Back in the day when men were men, giants walked the earth and there were pirates in the Bahamas, even the most daring of mariners had to cross the Little Bahamas Bank. Now Blackbeard may have had alternatives, like sending his most recently captured prize ahead of him to see if that ship sank. But for the rest of us there are really only two ways of crossing the Little Bahamas Bank from West End. The one we have used in the past is to go up northwest about 20 miles to Memory Rock, then head due east to Mangrove and Great Sale Cay. Although this is by far the deepest water – I think the shallowest is 10’ or so – but it takes about two hours more than the other route. The alternative is to head northeast and cut through the Bank at a diagonal up to Mangrove and Great Sale. The challenge is that there are a few spots where the water is charted at only five feet. We draw 4 ½ feet. I need to point out two things so you don’t think we have gone bonkers and have turned into risk takers. First, the depth indicated on nautical charts is called the Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW). In most parts of the world, there are two low tides during the day (semidiurnal tidal cycle). The MLLW is the arithmetic mean of the lower of those tides. So, when we say the depth is five feet, it is supposed to be the lowest of the low tides. Second, we left West End at 0700. High tide was at 0732 AND the tide was supposed to be 3 feet above MLLW. As you can see, we were still being our normal cautious selves when we set out on the Southern Route that morning. Besides, we saw a sailboat about a mile ahead of us. In case you don’t know, sailboats generally have a much deeper draft than powerboats. So, we kind of followed in the path of the sailboat. Ok, Ok, it may be cheating … but it also kept us out of the mud J.
|Great Sale Cay on the chartplotter. |
Our boat is at the position indicated by the little bitty boat.
Some of you may remember from our trip two years ago how much we liked Great Sale Cay. It hasn’t lost any of its attraction. In the first place it has a wonderful shape for an anchorage; it is kind of an inverted “Y”, so, depending on where you anchor, you can get good protection from almost any direction. We like it so much that the first year we visited the Bahamas we stayed an extra day just so we could take our dinghy out and explore the water around this wonderful uninhabited island – of course that was when we had a 60 HP outboard attached to our Boston Whaler. VROOM! VROOM! This time, although we did not stay an extra day, I took the kayak down, paddled around, and watched the fish along the bank. I saw several different kinds, most of which I cannot identify by name. There were a bunch of little fingerlings, a couple of different species that were six to eight inches long, several juvenile nurse sharks, some barracuda and a sea turtle!! There was also a good sized fish that splashed about ten feet from the boat while I was looking the other way. I heard the splash and saw the swirls, but I couldn’t tell what kind of fish it was.That evening, in celebration of our first night at anchor in the Bahamas, we grilled the lobster tails that we had bought the previous day in West End. They weren’t the biggest in the world, but they were of legal size and they were DELICIOUS! We also hailed Seaquel to when they entered the harbor. We learned that they had caught a two-pound fish on the Bank and were planning on eating it that evening. Hmmmm, I may have to talk to this guy some more.
The next day was Saturday and the day of the Army-Navy Game.
Yes, I know Army has lost several years in a row, but I still wanted to see the
game. We decided to go to Foxtown on the island of Little Abaco to watch the
game on TV and to enjoy some of the best cracked conch in the world. We knew
they had a TV because when we visited three years earlier, we watched one of
the NFL playoff games. Unfortunately, when we got there we found that they had
taken down the TV L.
But they still made the best cracked conch in the world. So, we had conch,
fries and a beer (Kalik) for lunch and went back to the boat to listen to the
game on satellite radio – which, by the way, worked pretty well. It worked far
better than the Army football team which lost 21-17. The only good thing about
the game was that Army started a young freshman quarterback who just might be
the real deal. We’ll see.
|Our sign from having eaten at Da Valley on 1/23/12|
|The world's best cracked conch with fries and a Kalik|
The wind calmed down the next day and we decided to continue our trip to Manjack Cay. There were already five boats there, but it was a huge anchorage that can hold many times that number. Anyway, we found a nice location, dropped the anchor and lowered the dinghy. Although we weren’t sure we would go ashore, we did want to explore some of the beaches and see the shoreline up close. Moreover, Ann decided that it was about time to take Spot out on her first dinghy ride. I wasn’t quite sure how well it was going to work, so you can imagine how surprised I was when Spot got out of her carrying case and roamed the dinghy while it was underway. Ok, after roaming for a couple of minutes she decided that there wasn’t much to see and went back into her case, but, hey what do you expect for a first dinghy ride?!?
While at Manjack, I hunted for an internet link and guess
what … there was an unsecured wifi connection! It was kind of slow and I am not
sure we would have been able to detect it without our external wifi antenna,
but it worked. We sent brief e-mail messages to our family so they would know
we were still alive.
|Spot's first dinghy ride!!|
That evening, Seaquel to anchored near us and we finally got in the dinghy and putted over to see who these magnificent fisher-people were. Joe and Paula were there names, and they had just caught what we believe was an 8-pound mutton snapper. Moreover, they were nice enough to give us half of it – which we promptly had for dinner the following evening.We only stayed at Manjack one night. In years past, we would then have gone to Green Turtle Cay and wandered around Black Sound and White Sound for a day or two. We know a lot of folks who love it in Green Turtle, but quite frankly we didn’t lose anything on the island and don’t care for it as much as others do. Moreover, the weather was almost perfect for crossing through Whale Passage. “The Whale,” as it is called, is not to be trifled with. As one website puts it,
Whale Cay is perhaps one of the most treacherous areas in the entire Abacos island chain. While Whale Cay (uninhabited) is not of any particular danger, the surrounding waters and shoals are sometimes among the most treacherous anywhere, due to shallow water and long ocean fetches. Whale Cay is located northwest of Great Guana Cay and northeast of Treasure Cay.Navigating the Water:
If you draw more than 4 feet, you must navigate the outside east edge of Whale Cay, where depths are not a problem, but waves and wind can be. If the wind is blowing out of the northeast, the passage around the outside of Whale Cay, especially around Whale Cay Channel, can be deadly. Yes, deadly. The shallow water in this area and a long fetch to the northeast can result in sea conditions often referred to as a “rage.” No boat should be out during these conditions.
So, we figured we might as well take advantage of the good weather while it lasted. We did and our passage proved to be a non-event.
After the Whale, we headed for Treasure Cay. We love it there. It has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and might be one of the least crowded. Our favorite pastime is to set up in one of the tiki huts, then alternately watching the waves and reading a good book. When we tire of that we stroll over to Coco’s and split an order of cracked conch and fries – and a Kalik or Mango frostee, of course – and just people watch. After lunch, we are ready to go for a walk on the beach or a stroll over to the Treasure Cay pool. Then we go back to the boat for dinner and a good night’s sleep and we repeat as often as necessary.
After a couple of days at Treasure Cay, it was off to Marsh Harbor. Marsh is more of a commercial center than it is a tourist destination. It has Maxwell’s, probably the grocery store most like a US supermarket outside of Nassau, three or four excellent hardware stores, a couple of medical clinics, a very good dentist, etc. That said, it also has its share of touristy things like several small gift shops, and a number of restaurants. It is also where we had planned on spending Christmas and the days just before and after.
We arrived at the Marsh Harbor Marina on 17 December, and immediately Ann had to have one of her favorite meals in the Bahamas, a “Jib Room” (the name of the marina’s restaurant) BLT with onion rings. She had another one two days later. In both cases we forgot our camera, so you’ll just have to take our word for it. The next day I took a long walk around the town. Since then we have schlepped our backpacks to Maxwell’s to get some food (man, food can be heavy!) and taken a day to visit several of the gift shops. We also met Peter and Laurie aboard Navigator, who fell in love with Spot. It is now Christmas Eve and most of the shops are going to be closed until next Tuesday so we’ll have to figure other ways to entertain ourselves.
In case you were wondering, the weather has been wonderful: highs around 80, lows around 76, with partly sunny/cloudy days. We have had a couple of rain showers, but nothing serious – just enough to clean off the boat. Yep, I could get used to this.
ANN’S NOTES: So it is my turn once more. I have been keeping daily notes so I can share them with you. I told you about this plan in my last posting so now I am going to see how it looks on the screen when I share it with you.
Friday 12/11/15: Anchor out Great Sale Cay, good protection
Sat 12/12/15: Fox Town Little Abaco Island, Dinghy down, went to town, lunch at Da Valley, sent short e-mails to family. Cute orange kitten, shared my cracked conch with her. Found our name on the wall. Very windy, not fun getting the dinghy up. Listen to Army vs Navy game on the radio, that was interesting.
Sun 12/13/15: Sea of Abaco very choppy. Changed destination . Spot given Bach’s Rescue Remedy for Pet, the magic formula as far as I am concerned. Arrived Allan’s Pensacola, anchored out.
Mon 12/14/15: Beautiful weather at Manjack Cay. Meet the voices from Seaquel To, Joe and Paula, nice people. Heard from our good friends Kathy and Martin on the VHF, passing the Cay on their way back to the States on their sailboat. They are selling their mono hull and buying a catamaran, we will miss them at Marsh Harbor. Good connection on random WiFi, got on Facebook. Spot took her first dinghy ride, she did well, I am proud and pleased. Good day.
Tue 12/15/15: Treasure Cay, Mooring ball. We were going to anchor but a sail boat came in behind us, moved next to us, dropped his anchor without even looking at the distance between us, so we moved, what a jerk. *** note*** I do not drive the dinghy well, it seems all backwards to me, it is not like driving a car at all*** Drove the dinghy to the mooring ball to change the lines leading from the ball to the deck of the boat. I did it, could do it again if needed .( Note to self…need to practice driving the dinghy.) Bought first loaf of Bahamian bread, yummy.
Wed 12/16/15: Treasure Cay Lunch at Coco, beach, reading, relaxing. Went to gift shop, bought a cute dress and a soap dish that I w ill use as a butter dish, perfect size and shape for the wonderful Irish butter we use here, to go on the yummy bread that we buy. (When you live on a boat you have to think outside the box, I had good training as an Army wife) Enjoyed the fresh water pool, had a drink pool side with Michael before returning to the boat.
Thurs 12/17/15: Arrive Marsh Habor , good slip, nice view. BLT and onion rings…SOOOO good.
Took Spot for a short walk/drag (not really I pick her up) First time off the boat in a while, she is not fond of the wind. She always knows where her boat is, no picking her up when she returns from a walk. Good to see old friends again at the marina.
Friday 12/18/15: Dinghy to town, bought phone. Windy and humid out
Sat 12/19/15: Cold front came in, more wind. Couple came over to meet Spot, they saw me walking her and wanted to meet her. Nice couple on the boat Navigator, Peter and Laurie. Boat being washed by a guy named Sal. From all the banging around, I hope he is making the boat shine. Spot is following him around from window to window, she is fun to watch. Did laundry, I am spoiled with the washer and dryer o n board. BLT and onion rings (doing laundry made me hungry) Our granddaughter Maddy turned 20 today.
Sun 12/20/15 Windy and coolish out. Made beef stew in the crock pot, boat smells so good .Phone call day, ( had to make sure our new phone worked) Talked with Liz, Barbara, Dave and Joan, no answer at Tim and Carrie. Our grandson Nik turned 20 today.
Mon 12/21/15: First day of winter. Sal back to finish cleaning the boat, we must remember that we are on Island Time. Windy out. Spot sleeping with us, the sound of wind drove her to us.
Tue 12/22/15: Dinghy to town. Went to the Maxwells grocery store*** note*** items placed in the grocery cart, pre-back pack loading, do not LOOK heavy…(note to self… items placed in the backpack post grocery cart viewing are HEAVY…stop placing items in the cart earlier) went to bakery, phone store to place more money on prepaid phone. Peter and Laurie over for drinks and conversation. Spot was her charming feline self.
Wed 12/23/15: Dinghy into town, gift shop shopping. No heavy items were involved in this trip. Fun day. Called Hope Town Marina to make reservation, they are booked, we are on a wait list.
So what do you think? You now have a glimmer of what we do during the day. Hope you enjoyed this new format.