April 5-6, 2018: Green Turtle Cay, Abaco

We were eager to leave Great Guana Cay, and our next destination was Green Turtle Cay to the northwest.  Getting to Green Turtle is a little more complicated than the hops between other Abaco islands.  The water is too shallow to stay south of the islands and in the sea of Abaco.  Instead, you must divert out into the Atlantic Ocean when going around Whale Cay and then cut back into the Sea of Abaco.  This is known as Whale Cay Passage, or more colloquially, “The Whale.”

Most of the time, The Whale is not a big deal.  But depending on the weather and sea state, The Whale can have “rage” conditions, which is the turbulent offspring of wind opposing current in a relatively narrow cut with strong tidal flow.  We’ve learned in our travels to take rough water seriously and so planned accordingly.  Being rage-averse, we left early in the morning in order to take advantage of tides and avoid some incoming weather, and the whole Whale passage turned out to be a non-event for us.  My favorite kind of event! People who left later in the day did not have as easy a time as us, that’s for sure.

We motorsailed 15.3 nm over 3.25 hours and anchored in 10 feet of water off of Joyless Point on Green Turtle Cay.  Most boats were anchored off of Black Sound to the south, which is where New Plymouth is located, so we and our four neighbors had plenty of room.

Our dear friends M and N on m/v Boundless have a wealth of first hand knowledge about the Abacos, and they had highly recommended Green Turtle Cay.  After Great Guana Cay’s letdown, we were sorely hoping that they were right.  This was probably going to be the last island in our Bahamas tour, and we really wanted to end on a high note.  Holy cow, did we ever.

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We started our Green Turtle Cay adventure by dinghying over to Green Turtle Club, a beautiful and posh marina on the north side of the island in White Sound.  They have a free dinghy dock, and we strolled the beautiful, pristine grounds.  We stopped in to their cozy bar to have what turned out to be our favorite entry in the Rum Punch Face Off:  the Tipsy Turtle.

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The hands-down winner of the Rum Punch Face Off:  the Tipsy Turtle.

The bar reminded me of an English pub, a dim oasis from the sun outside and full of comfortable furniture.  Oh, and papered with $1 bills from thousands of patrons.  The Green Turtle Club was one of the most elegant marinas we’ve seen on this trip, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there.

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Get the feeling there’s been a few guests here? We left our autographed $1 bill stapled under the bar.  There was no way I was going to stand on a table to reach the ceiling!

We later dinghied down to Black Sound into New Plymouth.  We left the dinghy at the free government dinghy dock and explored the cute downtown.  It was the mix of small shops and pastel colored houses that we’ve become accustomed to on the smaller cays we’ve visited.

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The town is full of tidy homes in gentle pastel shades.

The supplies boat was in, and this caused a flurry of activity and excitement.  Various shop owners and bystanders were collected at the dock, eagerly watching the freight being unloaded.  This was a boon for us, too, because it meant that the grocery stores were getting in fresh vegetables.

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Boat day is always exciting.  It appeared to be carrying food, drinks, and fuel cannisters.

We ambled about town, stopping into the liquor store cum lunch counter and the various hardware shops and souvenir shops.  There were no 3-for-$10 shirts here or other tacky junk; in particular, Native Creations had lovely mementos.  And, to my delight, they had Androsia fabric, so I had to get a yard.

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Here is “the old gaol.”  Who wouldn’t want a pink jail?

We stopped at the Loyalist Sculpture Memorial Garden, an attractive installation that has 24 busts of Loyalists and their slaves who made an impact on the settlement of the Abacos after the American Revolution.   It was interesting reading the plaque in the garden explaining how these people were vilified by their neighbors in America, stripped of their lands and holdings, and essentially on the run for their lives when they settled in the Bahamas.  That’s a perspective that I certainly was never taught in school, and it was another example of how history is written by the victors.

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The Memorial Garden is well kept and has very artful sculptures.

For its size, we were surprised at how many grocery stores and bakeries New Plymouth supported.  There were three well-stocked and rather large grocery stores and at least as many bakeries and stores that offered baked goods.  We had to visit all of the bakeries, of course, and got a combined total of white bread, coconut bread, a beef empanada, cake slices, and doughnuts from McIntosh Bakery and Restaurant and from Papa Pete’s Bakery and Takeaway.

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There are frequent power outages in the Bahamas.  Look at this hot mess, and it all makes sense.

And this wouldn’t be a post of mine if I didn’t discuss lunch.  We had a wonderful lunch at 2 Shorty’s Takeaway, which was sort off the main path.  You order at the window and then eat outdoors, and it was incredible—and incredibly cheap.  We started with a dozen conch fritters for $6; I then had a conch burger and huge portion of fries ($10), and the Captain had the $5 lunch special that included a BBQ ribs, peas and rice, and a square of macaroni and cheese.  We were so full when it was all over that we were in pain.  But it hurt so good . . .

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2 Shorty’s Takeaway, the scene of our culinary debauchery.

One of the highlights of the trip was an unexpected kindness from Mertie in Sid’s Grocery.  We have absolutely fallen in love with Bahamanian macaroni and cheese, and I was asking Mertie, the cashier in Sid’s, what ingredients she puts in hers.  She explained it to me, and I mentioned that we’d be back later after having lunch and walking around some more.  At the end of our day, we stopped in for fresh vegetables, and Mertie presented me with her recipe, written out on an envelope.  I was so touched at her gesture.  What a lovely woman.

 

From a cruiser’s perspective, New Plymouth and Green Turtle Cay “get it.”  In Black Sound, there are at least three free dinghy docks:  the government dock under the “Welcome to Historic New Plymouth” sign, in front of Curry’s Grocery, and directly in front of the anchorage.  There are two huge dumpsters for dumping trash for free.  One is on the government dock, and one is down towards Curry’s Grocery Store.

 

It’s tough putting my finger on what made Green Turtle Cay so special.  There’s been other islands as clean, as pretty, as quaint, and as cruiser-friendly.  There’s been other islands that have the things we need as well as the things we want.  But there is an ineffable quality to the people of Green Turtle Cay, and the Captain and I agree that it was by far our favorite stop in the Bahamas.

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This is someone’s backyard patio and pretty much sums up the open and inviting atmosphere on Green Turtle Cay.

Posted in Bahamas

April 3-4, 2018: Great Guana Cay, Abaco

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We left Hopetown and motored 12.8 nm over to Great Guana Cay, a trip of 3 hours.  We anchored in 13 feet of water in Fisher’s Bay, a little northwest of Delia’s Cay.  The first thing we did was dinghy over to Orchid Bay marina, where we got 26 gallons of RO water for $10 (or about $0.38/gallon) in our jerry jugs.

After putting the water in the boat, we dinghied over to Grabber’s Bed, Bar, and Grill, a resort with a pool and bar.  They have a beach out front where we could beach the dinghy.

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A view of Fisher’s Bay from the Grabbers beach.  Our faithful steed is parked to the right.

In service of the Rum Punch Face Off, we paid an outrageous $22 for two “Guana Grabbers.”  Ridiculous price aside, the drinks weren’t very good and were in small glasses.  We gave them two thumbs down.

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The beach at Grabbers was small but pretty and was bordered with several dead trees, worn smooth by wind and sun.

We walked through town, which took about 15 minutes total.  There was a small but well-stocked grocery store, an expensive liquor store, and that was pretty much it.

Hoping for a better entry in the Rum Punch Face Off, the next day we beached the dinghy at Grabbers and walked to Nippers Beach Bar and Grill.  It is on the other side of the island from Grabbers, and we had heard that there was a “Nipper-mobile” golf cart that would come pick up and drop off passengers.  We girded ourselves for a long walk and almost died laughing when the entire trip took about ten minutes.

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This backhoe sits parked on the way to Nippers.  Clearly it hasn’t been operational in some time.

It was another resort with a pool, bar, and gift shop, and it was packed to the gills with families having a great time eating, drinking, and playing in the pool.  Everything was insanely expensive, though, and we opted not to partake in Nipper’s rum punch.  When I asked the bartender what their signature drink was, he squinted at me and said, “It has alcohol.”  Way to sell it, guy.

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The Nippers infinity pool.

The one thing Nippers does have is access to a gorgeous beach.  We did a little bit of beach combing and then took our leave.

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Okay, there’s no way to complain about this beach.  It’s gorgeous.

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The sand is silky smooth.

In sum, Great Guana Cay was too touristy for us.  As the Captain pointed out, bars on this island are examples of the Kardashian effect:  they are famous for being famous.  Beyond that, there’s no real substance.  For those who enjoy sitting on the beach all day or spending a ton of money for not much, it is a great place.  But for us, once was enough.

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These dog beds (chicken beds?) were stacked up next to the bar, and the hens were chowing down on the dog food.  Classy.

 

Posted in Bahamas

April 1-2, 2018: Hope Town, Abaco

When we left Marsh Harbour, we headed a short distance east to an anchorage off of Hope Town on Elbow Cay.  Our friends R and D on s/v Scheherazade recommended a particular spot that was between two busier anchorages, and we were quite pleased with it.  We anchored in 11 feet of water, and even though the bottom was grassy, the anchor held well.  The 9.46 nm trip took 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Hope Town is a popular place, as evidenced by the packed moorings and anchorages.  There are also tons of rental houses and hotels, so the combination of “boat people” and “airplane people” results in a town bustling with tourists.

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As we dinghied in to Hope Town’s harbor, the ferry was eating us up–that guy was in a hurry.  The ferry runs regularly between Marsh Harbour and Hope Town, and it also serves as the school bus for Hope Town’s children, many of whom go to school in Marsh Harbour.

Although geographically small and with a tiny population, Hope Town caters to tourists with clean roads, tidy homes, lush greenery, and plenty of places to spend money.  Interestingly, all buildings must comply with “Bahamanian architecture” requirements set by Town Planning, much like a homeowner’s association demands architectural uniformity.

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The Post Office, Police Station, and Commissioner’s office in the center of town also adhere to the “cute architecture” plan.

The defining feature in Hope Town is the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, the last lighthouse in the world that is manually powered and fueled by kerosene.  It was built in 1863 despite the protest of “wreckers,” people who made their living by scavenging the many shipwrecks dotting Abaco.  The light’s lens and turning equipment were made in the 1900s and still work today.  When the Bahamian government decided to automate its lighthouses in in 1966, the Lighthouse Preservation Society convinced the government to let them continue the light’s manual operation.  The lightkeeper hand pumps the kerosene, which is then pressurized and sprayed onto a mantle (made by Coleman).  And every two hours, the lightkeeper hand cranks the weights that keep the lens turning.  It’s an amazing feat of machinery.

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A view of the lighthouse from outside the harbor.

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A view of the lighthouse from across the jam-packed harbor.

We tied the dinghy to the dinghy dock conveniently located in front of the lighthouse and wandered the grounds.  The light keeper lives on site, as do a number of inquisitive hens and a particularly loud rooster.  Entering the lighthouse is free, but we put a donation in the box in gratitude for the chance to visit such an interesting place.  We were the only ones there at the time, but a quick glance at the guestbook shows that the lighthouse is an extremely popular place to visit.  We climbed the 101 spiraling steps to the top and crawled through a tiny door to the outside balcony.  The views of the harbor and town are spectacular at the top, which is 89 feet up, and examining all of the vintage machinery on the lighthouse interior was fun.

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The views from the top of the lighthouse were amazing.  Below is part of Hope Town’s harbor and the ocean.  There’s our dinghy in the lower left corner of the picture, tied to the dock.

We strolled through town and admired the many beautiful homes.  Most yards are bordered with white picket fences and full of bushes bursting with flowers.

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Vehicular traffic in Hope Town is mostly golf carts and some cars, and the narrow roads make driving a constant game of Chicken.

The whole place looked like a postcard, and I can see why it would be popular with visitors.  We stopped at Hope Town Coffee for some goodies and to look at the many artworks for sale.

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Lots aren’t big, and many of the homes have tiny yards and pocket gardens.

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This home has an exact replica of the “real” house, made for lizards.  See the foreground? It has a lighthouse, astroturf grass, and everything.

The highlight of Hope Town, though, was Vernon’s Grocery Store.  It is a small store selling a wide variety of groceries, but the standouts are the fresh-baked goods.  Vernon bakes a variety of breads and rolls in the bakery attached to the grocery store, and to call him a character is the understatement of the century.

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Vernon, Baker Extraordinaire and All Around Good Guy.

He is a man who is comfortable in his skin and has a ready smile.  We loved talking with him and bought a couple of loaves of excellent bread.

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Vernon hard at work while he chatted with us.  I can’t express how good the bakery smelled, all yeasty and buttery.

We poked our heads in the ubiquitous t-shirt shops, and I found a great shirt benefiting Bahamian potcakes.  Potcakes are a type of (generally stray) dog endemic to the Bahamas, generally a medium-sized mutt with smooth hair, cocked ears, and long faces.  They are called potcakes because historically they were fed the hardened “pancake” at the bottom of a pot of reheated peas and rice.  In the late 1970s, they were recognized as a breed by the Bahamian government and are officially called Royal Bahamian Potcakes.   Since most of the t-shirts I wear are from animal rescue organizations, I was thrilled to add to my wardrobe with such a unique twist.

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Like so many Bahamian settlements, Hope Town was populated by Loyalists who fled the United States.  History is important here.

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This monument was simple, graceful, and lovely.  

Posted in Bahamas

March 25-30, 2018: Marsh Harbour, Abaco

On March 25, we left our anchorage off of Man O Way Cay and motored 3.76 nm to an anchorage just north of the entrance to Marsh Harbour.  The anchorage is on Mermaid Reef, and it was absolutely lovely.  We anchored in 12 feet of sparkling green water, and there wasn’t a breath of wind all day.  The snubber and anchor chain hung completely limp all day and night, which I’ve never seen before.

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Now that’s some calm, clear water.  I love being able to see the anchor chain.

We watched a day-long parade of charter boats (primarily catamarans) come in to anchor, take advantage of some dive moorings, and then take off after an hour or two.  The snorkeling along the reef is supposed to be nice, although we didn’t go in.  It was enough just to sit in the cockpit and enjoy the view and the amazingly strong open wifi signal we were getting from some nearby rental cottages.

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Here is the view of Mermaid Reef from the island.  We were anchored next to the huge motor yacht on the left side of the picture.  Could you get used to that? Yeah, me too.

On March 26, we headed into Marsh Harbour proper to take a slip at Conch Inn & Marina.  After getting settled in, we saw to the boat’s needs by fueling using diesel in our jerry jugs, refilling our jerry jugs, and washing the boat.  Conch Inn & Marina has slips for rent and also is the headquarters for The Moorings, a charter company.  All of the Moorings boats were catamarans, so we got to see all of the excited families who were going out on their charters.  It put a festive note in the air and ensured plenty of hustle and bustle on the docks.  Better than TV!

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Conch Inn & Marina is pretty high on the swank-o-meter.  It has a hotel, pool, dive shop, and really nicely manicured grounds.

Part of the reason we took a slip was to sit out some nasty weather in a secure spot, and that worked out well.  The boats on the transient dock were full of fun people, and we had a great time socializing with our neighbors.

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Snug as a bug in a rug.  s/v Coy Mistress to our left and m/v Vagabond to our right.

We particularly enjoyed three guys from Islamorada on m/v Vagabond to our right; they are all neighbors and friends who go on fishing trips together, and they were delightfully funny.  s/v Coy Mistress to our left had a cat and two huge Bassett Hounds aboard; each morning Huckleberry would stand (well, lie) guard on the foredeck to watch the proceedings.

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Huckleberry, 60 pounds of love machine.  Not much bothered old Huck.

There were also a number of Scouting groups that were on catamaran or sailboat “camps” that came into the marina to start or end their journey.  The kids were beside themselves with excitement, and the parents and chaperones were just about as giddy.  It was refreshing to see respectful boys, boys who made eye contact and greeted you with a “good morning,” boys with no cell phones in their hands.  It was a lot like the Bahamian children we see, all of whom look you in the eye and wish you “good afternoon.”

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This 50+ foot cat had something like 28 Scouts aboard, plus a Captain, Mate, and chaperones.  

Marsh Harbour is a great stop if you need to refuel, to provision, and to enjoy eating out.  There’s not a lot of sightseeing, although it’s always an adventure being in a new place.  For boats anchored out in the harbor, there is a free floating dinghy dock to the left of Mangoes Marina.

Within a 15 minute walk of the marinas on the south side of the harbor (Conch inn, Mangoes, and Harbour Village), there are two huge, well-stocked hardware stores (Standard Hardware and Ace) as well as a NAPA.

Propane tanks can be filled via drop-off service at Corner Value, about a ten minute walk into town from the southside marinas.  Bring the tank before 9 AM for a 1 PM return or after 9 AM for a  4 PM return.  A 10 pound tank is $12, paid in advance.  The whole process was as close to painless as it gets.  Of course, I wasn’t the one carrying the filled tank back to the boat; the Captain got that honor since his backpack is bigger than mine.

There are plenty of liquor stores in Marsh Harbour, and I think we went in every single one of them.  The Captain has perfected his rum punch recipe, and given how much of it I drink (medicinal purposes, of course—it wards off scurvy), we require copious quantities of Ricardo dark and coconut rum.  We felt that the best-stocked liquor store with good prices is Jimmy’s Liquor across the street from Mangoes Marina.  However, if you want Ricardo, you have to walk up the street to 700 Wine & Spirits ; at $16 for a liter of coconut rum and something like $11 for a liter of dark rum, it is worth the walk.

I made the long-suffering Captain walk a mile and a half to Home Fabrics to satisfy my fabric obsession.  If you are an itinerant crafter, Home Fabrics has every kind of craft supply that you could want.  Their fabric selection was dizzying and included quilting fabrics, fashion fabrics, home decorator fabrics, and every kind of thread and notion.  I exercised admirable self-restraint and only got a few yards of batiks.

There are two bakeries, Island Bakery and Da Bes’ Yet.  Both have mouth-watering white bread loaves for $3 and also offer coconut bread, wheat bread, rolls, pastries, and desserts.  We did our part to support each frequently so as to avoid contributing to any rivalry.  The coconut bread was not as good as the loaves at Charlie’s Bread on Bimini, but the pina colada cake at Island Bakery was good enough to bring a tear to the eye.

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Island Bakery in all its finery.  I can smell it now . . .

There is a cute little Asian grocery called, aptly enough, Abaco Asian Market.  The owner is Bahamian, and his wife is Thai, so the items they stock are authentic and top quality.  They grow some of the specialty herbs they sell, such as Thai basil, and the wife cooks and freezes dishes for sale.

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Abaco Asian Market had everything you could want, including ripped movies for $5.  Their gardens out front were full of vegetables and herbs.

The jewel of food shopping, of course, is Maxwell’s Supermarket, which looks like a Publix plonked right down in the middle of a big parking lot.  If you want it, they’ve got it, and it’s not as expensive as other places in the Bahamas.  Their fresh vegetable display alone was enough to make me slightly dizzy; note that new veggies come in Tuesday after hours for Wednesday sale.

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We got a kick out of this “police station” in the Maxwells parking lot.  This was  pretty lackadaisical even for the rather relaxed Bahamanian governmental standards we’re accustomed to.

And on the subject of eating, on the recommendation from an employee at Standard Hardware, we had lunch at Golden Grouper.  It’s an unassuming diner, and the food was absolutely delicious and quite inexpensive.  We ate there twice and had virtually the same thing both days (the ultimate compliment!):  a cheeseburger and fries for the Captain, and an egg/lettuce/tomato sandwich and fries for me, with the rolls and bread made by one of the local bakeries.  Round that out with the best sweet tea we’ve had since being in North Carolina and a bill under $20, and we couldn’t have been happier.

As always happens, after a few days in a city we had had enough.  Stocked with fuel, food, liquor, and fabric, it was time to move along to Hopetown.

Posted in Bahamas

March 19 – 24, 2018: Marsh Harbour Anchorage and Man O War Cay

On March 19, we left our anchorage at Lynyard Cay bound for an anchorage on the southern or “back” side of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.  There was a nasty cold front on the way, and that was the best spot to hide given the expected wind direction.  Because we figured the anchorage would get crowded, we left in the morning so that we could get a good spot before everyone started arriving in the evening, which is the typical timing here.  The trip was only 13.5 nm and took us 3 hours, which was an incredibly weird sensation given the last few legs we’ve sailed.  I could get used to this island hopping!

We anchored in the “Boat Harbour” anchorage, which is (not surprisingly) just off of Boat Harbour Marina.  Two other sailboats arrived simultaneously with us, and as the day wore on, more and more boats came in.  Fortunately it is a large anchorage; the only drawback to being farther from shore is less protection, but at least people have space to spread out responsibly.  Eventually we ended up with at least 20+ boats; apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought this was a smart place to be.

We ended up staying three days in the anchorage without leaving the boat.  The spot is lovely, with the clear water and sandy bottom that I’ve come to treasure.  Since the winds were coming across land, the fetch was seriously reduced, and the anchorage was a comfortable spot to wait out the weather.  Even so, it was too rough to dinghy around John Cash Point into Marsh Harbour itself, and the only other way ashore was to take the dinghy to Boat Harbour Marina’s dinghy dock.  They charge $25 per day to use the dinghy dock, but that gives you a $25 credit to use at their restaurant or gift shop.  Unfortunately, you can’t use the showers or laundry, and we decided that it wasn’t worth the money.  If we could have cleaned ourselves and our clothes, it would have been a different story.

After waiting out the weather, on March 23 we headed northeast to an anchorage off of the west side of Dickies Cay, next to Man O War Cay.  It was another lovely, short hop of 5.43 nm that took 1 ½ hours, and our anchorage was the usual clear, 13 feet of water in a sandy bottom.  From that anchorage we were able to dinghy a short ways into Man O War harbor and go ashore into town.

Man O War Cay was one of Crown territories where British Loyalists settled during the American Revolution.  The island is known for its boat building, and like Spanish Wells, it has a small, tight knit community.  Here, many of the people are Alburys, descended from Benjamin Albury (a shipwrecked sailor) and Eleanor Archer who married in 1821.  Man O War is  known as having a strongly religious community, and there are multiple churches for about 300 year-round residents.  The island is the only “dry” island in the Bahamas, meaning that no liquor is sold or can be publicly consumed on the island.  The island itself is about two and a half miles long and quite narrow (generally 100 meters or less).

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The homes on Man O War are almost all painted pastel colors.

Coming into Man O War harbor is a delight.  There are quaint homes with docks abutting the water, which is a dreamy blue green.  It’s quiet and peaceful.  The cross streets come right down to the water, and the island is hilly, which is a change from the generally flat contours we’ve seen thus far.

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The view from the water as we came in the harbor.

The harbor has some mooring balls, but they seemed ridiculously close together to us.  Given how many good anchorages are available and how quick it is to dinghy in, I wouldn’t take one of the mooring balls.

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Jeez, no thanks.  I like meeting other people and everything, but not by playing bumper boats.

Man O War is a fun island to stroll, and the sense of age is palpable.  The wooden houses are tidy and cute, and bougainvillea and trumpet vine drape riotously over walls and fences.

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Stonework fences along the road were common, and this one incorporated an ancient tree.

The street signs are all carved wood and frequently reference people’s names.

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We strolled Lover’s Lane, which was framed with lush greenery and conch shells.  The roads are very narrow, and the speed limit across the island is 10 MPH, which suits the mostly golf-cart driving populace well.

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Lovers Lane had one of the first hills we’ve climbed in a long time.

Since it is a hub of boat building, we saw many workshops and boat yards filled with boats in various stages of construction and repair.  We visited the Man O War Grocery, which was well stocked, even including frozen vegetables and meat.  Next door at Russel & Sands Convenience Store, there are limited fresh-baked goods.

Albury’s Sail Shop sells bags of all sizes made from Sunbrella, and the sewists are on-site working on wonderful old industrial sewing machines.

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The scene in Albury’s Sail Shop:  bags, bags, bags of all conceivable colors, styles, and sizes.

Then for me, the piece de resistance:  Sally’s Seaside Boutique, where I bought yards and yards of Androsia fabric, a batik handmade in Andros.  I search for quilting fabric everywhere I go, and when we are done with this Bahamas trip, a souvenir quilt will be in the works.

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The harbor side of town has outlets to the water on virtually every street.

There are not many restaurants on the island, but we can highly recommend the Hibiscus Café.  We had an unbelievable lunch there for a very reasonable cost:  conch fritters to start, a hand-breaded chicken tender sandwich and fries for the Captain, and a grilled cheese sandwich with a slab of Bahamian macaroni and cheese IN BETWEEN THE SLICES OF CHEESE and fries for me.  I mean, seriously, my sandwich was like cheese porn.  The sandwiches were on amazing homemade bread, and the sweet tea made these Southerners think we were home again.  We staggered out of there like drunks, our waistbands screaming in protest.

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An awfully cute Post Office.

Most of the services that would be of interest to cruisers are available at Man O War Marina.  We used their free dinghy dock, which is centrally located in town.  They sell gas and diesel, and RO water is available at the fuel dock $0.45/gallon including VAT.  Garbage costs $1 per bag to dump.  Visitors to the marina can buy  a shower for $5.25; the shower must be taken during business hours, 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Also, visitors to the marina can buy laundry tokens during business hours and do laundry 24 hours per day; each token is $5.50, and it takes one token to wash and one to dry.

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The dinghy dock at Man O War Marina.

Man O War Cay was a great little stop, and we enjoyed our time there.  If you like strolling through a quaint village, eating yourself sick, and looking at gorgeous water, Man O War Cay should be on your itinerary.

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The ocean side of Man O War Cay.

Posted in Bahamas

March 17 – 18, 2018: Little Harbour, Abaco

Going from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, to Little Harbour, Abaco, was going to take too long to accomplish in daylight, so we decided to do it in an overnight trip and arrive in the morning.  After the challenging trips we had been having, we sure felt due for an easy one, and apparently Mother Nature agreed.  We had about a whopping 6 inch swell with crazy light winds (2-7 knots) on the beam, which allowed for a very low-stress motorsail all night.  It was a new moon, so it was totally dark with no horizon; the stars and planets were spread out across the sky like a blanket.  It was so calm and quiet that it was like travelling in outer space.  The trip was 68.8 nm and took 15 ¼ hours.

We were heading for an anchorage off of the west side of Lynyard Cay, which is slightly northeast of Little Harbour.  When we arrived at our anchorage, there was a mix of eleven motor yachts, catamarans, and sailboats already there.  The bottom was a combination of sand and heavy, patchy grass, and it took us a bit of motoring around to find a suitably sandy spot in which to drop the anchor.  While our Rocna 25 anchor is a beast, it’s bad form to anchor in thick grass that can interfere with a good set.

Like so many other towns and islands here, the history of the settlement on Little Harbour is incredibly interesting.  In 1950, a Canadian professor named Randolph Johnston got sick of the rat race.  He headed south on his schooner, Langosta, with his wife, Margot, their daughter, Marina, and three sons, Bill, Pete, and Denny.  They came ashore in Little Harbour in 1952, and there wasn’t a soul there.  They temporarily settled in some caves, built a thatched hut, and eventually built their house and bronze foundry.

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I’m not sure if this is “the cave,” but there are a number of caves ringing Little Harbour.

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Next to the caves are beautiful white sand beaches.

Randolph Johnston wrote an illustrated book about their experience called Artist on His Island: A Study in Self Reliance.  Pete Johnston, one of Randolph’s sons, is the owner of Pete’s Pub and Gallery, located in the same harbor.  Pete’s is home to the only working bronze foundry in the Bahamas, and the gallery showcases Pete’s sculptures as well as other artists’ works.  In addition to the Pub and Gallery, Pete’s has rental cottages, a small mooring field, and offshore fishing trips.

After a rejuvenating nap, we dinghied into Little Harbour and up to Pete’s Pub and Gallery.

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Houses perch at the top of towering cliffs as you enter Little Harbour.

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The island is incredibly lush.

By total accident we stumbled upon Pete’s famous St. Patrick’s Day party, and the place was a madhouse.  DJ Emerge was playing loud (but good) music, and people were wearing a wearing green Mardi Gras beads, and, in some cases, much more elaborate green-themed costumes.  On our way in, we saw s/v ‘Bout Time on a mooring in the tiny mooring field.  We last saw D & J the day we all left on the Bimini to Nassau trip.  And as these things always seem to go, we had an impromptu dinghy meet up in the middle of the harbor.  It was great seeing them again.

We beached the dinghy in front of the pub and waded into the crowd.  We hadn’t been around that many people in quite a while, and it was a little disorienting at first.  We started in the gallery and admired all of the beautiful works of art.  The sculptures are primarily birds and sea creatures, and there are naturalist paintings and other works of art as well.  We ended up buying two small sculptures of a manta ray and of a shark, both mounted on driftwood.

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This is the beach in front of Pete’s, looking out on the small mooring field.  Our faithful dinghy awaited our return.

Having done our part to support the arts, we went to the Pub and celebrated with two Blasters, the rum punches for which Pete’s is famous.  While not lushes by any means, we intend to have a Rum Punch Faceoff throughout the Abaco, and Pete’s Blaster was the first entry.  It was pretty amazing.  After that we had lunch and had a grand time people-watching.

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The entrance to the Pub, which is entirely outdoor (or at least wall-less).

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Many bars allow patrons to write on their walls with markers.  Pete’s encourages t-shirts and stickers.  The posts and ceilings of every building were festooned with t-shirts stapled in place.

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The Pub is a grouping of connected buildings with seating and tables.

On the way back to the boat, we were amazed at the number of sea turtles swimming around the mooring field and harbor.  You can spot them by looking for their little shiny heads popping up briefly for air.  They were everywhere, and it was the coolest thing.  I never got a picture as they were too fast.

We ended up staying the next day as well but didn’t come back ashore.  The jump from Eleuthera to Abaco was our last big leg until we head back to the US, so from then on, it would just be day hops.  Our next destination:  an anchorage off of Boat Harbour, south of Marsh Harbour, to wait out a nasty cold front.

Posted in Bahamas

March 14 – 16, 2018: Spanish Wells, Eleuthera

While Kestrel stayed anchored off of Meeks Patch, we went into Spanish Wells twice by dinghy.

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The approach into Spanish Wells through the entrance channel.  The first aqua building is Spanish Wells Marine and Hardware.  The second one to the right is Pinder’s Grocery, where the free dinghy dock is located.

Spanish Wells could not have been more different from Nassau, and I was utterly charmed by the whole town.  It was clean and neat, and everyone we met was very friendly and open.

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Many of the homes were reminiscent of Cape Code style houses, and most were painted in lovely pastels.

The town itself is about two miles long and a half mile wide, so walking the entire thing is very doable.  There were golf carts for rent for those less inclined to walk, and it was clear that golf cart is the transportation mode of choice there.

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Because the island is so narrow, it’s tough to look out without seeing water somewhere.

Spanish Wells has a small population of about 1500 full time residents, and its predominant industry is fishing.  We noticed right away that everyone looked similar and spoke with a unique accent that we hadn’t heard anywhere else in the Bahamas; to the Captain, it sounded vaguely Irish.  A little research turned up the fascinating history of Spanish Wells, which was founded by the survivors of the 1760-ish shipwreck of the Spanish Wells.

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This red flowering bush (not sure what it is) was in most yards.

In a Montreal Gazette article from 1975, the population was listed as about 1000 people, descendants from the shipwreck survivors, exiles from the American Revolution, and a few Irish immigrants.  Among the shipwreck survivors were Ridley Pinder, his wife, and three children.  In 1975, 3/5 of the population of Spanish Wells had the surname “Pinder,” and the other 2/5 were reportedly married to or descended from Pinders.  At the time of the article, there were only 11 other surnames on the island.  My favorite line of the article reads:  “On election days, there are two polling booths, one designated ‘Pinders’, the other designated ‘All Other Surnames’.”

We saw the name “Pinder” everywhere, particularly on house signs.  There’s Leo Pinder Main Street.  There’s Pinder’s Grocery, Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School, Pinder’s Taxi Service, and the list goes on.

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About the only building in town that didn’t say “Pinder” was the police station.

The town itself has virtually everything one would need, and we had a great time popping into the shops and meeting people.  I almost fainted with pleasure upon discovering name brand quilting fabric in the Islander Shop, and the Captain was able to find collectible Bahamian coins at Manuel’s Dive station, a dive store also carrying gardening supplies and numismatic supplies.  Go figure.

From a cruiser’s perspective, this is a good provisioning stop.  We dinghied over to Ronald’s Servicentre and got diesel ($4.40/gallon + VAT) in our jerry jug as well as RO water ($0.54/gallon + VAT) in our jerry jug.  We were also able to dump a bag of trash there.  Pinder’s Grocery has a free dinghy dock right out front, and between Pinder’s Grocery and the Food Fair farther in town, food is easy to find and not outrageously expensive.

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The dinghy dock has room for plenty of dinghies.

Kathy’s Bakery turns out amazing bread and johnny cakes, and she is across the street from the Food Fair.

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Kathy’s Bakery, with Kathy hard at work.  She had loaves of bread cooling on the oven to the left, and johnny cakes are cooling on the counter to the right.  Her johnny cake batter is in the large blue bowl, and she is cooking johnny cakes in an iron skillet on the stove.

R&B Boat Yard and Spanish Wells Marine and Hardware both had top quality marine supplies at prices far below those in Nassau.

We had an excellent and inexpensive breakfast at Eagle’s Landing, next to Food Fair.  We also had a phenomenal lunch at Budda’s Snack Shack; while at the adjoining liquor store, we had a long conversation with Budda himself, who is quite a character.

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You can’t really miss Budda’s.  He has signs all over town, and as you walk up the hill towards the restaurant, there is this rather arresting landmark.

All in all, I loved Spanish Wells.  It was as quiet and charming as it had been described, and I truly enjoyed meeting the people that we did.  No one was in a hurry, and shop keepers took the time to chat with us just because they wanted to.  The shops were a mix of imported goods and locally made goods; at the large and modern Food Fair, there was a prominent display of home-baked goods marked with the makers’ names.

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The home-baked goods at the Food Fair included loves of bread, dinner rolls, hamburger rolls, johnny cakes, pies, cakes, muffins, sweet breads, and candies.

The town felt open and welcoming but at the same time insulated.  It was a fascinating dichotomy.

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This house had an incredibly well-painted mural of sea life running all the way around it.  It was so neat.

Posted in Bahamas