On March 22 we pulled into Harborview Marina in Marsh Harbor. Actually the Bahamians spell it “Harbour” because they were a British colony. But Mr. Gates continually corrects my spelling whenever I write it the British/Bahamian way, so for me, it is now “Marsh Harbor.” Anyway, our friends Dave and Joan Wolf arrived the next day. We had planned a couple of boat trips, one each to Treasure Cay and Hope Town, one car trip the length of Great Abaco Island, and a ferry trip to Nippers on Great Guana. We planned on spending the rest of our time relaxing in or around the marina.
Dave and Joan arrived on Friday, and on Saturday we were on our way to Treasure Cay. I wrote about Treasure Cay in our last entry when Ann and I went there on our own, so I won’t tell you how beautiful the beach there is. I’ll just say it is 3 ½ miles of the most magnificent, powdery sand that you have ever seen and that, more often than not, the beach is practically empty. I will say the weather for our cruise to Treasure was nearly perfect. Moreover, we immediately found a mooring ball in a very good location. The location is important to us because our boat is bigger than most, and the pennants at Treasure (the lines connecting the boat to the mooring balls) are at least 20 feet long. That means that just sitting on the mooring ball we take up 72’. If you double that (in case the wind changes) it means we have to have 144’ diameter to swing. Anyway, after hooking up to the ball, we went ashore to check out a few of the little stores in the neighborhood. We thought about going swimming in the pool, but you know how it is; sometimes when you have spent a stressful morning cruising in near ideal conditions, have hooked a mooring ball without any wind, and have engaged in some “Retail Therapy,” it is time to take a nap.
Now, not everyone knows how to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Dave and Joan aren’t yet retired and haven’t learned the art. Me? I have been retired for six years now and have mastered the afternoon nap. I know, some of you look down on us nappers, but look at our brethren. To name a few,
- Leonardo da Vinci took multiple naps a day and slept less at night.
- Napoleon was not shy about taking naps. He indulged daily.
- Albert Einstein napped each day—on top of getting ten hours of sleep each night.
- Thomas Edison was embarrassed about his napping habit, but practiced his ritual daily.
- Gene Autry routinely took naps in his dressing room between performances.
- John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day!
- John D. Rockefeller napped every afternoon in his office.
- Winston Churchill’s believed a nap helped him get twice as much done each day.
- Lyndon B. Johnson took a nap every afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to break his day up into “two shifts.”
- Ronald Reagan famously took naps as well.
|If you love someone ... let him nap.|
There are several different methods of nap taking. The first is what I call the power nap aka the key nap. You lay down, preferably on a sofa with keys in your hand and your hand dangling over the edge. When you fall seriously asleep the keys will fall out of your hand, hit the floor and waking you up. That means nap time is over and it is time to get going again. I sometimes take power naps when we are cruising and I can barely keep my eyes open. I ask Ann to take over for a few minutes so I can take a power nap. You would be surprised how effective it can be in giving you an extra energy boost. Second, of course, there is the regular afternoon nap. My afternoon nap typically comes just after I have had lunch with a beer. The afternoon nap is generally a bit longer than the power nap, and I prefer to take mine on the sofa. You see there is activity in and around the salon such that I cannot get into REM sleep; I can doze just deeply enough to re-energize myself. Finally, there is the serious nap. For that, I head to the bedroom or stateroom, get under the covers and get into REM sleep. Doctors will tell you that 90 minutes is a REM cycle and encourage you to sleep at least that long. I don’t do that very often, but once in a while there is nothing better. Remember my new motto: If you love them, let them nap. Anyhow, that is enough about napping.
|Dave and Joan at Treasure Cay|
The following day, of course, we went to Treasure Beach and found a couple of empty cabanas. We proceeded to read, get a little sun, then we would move our chairs into the shade so our skin could recover, then read in the shade, go back in the sun and repeat – until lunchtime. (Remember when we used to go “sunbathing”? Although we might have used a little suntan oil, no one knew what “sunscreen” was, and anyone spending too much time in the shade was a pale wimp. How in Heaven’s name did we survive?) At lunchtime we went to Coco’s (about 50 yards away) and ordered lunch. Dave and Joan have visited us before in the Bahamas and every time Joan has eaten conch of any kind she has become ill. Now I am not one who thinks every time you get sick it is because of something you ate. That said, Joan is not permitted to have cracked conch. Since she doesn’t like it that much, this prohibition works very well. That said, at Coco’s I always order cracked conch and a beer. Then, back to the cabana. Read in the shade, get a little sun, then repeat.
You can only have so many perfect beach days, so the following morning we were on our way back from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbor. After a restful day at Marsh, we metaphorically set sail for Hope Town. (Actually, since we do not have sails, I guess we “set our engines” towards Hope Town. There are three ways a cruiser can stay at Hope Town. Most people take a mooring ball. There are about 50+ moorings inside the harbor that only cost $20 per day. They are a really good deal. We have picked up a mooring before, but remember what I said about how much space our particular mooring needs? Very few places at Hope Town have that much space, so we have to come up with an Alternative. If we couldn’t take a mooring in the harbor, we could have anchored outside the harbor and, as long as the winds are from the east, we would have been fairly well protected. Or, you can rent a slip at the Hope Town Inn and Marina, which is what we did. This time, though, I wish we hadn’t.
Over the radio, the dockmaster told me that our slip wasn’t ready so we would be moving into a “temporary” slip. Now I’m not big on temporary slips because it is difficult to dock a big boat with any kind of wind, but I figured I could discuss that with the dockmaster later. Then he told me I would be backing into a slip intended for a 30’ boat. I reminded him that we were 52 feet in length and that we had a great deal of windage that obeyed the laws of the wind, not necessarily the instructions from the helm and that it was very windy outside. He pretended not to have heard me. Well, I lined up to back in and just as we were nearing the slip, the wind caught the stern and moved us very close to the boat next door. Needless to say, I gave her some power and we got out of there. The dockmaster suggested I might feel better going in bow first. Really? Like I hadn’t suggested that five minutes earlier? Oh well, we lined up and moved into the slip. However, remember that stern that liked to follow the laws of nature not necessarily orders from the helm? My stern was now sticking over 25 feet into the channel, receiving instructions from the wind to move further and further from the finger pier. Now had this been a decent-sized slip, we would have tied the stern to a piling and that would have been that – but Nooooo, this slip was short and lacked a piling where we could tie the stern. It was a mess and the dockmaster did not cover himself in glory (neither did I for that matter). Eventually, we got one of the aft cleats tied to the finger pier. It was tied very awkwardly, but it lasted for the next three days. After tying up, I was ready to get out and explore the town..
Like many other settlements in the group of islands known as the Abacos,
Hope Town was founded by Loyalists from the American Revolution. Many of
the settlers had been loyal subjects in Carolinas, some in New York and New
England, and from East Florida, after East Florida was turned over to Spain in
the Peace of Paris (1783). The initial settlements in the Bahamas were at
Carleton (near the current Treasure Cay) and Marsh Harbor. By 1785, there
were over 1,000 refugees in Great Abaco who were distributed in five or six
settlements. In that same year, the settlement at Hope Town was founded,
in part, by a widow from South Carolina named Wyannie Malone. Wyannie,
along with her children, started a dynasty in Hope Town that spread the Malone
name throughout the Bahamas, over to Florida, and outwards from there.
|Mike and Ann at Hope Town|
As you tour the town, you can find evidence of the old way of doing things. Walking through the settlement, you may discover an old stone oven for baking in the yard, or a wooden boat under construction. In another yard, you may spot a boat of the same design many years older, rotting away! All over town, you will find scattered reminders of the wrecking days, when the citizens repurposed the cargo of ships that had foundered near shore – sometimes they foundered with help from the locals. Near the fire station, the “cholera cemetery” provides a grim reminder of how harsh life was in these out islands. In the 1850’s nearly a hundred souls were buried there, when the population of the town was under 500.
After a little exploring, the first day we were there, we had lunch at Cap’n Jack’s Bar and Grill. Having been here before, we knew that the Cap’n made homemade potato chips that were absolutely wonderful. My plan was to go to Cap’n Jacks and just have potato chips and beer – the lunch of champions!! Then I saw conch chowder on the menu. Now I have had conch chowder in the past – exactly once, five years ago. It was so spicy that I couldn’t eat it and I have never particularly wanted to repeat that experience. Still, after I read Cap’n Jack’s description of his conch chowder I decided that I just had to give it a try. Well, I needn’t have worried. This conch chowder was GREAT!! I now have a new lunch favorite: homemade potato chips, a cup of conch chowder and a Kalik beer. Ahhhhh! It was the perfect Bahamian meal. The following day we had intended to have lunch at a place that is about 2 miles away but we couldn’t find a golf cart for rent. So what did we do? We went back to Cap’n Jacks! And what did I have? Potato chips, conch chowder and a Kalik. It looked so good that Ann ordered the same and we both had a perfect meal.
So, how do we top Hope Town? Ann and I have both wanted to explore the length and depth of the island of Great Abaco for years. You may remember that earlier in our travels, we have rented a car to explore some of the out islands like Cat, Long and Eleuthera, so we decided to get a car and head south as far as we could.
Great Abaco is almost 90 miles long, but on average it is less than 4 miles wide. It was once logged for its pine trees, and many of the old logging trails, we have heard, lead to secluded beaches along the coast. Having seen some of those logging trails, though, I would suggest that for many of them you would need four-wheel drive. The island is supposedly home to wild horses, cows, and boars, and the endangered Abaco parrots, none of which we saw. (Actually, Joan think she may have seen a pair of parrots, winging their way across the road.)
What we did see – and what I thought was particularly striking – was pine trees, miles and miles of pine trees. Yellow pines to be exact. As you go further south, there is a bed of palms under the pines, but that’s about it. Pines and palms all the way south. Okay, that’s not quite true. There are several half (or less) built “developments” on the way – like there are in many of the out islands we have visited – the majority of which are near the water, trying, no doubt, to attract second home buyers. We drove into one (for which we got in “trouble” from the guard) where we saw several roads laid in rectangular patterns, a brand new poorly thought-out marina with zero boats in it, some very nice landscaping and about four houses. It was really kind of sad to see so much money tied up in what will doubtless be a failed development.
There were also two settlements (towns), one at the southern tip of the island, called Sandy Point, and one about half-way down called Cherokee. Both were remarkably clean, had relatively few “second homes” and only a few tourist amenities. We drove through them but, unfortunately, didn’t have time to explore them in any detail. Maybe next time. We did have time to stop at Pete’s Pub and Gallery at Little Harbor. We have been there before by boat and I can assure you that boat is the way to go. The road to Pete’s was, shall we say, a little challenging. Kind of like the roads I used to take to my favorite fishing spots in the Rocky Mountains. Anyway, we admired the quaintness of Little Harbor, took a look at the gallery (where the prices are WAY out of my range) and had a quick lunch at the Pub.
Our last destination was Great Guana and the “world famous” Nipper’s Beach Bar and Grill. We spent most of the day at Nipper’s, using their pool, going down to the ocean, having lunch and yes, maybe one or two Kaliks. Usually, there is a lot of tourists at Nipper’s, but because this was the day after the restaurant’ big Easter Bash there were very few tourist and/or boaters (who may have all been home nursing hangovers). Instead, most of the other diners (lunchers?) were locals. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun.
|The pool at Nippers taken from deck 2 ... or is it 3?|
After a few more days relaxing in Marsh Harbor, Dave and Joan left. Back to Virginia, where, if I am not mistaken, it was snowing. We’ll be seeing them again this summer and wish them safe travels until then.
Ann’s Notes: I think Michael covered the visit and everything we did while Dave and Joan came to visit. We all had a good time, meet all the docking challenges and lived to tell about them. We also ate very well that week on the boat.