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Old 02-11-2009, 17:01   #1
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Abacos Highlights 10/7-19/09

Abacos highlights 10/7-19/09

Hi, all,

We left you following having put our granddaughters on the plane, somewhat
exhausted after a month of chasing challenges aboard, a disappointing
initial Abacos experience, but a very nice passage to the Bahamas.

We had a week of downtime, almost immediately started by hailing an incoming
sailboat which turned out to be local. Good news for us, bad luck for our
prior guests (though they really didn't have enough time, even if we'd have
known about it earlier, to do much about it), we got a very good tutorial on
where and what to do/look for, in the Abacos.

What a revelation! Where, before, we'd been entirely disillusioned about the
Abacos, this period would prove to us the abundance and beauty and amazement
of this area of the Bahamas. Choose your easy chair while we tell you a bit
about of what we've seen and done since our last log...

On the 13th (a Tuesday), with settled weather in store promising potential
snorkeling, we headed off to the fuel and water dock at 3:45. We'd waited
until then to catch the high tide, as the water here in Marsh Harbour is
pretty skinny most places, and with our 7' draft, we wanted to be sure we
could both get there and leave from there without having to deal with even a
keel-polishing experience. Fuel here is much more expensive than we found
in Nassau last year in December, but not so much more than we found in
Georgetown, but it was a shock to pay more than $4 a gallon for gasoline,
and close to that for diesel. Whether it was because we expected to not need
very much, or because we filled up there, our water, rather than their usual
fill-rate $20 was only $10. However, there's a 5% surcharge for credit
cards, something we've not experienced in any other places we've spent our
money in the Abacos so far, adding insult to injury.

In any event, we were off the dock by 4:30 and out the entrance to the
harbor without incident. By 5 PM, we'd boated a lovely 30" (just small
enough to be confident!) barracuda. I hung him on the gaff off the back of
the boat so as to not have to deal with it under way, and by 6PM, we'd
anchored in about 10' of water, off John Russel Cay (the one with the hut on
it) near Fowl Cay, for some snorkeling.

For those who know enough to be worried for us, and for those interested for
their own fishing, as barracuda are relatively abundant in these waters,
here's how we decide whether or not to keep a 'cuda: The problem with
Barracuda and other fish which eat fish in coral-laden water is that such
prey accumulate toxins which can result in ciguatera, a nasty
bacteriological condition which is cumulative - once you've had it, it can
only get worse in the future (not that it disables you permanently!).
Similarly, the amount of such fish eaten drive the safety of eating
barracuda. We find it very delicious, so want to take advantage of it when
we can.

Our metric is two-fold. First is that they are highly territorial fish.
Thus, they don't wander very far. As was the case off Cat Island, on the
"inside", if there are no reefs available to them, nearly any size works.
Or, if it's less than 30", generally speaking (the "recommended" cutoff is
36" from what we've been able to learn), they've not had long enough for the
toxins to build up sufficiently for it to be of issue. Like some fresh
water areas which have mercury and other issues, size matters :{)) - the
bigger they are, the more they're likely to have accumulated enough nasties
to give them a pass.

So, while we are in an area, near where we caught this one on the way out of
the harbor, where there are some reefs, the size didn't put us off.
Likewise, we had no reaction, usually within 3 hours of eating "infected"
fish, so we confirmed our confidence.

Once anchored, I set to filetting, and, after some marination, we very much
enjoyed our 'cuda - first, grilled, and, later, after much marination (which
effectivel "cooked" him) in the fridge, a delicious 'cuda (like tuna in
prep) salad. As it's much more "steak"y than tuna, however, he didn't mush
up much, so it was more a matter of dicing. Still, delicious!

It turned out that we'd parked on the edge of a sandspit, and we bumped a
few times at dead low tide, but otherwise had a very lovely evening.

Wednesday October 14 had us snorkeling around the back side of this lovely
little (well, tiny!) island in the Fowl Cay preserve (no fishing) on the
reefs just to the Atlantic side. WOW! Made us rethink our awe and wonder
of the Exumas, as this was enchanting. We anchored our dinghy in the sand
between two obvious reefs we discovered in our reconnoitering, and very much
enjoyed our wandering around. After getting a bit chilled, we came back to
the boat and did a bit of side and bottom cleaning. We still had a slight
beard on the waterline from our time in Saint Simons Island, or, perhaps,
from our time in the harbor here. I thought it would be a simple brush-off,
but there were tiny barnacles in the area, so I wound up using a painter's
spatula, and got about 2/3 of the waterline cleaned up. Sometime in our
downtime, we'll find an achorage where we're very close to the bottom, I'll
put on my extra weights and fire up the hookah, and go stand on the bottom
and do the rest of it as well as give our bottom a full sweep.

As our snorkeling was on the Atlantic side, we needed very calm conditions,
something we'd not experienced with the girls aboard, so it wouldn't have
worked in the time they had available, but we surely do wish that they'd had
the opportunity to see what we did; it likely would have colored (pardon the
expression) their experience with us very favorably :{))

In any case, we got to looking at our satellite view of our travels on our
spot page (Please wait for redirect), still very available over our
internet connection, and saw the sand we'd bumped. We'd moved a bit, before
we got into our dinghy to avoid that experience again, but by 4:15 we were
off to Man O' War, anchoring in, again, about 10' of water between Garden
and Sandy Cays, for protection against the wind and seas. This is not the
fabled Sandy Cay where there are dinghy moorings for the spectacular reefs
there (see coming posts for more on that), but, instead, just the closest we could get in the very shallow water of the area. It was a long ride to the settlement, but the water was fair and not troublesome for us.

We visited the settlement on Thursday, October 15th, in relatively cloudy
weather, so it wasn't oppressively hot. The MOW settlement is home to
several boat builders, including the famous Albury, which makes many boats
seen here and in the races of the classic work boats which are so popular
with the Bahamians. If you've never seen one, it's a very unusual boat, cat
rigged (mast very far forward) sloop, with a HUGE boom which extends out
over the back of the boat. An enormous amount of sail for the size of the
boat, typically it will have a plank which can be shifted from side to side,
and up to a dozen men sit on it for counterweight ballast. Very fast boats,
it was what used to be used for fishing, but now is used only for racing or
pleasure sailing - and yet, it's so ubiquitous here that boat builders have
a substantial business providing new versions of the old work boats.

As we were docking the dinghy, a golf cart rolled up, and one of the folks
we'd met on Manjack greeted us, saying they'd seen us coming in on our
dinghy. Turned out Jan was an employee of Albury Boat Builders, and gave us
the mental cook's tour/preview of the town, as well as a ride to the grocery
store where we could work our way back down through the community.
Following her advice, we enjoyed our trip, including sitting out a squall in
front of one of the many seasonally-closed businesses. Like all the Abacos
towns we'd experienced, this one was very much more prosperous, in general,
than we'd experienced in the Exumas, but wasn't the continually-manicured
look of Green Turtle Cay, perhaps because of its more working-nature
(several boatbuilders, a famous canvas shop we enjoyed, etc.) population,
rather than a cruisers' destination. Having spent some time associated with
a boat builder, and having done a LOT of fiberglass work on Flying Pig,
walking by the building sheds where one of the builders was laying up a
sport-fishing type hull brought back lots of positive memories :{))

However, MOW is a very small community, and it didn't take us long to arrive
at the coffe shop to enjoy our Barnies coffee, freshly ground and brewed for
us. There we met a European couple who were on holiday there, staying with a
family friend of the guy who'd previously spent all his childhood summers
there. However, his father, before he died, sold their property there, so
it wasn't available to them - but the boat and lodging of the lifelong
friends were! - so they were very much enjoying their vacation in all his
old familiar haunts around the Abacos. He, too, was a valuable source of
information about where to go and what to see...

By early afternoon, we'd made it back to our home and had the anchor up for
Hopetown by 3:45. One of the real benefits of the Abacos is that most of
the islands are very close together, and going from one to the other is a
very small deal. We can enjoy ourselves early in the day, and still be in
and settled by evening. In any event, VPR (visual pilotage rules) are in
effect in the Bahamas/Abacos, which means that it's well you get where
you're going in daylight hours, the better to avoid any really hard stuff on
the bottom!

Wind was pretty close, but favorable, and we did our passage on a close
reach in 15-17 knots apparent wind, making 5.8 knots on the genoa alone. By
4:45, we'd anchored in 11' of water, so it was a very short sail - and thus
the decision to sail on the genoa alone. Putting up and
lowering/flaking/covering the main isn't a big deal, but it's more work than
rolling out and then furling the genoa. With that much wind, we didn't need
any more sail area, anyway.

We'd anchored off the Parrot Cays, well outside of Hopetown, again due to
the shallow depths present, and in this case, to get some protection from
the blow expected in the next several days. As it turned out, while the
wind blew pretty hard, due to the Elbow Cay, where Hopetown's located,
protected us well from any fetch of consequence, and we were very
comfortably ensconced.

We slept in on Thursday, October 15, A-Gain! :{)) and then motored our
dinghy into the very protected, very shallow approach-ed harbor for
Hopetown. Not knowing the lay of the land, we put our dinghy on the dock at
the marine store at the foot of the lighthouse, and asked if it was OK -
which it was, entirely, with the staff there. There was a path from the store which led to the approach to the lighthouse, so, after browsing the store, and trying to find a replacement anchor roller to replace the new-but-disintegrated hard rubber one on our bow, we went up to the lighthouse.

This is somewhat of a famous lighthouse, being still mechanically operated.
It has huge glass Fresnel lenses which focus the light in 5 bursts as it
goes around, a massive clockwork assembly which must be hand wound every 90
minutes, and is fueled by kerosene. Seeing the original, polished brass,
pressure tanks (think Coleman lantern on steroids) alone are worth the climb
of the 101 steps to the top. Virtually all other lighthouses in the world
are now automated and electronic/electric lighted, with nobody in attendance
other than routine occasional maintenance checks. In addition, they have to
haul up the jerry cans of kerosene manually, which they do mostly via a
pulley arrangement which brings it up to the level of the tanks. Apparently
there are two keepers, as there are two identical octagonal houses just
below the lighthouse. We speculate that either they rotate weeks on and
off, or shifts or something else- tourist-y info doesn't speak to that part
of how this works...

It's famous in another way in that the area used to, 150 years ago, make its
living from scrounging shipwrecks which were common occurrences in the
Bahamas. In fact, though it was decided to build this years before it was
actually finished, it was destroyed twice while under construction, by
locals who wanted no lighthouse there which could interfere with their
making a living salvaging the wrecks! However, eventually, the British
government intervened, and soldiers finished it off and staffed it for the
first many years. It's now become a tourist attraction.

While we were atop the lighthouse, open for visitors during the daylight
hours, we looked out over the harbor and saw the tiny hurricane hole - large
enough for several boats on moorings, and one already stern-tied off to the
mangroves surrounding it, with a couple of anchors out front. Out in the
cut, we could see our Flying Pig bobbing at anchor, and on the other side,
the crashing surf. Sated, we made our way down, and signed the guest book
on the way out. From there, it was a short dinghy ride over to the public
dock, one of several stops the local ferry boat makes in that small harbor.
We sat under the bus-stop-type shelter and looked at the local free paper to
get a feel for where we'd go, and set out to explore.

Hopetown is comprised largely of Front Street and Back Street, even though
there's a great deal more island to explore, and the "roads" are about as
wide as a golf cart, the ubiquitous mode of transportation in the smaller
communities. As before, we're here before the season, so lots of
businesses, sadly including the coffee shop, are closed, but there are
interesting shops along the way. One surprise is the grocery store which,
while small, is very well stocked, including, in particular, quarts of lemon
and lime juice, staples in Lydia's beverage service, as she adds lime to her
beer, and makes lemonade in copious amounts. Better yet, rather than the
usual 50-100% greater than stateside prices, these were the equal or better
of WalMart's! We'd cleared out WalMart of lemon juice, but they didn't have
lime, so we cleaned this grocery store out of lime juice and took what we
could carry in lemon juice on the way back!

In between we walked the streets of the town, enjoying the New-England
styles present, and climbed the Monument Hill on the dunes overlooking the
Atlantic. Done long ago to honor the dead of some ship which had foundered
in the surf and reefs many years ago, there was also a public cemetery which
was interesting if you like looking at tombstones. While, if there was a
commercial business attached to it, there was nobody there, we also saw a
huge number of painted-alike sturdy bicycles. It may be that they are
rentals, or, as I've heard it said about some communities welcoming
cruisers, it may be that you just pick one out and then bring it back when
you're finished. Certainly, there was no security (fence, notice, anything
of that sort) surrounding all these bikes, and nothing looking like a place
someone could arrange such use.

However, along the short way we traveled, there were many rental agencies,
advertising places to rent for up to 5000 per week! Apparently, during the
season, which we think starts in a month or so, is very good to them...

The wind and seas weren't all that promising, so we just puttered around the
boat on Saturday, October 17, with my writing my much overdue log on our
trip to St. Augustine, and Lydia playing with her kids and grandkid over the
very good WiFi signal we had at our anchorage. Sunday, October 18, we
pulled out the hook and sailed our way back to Marsh Harbour, having gotten
a VERY different view of the Abacos in the last 10 days from that of only a
few days prior. We got in and worked our way to a closer-in location,
hoping to be able, in the forecast higher winds for the time my son and his
wife would arrive, to have a shorter wet ride back to the boat from the
Union Jack public dock. We sort of picked our way cautiously, being careful
of the tide state, as it's very close to our depth, or shallower, close to
shore, and threw out the hook in 8' of water at low tide, allowing a foot
under us.

As it turned out, and as you can see, now a couple of weeks later, we being
in the same spot in our SPOT satellite locator page
(Please wait for redirect), we anchored in very shallow water, but then
floated over, as we let out our scope, a very much deeper section of the

So, we'll leave you here, once again snugly at anchor in Marsh Harbour.

Until next time, Stay Tuned! :{))


Skip and Crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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Old 03-11-2009, 07:50   #2
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tell me this... how do possibly have time to write sooooo much cool stuff?
the perfect dive boat is one you're on...
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Old 03-11-2009, 08:30   #3
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Originally Posted by cdennyb View Post
tell me this... how do possibly have time to write sooooo much cool stuff?
Howdy, and thanks for the implied compliment.

We're in downtime now, just chilling. We're full time cruisers (don't use the name liveaboards any more due to the stupidity over anchoring discussions in some locales), and, unless we have guests that we would like to show off what we've discovered, have no particular urgency to go or do anything - but that urgency/time filler is what made these (last few logs) not real-time postings - I have to review my notes to see what's happened; they are on the ship's log, which isn't descriptive, just the facts, mon, to write the logs I post.

I still have to write what may be more than one entry (too content-rich for one, perhaps; this one above was longer than I'd have liked, too) for the time my son and his wife were aboard following this one, and I REALLY want to get my WiFi directory up in my gallery (see link in the sig), showing how we got to where we are; the current setup's transition from an already very good system is available in the refit/upgrades/electronics section of the gallery already, but I want to go back into my very first attempts and show the transitions. If you dig far enough into my early galleries you can find them, but unless you're interested in all that happened in the three-year initial and post-wreck refit/rehab, it's literally thousands of pix. I'll be putting all those together to show how we got to where we are today.

The WiFi section will also include scans and some main-page shots, showing not only what we are seeing in the wilds of the Abacos, but how well that connection is doing. It's stunning and of great relief to us; we just talked for over an hour with some friends who've preceded us, always, since we first met in the yard where we did our initial refit, in Grenada, over our WiFi setup.

They were complaining that they couldn't find ANY open spots only 8 months ago when they were through here; the least we've found in our scans has been a couple dozen, and from 30-50 is typical. If I could figure out how to include a picture I'd show you the recent scan in Marsh Harbour - we're connected to a site 5 miles away, and it's voice-grade; I'm currently checking with various potential vendors to do an injector rebuild/service on our venerable Perkins 4-154, we've both talked to our children and parents, yada, yada, but the most recent scan here was over 50 sites.

Anyway, back to your question, we are able because we're out doing it (thus the subject lines) and our time is our own. What you see here is what I put up on the yahoogroups log I write; in earlier days, they had to be done long after the originals were sent over SSB to my son, who posted them to my yahoogroup list, and then, when we got in range, I'd put them here and a couple of other places. If our connectivity continues as it has so far, our logs will be real-time here, as there's no need for my son's intervention. Actually, the only times that's been an issue of any sort has been during passages, where we may have the free time to write, but not the WiFi to post, them.

That, and I type really fast :{))


Skip, see earlier post sig for bandwidth saving here :{))

PS I THINK I have attached two pix, one a scan a couple days ago, and the other the picture of the main page showing our connection yesterday...
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