Treasured Tranquil Turtles

Sand Bank Cays with Treasure Cay in distance

Sand Bank Cays with Treasure Cay in distance

So here we are, having decided to extend our stay into April; wondering which way to turn from Guana Cay. How about we let the wind and weather help with that; gee wouldn’t that be a novel idea? Another front was arriving with the west wind part of it relatively benign; however, the 1, 2, 3, front punch after that was downright troubling. I know that you all know that winter hasn’t received the “time for Spring” memo, and the same goes here in the too close to Florida Abacos.

For now, we’d let the wind fill our sails and set a course for Treasure Cay with its long stretch of gorgeous white sand beach that cozies up to turquoise blue water, or is it azure blue? Doesn’t matter really when it’s that beautiful.

Sunday, our next stop would require a mooring in Hope Town or a dock to sit out the next 3 fronts with that nasty clocking around activity. Hey, how about doing the Whale? Low, SW winds would allow nearly any vessel to get past Whale Cay and with high tide around mid-day we could easily take the “Don’t Rock” passage. This meant we’d be looking for a slip at Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina in Green Turtle Cay’s White Sound; possibly for six nights. Darn. Imagine, a restaurant, beach bar, pool, wi-fi, water, power and all the interesting people you meet at a marina- this wasn’t too hard to take. But first, one needs to contact the marina.

Your experience may be different, but here’s ours: 🙂

  • Hail Bluff House on CH16 before coming past the Whale. Eight miles away. No response. Do that 3 times
  • Call them on the phone: result busy. Try that 5 times
  • Listen to announcement on CH16 that phones are down on Green Turtle. Wi-fi too. Sigh
  • Roll dice. Continue past the Whale via Don’t Rock passage over shifting sand bars that look much more shallow than 6 feet

    The rock in the Don't Rock passage- the shallow draft route inside Whale Cay

    The rock in the Don’t Rock passage- the shallow draft route inside Whale Cay

  • Hail Bluff House on CH16 at six miles. Success! They have space. We’re coming in hot!
  • Continue making water that started at 9am and anchor at Joyless Pt, outside of White Sound- Ok so we’re not coming in tonight
  • Launch dinghy and go in to check out the slip ( I mean we haven’t docked in 5 mos) and reserve it for Monday. This process took Russ 45 mins and the dinghy ride was only 5
  • Talk through docking process twice to be sure we each know our job (me that is). Test headsets-OK
  • Process is we go stern-in to the dock, wedging our 23ft between the two pilings, port and starboard. There’s no side dock, just a ladder on the dock at our stern where we’d climb up. I’d have to get lines on the pilings before we backed all the way in
  • Use bad language when headset dies before we get to the dock. Russ executed a perfect back-in, stopping half-way. I needed six tries to get the line around the piling, but the applause felt good. (does it take six people to watch us dock?) Yes, some helped too.
  • Spend 30 mins attaching and adjusting bow, spring, stern lines so that we could get off the boat and still have it snug enough to stay in place for the eventual 33kts.
  • Get into the marina groove and enjoy! 2-4-1 Tranquil Turtles every day at Happy Hour

    Bird in a web- no flight for this lady

    Bird in a web- no flight for this lady

Many boats bouncing around the Sea of Abaco are charter boats; Moorings, Dream Yacht Charters, Cruise Abaco, to name a few. Once in a while the owner may be enjoying his boat, but generally you will see a bareboat charter or a captained one. Not that cruisers are anywhere near perfect boat handlers, but when you are operating an unfamiliar vessel, trying to squeeze 10 days-worth of fun into 7 or less, you may become the center of attention, especially at the dock.

Someone messed up and the dinghy tumbled

Someone messed up and the dinghy tumbled

This charter power cat, Sea Song stayed a few nights, three spaces (can’t really call them slips) down from us. During the docking process which included more wind than we had, it seemed like the owner and friends were aboard as well as a hired captain.  The dinghy gets hoisted on davits. When departing, the captain gunned it to get past the docks in front of him, the dinghy tumbled into the water, its contents taking the plunge. The onlookers yelled, the crew hustled and the captain left the helm to see for himself. Not sure leaving the helm is a good idea, but this way everyone got into my photo- which- sorry- was taken through the Strataglass panel.

Cruiser runs aground leaving at low tide

Cruiser runs aground leaving at low tide

A few days later this small Grand Banks backs out of his space 30 mins before a low tide which is lower than usual. The tender to yacht Koala was ahead of him and when Loon decided to go around the tender, bam! Aground. Naturally, people were watching because well, you get bored and a boat coming or going is worth watching.  Pulling was futile and around 3:30, after the tide rose enough, Loon floated off and after a test drive for damage, nosed back into her space for one more night.

Monday promises to be a busy day of departures. Many boats are looking to cross to FL or GA asap and while we’ll be going the same way, our plan is to spend 4-5 days exploring a few of the cays that lie northwest of Green Turtle. Described with words that also would describe the Jumentos or Warderick Wells, we are very eager to check them out. And for the weather to settle.

Laying Low in Abaco

This large sea star was easy to spot in shallow, clear water close to the beach

This large sea star was easy to spot in shallow, clear water close to the beach

The protected Sea of Abaco strives, at times, to compete with the big ocean by churning up waves and choppiness that worsen as you pass close to an ocean cut. We allowed enough time (about a month) to move around in favorable winds and a sea state that suited us. Therefore, strong north winds kept us tucked in on a Pete’s Pub mooring in Little Harbor at the southern end of the Sea of Abaco, and so began an eight-day fun and frolic with new boat friends.

This hermit crab chose a different shell than the usual West Indian Top Shells. He hangs around the pub at night

This hermit crab chose a different shell than the usual West Indian Top Shells. He hangs around the pub at night

Darn good thing we aren’t depending on our fish-catching luck to feed ourselves. The Mahi that liked our hook was a fighter and with rod and reel we might have kept him, but he got off just as Russ was about to pull him up. Fortunately our neighbors on s/v Dolphin Leap scored a big one and when s/v Mardi Gras arrived on Wed we feasted on delicious Mahi and coleslaw prepared by Masha, appetizers a la Mardi Gras with fresh-baked focaccia made famous by Chef Russ.

Tuesday was “anything you wish to do” perfect and the sea glass on Lynyard Cay called out to me. Gotta love Google Earth that showed us a tiny spot where we could land Bunting then walk around at the southern end. At first I wasn’t sure about the terrain but closer inspection revealed it ideal for trapping glass that washed up over the rocks set at just the right angle. Footwear a must; a screwdriver would come in handy for prying pieces firmly wedged and a large bag to hold your treasures. Besides the sea glass I found a perfect Reticulated Cowrie Helmet specimen- very exciting and by far my best shell find ever. (it’s only 3″long)

A rocky, other-world type beach with scattered sand spots is ideal for sea glass

A rocky, other-world type beach with scattered sand spots is ideal for sea glass

A low-tide walk along the rocky side of the mooring field always results in new finds. This time we spotted live West Indian Top snails- you know- before the hermit crabs call them “home”.  Another first and many were quite large; some day the perfect hermit mansion.

Grandpa Top Shell and chitons on the rocks visible at low tide

Grandpa Top Shell and chitons on the rocks visible at low tide

Sat, March 15: we headed north to provision at the excellent Maxwell’s in Marsh Harbor, make water along the way, and backtrack a bit to anchor near Baker’s Rock/Tahiti Beach across from Cracker P’s on Lubbers Quarters. Tonight the three boats would make tracks for Cracker P’s full moon party and beach bonfire; our first ever. Dolphin Leap and Mardi Gras regaled us with their adventures which included (I won’t say who did what) one being towed out of Little Harbor by the other, a handheld VHF taking a swim, handheld rescued but then the rescuer needed rescuing, going aground, repairs to the original problem and well, you get the idea. Despite all that, both boats arrived on time for the party; hearty cruisers are like that.

Keith, Russ, Moi, Linda and Masha -ready for buffet and bonfire at Cracker P's

Keith, Russ, Moi, Linda and Masha -ready for buffet and bonfire at Cracker P’s

Masha snapped a good one of me by the bonfire

Masha snapped a good one of me by the bonfire

Bonfire- what shape do you see?

Bonfire- what shape do you see?

Next stop: the lovely Hope Town harbor where we used our Maine Cat connections to procure a mooring for three nights. The fronts have been steady and every other one is weak; still keeps us happy to be doing that clocking around action on a mooring. Sunday we participated in our first dinghy drift; one of the largest they’ve had. More than 50 dinghies tied up together while 120 happy floaters passed around finger foods to share. The flotilla moved slowly through the mooring field and toward the harbor’s entrance. The ferry snuck by just in time but the three-man crew of a large center console got a big surprise as they rounded the corner- and there we sat, a joyful jelly fish blob waving and cheering.

On Da BeachEarlier that day killing a few birds seemed to be the way to go: lunch, a walk and checking out a new beach bar. We don’t usually eat at the bar but that was the only spot, so we took it. Those who do this know you can meet more people this way, get drinks spilled on you and get to know your bartender better. 🙂 We met Bill and Betsy, a few years our senior, who sadly were enjoying their last day in Hope Town. After lunch we joined them and shared stories. The resort van took us all back into town and we were invited to check out the villa. Of course, we pointed out our floating home along the way. The view from the roof top lounge area couldn’t have been better. We noticed Bill out on the dock when the dinghy drift came by later and we shared a big wave.

Entrance channel into Hope Town Harbor

Entrance channel into Hope Town Harbor

Monday afternoon we rented a golf cart with Masha and Keith of Dolphin Leap to see the mid and southern sights of Elbow Cay/Hope Town that are not within walking distance of town. Beautiful beaches, some with sea glass, great beach bars and colorful villas with creative names and pretty landscaping.

Firefly Resort -our first stop

Firefly Resort -our first stop

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and fresh lemonade- so summer, so southern!

Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and fresh lemonade- so summer, so southern!

A photo-stop by the beach near The Abaco Inn

A photo-stop by the beach near The Abaco Inn

Tahiti Beach at high tide. I work my way around in search of sea glass; first climbing through a jungle gym in the trees

Tahiti Beach at high tide. I work my way around in search of sea glass; first climbing through a jungle gym in the trees

One evening we gathered aboard Mardi Gras for Barry’s delicious Sangria. So delicious and not sweet at all; just right. No one spilled and that was extra nice.

Moonrise over Harbor's Edge - an easy dinghy row from our mooring

Moonrise over Harbor’s Edge – an easy dinghy row from our mooring

Wed arrived and by the time we got up our friends had departed; headed for Green Turtle and the dreaded Whale Cay passage. Laundry was long overdue for us so we took are of that at Light House Marina. Our destination today: Fisher’s Bay at Great Guana Cay, where we’d call home for a few days and the Barefoot Man concert at Nippers.

The Hope Town Sailing Club sponsors many races throughout the year and today was a point-to-point race. In this photo you can see that no other boat is ahead of us:-)

race float