Saturday, April 23, 2005

Marsh Harbor

Anchoring in 8.5 feet of water with a 1.5-2 foot possible tide feels a little crazy but we didn't feel the boat on the bottom during our stay in Marsh Harbor. We were surprised to see another "Scot Free" anchor beside us! Their last name is Scot and he is of Scottish descent. Their boat name has a tam-o-shanter perched on it. We had heard them on the SSB net several times and had VHF calls from boats thinking we were them. It was nice to finally meet.

The first night we had Roger and Francoise over for dinner and made plans for a day's visit to Hope Town.The ferry leaves early in the morning to this lovely spot. The channel into the harbor looked very scary on the charts so it was nice to see it on someone else's boat the first time.

The town is a kaleidoscope of pastel colors and white trim. Houses crowd around the large enclosed harbor with the red and white stripped lighthouse guarding it's entrance. A beautiful sight! We walked all around the area and beaches. The swimming was terrific with nice waves to play in.

We found a great to place to eat lunch and admire the view. In the afternoon we climbed up the lighthouse and took panoramic pictures from the top. It was a lovely day.
Tomorrow was Heather's birthday and Roger & Francoise invited us over to their boat to celebrate.

And they know how to celebrate... There were streamers, a sign and a marvelous birthday cake with candles. Of course this was after the wonderful dinner Francoise cooked. She makes a homemade chicken liver pate to die for and it's beautifully presented with tiny cornichons fanned out. Of course, she's french! It was one of my most memorable birthdays. A great way to turn 60!

Marsh Harbor is the largest community in the Abacos and has a small commercial airport. We decided it would be a great place to have friends down to visit. There are lots of islands easily reachable while staying in the protected inside banks. Even the most timid friend would enjoy this. We'll talk it up at home this summer and see who bites!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Friendship, Friendship...

We met a number of terrific cruising couples on our trip to the Bahamas but three of them remained friends over the next years. Doug and Sandy (left) on "Interlude" we met at Green Turtle Key and cruised with this year and next in the Bahamas. We met again our friends from the Annapolis Boat Show, Roger and Francoise (below right and in the center below left)

on "Starship Annie" and had some wonderful times here in the Bahamas and then later down the island chain for several years to come. The third couple are Bill and Jeannette on "Myasotis" (below left on the right and left) who we met here and have visited back and forth at their home and ours. They sold this "Myasotis" and have since bought another one.

We went around Whale Cay Cut with "Interlude" and anchored in Baker's Bay off the now deserted Disney Cruise Ship playground. This was a beach/bar "Pirate Lair" set up for their cruise ships but proved too difficult for them to access in all but calm weather. It was fun to explore here and enjoy the deserted beach and the atmospheric "movie set".

Next day we anchored at Fisher's Bay and had a miserable time getting the anchor to set. A helpful cruiser suggested laying much more chain to get a horizontal pull and that worked. Immediately we headed over to "Nippers", to this day the coolest beach bar we've ever seen. Multi color pastel chairs and tables on a big deck overlook a

perfect white sand beach. Two small pools are linked by a little waterfall and the BBQ is served at lunch and dinner. Of course the drinks were tall and fruity and often contained coconut cream. Painkillers, first tried in Annapolis at the Boat Show, are our favorite. Heaven! We swam in the pool and in the ocean. We drank and we ate - and laughed a lot! It was our imagined Caribbean destination to a "T".

That night we ate a great meal at the "Blue Water Grill" with Doug & Sandy. The next day we headed for Man-O-War Cay and hit a rock trying to anchor - no damage visable thank goodness. The north end of Diskie's Cay was a better spot. Man-O-War Cay is another lovely community with a number of art/crafts galleries. They

make baggage/pocketbooks of all sides and colors in quilt like patterns. We bought several for gifts. Woodworkers make boat models and half models that command some big prices. My Dad made these years ago of individual boats for sail racing trophies and proud owners. They were beautiful and so are these.

We had a fun time shopping followed by drinks on Interlude that night. Coming back in the dark we didn't tie the dinghy securely for the night. Each probably thought the other would do it. Of course those drinks might have been the culprit. In any case

the next morning it was gone! We had just watched "Interlude" pull anchor and head off back towards the U.S. but a frantic call on the VHF radio brought them back. Sandy stayed with the boat while Doug launched their dinghy and picked Scott up for a search. Luckily it wasn't too far away, bumping around on the coral and rocks. Our "Port-a-boat" is made of indistructable material so it survived. An inflatable proably would have had severe damage.

indistructable material so it survived. An inflatable proably would have had severe damage. We thanked our rescuerers profusely and then we headed off in different directions. Our next destination was Marsh Harbour. The wind was fresh and the waves choppy on the way and the harbor, very shallow and crowded. It was a challenge to find a good spot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Green Turtle Key then through the "Whale"

We managed to anchor safely in White Bay, Green Turtle Key and it was lucky as a squall soon arrived in the middle of the next day that tested everyones' holding. Winds into the 40's howled through the anchorage and a few other boats began to drag. Luckily not in our direction. We turned the engine on and stood at the wheel ready to respond.

Later we met a number of cruisers in the Bay; Peter & Leslie, Bob, and Karen & Greg. But it was Doug and Sandy Cox on their Grand Banks "Interlude" that we clicked with right away. That's them with us at the top and their boat at anchor on the left.
The next few days the weather improved and we walked all over this island. This section of the Bahamas is called the Abacos. It was originally settled by indians mostly wiped out by early Spanish explorers, used by Pirates and finally settled by Loyalists fleeing from American Revolution. They brought slaves with them and tried to duplicate their plantations, but the soil and lack of rain ended that. The races are mixed and seem to get along quite well in this area of the Bahamas. Further south there are keys that are "white only", still to this day.
There was a school fair we enjoyed one afternoon with food and entertainment for the children. The library is charming and tiny, run by volunteers and had a nice book exchange.The houses look like cottages and have Victorian trimmings. They are in all the pastel shades and surrounded by small but pretty gardens. We found the grave yards interesting and very picturesque. There aren't a lot of last names here. Everyone must be fairly closely related!
After five lovely days we moved on with "Interlude" through the Whale Cay Cut on a light wind day. This is a difficult passage in any poor conditions and often strands people on one side or the other for days.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Key West to the Bahamas

We drove our rental car down to Key West for the day, leaving our boat in the Marina at Marathon. This was our first visit to this offbeat community and we loved it. We played the real tourists, taking the tour "train" around town, visiting the Winter White House, and of course joining the party at sundown.
The next day we fueled up nearby and then motored down to Duck Key. Our good friends Marty and Russ Wolf and their children were visiting Frank Wolf at his lovely home there.

It was too shallow for us to come into the marina so we anchored way off the island in eight feet of water - all alone. I found this very intimidating and especially since our dinghy motor hasn't been very reliable. Happily the Wolfs ferried us back and forth several times. We stayed there three nights visiting. The days with them were great but our nights were sometimes uncomfortable with rolly choppy conditions.

On March 27 we had a nice broad reach back to Rodriquez Key. We had Easter dinner with Diane & Mitch Korbey and their friends Gene & Shirley at their condo nearby. After a few days there we left again, this time for the overnight sail to the Bahamas. After spending some time reading the guide books and pouring over the charts we'd decided to go to the West End and the Abacos. So March 30 we left at 3:10 PM, went through the off shore reefs and entered the Gulf Stream.

We had light winds from the east and large rollers. We were able to sail until 9 PM when the wind died down . There wasn't another boat in sight that night - rather a relief for me. At 10 AM the next morning we tied up at the Old Bahama Bay Marina in the West End. My log notes that it was a gorgeous day with unbelievable (underlined) water colors. It was our first experience with customs and immigration and very pleasant.

We had a wonderful time at the marina. They had only recently opened after being destroyed by a hurricane. Everyone was so welcoming and there were complimentary cocktail parties every evening. The beach and the pool were very lovely. We met a very nice couple from New Jersey staying at the hotel, Michelle Butler and Peter Liguory. He is a District Attorney there. We hung out together and had them over for drinks.

That's them on our boat to the right. We stayed there four nights and only paid $268 - a great deal as it was a first class resort! Bahia Mar by contrast was $279 for two nights. We went into Freeport one day on the bus and had lunch in a pretty marina complex with a largely decorative lighthouse.

That's me in front of one of the casinos at the bottom. There are several shots of the sunsets at the West End here. That's "Scott Free"'s bow on the left.
We exited early on April 4th and sailed on the outside of the banks, entering at Memory Rock. It was 9 feet of water at near low tide over the entrance and then not much more than that over the banks.

It was a totally new and rather scary experience to sail fast over such shallow water. Our GPS auto pilot was also giving us occasional problems. We kept a close watch on our track. Our destination was Double Brested Key an almost deserted island northeast of us. We anchored in 10 feet with no wind and a clear sky. This was everything Scott wanted - no people, beautiful scenery, clear water (no bathing suits)...

He would have stayed there for days, but the weather was changing. Small craft warnings were posted for the next day. So we sailed on to Green Turtle Key and into the almost land locked White Bay through a narrow, shallow channel - with white knuckles. It was quite difficult finding a safe spot to anchor as the Bay was packed but finally we succeeded.