Marsh Harbour

Fancy Defence Force vessel in Marsh Harbour

Although a fair number of cruisers anchor in the protected harbour that’s ringed by marinas, restaurants and private docks, it’s the free anchoring, easy access to provisions and a myriad supplies that’s the draw, not the scenery. Marsh is the country’s third largest city- behind Nassau and Freeport I’m guessing. Marsh Harbour also boasts the only street light in the Abacos.

The city was founded by American Loyalists in 1784; growing from an initial population of a few hundred to more than 7,000 residents today. The infrastructure is more substantial than any other place we’ve visited in the Bahamas (with the exception of Nassau on New Providence) and Maxwell’s Supermarket definitely feels like a stateside grocery, albeit closer to a Piggly Wiggly than a Wegman’s!

Timeline:

  • 1565: French colony established and paired with a sister colony in St. Augustine
  • 1947: Bahamas Airways Ltd introduced the first scheduled flights between Abaco and Nassau
  • 1957: Marsh Harbour Int’l Airport opened- the prior year Marsh obtained Port of Entry status by Bahamas Customs
  • 1959: Abaco road network began by Owens-Illinois covered 1,600 miles including secondary logging roads. Two licensed autos on Abaco this year.
  • 1968: Owens-Illinois completed pulpwood operation began in 1948. They provided the area’s first medical doctor in ’48.
  • 1973: Independence from Great Britain on July 10. Not all Bahamians wanted this to occur.
  • 1993: The Abaconian newspaper began as a 12-page monthly.

Ok- now on to our Sea of Abaco wanderings. Remarkably settled weather held out thru the end of December so we made the most of it. A trip down to Little Harbour is a must and there we performed the final act of identifying ourselves as Florida residents; removing our CT dinghy numbers and replacing them with FL registration numbers. Once again, thanks to BoatNumberPlate it was easy, even the removal.

Don’t worry, we made time to beachcomb and enjoy lunch at Pete’s. The foundry had just finished up a commissioned piece that we admired as Pete and his chief foundry guy polished it up outside the Gallery/Gift Shop.

Little Harbour with new reflective FL dinghy numbers.

One of our last out and about stops before needing to hide out at Marsh Harbour Marina for the approaching cold front (and guest preparations) was near Snake Cay. The holding is very iffy near there so we anchored a bit further  away and our trusty Ultra dug in well.

I watched as three dolphins headed our way, perhaps drawn in by the hum of the watermaker.

Dolphin visitors easily seen in clear water off Cormorant Cay .

The opening next to Snake Cay that leads you into a mangrove-lined lagoon is narrow and when the current is full force you notice! Luckily we entered about an hour past low. Higher tide is needed if you want to meander south from the lagoon area.

Ray in lagoon behind Snake Cay

 

Snake Cay lagoon has a varied bottom with lots of shallows and is very deep near entrance. Swift current creates sand steps that you can see on calm days.

So we next headed into Marsh Harbour Dec 31 to the marina that would be home until Lily and Benj arrived on Jan 6. As we approached the wide and marked entrance into the harbour, we noticed the below scene off to our right in the middle of the Sea of Abaco. The start of a race? A New Year’s Eve tradition? No way Jose!

Most but not all of BucketLust cats- drone photo shoot?

We got closer and boats were still coming out of the harbour, so could read the flag that said BUCKETLUST. Googled that and it’s basically an organization where twenty-somethings charter catamarans in exotic places and ski at top resorts. The cats hold 8- 10 young people and the ratio HAS to be 50/50 male/female. The charter captains are local charter captains that the lead organizer of each boat has to hire. The lead also has to fill the boat with that 50/50 ratio. And then they all descend upon the chosen location and boy I’m not sure I want to know after that!

They picked a bad week this time; very windy much of the week. The itinerary looked good, lots of fun stops but not sure all were possible with the week’s lousy weather.

BucketLust charter cats head off for a week of frolic in the Abacos

Our slip at the marina is closer to shore due our draft so we had extra wind and wave protection, but there’s one direction that really blows the waves into the fairways and yep we had some of that.

Someone’s sail on the dock across is trying to go sailing!

 

Became very wavy in MHM fairways with west-ish winds. Note the wave splashing at the stern of the sailboat

In between the wind and rain we cleaned inside and out, loaded up with as many provisions as we could, prepped the spare berth by removing contents to new and unusual places, and baked, baked and baked!

Arrival day’s forecast was so-so, but worse was the next day’s and you know we don’t like to be out in 20kts+ ! Not doing that with guests either, so plans were finalized (after much and lengthy consideration) to get to Sea Spray Marina on Elbow Cay Saturday afternoon. Hopefully the trip would be tolerable and the worst one we’d have to make all week. Excited to see Benj and Lily?  You bet!!

 

 

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Hope Town on Elbow Cay

After the rain… We get one of these shots every year

What’s not to love about Hope Town? Pretty sure I’ve told you it all before, but I did take pictures because we spent Christmas on a mooring in the harbor. First though, the background info and timeline. Aren’t you surprised at the recent-ness of non-generator electricity and homes with phones?

Timeline:

  • 1697-1718 Piracy in Hope Town. Real high seas pirates, not the land sort!
  • 1783-85 Loyalists arrive. Wyannie Malone and three of children among the first settlers. The museum bears her name (check out the Ebb Tide gift shop attached to museum)
  • 1700s: Wrecking at its peak. (thinking Hope Town should be the sister city to Key West)
  • 1864: The lighthouse was built to save lives
  • 1900: Hope Town was home port for at least 200 vessels
  • 1933: A major hurricane decimated Hope Town leaving only three homes undamaged
  • 1960s: The vacation home era begins
  • 1974: Electricity arrives!

Head east from Marsh Harbour and there lies the well-known settlement of Hope Town, located on Elbow Cay so named for the bent arm look. The ferry from Marsh Harbour gets you and tons of workers there in 20 minutes. Elbow Cay is, at least from what we’ve seen, populated by vacationers and non- Bahamians, far more so than by native Bahamians (apprx 260 native residents). Roots go back to Lucayan, Indian, Spanish Slave Raider, pirate, British and Loyalists!

It’s a quaint, New England style village with colorful homes (mostly rentals), many with ocean views. Hope Town boasts a two-mile long walk-able beach. Where I found my first sea bean, although you don’t find many on that beach at all.

The harbour more recently seems to be the home for two manatees, which I’ve named Mabel and Manny.

Mabel greets us as we get tied up to the mooring. She heard the sound of fresh water dripping into the water as Russ rinsed off the steps

They tend to hang out at Lighthouse Marina, the very small marina near the harbour’s entrance. The marina sells fuel and water, the ferry drops off and picks up workers, one can use the washers and dryers for that fun laundry task and amuse yourself by watching the manatees.

The good life!

 

Not a remora- but what? This underside view was a surprise. Have seen remoras on nurse sharks- but not sure what this creature is.

 

On our way to dinner at Harbours Edge on Christmas Eve

 

Hope Town harbor- we are to the left “under the lighthouse. Harbours Edge restaurant on right

When the winds are light we head out of the harbour to run our watermaker and enjoy places like Tahiti Beach which is on Elbow Cay a few miles south of Hope Town Harbour.

Tahiti Beach- not much beach exposed at high tide

If you missed the posts about Man-O-War and Green Turtle… just go back a post or two to see their history and timelines. Next up after Hope Town is Marsh Harbour.

Man-O-War Cay

Green Turtle sits at the upper left corner. Man-O-War on the right edge, above Marsh Harbour

Just three and half miles north-east of Marsh Harbour lies the tranquil settlement of Man-O-War; tranquil no doubt thanks to being “dry”. The Dock ’n Dine Restaurant only recently began offering beer and wine with meals, and that’s it for booze on this small cay. MOW stretches two and a half miles and contains 350 residents.

The Loyalists, who moved from the U.S. during the War of Independence, founded this settlement of hard-working and dedicated boat builders. MOW, once the boat-building capital of the Bahamas, is still known for the craftsmanship that is kept alive by many of its residents. You can stop by Edwin’s Boatyard where there’s always interesting activity.

Many of the original clapboard houses still stand and the narrow streets are just wide enough for walkers and golf carts. Arrive via Albury’s Ferry or your own vessel; no airstrip here.

As with other cays and settlements in the Abacos, we’ve visited MOW several times over our six trips to the Bahamas. If you’d like photos of these places just use the Search feature. (guess I didn’t take any this visit or the prior!)

Timeline:

  • 1798: Man-O-War Cay settled and used for farming
  • 1876: First kerosene lamp
  • 1860s: Boat building started, and with it, sail making
  • 1921: Man-O-War school built
  • 1974: Electricity ran from the mainland using underwater cables- watch where you anchor!
  • 1987: Phones installed in private homes

During the settled spell which lasted more than two weeks, we anchored off Man-O-War. I think that’s where Russ first took apart the watermaker- actually the reversing valve in the Clark pump for those who want the details. The reversing valve is what makes a Spectra watermaker twice as efficient.

But no worries, we dinghied in to the dinghy dock at Man-O-War marina to enjoy lunch at Dock ‘n Dine where Ricardo says, “Please keep enjoying.” I love it. And we will!

 

 

 

Green Turtle Cay

For many cruisers who cross to the Bahamas from Florida and don’t stop to clear customs & immigration at West End (Grand Bahama) or Bimini or even the more eastern Spanish Cay, Green Turtle is the popular place to clear in if headed to the Abacos.

Just a short ferry ride from the mainland (Great Abaco Island), Green Turtle is one of the earliest settlements in Abaco. With pirate, African, and Loyalist roots, and with ties to its sister city Key West, Green Turtle was once the largest settlement in Abaco. A dwindling population of approximately 500 residents doesn’t stop the cay from hosting many celebrations throughout the year.

Timeline:

  • 1718: Pirate Charles Vane (see Black Sails on Netflix) fled Nassau and hid out on GTC
  • 1828: Migration to Key West began (not sure why, but they sure chose well)
  • 1899: Sisal production was the most important industry (and very labor intensive)
  • 1948: Bahamas Airways began service using seaplanes
  • 1954: electricity arrives!
  • 1977: Green Turtle Cay named the Sister City of Key West

We’ve stopped here many times before on our way into the Abacos or out. Always a welcoming stop, with several well stocked grocery stores, eateries, historic sites and beaches; not to mention the well-known Green Turtle Club and Bluff House.

Recent visits have been at Donny’s Marina in Black Sound (yes, as opposed to White Sound), where Donny offers moorings and dockage.

We arrived (as is usual for us) ahead of a cold front, because that’s often when conditions are mild. Russ went ashore to the pink rectangular gov’t building to clear customs but the official had left early so, well, it’s the Bahamas mon.

Friday, the next day, he tried again. Paperwork complete ahead of time. The customs official was usually stationed at the Treasure Cay airport so not only wasn’t he familiar with boat clearing in, but the building got locked by mistake so those checking in had to sit on the porch, in the wind, papers blowing about. Russ even had to tell the man how much we owed- boy $50 would be a perfect amount- but we paid the $150 for our boat size.

The front arrived that afternoon with a vengeance. Feel it, see it, hear it.

Line to us and one to sailboat rafted to another at the dock, to keep us off the dock a bit.

The large sail cat on the dock opposite us had a line tied to a dock cleat- bad idea.

Russ braves wind and rain to secure bow line of boat that broke off a dock cleat

I am always happy to be the warm and dry photographer!

Donny comes out to assist and claim his dock cleat- held in right hand

Wind and rain let up eventually and we walked through town, purchased our annual Bahamian calendar then walked the beach.

Pretty blue sky the day after- or maybe two.

When we depart it’s on to… well that depends on the weather!

Abacos: 12/7/17 – 1/6/18

Tahiti Beach- not much beach exposed at high tide

Surprise! We are crossing sooner than later. Not exactly music to my ears, but not sour notes either. One minute it looked like we had a week until the right conditions, and the next- bam- how about Thurs, 3 days from now? That fickle weather thing. The approaching cold front was going to stall and allow us a two-day window to travel 170nm from our marina base to Green Turtle Cay, Abaco where we’d clear in and wait out the front.

We didn’t have to take this window but it looked good and since we had a rental car for Tues & Wed for final provisioning, it was doable. If we weren’t so experienced with the prep process, this rush would have been a bad idea, but this is our 6th crossing. 🙂

As you can see from the title, I’d planned on one long post for our time here before our esteemed guests arrived Jan 6. Then we picked up the latest Destination Abaco (free glossy tourist booklet) and the past quarter’s Abaco Life mini magazine. We always glean an interesting fact or two about Abaco history and/or local residents/happenings.

What I’ll do is share some history (taken from the above mentioned booklets) about Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay, Man-o-War Cay, Marsh Harbor and Hope Town in a few separate posts and include any worthy photos taken while we were there. Treasure was on our stop list but we didn’t make it there this time.

With a month to bounce around the Abacos; we hoped to spend time at all our favorite places and we did!  The weather cooperated much better than one would expect, even for December, with long stretches of settled conditions that included NO rain and NO wind over 12kts and many days of “light & variable”- my absolute favorite forecast.

Our bouncing went like this: Green Turtle to Hope Town to Man o’ War, to Marsh, to Tahiti Beach, to off Firefly, down to Little Harbor, back up to Marsh Harbor, over to Hope Town and back to Marsh for our marina reservation starting Jan 3.

Our Spectra watermaker gave us some grief early on because when you don’t make water (just flushing every few days isn’t the same) for a couple of months, and then you do- well stuff happens- or in our case- it didn’t happen! Russ resolved the problem without nearly killing himself as he did last December and Spectra has sent parts to our son who will play delivery guy.

Our (one and only) toilet has this solenoid thing that makes the fresh flushing water operate- or not. 🙂 Of course we have a spare and that has become the new operating part but not a perfect one, so the company has sent another to guess who? 😉 Now we have, if I may quote our dear one, “all the amenities!  … the five-star experience you can expect aboard Twin Sisters!” Russ & I both cracked up laughing at that. Here we thought we just had the essentials!

Hopefully that does it for boat troubles, but we still have months to go and you know how stuff comes in threes- we have two so far. Stay tuned my friends- I’ve been too long without posting!

 

Fort Pierce- A bit of everything

Ah, a sparkling day on the ICW

Hello again!

I’m going to devote precious little space to what it took for us to establish ourselves as Florida residents, with a new mailing address, new local bank, new storage place, new drivers licenses, register and title the dinghy, register to vote, apply for Florida healthcare and then add, change and delete all that one must when you have a new address. Russ deserves a gold medal for his patient, tireless efforts and for putting up with my exasperated discourse every time things went awry; oh and you know they zigged when we wanted zag, changed plans on the fly and lord, I am so, so glad it’s done.

Even getting our Enterprise rental car on Nov 15 so we could get to DMV, dentist, etc, had him gone one solid hour and the place was less than a mile away from the marina!!  If you need to know more, I’ve added a page (tab) for the topic.

We arrived at FPCM a few days early which meant we could check out the well-known and extensive Farmers’ Market.

2017 is Year 21

Sunny, breezy and delightful. Live music too. Every Saturday and a much smaller one Wednesday afternoons.

Marina in the background- great location!

 

So colorful

 

The crafters’ section- about three times what you see here.

DMV or not? We opted for what may look like a DMV office but is in fact the county tax collector’s office. Everything is much larger here in Florida compared to Connecticut.

We had # 541, not a long wait from #537

This place is in Vero Beach. Been in an old neighborhood for many years.

Donuts- yes we managed to work in plenty of those. Donut Circus in Fort Pierce was the best- not super fancy but fresh and how can you beat $4.21 for 6? plus we often got a 7th included for free. 🙂  The local law enforcement could be found there too, only they tried to go incognito. Got a tip about Jupiter Donuts in Stuart but never got that far.

Oh look, am I not so very attractive??

Egrets- ah they kept me busy one morning. You get the idea.

Not giving up!

Flew on Spirit Airlines from Orlando to Windsor Locks, CT. Spirit is no frills and their version of First Class is four seats in the first row. We took two to keep Russ and his long legs comfortable for the 3-hour non-stop flight.

The Marriott Springhill Suites was pricey but only a very short walk to the Uhaul pickup location. We opted for Hotels.com, so as to get some good deals for all our hotel nights this trip.

Spent Tuesday and part of Wednesday carefully loading the Uhaul, then turned in our keys and bid farewell to our storage unit of seven years. Felt like early Christmas as I peeked into boxes and the drawers of my linen press; first glimpse of the contents since packing up in 2010.

Done and packed so nothing should move

Enjoyed a happy family Thanksgiving in Ivoryton, CT. Benj drove down and we got to spend a few extra hours with him on Friday before we needed to start the long drive back to Florida.

An apres shopping warm bevvie and dessert at Dagmar’s. Father and son I’d say

 

He has my lovely teeth! And the Rackliffe curly hair. He also travels to some cool places 🙂

There’s no avoiding I-95, but we wanted to avoid tolls as much as possible and the Cross Bronx Expressway leading to the GW.  Our EZPass could not be used on the Uhaul and we couldn’t know which toll plazas still had a cash lane or were electronic only.  And as you may guess, we wanted to drive over the new Tappan Zee Bridge and make sure that final span was properly in place. 🙂

Tappan Zee Bridge- the new one

 

No missing spans here! Glad they got it in place between Sept and now

Traveling, flying and driving can be stressful, but if you have a nice room and a king bed to fall into, how great is that? You all may be spoiled but we sleep in a cave-like space just this side of Queen. And by that I mean “down” side.

Yippee another King bed!

Two and a half days after leaving Connecticut we arrived back at the marina without incident; just a few traffic backups on Sunday. Gotta love Google Maps for driving.

Monday we got back into the heavy lifting and managed to get 95% packed into the new unit.

The hard part is done: setting up the table for the boxes on left, and carrying in and nestling the other table pieces

The St Lucie County Christmas parade took place a snowball’s throw from the marina. Talk about weird- not cold, no snow and hot beverages to warm you up. Still, was festive and I got to wear what minimal warm weather Christmas-y things I have.

Christmas parade and tree lighting afterward

What’s a Florida parade without a boat or two?

The park where the weekly market takes place has all these tall palms and not long after arriving here we watched the county workers wrap lights around the trunks. Each tree had some sort of small box as part of the light strands. Then the day came for the parade and tree lighting- Dec 2 and we watched the palm tree light show as the colors changed, often rapidly, in keeping with the music.

The palms in the park at the marina are lit with special lights that change color with the notes of the song. This year seems to be Mannheim Steamroller. Excellent choice!

May you all be blessed with the joy, love and peace of the holiday season. Wishing you superb health and happiness in the New Year!

Bummed about The Bums

We come upon the BUMs when we take the marina courtesy car to shop. Allie & kids, no Pat-we should have stopped then.

If you’ve been following us you know about the Bums, right?  If not sure, then check their blog that’s been up and running for oh, must be at least 12 years, since they headed off on a sailing catamaran named Bumfuzzle, to circumnavigate. First, just Pat and Allie circumnavigating, then they changed gears and modes of transportation several times, but always some very vintage-y cool vehicle, like a Traveco, or a VW Bug. Across the country, to Mexico, across the pond and back- when oh, Allie was due with Ouest, who is now SEVEN! Then along came Lowe, so now the perfect family of blonde Bums. There’s so much more to their story, you will just have to read it for yourself.

How do we know about them? Well, several years prior to 2010 we needed to figure out “how much would we spend out there?” Keep in mind this is before blogs, when people just had a website. Pat had the knowledge and background to construct a great site, even had a “Buy us a beer” feature. One thing they did that almost no one else did, was to put up a page that showed their spending by category; not very many categories mind you, but hey it was better than nothing. From that fateful moment on, Russ checked that blog regularly. Jimmy Buffett was our musical inspiration, Latitudes and Attitudes (Lats & Atts) our monthly magazine inspiration and now Bumfuzzle.com was our online addiction! Buy the boat and we are good to go! 🙂  Oh wait, we bought their book too and Russ had them sign it for me as a gift.

Imagine our excitement when we read the latest news; they’d bought a Grand Banks 42 and would be cruising Florida and Bahamas! Good news: the boat is located in St Augustine, Florida. Bad news: Irma is on her way. Good News: Boat is in a snug and sturdy marina, one that we’ve been to and were planning to visit again. More Good News: The marina sustained next to zero damage and all boats were fine- yay!  Bad News: even with several attempts we never did get to met the amazing Bums in person. But hope springs eternal and as long as they are on the East Coast, it may happen.

There you have it; just some background for you as I take you through Florida.

After leaving Jekyll Island (and the fog) behind we crossed the FL/GA line south of Cumberland Island, sans musical accompaniment.

While we didn’t see much worse than this (below), had we ventured up the St John’s River (Jacksonville) or down into the Keys, the sight would be heartbreaking.

Hurricane results as we come along Fernandina

Just before this spot is one of those sections where we are happy to have Navionics running on the iPad, and to be a shallow draft boat. Hoping the dredge will continue north around the corner.

Much needed dredging happening south of Fernandina in a major problem area

The tide was nearly high as we transited the Fernandina area but almost low through Sisters Creek. Not much wiggle room as the northbound tug approached us, so Russ slowed to a crawl and moved over as far as he dared- into 4 1/2 ft- yikes. A few minutes later I looked back to see the tug getting his comeuppance for pushing us out of the channel.

Soon after making us nearly go aground, the tug receives payback. AIS showed him stopped and stuck …..

We’d snagged the last slip that was wide enough for us at Camachee Cove Marina and Russ backed in like a pro. The marina isn’t within walking distance of downtown St Augustine, but either Uber or Lyft will only set you back $8 one way. Everything else about the marina is “what’s not to love?”.  I was thrilled to receive a second highball glass in the goody bag as now we have two glass drinking glasses that fit where I keep them.

Moon Rise over Vilano Beach opposite Camachee Cove

Full moon brought a king tide one morning that kept us aboard until the water receded enough so we could jump off the floating boat dock onto shore. Eventually the ramp became usable again.

Full moon HIGH tide at Camachee Cove

 

Lunch and libations at The Floridian. Love my Garden Gimlet made with St Aug Distillery gin

Flagler College is very impressive but that’s because railroad magnate Henry Flagler built it as the Hotel Ponce de Leon, going all out with scads of imported artisans and craftsmen and the best architects from NYC. Built in 1888, the hotel was a resort like no other. More than a place to stay- it was an exclusive and opulent playground for the world’s most privileged elite. Eighty years later, the college was founded and has no doubt invested millions in restoring and preserving this architectural wonder in the heart of St Augustine.

Fountain inside the main gate entrance. Behind me is the bldg entrance door way

 

Flagler College Rotunda

Guided tours are offered twice a day. We missed the 2pm tour, so a tour will be on the list for our springtime stop.

Can you find the mistake in the tiles? Searching for mistakes is a common student diversion.

I’m gonna remind you how lovely the Mosquito Lagoon is and we love traveling through it on beautiful days to better see and photograph its wildlife residents- like dolphins, manatee and birds of all sorts.

Sometimes I get kinda lucky. Mama and child.  Been spotting more young families than usual lately

At the end of the Lagoon you use the Haulover Canal to get over to the Indian River of grapefruit fame.

Haulover Canal where manatees abound- love the shallow water

I know you can’t see the manatee in the above photo, but I was zoomed in to take that shot. Hadn’t refocused yet when a manatee surfaced at our bow where I just happened to be standing, camera ready- but oh bummer too zoomed. Would have been a good shot otherwise.

Perfect photo op ruined – but let your imagination run wild!

Just after exiting the short Haulover Canal, where only a very few locals were fishing:

Yay- a two-fer! Great Blue Heron and Dolphin- bonus if you spot the Bald eagle in the tree!

Our month’s reservation at Ft Pierce City Marina was due to begin Nov 13 but since we were in the neighborhood early and the weather was going to deteriorate, we decided to go early. That meant just one night at good ole Velcro Beach where we took the bus to Publix and tried to open accounts at a new bank. More on the “establishing residency” process later.

Our one night stay at Vero Beach. We couldn’t miss stopping and ruin our perfect record!

Thursday, Nov 9 we arrived at FPCM, “A” dock, our home for at least the next 30 days. Power, floating docks, good wifi, laundry, secure, on-site restaurants and 15% off gift shop purchases- happy us. Packages would be arriving shortly- thank you Amazon, and others.