The flotilla consisted of 12 boats 2 of which departed for the Bahamas when the others returned to Sarasota. Again we were traveling with our neighbors, the Dixons. Our only limiting factor is we had to return through the St. Lucie Locks by June 9th as they will be shut down for repairs for 2 months or we would be forced to go around Florida.
Day 5 Friday May 9th
Leaving the participants of our boat clubs outing at Ft. Myers, we headed up the Caloosahatchee River part of the Okeechobee waterway which is part of the ICW System. The same marker rules apply. You were surrounded with beautiful homes and ranches on both sides. In addition there is an occasional small marina with fueling dock along the way. I suspect most of Floridas waterways were like this at one time. Definitely a most picturesque part of the journey and thoroughly enjoyed even for a 4th time (for me).
From previous experience we could anticipate this 60 mile leg plus the time needed for the transversing of the three locks ahead of us to take about six hours allowing a quick anchoring stop for lunch. Ill admit I had some apprehension the first time navigating a Lock. All I can say is, piece of cake. Merely pull in and to the side. The attendant will direct you and throw down a couple of lines. Grab the line, hang on and wait for the lock to fill (in this case) and gates to open. The maximum time for this process is about 20 minutes. If the Lock is closed when you arrive add about another 20 minutes.
Our first night was spent at Clewiston on southern Lake Okeechobee. During the night while laying in bed I heard a voice whisper Passports. Knowing that I forgot the passports, I immediately woke and asked my wife if she had her drivers license and or voters registration. The answer was no as I thought you brought the passports. So the next day I had to rent a car and drive back to Sarasota to pick them up. I had John along as company and we took advantage of this unfortunate opportunity to pick up a few extra provisions. Oh well, just One day lost.
Rolland Martin Marina at Clewiston is in the heart of Floridas bass fishing area. The Marina accommodates about a dozen transients. It is also frequented by bass fisherman and their high speed flats boats. Fuel prices are the cheapest to be found anywhere in the state by my guess. $1.29 diesel (with 100 gallon discount) and 1.89 gas. They have a well stocked gift shop and bait and tackle shop both of which are first class. The extra night afforded us an opportunity to dine at the Clewiston Inn (two for one I might add). This old Inn built by the early sugar barons is a must see when passing through either by car or boat.
A day behind the weather took a turn for the worse forcing us to take the lakes longer perimeter route instead of a lake crossing. I suppose we could have made it to West Palm if we pushed but decided to take the advice of a fellow we met in Clewiston and stay in Stuart. We had an additional two locks to contend with on the eastern side of the lake, one of which had the biggest drop -18 ft going down hill this time. Remember, do not tie the lock lines on your boat!
The fellow we met at Clewiston who was headed in our direction aboard his trawler suggested, when in Stuart we stay at Indian River Plantation, which we did. He also told us I guess you know that you can disregard the markers in the St. Lucie River . We later found our what he meant. Despite being within the channel, we and the Dixon's both felt a couple bumps, in a couple spots but no problems. Thank goodness it was high tide though.
The I.R.P. resort is not unlike the South Seas Plantation with all its amenities. It has a large bay side marina, whose minimum slip size was probably for 50 foot boats and larger since we could barely reach the forward piling with our lines. On the Atlantic side of the resort, as you would expect is the beautiful ocean beaches. Shopping and condos are scattered about a 18 hole golf course with a connection tram running back and forth. Our only problem was that most of it was closed during off season which probably resulted in our saving a few bucks.
At 6:30 proceeded to the St. Lucie Inlet and were passing through by 7:00. By 10:00, a half hour out from West End, Bahamas we saw their water tower on the horizon. Always a good feeling. Our crossing was the best ever in either direction (of six - 3 round trips) with just rollers in the Gulf Stream and other wise 2 ft. chop, we arrived West End, Grand Bahama at 10:30. We checked in with customs, ate and a quick sandwich, before it was off to Lucaya. After some difficulty finding the Bell Channel entrance marker, as it was hidden in area of mooring cans, we arrived at the Lucayan Marina around 2:00. Do not confuse it with the noisy Port Lucaya Marina on the other side of the harbor. I filled up -190 gallons (first since Clewiston) at $1.50 a gal for diesel - not bad (2.68 for Gas) and Free Water and Cable TV.
The Lucayan Marina Village has recently been bought by a Danish fellow who undertook a major renovation which is just about completed. (Their restaurant was not yet opened as of 5/96) as one might expect. For a place so new, it was clean well organized, and staffed with friendly people. Curtis Clayton (educated at N.Y. Maritime Academy) was the dockmaster and is knowledgeable and willing to please. Even though the Lucayan Marina is on the other (quiet) side of the harbor they provide a shuttle boat every half hour to the Bazaar / Casino area.
After check in, we gathered at pool side for a dip and a drink. I immediately knew something was amiss when the bartenders had to look up in a book how to make a rum punch. And when he took out a blender to make a Bloody Mary - Oh boy! I really knew we had problems. As it turned out the bartenders, one a local black fellow and the other a young girl named Thumper were just learning. Thumper is the granddaughter of the Danish owner and really excelled in preparing a spread of Danish hors d'oeuvre, Aquivit (schnapps) and all the trimmings, she prepared just for us. It was truly outstanding.
For dinner the four of us headed over to a place called Pussers Pub od Pussers Rum fame. Its famous for their house drink, the Pain Killer Nos. 1, 2, 3 & 4. I had a #2. Pussers is a commercial but fun place located in the Port Lucaya's market area near the International Bazaar. Its on the square where there is usually found a calypso band during the evening.
We went to the Rand Nature Center a sort of nature preserve, then explored a little of Freeport & International Bazaar. Till this point we have eaten out every night since our departure from Sarasota, so decided to prepare dinner aboard our boat. Afterwards we headed over to the Casino to try our luck. In my case - no luck at all. I lost $100 and rather quickly I might add. Understand, Im not one to endlessly sit at the quarter slots.
If there is one thing we learned about the Freeport Lucaya area it is, Don't use a Taxi. They have a public system of mini vans that roam the area in a circular route and they cost only 75 cents (1996). Just hop on one and soon enough youll arrive at your destination.
We had already decided to forgo Walkers Cay after last years experience so and we had heard reports that the resort there was in no less repair. So we departed Grand Bahama for Spanish Cay in the Abacos at 8:30. The Ocean was really rough, and we were forced to go at trawler speeds and ride the waves for the 4.5 miles to the Lucayan Waterway which bisects Grand Bahama and deposits you on the bank side - Little Bahama Bank for the trek to Spanish Cay. The crossing will be the longest single stretch of the whole trip. The bank is only 12 -20 feet deep on avg. so with the wind out of the east at 15-20 we pounded all the way. The whole trip took us six hours including a short lived rain squall. It wasnt particularly fun.
This was my first time taking this route. We usually leave for the Abacos directly from West End. The only thing I would suggest is; transverse the waterway at high or close to high tide, especially those drawing more than 3.5 feet. The canal is plenty deep the only problem is at Dover Bay on the bank side. I would be cautious if I drew 5 feet and would go only at high tide.
If you choose to return from the Abacos via Freeport and the Lucayan Waterway, be sure to have the waypoint for the channel entrance the bank side, Its a long way from Mangrove Cay to its entrance markers and would be impossible to find otherwise. The channel markers begin a few hundred yards off shore. I have taken the liberty of listing below three of my readings in this area that might be useful. All other way points I used for the most part are in Steve Dodges book, The Cruising Guide to the Abacos which is a must.
(Note: Newer publications of Steve Dodges books include the aforementioned waypoints.)
The approach to the Inn at Spanish Cay Marina (our first visit) is straight forward and our arrival was uneventful. After a minimum cleaning of our boat (@ .24 gal for water) we checked in. Like most out islands they rely on rain for water or have it tanked it during dry season. Their electricity had been off for the day prior to our arrival so no ice was to be had. However their bar somehow had some. We did a little exploring that afternoon cooked dinner aboard our boat and hit the sack early.
There isnt a heck of a lot to do in the out islands and even less on Spanish Cay. None the less it was our first visit to this cay so if it offered some allure just the same. I went for an early AM walk. It was then I noticed how lush the certain parts of the Island compare to the others. I was told this was attributed to the fact that an earlier owner of the island, Clint Murchison who owned the Dallas Cowboys, removed the Casuarinas (Australian Pines) which have all but undermined the natural foliage of this (and other) islands. Instead he replanted the island with thousands of coconut palms and other indigenous tropical trees. The morning of my walk, the island seemed to be alive with song birds. Birds of all types all singing their songs. Although I cant say for sure, I suspect these new plantings, many of them berry producing is what attracts our flying friends.
As far as the marina and hotel goes, all I can say is, they are trying. I guess it will be a tough go for them until they get some traffic. There were only about six other boats present when we were there. I suspect that they are just a little far off the beaten path and without any settlement on the island to support it. And getting there for the fly-in folks is very difficult.
Departed Spanish Cay and headed a short 20 miles to our south for Green Turtle Cay and at what this writer calls his home away from home. We arrived in time for lunch at more specifically the Green Turtle Club and the smiling faces of Don and Poley, the dock hands. We exchanged greetings then I introduced them to our traveling companions.
We proceeded to clean our boat, first since leaving Lucaya. After that we checked in, signed up for dinner and hit the bar for a Tipsy Turtle a drink which does the job for which it is intended. As expected Debi & Geri were behind the bar. When Debi saw us, she came around the bar and give us a big hug. Weve known them both for years. The girls are no light weights , and with them a hug is a hug!
Our friend Jamo arrived on schedule (by air via Treasure Cay Airport and water taxi). We gave him a brief tour of the Club and joined him (again) with his welcome Tipsy. For dinner the five of us dingyed to the village of New Plymouth, on the islands south end dined at Laura's carbohydrate- kitchen, then had a night cap at Miss Emilys Blue Bee Bar. Miss Emilys is the oldest watering hole on the Island and the originator of the Goombay Smash. Sadly Miss Emily (Cooper) passed away in early that year, however the traditions of the Blue Bee will be maintained by her daughter Violet.
Basically uneventful. The men ave our friend Jamo an early morning tour of some of the beaches near the club. Within a 10 minute walk from the Green Turtle Club is a lovely beach at Coco Bay and a twenty minute walk will bring you to a beautiful stretch of ocean beaches. The reefs offshore are alive with all sorts of fish and coral life. Later the five of us walked to the Bluff House for Lunch. The Bluff House is an old established hotel high on a bluff overlooking the Sea of Abaco and the village of New Plymouth. The view it offers is first class. The food is upscale for the islands, however in recent times it has fallen into some disrepair. Afternoon was spent reading, resting at pool side or snorkeling. Dinner at the Club
The five of us dingyed (2 inflatables this time) to uninhabited Manjack Cay to our north for a picnic. Afterwards we explored the creeks running throughout Manjack, then on to a so called park, we heard about. Well, I wouldnt call it a park as it was first described to me, but sort of a experimental agricultural area. What the owner might call it, I couldnt guess. Anyway there seems to be experimentation on growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Some are using hydroponic methods and with limited success from this writers point of view. Visitors are permitted to look around but not disturb anything. On our return back to G.T. in our inflatable we really took a beating as the bay started to kick up caused by the squalls in the area. One of which really unloaded on us.
Day 15 -A day to remember!
At Green Turtle aboard a 53 Hatteras was a fellow named Joe (from Ft. Myers). Coincidentally, he turned out to be an old army buddy of Jamos. Tuesday morning we went aboard his boat The RedHead to watch the weather channel on his satellite TV. And yes, the rain and squalls of the day before were to persist. (Caused by a tropical disturbance in SW Fla).
I must mention at this point, that since I have known Jamo he has often mentioned a dear and close friends of he and his wife, a retired army officer named Ward (and also an acquaintance of Joe.) Upon his retirement Ward and his wife Judy set out on an around the world cruise aboard their Canadian built 39 Corbin sailboat. Joe, not knowing of Jamos close relationship to Ward just made a casual remark, asking if Jamo knew him and mentioning that he had completed his circumnavigation and was in the area. Jamo almost flipped and asked WHERE?
He had heard that he might be in one of a couple locations to the south of Green Turtle, Man-O-War Cay or Marsh Harbour about 25 miles away. After a check on the cruising net, Channel 68 on VHF radio, a boat spotted Wards boat The Cormorant anchored in Marsh Harbour.
I wasnt about to move my boat from Its secured berth at G.T. especially in this soupy weather. So we checked on renting something that could go fast without getting beat to hell. We rented a 21 Aqua Sport from Donny Sawyer and climbed into slickers I had brought with me, and headed to Marsh Harbour. The normally one hour trip took about 1:15 due to a blinding squall that hit us limiting visibility to about 20 yards. It soon passed.
We pulled into the harbor, where close to a hundred boats are at anchor at any given day. We started our search for the Cormorant. Since he only arrived the day before he was on the outside of the fleet and spotted quickly. There was Jamos old friend an done time boss in his dingy with his wife just returning from a trip ashore. Luckily the rain had temporarily stopped and we slowly approached their dingy. You should have seen the expression on their faces to see each other as we approached. Say no more.
We all had lunch with at the Conch Inn. Jamo and Ward caught up on old times while I chatted with Judy on some of their around the world highlights good and bad including a knock down losing their mast outside of Australia. A story for another day.
We left Jamos friends at 3:30 and made it home in more favorable weather by 4:30 Greeted by Joe awaiting to hear of our experience. At 5:30 Joe and his wife Pat threw a cocktail party aboard their boat and invited folks he had met at Green Turtle. One of the fellows (a guest staying at the G.T.C.) was a chef, the meat chef, from Maximes in Paris. We enjoyed hearing his engaging tales.
The Lousy weather stated breaking up. Jamo left around noon and we read and relaxed. Evening dinner was aboard our boat.
Afterwards we headed back to the club to hear the music of the Gully Roosters, the Islands number one (and only) Calypso band. They come over from town every Wednesday (with half the population) to play at the club. Every yachtie anchored out seems to find their way in that night. Even the staff gets into the action including Geri & Debi. Lots of fun. Anyway, there we ran into Coleen & Jeff friends we met on previous trips. Jeff is an Air Force Pilot. His dad has a home on G.T. and he visits from time to time. We spent the evening reminiscing old times. We also ran into Brendal Stevens - the unofficial Ambassador of the Goombay Spirit. He runs the dive shop at the Club and also entertains two nights a week. We have known him since our early days in the Abacos. Well, thats it folks, the main event. Other than that there isnt much going on. Just a great place to relax, explore and meet new friends. Oh, the Gully Roosters do play on Saturdays at their own place atop the hill in New Plymouth.
One last thing, Roger Philips, the estranged son-in law-of the G.T.C.s owner has been rumored to have bought the Bluff House to go in competition with the G.T.C. We also heard that renovation will start this fall, commencing with a new Marina - Well have to wait and see.
Till this point in the trip we have cruised Abaco Bay inside the barrier cays. The trip to Marsh required us to transverse the infamous Whale Cay Passage which requires you to go out into the ocean around Whale Cay and back in on its south side. The reason is, there is a large shoaling area on the inside from the island, to the mainland of Abaco preventing all but the small outboard boats. Sometimes it can be dangerous as all the guide books tell you. But how can the boats captain not know this way before you attempt a passage is a mystery to me as some do which one can read about a couple times a year. Anyway the day we approached, large swells of 6 - 8 ft (not breaking) were rolling in. This made for a smooth roller coaster ride so we proceeded out into the ocean. Once turning south abreast of Whale Cay (past the inlet) the seas calmed considerably. There is an inside route, however like we said, it is only 3-4 feet at low water. A bit too chancy especially in the up and down motion of the swells that day.
We motored for an hour to Great Guana Cay and checked in to the Guana Beach Resort & Marina in time for lunch. However we decided to check out a new place that opened last year called Nippers. Its a trendy place that lives up to its reputation for its view, on a bluff overlooking the ocean - Spectacular.
Guana Cay has a picturesque small settlement with a couple shops and restaurants. Here you really feel you are at an Out Island. The beaches and reefs that line the 5.5 mile of ocean side are reputedly the most beautiful in all the Abacos with every shade of blue and turquoise and have the quality one might find in the South Pacific minus the palm trees.
The Guana Beach Resort (resort is a term used loosely in the Abacos, at least by US standards) has a nice dock with electricity. However, there are no other facilities associated with the dockage one might expect at a marina such as water, showers, & toilets. There are some major changes taking place here including upcoming renovations at the resort and marina. Additionally we hear a whole new Ritz Carlton resort is planned. All in all Guana is more laid back than G.T. but has a reputation as the getaway party spot for the folks from the neighboring Cays despite the fact there are only two places to party.
The Marina here offers free dockage if you stay for dinner in lieu of the other wise .50 a foot. (the $10.00 for electricity is NOT waved if you plug in). That evening we saw a spectacular celestial event. Some kind of Satellite reentry. We were later told It was a purposeful reentry of some sort of nitrogen filled weather balloon ejected from the space shuttle.
All in all it was a quiet day except for what happened next. We were sitting on our boat at dock side when a young lady, the resorts chef in cooks hat and the manager came strolling down the dock with a tray full of Guana Grabbers, the local equivalent of the Tipsy Turtle or Goombay Smash. Our Eyes opened wide as did our neighbors whose boat was just next to the spot where they came to rest. Unfortunately that was the spot where the water Taxi comes in from Marsh Harbour. As it turns out a young lady was having a wedding at the resort and her guests were arriving on the ferry for whom the drinks were intended - ah shucks. This scene was repeated later on the afternoon boat. Later we caught up with the bride and asked her how she came to choose this place? She informed us that she read about it in Brides Magazine.
On top of that, a large rental boat pulled in with about a half a dozen well dressed Bahamian men aboard. A man came out to greet the one in the black slacks and print shirt. The man doing the greeting was the local equivalent of their congressman. The other gentlemen was none other that Mr. Ingram the Bahamian Prime Minister. At this point I was tempted to walk up to him and ask him to have my picture taken with him but thought better of it since I was only wearing a bathing suit. Another day maybe?
Friday Night is the big night here, featuring an Island Barbecue (Ribs, Chicken and Groupers plus the standard accompaniments in the Bahamas, peas & rice, macaroni & cheese and coleslaw all accompanied with calypso music. The event attracts a large number of yachties due to the free dockage and or the nearby anchoring area at Delias Bay.
The staff here seem generally friendly, helpful and quick to smile. Although the marina has limited facilities this little resort on an island of 95 people was a pleasant surprise. Adding this to the islands natural beauty moves it high on my list of places to stop when cruising the Abacos.
Motored the few miles (1/2 hr.) to Marsh Harbour and the Conch Inn & Marina, the place here Jamo & friends had lunch, and a place that would do Ernest Hemingway proud.
We did some sight seeing a little provisioning and bought some conch. Conch salad is one of the staples of the Bahamas and the Estabrooks did their part in keeping up with tradition. We walked over to the other Sea of Abaco side side of the harbour to Bahama Beach Resort & Marina. One of their main events was going on: the Shootout. The Fishing Tournament Royalle. To be a participant you have to be invited and own a Bertram or Hatteras. Seventy boats were participating. We would stop by a couple of times. Once early in the mooring, believe it or not they had a Calypso band playing at 7 AM as a send off for the boats. Somehow this event seemed out of place for Abaco and more suited for Nassau or Freeport.
One evening while moseying around the docks at our marina, as often happens in the Bahamas, sport fisherman catch too many fish. As a result they give some away at the cleaning tables to whomever happens to be passing by. As it just happened, I was. A fellow had caught a 67 lb Wahoo. He offered us a chunk of fish that after some carving on my behalf turned out to be six good size steak which we stuck in the fridge as we already had Red Snapper on the menu.
We rented a car to explore the settlements on Abaco not easily accessible by boat. We drove 60 miles through the pine barons to Abacos southwestern most settlement, Sandy Point.
As we arrived the Churches were letting out and all the women and children were dressed in their Sunday finery. We couldnt help but wonder where in the Abacos could they buy such pretty clothes.
This picturesque community of about 200 make their living from the sea. We stopped by to talk to a couple of fishermen (not attending church) who went out of their way to tell us of their work. They also spoke of new work opportunities for their village due to its proximity to Gorda Cay eight miles off shore. Gorda Cay (to be later called, Castaway Island) was recently purchased by Walt Disney and to be the new out island home of Disney's Big Red Boats. Yes Disney has purchased the Island and building facilities to accommodate their cruise boats on this remote island. Most of the labor will come from the folks of Sandy Point.
(Disney used to use Bakers Bay at the north end of Guana Cay as their out island stop but conditions at Whale Cay often made mooring treacherous and resulted in too many cancellations.)
We can concur with the Yachtsman's guide description: Sandy Cay is a picturesque and friendly settlement standing under the shade of an extensive plantation of coconut palms. The settlements small houses are brightly painted with colorful flowers and shrubs and well kept .
We found a spot on its tip in the shade of some casuarinas looking out at Gorda cay to have a picnic while thunderstorms loomed on all horizons.
We finished our explorations closer to Marsh Harbour in Dundas Town with a stop at a local merchant for some provisioning before tomorrows departure. We noticed he had a cage filled with large ugly-looking live land crabs about the size of stone crabs. I was tempted to try them but then had second thoughts.
Day 22 Whit Monday Bahamian National Holiday
After fill up - 120 gallons (Since Lucaya) $2.03 gal for diesel, we headed across to Hope Town on Elbow Cay another picturesque community. Hope Town owns the distinction of being the second most photographed place in the Bahamas. This is due primarily to its famous Red & White stripped light house which was no longer striped but white! It was just undergoing a paint job which was 1/4 finished by days end.
Later on in the afternoon, we ran into the Longboat Key Folks aboard Our Tern who we first met on Green Turtle, and also Jamo friends, Ward and Judy aboard Cormorant. It is not unusual to have paths keep crossing in these islands. Afterwards we headed over to happy hour and conch fritters at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. For dinner we had our anxiously anticipated Wahoo dinner aboard our boat.
Upon awaking, I noticed that both batteries were being used together even though my 1-2 switch was NOT on the both position. A check of the Solenoid that parallels the batteries for power starting showed it was stuck in the on position. As a result when at anchor, accessories would be running on both batteries and simultaneously killing the two, not leaving a good one to start the engines.
Disconnecting the solenoid solved the problem. The bridge switch is really not that important, as the same thing can be accomplished with the 1-2 switch in the both Position.
That day we just putted around Hope Town after working on the elect problem. Thats night dinner was at Capn Jacks a favorite haunt for inexpensive food. While sitting on the dock enjoying my Mahi Mahi we were found ourselves listening to 50s music! One might expect Calypso or Reggae at this location. Upon inquiring on who might have the good taste to play such music. The bartender pointed to his TV and the station he had tuned in on his satellite dish. It seems the mini satellite dish has hit the islands in a big way. Everybody has one, and more and more boats are carrying them also.
The story of poor old Lilly.
Walking around Hope Town this day, I noticed a old and disheveled women walking about town with a forward looking and determined stare. It occurred to me (as did the rest of us.) that we saw her last year. She lives in a boarded up old house just two doors down from Capn Jacks Restaurant. She lives alone or more appropriately with 50 or so cats.
She lives in the boarded house of her ancestors, with only a side door for her and her cats to enter. Peeking in we could see a clutter beyond description. There are no electric connections or other obvious utilities. Lilly is a White Bahamian and descendent (Bethel) of the original loyalists that settled these islands. Her name is one youll hear throughout the Abacos along with Sawyer, Lowe, Albury, and Malone. (And to a lesser degree Sands, Thompson, Roberts, Pinder and MacIntosh (Black)). Hers' is not a tale of love gone awry as we expected. Simply put, she was an educated, astute and brilliant women. Some say was overly protected by her mother who became depresses upon her death some years ago. Now she is the towns ward. The way we hear it. Every so often, town folks come in move out 3/4 of the cats and cleanup the house. The remaining cats start the cycle all over. She is reminds me of a Dickens character in a setting out of character one. If you ever visit Hope Town youre sure to cross her path.
The night before we heard of a boat that ran aground on one of the many reefs on the ocean side of Elbow Cay. Before departure we decided to do a little snorkeling in those reefs and saw the boat in question. It was a large catamaran from the Moorings, the premier bareboat charter company who owns the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour. Ive always thought of a sailing vessel as the second most beautiful thing to a women and it always saddens me to see a boat hung up in such a precarious position with its mast at a 45 degree angle and knowing that on every move by the waves, a little more hull gets chewed up by the coral. Not unlike the struggle we all have experienced in our adolescence, to maintain a doomed romance and hoping against hope. Salvage efforts were underway who's outcome was undetermined as we left the beach. We snorkeled the reef of the Hope Town Harbour Lodge. which I would rate a C. It in no way compares with the reefs just off the beach at Green Turtle and elsewhere.
Thursday, after three lovely days in Hope Town we pulled anchor and headed for our southern most destination Little Harbour. It is actually on the mainland of Abaco and the jump off spot to Eleuthera and the Islands to the south. Little Harbour is accessible by road from Marsh Harbor if you can find your way there. Little Harbor is a protected anchorage where we saw lots of turtles poking there heads our of the water. Here you will find right at the Harbour's edge, Petes Bar that sometimes serves Burgers at lunch. More importantly, this the home of the late Randolph Johnson, Petes dad, who made his home here 40 years ago after being marooned during a hurricane
You can even explore the caves where he and his family took shelter. Mr. Johnson was an artist so he set up a small foundry where he made his bronze castings which he sold to visiting yachts folks. Soon his fame spread till the point where the Government commissioned him to make his now famous statue in downtown Nassau. Unfortunately Mr. Johnson died in 1992. Today his son Pete runs the foundry (and beach bar) and continues the artistic traditions.
Man-O-War is a busy boat building island of God fearing (no alcohol sold on this Island), hard working folks 70% of which can trace their ancestry to the first Albury who at age 16 fathered the first of 13 children with his 13 year old wife. It is a great spot for all kinds of quality boat work and parts. You can even get your boat bottom painted with the (5 year) tin based paint now banned in the US.
As it turned out John had a kink in the hose from his toilet to his holding tank which made life a bit difficult for him to say the least. Man-O-War had the tubing and parts he needed. There are few accommodations to speak of here and limited dining facilities. I have not, as of yet, seen a swimming pool on the island. Just the same it is a beautiful little island especially away from the harbour area.
The front stalled just to our south bringing us another day of gloomy weather. Late afternoon the weather cleared up but the wind persisted making our departure the next day questionable. We took a walk to the north end of the Island which has some unbelievable homes. One, on what must be 5 acres even has its own hedge maize which we viewed from one of its two guest cottages at a higher elevation.
Then we discovered another house on what seemed to be 10 immaculately manicured and landscaped acres. The house had to have 12 rooms on the highest part of the island plus a guest house and a gazebo over looking the sea. A later observation by dinghy showed both these houses to have their own beaches and marinas sliced out of the limestone rock. Each one was able to accommodate 3-4 boats. Later we were to hear that one of the chief executives of the Ritz Carleton owned the larger estate; probably to stay while overseeing corporate activities at Guana Cay
During the walk, my wife being the cat lover that she is, even stumbled on the self appointed head of the humane society in a gift shop. We thought it a little funny to see cats sleeping around the gift shop. One on a pile of tee shirts another in a carrying bag on the floor. One in a box on a shelf and another dozen generally floating around. Nobody seemed to mind, and my wife loved it.
Earlier on we made a dinner reservation at Enaa restaurant one of two very casual eateries on the island. As is the case in the cays, dinner selection is made when you make your reservation. On the menu was lamb chops which sounded appealing to us. She informed us they come from Sams Warehouse in the States and has a pilot friend who keeps her well stocked.
At dinner later that evening we entered into conversation with one of the Albury families (in their early 40s). They used to live and work in Nassau and recently moved to Man-O-War for a more quiet life. They told us a wealth of info about the folks of the islands and life here. For instance; Jobs are available or created for all single men. Wives are expected to stay at home and attend to the kids, domestic & church matters. Generally a house or lot is given to each son as a wedding present. And finally a little secret: I mentioned earlier the sale of Alcohol is forbidden on Man-O-War. But that doesnt mean folks don't drink now and then. They just hop in their boat and do it over at Hope Town which they call Hollywood. We were so happy to meet and talk island life with some Albury's and especially flattered when they invited us to stop by their home if we had time before departure.
Day 31,Sunday and our 2nd full moon.
We walked over to the ocean to check conditions - slight improvement but not enough to navigate the Whale Cay Passage back to Green Turtle and our return trip home. Man-O-War is dead on Sunday so we took one more hike and brought our own sandwiches into the marina restaurant. Dinner aboard the boat; pasta & calm sauce.
Back in Marsh Harbour we heard of a woman on Man-O-War, preparing for a solo circumnavigation. Her name is Sandy and aboard a 30 sloop named Sea Gull. We found out where her berth was and went to say hi. We were told by folks nearby that she works Monday at Marsh Harbour so we missed her. What they did tell me wasnt too complementary. She was indeed preparing for her solo global trek but departure was uncertain until she had taken a few more sailing lessons! I had imagined her to be in her twenties but in fact she is a grandmother that looks younger than she is. I cant vouch for any of this, only the story has been told to me by different folks in a couple of stops. Maybe well read about her some day.
Off to Green Turtle for our return trip home. The wind was about half the day before (10-15 knots) But the swells in the Whale Cay Passage haven't subsided yet and were in the 10 - 12 foot range and generally not breaking and for the most part abeam of us until we turned back in from the ocean, What a roller coaster ride. I decided to shorten the trip and cut a corner in the plotted course which took me into shallower water, 20 feet instead of 50. At some point my wife told me not to look back. So, naturally I did and saw a wave breaking behind us - Yikes! Our traveling companions made it through OK also. This passage was only 15 minutes of the 1 hour and 15 minute trip from M-O-W to G.T. Gotta say though, it was exhilarating. Arrived at the Green Turtle Club and checked in.
A truly gloomy day but we had already booked a two tank dive trip with Brendal. Add to this that there was lightning on two sides of us but John & I went anyway. If there is one thing I learned, a gloomy day diving in the Bahamas is better than a sunny days diving in Florida. Everybody made two one hour dives at about 50 feet.
I have always said the reefs off the Abaco Cays are as good as can be found anywhere in these parts and it is still a well kept secret. We dove in one of shallower reefs off No Name Cay the land to our north. We saw everything from a Nurse Shark to minuscule Arrow Crab (or Daddy Long legs crab) all highlighted by the flash photography and sound effects of the storm above. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about diving in such conditions but was assured, No Problem Mon .
That afternoon ushered in a major change in weather (for the better) so we decided to make our exit to West End, the following day - 98 Naut. Mi. We need two days of serious travel to make it back to the states and feel that five is the margin needed in case we get locked at West End especially with those lock closure staring at us. I deflated the our dinghy and made ready other items.
Dinner was at the club with the new friends we met while diving. One of the couples we met were aboard their 30' Island Packet sailboat and planing their return to Canaveral in the morning also (He was network administrator of computer operations at the Cape) . Below is an E-Mail from them awaiting my return home.
Subj: Bahamas Return Trip
Day 34 Saturday June 7th
On the ride back along the bay front road we saw several churches all lit up with choir practice or other activities taking place.
Day 35 Sunday June 8th -
Our favorite place was Green Turtle Cay where we could wade in right off the beach and swim out to the reef about 300' from shore. We saw many tropical fish that we had not seen before and had fun identifying them in our fish book. The colors of the plant life and coral were spectacular too and it looked like a garden with all the different shades of colors and textures. We became quite discriminating in viewing different reefs and were disappointed when the reefs at Elbow Cay and Man'O War Cay didn't measure up to Green Turtle Cay.
When we did eat out we usually ate cracked conch (from the Queen conch shell) or fish. We tasted conch in three other forms - conch burgers, conch fritters (delicious - deep fat fried) and conch salad. The latter is not cooked but cut up in small pieces and combined with lime juice, onion, celery, tomato, etc. It is sold in small paper cups and vendors on the side of the street in Marsh Harbour were peddling it as they made it. The Estabrooks made their own version and gave us some which we enjoyed. In the late afternoon the fishermen (U.S.) would return to the docks with their day's catch. Sometimes if they had too much fish they would give a little away. We benefited a few times in this way
We got more chances to be religious than we had expected on this trip. Our first experience was a church picnic and fair at New Plymouth. We had our choice of chicken or barbecued spare ribs. This was accompanied by canned corn, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and that famous Bahamian dish that you cannot get away from 'peas and rice'. Of course they gave you too much of everything and I, being a member of the clean plate club, overdosed on 'peas and rice'. After that I never wanted to see the dish again, although it was hard to avoid it! The picnic featured a demonstration of young people doing karate. It seems to be a big thing there. It was really refreshing to see how well the different races mixed there. Everyone seemed to be oblivious of color. Our second religious experience was at a Catholic church service the following morning. When we were at Green Turtle Cay we had met Rome Hyer, a woman artist from there (formally a chorus line dancer from New York) who told us we must go to the Catholic church in Marsh Harbour to see the glass chandelier she had been commissioned to do. Of course we were very curious to see it and set off in a school bus which picked us up at the marina. It turned out to be a lovely service in a beautiful church, with a lovely chandelier hanging above us. Half way through the service there was a brief break where everyone shook hands and hugged everyone else. The priest was a dynamic young fellow who gave a very good sermon. Our third religious experience occurred on Man O'War Cay. We noticed a sign posted on a pole that there would be a gospel concert up on the outdoor basketball court that night. It turned out that an orchestra of young people from Lee College (a Bible college) in Tennessee were visiting several of the islands in the Bahamas. It was a beautiful night with a full moon shining down upon us and the orchestra was excellent. What more could you want! It was a bit like a revival meeting with the orchestra leader and the pastor who had arranged the visit shouting out religious messages. Man O' War Cay is a very religious community and the town was out in full force for this big event. Afterwards refreshments were sold to help defray the costs of the traveling musicians. All desserts were the same price, so of course we chose the one with the biggest pieces - pineapple upside down cake.
John was the driving force behind our 'gourmet dinner' aboard the trawler of people we had just met...... Every morning at 8:15 AM we would listen to the Cruisers' Network on our marine radios. A woman from Marsh Harbour operated this and we would listen to it for weather and sea conditions. People could radio in their message including their boats name, where they were from and where they were presently located. Boaters could find out where their friends on other boats were through this network. One morning Sandy introduced himself on the network, giving his home port as Longboat Key, his boat name - Motu Iti, and his location - Hope Town harbor. It turned out that Ross and Pepper Dupuis were listening. When they entered Hope Town harbor they saw the boat Motu Iti and stopped by to ask if Sandy might know their friends, the Brittons, from Longboat Key. It turns out that the Brittons live about five doors away from us. This revelation was reason enough for the Dupuis' to invite us all over for drinks. The following day for lunch we all got together and went by van (courtesy of the restaurant) half way down Elbow Cay to an out of the way restaurant, the Abaco Inn. After lunch we walked a bit and explored that part of the island. John got a bug in his bonnet for something sweet - more particularly chocolate cake! The baker Vernon of Vernon's Grovery store, the charge would be $20.00 to make one for the next day but John decided this was a bit much, so He decided to make one on his own. One of his problems was that we had no oven, no cake pan, no cake mix, no oil and no eggs. The Dupuis' offered him the oven on their boat - first hurdle overcome. Estelle offered eggs and butter. We found a chocolate Duncan Hines cake mix (sorry Pillsbury) and can of Pillsbury frosting at the local grocery store on Elbow Cay - also an aluminum roasting pan. With all these ingredients John went to work making his cake on the Dupuis' boat. It actually turned out to be delicious. Everyone contributed to our gourmet meal - the Estabrooks brought hors d'oeuvres and a salad, the Dupuis' made a potato dish and we contributed the mahi mahi which a fisherman gave us (plus the unforgettable cake). We all ate out on the deck of the Dupuis' boat on a beautiful evening.
2008- This trip report is as originally composed and uploaded to the old newsgroups at rec.boat.cruising. (1997) That was before digital cameras. Currently it is Linked to the pages of:
My Abaco Guide and associated pages.
My 1st trip is here (29 Phoenix)
5th & 6th combined (26 Glacier Bay Catamaran) w/picts.
On the 34 (13 Beam) Catalina Islander: In my opinion one of the most practical and efficient cruising boat of it size. (Excluding trawlers) It was equipped with 2 x 250 Cummins diesels and cruised comfortably at 20 knots and get an honest nautical mile a gallon. (24 knots max). It had 1 center 300 gallon tank that could be filled the traditional way or opening a hatch and fill it directly and a lot faster. It was equipped with a 5 Kw Westerbeke generator and air conditioned throughout. A step down galley with and a propane stove. A raised dining area that could accommodate six adults and underneath it even had a second stateroom albeit more suitable for kids or one adult. Our dinghy could fit in the cockpit easily if we chose bur was usually on the swim platform when underway. The engine room had easy access to all mechanics both sides of each engines with room to spare. Generator too. The fly bridge was high with 2 pedestal seats and bench for three.
A cruising boat is too large no matter the size, if you your 1st mate no longer enjoys cruising. Not to sound terse, both were eventually replaced.