Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Abacos II: Treasure Cay, Marsh Hbr & Man O War

Although we were enjoying the northern Abacos, we were anxious to get south of "The Whale" to see the rest. The Whale is the name of a Cay and an inlet just south of Green Turtle where there is often a tidal and windswept "rage" making it impossible to pass through. We, of course, waited for true "wimp weather" and made the passage to Treasure Cay anchorage without incident. [Aerial photographs are by Lucien F. Miner from THE BAHAMAS, ABACO: PORTS OF CALL AND ANCHORAGES by Thomas A. Henschel, c2000]

Treasure Cay (which is NOT a cay -- see previous post) is a "destination resort" on Abaco Island with a beautifully protected, man-made (dredge and fill -- see southern Florida) harbour (see Oxford-English Dictionary). HAL came with us and showed us around. This is the hotel. There is also a major marina (mostly sportsfishermen), a couple of restaurants and bars and a small "shopping center" with groceries, hardware, bakery, etc.Right on the edge of the resort is an obviously-old canal (the concrete walls are falling down in places) with patchy weeds, sand, and various fill. It has the same kind of sign that much of the undeveloped bare land has here: "We're going to build the greatest, most luxurious, resort condominiums with everything anyone could ever want, SOON!" What the signs fail to say is that anything that might have been here once was wiped out by one of the hurricanes and that whatever we build now -- if we ever do -- is going to be wiped out by the NEXT hurricane! Still want to buy in? [NOTE: Steve Dodge's ABACO: THE HISTORY OF AN OUT ISLAND AND ITS CAYS is an excellent and entertaining reference. The Treasure Cay area is believed to be the location of the first European settlement in Abaco and has -- like many areas here -- gone from relative prosperity to total ruin and back many times in its history. At present, it's somewhere in-between.]
Before we were too tempted, we went on to Marsh Harbour, the biggest town/city in the Abacos and third largest in the Bahamas behind Nassau and Freeport .
The Admiral insisted on a slip which we took on the OTHER side of the harbour from the town at the Marsh Harbour Marina. It's a pleasant spot with a number of good looking seasonal boats. (The owners rent the slip for the season and then use the boat as a winter cottage, flying back and forth to the mainland for business etc.. Some of them will leave the slip for a week or so to cruise the Cays.) We went to steak night on the dock at The Jibroom. It was spectacular and we got aquainted with some folks who were anchored out and knew Jock.

Part of the evening's entertainment was some challenge limbo dancing. Nope, we didn't try it. The trick was that the challenger is a pro, who is only an inch away from the 6 1/2 inch world record.
With the rum so cheap, Abaco has prominent street signs for the drivers.Mermaid Reef was a short walk across the road from the marina. We saw it when it was calmand when it was blustery (the Admiral's excuse for staying in the slip for a week -- she'll swear that the cable TV had nothing to do with it). We took the dinghy across the harbour to the public dinghy dock and toured the city.The Admiral got a hair cut, we sampled the conch at a couple of local restaurants (lunch seems to cost $15/person whether you're at a burger joint or a linen tablecloth joint) shopped at a VERY nice grocery store which had virtually everything you could get at home at slightly inflated prices. (An average of about 20% for most things you NEED. More for paper products, soft drinks, and a few other things).
Some school buses showed up with some kids who got their lunches at a few fast food restaurants. (Pizza, KFC, and a couple of small restaurants in one of many small "shopping centers".)
We went "home" to the quiet side of the harbour for an early bedtime after such a hectic day.
After a week tied to the dock, we untangled the umbilical cords (electric, water, and CABLE TV!) and braved the waters of Abaco Sound for the 6 mile voyage to Man O War Cay, which has two connected harbours. We anchored in the north end of the north harbour off the settlement.
There's a very narrow channel on the way in, but plenty of room once you're there.
The south harbour seems to be used largely to store boats although some cruisers were there too. There is a marvelous inhabited dockhouse at the south end.At the north harbour, the sailmaker is building himself a new house above his old one. (The sail loft is hidden in the trees.) I remarked to him that sailmaking must be a very good business here and he simply replied that he had been at it for a long time -- both sailmaking and building the new house.We anchored off the Sail Shop, which is no longer a sail shop, but a bag shop with 6 or 7 ladies at sewing machines, turning out about 20 different kinds of canvas bags, purses, etc.Here is Sesame off the Sail Shop.The flowers are wonderful and are all over the place. Red is definitely the predominent color. (Oops, do I have to type )"colour" if I'm going to write "harbour"?)Although there are also some plants with very colorful leaves. It was old home week for a couple of reasons. We saw Bob and Darlene Doanes' Tartan 27 BONNIE LASS on a mooring in a little harbour just north of us. We remember her from Connecticut. Apparently the boat was sold a couple of years ago and their house here is also on the market (for a BIT more than we can afford at the moment!).We were anchored right next to NIKE from Jackson, Wyoming which could only be our old friends from home (whose former summer house we now own), Ken and Nita O'Dell. The boat is all closed up, but looks brand new and FAST.MALOLO was built in Man O' War in 1965 and spent much of her life in Maine until a couple from Lunenberg, Nova Scotia bought her and started to fix her up. ( They brought her "home" to Man O' War a couple of weeks ago and have been showing her off to some of the original builders and their relatives. They plan to take her further south this winter and then back to Nova Scotia for the summer.Man O' War is still a major boat-building site and there is evidence of it throughout the island, from some older hulls waiting to be restored or junked,to beautiful new versions of the same kind of traditional boat. They also build a whole series of very sturdy and seaworthy fiberglass center-console type outboard boats both here and in Florida.
We walked across to the ocean beach on a quiet day.Here too, you get a view for all eternity if you stay long enough. (Unfortunately, with all the beautiful REAL flowers around, the cemetaries and churches are festooned with sun-faded PLASTIC ones.) Man O' War is a lovely, quiet place even though it is busy. No alcohol is sold on the cay, which probably helps a lot!

Comments or questions?:

The Abacos I: Double Breasted & Green Turtle Cays

After a very expensive, but lovely and relaxing, week at West End, we had a very quiet trip across to Double-Breasted Cay, a deserted cay in the north end of the Abacos. The only weather we saw was some distant rainstorms.
The anchorage at Double-Breasted is almost totally protected off Sand Cay, which becomes a formidable beach at low tide. We had it to ourselves for two nights.Both sunrises and sunsets here are spectacular.The beaches are soft white sand and warm water.At low tide, we went ashore on Sand Cay and walked the beach.Our next stop was Manjack (AKA: Munjack or Nunjack) Cay where we anchored between the main Cay and Crab Cay on the south end.The south part of the island is owned a by a couple who welcome boaters to come ashore and enjoy the cay. They've set up beach chairs on the beach and made paths through the forest to the beach on the ocean side. They even supply a free and strong WiFi signal throughout the anchorage.There are often minor rain showers in the middle of a sunny day which produce rainbows everywhere.The main beach was being used to careen (or ground) a large sailboat when we arrived. Our own anchorage was peaceful and serene off Crab Cay which has its own beaches. Like many other places it in the Abacos, it shows signs of development that either went bad or were wiped out in a hurricane.
Even on a cloudy morning, the sunrise is not to be missed. Only a few miles south of Manjack is Green Turtle Cay with two excellent harbours (that's the way they spell it here so....when in Rome....) and a pretty little town an easy dinghy ride away. As we were heading into Black Sound, we got a radio call from brother Jock who was sailing up from the south, so we went out to take pictures of him under full sail. "Home at Last" (HAL for short) looked great!
A local charter fisherman, who was gamming on the fuel dock with a couple of other locals, offered us his spare mooring at the head of the harbor. Both fuel and water are metered. Fuel is around $5.00/gallon (US) and water is up to $.25 per gallon. (The difference between a CAY and an ISLAND is that islands have natural fresh water and the cays do not. On the cays, you get either rain or r/o (reverse osmosis) water.) It doesn't get much better than this! We took the short dinghy ride to New Plymouth, where Jock gave us the nickel tour. Like much of the Abacos, New Plymouth was settled by Loyalists during the American Revolution and the architecture shows its New England origins. There are flowers all over the place, although the Bahamas have never been able to support any viable commercial agriculture
The views are spectacular -- for both the living and the dead! (We read that they don't need any more cemetaries because they get washed away so often by hurricanes, so they just start fresh in the old location.)
We plan to continue our tour of the Abacos only as far as Little Harbour, taking a look at all the places that have anchorages or mooring fields. (The many "Destination Resorts" have little appeal to us or our cruising budget.) After we've done the tour, we'll find a spot to settle down for a while. Right now, the quiet anchorage at Manjack, with its easy access to the more protected harbours and supplies at Green Turtle, looks awfully good!
More to follow----
Contact us at: Communication is spotty here. Our cell phones (Verizon) are incompatible with local systems -- and would be prohibitively expensive if they weren't -- have been turned off. Free WiFi, which Jock says was common last year, has been hard to find. They alternative is "Out Island Internet" for $20/day, $40/week, or $120/month and is is quite slow and spotty. Where we can get WiFi, we can use Skype for outgoing calls -- free with folks who have Skype and about $.03/minute if we call them on their regular phone) and Windows Live Messenger for messaging and video conferencing with friends and relatives who have it.