Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Abacos January 2005

Dolphins in Marsh HarbourJan 13/05 Ross’s Birthday
We are hiding from another norther…this time in Treasure Cay. At least the Abacos has lots of secure anchorages to try when the northers come through. Treasure Cay is very cruiser friendly. They have a fantastic deal at the marina for January and February, like Green Turtle plus allow the boats anchored (there are no longer mooring balls) to use their facilities, showers and pool for $8/night. We also extended that to get water. The beach at Treasure Cay is rated as one of the best in the world and we have to agree with the rating. Although it was too cold to swim, we really enjoyed walking in the pure white sand.

The boats in the anchorage continue to drag with each squall, so we are kept busy. Bev is baking, to warm RAFT and provide comfort food. This norther lasts 5 days, and when it is over we head back to Marsh Harbour.

Jan 24/05 Marsh Harbour
We are ready to move....we have been here too long... We have about 60 miles outside to do, to go from Little Harbor (Abacos) to Royal Island (Eleuthera) We have been gleaning info from others who have made the trip...some say go right to Rose Island and explore the Exumas, others recommend spending lots of time on Eleuthera, and making the jump to the Exumas through one of the cuts. Can't say today what we will do, but we will figure that out once we get there.

Right now, looking at the weather forecast, we know we will be staying in the Abacos until next week, so we are going to Hopetown tomorrow, and slowly making our way down to Little Harbor the jump off point. Apparently there are quite a few nice places to visit and great snorkeling, providing the water warms up a bit -- currently 65 degrees last week it was over 70, and still could only snorkel for about 30 mins and were cold. (no we do not have wetsuits).

Pieces of misinformation we were given about cruising the Bahamas: You don't need to know how to bake Bread, it is always available....not if the supply boat doesn't come in. In Green Turtle and Treasure Cay, commercial bread was only available the days the "boat" comes in, and private bakery bread sells out early in the morning. So Bev has been baking her own and enjoying doing so (The oven is also a source of needed HEAT!!) Otherwise, we are not having any difficulty purchasing necessary items, the stores have adequate supplies of cans, dairy products (cheddar cheese from New Zealand is only $2.50/lb and good), meats and prices just above US prices. Even the ATM's work, although only available in Marsh Harbour. Packaged American stuff, like cereals, crackers, pop, are higher. Yesterday, I paid $9.00 for the identical bottle of laundry soap I paid $3.00 in Florida. Great propane service, leave your tank at the hardware by 830 and it is returned full by 1230 for $12.
Laundry, ranges from $3 - $4 per load, but Bev does most on the boat. Getting used to everything getting covered with salt, and not drying..that's tough.

Jan 25/05 Today has been just a wonderful day. It started early, leaving Marsh Harbor 730 am. We had to leave that early since high tide is about that time, and the entrance into Hopetown is only about 5', and we draw at least that much. It is only about 12 miles over from Marsh Harbor to Hopetown, the sun was shining, the winds were very light, and it is finally starting to warm up. We entered this pretty town about 1000, and went to a marina. There are mooring balls in the harbor, but none were available, and we didn't want to leave RAFT outside, so we broke down and went to dock. We hadn't been at a dock since Fort Pierce. I asked Ross, if he still remembered how to dock. But it was an easy entrance, no wind, no current, and good finger docks. Steelaway also travelled with us. Ron and Larry came after, they don't draw as much so didn't need the tide assist. We had radioed them that the showers at the marina were not working (it is taking a long time for these islands to recover from the 2 hurricanes) so they decided to anchor out. Hopetown Marina, lighthouse in background
Larry & Ron anchored outside Hopetown
Hopetown Harbour viewed from lighthouseWe walked to the lighthouse, walked up the 100 steps to the top, and the view was incredible. Out to the east, was the Atlantic Ocean, crashing on the reefs, to the south and west, the quiet Sea of Abaco, small boats, villas, and white, white beaches. Then we dinghied over to the town, and the Atlantic Beach. It stretched out of miles, and we walked for a long way. We stopped back at a beach bar for a drink on the way back, then continued to explore the little town. As we found in Green Turtle, the walled streets are designed for walking or golfcarts, cars don't fit. The brightly painted homes, are predominately rented out to tourists. walking tour of Hopetown
Ocean beach off Hopetown
beach bar beertimeWe returned to RAFT in the late afternoon, and visited with the other boats on the dock. We blew the conch shell at sundown and it is starting to get cool. Bev made Bahamian Mac & Cheese in the oven for supper.
We continue to wait for weather, so have gone to explore Man of War Cay. We took a mooring, cheap and available, and set off to explore the island. We had been told about Lola, the local bread lady, and we went looking for her. Man of War is "dry" something no one had mentioned to us before. We checked out the ocean beach, and the boat building operation and that’s about all there is to this island. People are really friendly.
RAFT moored in Man of War Harbour
Jan 29,2005 We are leaving Marsh Harbour, for good we hope. The weather looks like it will be favourable for the crossing to Eleuthera in the next few days. We motor south and stop at Snake Cay. Here you can explore the mangrove swamp for miles in your dinghy. We had been warned to make sure you take your GPS as you can get lost. We see a number of large sea turtles, boy can they swim fast.

Next day, we anchor behind the island at the Little Harbour, so we will be ready to make the next big jump in our trip, from the Abacos Islands to the Exumas, via Eleuthera -- all of these places are in the Bahamas. Many of you were wondering why it was taking us so long to get going....lots of good reasons.
1) Christmas holidays: We had all of our children visiting us for the holidays, Paul and Brenda were able to spend 3 weeks with us, unfortunately, Rhonda had to return to work so was only with us for 10 days. It is much easier to plan visits, flying in and out of the same airport (Marsh Harbor) so that kept us in the Abacos until they had all left (Jan 6th)
2) Returning friends, coming back after holidays, and coming from the states. Winship was bringing a new anchor for Steelaway so we waited for them to get there
3) Winter northers, some coming from Canada, others from Florida. Cruisers who have been in the Abacos many winters, told us that usually they get a couple of northers in January, and between times it is lovely, warm and calm. This year had to be the exception. We had one norther basically everyweek, blowing 20-30 knots of wind for a couple of days, bringing cool temps especially at night, and knocking the water temp down to the 60's (no snorkeling). We know those in the northern latitudes are really feeling sorry for us, but it meant we had to take cover, in a secure anchorage for a couple of days, everyweek and there aren't that many places to hide.
4) Weather windows to go south: The northers also create big wind and waves on the ocean, and difficult/nearly impossible exits to the ocean for our passage. To leave the Sea of Abaco, a relatively protected body of water, about 60 miles long, about 5 miles wide, to go to the ocean, you have to go out through one of the cuts. At these cuts, the ocean goes from 1000's of feet deep to 20, and the cuts are usually very narrow, and rocky and can exhibit a "rage" or standing wave, depending on the wind/tide. The northers do provide the required wind direction to go south, if you can get out the cut, and the swells out there are not too bad.

So for the last week, we have been sitting in Marsh Harbor, restocking our supplies, visiting with Winship, and studying the weather. We have been watching the weather faxes, plotting the highs and lows, and listening to VHF and SSB weather reports at least twice a day. We left Marsh Harbor, on Sunday to explore the southern portion of the Sea of Abaco, and make our way down to Little Harbor, the jump off point to the SOUTH. Steelaway came with us and Ron on La Voile au Vent joined us on Monday.