Thursday, May 26, 2011

Key Largo-Anchorage Resort to River Forrest Yachting Center-Signing off

The weather remains in our favor.  Today the 21st we travel some 33 miles timing the high tide so we can travel through some very shallow areas of Florida Bay ending up at a very pretty anchorage in the lee of Fiesta Key.  Not much tide help here in Florida Bay but every inch counts.  This time we slipped through very easily with no less than 5' of water in some spots.
Conch Shell Dump Site.  The dumping of Conch shells by the locals in the water at West End in the Bahamas is  no longer permitted on the beach front. Instead they must take them to the Conch shell dump site.  Conchs are prolific in the Sea of Abaco.  A very large shell that produces a small amount of Conch meat 
After a peaceful night at anchorage, we leave early for our next stop which is an anchorage off the beach at Cape Romano which is actually in the the Gulf of Mexico.  107 miles of travel-a long day for us but the ride was delightful, with very light winds.  This will be our last night at anchor with Mitch & Barb.  We have some tuna in the freezer that we purchased in Spanish Wells, so I launch the dinghy and pick up Mitch & Barb for our farewell dinner.  What a delightful time we have had in the past 2 1/2 months.  We have seen a lot, had a lot of laughs, had some scary times as well as the best of times.  It was hard to say good bye, but we are all anxious to get home.
The Bahama Travelers at Staniel Cay
We all pull anchor at 6am and we are glad to leave the anchorage.  At about 5 am the wind changed, the swells started coming from the south and the current kept us in a easterly direction, so we lost a few things off the counter as we were not prepared for rolling from side to side.  However after getting under way, the swells were on our stern for a very pleasant ride home.  In our case, it was to our winter home for a one night stay at Legacy Harbor in Fort Myers.  For Mitch and Barb, it was Lands End II arriving at their home, Lands End.  They arrived at 4pm, we at 2pm.

After an overnight stay at Legacy, doing some work to get the boat ready for storage and picking up a rental car, I leave to go up the Coloosahatchee River to make the 4pm Franklin Lock.  Due to the low water in Lake Okeechobee, they are only opening the lock twice a day.  Judy is driving the car to meet me and do some errands.  The distance is some 40 miles so I won't arrive until 8pm after traversing 2 locks single handed.

The next morning on the 26th, the fine people at River Forrest Yachting Center pulled the boat.  As we left the Silver Foxes, the bottom was being pressure washed, in preparation for her being stored inside  a hurricane proof building for the summer.

Signing off-Starting at Mitch's house we have traveled 1446 statute miles to the Bahamas and back.  Hope you have enjoyed our written adventures and for those of you that have been, perhaps the memories were revived.  For those that hope to go someday, I hope it gives you additional incentive.  For others, I hope you have been able to picture the remoteness and beauty of the Bahamas.  It is truly amazing!  Thanks for your indulgence

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 19-21 "the crossing" and travel to Anchorage Resort

After a false start the day before to cross the Gulf Stream to Florida  we eagerly anticipate another try today.  The wind direction has changed from the south to more easterly and those large swells that intimidated us the day before are supposed to be gone.  Ideally we would cross over to Lake Worth.  From that point we would head north and then west directly across the Okeechobee Waterway.  However Florida has been extremely dry and the Waterway is too shallow for us to navigate so now we must travel south around the trip of Florida, adding several miles to our trip to get home.

So our destination for our crossing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream is Fort Lauderdale.  It will be a long day as we must travel a little farther south so as not to let the Gulf Stream keep punching us in the nose to slow us down.  Shortly after leaving port we know it is going to be a great crossing.  Some 1-2' swells and somewhat on our stern.  The seas get even better as the day rolls on.  As we approach Fort Lauderdale the wind picks up but by that time the waves are directly on our stern.  The Gulf stream did not give up its grip on us until  we were some 8 miles from Fort Lauderdale
A magnificent home overlooking the waterway in  Fort Lauderdale
After dodging some huge freighters coming out of the channel at Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale we travel a short distance up the ICW to a beautiful anchorage in Lake Sylvia which is a small body of water surrounded by some magnificent homes.  Arrival time was shortly before 7pm. Miles traveled today-103.  Miles since leaving Mitch's house- exactly 1200.  A few more to go before we get home

After a very restful night at anchorage at Lake Sylvia we arise early to pull anchor.  Oh I forgot to mention earlier that Mitch's electric anchor windlass gave up the ghost at Great Sale so now he and Barb are chanting "heave ho" in unison to pull up the anchor chain.  Lots of bridges to go under as we work our way south.  Most have restricted openings-so we must time our moves and do some waiting as we approach the low bridges.  The Miami skyline is magnificent as we approach.  Miami is also a busy cruise ship port but our travel down the ICW lets us avoid the the channel where the cruise ships dock.  Good thing as that channel is closed to pleasure boat travel when the cruise ships are docked.  Arrival time at at Anchorage Resort, the very familiar place where we spent considerable time before commencing our journey was 4pm.  I needed fuel at Gilberts which is across the way.  Diesel $4.89 per gallon.
The Miami skyline as seen from the waterway

May 17-19 Lucaya

Mitch & Barb discussing the days events
The marina here is delightful.  A nice large pool, well manicured landscaping and a nice Tiki Bar.  Judy remembers the giant hot dogs at the Tiki Bar so we arrive just in time to have  a few Kaliks and a giant hot dog.
Then it is nap time or cleaning the salt off the boat from our last few days of travel.  Both got accomplished on both boats but I am not sure  in what order.

The next day we take the water taxi across to the Lucayan Village.  A multitude of gift shops, restaurants, knick knack stores and and everything in between.  Mitch is looking for some cigars.  Lots of Cuban cigars available.  He says I am not smoking $20 bills, so he bargains for a couple of $10 ones.  Lunch at a local Bahamian eatery.  Jerk chicken for me.  Very good

The reason we are here is that we are looking for a weather window to cross over to the States.  The weather looks favorable for a Wednesday crossing to Fort Lauderdale.  Up at the crack of dawn for the crossing.  The clouds look ominous but the weatherman says a 20% chance of rain.  It didn't take us long to decide that the  wind blowing the night before had built up some large swells that would make the 12 hour crossing uncomfortable so instead we made a uey and were tied up back at our slip by 8 am.  We rented a car and headed to the west end of the island stopping at Paradise cove and Deadman's reef for lunch
Paradise Cove

Barb's brother in law Campbell owns some property nearby so we  made an inspection.

May 13-16 Green Turtle to Lucaya

Our next stop as we step away from Green Turtle Cay is the middle of nowhere.  An overnight anchorage at Great Sale Cay.  An island in the middle of the Bahamas Bank.  Nobody lives there-no nothing.  It is some 60 miles away.  Barometer Bob's  weather forecast calls for tolerable southeast  winds 11-15 mph.  Instead they switch to the south, southwest at 15-20.  The proposed anchorage inside Great Sale Harbor won't work so we move to the northwest side of Great Sale-not ideal but it gives us a good nights sleep.  The anchor holds well in the sand.
Sunrise after leaving our Great Sale Anchorage

The next morning we pull anchor at 6am-necessary timing to travel to the Lucayan Waterway which cuts across Grand Bahama Island and gives us access to Lucaya which is near Freeport.  We must time our arrival so that we enter the Waterway at mid tide.  Not much water here.  5' at mid tide.  The ride is bordering uncomfortable, the wind is blowing 25-30mph out of the south,  Half of the journey it is on our beam.  Every once in awhile I hear an "o my" out of Judy as the boat momentarily  leans precariously from the beam seas.  As we make our turn towards the Dover channel and the Lucayan Waterway we take the waves on our bow.  A little more comfortable ride, but our next concern is that the wind will blow our tide out.  It is our lucky day.  The tide overcomes the wind and the lowest reading we record going through the Dover Cut is 5'.

The Lucayan waterway was built circa 1970.  It is a dredged cut that was expected to spur waterway development in Lucaya.  Instead it fell flat.  No development along the dredged canal.  A few houses.  It is sad but never the less it is our waterway today.

The Water way is some 7 miles long.  After successfully negotiating the thin water cut at the north end of the canal we must now exit the south end into the Atlantic ocean and travel 4 miles in the Ocean to the Bell Channel at Lucaya.  As we approach the exit to the ocean we see lots of  breaking waves.  Remember we are heading directly into the ocean where the wind has been blowing generously from the south all day. Judy says this won't be fun!  How right she was.  After we became air born going over the first 6 footer we turned tail and came back into the docile waterway.  Having been here before, I knew there was a man made bay off the waterway where we anchored.    After an exciting day on the waterway, we settled into a very delightful evening.

The next morning dawned peaceful, so we pulled anchor and made a delightful journey to the Grand Bahama Yacht Club at Lucaya

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 11-13 Green Turtle Cay

To get to Green Turtle Cay we leave Treasure Cay and cross the "Whale".  The Whale is totally exposed to the northern Atlantic Ocean and although only a short distance of travel, can be quite treacherous.  If the whale gets in a "rage", that is large northerly swells , opposed by an outgoing tide, it can be vicious and dangerous.  Today it is a pussycat.  Some swells, but we transit the passage with delight.

The entrance markers to Black Sound on Green Turtle cay.  You really have to look close to see if they are  marked with red or green.  In this case there is a little red faded paint on the pole
We are headed for the Leeward Yacht Club in Black Sound.  Mitch says this place is not even on the charts, how did you find this place?  Local knowledge I reply.  In reality I had scouted the place out last year when we were here and I had found it to be a a very good marina. New docks, a swimming pool and  a recently opened Tiki bar.  We immediately head for a delightful lunch at the Tiki bar.  The landscaping is unmatched anywhere.

Green Turtle welcoming us
The next day we take the Nike express to town (20 minute walk) to rent a golf cart.  The island is long and narrow so in order to tour it properly a golf cart is a necessity.  In our tour of the island we go to the Green Turtle Club and the Bluff House Marinas where we have stayed before.  At the Bluff House marina we see the boat,Diva, Margaret & Ben, some friends of ours from Boat Harbour, so we have a nice visit with them.
The bar at the Green Turtle Club & Resort
The harvesting of lobsters is a big business here in the Bahamas.  Everywhere we have been, from Spanish Wells to here in Green Turtle, we have seen lobster Condos being built or ready for deployment, Ah what is a lobster condo you say.  It is simply a piece of corrugated galvanized roofing material nailed to a 2x6 and  put on the ocean floor.  The lobsters like the hiding place and then they are easily harvested.

Barb surveying a pile of lobster condos ready for deployment .  The season for harvesting spiny lobsters, doesn't open until the first Monday in August.  This is a big event here
The main street in New Plymouth which is the town in Green Turtle.  Interesting -the street is is narrow there is only one way traffic.  Lots of golf carts. An occasional car or truck
The sand road that runs along the ocean front as viewed from our golf cart.  All the golf carts here have all terrain wheels as the off road traveling is tenuous at best
The Atlantic Ocean as viewed from the island

Mitch & Bab exploring the beach on the Atlantic ocean side
This is one of my favorite places in the Abacos.  Everything is so neat and orderly.  The population is 450-500 people.  The school is up to 6th grade.  Beyond that they must take the ferry to Cooperstown or Marsh Harbour.  A boat ferry ride, and a bus ride.  As we travelled down the streets of New Plymouth we got stuck in a golf cart line.  Moms waiting to pick up their kids from the ferry.  Life is different here but yet it is the same

May 10 Treasure Cay

The beach at Treasure cay
A peaceful night was spent at Guana Hideaways dock.  The owner came by around 10 am to collect his $30. No dockmaster to help us get away from the dock.  That is not necessary as the wind is gently blowing.  I have not mentioned the weather in any of my postings.  Let me give you a one word summary.  perfect!  The temperature has been mostly 85 degrees during the day and it cools down at night with a nice breeze to keep the boat cool.  Every once in a while we have run the AC when at a marina but not often.  The winds have been kind to us except when waiting for weather windows to cross the Ocean, and that us to be expected.

We traveled a couple of hours to Treasure Cay.  There is a nice anchorage and mooring area just outside the Marina.  For 12 bucks we picked up a mooring and spent the night.  After arriving we visited the spectacular beach at Treasure. The Cocoa beach bar was nearby so we indulged in a Goombay Smash before heading back to the boat

May 9 Great Guana

View of Settlement Harbor on Guana from our flybridge
After our short stay at Man  O War we will travel a short distance in the Sea of Abaco to Guana Cay home of the famous Nippers Bar as well as Grabbers.  The Guana Hideaways docks are relatively new but the water and electric have never been installed. The price is right-only $30 per night It is a little bit eerie as we are the only 2 boats here.  Only a handful of boats across the way at Orchid Bay Marina. Our arrival is late afternoon so we enjoy the rest of the day watching the boats come and go to the Government dock

Ring Toss-is a simple game available at all the bars in the Bahamas.  A ring tied to a string, and the object is to loop it on the S hook the length of the string away.  Looks easy, but not so.  
The next morning we take a left turn from the docks and stroll down to Grabbers.  The are not open for lunch yet but we have our sight set on Nippers for lunch.  After taking in the the view at Fishers Bay we take the main road to Nippers .  Not many stores in between but we visit Milo at his fruit and jewelry stand.
The girls looking at Milo's wares.  Tough way to make a living.  I think Milo has a new sign
After looking over Milo's produce we head up the sand path to Nipper's for lunch.  Not many people at Nippers. This is Monday.   It is early but the time to visit Nippers is on Sunday.  Some people call it silicone Sunday.
The road to Nippers bar.  A sand path. Wide enough for golf carts which is the preferred mode of transportation
The view of the Atlantic ocean from Nippers
Not many people here today but the view is spectacular
Another day a different time

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 8-9 Marsh Harbor & Man-O-War

It is a short trip from Hopetown to Marsh Harbour.  We elect to spend a couple of nights at Mangoes Marina  which is actually located in the harbor at Marsh Harbour.  It will give us time to tour the town.  Barb, Mitch and I go snorkeling at Mermaid Reef which is a nice walk from the marina.  On Sunday Judy and I go to St. Frances DeSales church.  Not sure if the bus is running, so we take a taxi.  Before church starts we see Obie the bus driver and he is happy to deliver us back to the Marina.  And of course our visit includes a trip to Steak night at the Jib Room.  It is packed and the steaks are as good as ever.

A visit to our old home of Boat Harbor at the Abaco Beach resort
Saying good bye to Susie in Hopetown

Saying good bye to Glenn
Marsh Harbor is a cultural shock for everyone.  Barb says I am not used to all of these cars zooming around, when can we go back to the quiet life! Man-O-War Cay is our next stop and we will be back to the quiet life of golf carts, bicycles, narrow streets, quaint shops and a laid back way of living.  Man O war is a working community consisting of several boatyards.  If you need work done on your boat, this is the place.  No alcohol served on the island.  One restaurant called the Dock & Dine.  Thats what we did.  We took the short  4 mile trip across the Sea of Abaco to Man O War where we tied up at the marina.  Ate lunch and then toured the town
Ladies sewing hand made bags at the sail cloth shop

A typical street at Man O War

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 6 & 7 More of Hopetown and then on to Marsh Harbour

The ladies gathered at the party

This was the men's area.  Tall tales about boating were told. Karl on the sailboat White  Pepper  is a retired doctor.  He recently came out of retirement to sew up a boater in the Exumas that required 15 stitches
On Friday evening Glenn's CEO from the States is visiting so Glenn & Susie have a party.  We are invited along with some fellow boaters we have met in Spanish Wells, the Izzy R, Jeff & Izzy,and their guests. Also the crew on the sail boat White Pepper.   It was a fun gathering.  Pizza was the main course. Pizza has been a distant memory on this trip so it tasted especially good.  

It was a late night.  We resisted the temptation to have "just one more" as we had to climb in our dinghies and motor over to our boats tied to the mooring ball.  The next morning we met for breakfast at Captain Jack's restaurant and then toured the town.  Only a few delivery vehicles here.  The preferred mode of transportation here is by golf cart.  We are on the Nike Express today (hoofing it)
A typical street in Hopetown
Judy and Barb at the Museum in Hopetown.  A very worthwhile stop.  Admission is $3.   We always watch the very informative video explaining how the Loyalists settled in the Bahamas
The main street in Hopetown.  If you are looking to be entertained you won't find it here.  You can't drive here or fly here unless you come by ferry from Marsh Harbour
After touring the town we go back to Susie & Glenn's house to wish them good bye.  What lovely hosts they have been.  They are headed  with their boat back to the States soon.  Perhaps we will see them again along the way.

May 5-6 Hopetown

The mooring ball line was dropped about 9:30 am so we could visit a Blue Hole before heading to Hopetown.  What is a blue hole you say.  Well it is a deep hole in relatively shallow water that some times leads to a water cave on an island.  We go into the Bight Of Old Robinson as far as we can with our boats, throw out the anchor and then hop in our dinghies and head into the shallow backwater where it is only a foot deep at the entrance.  The water gets a little deeper but then the blue hole appears and you can't see the bottom.  Barb hops in the water and snorkels over the hole.  The rest of us watch from our viewing buckets

Arrival time in Hopetown is around 2pm after a short jaunt of some 15 miles.  Glenn & Susie have graciously offered us their golf cart to go to Tahiti Beach.  Tahiti Beach is large sandbar off of Elbow Cay where Hopetown lies.  On the way to Tahiti, Glenn's golf cart gets topped off.  Gasoline here is around $6 per gallon
Diesel fuel is $5.39 to $6.35.  It pays to shop around
Mitch & Barb shelling on the Tahiti Beach

Barbs shells placed around a baby starfish that is in shallow water on the beach
So many great photo ops at Hopetown, it is hard to chose the best.  After returning from Tahiti Beach, Glenn & Susie insisted we stop for our usual 5:30 pm cocktails on their lovely deck which overlooks Hopetown Harbor and the lighthouse.

View of Hopetown Harbor from the deck of Glenn & Susie's home in Hopetown
After Mitch completes a carburetor tear down on his dinghy motor we dinghy over to the Lighthouse.  I don't know how many times I have climbed to the top, but it is enthralling each time to be able to show the indescribable sight to someone new.
View of the harbor from high atop the light house
Posing on the lighthouse catwalk
The lighthouse at sunset from Glenn & Susie's dck
One of my favorite restaurants in all of the Bahama's is Cracker P's.  We use Glenn's large inflatable boat to travel the 3 miles to Cracker P's.  Just as we arrive, a wedding party of 40 people or so arrive from Hopetown. This isn't good I say to our group.  There are usually 10 or 12 people here for lunch.  They will run out of the fresh fish before we are served!  The end result was surprising.  We received very good service and the fresh tuna was outstanding.  I love the peas n rice with some Cracker P's hot sauce added!
Cracker P's after the wedding party cleared out
The sign says its a long way back home

May 4th travel to Little harbor in the Abacos

We have been patiently waiting for a good weather window to head north across 50 miles of the Atlantic ocean to Little Harbor.  Our weather sources tell us the wind will be fairly light today, less than 10 knots, out of the east, southeast.  However the wind has been blowing pretty good lately so there are some 5-8' swells.  Another boat left early and gave us a sea state report.  They said it was sloppy and rolly but doable.  So we left the dock about 9:30 am to head out the Spanish Wells channel and through a narrow reef strewn passage to the Atlantic.  Some people use a local  pilot but Glenn had been through the cut before so he led us out with out a problem.  We are on our way!.  It is rolly with some huge swells but only a light wind chop on top of the swells.  The waves are on our beam, but it is a gentle roll with one of those mountainous swells letting you know who is in control.  Our ETA to pass through the Little Harbor cut into the Sea of Abaco is 3:30  pm which is dead low tide.  Our ultimate destination is Little Harbor which as the name implies is a neat little protected harbor.  One small obstacle is at low tide there is only 3.5' of water in the entrance so we throw the anchor down.  Glenn is pulling his huge inflatable boat, so we hop in it and go into Little Harbor and visit Pete's Pub, drink a Kalik, and make dinner reservations.
Path to Petes Pub from the Atlantic ocean side.  There is nothing at Little harbor except a few homes , Pete's  Pub .  Petes Pub is a little hut in the sand with a saw horse for a bar stool as well as a few chairs and some picnic tables
After the tide came up,  we went into Little Harbor and picked up a mooring ball.  Beautiful evening topped off with dinner at Pete's at a picnic table in your bare feet in the sand.  Fresh tuna or dolphin.  The local fishing is in full swing, so all the fish is right out of the ocean
Pete's.  The ceiling is littered with tee shirt's