After leaving Hawk’s Nest Marina we headed north, up the 48-mile length of Cat Island. We stayed close to the enormous drop off into the Exuma Sound bank. In some places the ocean floor drops from a depth of 20 feet to over three thousand feet in barely ½ mile – which is, on average nearly a 60 degree slope. We did that, of course, so I could fish the drop-off. And guess what … I caught something … a flippin’ barracuda. It was about three feet long and looked about as vicious as you can imagine. But most people don’t eat barracuda (when was the last time you saw barracuda on the menu of your favorite restaurant?), so we threw it back and continued our trip north without another bite.
|Some of the infrastructure |
ashore at Little San Salvador
Everything went well until we got to Little San Salvador. Now, the only relationship between San Salvador (the island where Columbus first landed) and Little San Salvador is that the latter is … well … littler. Little San Salvador is owned by Holland America, a cruise ship company. They lease it to other cruising companies including Carnival, the biggest in the world. Between them, these companies have re-created the island to serve as a Caribbean destination for their customers. There are beautiful beaches, some great water toys, excellent food (from what we have heard), horses to ride, zip lines to zip, and just about everything else a cruise ship customer would want. Those of us on little boats, though, can only anchor in the harbor and watch the merriment from afar. (Actually, several people have told us that on those days when no cruise ships are scheduled that we could call and ask for permission to go ashore, though, even then, we could not use the facilities.) On the day we were there. Carnival Elation was anchored until it departed at 3PM, so we couldn’t have gone ashore even if we wanted to. That is not what I was going to talk about, however. You know when you are at a beach and the surf comes in and makes those really cool waves into which you can dive or by which you can get knocked down? Well, on Little San Salvador, the swell that makes those waves goes right though the harbor where we were anchored and it makes our little boat go uppity-up-up and downdity-down-down, then uppity-up-up and downdity-down-down, then … I think you get the picture. All night long. Not a lot of fun. Not a lot of sleep either!
We got to our next stop, Eleuthera’s Rock Sound, a little after midday. There were some northerly and northwesterly winds coming in and Rock Sound is a great place to be in anticipation of a blow from almost any direction. The wind came through as predicted and we, along with maybe 20 other boats, weathered the storm. We had considered staying in Rock Sound for a few days as we always enjoy the settlement, the fine grocery store and a trip to Rosie’s Restaurant on other side of the island. However, as we read the various weather forecasts, it looked like we would have good weather for a day or two, then bad weather for a week at least, then “who knows?” (Meteorologists generally don’t even try to forecast more than a week ahead.) Our friends Dave and Joan were flying into Marsh Harbor on 23 March, and we didn’t want to be forced to cross big swaths of ocean in poor weather, so we decided that we would skip some days on Rock Sound and continue our trip north to Royal Island.
Not much happened on the way to Royal. We timed our journey through Current Cut almost perfectly, got to the Island late in the afternoon and ended up anchoring next to Vicki and Art on Don Quixote. Actually, we didn’t know we were next to them until the next day when they hailed us on the radio. We had met them at West End a couple of months prior and hadn’t seen them since. We promised to link up with them in person on the far side of the Channel.
Now, we have crossed the Northeast Providence Channel three or four times. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. The Channel lulls you into thinking it is going to be a good day, then gradually increases the size of the waves and the pitch and roll of your boat until whoa! Those suckers are at least 5-7 feet high Moreover, they were on our beam– which means they came at us from the side – and unlike the waves from several days ago, the period on these boat-rockers was probably 5 seconds. To say that they rocked the boat is a gross understatement. The first time we traversed the Channel we drove from up on the flybridge. Because of the moment arm, when the boat rolls from side-to-side, you move much further than you do when you drive from down below. I remember wondering, during a few of those waves, whether the boat was going to capsize. Well, that didn’t happen, of course, and we learned one valuable lesson: when the waves are going to be significant and on the beam, drive from down below. It may not make any difference to the boat, but those waves are far less scary from below! The only saving grace was that we knew it wouldn’t last forever. We counted down the minutes until we made it through the cut leading us to Great Abaco Island. We arrived there late in the day and peacefully spent the night at Lynyard Cay.
We had planned on staying at Little Harbor for a few days, but when we arrived, all the mooring balls were taken. Little Harbor is the home of Pete’s Pub and Gallery. The pub is definitely “old Bahamas” in its simplicity and the characters it attracts. It also houses the only sculpture foundry in the Bahamas. Actually, the story of the pub and the foundry is long and very interesting, but we are not going to write about it here. Anyway, since we couldn’t get into Little Harbor, we called ahead for a slip at Harborview Marina, then made the four hour cruise to Marsh Harbor.
When we got to Marsh we pulled into our slip in Harborview. We would have preferred to have stayed at the Marsh Harbor Marina, aka the Jib Room, but once again they didn’t have room for us. We have stayed at Harborview before and it is a “nice enough” marina. It is much closer to groceries, shopping and restaurants than the Jib Room, and it has a nice pool, laundry and restrooms. The main problem with Harborview is that it is right in the middle of the boating action and the boating action in Marsh Harbor has increased markedly in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, it has always been busy, but there just seems to be more traffic. It could be the time of the year – we usually come a little earlier in the season – or it could be because there appear to be more charter services than ever before; Moorings has always been here, but now there is also Dream Yacht Charters, Sunsail and others.
Now, I generally don’t have any problems with charterers, after all, Ann and I chartered boats for a number of times in the British Virgin Islands before we bought Traveling Soul. The problems I do have are with charter companies that demand that charterers return their boats in weather when no one should be out. One of the reasons we had gone to the marina is that we had heard that Wednesday was going to be windy. It was. As we sat in our slip, we watched the anemometer as it measured winds from the north and northwest into the 40 knot range (well over gale force).
In that wind there was a very big catamaran (at least 50 feet) that was trying to get into the dock behind us. Well, he picked up an angle and was trying to get into the a hundred feet or so behind us when the wind caught him and started pushing him towards us and our neighbor. This got my attention. It suddenly became more than a game of watching people try to dock; it was a rather serious matter of calculating how much damage he could do to our boat. Luckily, both we and our neighbor had been assigned a slip that was bigger than our relative boats; they were both around sixty or sixty-five feet. The wind took the catamaran perpendicular to our boats and he got caught on the outermost pilings of our slips, his bow was on our neighbors piling and his stern on ours. Our neighbor immediately called for him to tie off on the two pilings and wait for help, which is exactly what he did. Now as I said we generally have no problems with charterers – and we do not know how much experience the captain had – but his crew had trouble just tying the boat off to a piling. They just kind of wrapped the line around the piling and didn’t know how to secure the end of the line to a cleat. Seriously, it looked like there was no excuse for the charter company to have let these guys have a boat, let alone to have forced them try to tie up on a day like that. If it hadn’t been for those outer pilings, the charter company would have been looking at several boat units worth of damage to the three boats involved and we, of course, would have had our entire season ruined. From now on, we are steering clear of charterers.
We checked with Dave and Joan and they were still planning on arriving on the 23rd, which was about ten days away, so we had some time to kill. We checked the schedule of things to do in the Abacos and found that – Oh My God – we were in time for the Barefoot Man Concert!! Now most of you don’t know who the Barefoot Man is. He is kind of the Bahamas answer to Jimmy Buffet – except the Barefoot Man’s songs can be … how do I say this …
naughty dirty nasty … (how about) a little raunchy. Although
I refuse to give you the names of specific songs (this is a family blog after
all), I will give you the name of a few of his CD’s: “Dirty Foot (The smutty
Side of Barefoot Man)”, “Time Flies When You’re Havin’ Rum” and the ever
favorite, “Thong Gone Wrong.” Now like all raunchy boat singers the Barefoot
Man has groupies some of whom fly in for his once-a-year concert at Nippers, the
“world famous” bar and grill. (It is world famous by fiat; they said they were
world famous and therefore they must be.)
|Some of the masses at the Barefoot Man Concert|
We went to the concert and got re-acquainted with Mike and Mari aboard their boat, Mari Mi. Mike, it turns out, is a 1973 graduate of the Naval Academy. I know, right? Actually, I have been meeting more and more of those people who, I have discovered, are quite nice 364 days of the year. On that 365th day, though, I find them to be not even moderately tolerable. They actually cheer for Navy. Yuck. However, Mike introduced us to their friends, Glenn and Eddie, both of whom are retired FBI agents back in the day. Also, Glenn had served in the Army as an MP so between him and me, we outnumbered that Navy person.
After our visit to Great Guana (the island on which Nippers is located), to Nippers and to the local grocery store (Ann, I am coming to believe, is developing a grocery store fetish) we went back to Marsh Harbor where we had another mini mechanical adventure. Our bank of starboard batteries failed.
|Our starboard bank of batteries. I know them |
so well by now, I have given them names:
Moe, Larry and Curly
In the States when your car battery fails, you buy a new one for $150 or so and have a mechanic put it in your car. On a boat in the Bahamas when a bank of batteries fails, you spend $250+ for each of the three batteries in the bank and follow the procedure Ann describes below. Remember too that you have to array the batteries in series and make sure they are connected, not only the engine, but to also to several ancillary devices. It is a long and involved process.
Treasure Cay is not really a Cay at all. It is a peninsula of Great Abaco that houses one of the few large developments that has succeeded in the Bahamas. It has a hotel, apartments, condos, houses and mansions, all of which are available for rent. They also have restaurants, a nice liquor store, a bakery, a couple of gift shops, a few bicycle and cart rental places and – need I say it? – a nice grocery store. All of that, however, that is ancillary to the beach. Treasure Cay has what is probably the most magnificent beach we have ever seen. It was rated by Travel Channel as one of the top ten beaches in the world, by Caribbean Travel and Life as the best Beach in the Caribbean and by the authors of the Traveling Soul Blog as one of the most beautiful beaches they have ever seen. It is 3.5 miles of soft, almost powdery white sand. The water is knee deep out a good 50 meters and because it is shallow, much warmer than the contiguous waters. And the best part is that in the six years we have come to the Bahamas, we have never seen more than 50-100 people on the whole beach. Some are cooling off in the water, some are walking the beach, but most are just enjoying the sun on a beach chair. In short, we love Treasure Cay.
|One view of the beach at Treasure Cay. |
This particular view is intended to make all of you
who still live in snow country, jealous
We had planned on spending three days at Treasure, but because a front was coming in we decided to spend another couple of days on our mooring ball – as did many other cruisers. The worst of the weather was supposed to come in Tuesday night and continue into Wednesday. It is amazing to me how many folks waited until the last minute to try and find shelter. All the balls were filled by early Tuesday but we had boats coming in Tuesday evening thinking that they would find a mooring ball. Then people started anchoring around the mooring field. That was okay until they started anchoring inside the field. Now that is a boating no-no. Moored boats swing on the mooring ball differently than anchored boats; there is a great opportunity to bump into one another.
One boat from Dream Yacht Charters toured the mooring field looking for a ball. Since he couldn’t find one he figured he would anchor. The problem was that this guy had no clue on how to anchor. As he continued to try, he kept drifting closer to us. Now, he was never close enough to cause a problem, but if dropped his anchor where he was drifting, he would be very close. So, with my cool sunglasses and Traveling Soul cap, I sat out on the foredeck looking as intimidating as I could without actually looking unwelcoming. I wasn’t the only one. There were several of our fellow cruisers out watching the show. Eventually, he gave up anchoring in that location and moved somewhere else. Good Riddance!
When the wind finally let up, we came back to Harbor View Marina to await our friends Dave and Joan Wolf. What did we do whole waiting? You guessed it. We went to the grocery store.
Ann’s Notes: Since I did not add anything to the last blog I thought I should at least put in my two cents worth, as my dad would say when I was a child. Not that it really mattered what I said but it made me fell better.
In this part of the blog I am going to explain why almost everything you do on a boat takes two people. I am amazed that single handlers can actually get any repairs done all by themselves.
So…one morning we woke up to start our engines … Port engine came to life, no problem. Starboard engine not so much. Michael went below, switched the batteries to parallel and she turned right up. Ok … we got her started this time, but what about tomorrow? Now we have to figure out why the engine did not start. By now, all of our reader are experts on the types of batteries we have on board from our previous blogs entries. Before we went out and bought three new batteries and spend almost a boat unit, we needed to make sure that the batteries were really dead.
Here are the steps in order…
(1) Lift hatch were the batteries are
(2) Take a picture of all the cables. All three batteries are connected to one switch Taking the picture is very important..believe me
(3) Get the funnel, Open the caps of the batteries to check, then fill with distilled water as needed. That takes about an hour because you are working around the heavy gage connecting cables.
(4) Wait an hour for the batteries to recharge
(5) Cross fingers that all the batteries needed was distilled water.
(6) No such luck, we need three new Starboard side starting batteries
(7) Call the local Napa store and find out if they have the three batteries we need
(8) Disconnect all the cables and get the batteries off the boat
(9) Get a dock cart to move the batteries once off the boat
(10) Move the batteries out of the battery box, down the hallway, up the first set of stairs, then another set of stairs. Put them on deck, then take them off the boat and put them into the waiting dock cart. Now each batteries weight about 55 pounds. I did my fair share of power lifting that day.
(11) Call a taxi to take us and the old batteries to the Napa
(12)Load the batteries into the taxi
(13)Drive to the Napa store, take out the old batteries
(14)Purchase the new batteries
(15)Load the new batteries into the taxi
(16)Unload the new batteries, out of the taxi , into the dock cart
(17)Ok…see what is coming next? Yup…everything we did to get the old batteries off the boat, we now need to do again , only this time we need to install the new ones.
That my dear readers was a full days work and believe me, it took two people to get it all done.
The good news is we did it ourselves and the Starboard engine now starts went we turn the key.
Thanks for following us.