Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Active Life in the Abacos


Meg and Tom from Sun Cat
All went well sailing the fifty miles from the southern end of Eleuthera to the north to a place called Royal Harbor except for being “skunked” once again fishing. What a disappointment! We really did not want to move this fast through Eleuthera, but the weatherman kept saying it might be a while until another weather window would open up to get to the Abacos, so we thought we should do it while we can. Once through Current Cut which is a cut that has current as strong as 3 knots, the winds were calmer and the direction such that the boat was flat so that I prepared “Veggie Lasagna” for a meal to share with Tom and Meg on Sun Cat. We had a relaxing meal after a long day of sailing in a quiet harbor. Can't ask for much more.

The winds were favorable to continue on another long day up into the Abacos. Winds were 10-17knots and we sailed along at 6 to 7.5 knots which is good for catching fish but once again not even a nibble! We did hear of two boats that did catch some fish and our friends on Discovery and Scotch Mist who were about 2 miles ahead of us, were treated to a show of two whales cavorting in the area north of Lynyard Cay. We unfortunately did not get to see them.

We anchored off Bucaroon Point which wasn't bad but unfortunately there were some forest fires on the southern end of Great Abaco Island and the smoke was blowing toward our boat which wasn't pleasant. So the next day we headed out to sail to Marsh Harbor to wait out another front.

Once in Marsh Harbor we found out our friends on Sloop John Dee and Samana who we got to know in George Town this winter were there. It was St. Patrick's Day so we all met in town. 
The Irish had their St. Paddy"s Day Parade in Marsh Harbor



They participated in the “Shortest St. Paddy's Day Parade” while I took pictures. It was all of about two blocks. It was all cruisers who dressed in green and many with crazy St. Paddy's Day get-ups.


Look at those fancy glasses.





Some really got into it!


Some went so far as to color their hair green.








 Anyone who participated got a beer as they passed a stand for Sands Beer 

What people won't do for a free beer!
 and then everyone ended up at a bar/restaurant called Snappas who sponsored the whole thing. They had a band as well as a bag piper to entertain the crowd. As they say, “A good time was had by all!”


You can see the flags standing straight out when blowing 30 knots.
The cold front came through the next day. It blew 20-25 knots all day with gusts to 32 knots. Some rain but not a lot. The temperature dropped to the low seventies and into the sixties at night (I know, you northerners don't feel sorry for us!). I kept busy reading, hooking my rug, and working on my basket. I decided no baking if I want to keep that weight off I lost last summer.

The next day was a restocking day of food and beverage. Ron and Mercedes on Samana told us about a store in the far left corner of the harbor where I could buy fish. It actually is a seafood processing place but they have a retail/wholesale store where you can get fish, lobster, stone crabs, meats and many other types of bulk groceries. The fish has all been flash frozen on the boat so it is fresh and so I finally was able to get red snapper and some grouper. If the man don't bring it in, then the "wifey" must buy it at the store!!!

That evening we went to the Jib Room with friends, John and Denise, for their Wednesday night buffet with a choice of ribs, chicken or fish. 
Two members of the audience play the saw along with the musicians.

They also have a version of Rake 'n Scrape and the Limbo. The audience participates in both, but there is a Bahamian who really shows off with the Limbo.
Doing the Limbo while carrying a woman.  Now I'd say he is quite fit!

He carries a female while going under and he goes under with it lit on fire and inches off the floor. He is quite amazing.
He even lights his cigarette while going through!

Finally a calm day, but so calm that we motored across to Guana Cay, a place we had never visited.
We were there to experience the “Barefoot Man” concert at Nippers, one of the two well known restaurants there. The other is called Grabbers. Both are fun places to be. We came in a day early to get a spot to anchor because this concert is visited by so many cruisers. We walked to Nippers to get a lay of the land.
 
Nipper's the day before the concert.

 It is this colorful restaurant on the gorgeous beach on the ocean side. Not only do they have a bar and restaurant but also a pool for their customers to enjoy. 

 
The long white beach off of Nippers.

Nicely maintained Grabbers Bar and Grill
The settlement had only two shops but was surprised by the nice grocery store on the island. Small compared to those in the states but large compared to stores on the smaller cays. We stopped to enjoy a beverage at Grabbers. It is in the cove where we came ashore in our dinghy, called Fisher's Bay.  What a beautiful spot.  Pool, bar, restaurant and rooms for guests and they welcome cruisers.  I have been good about not imbibing in much alcohol but I could not resist their specialty drink which was a frozen rum concoction.  It was delicious especially since I was so thirsty but lets just say Arleen had to take a little nappy on the boat when we returned!  It was quite a "grabber."


It can be peaceful during day, but it hops at night at Grabbers.
Around noon the following day we met John and Denise at Grabbers and then walked to Nippers where things were hopping! Lots more people than yesterday enjoying the food, drink and music.
The famous "Barefoot Man"
Barefoot Man's band started playing around 1PM and he eventually came on and sang lots of his fun songs and got the crowd going. He is a very short man which surprised me.  I thought he was sitting down, but found out he was standing!

 
The crowds enjoying the music.

 
Even Pepper, Ron and Mercedes dog found things delicious!
I found Meg and Tom around the pool enjoying the Barefoot Man.


Mercedes and Denise enjoying the day.

A little busier than the day before!
It reminded me of a college party without the chugging of beer and getting out of control. There were all ages from tots, teens, college students, adults and “The Wise Ones.”


 
Later that evening Mercedes and Ron on Samana had us over to sample lion fish. Lionfish are the fish that have invaded the Western Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. We have seen lionfish when we snorkeled.  It is believe that it started by an individual who disposed of a lionfish from his aquarium because it got to big or was eating all his fish. That is the reason they are not good for the environment because they eat all the other fish. They actually tell people to kill any lionfish they see while spear fishing. The interesting thing is people think they are poisonous. However, the truth is they are venomous. They inject venom through their dorsal, pelvic and anal spines if they puncture you. So Ron has learned how to catch them and get rid of the nasty parts. The meat is delicious! Mercedes made a tempura batter and deep fried it. The meat was a very white buttery meat similar but better than flounder. So in one day we had two new firsts; seeing the Barefoot Man and tasting lionfish. What a day!          
                                     It looks pretty but stay away from the spines.

Photo of a lionfish from National Geographic .
We then sailed to Hope Town which is a favorite spot for boaters. Many boaters were heading west to get through Whale Cut since the weather was good, so we decided there might be some open moorings in Hope Town. It is a tight harbor and you cannot anchor there. We were correct. There were about three open when we got there. Wouldn't you know Al picks the one that he finds out says reserved on it after we hooked on. So quickly we released and got the next one. Luckily there were no other boats coming in when we were, so it wasn't a race for the ball. 
 
Cute cottages  and stores.

 We walked the cute settlement with flowers blooming all around and the brightly colored cottages and narrow streets. 



 
The Hope Town Lighthouse

 Traveling the island is by golf carts which reminded me of Bald Head Island, NC. You can walk to the beach, snorkel off the beach, visit the lighthouse, shop the stores or visit many of the various restaurants in town. Some people come and spend the entire winter on a mooring ball in Harbor Island. 

 Al and I walked the north end of the island where many of the houses, large or small are for rent. 

 
We even found one called Blue Heaven if you look closely at the sign.



So this is where Rudolph spends the rest of winter and spring.















We came across a wild life sanctuary which was identified by a sign and friendly reindeer. It was a lovely walk and we could see the Hope Town sailing club races going on out in the sound. 

 
Dinghy and sunfish races in the sound.

 Once back in town I saw a sign for Sunday Mass at 12:30PM. I attended it which was at the small park out in the open. The priest comes in by ferry from Marsh Harbor to do it every Sunday. It was interesting having a jungle gym, sailboats and the harbor as the altars backdrop. Later we enjoyed dinner at the Harbors Edge with some new acquaintances, Steve and Michele, on John Ray.

We are now back in Marsh Harbor to wait out this next front. I just had to stop typing to help reset the anchor because he thought we were dragging in the 20-22 knot winds. This is the life of living on board a boat!  Moments of calm and moments of sheer terror!  Well, not really terror this time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Daily Life Between the Fronts

Toni and Dave and Cathy and Tom

Final days in George Town had us enjoy the last dance with our friends, Dave and Toni and Cathy and Tom on Perseverance II.  We enjoy the dances so much and we just don't have anything like it back in Lancaster.  One other picture I had to share was this picture of the dog who you had seen in an earlier blog being pulled on a dinghy by his master who was swimming back to their boat.  This time, both the husband and wife as well as the dog went swimming by our boat.  I can't believe that dog could paddle that far!  
Fido the Swimming Dog


Besides be entertained by the dog, we also had a show by the local dolphins who swam around our boat several times and headed to the next boat anchored nearby.

Two dolphins who entertained us.







We left George Town on Wednesday, March 5th with Tom and Meg on Suncat, a 33ft. Gemini catamaran and Dave and Toni on Sequence. We headed to Leaf Cay and anchored there thinking we would wait out a front that had west winds coming with it. However, Suncat and us decided to move to Pipe Creek the next day to wait out the front there. We felt there was more to do up there since we knew we would be stuck a few days due to the front. Dave wanted to do some hunting for lobster so Leaf Cay was best for that. So we departed and probably won't see them again until the ICW. They did not want to return via the Abacos so we separated for now.

We had a quiet, flat, down wind sail to Pipe Creek so I worked on another basket. Later we had Tom and Meg over for Happy Hour and just as it was starting to turn dark, our boat ended up being very close to a nearby catamaran called Zing. We anchored after them, and things seemed fine for three hours but with the current and the wind things got a little too crazy. When you want to say, “Do you have any Grey Poupon?” then you know you are too close! So we lifted anchor as it was getting darker and reset it, only to get too close to another boat. I said we were too close but Al said no, until the other couple asked us to please get further away, then we moved. Luckily, we got it down and our Rocna anchor held Blue Heaven through the squalls and winds at a constant 21knots through the night.
Homemade French Bread

The next day it blew strong all day. It was my baking day. I made two loaves of whole grain French bread and some brownies. I worked on finishing my basket, read, and beat Al at Uno Rummy Up. It is a game I never win. When you are stuck on a boat all day, you have to find something to do besides eat.
The following day the winds lightened but were out of the north so not good for moving north. We walked the sand flat where I found over 20 sand dollars in December but did not find even one this time.

The beautiful water from the sand flat.

The not so pretty sight on the sound side where all the trash lands from the ocean.
Sea glass treasures from the beach.
We also hiked two trails on the island and found a good amount of sea glass on the beaches. I actually found five pieces of royal blue which is very difficult to find. So in the sea glass world it was a good day!



We left Pipe Creek and headed to a place we had not visited yet called Cambridge Cay. It is included in the Exuma Land and Sea Park and so is a “no take zone.” It was a beautiful place and so glad we came. It is definitely should not be missed. We were able to pick up a mooring but they do allow some anchoring in certain areas. There were two trails on the island that we hiked.
Panoramic view of Cambridge Cay area from on top of the hill.
View of the cut north of Cambridge Cay.
One took you across to the sound side beach where you could hike up a trail to a very high point for some fantastic views. There were also trails to the northern cut that were not on the map which were fun to follow.

 The Honeymoon Trail took you to Conch Cut (the cut south of Cambridge) where the Coral Gardens are for snorkeling. We snorkeled there and the Sea Aquarium the next day. The “Sea Aquarium” should not be missed. The fish are so plentiful and come right to you waiting to be fed! I had some bread in a ziploc baggie in my hand and a fish grabbed it out of my hand. It floated to the surface due to the air in it, so I got it back.

Al surrounded by fish at the Sea Aquarium
 You can see Al feeding the fish. If you don't want to be surrounded by fish, don't bring food.


Talk about fish lips!

Large parrot fish.
This place had the most varieties of fish we have seen in one spot; hundreds of Sargent Majors, Blue Tangs, Nassau grouper, Jacks, Red Snapper, Parrot Fish and Angelfish. At the Coral Gardens we saw larger parrot fish, grouper and a 4 ft. barracuda. There was some interesting large brain coral there too. We have snorkeled more this year than in the past. The water temperature was warmer than in the past with it being closer to 79ยบ and some calm days which makes it more pleasant. Although we have had fronts come through, overall the air temperature was warmer than our other two trips here.

The second day we were in Cambridge this little 125ft. motor yacht named Ohana, came in and took a mooring next to us.  Well, there went our view! The least they could have done was invite us for a drink!
Found out that Ohana was for sale.  Any takers?

We left Cambridge Cay and headed across the sound to Eleuthera about a 48 mile day. The wind was southwest and behind us for most of the day until we reached closer to the island where it became a close reach and we were sailing 7 ½ knots just soaring along. 
Soaring along at 7 1/2 knots.  That is Al's kind of sailing!

There were about 15 boats that came across because another front was headed our way and Rock Sound on Eleuthera has good protection while the winds clock around. The nasty squalls were to come during the night but we lucked out and the strong winds did not come until late morning and very little rain, but the wind blew strong and once again we experienced another day not leaving the boat. Al seems to like those days because he knows I will bake. Once again he got fresh bread and oatmeal raisin cookies. I hope we don't get too many of these days or those pounds I worked off this summer will creep back on!

Some people wonder how well do we eat on the boat. Al eats very well because I find I have more time to try new recipes and more time to cook without worrying about gardening, housework and outside commitments which I have at home. This week he had Beef Bourguignon and Curried Chicken which he said were two recipes that were keepers.
We eat quite well on Blue Heaven with Beef Bourguignon.

The winds changed from west to north which caused us to move across the harbor near town to be more protected. I was glad because the fresh fruit and vegetables were getting low so food shopping and laundry were on the list for me, and getting water and fuel were Al's jobs. Believe it or not but that took us most of the day and we plan to move on tomorrow since the winds are favorable to sail. We will move to northern end of Eleuthera and if all goes as planned we will be in the Abacos on Sunday.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

Al and I dressed for Valentine's Day Dinner

For the last two weeks it has been a very busy and social time. Valentines Day found us at St. Francis Resort for a wonderful meal with our friends Toni and Dave and Cathy and Tom from Perseverance II. It was the best meal I ever had in the Bahamas. They offered limited choices but all were delicious. Crab cakes, conch chowder or Greek salad for an appetizer. Main dish choices were Grouper Dijon or Rack of Lamb with real vegetables like baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and Strawberry Cheesecake or Chocolate Cake for dessert.
The luscious lamb entree.
A glass of champagne was also included. It was a lovely dinner and afterward we went to dance under the stars on the deck at another bar/restaurant called Chat 'n Chill with Rockin' Ron and Cool Karen spinning the tunes once more.
Dancing the night away.

They must really get into Valentines Day in the Bahamas because even at church on Sunday it was decorated with red and white hearts and it was packed with couples, most of who wore red and/or white. Even many of the men had on red pants or red shirts. After Mass they did a renewal of vows for couples too.

We have had some calm weather to once again go snorkeling and so I got a few more underwater scenes.
Snorkeling the reef with friends from Bristol Creme
One of my better fish pictures.
Elk Horn Coral

















Ladies enjoying the lu;ncheon.




As I mentioned it has been a very social time. We have been on the beach for Happy Hour, to another person's boat for dinner and games. We have had some people on our boat for dinner as well. I also organized another ladies luncheon and followed the same format as before. It worked great because almost everyone was new except for about 4 people. The women got to know a little about someone they never met and introduced each other. We also had 3 door prizes again. One which was a homemade loaf of bread I baked. You would have thought they had gotten gold!  Here we have Ann from Annteak, Chris on Tilt and Dorene on Delcia.


Al blowing his conch horn in a contest.
Another day we went for a Seven Seas Cruising Assoc. lunch meeting on the beach. After the meeting they had a conch blowing contest and Al came in second losing by a hair.

I have been doing yoga on the beach each morning and also a core/pilates type class as well. My body has been screaming sometimes during that class but hopefully it is screaming less now.

Regatta started Friday, February 21st. Sign ups were on the Volleyball Beach and the crowds came out to sign up. Not only are there sailing races but also all sorts of athletic and non-athletic events. I am in charge of the Arts and Crafts Show so I signed up those who want to display their arts and craft talent.
People signing up for all the events from sail races, volleyball, bocce to scavenger hunt and much more!

This is the lead boy for the junkanoo band.
The same night was opening night talent show over in town at Regatta Park. All sorts of acts from Bahamians and cruisers were included. Several types of bands as well as the young junkanoo group were there.  This fellow is not giving a naughty sign.  He is signaling to his group with two fingers up!

The Blues Brothers doing there thing!
Some Bahamian dancers and several cruisers who sang or played instruments were also part of the entertainment. The “Blues Brothers” also visited who were a real hoot! Al was in the conch horn blowing contest. Once again he came in second. He just can't seem to reach that first place!
Al on stage this time, but still coming in second!

The crowds enjoying the show.
Sailing on Dejavu a catamaran.  A bit different experience.

Al and I also participated on the “Around Stocking Island” race but not on our boat. We joined our friends on Dejavu a 45' catamaran with another couple from a smaller catamaran. We were sailing along at 10 knots once out of the harbor and all of a sudden a very loud bang occurred with the furling system breaking away from the bow. It flailed a few times at the back of the boat until the men got in under control. They hand rolled the sail in and got it tied to the life lines. Luckily, no one got hurt badly. The furler hit the one man on the back of his head to give him a lump but nothing more serious.
The men getting things under control after the furling breaking.
That ended our competitive race but we still went the entire course under a smaller staysail because he had an inner forestay as well. We ended the day at the after race party at St. Francis Resort with almost everyone else on the 250 boats in the harbor!

Even though we have been busy with regatta, we still find time to go into town or walk the trails or beaches. One find that I wanted to share with you is the beautiful helmet shell Al found. 
Helmet shell find!
It is rather small for a helmet, but it was a great find because shells and sea beans have been very scarce this year probably due to the fact that there were not any hurricanes last fall. 

A hummingbird nest was discovered on a branch at eye level.
Another interesting find was a hummingbirds nest we found at eye level. I should have put my finger next to it so you could see the size. It was about the size of my thumb. How many times do you get to see a hummingbird's nest!

I also worked on my “Bay Bean” jewelry. You can see what I got done for the Arts and Crafts show.
My Bay Bean jewelry.
I made bracelets with jasper, tiger eye and fresh water pearl beads in between. I also did one necklace and bracelet to match. They were given to the Chinese auction we held to raise money for the commercial oven for the culinary program at the high school. We raised $720 which we felt was very good. At the Arts and Crafts show, I displayed my rug hooking, jewelry and baskets I made. There were artists with paintings but most were a variety of crafts such as knitting, quilting, jewelry, junk art, rope art and my rug hooking.
I am explaining the rug hooking process to fellow cruiser.

Even the young displayed their creations.

People enjoying the arts and craft show.

These were the items for the raffle that netted $710 for the high school commercial oven.

Some beautiful cut work and dyeing.
Al in the Beach Golf Tournament
Two other activities Al participated was the golf tournament held on the beach and Coconut Harvest Challenge. Al said it was like playing in one “big ass” sand trap. 

 The children had small boat races with the boats they made.  It was fun to see all the different ideas they and their parents had!
The kids and their boats.


You can see their creations.



















Our team ready to go!
The Coconut Challenge was a team of four doing three different challenges with coconuts. There were at least 17 teams. They release about a thousand coconuts in the small harbor and the teams jump in the dinghy and propulsion is only with one swim fin per person or their hands. They paddle and try to collect as many coconuts as possible.

Our team trying their best!

But they only came back with 8 coconuts!
 Our team had a rough start getting into the dinghy and were not in a very good spot for the direction of the flow of coconuts. They only got eight while one team got over 100. 


The next challenge is throwing 2 coconuts each over the volleyball net and into a target area. You can see what finesse our team had and the results.
Not too many points there.

They caught every one but not enough to win!
 The last challenge is one person hands coconuts to the person who has their back to the other two teammates. They have a garbage bag between them and must catch as many coconuts as possible in 10 seconds without going over the designated line. Our team had a lot of fun but no beer, wine or rum for them! Better luck next time.

I played in the bocci tournament with as much success as the coconut challenge team had. No win but had fun!
Trying my hand at bocce.

All these busy times are interspersed with a few quiet moments as you can see early one morning when even the wind quieted down and at sunset one evening.
Morning stillness.

Sunset from Sand Dollar Beach.
We will be moving on next week to start heading our way slowly back through the Abacos possibly after exploring the Exumas just a little more.