Apr 24 to Apr 30 2012

April 24, 2012

The winds died somewhat this morning so we put a reef in the main, got sorted out and away we went to Hope Town.

We were warned the Abaco is a busy place and we got a taste of it today. Sailboats peppered the horizon moving to and from nearby islands and the VHF radio is congested with chatter from nearby boats, ferries and marinas. However, the Abaco is going to be a fun little cruising area. All of the islands are close together making day sailing trips to each of them very easy. We can actually “go where the wind blows us” here. It is a more touristy area than we are used to but we will make the best of it.

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Back in the land of the mega yacht!

We rounded the narrow entrance into Hope Town where we were greeted by the Elbow Reef Lighthouse (more on the lighthouse tomorrow). It is a very shallow entrance measuring between 3 and 5 feet at low tide so coming in at high tide is recommended. We have a 4.5 foot draft making it a little less worrisome but we had to pay close attention regardless.

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We intended to pick up a mooring but decided to stay at the Lighthouse Marina after stopping for fuel and much needed water. It is 1$/ft with FREE internet, laundry and shower facilities. I am DESPERATE for a shower. It has been four LONG months without hot water and my poor hair could use a good rinse – I may just wash it five times while we are here. There is also liquor store on site with COLD beer and ice sold by the block. We may never leave!!! AND we are located in front of a historic lighthouse which we can tour for FREE tomorrow. I think I love Hope Town already!

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Diana docked at the Lighthouse Marina – with the Elbow Reef Lighthouse in the background

Once we were all tucked in; full of fuel, water, ice, beer, rum and pop – what more do we need really?!!? We got in the dinghy and went for a ride. The mooring field located here is really tight and was the temporary home to many boats…

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Just sampling of the many boats moored in Hope Town Harbour

Hope Town is a charming little community packed with many beautiful homes. The streets are narrow; just big enough for golf carts and bicycles with no room for cars. I kind of like the car-less town.  

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Narrow “golf cart” sized streets of Hope Town

There are several restaurants, gift shops, a museum and beaches to explore. So far, everyone we meet is really friendly. Steve had a nice chat with a gentleman at the dock who told us what was around; grocery and gift stores and he mentioned a BAKERY – yay!! I didn’t feel I could trust myself going to the bakery on an empty stomach so we stopped a Cap’n Jack’s for lunch J

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Cap’n Jacks Restaurant where Steve had a conch burger and I had Greek salad (with real feta yum!) overlooking the harbor

With full bellies we made our way to the bakery and bought a Key Lime Pie. It is a specialty here and since we have never tried one – we felt it was a good choice. It must have weighted two pounds and cost 15$!!! It looked delicious and was on Diana’s supper menu for tonight - no wonder my pants don’t fit ;)

The rest of the evening was spent catching up on emails, showering and eating pie.

 

 

 

April 25, 2012

The noseeums in the Abacos are a force to be reckoned with. We got attacked by them in Snake Cay and they are very hungry here too. Misere!! This is the first time we have had a problem with the bugs in the Bahamas so we should consider ourselves lucky I guess. I hate them anyway and I react to every bloody bite!!

I was up first thing this morning for a jog along Hope Town’s quaint streets and busy shoreline. The cool morning air made it a pleasant run even though my body protested a little as a result of the past week at anchor in the prone position.

After my shower (2nd one!!) Steve and I went to visit the Elbow Reef Lighthouse.

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Elbow Reef Lighthouse

The Elbow Reef Lighthouse was built in 1864 under great protest by the local wreckers. Wrecking, or salvaging, was big business in the Bahamas then. “Wreckers” would move quickly to claim an unfortunate ship damaged on a reef. However, it seems the Wreckers would sometimes set up false navigational lights so ships would run aground making them easy targets. The wreckers would then swoop in to salvage the ship and its contents. This was dangerous but lucrative work and at one time there were as many as 2000 licensed Wreckers in the area. You can imagine how unhappy the local wreckers would have been at the construction of a very reliable navigational aid, basically putting them out of business. They went to some lengths to sabotage the construction of the lighthouse; by refusing to allow water to get to the building crew and damaging boats bringing in building materials. Regardless of these efforts and other protests the lighthouse was built and still stands to this day. It is the last remaining, full-functioning-manually-operated-gas-fed lighthouse. It was re-built in 1934. It sits 120 feet above sea level delivering 325000 candle power and is visible for 17 nautical miles. It has been operated by the same man for the last 30 years. Every night he lights a wick fed with pressurized kerosene fuel (fumes). The huge Fresnel lens is turned by way of crank spring mechanism. The lens actually floats in a bath of mercury and ten minutes of winding keeps the lens turning for two full hours. It is really is incredible!!

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We climbed the 101 steps up to the lantern taking in the ingenuity and the fine detail went into building this lighthouse.

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Stairs leading up to the to the lantern

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View of Hope Town Harbour from one of the Lighthouse windows on our way up to the top

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Steve pretending to wind the mechanism that spins the lantern

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View of inside the lens and wick

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The bronze handle of the door that leads outside to some spectacular views of Hope Town (just an example of some of the attention to detail given to the construction)

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View of the Harbour Entrance  

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View of Hope Town and mooring field

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View of the sea of Abaco with sailboats the background

We made the long walk back down the narrow steps then signed the guest book on our way out - pleased we stopped to visit.

The Abaco is home to renowned boat builders. A specific area design is called The Abaco Dinghy. It is a traditional working boat used for generations for fishing, conching, freight transportation and even “courting” between islands. The Abaco dinghies were sculled with an 11ft oar which was seated in a notch on the transom but they were also sailed in favourable winds. Outside the lighthouse there was one on display and Steve’s boat radar picked it up right way.

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This beauty was built in 2003 by Hope Town’s master craftsman; Winer Malone, using only hand tools.

We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon walking around town, taking in the sights and shopping.

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This is the Bahamas National Tree called the Lignum Vitae 

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Beach view of the Atlantic Ocean

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An example of the cottage style homes popular in Hope Town

We visited the local museum which proved to be quite impressive; consisting of a number of artifacts, informative displays where one could spend a many hours investigating and learning about Hope Towns colourful history.

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Outside of museum

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One of the displays about boatbuilding

We had worked up quite and appetite with all this touristy stuff so we tried the Harbour Front Restaurant where we both enjoyed the nice cold beers and Steve had “the best pork chops of his life!” 

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Cheers!

Tomorrow, we are going to Marsh Harbour to provision for the rest of our stay in the Bahamas. I can’t believe we need more food but we do – I am almost out of can goods!!! We will spend the night there and then make our way to Man-O-War Cay to spend a couple of days and followed by a trip to Great Guana Cay.

April 26, 2012

Chris Parker says we are getting ANOTHER significant weather front headed our way on the weekend; lots of squalls blowing 30-35 kts of wind from the ESE to E to ENE. This means we need to be well-protected by Saturday. We live day by day here people!!

I went for a little jog while Steve got the boat ready. I had ANOTHER shower (I had four of them in total!!) and then settled up with the marina. The moorings, we discovered, were 20$ a night with NO services. This is one of the good things about being a small boat as our night cost us only 29$ with all services making this a well worth the stop for us.

By 1000hrs we were underway for Marsh Harbour. We got some light but steady winds out of the SE which made for an easy sail to our destination. Once we arrive we found the harbor to be filled with boats and something we didn’t want was to stay in another congested bay. So, we made a plan to get some lunch, provision and get the heck out of there to a more preferable anchorage.

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Diana in Marsh Harbour

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View from restaurant of one of the marinas lining the shore in Marsh Harbour

We’ve gone a little restaurant crazy in the last month and after today’s experience at a place called Snappers where a burger and fries cost 14$ (cheapest thing on the menu) - we’ve cut ourselves off!! There is no shortage of expensive places to eat in the Bahamas and Marsh Harbour is no exception. The Bahamas is an affordable cruising destination if you can stay away from the restaurants as it is not unusual for the cost of lunch for two to run around 45$. Think of all the rum we could by for that!!!

This is a really busy place with people and cars everywhere. Marsh Harbour is a little reminiscent of Nassau with cars weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds making crossing the street an adventure. The grocery store we were looking for no longer existed but a nice lady showed us the way to Maxwell’s…

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Look familiar? Yup, it’s a traditional North American Superstore!!

Maybe it was because we will be stuck on the boat potentially for next 5 days when the front hits or that I haven’t been in a grocery store with so much variety at reasonable prices since we left Florida but, and I will quote Steve here, I got a little “grocery store drunk”. I could barely control myself when I walked through the door. I could have lived in the produce section!!

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My haul from Maxwells J I have no need to eat in a restaurant again!

We managed to pile everything on Diana and we were underway again by 1630hrs. We motored about four miles and found a pretty little anchorage near Sugar Loaf Cays.

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View from anchorage and a passing boat in front of Sugar Loaf Cays

April 27, 2012

We were up early to listen to the 0630hrs weather forecast. Chris Parker confirmed his earlier prediction of the front moving in sometime Saturday which is supposed to deliver strong winds and dump up to 2 inches of rain!! So, we need to be secure at anchor in Great Guana Cay as soon as possible. We were underway around 0830hrs headed to Man O Way Cay to make a quick stop at a canvas and sail makers shop called Albury’s Sail Shop. The guide says is offers a variety of canvas bags and we really wanted to check it out for its souvenir potential.

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Narrow entrance to Man O Way Cay

Man O Way is a small settlement with a thriving boat building industry. It is a sleepy little town with strong religious influences. We motored into the harbor to investigate the mooring field and discovered it was full of boats so we flipped around and anchored just outside instead.

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Mooring field in Man O War Cay

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Albury’s Sail Shop

And this is where I got a little “canvas bag drunk!” I’m a bag/purse junkie anyway so this was just fuel for the fire. The amount of canvas work in this shop was overwhelming. It was like a mecca of canvas bags of all sizes; hand bags, shaving and make up bags, travelling bags, hats etc… Unfortunately, everything was much too expensive for our budget. We found everything to cost twice as much as what we felt it was worth. Discouraged and a little empty handed we left the store to go for a little walk around town before we headed back to the boat.

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Streets of Man O War – wide enough for one car or two golf carts

We got back on board Diana and sailed the eight miles to Great Guana Cay. There are a few more boats than we expected in Fisher’s Bay but room enough for all of us. It would seem we all had the same idea. Well, the clouds have been rolling in all day and we expect the rain to start sometime tonight or sometime tomorrow.

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Anchorage a Great Guana Cay

The front is supposed to last until Tuesday or Wednesday so let the reading, snacking and napping begin! We are hoping to get off the bit tomorrow morning to explore this little island before the weather hits.

April 28 to April 30, 2012

We put up the full enclosure to give us “another room” to hang out in as we could be stuck on board for the next four days. It proved to be an excellent idea. It was kind of nice to be able to sit outside at times and not be pelted with rain. It also made showering much more comfortable J

We didn’t get a chance to get off the boat before the weather hit. In fact, it was a little underwhelming and not the “significant weather front” predicted. The sky was overcast, gray and it rained for three days in a drizzly off and on sort of fashion. The wind didn’t get much over 25 kts so the boat held nicely in our anchorage.

So, we read, we snacked, we napped and we surfed the web to pass the time. There are wireless hotspots all over the Abaco granting us access to internet at unreasonable prices. Our weekly package cost us 35$ - regardless we were very happy to have it and should we leave Great Guana before our week runs out, we should be able to pick up the hot spot at our next stop.

We are hoping to get off the boat tomorrow to stretch our legs on Great Guana Cay.