Monday, March 22, 2010

Green Turtle Again

We came through Don't Rock Passage and approached New Plymouth's colorful cottages on the way to Green Turtle Cay's White Sound.

After touring Black Sound with the "big boat" and anchoring in White Sound, we took the dinghy to New Plymouth for lunch and a little sight seeing.  Again, the folks with one of the best views in town can't see it.

The Captain went to the Alton Lowe Museum and got the full tour from the lady who looks like she was one of the first settlers.  The only thing different from two years ago is that her husband, who used to sit by the window overlooking the lane all day, died a few months ago.

There is a lovely painting of how the downtown looked "before the hurricane" and a number of photographs of the devastation and destruction.  The rebuild and restoration looks very much like the old painting.
Before the Hurricane

The first floor of the museum is crowded with various displays of the history of New Plymouth, including pictures of Neville Chamberlain's home. Upstairs are two bedrooms.  The privy and original kitchen are in outbuildings in the back yard.

Down the street is the shop where Vertrum Lowe cranks out many model boats.  The smaller ones have $800-$900 price tags and the larger ones are $3,000 and up.  He can tell you the history of every boat he has modeled. I did not see him working but there are many virtually identical copies of the same models. One wonders where he markets all the models which fill his small studio.

Sunrise in White Sound.

While waiting for a weather window necessary to make the three-day passage back to Florida, The Captain decided to do the professional snorkel trip he had always wanted to do. The weather was so bad all winter that the dive shops were starving to death because wind and waves and sediment in the stirred-up water forced them to cancel the majority of their trips.  He was closed out of the half-day trip and signed up for the full day trip with shore picnic the next day for fear that he would miss out completely again. The full boat takes 18 people plus the crew of 3.  There was one cancellation at the last minute because one of the ladies' teen aged daughter had discovered how easily rum punches go down the night before. 

Brendel anchors the boat in the reefs outside Manjack Cay.  A group of diving students and other people with scuba gear go off with the two young dive masters while Brendal goes off on his own to free dive for the lobsters (crayfish) he will serve for lunch later.  We snorkelers did our their thing around the boat.  The reef is full of wonderful corals and a tremendous variety of fish.  We saw a nurse shark, a large grouper which we suspect was Brendel's hand-fed pet, and smaller fish of every shape and color imaginable. 'Twas quite beautiful.  There was on spot that was very crowded with reef fish.  As I snorkeled above them, I noticed many lobster bodies on the bottom on which the fish were feeding.  I had wondered what they were doing in a bucket on the swim platform when we left the dock in Green Turtle! 

After about 1 1/2 hours, we pulled up the anchor and started "searching" for Brendal (part of the "performance"?)  He showed up in a few minutes (I suspect that he gives them the GPS co-ordinates for the rendezvous) with a spear full of lobsters, including one huge one. As soon as Brendel was back on board, he broke out the rum punch which flowed freely for the rest of the day.

We tied to the dock in the northern anchorage at Manjack Cay and Brendel stood in the water and used the swim platform as a prep table for lunch.  He prepared the lobsters he had speared and then pulled out a bunch of lobster tails and fish that he had brought with him while the two young dive-masters collected wood for the fire and set up for lunch. (He has been doing this for a very long time and has it all down to a science!)

Brendel has a pet sting ray which is attracted by the fish pieces he throws in the water.  He sticks pieces of cut fish between the ladies' toes and the ray glides over and eats them as the ladies giggle.  They were all afraid of the ray because of Steve Irwin's death.  Brendal claims that it was not an accident, but virtual suicide caused by bravado and stupidity.

Although Brendel obviously has an eye for some of the finer thinks in life, his real forte lies in schmoozing the middle-aged ladies and their flabby pink husbands as they get higher and higher on the rum punch.  The young lady who is one of his dive masters claims that he gets a lot of repeat customers and that the women always drag their husbands (and children) back for more trips.  (Methinks it has something to do with his distinguished greying hair, hard body, and the three different very colorful speedos he wore during the day.)

He cooks the lobster and fish with salt water and various spices and veggies over an open fire.  The assistants create a wonderful green salad to go with the seafood.  Everything was absolutely delicious!

So here we are still at anchor in White Sound waiting for our weather window.  Now it looks as if the crossing to the U.S. might not be until this coming Sunday or Monday.  But it really isn't a shabby place to be!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Final Circuit: Hopetown, Little Harbour, and Back to The Whale


Back to Hopetown for Heritage Day, complete with a little speech and presentation by Vernon Malone and all kinds of local food including stuffed lobster (crayfish) tails.

There are at least 4 variations of the exciting crab races.  In all of them, you pick your number and pay $2.  If you have the winning hermit crab, you get $1 for each contestant in the particular race.  The profit goes to charity.
Outside the harbor, they had Bahama dinghy races.  It was early in their season so there were only 3 boats out.  One was sailed by a friend from Connecticut who "winters" in Florida and Hopetown.  Another was sailed by a guy with his golden retriever. 
They also raced Sunfish sailboats.

Little Harbour
 Little Harbour is one of the most relaxing spots in Abaco with a well-protected anchorage.  We love the gallery and Pete's Pub.  The only real problem there is that you cannot get provisions for the boat.

We met some friends there who had anchored a couple of miles away and came in by dinghy for some beach combing, a couple of drinks, and lunch.

Pete was back at work in the workshop and forge after some shoulder surgery in the States.  He claimed that this work was for therapy.
There were some paintings in the gallery which were pretty impressive including this one of a large Bahama dinghy.

Another sculpture probably by Randolph.  I do not know the title.

On the way back north, we anchored off "Farside" on Tilloo Cay.  It has 5 bedrooms, 6 baths, a hanger for your plane, and a dock for a 80' vessel.  If you would like to buy it, we'd be happy to pay to rent part of the dock from you for the winters to help you defray your expenses.
Farside: $4,850,000
 The sunrises come free with the house.
Tilloo Sunrise


We went back to Marsh Harbour briefly for fuel, water, and a few groceries before heading "Through the Whale" to get back to northern Abaco so that we could stage to go back to the U.S.  We took a long walk and saw "The Castle" which I think was built by a rich American with delusions of grandeur.  It does have a pretty impressive view I would think!

On our way back through The Whale, we decided to detour past "The Nutty Mermaid" at Leisure Lee where we had spent a week with The Admiral's sister, her husband, and her mother-in-law.  A great spot and looks terrific from Abaco Sound too!

We also went by the marina in Treasure Cay and through the mooring field and anchorage.

And onward past Don't Rock and the Don't Rock Passage inside Whale Cay toward Green Turtle Cay.

The next episode will include the Skipper's snorkeling trip aboard Brendal's Dive Boat from White Sound in Green Turtle Cay.  We hope that the following chapter will come from the U.S.A., the weather gods permitting.  We plan a two day passage to West End, anchoring at Great Sale Cay (no civilization or communication) the first night.  Hopefully we will spend only one night at West End ($$$$$) and transit the Gulf Stream and Florida Straits (60 miles) the next day to St. Lucy or Lake Worth, Florida.

More winter weather in Abaco

Once the in-laws were gone and we waited out a few more weather fronts in our slip at Marsh Harbour Marina (with electricity, cable TV, water, showers, laundry, etc), we decided to do the "circuit" again, which The Admiral had missed while she was in Dallas.

We started with a short trip across to Man-O-War and anchored in Eastern Harbour away from the Settlement.  The supply boat came through one day and ran a slalom through the anchored and moored boats.

A Digression
We discovered that MANY of the boaters who spent the winter in Abaco left their boats here or in Florida for the summers and wondered why we didn't do the same and thus avoid the long round-trip up and down the coast in the fall and spring.  The answer, of course, is $$$$$$!  Also, we would definitely NOT want to be without our boat in New England during the summers and cannot afford two boats as many of the cruisers have.  But we did some dreaming for a while, particularly in Man-O-War with its boatyards and many moorings.

Sarracinia (sp?) is owned by a Canadian couple but has been kept in Abaco for the last few years.  They have paid the duties and registered her here.  She could be bought for the mid 20s US.  She is beautiful and well equipped but is "composite construction" (fiberglass and wood) and has a 6-foot draft which is pretty deep for the Bahamas.
This little Pacific Seacraft "Flicka" could be had for around $20,000.  The Flicka is a wonderful "cult boat" with lots of room for her length overall and is virtually bullet-proof.  She is also "duty paid." But 20 feet is still a trifle small for most of us.

This Pearson Triton is a "project boat" and could probably be had for next-to-nothing.  The engine and sails are both shot. A cursory inspection revealed that it's even possible that she has been underwater.  We did not even call about her since we were not ready for that kind of effort and expense.
A friend in Maryland has put his lovingly and expertly restored Fales Navigator 32 on the market.  If she could be had for a decent price, she would go to the top of our list as the perfect boat for Abaco or Florida for the winters.
Or -- if we win the lottery, this neat aluminum trawler which has been maintained in Man-O-War and is listed for $50,000.
While it is still in the back of our minds, at our age there are a lot of things we could do with that kind of money and it is probably not a great idea to have two boats and all their expenses -- UNLESS WE WIN THE LOTTERY!
End of Digression

So we acted like tourists at the various craft shops and gift shops.  This mermaid on the outside wall of one of them struck our eye. This guy has collected all kinds of local shells and various flotsam and jetsam and sells them in his tiny crowded shop and on a table outside.

Albury's Sail Shop is now full of "bag ladies" who make many different kinds of fabric bags and purses on their rusting sewing machines.  They are nice but pretty expensive and the shop is FULL of them.  We wonder where they are sold, because there is certainly not enough tourist traffic in Man-O-War to take care of the huge volume they put out.

The cemeteries are "decorated" with plastic flowers.  (Note the new grave with ship's wheels.) I suspect that this is because the only water on the cays is rain water (caught in cisterns at every house) and reverse-osmosis water (which is expensive).  There is very little rain, so the fresh water is too precious to waste on those who can no longer appreciate it and plastic flowers don't need water!  One "advantage" of putting your cemeteries in the sand dunes at the edge of the ocean is that they are cleaned out periodically by hurricanes and you can just start over. (Natural "recycling" at its finest?)  They will often put up a single marker with the names of those whose graves "cannot be found."

But a "modern" solution is being developed.  This worker is using rock-cutting tools to cut two graves deep into the coral and rock so that they will not wash away in the next hurricane.  If they keep doing this, much of their prime real estate will be taken up by the residences of their "dearly departeds" as it is in many towns in New England (and elsewhere, I suppose).

The Captain took a long walk out toward "The Narrows" one day and thought he had taken a wrong turn and wound up in England!  Just across the path, however, were the beautiful colors of the ocean off Abaco.
Conch ("Konk") is a major local seafood which is used in all kinds of gustatory delights, from chowders to conchburgers to cracked conch to conch salad and many others.  Their shells are used everywhere for decoration and landscaping.
Partway out the narrowing peninsula on the north end of the cay is a house called Bonnie Dune (all of the houses have names which are used as "call signs" for communication over the marine VHF radio they all have, in the same way the boats use their names).  This house was owned by good family friends from Connecticut for many years.  On the side of the peninsula which is on the protected harbor, there is a dock and a "snore shack" (usually a simple square bunkhouse for guests -- hence the name). [The house is in the trees to the right of the dock  and snore shack in the picture.]

 Across the lane (wide enough for a single golf cart) is a path leading up to the main house which I think as about 900 square feet.  The view of the ocean from the deck is spectacular and there is a gorgeous sandy beach.

It's another half-mile or so to the "The Narrows" with the ocean on one side, Abaco Sound on the other, and a little gazebo in between.

NEXT: Revisiting Hopetown, Little Harbour, Tilloo, and Green Turtle as we prepare for our return to the U.S. when the weather cooperates.