May 1, 2018: Let the Boat Work Begin

On May 1 we left Fort Pierce and arrived at Apex Marina in Stuart, FL.  Kestrel will be there for the month while we have our chain plates and standing rigging replaced by Mack Sails.  Both jobs have been on the horizon for a while.  As far as we know neither has ever been done, and Kestrel is a 1989 boat.  We plan to cruise Central America in the coming year, and we simply couldn’t do that confidently unless the standing rigging was in top shape.  And while those two jobs are being done, we’ve added a few other changes that make sense to do while workers are up the mast such as installing a new wind sensor, replacing cable in the mast, and changing out our reefing system.

The chain plate replacement is a huge job.  The cabinetry and wall sections in front of the chain plates (starboard, port, and aft) are cut out, and the fiberglass over the existing chain plates is ground off.  The old chain plates are removed, and new chain plates are installed and bonded with fiberglass roving and epoxy.  Then everything has to be cleaned up from the insidious fiberglass dust, and the walls and cabinetry are replaced.

The first step in the process is to remove every single thing off of the boat—and I do mean everything.  They warned us that the fiberglass dust would be everywhere (and I’m glad we believed them, because they were right!), so everything had to be removed.  It took us two solid days to pack up and get everything off, one dock cart-load at a time.  I was absolutely crippled at the end of that part.  Mack Sails assigned us a pull-behind trailer in which to store our belongings, so everything that we packed is still accessible to us.

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Everything moved out except for our Dri-Dek locker lining, which we bagged and left in the V berth. 

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And here’s a couple of days ago.  The chain plates are being installed.

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Every time we visit, I grit my teeth and think, “Soon it will be clean again.”

We can’t live on the boat during these jobs, so we rented a condominium about 15 minutes from the marina through VRBO.com.  I had never used that site before, and I have to say I am very pleased with how easy it was.  Basically it’s like finding a hotel room using an aggregate search site but instead it’s condos.  The condo we rented through the site is perfect for us, and our “landlord” is a friendly and kind guy.

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The view from our porch.  Yeah, it’s a tough life.

We moved quite a bit of stuff with us to the condo so that we could work on projects off-site.  The Captain has been working on a number of splicing projects, including a new Dyneema jack line that we’re installing in the cockpit.  I have been working on canvas projects such as replacing zippers on our dodger and enclosure.  Both of us appreciate having more space to work in.

We’ve also taken the time to do some fun stuff.  We took the two-hour immersion tour at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, which was fascinating.  Harbor Branch is a research facility for scientists investigating a number of topics related to oceanography including marine mammals and fisheries, reef conservation, coastal ecology, robotic vehicles, aquaculture, ocean dynamics, and drug development.

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One of the first manned submersibles, the Johnson-Sea-Link II.  It was so neat to see it in person.

Martin County offers a 3-month library card for $20, and it’s the best deal going.  Not only have we checked out tons of CDs and DVDs, but I’ve also “checked out” time on a home sewing machine and free museum passes.  They have a really innovative program called the Idea Lab, and patrons can “check out” time on the sewing machine, a Cricut paper cutter, and even a 3-D printer.  Folks can check out laptops, iPads, and e-readers.  I’m already a library fangirl just on principle, but this place is amazing.

Thanks to the library we visited the Florida Oceanographic Center for free.  It’s a non-profit educational center that educates people on coastal ecology and promotes environmental stewardship.  Although it has animals there, it’s not a zoo, which was my primary concern.  The animals that they house are rescue animals that are too injured to return to the wild.

We had a two-hour guided tour that was incredibly informative.  I learned a lot, particularly about sea turtles.  We visited a sting ray tank and got to feed them (amazing!).  Then we learned about sea turtles and saw three of them bobbing around,  They had all been hit by boats, which screwed up their shells and their ability to dive;  the Center either gives them drugs to regulate intestinal gasses or glues weights to their shells to approximate their natural buoyancy.  The Center also has a huge saltwater lake that houses a number of native fishes, including nurse sharks.  Our guide was very passionate about conservation and stewardship, and it was invigorating to be around someone with so much energy.

As always, we’ve managed to find time to indulge in one of our favorite activities, which is eating.  Having a full-sized kitchen has been a ball, and we’ve been testing out new recipes and cooking some elaborate meals.  We’ve driven to Miami twice so that we can eat at our favorite Cuban restaurant, Versailles, and shop in the grocery stores in Little Havana.  We really enjoy Latin foods, and some of the ingredients can be hard to source.

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Every time we go to Little Havana, it seems like I see a new mural or artwork.

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Not the most practical table, but certainly unique.

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Between the produce selection, meat selection, and lunch counter, Presidente Supermarket is hard to beat.

While it’s been great to have all of the space that a condo provides, a car to go anywhere we want, and air conditioning, we both miss living on the boat.  We visit every day to check on progress; after doing essentially all of our own work for so long, it’s difficult to step back and put the boat in someone else’s hands.  We’re both ready to have this project completed so we can move back aboard and start journeying again.

Posted in Boat Work, FL, Marinas

April 11 -30, 2018: Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, FL

After spending a few days in Vero Beach, we moved to Fort Pierce City Marina while we waited to go to Stuart, FL, to have some major work done on Kestrel starting on May 1.

Fort Pierce never disappoints.  The marina itself is immaculate, and its central location downtown makes everything so easy.  There’s restaurants and a hardware store within easy walking distance, and while the Publix is a little bit of a hike, it’s not horrible.  There is a library branch right outside the marina that will grant lending privileges to cruisers, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations while we were there.

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The marina is full of life.  The water at the dock is full of manatees, dolphins, and mullet (the fish, not the hairstyle, thank goodness).  There are pelicans dive-bombing all over the place, gulls pooping on the dock (their sole purpose in life from what I can tell), snowy egrets, and my favorites, the green herons.  They are about the size of a crow and perch over the water on docklines and power cables, waiting to scoop up tiny fish.

One of the nicest things is being able to get off the boat and stretch our legs by just walking around downtown and seeing the sights.  It’s so convenient at this particular marina, and it was novel enough to be exciting for us.  We made it our post-dinner ritual to stroll the docks and check out who had left and who was new.

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The name of this business was so wildly inappropriate that it surprised a bark of laughter out of me.  Nothing quite like conjuring up spree killing to guarantee some name recognition!

The Saturday Farmer’s Market is right outside the marina, and it is amazing.  It’s one of the biggest farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to, and the array of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, honeys, snacks, meals, baked goods, soaps, plants, herbs, and personal care items is staggering.  And that’s not counting the craft market, which is equally as large and is held across the street.

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This is just one of the many vegetable stands.  The quality and variety of produce was mind-blowing.

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Orchids and herbs were a popular item at the market.  

We made it a weekly event to go early enough to have fresh donuts from the mini-donut stand and then get vegetables for the week.

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These fresh, hot cider donuts were wonderful beyond description.  Lightly crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and absolutely to die for.

There was always a band playing for the duration of the market, and they were always good.  People brought lawn chairs and set up to watch all morning.  Each week this cute lady and her daughter would come and dance.

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We attended the first potluck that was held jointly between the Fort Pierce City Marina and the Fort Pierce Yacht Club, which is a short walk down from the marina.  The marina provided hamburgers, hot dogs, barbeque, and drinks and did all of the grilling.  There were many people there, and we had quite a spread.  The yacht club members were very inviting, the club itself is beautiful.  We had a great time, and I hope they continue the tradition.

The highlight for me was one day we were walking over a bridge, and we saw four or five manatees playing and rolling in the water beneath us.  They were having a great time “wrestling” with each other and swimming around.  We must have watched them for a good ten minutes.  There’s something about them that I find so sweet and appealing.

Soon enough our break was over, and it was time to go to Stuart and get to work.

Posted in FL, Marinas

My Favorite Signs in the Bahamas

I’m not ashamed to say that I get a kick out of grammatical humor and the absurd; mix those together, and I’m in heaven.  I realize this makes me a giant dork, but I’m not ashamed of that, either.  The beauty of being tickled by word usage is that signs become an endless source of humor for me.  Here were my favorite signs that we came across in the Bahamas.

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We’ll start with the 1, 2, 3, Floor Sports Bar and Lounge in Bimini.  Their sign takes up the entire side of the building and neatly sums up the progression of a night of poor impulse control.

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This take-out restaurant was also on Bimini.  What do they have, you ask? Why, dinners, snacks, sandwiches, and fettucine.  Because fettucine is its own category of meal.  That’s an idea that those of us on the all-carb diet can get behind.

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This liquor store on Bimini is actually a two-fer.  First you have the sign listing some rather unusual taboos:  wetness (apparently that did not include sweat, because I was always sweaty) and sands (I guess one grain was okay, but more than one was a no-no).

The second sign was only posted on–you guessed it–the day the supply boat came in.  The first copy is pretty eye-catching and pithy, but I guess adding the second copy really drives the point home.  If you’re anything like me, you hear “BOAT DAY” intoned in the voice of legendary drag-race announcer Jan Gabriel with his famous “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!”

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This liquor store in Nassau wanted to emphasize that there’s no credit extended.  Like, for real.  Ever.  To anyone.  Even Wimpy from Popeye.  Credit is dead, bro, and even sad emojis with flowers won’t bring it back.

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Many stores in the smaller communities served a variety of needs.  This one was no exception.

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This one is my absolute favorite.  It’s on Spanish Wells and alerts visitors of two very real dangers:  paking (sic) over the cess pit and the “big dog inside.” I bet nobody tries to sell Avon to this house!

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Budda’s Bar on Spanish Wells wants to make sure that all tabs are paid.  I was just thrilled to see “you’re” punctuated correctly for once.

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This was at the top of pretty much the only big hill in Marsh Harbour.  I asked our cab driver if it had ever snowed there, and he laughed long and hard.  But they are ready!

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It was tough to pick just one sign from Vernon’s Grocery in Hopetown; the entire store was papered with them.  I think this one is a true pearl of wisdom.

DSCF7189.JPGThis sign on Green Turtle Cay was funny even to one as hopelessly sports-challenged as I am.  Hahaha, see what they did there? Dolphins and dolphins.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bahamas, Uncategorized

April 7- 10, 2018: Back to the US

(Sorry for the long blog hiatus—things have been very busy!)

Once we left Green Turtle Cay, we made two utilitarian stops.  Our first night was anchored off of Coopers Town on Great Abaco.  We anchored in 17 feet of water just south of the long wharf dock.  It’s a nice anchorage for protection from westerly winds, and eventually two other sailboats joined us.  We didn’t go ashore but were able to take part in the local flavor thanks so someone playing their car radio all day long.  The trip from Green Turtle Cay to Coopers Town was a relatively short one at 11.5 nm and 2.5 hours.

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The next morning we left for Great Sale Cay, which is one of a few pretty traditional stopovers before heading back to the US.  A month ago I wouldn’t have considered this a long trip, but I had gotten spoiled by the day hops we had been making.  It took us 10.5 hours to go 46.4 nm, and we pulled in to our anchorage in Northwest Harbour late in the day.  It’s a large anchorage with good depths; we anchored in 11 feet.

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Goodbye, Bahamas, with your beautiful water.

On April 9 we left bright and early to head back to the US, specifically Vero Beach, FL.  When we were about 17 nm from Great Sale, we heard someone on the radio hailing Bahama Air Sea Rescue Association (BASRA) Freeport, who didn’t answer.  There is no formal air and sea rescue organization in the Bahamas other than BASRA, which is an all-volunteer effort; BASRA can request assistance from the US Coast Guard.  When no one answered the hail, we talked to the man on the radio who said that he had just towed a small motorboat with five people on it to Mangrove Cay and left it there; they were disabled but not in immediate distress.  We called BASRA’s headquarters in Nassau on our satellite phone to pass along the details, and the dispatcher said he’d alert BASRA Grand Bahama to contact the disabled vessel.  We have to take care of each other out here, and it felt good to do our part.

(Short rant here:  People, a VHF radio is essentially a line-of-sight transmission where both antennas have to “see” each other over the horizon.  The earth is round.  Depending on antenna height, transmitter power, and intervening topographical features, you could be looking at a range 20 nm or less for your VHF distress call.  I know a satellite phone or an Iridium Go are expensive, but you should value yourself.  Your safety and mental well-being are worth it.)

It was a relatively calm trip with the exception of some squalls that popped up over the Gulf Stream as night fell (of course).  The Captain did an excellent job of shooting the boat between a series of thunderheads backlit by lightning.  It caused us to deviate from our planned course somewhat but was well worth it.  Our primary concern was a lightning strike, so I stowed portable electronics in a Faraday bag just in case.  Being belt-and-suspenders types, we keep redundant, handheld backups in case we lose our hard wired chart plotter, radio, and GPS.

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This is what I shoved in the Faraday bag:  two handheld VHF radios, the satellite phone, our InReach satellite device, the Iridium Go (not pictured), a handheld GPS, the iPhone, the emergency “candy bar” phone, and two fully charged laptops with navigation charts installed.  I added the Bose speaker just because it was there and expensive.

(Nerd note:  When lightning strikes a boat, you can pretty much kiss your electronics goodbye.  A Faraday bag has a continuous covering of conductive material that blocks electromagnetic fields.  The conductive material in the Faraday bag is grounded to dissipate electrical currents generated either internally or externally.  I like to think of it as a force field that repels electromagnetic shocks.  I got our bag from Faradaybag.com, a company with whom I had done business in my pre-cruiser career.)

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There was still room for additional devices in the bag when it was closed.  Some people advocate putting their devices in the oven as a sort of make-do Faraday cage, but I don’t for two reasons:  (1) it’s a boat oven, so it hardly fits anything to begin with, and (2) it’s not meant for that purpose.  And of course, (3) ewwwww.

After passing the squalls, the night was quiet and uneventful.  We stood our usual watches, and I replaced our US SIM cards in the cell phone and iPad so that we could use the Verizon cell network.  We hoisted our Q flag when we entered US waters.

We turned into Ft Pierce Inlet and began our motor up the ICW to Vero Beach.   The tricky thing about the ICW is that even though the body of water you are in may be wide, the actual channel in which you can travel can be very narrow.  About 20 minutes south of Vero Beach, we were in this type of tight channel when we were hit by a massive squall.  The wind sensor showed gusts topping 40 knots pounding us, pushing the boat dangerously close to the edge of the channel and some very shoal water.

The Captain kept our nose into the wind and inched along to keep water moving over the rudder and, therefore, steerage.  Between us, he is the calm and collected one, and he’s the best one to have on the helm during these type of “oh shit” moments.  The squall broke, and we made it to the Vero Beach Municipal Marina.  Once I called Customs and Border Patrol to check us back in to the US, our trip back home was over.

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We hadn’t seen decent channel markers in a while.  If you squint, you can see the brown osprey juveniles in front of the pole in the nest.  Mom and Dad were giving us the serious stink-eye.

The trip from Great Sale to Vero Beach was 148.1 nm and took us 32.75 hours, but a few hours of that time was spent slowing down to hit Ft. Pierce Inlet at a favorable tide state and dealing with storms.

 

Posted in Bahamas, ICW, Offshore

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.  

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