghy and water-taxied us to meet up with his wife.
Built for owner occupied onboard living, their PDQ cabins were larger than on our charter boat. They had a single head (bathroom) that was "house sized". Their galley was in the port hull. In the stern of the port hull they have a diesel generator and a set of storage shelves- it looks like an onboard workshop back there.
After touring their boat we walked the docks to the Bluff House and listened to a set of music by the Gully Roosters- same beat, same songs- as from the night before.
Then Richard suggested we walk up to the original Bluff House building. It is quite an up hill walk and is truly up on a bluff overlooking the Sea of Abaco. The best view though was of the Milky Way of stars. It was my first time to see them without binoculars. Letís hear it for minimal background lighting!
Upon the evenings end, Richard dinghied us back to Freedom. Our adult children were already asleep.
Leaving Green Turtle
Mike, of Sail Abaco, had been very detailed about being sure that the engine water pumps were putting out water when cranked. His apprehension was well founded. After we left the marina docks but before entering White Sound, the muffling of the starboard engine "dried up". Sure enough the water pump was not operating and therefore the engine was useless and had to be shut down!
We had planned to motor sail out into the ocean for the experience and to save time in going to Hope Town. With both engines running we could motor approximately 5 knots per hour. On one engine, we had our speed cut in half. More importantly, with only the port side engine running, we would "crab" along unless we turned the rudders to counteract the steerage problem caused by the uneven thrust.
The above photo is the Green Turtle side of the Don't Rock cut. We passed these rocks to starboard as we lined up for Don't Rock.
That said, we decided not to attempt to round Whale Cay- though the cruiserís net report indicated that "the Whale looks good". Instead we retraced our course through the Donítí Rock cut and crossed through an hour before high tide. In some ways that was my greatest disappointment. Not so much missing rounding into the ocean, but having to travel at half speed all the way to Hope Town. The previously strong winds of Tuesday through Thursday were now gone. So too would be the opportunity to really spend daylight time seeing the town.
We passed Donítí Rock on our port side at 12:25PM By my calculations, we could make Hope Town at 4PM- which we did.
We used the VHF radio to call ahead and locate a mooring so that when we arrived we could tie to it quickly, disembark and sight see in a fury to beat the fast setting sun. That gave me a bit of peace as we motored toward our destination- but I was still frustrated.
I had Brian steer, so I could double check our route and occasionally update our estimated time of arrival.
At 1:40PM, during lunch preparation, the 80 gallon water tank finally gave up. We switched to the 40 gallon reserve tank. Our crew had worked hard on the water conservation and that had paid dividends. Brian was being hand fed by Melissa, as he steered the boat. Diann was in our berth having a nap. The balance of the crew were stretched out on the trampoline between the hulls, enjoying the lazy trip down the Abaco Sea.
We made Point Set Rock at 3PM. Point Set is the other primary reference point for navigating the Sea of Abaco from Hope Town to Green Turtle Cay. The building seen on the rock was formerly used to house electrical junctions for the cables serving the immediate islands.
The entrance to Hope Town requires that you parallel the shore for a bit and then make a ninety degree turn into a narrow channel. To properly line up on the channel you use a yellow house on Eagle Rock as one reference and a street on shore as another. Note the narrow street in this photo. The two red triangles , one above the other, are range marks.
We found our mooring at 4PM and were off the boat at 4:15! Brian and Shawn stayed at a sports bar. The girls went shopping. Diann and I toured the Hope Town Lighthouse, but I should have carried my good camera with us.
Caution about saltwater in the camera cost me some very good photo opportunities from the top of the lighthouse. If you make the trip- carry your best camera to the lighthouse, the view is incredible.
After the lighthouse, Diann and I returned by dinghy to pick up the guys. Brian joined us for the ride. Shawn remained to watch the game and converse with local philosopher and tourist "snag", Perry.
The tour of Hope Town was a whirlwind. If I could have reversed our itinerary and spent three days and nights there, I would without question. There is much to see and do there.
We ate at the Harbourís Edge Restaurant and had one of those excellent Abaco meals served on a picnic table.
Diann, Melissa, and Brian opted to be taxied to the boat for an early night. As dinghy Captain, I was "obligated" to come back to the Harbours Edge to taxi the balance of the group to go dancing at Captín Jacks. We danced until tired and left well before the place closed. But we had the pleasure of the bandís music behind us as we motored back to Freedom.
Returning To Reality
I couldnít sleep in the early morning hours of Saturday, though I'd gotten only three hours of rest. The responsibility of arriving in Marsh Harbour in time to check out the boat and make our flight- was my responsibility. So around 3AM I was in the galley getting orange juice to drink and the notebook out on which to calculate our time and distance to the Marsh Harbour Marina and Sail Abaco slips.
The calculation and logic is really in reverse. Calculate how long it will take to perform the tasks. Then subtract the time from when you need to be "there" and you know when to leave "here".
My time estimations ran:
Prepare to leave Hope TownÖÖÖÖ 10 minutes
Motor out of the harbor 20
Reach Point Set Rock 60
Reach Marsh Harbor from Pt Set 60
Add 10% for wind issues 6
Enter the harbor 20
Dock the boat 10
Total time 166 minutes
Round off to 3 hours= leave at 6AM
With that done, I went back to sleep with no problem and awoke just before my alarm was to sound. Laurel heated coffee water, I started the port engine. We slipped the mooring lines and were on schedule.
However, the wind was on our nose and had picked up greatly. My original calculations had to be modified. Nor could I turn at Point Set Rock, as we would have too much leeway as we motored toward Marsh Harbor. We motored for an extra thirty minutes past Pt Set. The recalculation showed us arriving at 9:30- which we did.
Mike was at the fuel dock, having spoken with me by VHF radio. We topped off the gas and diesel tanks and were tied up in our slip by 10AM. That was great as it meant we would have no trouble making our flight out at 1PM.
Other than the fact that our luggage was not weighed at the Marsh Harbor Airport before we left, we didnít have any glitches in departure. Our pilot did not over-rev the engine upon take off, so I was relaxed as we headed back to Ft Lauderdale and home.