Traveling Through Eleuthera

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Entrance to Hatchet Pond

Entrance to Hatchet Bay

After repairs were completed in Spanish Wells, we departed for Hatchet Bay, further down Eleuthera’s western shore. Hatchet Bay is a large lagoon accessed through a small cut in the hilly coast. Hatchet Bay provided great protection for us during a few days of high winds from the NE. That evening we were joined in the pond by the Liberty Clipper, a schooner from Boston. It is a classic looking two masted gaff rigged boat, carrying passengers touring the Bahamas.

Liberty Clipper

Liberty Clipper

Playtime for the Goats

Playtime for the Goats

Our second night in the bay we enjoyed dinner onboard Symmetry III with Rick and Helen. Then the next day we took our dinghies into shore to explore. There were free range goats, chickens and roosters roaming the island, including the local playground. The first restaurant we stopped in was closed for lunch because the owner’s daughter was in a spelling bee. Folks on this island have their priorities straight.

20150127_132149As we walked along we found “Da Place” open for lunch. Our choices were fish or chicken, so we each had one of each. The fish was the whole fish with the eye staring back. The chicken was a leg/thigh combo and each was accompanied by the local macaroni and cheese, peas and rice, and cole slaw. We walked away full (and needed the walk). Each local patron who came to the restaurant to pick up lunch greeted us and wished us a good day. As we walked through town, any drivers of vehicles who passed us tooted their horns and waved a greeting. Needless to say, we felt welcome.

The next day we traveled further south to Governor’s Harbour. This was the original capital of the Bahamas but has since become a small outpost community. Our plan after arrival was to go into town with Rick and Helen from Symmetry III. We took our dinghies close to shore, but there was no dinghy dock, so we anchored our dinghies in the shallow water and waded to shore (trying to avoid the low tide fiasco in Spanish Wells).

20150129_100229Inside the anchorage we found a raft anchored, named Antiki. The raft was made of fiberglass tubes, with a corrugated metal shack in the middle, a telephone pole for the mast, and a similar sized pole for the cross-boom. Interestingly it was still broadcasting an AIS signal. A local explained that six older gentlemen sailed the raft from Europe and were now trying to sell her. She is sea worthy and definitely interesting.

Pete and I picked up a package of replacement cable from the local shipping company without any problems, but Rick and Helen were expecting a package that had to be picked up from the incoming ferry at the Government dock. While waiting for the ferry, which was behind schedule, we found the Waterfront Café for lunch. From the patio we could watch for the ferry’s arrival. The dock turned into a hub of activity with the ferry’s arrival. Everything from paper towels to building supplies was offloaded from the ferry. It appeared the whole community turned out to pick up what they needed.

Sunset

Sunset

After securing what we needed from Governor’s Harbour we returned to our boats to stow our new acquisitions and plan for the next stop. During our last night in Governor’s Harbour the wind shifted and our anchorage turned rolly-polly – not much sleep had at all. Early the next morning we departed for Rock Sound, further south on Eleuthera.

After arriving and anchoring in Rock Sound we took the

dinghy into shore to explore and go shopping. Along the walk we met Juan, a local poet, who recited one of his poems for us. Although I can’t quote his lines, the gist was that we all need to follow the Ten Commandments in order to get along. I can’t argue with that. We had just departed the local liquor store, where cold beers were on a 3 for special, so we shared our extra beer with him. I realized as we walked on that this was a first time for me to be walking along a street drinking from a bottle in a brown paper bag. I guess there is a first time for everything in life!

Ocean Hole

Ocean Hole

The next morning we were awakened by the church bells from St. Lukes Anglican Church on the waterfront. The bells chimed 30 minutes and 5 minutes before services began. We decided to explore a part of town that we hadn’t been to yet. We found Ocean Hole, which is a large pond that is about 100 yards in diameter. The hole is filled with saltwater, over 600 feet deep, fed by water from the sound, and has an abundance of fish (Snappers, Angel Fish, Sargeant Majors, etc). Locals claim the water has healing powers. After a walk through town, we found Sammy’s Restaurant for lunch. We shared a great conch chowder, a cheeseburger for me and fish burger for Pete. We were delightfully stuffed when we left.

This was also Super Bowl Sunday so we explored our options for watching the game (and commercials). A couple of local establishments were broadcasting the game and advertising on the VHF radio. By then we were back onboard Delphinus and not willing to venture into the dinghy dock again. We kept up with the scores through our daughter’s text messages and we’ll watch the commercials when we get a better internet connection.

Fish at Ocean Hole

Fish at Ocean Hole

The next day our friends from Symmetry III, Rick and Helen, suggested a walk to the Nort’side Restaurant for lunch. The sign on the lamp post said it was 1.5 miles. Sounded like a good idea. Along the way we stopped again at the Ocean Hole to feed the fish. The fish were waiting at the bottom of the stairs to be fed.

 

Pete, Helen & Rick

Pete, Helen & Rick

The walk to the restaurant proved to be much more than 1.5 miles. We kept walking and walking and walking in the hopes that the restaurant would be over the next hill. Finally a car came toward us and stopped. We asked if the restaurant was nearby and the driver answered, “Yes, and I’ll be right back.” Sure enough she came back and offered us a ride. The driver was Rose, the owner/manager of the Nort’side Restaurant. The pedometer on my phone indicated we had walked 4.7 miles! When we asked for a menu, she said she had some just cooked some jerk chicken, so we ordered four plates.

Pete Enjoying the View

Pete Enjoying the View

The view from the restaurant was spectacular and we were the only patrons in the restaurant. Rose and her “ladies” took great care of us. When we finished eating we asked Rose if there was a taxi or car service. She volunteered to drive us back — thank goodness! I don’t think I could have walked that distance again.

View from Northside Restaurant

View from Northside Restaurant

Now it is time to leave Eleuthera for the Exumas. Stay tuned!

Eleuthera & Spanish Wells

Royal Island Harbour

Royal Island Harbour

The Eleuthera islands are about in the middle of the Bahama islands and east of Nassau. Our first stop in the Eleuthera island chain is Royal Island Harbour, at the northern end of the chain. It is a beautiful, protected cove and is rumored to have been a favorite hiding place for pirates back in the day.

Shipyard Restaurant

Shipyard Restaurant

Seafood Market

Seafood Market

We took the dinghy over to Spanish Wells (about 5 miles away) to take a look around and do a little provisioning, along with Rick & Helen. As is often the case with the out islands, timing is everything. The supply ship was due in later that day so the selections were sparse at the two island groceries. The community is very picturesque with pastel colored cottages and a pleasure to walk around.

Spanish Wells also has a beautiful beach with pink sand that goes on for miles. The sand is super fine, almost like dust or powder, but hard packed and easy to walk on.

Entrance to Beach

Entrance to Beach

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Pink Sand

Pink Sand

Low Tide

Low Tide

When we returned to the dock where we tied up the dinghies we found the tide was on its way out. Rick & Helen’s dinghy still had some water under it, but our dinghy was high and dry! Thinking we must be at low tide we decided to have a cold drink at the Shipyard restaurant and wait for the tide to come in. We looked up the local tide table using the restaurant’s WiFi and discovered we were still more than two hours from low tide! Time to figure out something else or it was going to be a long evening.

Freeing the Dinghies

Freeing the Dinghies

Pete and Rick climbed down into the mucky bottom and were able to free Rick’s dinghy fairly easily. Our dinghy was a different story. The engine was firmly planted in the muck and the bow was wedged up against a piling. With Pete and Rick pushing and pulling on the dinghy from the ground, and Helen and I pulling the bow line from up on the dock, we finally got it loose. Quite the adventure for one afternoon.

After a few peaceful days in Royal Island Harbour it was time to pull up anchor and head toward Hatchet Bay to continue island explorations. We actually had a good day of sailing making between 6 and 7 knots most of the time.

When it was time to start the engines to pass through a narrow channel, Current Cut, the port engine wouldn’t start. Pete lifted the cover to figure out what was wrong and he found the compartment full of water. Very soon we smelled smoke and then saw it coming from the port engine compartment. I kept control of the helm while Pete scrambled with the fire extinguisher. It appeared to have been an electrical fire and thankfully it was contained quickly with minimal damage. Eventually our heart rates returned to normal and we had to decide what to do next.

Fishing

Fishing

We made the decision to return to Spanish Wells because there are multiple marine and hardware stores, which would allow Pete to work on the problem and have access to parts as needed. This time we booked a slip in the marina and didn’t have to worry about the tides. Our friends Rick & Helen on Symmetry III were nearby and decided to also pull into the marina as well to do some work on their boat.

Symmetry III

Symmetry III

Rick and Pete spent the next couple of days helping each other out with boat repairs. Helen and I took a trip to the local grocery store and restocked our respective boats. One evening, in a rented golf cart, all four of us took a trip to the far end of the island for dinner at the Sand Bar – a pretty little restaurant with all outdoor dining right on the water.

After some last minute chores we plan to depart today and head for Hatchet Bay again. Hopefully this is an uneventful journey!

Stay in touch! We love to hear from friends and family back home.

Nassau

Paradise Island

Paradise Island

Nassau is the largest metropolitan area we’ve visited so far in the Bahamas and it seems to be the wealthiest too. We noticed the cars are larger and newer than on other islands and settlements. We have become used to seeing older compact and mid-sized sedans around the other islands, but Nassau is full of SUVs, full size sedans and late model sports cars. The stores here offer higher end merchandise than we have become used to.

Atlantis in the Distance

Atlantis in the Distance

Our marina was right on the main drag, which offered plenty of convenience, but also included lots of road noise: horns honking, engines revving, and sirens blaring. Across the street was a shopping center with the best stocked grocery store we’ve encountered, plus Starbucks, Dairy Queen, Dominoes and Bahamas Subs & Pizza (which appears to be the Bahamian version of SubWay.) Across the waterway from the marina is Paradise Island with Atlantis and many other resorts.

We’ve come to the conclusion that speed limits on the road and no wake restrictions on the water are mere suggestions here. We would observe a clearing in traffic and attempt to cross the street only to be startled by a speeding sports car before we could cross. Throughout the day our boat (and the other boats in the marina) would rock violently from side to side because of the wake from nearby boat traffic.

Construction Zone

Construction Zone

Our marina was also undergoing renovations to rebuild a restaurant, which means we are awakened each morning with construction sounds (power tools, hammers, and workers conversing.) Construction dust and dirt coated Delphinus during our stay.

Up until now, our view of the Bahamas has been primarily small cities and towns, and even smaller settlements. After our stays in Freeport and Nassau, we have come to the conclusion that we prefer the natural beauty of the undeveloped island communities to the manufactured resorts like Paradise Island. As nice as it was to replenish our stocks with a wide variety of meats, produce and cheeses, we were anxious to leave the noise and congestion behind.

Green Cay

Green Cay

Just a few hours away by sail we dropped anchor behind Green Cay and Rose Island. From here we could still see Atlantis in the distance, but were near an uninhabited island with a beautiful sandy beach. We took the dinghy to Green Cay and walked along the beach. There we met a couple of local families spending the day. They provided background on the cay … it is privately owned, but hasn’t been occupied for many years. One of the families we met visits the cay regularly and has even camped on the beach here. It felt like we were back to the Bahamas we’ve come to know.

Symmetry III & Delphinus at Anchor

Symmetry III & Delphinus at Anchor

Our friends, Rick and Helen, on Symmetry III were anchored nearby and invited us to dinner onboard. Helen made a delicious curried chicken. We had a great evening of food and drink, and planning our next few stops. Pete and Rick have planned boat projects they can work on together. We will probably travel together over the next week or so.

 

Our next cruising ground is the Eluthera Islands. Stay tuned.

Back to the Bahamas

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This is a long post as it has been a while since we’ve had reliable internet connections. I’m writing this from a Starbucks in Nassau (the first one we’ve seen in the islands.)

We had a wonderful time back in the US for Christmas and New Years; although we had a hard time adjusting to the cold air. Dad drove down and spent Christmas with us. Colleen carried on Nana’s tradition and cooked puffs on Christmas morning. Our son Brendan joined us on the 27th, with his dog, Ellie. We spent a quiet New Year’s Eve with Colleen and her boyfriend Brendan (yes, he has the same name as her brother.) Before we knew it, it was time to hop on an airplane and return to Delphinus in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

The travel was relatively uneventful until we went through Customs in the Bahamas. With the new year new laws went into effect. The local customs official’s interpretation was that only things that affected the propulsion of a boat was allowed to be brought into the country duty free, but being in a generous mood, he allowed all of our parts and supplies to be brought into the Bahamas duty free.

Brendan Enjoying a Local Beer

Brendan Enjoying a Local Beer

We caught a cab and returned to Sea Breezes Resort where we left Delphinus. Bob & Mary took good care of Delphinus in our absence and greeted us on our return. Quickly, we met other guests at the resort and felt right at home. Before long, it was time to rent Bob’s “wreck” and drive to the airport to pick up Brendan from his flights from Massachusetts.

Bahamian Brewery

Bahamian Brewery

The next day we used Bob’s car to pick up packages we shipped ahead and shop to provision Delphinus for our next journey. Along the way, we found the Bahamas Brewery, home of Sands beer, and stocked up.

The packages were more of a challenge than we expected. The first one was the rebuilt wind generator which arrived before the new year and was not subject to the new Value Added Tax laws. We were able to retrieve this package with little trouble, but the other two arrived after January 1, so were subject to new laws. We were in the Customs area of the airport and could see our boxes, but were not allowed to touch them. Turns out we had to hire a broker to retrieve our boxes, which was done quickly with the appropriate cash changing hands. We emphasized our schedule and need for the contents of the packages. After multiple phone calls, we were given the “go ahead” to retrieve our boxes from Customs.

New Friends

New Friends

After settling back into Delphinus we invited our new friends, Judy & Al and Nancy & Grant (guests at the Sea Breezes Resort), for Dark & Stormies. They brought along wonderful food to munch on including homemade salami, black bean dip and crudités. We traded stories and compared US and Canadian politics and generally enjoyed each other’s company.  I hope our paths cross again.

Rainbow over Freeport

Rainbow over Freeport

Over the past few days Freeport had become more familiar. We ate at the same restaurant a couple of times, shopped at the same stores and became comfortable with driving on the opposite side of the road. The next day we departed Freeport for our next journey through the Berry Islands.

It was a long day and we dropped anchor off Great Harbour Cay in Bullock Bay close to sunset. The next day we took the dinghy into the marina looking for lunch. This was Sunday and the restaurant was closed. Fortunately we found a local lady who described our options: a 45 minute walk to the “Beach Club” or a five minute walk to a “local” restaurant. We opted for the local restaurant, which was adjacent to the local grocery, and were not disappointed. Along the walk we found cotton plants growing wild along the road, a residue of the failed cotton plantations of the 1700’s.

Cotton Growing Wild

Cotton Growing Wild

On the path to the restaurant, we passed an Anglican church packed to the rafters with worshipers. When we found White’s Restaurant, it was full of locals playing pool and dominos while watching US football on TV. Lunch at Whites Restaurant was Baked Chicken and Barbequed Ribs, with the best Macaroni & Cheese we’ve had so far. Walking back from lunch we waved at the local worshipers on their way home from Sunday church. It seemed the settlement was divided into two camps … church goers and those gathered at White’s for drinks and play.

We had an unplanned day at anchor off Great Harbour Cay to deal with engine and generator problems. Dinner was solved with homemade pizza … pepperoni  and shrimp/pesto. We all went to bed with full tummies!

Barricuda

Barricuda

The next morning started early with our destination of Chubb Cay. Early on we caught a barricuda but opted to cut it loose … not sure of how to turn it into dinner.

Along the way we encountered a thunderstorm and tried to pull in the gennaker sail in the higher winds, but were a little too late. The sheets worked themselves loose and we couldn’t completely furl the sail. We had to lower the gennaker until better conditions allowed us to  refurl the sail.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Hank's Place

Hank’s Place

On the trip from Chubb Cay to Andros we were lucky enough to catch a Mahi! We’ll have several meals from this catch, including that evening’s dinner – grilled Mahi.

We visited a local spot, Hank’s, for beers. Hank is pretty serious about no fighting.

A short walk from the marina is the Androsia fabric factory. Androsia is locally produced Batik fabric which is inspired by nature in the Bahamas and completely hand made. When we found the factory, Bertrand found us. He showed us through the process of adding the design to the fabric and then dying the fabric. We were lucky enough to see bolts of fabric drying in the air behind the factory.  Bertrand cuts the designs into the sponges and sets them in hot wax to mark the fabric before it is dyed.

Brendan on Andros

Brendan on Andros

Bertrand with his patterns

Bertrand with his patterns

Fabric Drying

Fabric Drying

 

 

 

 

The Androsia Outlet store was closed as they were remodeling, but they allowed us in anyhow. I felt like a kid in a candy store with all the hand dyed fabrics, clothing and accessories. I finally picked out four fabrics I think will work together nicely in a quilt and then discovered the remnant basket and found three more pieces of fabric! Brendan found a few gifts for his girlfriend, Alex. I also found a hand woven basket with Androsia fabric woven into it.

Cruise Ship Port

Cruise Ship Port

The next morning was another early start for our crossing to Nassau. Unfortunately, we had the wind on the nose, so we motored the whole way. Our approach into the harbor took us past the cruise ship terminals, Atlantis and multiple resorts. We got a slip in the Nassau Harbour Club and found our friends, Rick and Helen on S/V Symmetry III at the end of the dock. We got together that evening on Symmetry for drinks and snacks, and to catch up on each other’s sailing adventures since we last saw each other in Marsh Harbour.

On Friday morning it was time for Brendan to return to Massachusetts (brrrrr). We got him a cab from the marina to the airport. It was great to spend the last 10 days together and Brendan was a sport to accommodate his parent’s new laid back lifestyle. We wished we could have spent more time actually sailing between destinations, but we enjoyed the time together all the same.

More on Nassau in my next post.

On To Grand Bahama

20141213_114904We’ve safely arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahama after a few more days in the Abacos. Throughout the Abacos we found that each harbour and cay had it’s own personality. Well, Freeport is a whole different world. Approaching it from the water, it reminded more of Florida than anything we have seen so far in the Abacos. Once on shore, we still found it to be more like Florida – not a bad thing, just different from the lightly developed Abacos.

Cottage Names

Cottage Names

We left Marsh Harbour on Sunday, December 7 for Little Harbour, which is a secluded harbour on the eastern side of Abacos, surrounded by a small community. Walking through the town, we noticed that most of the homes went to great length to name and create unique signage for their cottages.

The settlement developed around a foundry built by Randolph Johnston in 1951 and is still in use today by his grandsons. The sculptures can be found throughout the settlement. It has grown into a community of artists. Artistic talent is obvious in the area, right down to the beach shanty created from trash that washed up on the beach.

Beach Shanty

Beach Shanty

Mr. Johnston’s grandson Pete runs a fun bar/restaurant in the sand called Pete’s Pub. Of course we had to try that!

Bronze Sculpture

Bronze Sculpture

Rocky Beach

Rocky Beach

While moored in Little Harbour we met a couple, Brian and Jan, who live there in their hilltop cottage, Done Rovin’. From them we learned most of the settlement lives completely “off the grid.” Their power is from solar panels and batteries, and they collect rainwater in cisterns. Brian and Jan also sail their Cornish Shrimper sailboat around the harbour, with its deep red sails – quite a site to see.

Welcome to Schooner Bay

Welcome to Schooner Bay

Our next stop on our way to Freeport was Schooner Bay. It is quite the opposite of Little Harbour in that it is a planned community of Bahamian style cottages built around the man made canal, but right alongside the ocean. It is still early in its development, but one can see the potential. Harvey, the sales executive, gave us a tour of the community on his golf cart.

Hydroponic Garden

Hydroponic Garden

A big part of the developers plan is build an eco-friendly community, with its own geothermal power plant and reverse osmosis water plant. A 1/4 acre plot has been set aside for hydroponic gardening, which is supposed to yield as much produce as 5 acres of land.

Shy Mama & Her Duckling

Shy Mama & Her Duckling

Cottages

Cottages

Oceanside Beach

Oceanside Beach

Sunset

Sunset

Next stop is Sandy Point, a stopping off point before the long hop to Freeport. It is another contrast to the places we’ve visited so far. The community is smaller than any we’ve visited and has a very rural feel. It appears that the main source of employment and income is Disney’s Castaway Cay, which is about a mile away by boat. We saw Disney crewboats take folks off in the morning and return them in the afternoon. We could even see a Disney Cruise ship docked at Castaway Cay.

Among all of these places we’ve visited there have been many stray dogs. The strays have crossbred over the years to form a recognized breed, called the Bahamian Potcake. For the most part, they are medium sized, short haired and good-natured. So far I haven’t captured a picture, but will keep trying. One day a small female potcake followed us down to the pier as we got on our dinghy. She smiled at us just the way Amy used to and won my heart. Unfortunately I couldn’t take her with us.

Beach Greeter at Sandy Point

Beach Greeter at Sandy Point

A real treat was dinner at Nancy’s. It was recommended to call ahead for reservations, which seemed strange for this small community. Turns out that when you call, they tell you what the choices are for dinner that night and ask you to choose. Our options were chicken, fish or lobster. Between us, we had the fish and the lobster which were accompanied by peas ‘n rice, cole slaw and baked macaroni and cheese. All yummy!

On Friday morning we left before sunrise for the 70 mile trip to Freeport. Pete had reserved a spot for us at Seabreezes, which is run a Canadian couple named Bob & Mary. It is a delightful place to stay, whether you want to book one of their apartments or space on their sea wall. Bob came out on his boat to guide us into the canal and to his resort.

Santa's Sleigh

Santa’s Sleigh

Bob & Mary have treated us as if we were guests in their home. When we mentioned that we wanted to visit the Garden of Groves while we were here, they said there was a special Christmas celebration the next day and Bob was to be Santa. They graciously invited us to go along with them. Pete got to ride in Santa’s Sleigh (AKA Bob’s solar powered electric car).

Waterfall in the Gardens

Waterfall in the Gardens

The gardens were a peaceful oasis in a bustling city. We had lunch at the Garden Cafe and the costumed Santa took a break and ate with Mary, Pete & I. The looks on the faces of the kids was priceless. A very few were brave enough to approach Santa.

We’ve spent the rest of our time here getting to know our hosts, who designed and built this resort themselves, working on the boat and running errands in town. Hoping for time to walk on the beach tomorrow.

We’re flying back home on Wednesday to spend Christmas with the kids and my dad, and looking forward to seeing everyone again. We’re excited that when we return in January, our son Brendan will join us for some more island hopping. Planning to head for the Berries and then Nassau. If I’ve learned nothing else on this trip it is to be flexible. Life on a boat is dependent on the weather.

Wishing everyone a safe and Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

More Cruising the Abacos …

Since my last post we’ve spent more time in the Abacos, returned home for Thanksgiving, and returned to the Abacos again. I guess you could say we like it here! We’ve both adapted to the cruising lifestyle and the daily routines of boat projects, exploring the localities, meals and lots of fresh air.

During our time here we’ve met and made friends with several wonderful folks … Rick & Helen on Symmetry, Sean & Cynthia on Arcouda, and Richard and Marsha on Shampagne. We’ve shared happy hours and meals with all three and are grateful for the new friendships.

Not-so-little pink house

Not-so-little pink house

Weather conditions kept us at Treasure Cay for a couple of days longer than we had planned, but that made it possible to meet Richard and Marsha. While anchored there, this house was just across from us and it reminded me of the Kenny Chesney lyrics, “… growing up in little pink houses …” although this one was not so little. Check out the trees and see how strong the winds were that day.

Dinner on Shampagne

Dinner on Shampagne

We had a rocky ride back to Marsh Harbour, but needed to get there to catch our flight back home for Thanksgiving. While back in Marsh Harbour we were able to catch up briefly with Rick & Helen and Sean & Cynthia. A bonus was dinner on board Shampagne with Richard & Marsha and several other friends of theirs.

Colleen's sign

Colleen’s sign

On Monday we flew home for Thanksgiving. We had a long layover in Miami and enjoyed the people watching in such a busy airport. We’ve come to look forward to Colleen’s signs when she picks us up at the airport and she didn’t disappoint. This one was two-sided.

20141124_210642It was amazing how nice it was to sleep in a bed that didn’t rock and was accessible from both sides (home makes you appreciate the little things).

20141127_133421We had a very nice Thanksgiving dinner with Colleen, my Dad and our friend Wayne. We changed things up a bit and instead of mashed potatoes & gravy, I made my best version of Bahamian Mac & Cheese, which is a staple here. I think it was a hit. The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with friends, shopping and packing for our return. It was great to be back home and reconnect with family and friends!

On Wednesday of this week we had a VERY early flight from Norfolk to Miami, but Pete said it was good because we would be back in Marsh Harbour by lunch time. I was counting on a nap soon after arrival to compensate for the 4:00 a.m. wake up call that morning. Because of a delay leaving Norfolk, missed connection in Miami and rerouting through Nassau, we didn’t arrive at the marina until about 6:00 p.m. that day. The good news was that the bar in Nassau had Gin & Coconut Milk drinks on special – it helped pass the long afternoon layover.

20141204_115512We had a real treat the next day while we were walking 20141205_185519to the local grocery store to provision the boat. A truck slowed next to us and offered us a flyer to the restaurant Oasis. Turns out the driver of the truck is the chef, Antonio. We decided to try it for lunch and were not disappointed. Chef brought us an appetizer sampler and our favorite was the Smoked Lobster Spread. We ordered an extra portion to take back for later! Went back Friday night for dinner and more Smoked Lobster Spread!

20141206_152242Today, Saturday, was the annual Abacos Christmas Festival. 20141206_153256It was a true example of a gathering in a small community. The afternoon was full of speeches from politicians and community organizers, many of whom quoted Bible verses to make their points. In between speeches were performances by various youth groups, such as a high school band, a chorus, a drama club and many more.  While all this was going on, there were dozens of food vendors offering local delicacies (and of course we sampled plenty). The park was packed with families and children running and playing freely. We heard from several people that the festival would be more fun later, after the kids had gone home. Alas, at our age, we went home with the kids and missed the Junkanoo parade and dancing. Hope a good time was had by all!

Tomorrow we begin our island hopping journey from Marsh Harbour to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Stay tuned for more updates and drop us a line if you have a chance at kathydva@gmail.com.

Cruising the Abacos

Curly Tail

Curly Tail Lizard

The Abacos are a string of islands and cays (pronounced keys) on the northeast edge of the Bahamas. Since arriving we have been able to visit Great Abaco Island (Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay), Elboy Cay, Man-O-Way Cay, and Great Guana Cay. Everywhere we’ve been, we come across these little curly tailed lizards. We hope to make it to Green Turtle Cay before we leave for Thanksgiving at home, but that will depend on the weather.

We’ve experienced more rain than I expected, almost daily, and usually in the morning. One morning it was more than just a shower, but a regular squall. We noticed over 30 knots of wind on our instruments and a nearby boat, Symmetry, clocked it at about 50 knots. Glad we were still tied up at the marina for that storm.

While in Marsh Harbour we walked to town and stocked up on groceries and items from the hardware store. The stores were well stocked, but very expensive. I picked up a bag of Dove Dark Chocolate Squares and put them right back when I saw they were $10!

Hope Town Lighthouse

Hope Town Lighthouse

Our next stop was Elbow Cay and the town of Hope Town. The area (and several other nearby islands) were settled by loyalists to the English Crown after the American Revolution. The architecture reflects the homes of the colonial era.

The lighthouse is one of only a few manually operated lighthouses left and the local citizens fought to keep it that way. It is open to the public to walk to the top (which we did) without benefit of security or tour guides – only a sign asking you not to tamper with anything. The view from the top is spectacular

Entrance to Lighthouse

Entrance to Lighthouse

Inside Looking Up

Inside Looking Up

View from the Top

View from the Top

Crawfish Tail & Bahamian Mac & Cheese

Crawfish Tail & Bahamian Mac & Cheese

The main industry of the island appears to be tourism. Most of the traffic on the island is golf carts with just a few cars. The area that is primarily rental cottages and shops is closed off to even golf cart traffic. We had dinner one night at Captain Jack’s on the waterfront. I ordered the grilled crawfish tail and it was huge. Evidently, what we consider lobster is their crawfish – delicious! Also included was Bahamian Mac & Cheese. This is a creamier baked version of our mac & cheese with a little hot pepper for zing.

Beach Side of Elbow Cay

Beach Side of Elbow Cay

We are quickly discovering that there is a harbor side and an ocean side to these cays. The harbors are a protected, safe place to keep your boat (marina, anchor or mooring) and the ocean side is where you find the sandy beaches and brilliant waters.

Entrance to Man-O-War

Entrance to Man-O-War

Next stop was Man-O-War Cay where we picked up a mooring ball just outside the main marina. This cay is known for its boat builders and boatyards, which was good for us. We had trouble starting the dinghy. A young man named Bronson, on the fuel dock, brought his dinghy out and towed us to the marina. While I did laundry, he and Pete worked on the engine and got it running. Bronson asked if he could take it for a spin and was impressed with the speed.

Even the Boats Have a Garage

Even the Boats Have a Garage

We spent the next few days at Great Guana Cay. Two nights anchored in Fishers Bay and one on a mooring ball in Guana Harbor. Fishers Bay is very quiet, surrounded by large private homes on a rocky shoreline. At one end of the cove is the restaurant Grabbers where we ate Saturday night. We beached the dinghy and put an anchor in the sand to make sure it didn’t drift away. For a Saturday night, it was pretty quiet. What we didn’t realize is that Sunday is a big day on Guana Cay.

Dinner at Grabbers

Dinner at Grabbers

Sunset from Grabbers

Sunset from Grabbers

Having a Guana Grabber

Having a Guana Grabber

On Sunday afternoon, Nippers, on the ocean side of Great Guana, has a Pig Roast and Party – what a great time. Lots of good food, music and fun, while looking below at the beautiful ocean.

Ocean View

Ocean View

From Nippers

From Nippers

Ocean

Ocean

It took us a little while to realize that when the party ended at Nippers everyone just walked over to Grabbers to continue celebrating. A very nice weekend with a mix of quiet solitude and fun parties.

Narrow Entrance

Narrow Entrance

As I write this we are in Treasure Cay, which is part of the Great Abaco Island. The land around the harbor is mostly small (two-story) condominium developments, with space to build more. There is a small grocery store and liquor store just outside the marina where Pete restocked the ingredients for his “Dark & Stormies” (Ginger Beer and dark rum), our drink of choice for sundowners. We also found a bakery with huge cinnamon buns, which we enjoyed this morning.

Lunch today was at Coco’s on the beach (cracked conch), following a walk on the beach. The afternoon is devoted to laundry and updating this blog. We have a little less than a week before we return home for Thanksgiving and will continue to explore the Abacos until it is time to leave. When we return in December we’ll start moving southward down the chain of the Bahamas.

Feet in the Ocean

Feet in the Ocean

Coco's Looking at the Beach

Coco’s Looking at the Beach

Coconuts Overhead

Coconuts Overhead

Bahamas Bound

This trip is part of an organized rally called the ARC Bahamas. The rally provides a way for boats to travel from Virginia to the Bahamas in a group with regular weather briefings, required safety gear, inspections and training. There is another rally, the Caribbean 1500, which is leaving at the same time and heading for the British Virgin Islands.

We were all due to leave on Sunday, November 2, but were delayed one day because of a nasty weather system passing through (off shore weather reports showed winds over 50 knots at its worst).  That same system brought cold wind and rain, which made leaving for the islands seem all the more appealing.

Our crew was rounded out with two experienced sailors, Ron and Phil. Pete sailed with Phil before and Ron & Phil sailed together once before on a boat almost identical to ours, so we’re leaving with confidence.

We quickly made friends with Rick and Helen on Symmetry, the boat docked right behind us. They too are going to the Bahamas and the guys were helping each other out with last minute preparations. We’ve informally decided to be buddy boats and check in with each other twice a day as long as we are in VHF range.

Dolphin Escort

Dolphin Escort

We started out Monday morning from Portsmouth, VA. Brendan & Colleen were there to see us off, which was really nice. I will readily admit to lots and lots of butterflies before we left, but once we were underway with all the other boats the butterflies disappeared. The winds were light and several boats crossed the starting line with their spinnakers flying, which made for a festive atmosphere.  Adding to the festivities we had dolphins swimming alongside us as we left Hampton Roads.

Betsy Ross at Sea

Betsy Ross at Sea

Shortly after leaving, I noticed that our American flag was torn so Pete pulled out my Sailrite sewing machine so I could repair it. Phil dubbed me “Betsy Ross.”

 

 

 

 

Sunset over Virginia Beach

Sunset over Virginia Beach

We watched the sun set over the southern Virginia Beach with a cold wind blowing. The remnants of the weather system made for some big swells and lots of rolling during the night.

The next morning was clear and sunny. It was already getting warmer, but not enough to put away the jackets yet. Starting the engines to charge the batteries we discovered the port engine wouldn’t start. Pete found salt water in the air intake. We assumed we’d have to make due with one engine until we got to the Bahamas.

Wednesday dawned with absolute calm. There was no wind and the sea was as still as glass. The experienced sailors all said they hadn’t seen anything like this before. About mid-morning we got a VHF call from Rick and Helen on Symmetry, suggesting that we attempt to raft up and work on our engine since it was so calm.

Rafting at Sea

Rafting at Sea

We got the boats close enough for me to step onto Symmetry, while Rick hopped onto Delphinus. We separated the boats and allowed them to drift. Surprisingly they drifted apart and in different directions, but never out of site. Helen and I had a great visit on Symmetry, while the guys worked on the engine.  I looked over at Delphinus just in time to see Rick do a backflip off the bow and begin swimming back to his boat.

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Rafting in the Ocean

As I’m writing this I am still amazed that I stepped from our boat to another boat and back again while 300+ miles offshore.

Switching Boats

Switching Boats

Delphinus becalmed

Delphinus becalmed

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday night we treated ourselves and the crew to ice cream sandwiches from the freezer. It was a great “pick me up” at what we assume is the mid-point of our cruise.

Dinner with my guys

Dinner with my guys

Most evenings we were all able to sit down together for dinner, which was a nice way to round out the day and plan for the next day. This is a shot of one of our dinners.

Throughout our trip Pete has put out a fishing line every day. Unfortunately, the only thing we caught was a huge ball of sea grass. It looked like some kind of sea creature.

Catch of the Day

Catch of the Day

At this point we are anticipating a Saturday morning arrival in Marsh Harbor. Winds are light and variable. Thursday night into Friday morning was a rough night. There was a lot of slap against the hulls from the rollers at sea. At times it felt like a battering ram trying to break into the boat. On some level I was waiting for a rush of sea water when one of those waves might break though the hull — an incredible force!

We motored most of the way on Friday. For me, I was counting down to arriving on Saturday morning. We reached the coast of the Bahamas in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. We had been advised not to enter the channel until daylight, so we waited for sunrise to enter the channel. This is one of the rare occasions when I’m able to capture a sunrise photo.

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Sunrise in the Bahamas

With sunrise on Saturday morning, we entered the “cut” at Man o War Cay, the finishing line of the rally. There is still about another hour of motoring to our destination – Harbor View Marina. As we approach the marina, no one is answering our VHF calls, so we tie up at the fuel dock. Soon we have a very friendly and efficient dock hand, Ron, helping us top off our fuel and tie up in our slip for the next few days.

Lunch at the Curly Tail

Lunch at the Curly Tail

We celebrated our arrival at a local restaurant with the crew of Symmetry and rounded out the day with drinks and dinner.

Marsh Harbor Marina 001 low-res

Delphinus Crew

We had a beautiful sunset from the marina. We plan to spend a couple of days here and then move on the explore some of the other islands of the Bahamas.

Sunset from Marsh Harbor

Sunset from Marsh Harbor

This concept of not having fixed plans and schedules is new to us but we’re doing our best to adapt! Stay tuned for new updates.

Preparing to Throw Off the Lines

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We have been very busy for the past month getting Delphinus ready for our offshore travels. We’ll be sailing in the ARC Bahamas rally organized by the World Cruising Club – destination Marsh Harbor, on Abacos in the Bahamas. This week is packed with seminars and social events, preparing for the fast approaching departure. So far, we’ve met some great people all getting ready to throw off their lines.

In the past week we’ve had the standing rigging replaced and are hoping the canvas work will be finished this week.

I’ve been busy planning meals and provisioning the boat, not just for the journey there, but stocking up on staples that we’ll have handy once we get there. I’ve learned on past trips to islands that you can’t always count on a nearby grocery store with everything you need. We have two crew members, Phil and Ron, and I want to make sure they are well fed

Our preparations over the past month have included several shake-down sails, seminars, provisioning and outfitting. A trip to Annapolis was the longest time we’ve spent on the boat so far (12 days) and included just about every type of weather except snow! A real learning experience.

Our cruise to Annapolis was to attend an Offshore Safety Seminar presented by JWorld Annapolis. Our trip there took us up the Eastern Shore with stops in Cape Charles, Onancock, the Choptank River, St. Michael’s, and then on to Annapolis.

Leaving our marina, we discovered the early morning meeting place of East Beach’s Seagulls. I don’t think there was any unoccupied space on that dock. We’re fortunate that cameras don’t capture smells, because the stench was awful!

Morning Meeting of East Beach Seagulls

Morning Meeting of East Beach Seagulls

The trip to Cape Charles was uneventful and as has been the pattern, we were directly into the wind, waves and tide. We had a nice evening, including dinner at The Shack and chatting with some nice folks docked nearby. We even got a look at a local novelty, a flying dinghy. It appears to be an ordinary inflatable dinghy rigged with hang-gliding type wings. He gets speed up on the water and then takes flight. It’s quite a site! The next morning we were underway early enough to catch the sunrise (not something I usually see).

Flying Dinghy

Flying Dinghy

Sunrise over Cape Charles

Sunrise over Cape Charles

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived in Onancock in time for lunch, followed by a walk around town. Following the recommendation of our waitress in Cape Charles we stopped at the Corner Bakery for afternoon donuts and cookies for later. Well worth the stop!

Pete at the Onancock Wharf

Pete at the Onancock Wharf

Onancock Wharf

Onancock Wharf

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day was a long one, motoring through high winds and rain, to the Choptank River. After anchoring, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

Sunset over Choptank

Sunset over Choptank

The next morning we left for St. Michael’s. It was another cold, damp day. Once we arrived, even Pete was willing to walk through the shops in town with me in search of long sleeve shirts. We did not plan for the cooler temps on this trip. We were able to catch up with friends, Jim and Mary, for dinner.

On to Annapolis the next day in more cold rain and winds gusting to over 30 knots. I reached a point where I couldn’t even see through my glasses because of the rain drops, all the while trying to avoid crab pots – needed windshield wipers for my glasses. The starboard engine shut down unexpectedly and Pete had to get into the engine compartment, diagnose and fix the problem while we were being tossed around. With both engines running, we made it into Spa Creek in Annapolis and picked up a mooring ball as the rain stopped.

We had a great time during our stay in Annapolis, including a visit from my brother Mike, his wife Rita, son Brian and his wife Cairen. The water taxi system there is fantastic and provided us with mobility around town. We were lucky enough to see a wedding on a nearby boat in the mooring field!

Dinner at the Federal House

Dinner at the Federal House

Nautical Wedding

Nautical Wedding

 

 

Sunset in Spa Creek

Sunset in Spa Creek

The two day Offshore Safety Seminar was full of great information and hands on practice. Pete even jumped into the water with his inflatable PFD and climbed into a life raft. He found this is not an easy task. The bulk of the PFD interferes with the ability to climb through the opening of the life raft. Mario Vittone was a featured speaker and provided great insight based on his experiences as a Coast Guard Search & Rescue Swimmer.

On the way out of Annapolis Pete wanted me to practice docking (something I have not done before), so we head to the seawall at the city docks. With Pete giving me step by step direction, I was able to smoothly pull the boat to the seawall. With that small success, Pete wanted me to take Delphinus to a fuel dock and tie up there. He forgot that I still needed the second by second direction and I came in too fast, hitting the fuel dock with the port bow. Caused quite a stir with the staff, except for a woman sitting on a bench reading, looked up from her book briefly and went right back to her reading. No serious harm done to the dock or Delphinus; although I think the staff was glad to see us go.

Made it home, safe and sound, a few days later. We did make a stop at Zahniser’s Marina in Solomon’s Island to have the port engine fixed. It is a great facility with friendly, helpful staff.

Our next post will likely be from Marsh Harbor, talking about our passage. Keep us in your thoughts for fair winds and following seas.

 

 

September Travels

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Last week, while my Dad was visiting, we took him out on Delphinus for a few days. With no real agenda we decided to visit two local spots we enjoy – Hampton and Cape Charles. Unfortunately, there was little wind, so we motored most of the time.

Dad & Thimble Shoals Lighthouse

Dad & Thimble Shoals Lighthouse

We departed for Hampton on Thursday and took a couple of “detours” to get a closer look at the Thimble Shoals Lighthouse and the Norfolk Naval Station. On our way to the Navy base, we were passed by a Navy Riverine squadron – quite a site, and a Turkish Navy Frigate! We called Hampton City Docks to make a reservation only to find out this is also the weekend for Hampton Bay Days, a huge waterfront celebration. We could get a slip for the night only if we agreed to leave Friday morning, which was the plan anyhow.

While cruising past the Navy piers we watched thunderstorm clouds forming in the distance and decided to cut this short and head for Hampton with the hope of outrunning the storm. Upon entering the Hampton River, we heard a May Day call to the USCG. The boater’s engine had quit and the storm clouds were getting closer. When he gave his position, Pete realized he was right behind us and within sight.

Thunderstorm

Thunderstorm

We turned around and it took several tries to get a line between our two boats to tow the disabled boat. The small boat was drifting into shallower water and we were concerned about getting stuck ourselves. In the end, we did not get stuck and the captain was able to restart his engine while under tow, so we disconnected and went our separate ways.

As much as we hoped to outrun the storm, it caught up to us just as we approached the marina. We were able to get docked despite the wind and rain, with the help of dock crew.  After the adrenalin rush of towing the disabled vessel and docking in the wind, it was definitely time for happy hour. After the rain passed we walked to dinner at Marker 20, sitting outside to enjoy the breeze.

Dad at helm

Dad at helm

Another storm

Another storm

Early the next afternoon, we left for Cape Charles and our next adventure. Again, little wind blowing so more motoring. Seems we are in a definite weather pattern as we found ourselves once again trying to outrun an afternoon thunderstorm. This time we were able to dock and enjoy a cold one in the cockpit.

We had a nice surprise when the folks on the boat next to ours, No Sched …, returned to their boat and struck up a conversation. Turns out, the boat owners, Lynne & Mike, make wine in their spare time. They and their friends, Jen & John, brought over a couple bottles of their wine for us to sample. We were all having a great time when, once again, the skies opened up and chased all of us into our respective boats.

Early the next morning we got a real treat. The Spanish tall ship El Galeon, Andalucia, pulled into Cape Charles Harbor. We were able to get out to the end of the dock to watch the approach and docking of this beautiful ship, which was not without its “hold your breath” moments. The wind was blowing the ship off the dock and the pilot boat was struggling to push it up to the dock. They got their first line tied to the dock, and the strain was too much. The dock cleat broke away completely! The ship’s crew worked hard to get her tied up securely.

Although we wanted to tour Andalucia, they were not able to open up for tours before we needed to head back home (hoping to avoid another later afternoon thunderstorm.)

Andalucia

ApproachGaleon Docked
For a trip that started out with little planned except the destinations, it turned into a pretty exciting few days – from seeing several different naval vessels, to towing a boat to safety, arriving at the beginning of a big party weekend in Hampton, and finally seeing a majestic tall ship. All in all, Dad enjoyed everything, as did we.