Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abaco V: Various and Sundry

Time really DOES fly --even "Island Time". We'd love to stay at a number of the anchorages in Abaco for weeks at a time, but we're running out of time already! We went back to Man O War for the Man O War Fair for the benefit of their school. The Admiral did a little shopping at the bake sale.

This time, we picked up a mooring in the southern harbor, away from the village. (Anchoring is difficult in many places because of sea grasses on the bottom.) We thought it would be a bit quieter, but we had all kinds of entertainment there. A huge construction barge slalomed its way through the anchorage all the way to the top of the harbor.
A traditional little wooden boat (there are many of them in this harbor) sailed out.
She was followed by a bigger one with a huge loose-footed mainsail.
They had a little race through the anchorage with a bowman on the larger boat constantly yelling directions since the helmsman has no visibility to leeward, particularly when the boat is heeling.
The big guy tried to wipe the little one out on one of the moored boats.
The balance of these traditional boats is marvelous! Even in a knockdown, they have no tendancy to round up. Note that the large rudder is dead amidships with the lee deck awash in a puff. (Try that in one of your "modern" go fast plastic boats!)
A second later she is still moving comfortably.


After all this excitement, we ran back to Marsh Harbour for shopping and a Junkanoo. There was a huge audience for the Junkanoo, a traditional festival originating with Bahamian slaves. Early on, the crowd was a mixed group with a lot of yachtsmen and women.
Junkanoo is usually at New Years, but was postponed this year because of budget problems. This one combined the Junior and Senior divisions. We made it through most of the juniors, including a visiting group from Nassau. (The entire event lasted until after 2:00 AM.) The school kids create the amazing costumes at school (art class?) and develop complex (and extremely vigorous!) dances and routines (phys ed?) which they perform along the parade route.
As the evening progressed into the wee hours of the night, the elderly yacht folk began to disappear back to their bunks and the serious Junkanooers showed up for the festivities and all kinds of street food, from hot dogs to full barbecue dinners, conch fritters, etc. -- all surprisingly inexpensive.
Here's a short clip of the group from Nassau -- an unique interpretation of "Amazing Grace"! [Be sure that your sound is turned up.]

The "white islands" like Man O War and Elbow Cay (Remember the Loyalists?) are not represented at Junkanoo -- but that's another story. Green Turtle (also originally Loyalist, but quite integrated now), however, has its own Junkanoo.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Abaco IV: Hope Town and Great Guana

We reluctantly left Little Harbour's peace and quiet (we'll definitely go back) for the bustle of Hope Town, a beautifully protected harbor and lovely Loyalist village on Elbow Cay.
They have public docks on both ends of the village.
The Elbow Reef Lighthouse is a famous landmark for the area.
We picked up a mooring off Captain Jack's Restaurant.
It's a very compact settlement with two main "streets" between the harbor and the ocean. The Cholera Cemetery has a great view of the ocean.
The architecture is very "New England Loyalist", having been settled largely by northern Loyalists during and after the American Revolution.
We walked up the hill to Hope Town Harbour Lodge for lunch and another great view of the
lighthouse and village. There are beautiful flowers everywhere.
The view of the ocean beach from the deck of the lodge was impressive.
There was great scenery in every direction. [Note the interesting local fauna near the lower right of the following shot.]
[Sometimes it's nice to have a 12X zoom lense!]
This piece of property on the ocean is worth a great amount of money, particularly in Hope Town. We saw many restorations being done on the old Hope Town houses, all of them seemed to be authentic. On the other hand, many of the old houses in New Plymouth are now vinyl sided (still in colors!) and others are desperately in need of help.
As we left Hopetown, we hung around a Hope Town Yacht Club sailboat race which was open to anyone who wanted to sail as long as they had a basic knowledge of the racing rules. We saw everything from a Rhodes 19 to some large catamarans. There was a Nonsuch 30 and a couple of Marshall Cats.
And a beautiful Luders 16(?).
It was a breezy day. One boat called in with a broken boom and the Nonsuch retired because of a "shattered sail".
We've been told that you haven't been to Abaco if you haven't been to Nippers, so we headed over to Great Guana Cay. We discovered that it was a bit lumpy and crowded in Settlement Harbour, so we went around to Fishers Harbour for a slighly quieter anchorage.
And walked up the hill to Nippers for lunch (and a T-shirt for Hugh)
And a swim in their fresh water pool.
They also have direct access to the ocean beach.
Nippers expects 2,000 people there for the Barefoot Man's (the Bahama's Jimmy Buffet - except that I think he's an American) performance on March 2. We bought a CD and will play it at a quieter anchorage that night if we remember.
We stopped at Grabbers on the way back to the boat and had a famous Grabbers rum drink. (They claim that they're like a certain area of the female anatomy: One isn't enough, two is just right, a three is too many!) They were reclaiming some of their beach which they advertise as the greatest "Sunset Beach" in Abaco.

We're now back in Marsh Harbour for supplies, laundry (The Admiral discovered that the laundry in town will wash, dry, and fold!), and, maybe, a quiet anchorage for the next cold front passage. ("Cold" is relative here. The temperature may drop all the way to 65f at night and 72 during the day, but the winds can get pretty strong.) We have now explored most of the major anchorages in Abaco and its cays and will settle down for the next few weeks in some of our favorites for longer periods of time while we perfect our goal of doing virtually nothing but doing it exquisitely. We'll probably head back to Manjack and Green Turtle for a few days of peace and quiet and try out a couple of other quiet unpopulated harbors and beautiful beaches on the north cays which we've missed. This requires a bit of moving around as the fronts go through since none of them has 360-degree protection from wind and seas.

Over and out for now.

Judy and Allen,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Abaco III: Little Harbour

We went from Marsh Harbour to Little Harbour, the farthest south we plan to go this year. South of Little is fairly open water with no real harbors down to "Hole in the Wall" and the Exumas.Little Harbour is a perfect "hurricane hole" with plenty of water once you get through the shallow entrance channel. We spent two nights at a mooring and two nights at anchor in this wonderful spot. Pete Johnston now runs an art gallery, the studio and foundry, and Pete's Pub where his family moved in the early 1950's.
His father, Randolf W. Johnston was an American college art teacher and sculptor who moved his family onto a boat in Man O War and Little Harbour, eventually building a home and a studio/foundry in which he cast bronze sculptures. (His journal/autobiograhy, ARTIST ON HIS ISLAND, is a wonderful account of his family's life in Abaco.)
One of Randolf's sculptures, commissioned by the government, is called "Bahamian Woman". I assume that this (standing in a corner of the studio, rather than the gallery) is a smaller version of the one in Nassau. Randolf was well known for his depictions of man's inhumanity to man. I found this casting behind some debris in another corner of the studio and had to hold some refuse away from it to get the picture.
The studio is full of rejects and works-in-progress.
Both Randolf and Pete are also known for their life-size scultures from the nature they around them.
Pete has a series of bronzes based on Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. This is the the old man trying to fight off the shark.
When they first came to Little Harbour, the family lived in a boat. (They made a minimal living by chartering it.) They also tried to move into one of the natural caves on the other side of the harbour, but were driven out by bats, insects, and moisture. They did, however, use the cave for storage and as a workshop.

Pete now runs "Pete's Pub" right next to the studio and has sold off pieces of property to keep body and soul together. Many of the nearby homes are owned by fellow artists who also show in the gallery and work in the studio. He maintains some control over the type of construction allowed so there are none of the MacMansions that are cropping up in other areas of Abaco. We met a number of people from as far away as Hopetown (about 15 miles by water) who think nothing of running down to Pete's in their center-console outboards for lunch. A few of the dive centers also stop by on their tours.

From the Pub, a boardwalk leads across to the ocean side.
An ultra-light seaplane stopped by when we were there.

We liked the sign on one of the docks which had a creative way of keeping unwanted guests away: "Free dog bites."
We kinda hanker for the piece of property at the entrance to the harbor. It's for sale for a mere $4,700,000 but it comes with 2 Jeep Cherokees, a flats boat, a Yamaha 4-wheeler and its own private dock and beach (on the other side of the point). There are 3 interconnected "pods" with a total of 3,500 sq ft of living space, a generator and a reverse osmosis water maker.
This boat either washed up to the top of the dune in a storm or was laboriously pulled up there. At any rate, a stairway and a deck were built behind it and it was leveled to be someone's home. Nothing goes to waste around here!
Somehow, Pete enforces a strict environmental standard and there is no fishing or turtling or conching, etc (except for the Pub which serves great fresh fish?). We were rewarded by a wonderfully quiet harbor full of dolphinsAnd sea turtles. The sunrise was, as usual, quite spectacular. (Note the "boat house" near the top of the dune.)

Allen and Judy: