Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Treasure Cay (10 - 13 February)

Of our trip to Treasure Cay, let it be said: it was the best of times and it was the worst of times – but mostly it was the worst of times. I am, however, getting ahead of myself. The day we arrived at Treasure Cay, we moved right into an anchorage in what appeared to be a kind of man-made – or at least man improved – harbor. There were several boats at anchor and we, along with our friend and boat buddy, John, joined in. Our anchor deployment was a wonder to behold.

The Best of Times:
We then headed off to the see the place. Treasure Cay is kind of planned resort community. There is a planned development with hundreds of condos, most of which have their own boat slips, and probably a hundred or two large single family houses, many of which also have their own slips. Treasure Cay has its own airport, its own golf course, its own marina with some large, mega-million dollar boats, and some nice restaurants; in short, just about everything else you would want in a resort community. 
One of the many houses on the canals.

Now, some of you may recall that Treasure Cay was identified by the Discovery Channel as having one of the top ten beaches in the world. Well, I don’t know about top ten, but I will tell you this beach is magnificent. It was not only beautiful, but the sand was so fine that it was a pleasure to feel it between your toes. The beach was nearly deserted so after we took the mandatory pictures, we stopped at the local bar/restaurant and ordered grouper fingers, French fries and a beer. This is the life!

After our beach adventure, we walked around the local shops, then took our dinghy around the community’s canals. In short, it was an excellent day.
A small portion of the magnificent beach at Treasure Cay.
Another small portion of the Treasure Cay beach

When we got back to the boat, there were a few more boats in the harbor; indeed, a couple of them had anchored a little close to us. Oh well, we were going to be leaving in the morning, so it shouldn’t be a problem – or so we thought. What we didn’t know was that the next day, Because the next February 11th, 2012 is a date that is destined to live in infamy and is hereby labeled …
The Worst of Times:

We knew the wind was going to pick up that night, so we buttoned up the hatches like we usually do and prepared to get blown around. Again, we have a big boat and a very solid anchor so we don’t expect to get blown around too much. Two things happened over the next couple of days that probably made these some of the worst we have had since the infamous Cabbage Key Windlass Failure. First, the wind picked up the first night. No, I mean the wind REALLY picked up. Although I didn’t measure it, I would guess it was around 10 – 15 knots when we arrived and became 20-25 knots that evening. Over the next two days I measured gusts well over 35 knots. Still, I think we could probably have handled that. But the second thing that happened was that the wind changed direction. I mean it changed direction by 180 degrees; we came in and dropped our anchor facing east and we ended up the next morning facing west. Now, even if you don’t know anything about the physics of anchoring, you can probably figure out that this is not a good thing – and you would be very right. A third thing happened that was a little scary, but didn’t do us any harm – we experienced our first thunderstorm in the Bahamas. I’ll come back to that later, but first let me tell you about the anchor.

About 2 AM the first night we were at Treasure Cay, the anchor alarm went off. An anchor alarm is connected to the GPS and tells you when your boat has moved a specified number of feet from where it started – that could mean the boat is simply swinging (and when setting the alarm you didn’t account for it well enough) or it could mean that your anchor is dragging. I got up fast and looked around to see what the problem was and everything outside looked completely different than it did when we went to bed. We had turned 180 degrees as had all the other boats in the marina. Just getting my bearings was a problem. When I did, I found that one of the boats that anchored a little close to us was now VERY close and Traveling Soul was a little closer to the seawall than I wanted to be.
We weren't the only ones with anchoring problems.
One small sailboat anchored too close to Vulcan.
Our friend John had to help them get their anchor from under his boat!

Topping the evening off was the thunderstorm. Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear that much thunder, but we certainly did see lightening! It started about 4AM, lighting up lit up the individual cabins on the boat and, in fact, lighting up the whole anchorage. It also started raining. Most of rain we have experienced in the Bahamas is like the rain in Hawaii and other tropical climes; a kind of light mist. Well, there wasn’t anything light or misty about this rain. It came down in torrents; in fact, we couldn’t see out of the windows to know whether other people were dragging anchor or not. Thank Heaven, it eventually stopped and the rain clouds gave way to simple overcast clouds.

The next morning we set out in our dinghy with our new glass-bottomed bucket to try to find our anchor – so we could be sure it was well dug-in. Although we found Vulcan’s anchor pretty easily (Vulcan is our friend John’s boat), no amount of searching would turn up ours. Well, now we have a problem. We initially anchored when we were facing east and we are now facing west so we don’t really know if our anchor is “set” or just lying upside down on the bottom. To make matters worse, the weather forecast calls for the winds to shift to the north. We don’t know where our anchor is or which way it is pointed. There is one more problem. Remember the little sailboat that I thought was too close for comfort? Well, he really is too close for comfort. So, after much hemming and hawing, we finally decided to pull up our anchor and move the boat. We found that was easier said than done.
Some of you are asking why the heck we didn’t hightail it out of there and head back to the protections of Marsh Harbor. I have this Sirius weather forecasting system that (among other things) shows the color of the sea based on how high the waves are going to be. Usually it is blue, sometimes a little bluer than others. Once in a while the seas become one shade or another of green, meaning that the waves are going to be higher and meaner than normal. For Feb 12th, the forecaster turned a kind of yellowish-amber. It reminded me of the eye color of the hounds from hell – and I certainly wasn’t going to face those puppies! So, we decided whatever the problem was. The solution wasn’t to go out and face Satan himself.

Pulling up the anchor wasn’t a problem. But when we found it, it seemed as if it had meandered a lot before coming to rest about 100 feet from the seawall. In short, it was a good thing we decided to move because that anchor wasn’t going to hold up against all the wind that was coming at us. Now, all we had to do was find a new place to anchor. When we started the process, it looked like there was room behind John. When we got there, however, we found that the water was too shallow. Fortunately for us, one of John’s friends was vacating his spot and heading south. Because it looked like such a good spot, we circled the anchorage a couple of times waiting.

We got there and dropped our anchor. Since John was behind us, we didn’t let out as much chain as we would have wanted to – only about 65 feet. Mistake. That night we held (I know that for a fact because I was up most of the night making sure) but about 9AM the next morning we started dragging – and dragging quickly. Once again, we had to try a new spot. Although it took us a couple of tries, we found a spot that was well away from most others, dropped our anchor and let out 120 feet of chain. If this one didn’t hold (and even if it did) we were seriously thinking about picking up our anchor, admitting defeat and heading to the Treasure Cay Marina. (Had we done so, we would have had to tow our dinghy as there was no way we could have redeployed her. That  would have been a problem.)

I should note, however, that about 4AM, the little sailboat that anchored too closely to us began dragging anchor. We did not see the beginning of the drama but we did see it play out. The wind was blowing at least 35 knots and this couple was trying to pick up their anchor and re-anchor their sailboat. It took about 30 – 45 minutes and we were thanking our lucky stars that ours didn’t drag at night. Anyway, someone went up in his dinghy and tried to help. I am not sure he could help or not, but shortly thereafter they got the anchor down and it seemed to hold.
The anchorage after things had started settling down a little bit. The guy in Gulliver the Nordic Tug
at the far right, tried to help all of us who dragged or were dragging.

The next morning it was as windy as ever. I clocked 39 knot gusts from the northwest. However, we held – after our two earlier attempts. To make matters worse, it was cold today (that is what happens when strong cold fronts pass through). For the first time since we have been in the Bahamas I actually had to wear a sweatshirt AND jeans! That night, I was feeling increasingly confident about our anchor AND the wind was dying down at last. So, our last night at Treasure Cay, although I once again slept in the salon, I only woke up five or six times to make sure we hadn't dragged.
When morning came, it was still chilly, but the wind was only 10 - 15 knots. We called John, loaded our dinghy and you can bet -- we were out of there!

ANN’S NOTES:OK....where do I begin to explain my part in this drama...remeber I am the anchor person on the boat...the windlass controls that bring the anchor up and down are outside on the bow of the boat where the anchor hands from the bow sprit. Michael has already told you how fast the wind was blowing...yes...you guest it...I am outside with our earphones on so we can talk to each other and I can tell him where and in which direction the anchor is in. I got A LOT of practice anchoring in Treasure Cay. The holding power in that harbour is not good...next visit there will be in a marina. We will go back because the beach is just so beautiful...I could just imagine our grandchildren running up and down that beach, flying a kite, playing with their pails and shovels...just breath taking. The storm was also amazing...the lighting lit up our cabin like someone had turned on a searchlight...some thunder...and than really hard rain . I want our blog readers to know that while Michael is awake in the salon...I am in our stateroom but not sleeping very well myself...I do come up and check on him often and I do volunteer to do an anchor watch...since he would not sleep anyway the answer is 'thanks but I will take this one' Michael has worked out a way to 'fool' the Garmin into thinking we are on a trip and plotting a course...when in fact it is just keeping track of our location while we have our anchor down...that way he can tell if we are just swinging back and forth or in fact dragging our anchor and moving positions...that PhD from Harvard comes in handy every once in awhile. The only good part of this adventure was that we did not have to re-anchor and move around in the harbor while it was dark...one of my worst fears...traveling at night. I was glad to see Treasure Cay from the back of our boat as we departed. 

Man O' War Cay (8 - 9 February)

Man O’ War Cay is about five miles from Marsh Harbor, so it was a pretty easy jaunt. Before leaving the marina, however, we needed to recover our dinghy. That meant we had to hoist it 23 feet and onto the top deck of the boat. We started the process about 0830 as we wanted to do it while the wind was still calm and so we could get to Man O’ War before the tide changed.
We got the dinghy redeployed (Lord, I don’t like doing that!) and headed out by about 0900 with our friend John, and his boat Vulcan, close behind. We timed our arrival to coincide with an outgoing tide about two hours after high tide. This ensured maximum control of the boat as we entered the very narrow entrance to the harbor and also ensured that we would have plenty of water under us. We took a mooring ball near the back edge of the mooring field and secured for the afternoon.
Rather than deploy our dinghy, John deployed his – a much simpler process – and we headed into the settlement. Man O’ War is an interesting little town. It, too, was settled by Loyalists shortly after the American Revolution. As was the case on several of the other Abaco Islands, the settlers tried several different cash crops, including one that most other islands did not attempt – cotton. In fact, we took a little cotton from a cotton plant whose DNA probably goes back 230 or so years. At some point, the locals discovered that neither cotton nor any other plant was going to make it so they turned to what turned out to be an even more lucrative craft – ship building – hence the name “Man O’ War Cay.”
Mike and Ann in front of a gift shop on Man O' War Cay.
Now I haven’t read a detailed history of Man O’ War Cay, but I am absolutely positive that one of the first settlers had to be the Albury family. How do I know? Because I swear one-third to one-half the population of the island is surnamed Albury.  We met a lady in the museum and engaged her in conversation. She married her elementary school teacher, Haziel Albury. At the sail shop, we learned that the proprietress’ grandfather, Norman Albury, started making sails 100 years ago. We walked past a number of houses, many of which had Albury on the mailbox. If you tire of the Albury name and need to get off the island you can do so using Albury’s Ferry Service, or you can have a boat made at Albury Brothers Boats (and they make really beautiful skiffs). If your boat breaks, you can have it repaired at Edwin (Albury’s) Boat Yard. If you decide to stay, you can go to Albury’s Harbor Store for provisions. Now there are Alburys elsewhere in the Abacos, but Man O’ War Cay is certainly the center of mass.

It makes ya wonder:
Was this named after one of the Albury's or all of them?
The residents of Man O’ War are known throughout the Abacos as being very religious – and as having been religious for quite some time.  I think I already mentioned that it is a “Dry island”; no alcohol is served or sold. Beyond that, in other settlements we saw a few golf carts or the odd car with a religious bumper sticker – not here. Nearly every vehicle had a religious saying on the front. Moreover, we passed mothers picking up their kids from Bible Study Class (the adult class, we were told would take place up the street).  As they were picking them up, we heard the names Micah, Caleb, Joshua, Ruth and Sarah. Now, the anthropologist in me (BTW: I should note that I have been a soldier, defense analyst and economist; I have never been an anthropologist) as I was saying the anthropologist in me would say that the Man O’ War-ians are also very proud of their religion and far more willing to proselytize than residents of other islands. We believe the citizens of Fox Town, for example, are also very religious. But we inferred that because Judy told us that most people observed the Sabbath unless “they really needed to” (meaning, I think, that they were especially poor or that they needed to save for something).  Anyway, they didn’t seem to wear their religion on their sleeves – they were no bumper stickers, the kids’ names were a little less Biblical and we didn’t hear of Bible Study taking place – on Sunday, people were observing a day of rest.
Hmmm Someone at Man O' War knows his geography!
There is one other difference I should note between Fox Town and Man O’ War. In Fox Town the residents were poor and Black; in Man O’ War they were White and Middle Class. Ok, Ok, enough seriousness. But one of the tasks I set for myself when we came to the Bahamas (besides making sure the boat didn’t sink) was to understand a little bit about how and why the islands are different. I’ll pick up this task later on, but I assure you that I will label the section “WARNING: OBSERVATIONS OF A PSEUDO-ANTHROPOLOGIST!!!”

What else can we tell you about Man O’ War? I am not sure. We had heard that the island had good beaches. We had thought we might get a car and go see the, But I have to admit, in Hopetown one of the highlights was going to “On Da Beach” and having a beer and some grouper fingers. In Man O’ War, not only was there no beer (remember, it is a dry island), but there really wasn’t a restaurant on the Atlantic side. So, instead of taking a ride in a golf cart, we walked a distance instead.  You know what I kinda like islands that serve beer on the beach J.
Another reference to the Alburys. When we were talking to the
77 year old museum lady she told us they used to live
in a one-room house because they spent
 most of their time living outside.

ANN’S NOTES: The things I like about Man-O-War  Cay was how beautiful and clean the island was. All the homes had well kept gardens...not much trash in the street or alley ways. They also had wonderful door bells which are a regular brass bell with a rope on it that you pulled to have the clapper ring. The bells wer at the bottom of the driveway or walk way and the house was about a few hundred feet away. All sorts of bells...I took a few pictures but they did not make thiv addition of the blog. The Atlantic side of the island was very pretty...they have built a baseball field above a small cliff that overlooks the ocean...so if the game is boring...the view of the water is excellent.I think Michael has pretty much summed it up about the island. The people are friendly...hard working...and somehow seem to be all related to each other in some way...just saying :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Marsh Harbor Marina (5-7 February)

We came into Marsh Harbor Marina at 1100 on Sunday. I am an American male. I do want to watch the Super Bowl, though I do not need a thousand other people watching with me. Anyway, we pulled into a slip on the fuel dock. Now, I know we are only going to be here for a couple of days, but I am not a fan of being on the fuel dock. Of course, there was minimal wind, and I must say that I Ann and I both did our jobs perfectly.

Anyway, in the Jib Room (the marina’s bar/restaurant) there were maybe 40 people. We all had hamburgers/chili/hotdogs/wings for dinner and watched the game. About 2/3 of the crowd was for the Patriots (I still don’t get it). I was for the Giants for two reasons: (1) they weren’t coached by Bill Bilichek and (2) they were the underdogs. We who typically cheer for the underdogs are – almost by definition – disappointed, but not this time. The Giants won … maybe next year it will be the Redskins (HAHAHAHA).
On Monday I washed the boat. First, you should know that I make a distinction between rinsing the boat, washing her and cleaning her.  Rinsing her is just designed to get most of the salt off – and there is often a LOT of salt; washing gets most of the salt, PLUS the major grime off; Cleaning means getting the grime AND spots and streaks. Detailing means … well, I don’t know because Ann and I don’t detail – though we may hire others to do it. J Also on Monday Ann made cracked conch for the first time. She pounded those puppies to death then did the frying pan thing. (Upon reading that, maybe I should have used a different reference. Really, Ann didn’t pound puppies to death) Anyway, the conch was deeelicious.
Ann call this composition, "The Full Snow Moon
Over March Harbor Marina." (I don't get it either,
I am just copying down what she tells me.)
On Tuesday, Ann drove (piloted) the dinghy for the first time. And you know what? She did very well. The issue until now had been that the dinghy sometimes shut down and didn’t like to re-start. We don’t have any oars on the dinghy, only paddles, so we usually went places together. (That way if we break down, she can do the paddling while I try to restart the engine J.) However, over time I think we have used it enough and discovered enough of its “little secrets” that we both should be able to use it independently. Ann took us to Jamie’s, one of the restaurants that had been recommended to us by locals. We had cracked conch. And you know what? Ann’s was better.  We also had another local favorite, peas and rice. To be honest, it was nothing particularly special. There are two more local favorites (conch salad, which apparently has a kind of cevice, and conch chowder) that we still have to try, but after that, it is KFC.

We learned something today; something about the Chesapeake. A boat come in and tied up behind us from Easton Maryland. Now Easton has some wonderful restaurants, but we have never been able to get there by boat, because the charts indicate there isn’t much deep water between the rest of the Chesapeake and Easton. But John Schroeder says there is like 12 foot depth between the rest of the Bay and Easton. It seems he owns a marina in town, so he ought to know. If it’s true, then we are on our way to Easton this summer if, for no other reason, than to enjoy the restaurants!

ANN’S NOTES:  I am getting to know my way around the town of Marsh Harbour…found a few more grocery stores all owned by the same family…the Maxwells. It is interesting to price certain items from store to store…example…fresh pineapple in the store where the locals shop is $2.95…the new, big Maxwells store that same pineapple is $5.95. Now…that pineapple came on the same boat…cost the same amount when bought in the states…BUT…ended up on different  produce sections at two different stores …owned by the same family.

One of the pleasures of traveling and boating is meeting different people. I‘m generally on the shy side unless I have a food or cooking question…and what better place to talk about food and cooking than in a grocery store. On the menu at the local restaurants is a dish called peas and rice…how hard can that be? So I knew there was more to this dish than just the ingredients…solution…ask a Bahamian woman…what a wonderful conversation we had. She took me by my shopping cart and added all that I needed to make this dish…plus a few of her secretsJ.  She also told me about a wonderful local bug repellent made with the leaves and oil from the Neem plant. All non-toxic and natural…I will try anything to keep the bugs off and away from me. For dinner, I did make the cracked conch for which Judy gave me the recipe at Fox Town. I pounded that ugly piece of meat – or is it fish? Not sure…it lives in a beautiful conch shell. Anyway…it was tender…sweet…and a lot of work…nice to know if we are ever ship wrecked and I have eggs, flour, vegetable oil, my electric frying pan and electricity…Michael can go out into the sea…bring back a few conchs and  we can have dinner . I still don’t know how they get the darn conch out of its shell…I am sure it is not an easy task…so I may have to learn that last step before I cook dinner.
It was good to be back in a marina to get the wash done…clean the boat and have TOAST for breakfast. I am calling Michael the Amp Nazi…he is just so cute writing down all those numbers. All is well as long as he gives me the amps I need to keep the bedside fan running at night. I do want to take the time to thank all the people that are reading this blog… I love reading your comments and it makes me feel like I am keeping in touch with all of you while we explore the Bahamas.

At Anchor in Marsh Harbor (1-5 February)

Other than traversing the same skinny water we passed through when we entered Hopetown, the trip back was uneventful. Our intent was to spend a few nights at anchor in Marsh Harbor, then head off to either Great Guana Cay or Treasure Cay. When we arrived at Marsh Harbor, we found a place where we decided to anchor, dropped the hook and backed down to set the anchor in place. As we did so we heard some old crow screaming at us from a good 50 yards away. (Cue the voice of Wicked Witch of the West) “You’re too close, you’re too close!!” (All that was missing was for her to say, “you’re too close, my pretty!”) Anyway, if she had been more than 30 yards away from the boat to her stern she might have been able to make an argument. As it was, I wasn’t going to argue, I wasn’t going to screech. Not particularly wanting to anchor next to any of the screeching wicked witches, we decided to move. About that time a boat named Dual Dreams called us on the radio and said “I hear they are giving you some grief back there. If you want to move about 100 meters forward and to your right, there is good holding there. A big 48 foot boat was anchored there all week and just left.” Now, that was a lot more helpful than the witch, so we moved where he suggested and stayed for the next several days. We are hoping that we can return the favor from Dual Dreams.

Like I said, our plan was to leave after a few days at anchor. Two things delayed our departure. The first is the Super Bowl. Now what everyone wants to do at Great Guana Cay is to go to Nippers. On Sunday, Nippers traditionally has a pig roast. Our concern is that if you add the pig roast crowd to the Super Bowl crowd, Great Guana Cay could be filled with hundreds of – slightly inebriated – boaters. The second problem is that the wind had picked up. Now, we have a big boat, a good anchor and we can handle wind. However, I am not sure I want to handle it in a new anchorage with bunches of other boaters – some of whom might have even had a bit too much to drink. So, I think we are on the verge of deciding to stay here in Marsh, go out to dinner tonight, then move into the marina on Sunday so we can see the game and refit, resupply and recharge.
When the wind is calm and the light is just
perfecet anchoring can be a beautiful thing.
OOPS!!  Sorry, you are going to have to excuse me for a minute. There is a boat anchoring a little bit too close for comfort on our port side. I have to go keep an eye on what is going on. (No, I am not going to screech at him … probably) Ok, he is in back of us, off our port quarter and about 59 yards away (that, thanks to my trusty rangefinder). It is good that he is behind us so if he drags anchor it won’t be into us! It is good that he is off to our side so that if we drag, it will not be into him. And finally it is good that he is 59 yards away so we don’t have to listen to his alarm clock J.

I am joking about it, but the winds have been 20 MPH gusting to 30. Now that is far from a hurricane, but for two nights I slept in the salon so when I awoke from my doze (I never really “slept”) I could look around and make sure we are in the same place. We always were. The first night, however, I had a bit of a scare when the anchor alarm went off. I got to the helm and looked around – but the only thing that had changed was that we had swung around a little on the anchor – kind of tracing part of the perimeter. Swinging is good; dragging and drifting are bad. Anyway, I had set the alarm with too small of a radius.

Ok, I am sure most of you are not interested, but I do want to chronicle for myself that I have been trying to understand our inverter better. I do not think we are drawing that much current during the day, but it is still taking nearly five hours to recharge our batteries, and I don’t think it should take so long. (Of course, we put the time to good use. While we have had the generator on we have watched almost half of the first season of Cheers on DVD, and yesterday – February 2, Groundhog Day – we watched the Bill Murray classic of the same name). I found some information in Pat Manley’s Essential Boat Electrics that has been helpful, but I may have to find someone who knows more than me about inverters and pose the problem to him. Anyway, I have begun keeping track of how many volts and how many amps the inverter is providing during the day in the vain hope that I can figure out what is going on.
This is what we use the inverter for:
·         Refrigerator
·         Make 2 cups of coffee in small coffeemaker in the AM
·         Fan at night in the master cabin
·         Recharge computers maybe twice a day
·         Seriously, that’s it.

I only got about two days worth of data. When we are anchored next week I am going to be religious about seeing how long it takes the battery charger to recharge the inverter battery.
I just thought I would add one other useful tip for those of you who are boaters and anchor frequently. One thing we have found useful is a laser rangefinder. When we anchor, I range other boats and some shore based structures. Throughout the day (or night), I check my references points to see if we, or any of the boats near us have been dragging. Now, you have to be careful interpreting your data, of course. Boats are designed to drift without dragging, so you have to make sure you and or your neighbor are drifting, not dragging.  Anyway, I have developed another technique that I will discuss after I have made sure it works.

We haven't said much about our friend John, but we have
explored most things together. Here he is tending to his boat Vulcan

ANN’ S NOTES: Really not much to report…we have pretty good internet service while at anchor…we bought a week worth so I can get on face book when I feel a need. Michael has taken upon himself to keep track of EVERY AMP that the inverter uses…I taped the chart next to the inverter like a good first mate…do not really understand all the numbers…but Michael does…bottom line is this…we can have coffee in the morning…made in the coffee pot…those amps are ok…however until some date in the future…while the inverter is all we have for power…morning toast is OUT. Now ask me why breakfast in a marina is better than at anchorJ  JUST SAYING J

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hopetown and Elbow Cay (30 January – 1 February, 2012)

We changed our minds. Instead of going to Great Guana Cay, we decided to go to Elbow Cay and Hopetown and postpone our trip to Great Guana for reasons that will become obvious later. Although most of the hour-long journey to Elbow Cay was pretty boring, the last half mile or so became a bit more interesting as the water became a bit skinny; there was only about 2 feet under our keel – and it was high tide. Nevertheless, we winded our way into the harbor. Now the harbor at Hopetown has no anchorage; instead, there are about 100 mooring balls – many of which are very close together. It seemed as if most of the balls were designed for boats a little smaller than ours – maybe a bout 40 – 45 feet. Moreover, the mooring field was very crowded. We had been led to believe that there the occupancy rate would be about 50%, but when we got there we only saw about ten empty balls. We searched and searched, and eventually found a ball that we thought we could grab. As we did so, however, we learned yet another lesson.

After what will be forever remembered as The Action at Hopetown Harbor,
 the decks were awash in blood.
This was just a mooring ball, right? We had picked up several of them over the years – at Annapolis, in the Solomons and in the BVI. It wasn’t THAT hard and we certainly didn’t need to use the headphones we used when we anchored. At any rate, I moved the boat up to the first ball and Ann grabbed it with a boat hook and started to build a bridle as we always had in the past. I noticed, however, that there were two lines extending from the mooring ball, not just one. That meant that we should probably bring both lines on deck and connect them to the two bow cleats.  Unfortunately, Ann was too busy trying to connect everything to notice that these mooring balls were different than those with which we were familiar. Moreover, since we hadn’t bothered to connect our headphones, I couldn’t tell her that these balls were different. In her valiant efforts to bring the lines from the mooring balls on deck, she pinched her skin and cut herself. Luckily there were no sharks in the water and the man-eaters did not detect the blood that went in the water – or at least they didn’t swarm the boat. But Ann saw the drops of blood that fell on the deck and insisted that I document the decks were awash in blood.
Eventually, though, we did get the lines on deck and secured ourselves to a mooring ball. We were on the edge of the mooring area and discovered that when the wind blew in certain directions, the aft end of our boat stuck well into the channel. Over the next two days it was interesting to see the ferry boats squeeze between us and the shoreline. All of them succeeded, but there were times when it seemed (to us, at least) a pretty close call.
The day we arrived, we deployed the dinghy and explored Hopetown. It was another kind of touristy place with a couple of grocery stores (about the size of a 7-11), a hardware store or two and a couple of souvenir shops. They also have a little museum that we toured. Like New Plymouth (in Green Turtle Cay), Hopetown was also formed by Loyalists after the American Revolution.  They also have a lighthouse that Ann had to see. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until later how we might have been able to examine it up close.

The bottom sign says "Ft. Collins 1877"
The following day we rented a golf cart, got a thirty second driving lesson (that included the admonition to drive on the LEFT) and set off to see the rest of the island. We had a great time! First, we headed south on the main road – actually, the only north-south road. We saw a sign that showed us how far it was to various places in the US – including my birthplace, Fort Collins, CO. We drove to the end of the island and found a nice mini-resort (The Abaco Inn) and a beautiful marina (Sea Spray). The water is very skinny getting into the marina, but if we went in at high tide, I am pretty sure we could make it. We also found that on the Atlantic side of the island, Elbow Cay has a wonderful beach. The breakers are pretty strong so you might not want to swim in it, but it is great for walking in the sand and generally enjoying life.

The picture doesn't capture the beauty of the long beaches.
We also discovered a little beach bar and grill called, appropriately enough “On Da Beach.” We had an order of grouper fingers that was absolutely delicious. They were marinated in beer and local spices then grilled to perfection. In fact, while I strolled the beach, Ann quizzed the cook, the prep man and the barkeep on how they were made. They weren’t that busy as we were the only customers in the place and I think we were the only ones they had seen for some time. Anyway, I think some homemade grouper fingers are in my future! We also stopped at Firefly, a new resort on Elbow Cay. It was on the Sea of Abaco side of the island and had a beautiful view and an elegant atmosphere.
ANN’S NOTES: I really like Hope Town…except for the blood on all my clothes…I really did hurt my thumb… (note to self: water, wind, current and tide will ALWAYS win over a human hand…anyway…I am fine now…my thumb can now bend without too much pain JThe mooring ball we had was in a perfect location right next to the beautiful candy striped light house. I swear, at night I could see the light go around  and shine through the Fresnel “bull’s eye” lenses. The lighthouse was built in 1864…one of only three lighthouse in the Bahamas. The lighthouse is still wound by a keeper every two hours and it is a kerosene  lamp.  It is 101 steps to the top …I did not get up to the top this time but will next visit. I loved going out on the deck of the boat and just watch that beautiful light shine…it can be seen 20 miles out…can you tell I am a lighthouse fan? Love what they do and stand for…come into a safe place and stay clear of danger. The golf cart rental was fun…we explored all sorts of places…the beach bar was wonderful. Talking to the people and learning about them is a real treat while traveling. I also get a few local cooking tips…another one of my favorite things to do…cook. The Wyannie Malone museum was not like any museum you would see in the states…only little signs that said please do not touch and they had some really old stuff in there. Bless all those pioneers…they were made of better stuff than I. Come visit and we will share Hope Town with you any time.
The Hopetown Lighthouse

Green Turtle Cay to Marsh Harbor and Marsh Harbor Marina (26 – 29 January)

One can cruise almost the entire length of Abaco Island and stay in the Sea of Abaco, a well protected body of water with several passages to the Atlantic. Almost, that is. Over the centuries the Sea of Abaco has shoaled between an island known as Whale Cay and the mainland, forcing anyone passing between Green Turtle Cay and March Harbor through the infamous (voice drops an octave or two) Whale Cay Passage – Nyah ha ha ha! (Laugh resembling Vincent Price). Whale Cay Passage – or the Whale as we cognoscenti call it – is infamous for its “rages.” Apparently, the location of the various islands and the structure of the bottom, when combined with stormy conditions in the Atlantic, can create terrible sea conditions in and around Whale Cay Passage. During a rage, not one tries to pass through the Whale. And, while there are some other narrow passages south, you have to go through during high tide and proceed very carefully. My solution?? Don’t go if it is going to be bad.

Our trip through the Whale wasn’t too terrible. I guess that she wasn’t enraged -- upset, perhaps, highly miffedd, maybe -- but not enraged. Anyway, it seemed to be only 3 – 5 feet waves for only about an hour or so. After the Whale it was a pretty straightforward course down to Marsh Harbor.
Marsh Harbor Marina: The procing structure makes
it very attractive to stay long term.
We had decided to go to a marina for the first few days we were in Marsh Harbor so we could take on some fuel and water and generally let our various systems rest and refit (our human systems as well).  We had a 2008 Skipper Bob publication called “Bahamas Bound” that has some information on pricing at each of the five or so marinas in Marsh Harbor. Of course we did not know anything about any of the marinas, so I chose one that looked reasonably priced and could accommodate boats like ours – Marsh Harbor Marina. Although it is across the harbor from the town, I think I chose well. The prices are even less than they were in 2008 and the pricing structure is designed to lure you into staying more days. For example, the price of water is only $4 per day … with a minimum of $15. That means that your total water bill at the end of four days is almost the same as it is for one. The price-per-foot structure is similar: $1.05 per foot for the first day, $0.85 for days 2 – 6, then something else. We had initially intended to stay for two days. But given the price of a slip AND the fact that we heard there was supposed to be some unsettled weather moving in on Sunday, we decided to stay through Sunday night and leave on Monday. Well here it is on Sunday and so far today the weather is the calmest it has been all week. Weather forecasters are as bad here as they are in the Chesapeake!

We made a mistake when we arrived – we did not get our dinghy down first. Now we are stuck between a (very nice sailboat) on one side of us and a dock on the other; there is simply no way to get her down. Since town is on the other side of the harbor, we are kind of at other peoples’ mercy to get into town. Luckily our friend and boat buddy John, on Vulcan, can get to his dinghy and took us to town the day after we arrived.

If Fox Town was a working town and New Plymouth was more of a tourist town, Marsh Harbor is a commerce-based town. It is the third largest city in the Bahamas, behind Nassau and Freeport, with a total population of somewhere around 5000. It has a large anchorage that could easily handle sixty more than the 35 boats that are anchored or moored right now. It is kind of a “u”, with us on what appears to be the ritzy side of the harbor and the town on the other side. Marsh Harbor has an airport into which some (we hope a lot) of you will be flying, at least one huge grocery store (we heard of another one, but haven’t seen it yet) that is as big and as good as any Safeway or Giant stateside, several big hardware stores, telephone stores and even a KFC!!!! In short, it has all the stuff you might see in any town with a population of 5000 that is a commerce center for the local area.
THE stoplight in the Abacos. Marsh Harbor is the third
largest city in the Bahamas. Population ~ 5000
Ok, for those of you who are thinking about cruising into and around Marsh Harbor, let me pass on two pieces of advice. I had heard a lot about provisioning – everything from “take everything you think you will need” to “get only the specialty items you want, as you will be able to find everything else. “ Well, we know fall into the second school of thought as we think that, as long as you are around Marsh Harbor, you can get anything you need at a reasonable price. Since we have just browsed the shelves and have not done any serious grocery shopping, we are not sure about all the prices, but the stuff we saw looked competitively proved. Now, once you leave Marsh Harbor it is a different story. This is the only place we have seen with a stateside-like supermarket and if you are going to spend time in places like Fox Town and Green Turtle Cay, make sure you stock up – either in the States or here in March Harbor.

The second piece of advice concerns telephones. We learned that if we use our phone to call the States, for example, Verizon charges us $1.99, Batelco charges us something and there are taxes on top of that. In short, it would cost us about $4.00 per minute. Needless to say, we suspended our phone service when we left the States – we’ll get it back when we return. When we arrived in Marsh Harbor we looked into trading out sim chips, but we learned that most phones, both of ours included, are built to prevent that. So, we bought the least expensive phone they had at the little shop where we were ($65) and prepaid for $50 worth of minutes. It now costs us about $0.75 to call the States and ten cents for someone to call us (though we are not sure how much it costs them). We then called family members in the States and gave them our phone number. Our intent is to use the phone primarily for emergencies, locally when we need to, and once in a while when we get lonely for someone’s voice. Assuming we return to the Bahamas next year, we will already have the phone and will just need to keep some money on it until then.
Our plan is to use Marsh Harbor as a base, coming to anchor or grab a mooring ball most of the time and go to a marina about once a week to replenish. There are a number of places we still want to visit. Tomorrow we are planning to go to Grand Guana Cay. There is supposed to be a really cool beach there and, on the Atlantic side a neat little bar-restaurant called Nippers. I think we may go out for dinner for the first time since we arrived in the Bahamas at Nippers. Anyway, that is for the next version of the Blog.
Somebody, somewhere has a sense of humor.

ANN’S  NOTES:  The trip through the Whale was really no big deal after the six foot seas in the Atlantic while in Florida. Traveling Soul handles rough water rather well. The Marina in Marsh Harbour is nice…very friendly people …and all the water and electricity we want. I had a lot of washing to do…a woman’s  work is never done…I still have all the house/boat keeping to do. I still have not figured out how the boat can have so much dust … salt deposits  I understand…but dust? The grocery store in town is called Maxwell’s…it is no Wegman’s …but is a very well stocked store…prices on some items on the high side…since  they have to be flown in or barged in…the cost of transportation needs  to be passed on to the costumer. It is nice to know that it can be bought if need, Also because we have to carry everything we buy back to our boat on foot, it is a way of really just shopping your list. It a good distance from the public dinghy dock to Maxwell’s by foot…plus once I shop I have to carry everything back. The town of Marsh Harbour is a busy town, I enjoy walking into different stores and just looking around… We also walked to an art show at one of the other marinas…beautiful work…the colors they use in their painting and art work truly reflect the colors of the Bahamas…we didn’t buy any not art, but I did get some local BBQ sauce and homemade jam.

Green Turtle Cay (24-25 January 2012)

Our next stop was Green Turtle Cay. It was less that a twenty mile trip in fairly calm seas so we didn’t start too early and kept the speed down (to save fuel). About half way to the island, I had to increase speed a little because our engines seemed to be running a little cold. Although the book says 200-225 degrees is best for the engines, that would mean running between 2000 and 2500 RPM – which would be about 15 MPH – and burning fuel like it is going out of style. I wouldn’t do that even if I could afford it, and I can’t afford it, so I usually run at a much less-than-optimal 160 degrees and hope for the best.  Anyway, at 8 MPH we weren’t even getting to 150 degrees, and I thought we needed to create a little heat in those engines.
Green Turtle Cay has several good anchorages, but the best two are, the very imaginatively named “White Sound” and, you guessed it, “Black Sound” in the south. We went back and forth in deciding between the two, but finally decided to go to the northern anchorage because the entrance looked a little deeper during low tide. Anchoring in White Sound presented a different kind of challenge than had anchoring elsewhere, in that there were probably 20 or so other boats in the Harbor. Previously, we had anchored with only one or two boats around.  Now we would have three additional problems. First, we would have an audience. Now, I don’t mind giving a speech in front of an audience, and, though I am no stand-up comedian, I could even tell a joke or two in front of an audience if I had to. But, among things I would not like to do in front of an audience, anchoring is right up there with singing and docking.

The second problem is deciding where to drop the anchor; choosing your position in a crowded anchorage is much different than in an uninhabited one. You have to identify a position that is far enough from other boats, but still within the anchorage. You have to make sure you will have enough depth under your keel, even when you swing around as the wind and current change, and, of course, you have to mentally move upwind from that spot a hundred feet or so to physically drop your anchor. We did our calculations, looked around and chose our spot. We dropped our anchor in about ten feet of water and let out more chain than we needed – about 120 feet – and then we set the anchor. When we did, we noticed we were a little too close to a sailboat (that captain of which was watching us closely) so we pulled in about 30 foot of chain and set the snubbers  so they brought us in another five feet or so. With that, I think we were about 50 yards away. He seemed to be satisfied with our distance and we were too, so there we stayed. When we “bucketed” our anchor it was buried so deeply that it was almost invisible.

Now the third difficulty one faces in a crowded anchorage – and by far the most important – is to ensure that you do not drag your anchor. Sometimes when the wind and/or current changes you anchor can become “unstuck” from the bottom. Without an anchor holding you in place, your boat can start moving backwards, dragging the anchor. Sometimes the anchor will catch on the bottom and reset itself, but sometimes your boat can move backwards at a high rate of speed – onto the shore or into another boat. Now I could probably handle running aground, but in a crowded anchorage, you are much more likely to hit another boat – which could be the worst of all worlds. Any, grounding or crashing are both very, very bad things.

Ok, Ok, so you can't see that many boats around;
I assure you there were more than this!
One solution to the “dragging” problem is never to leave your boat. While that would normally be my solution, in the past few years I have gotten brave. Now, I will leave the boat after waiting several hours – and making sure the anchor alarm is set, ensuring the keys are in the ignition (for a rapid re-start if necessary) and carefully monitoring our position (with my LASER rangefinder) to make sure it doesn’t change substantially. At night, especially if the wind is blowing hard and/or promises to change direction,  I have no problem one of us with staying up all night or, at a minimum, dozing near the helm so we could respond if we started dragging. That’s enough about anchoring.

The Main Street of New Plymoouth.
The next day we headed off into the town, New Plymouth.  Although not exactly a tourist destination, Green Turtle Cay comes pretty close. There are probably 30-40 large vacation home on the island (that we saw, there may be a lot more), one or two resorts, maybe 50 rental cottages and a couple of dozen boats, of course. I don’t know how many tourists that makes, but it is quite a few. Needless to say, unlike Fox Town, fishing isn’t the town’s only industry. New Plymouth is kind of difficult to describe in terms of layout. There seem to be vacation rentals right next to the hardware store which is next to a restaurant. The streets are about twice as wide as sidewalks and, although cars can make it down them, it seems as if they were made more for golf carts—which can be rented several different places. The town itself was formed by Loyalists who departed the US after the American Revolution. In fact there is one plaque in the middle of town that discusses how the Loyalists suffered from “human rights abuses” from the new US citizens and how they were persecuted, etc. From the wording of the plaque alone it is clear that there are still some descendants of those Tories around!
I am not sure you can read this, but it is only half of the plaque explaining how the
dastardly Patriots tyranized the Loyalists so much that teh Loyalists had to leave America.

Coming back from our excursion to New Plymouth, it started raining. Since our dinghy was still a half mile away we ran back a couple hundred yards to a restaurant we had passed and ordered our new favorite Bahamian dish – cracked conch. It was almost as good as Judy’s. Ann is now convinced she has to try making it. After lunch we took the dinghy back to the boat and all was well in Green Turtle Cay. Although we had to pay $15 for the day, we had an excellent internet connection. It was so good that our son set up a video-teleconference between us and his family. So, here we are, on a boat in the middle of the Bahamas watching and talking to some of our kids and grandkids in Virginia. Ain’s life grand!
ANN’S NOTES:  Lesson learned: use a stern anchor with a dinghy and remember that tides go IN and OUT. Later that day we had a video conference with our kids (and, more importantly, with our grandkids.) Caylin, you keep belting out those guitar tunes. The video conference was wonderful…seeing Caylin and Gavin ,as well as Tim and Carrie helps  me feel like I am still part of their family. I keep track of Lisa and her crew when I get on facebook and chat with her there. Life is Good!!!

Now that you know all the “do’s” and "don't's" about how to anchor, it really can become a side show…Michael and I have walkie/talkie head sets that we wear so there is no misunderstanding  when we anchor and that keeps the panic down for me. We are really coming together as a well organized team (most of the time).The town of New Plymouth was quaint…the day was beautiful even if it did rain off and on most of the day. Returning home we had a new experience… John, our boat buddy, was with us when we went into town…we took our tender…the Boston Whaler…a very steady, well built boat that is also very heavy. Anyway when we returned to the tender…it was low tide…when we had arrived a couple of hours earlier, we had plenty of water under us. When we got back … yup, you guessed it — low tide=no water under our tender. We had to somehow undo our now very tight lines…Move the boat with the engine and propellers  in mud and get her back in the water only a few feet away. We almost cut the lines but I kept wriggling the lines little by little and eventually saved them.