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, April 25, 2018

Abacos II: On the Way Home

Dark Apples, Dark Waves and Abacos III

Ladies and Gentlemen, you are in for a treat. You are the first people (after Ann) to read about a theory of oceanography that will revolutionize the field. You must feel like Einstein’s editor when he published his first paper on relativity, right? Ok, here goes.
Many of you have heard about the theory of Dark Matter. Basically, physicists have measured all the matter in the known universe and determined its gravitational pull. They then compared that pull to the gravitational forces that must exist so the universe doesn’t fly apart. Guess what. They have determined that there is not enough matter in the universe to hold it together. Now that could be a problem unless you posit the existence of matter that we cannot see – and call it “Dark Matter.” You see theories of physics and the calculations of physicists cannot be wrong because … well … they are physicists … and physicists cannot be wrong. It must be, then, that reality is wrong.

Let me explain this mathematically. When I was a kid, my teacher would ask me “Mikey, what it 2+2?” Sometimes, I would answer “5.” She would tell me that I was wrong and prove it by going through the apple proof. “See, Mikey,” she would say. “When I take two apples and add two more apples, how many apples do we have? Let’s count: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4.” My teacher, brilliant though she might have been, never saw … (wait for it) … the “Dark Apple.” I was not wrong. I could not be wrong, because I am … well … me. There just had to be a dark apple.

I know you can see where this is going, but let me explain it anyway. We have all been there. We have been waiting for a weather window to cross between two pieces of land. Finally, the forecasters tell us the waves are going to be between 2 and 3 feet so we head out. Of course, when we get to the water, we find the waves are at least 3-4 feet. When they tell us to expect 3-4 feet, we more often than not see waves of between 5’ and 7’, and on it goes. Previously we mariners have had the audacity to believe that these well paid and comfortable meteorologists were wrong. Now we know the truth. The difference between the model output and reality was “Dark Waves.” Now, you know why weather forecasters can keep their job even though they are so often wrong. It is the “Dark Wave” phenomenon. I know, right? How simple, yet so elegant. Maybe, just maybe THIS will get me the Nobel Prize

Abacos III

Okay, back to boating. After Dave and Joan left, Ann and I hung around Marsh Harbor for a few days before we started meandering home. We had to accomplish two tasks before we left Marsh. First, we needed to visit the Jib Room.
Here it is ... a BLT with home made onion rings
and a Kalik on the side. According to Ann,
 life can't get much better.
Some of you may remember that the first year we visited the Bahamas, we spent most of our time at the Marsh Harbor Marina, which houses the Jib Room Restaurant. While we were there, Ann fell in love with the restaurant’s Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich on Bahamian bread, especially when it was served with Marvin,s home-made onion rings. Every year since then, we have had to visit the Jib Room, if for no other reason than for Ann to have her BLT with onion rings. I joined her this year and I have to admit, they were scrumptious.

After the Jib Room we just had to visit the most secret of grocery stores – a place called Skaggs. Skaggs is located at the southern tip of Marsh Harbor and is co-located with a fish processing facility. Skaggs appears to specialize in two things: fresh fish, which they get from next door, and bulk items that you might find stateside in a place like Costco’s. The reason we go there is so we can buy mass quantities of lobster. This year we bought 10 pounds of Bahamian spiny lobster tails for $166. Now that is a chunk of change, but these were good sized lobster tails. Year-before-last we bought 10 pounds and there were 33 of them. This year there were only 20 because we deliberately bought bigger tails. Mmmmmmmmm we are looking forward to lobster of all kinds in the coming weeks and months.
Since we had arrived in the Abacos, Ann had wanted to go to a special ceramics store located at Treasure Cay. Although we had been to Treasure twice this trip for a couple of days each, we had always been there on a weekend or a holiday and the store hasn’t been open. After Dave and Joan left, we decided to go to Treasure one more time so we could get to the ceramics store. There we spent a couple of nights on a mooring ball and we bicycled to the ceramics store which was only a couple of miles down the road. Now, Ann had told me that she was looking for a specific dish, but when we got there, we got the specific dish she was looking for, and a nice butter dish, and this dish and that dish and pretty soon I was afraid we were going to buy the store out! We made it back to the boat and continued our trip north.

We had already set a tentative date for our arrival back in the States. In fact, we had already made an appointment with Marine Plumbing Services to fix our heads. (No, not those heads, our BATHROOM heads – Jeez, you people. Since we had a few days before we needed to head back, we decided we would meander back through the northern Abacos where we have actually spent very little time in years past. The first order of business was to go to Foxtown.
Our signature from our visit in January 2012.
The first year we were in the Bahamas, we traveled with our friend, John Cairn aboard his boat Vulcan. It was John’s mother’s birthday and he wanted to call her. He had heard they had free wi-fi in Foxtown at a place called Da Valley. I am not going to tell the whole story, but when we got there, John connected via Skype and called his mom. Now, although we love John dearly, he is a bit of a cheapskate and didn’t order any food; he just wanted to use their wi-fi. Ann and I thought that we really ought to order something so we asked for a beer each. John spent so much time using their free internet connection that Ann and I thought we should spend a little more money, so we decided to come back the next day for lunch. We got there and ordered something we had never before eaten – cracked conch. OMG it was wonderful! I fell in love not just with the cracked conch, but with the way they cooked it at Da Valley. On every trip since then we have tried to get back to Foxtown, just for  cracked conch.

I ordered cracked conch and a Kalik beer. It is still the best cracked conch in the Bahamas. It is cracked perfectly, it is battered to perfection, fried just right and seasoned like nowhere else. Mmmmmmmm My mouth is watering just writing about it.

Next, we wanted to go to a restaurant called “Rosie’s” on Grand Cay in the northern Abacos.  We had heard mixed reviews and weren’t sure what to expect, but we wanted to go because … well, because it was there. The problem was that there were not many good anchorages near Rosie’s. Moreover, we expected wind was from the west, which means there was really only one anchorage we could use – the anchorage at Double Breasted Cays. Now, I am a red-blooded American boy at heart. Of course, I wanted to go to Double Breasted Cays, who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, there was one very shallow area through which we needed to pass at high tide. And, this time of year, high tide was very early in the morning and a little after midday during daylight. We needed a lot more flexibility than that and had to forego our trip to Rosie’s. (Deep wistful sigh) Maybe next year.

Instead we went to an anchorage we had not seen before and from the looks of it, not many other people had been here either.  It is in the Bight of Abaco and is one of the most isolated set of anchorages we have ever seen. We knew also that it would provide excellent protection from the west and the south, where the winds were supposed to come from.  How isolated was it? Well, after we turned into the Bight we saw only one house. It was on the southern side of Little Abaco and was maybe two miles away. As we grew closer to the anchorage, however, we lost sight of that house and all vestiges of civilization save one; we could see Foxtown’s cell tower several miles in the distance – which meant that we still had an internet connection. We really wanted to take the dinghy ashore and explore the islands and their beaches a little, but we had been having a few problems with the dinghy. And I wasn’t sure this was the place we wanted it to fail us when we were, for example, on the shore of an island 500 meters from the boat. It would be a long swim. So we just enjoyed the protection and the splendid isolation the anchorage provided. All was right with the world.
The weather closing in on us at West End.
We are the little boat in the middle.

The next day we faced a conundrum. We still needed protection from the south and west, but this time it wasn’t just wind, there were thunderstorms predicted for later that afternoon. We hemmed and hawed and hawed and hemmed and eventually decided that we would head on into the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End and wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We would be at Old Bahama Bay on Tuesday and would probably leave Thursday or Friday.

As it turned out, we arrived at Old Bahama Bay about an hour before a major thunderstorm hit the marina. We could see the dark clouds rolling towards us and the marina and, so we made sure Traveling Soul was well tied down and that our fenders and all other equipment was properly deployed. When the storm hit, man there was a lot of wind! Some people, whose timing was less fortuitous than ours, actually tried to dock during the storm. We didn’t see any boats get seriously damaged, but we saw a lot of close calls and we heard some near panic on the radio. In fact, one sailboat anchored in the turning basin – normally a no-no – so he didn’t have to dock in a slip.

We had hoped to leave on Friday, but the weather kept evolving – and the dark waves kept getting bigger – so we didn’t depart until Saturday. To be honest, I was expecting a bit of a bumpy crossing, but it turned out much better than I had feared. In fact, on an “A – F” scale, Ann and I both gave it a solid B. Even Spot was not too upset. Although she spent much of her time under the pillows, she did venture out a little to get some food. Then, at about 1600 on Saturday 14 April, our 2018 Bahama adventure ended in Lake Worth, near North Palm Beach, Florida.

Ann’s Notes: I think Michael has been watching too many episodes of the Big Bang Theory on TV or DVD. I often wonder what is going on in his head, now you know why I don’t ask some times. Dark Matter, Fractals and Chaos Theory is on his mind, I think about more practical things, like what is for dinner, are the heads clean and are the freezer and fridge doors locked down so all the food does not fall out , in case a sudden dark wave should suddenly appear and rock the boat. Just saying…Mars vs Venus way of thinking.

We did enjoy our last few weeks in the Bahamas. Michael was looking forward to the cracked conch in Foxtown as much as I did the BLT and onion rings at the jib room. It is good when the food is as good as you remember it.

It seems every time we return from one of our Bahama adventures, we have a few things that stop working properly. This year it was our middle head and our dinghy motor. Our dinghy is like our car when we are on the water and have to go to shore, so not having it puts a stop to going out and exploring. The good part of these breakdowns is that they are sorta minor fixes compared to last year when we had to buy a new $$$$ generator$$$$. Our bank account is still recovering from that one.

 I think next year we are going to have two inflatable kayaks to play and explore with, that will be great exercise and we will have much more flexibility to explore little mangrove rivers on some of the out islands. That will be a lot of fun, much easier to deploy than the larger, heavy, fishing kayak we have on board now and only one person can use at a time.  

I am glad to be back in the USA, the land of plenty and working our way North once more.

Thank you for following us…

Traveling Soul…OUT

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dave and Joan's Excellent Vacation

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..

Mike and Ann at Hope 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.

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?
Other than the fact we went on Easter Monday, the other interesting aspect of our trip is that we went on a local ferry. We have seen them all around for several years, but had actually never been on one of the “Donnie Boats.” They are called Donnie boats because their names are all Donnie plus a Roman numeral, e.g. Donnie X, XI and XII.) It took about 30 minutes for us to get from Marsh harbor to Great Guana and costs us $30 per person round trip. If you us the shuttle frequently there are special rates. A ten-trip passbook, for example, is $113.

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.

Traveling Soul…OUT