Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in Abaco

We checked the bar room of the Green Turtle Club and found that the North Cove Yacht Club Burgee (that had been put up by a fellow club member whose family owns property on Green Turtle) is still there with the dollar bill we had signed two years ago.
On Christmas Eve morning, one of the cruisers who had a rather modest sailboat at the dock hosted a breakfast for the entire fleet (about 50 people) at the Club.  We all ordered off the menu. 
Santa Claus found the boat overnight and The Admiral found a very modest present under the little tree.
On Christmas Day, Brendal helped to host a big pot luck dinner behind his dive shop which is next to the Green Turtle Club.  Captain John and Sylvia did all the organizing as they apparently have for many years.  They live on a small sailboat in the harbor for the winter and buzz around in a small Boston Whaler.  Captain John runs a tour boat from Dafuskie Island in South Carolina during their "season."
We took the dinghy over to New Plymouth a couple of times to walk around and do some grocery shopping.  It is the only "town" in Green Turtle and has all kinds of really authentic charm.  We shop at Sid's(now run by his son Scott and his daughter -- Sid's widow often sits on a small couch at the door and greet everyone as they come in and leave), which is the best of the 4 or 5 little grocery stores in town.  (I have no idea how they support all those stores, but they were all there two years ago and probably for many years before.)  The town was founded by Loyalists from New York whose lives were getting rather unpleasant in the years following the Revolutionary War.  There's a great little museum run by a woman who looks old enought to be one of the original settlers and has wonderful stories to tell.

Back at the anchorage in White Sound, we saw some lovely sunsets and sunrises undisturbed by shore lights and air pollution.  It seemed that every other boat was from Nova Scotia and many of them flew their provincial flag with pride along with the Canadian national ensign and the Bahamian courtesy flag.

A young single-hander who we had first seen at West End did very well with his spear and fishing pole!
We took a couple of days to go a few miles north to Manjack (aka: Munjack or Nunjack) Cay, one of our favorite anchorages two years ago.  We started off at the northern anchorage which we hadn't been to before and walked across to the ocean side.

Apparently, some developer put up a pavilion which various people have turned into a kind of "signing tree", putting their names on all kinds of flotsam and jetsam and hanging it up.  They have also made large piles of the tremendous amount of jetsam that has washed up on the beach by way of waves and current -- almost all of which is plastic junk.

We dinghied around the northern point to discover the new house of a guy we had met a couple of years ago.  We had seen his little Compac sailboat in Black Sound and were told that he was "off Island" for a couple of weeks.
Then back to the main anchorage off the house of Bill and Leslie who provide free WiFi to those who anchor off their beach.  They also welcome anyone ashore and ask only that guest either help collect and pile up junk from the shore or even take it back to someplace where it can be dumped.
The Skipper explored the creeks that wind through the mangrove swamps at the end of the cay and saw an example of new mangroves seeding themselves along the way.
On the way back he stopped to see the Wharram-designed catamaran Peace which we had talked to a couple of times down the ICW and was invited aboard for a cup of tea and good conversation with Ann and Neville.  They are tucked away in a corner between Manjack and Crab Cays and stay there for most of the winter.

After a night at Manjack, we headed back to Green Turtle, this time going down to Black Sound to test our new anchor in the bad holding ground.  Our new friends aboard Sheena II (a neat ferro-cement trawler from Canada), Mike and Sue, got a good deal on dockage at Donney's Boat Rental Dock.

Those of us who wake up early enough got the great treat of seeing the almost-full moon setting just a few minutes before sunrise.

Today, New Years Eve, we will walk to the beach and do some shelling before we dinghy over to a BYO cocktail party back at Brendal's in White Sound.  The weather is supposed to be poor for the Junkanoo in New Plymouth tomorrow, but we will be able to get there by either sea or by land from here.


Saturday, December 26, 2009


We diddled around between Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale and the anchorage between Florida International University and Oleta State Park in North Miami for a few days as new weather fronts seemed to pass through every other day.  We finally decided to cross from Fort Lauderdale (Franz and Louise dinghied up from their slip in Hollywood to wish us a safe voyage) on the second day of a two-day window.  It wasn't a great crossing, but it wasn't bad and we got into West End on Grand Bahama Island at 2:15 PM on December 15 after leaving Lake Sylvia at 7:00 AM.

We saw a couple of cruise boats heading toward Nassau and crossed paths with a car carrier which was riding the Gulf Stream north.
The Admiral often complains that the boat is too small so, to accomodate her, the marina at West End charged us as if we were 40 feet long (their "minimum").  They also have hefty mandatory surcharges for electical hookup and water use.  At least "free" WiFi comes with all this money, so we could communicate with everyone through email or Skype and get some good forecasts to cover the next 2 or 3 days when we knew we would be in a communications blackout until we got to Manjack or Green Turtle Cay.  NOT!  No WiFi and they seemed unconcerned about it.  So we settled for a print-out of a forecast from an unnamed source from the dock office.  It indicated that we would have a good trip to Great Sale the next day but would have to continue on the next day in somewhat questionable weather as the wind clocked around.  There was a lot of discussion around the docks about where to go since staying at West End could turn into at least a week's stay at very high prices.

We had a very quiet trip to Great Sale the next day.  It is a totally deserted island in the middle of nowhere, but about half-way between West End and the cays ("keees") of Abaco.  After a quiet night, we left in an increasing breeze with the intent of going to Green Turtle Cay and a night at the Green Turtle Club dock followed by some time at anchor in the harbors of Green Turtle.

The weather gods were not at all cooperative and we ended up beating into major head winds and seas that broke completely over the bridge (the skipper, needless to say, was operating from the lower helm station).  [Note that cruising blogs rarely show photographs of this kind of weather since the photographer is hanging on for dear life and doesn't even want to open a porthole for fear of drowning the camera to say nothing of himself!]  After about five hours of this, the skipper aborted the voyage at Allans-Pensacola Cay and found a relatively peaceful anchorage with four other power boats. 

The weather did not seem to abate much over the night, but we saw the other boats begin to weigh anchor and move around late the next morning.  A VHF radio call to Coco Nut revealed that they had gotten a forecast that the wind was going to swing around again before night, making our anchorage untenable.  The only option was to head on to Green Turtle in what we thought would be equally horrendous conditions as the day before.  Thankfully, it ended up being a much easier passage and we took the last slip in the marina in the middle of a downpour.

We ended up spending three nights on the dock.  There is a special "deal" that lets you eat meals at the restaurant and take the meal bill off the dockage fee.  It isn't cheap, by any means, and you tend to overeat for a few days! The Admiral bummed a golf cart ride into town with the owners of the boat in the next slip who were there for the entire winter and did a little shopping. 

After three days, we moved out to try the new anchor in the harbor and wait for the potluck dinner on Christmas Day.

We later discovered that a number of other boats had left West End the same day we did largely because of the expense they would incur if they were weathered in for a few days.  They went down to Lucaya/Freeport and stayed in slips for a fraction of the price until the weather cleared up a bit  and came back around a few days later.  We are all now together in White Sound, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco.

We hope you all had a Happy Christmas!
Happy New Year to Everyone!

To be continued when we have a better WiFi connection.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

South From Vero

The Thanksgiving potluck at the park in Vero Beach was quite festive and there seemed to be plenty of food to go around including the small turkey and dressing and gravy that we managed to cook in our tiny galley.  We sat with our mooring mates, Franz and Louise, and other folks we had met along the way.

Franz had tried to teach me how to fish to no avail, but he gave me a catfish to use as bait in my crab trap.  My first (and only) catch was a barely legal blue crab which I steamed the next morning and awarded the claws to Franz.  It was quite tasty.

We had a rather spectacular sunrise one morning at Vero.

One boat came in with most of his mast missing and the highly experienced owner said that it broke on a calm day just off an inlet.
We spent some leisure time setting the boat up for the holidays with bows and wreaths and lights from the Dollar Store.  I have enhanced the lights with PhotoShop since they did not photograph well. The little lights are LED and are powered by their own solar cells and batteries.  They come on automatically at dusk.
The full moon one night was quite beautiful and reminded me of the song from The Fantasticks. (This photo is not PhotoShopped.)

When we finally headed south from "Velcro Beach" (I think Jimmy Buffet might have come up with the name because you tend to "stick" there because it is so well set up for the cruisers), we ran past all kinds of interesting boats including what looked like a matched pair of Elcos.

We spent a couple of nights in North Lake Worth as many thunderstorms came through.  Erik and Judith on Bravo were anchored nearby.
More interesting boats popped up as we went by the Lake Worth Inlet and Palm Beach. The one on the right is the Bounty.

These kids wanted to show us the fish they caught -- or were they just rubbing it in that the Skipper was still "fishless"?
We ran by Lighthouse Point where we had spent some good times with the Bodens and watched the busy traffic at Hillsboro Inlet.  There are many inlets, but few really "safe" ones.  The smaller ones are labelled "used by locals and fishermen" in the guides.  In other words, you have got to be nuts if you go through this inlet in anything but absolutely perfectly calm conditions with no tide or current and have a native Floridian (about 1% of the population) guide with you.


Once you get into South Florida, there are all kinds of "Manatee Zones", restricting boat movement in one way or another.  In truth, boats with their propellers can be fatal to the once-endangered manatees, but the reality is a bit more political, methinks.

Note that the "Summer Manatees" must be more agile than the winter ones, since they apparently can avoid boats going 5 MPH faster. Note also that few people live in their winter cottages along the shore in summer.

We have noticed in the past that manatees are upwardly mobile socially and tend to hang out off the very expensive mega-mansions and condos of the super-rich.  There are far more manatee speed restrictions in these areas than off trailer parks and undeveloped land.  (I refuse to believe that politics or payoffs would have had anything to do with these designations for the betterment of these lovely Rubenesque mammals.)

As upwardly mobile as these animals may be, there are still some areas where they can only afford to go on winter weekends.  I haven't yet read the research that shows how they learned to read calendars and clocks, but I am delighted that some government grant or other was able to furnish them the opportunity.

Some new signs are beginning to show up that weren't in evidence two years ago.  Do they signify a little less corruption in government and government-appointed employees or the simple fact that scientific research has shown that manatees are no longer endangered and that they better find another way to restrict the speed of boats off rich people's winter homes?  Next year, we expect that all the manatee signs will be replaced with ones that read:

Anyone throwing a wake of any sort
will be shot.

We finally found Fort Lauderdale, dubbed "Fort Liquordale" by many racing sailors.  It is wall-to-wall boats of every size and description.  Every house is on a man-made canal with its own boat dock.  The land the houses sit on was created from the dredging spoils from the creation of these canals.

This is definitely the land of, "Mine is bigger and better than yours!"  You build a multi-million dollar two or three story winter cottage on the landfill (usually only 2-3 feet above sea level) that goes for $6,000,000 for a canal-front or ICW front lot.  Then you put your 4 story mega-yacht on the dock in front of it so you can't see the water!

We went past the Los Olas City Marina where we had stopped a couple of times before and saw a sister ship in one of the slips.  The Water Taxi is a great tour as well as a great way to get around the city.

Bahia Mar is supposed to be the biggest marina in the world or something like that.  There is no question that it has an impressive array of huge motor yachts, with hail ports like the Cayman Islands and other places where the owners can avoid taxes, which never seem to leave the dock.  They do, however, provide employment for the armies of crew and boat cleaners who religiously wash the boats down every day in a state which has signs all over the place to "Conserve Water."

We anchored in Lake Sylvia, just beyond Bahia Mar and quite close to Port Everglades Inlet as the crow flies.  Note the departing cruise ship in the background on the left.

The plan is to hang around here and maybe North Miami (a nice harbor only 14 miles away) until a "weather window" opens up for the passage across to West End and the Abacos.  We will leave from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) when and if the window comes.

With a little luck, the next chapter of this "Saga" will come from somewhere on the other side!