Thursday, April 12, 2018

Northern Abaco and Back to USA

Northern Abaco

Its been 4 months now on the boat and we have seen some beautiful parts of the Bahamas, but at the same time we have been astounded at the amount of trash on the beaches - plastic, plastic, plastic! - everywhere and especially on the Atlantic beaches.  It is so so saddening.  Yes, we saw plastic on the beach in 2014, but not to this extent.  It has become a major issue and I don't know how it will get resolved.

But back to the bright side......our trip back to the US took us back to the Green Turtle Cay area, but this time we anchored at Manjack Cay and really enjoyed the time there.  Here once more, we sat out a modest "blow" but the area was pretty protected.  We stayed a couple of nights and took the walk across to the Atlantic side of the island.

Pensacola Cay

From Manjack, and after the blow, we sailed a short hop to Pensacola  and Allans Cay making a short stop at the almost deserted Spanish Cay for fuel.  Spanish Cay has a large marina - but not a boat in the harbour.  Charging $3/ft per night will do that!  Apparently, they make their money off the sport fishing boats later in the season.  So onwards we went to Pensacola and Allans Cay.  The
anchorage we chose was on the  bank side and I guess technically that is Allans Cay.  It was a nice protected anchorage and there were a few boats already here.  We had heard about a "signing tree" on the atlantic side, and had already recovered an abandoned life ring for use at the signing tree. 

What's a signing tree - I am glad you asked!  Simply a tree where you hand a sign with the name of your boat.  ideally you are creative and make the sign from driftwood or other items found locally.  I guess in a way, it may help contribute to cleaning up these beaches of some of the trash if you can use that......and that is what we did.  We had recovered an old life ring from a nearby beach. 

So we set off on a trek to find the signing tree.  The trail starts in the bank side of the island at a "structure" where some joker had placed a Walmart parking sign.  We followed the trail which was marked by plastic debris that had been decorated and hung in trees.  Well at least it had been put to some use!  Once on the other side, we found what must have been several generations of "signing trees", with signs dating back about 10 years.  Some boats had left signs on consecutive years recording multiple visits to the island.  I must admit it was pretty cool!  also pretty cool looking for boat names and people we had met along our way.  We found the perfect spot for our ring and Larry wend tree-climbing to get it in the spot.  one side decorated by Midnight Sun's artist - Janet; the other decorated by TraSea's art director, Tracy!
Midnight Sun II's side

TraSea's Side
Our side  has boat name, crew, and yacht clubs - Pensacola and Point of course!, and similar information on TraSea's side.  I wonder how long it will last?

From Pensacola Cay, we started the trip back to the US in earnest.  our next stop was a quick overnight at Great Sale Cay.  This is a good overnight stopping point when crossing the Little Bahama Bank, but there's not a lot there, the beach is small and not too interesting, so it was just a short stop.

From Great Sale, we moved on to the Marina at West End, named old Bahama Bay.  I had stopped here in 2014 on our first trip to the Bahamas.  This time, the marina was much busier and I believe they have added some nice houses and condos to provide accommodations for guests. 

It was our last night in the Bahamas as we planned to cross back to the US the next day, headed for West Palm Beach.  I must say, I was sad to leave.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Lazy Sailing and Meeting Friends in the Abaco

Lazy Sailing

Spoil Island  - near Bakers Bay
In terms of length of sails - we have certainly slowed down in order to enjoy our time in the Sea of Abaco.  For the past few weeks, 10
miles in a day has been a big day........and do we really need the "main"......when we can go almost as fast and more comfortably on Jib alone?  Wow - are we sailing lazily or have we just become real cruisers?  either way, I have to say its not a bad thing when we get totally off a schedule and don't worry about making 50+ miles in a day.



Meeting Friends

We have had the great fortune to be able to catch up with friends in the last couple of weeks,  First off, we were joined for a week by great friends Ron and Julie from PYC.  We enjoyed sailing with them and enjoying some of the areas we had already seen in the Abaco together with some spots that were new to us all.

We visited Noname Cay to see the Abaco version of the swimming pigs!  Wow seems like everyone is trying to copy the success of the Exumas famous swimming pigs at Big Major's Spot.  Well it seems to be working out - there is a beach with a bunch of little pigs and mamma pigs running around.  They did seem less aggressive than their Big Major counterparts, and have not quite figured out how to beg for food.....or well....even how to swim. 

Piggyville!  Really????  Some farmer has got a good thing going.....tourist fatten up the pigs for free!




Kelley, Jason and Zoe join us for a ride in the Mangrov
We were also able to meet old friends from our last Bahamas trip here at Noname.  We had arranged to meet up with Jason and Kelly from "Sailing Chance" with their new crew member Zoe.  it was so great to be able to catch up with them.  Jason and Kelly live in New York on their boat now, but we met them and buddy-boated with them in 2014 for the passage down to Spanish Wells.  incidentally, they have a great blog at www.Sailingchance.com.

So, during the week with Ron and Julie, we were able to take them to Green Turtle Cay, Nippers, Treasure Cay, Noname Cay, Hopetown, Marsh Harbour, and Tahiti Beach - not bad for a week of easy sailing.  And we were able to spend a day with Jason, Kelly, Zoe, and their friend Taylor at Snake Cay.  Now that is an interesting spot - with a beautiful mangrove river ride (by dinghy), its a pretty well protected anchorage from west and north winds and a small beach where we could take Salty.  We had a great day here exploring the mangroves and walking the beach.  We saw some huge Rays in the deep hole that forms the entrance to Snake River.  in fact one brave sailboat made it in to the mouth of the river and anchored for the night.  Not a whole lot of space but great protection in there!
Green Turtle Cay

So from here we headed south one more time to Pete's Pub and hoping to do a dinghy ride to the nearby blue hole.  Unfortunately we were not able to catch a free mooring ball, so ended up anchoring at Lynyard Cay........but that's not a bad spot.  We had hoped to meet up with friends Tom and Christie, but unfortunately we were not able to make that happen.  Oh well - next time!

After that, we started to head north, starting the trip back to the US......more on that in the next post.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cold Fronts and Things that Go Bump in the Night!

So - this will be a brief post I think...I never really know until I start writing!  We are currently in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, sitting out yet another cold front.  January was bad - one after another.  February was great with no big issues, and here we are in March with two back to back.  We just spent 6 days in Treasure Cay (very protected for 6 days), and are now back in Marsh Harbour.  We like the Abacos in that there are "facilities" and its short, protected hops between destinations.  We enjoyed Treasure Cay and its fabulous beaches.

Marsh Harbour has many facilities including 3 hardware stores, marine parts, numerous restaurants, liquor stores etc.  So we have been taking this little down-time to catch up on a couple of projects.  our fridge was not cooling completely, so I topped off the refrigerant, fixed a leaking hatche etc.  You know - the definition of cruising?  Fixing boats in exotic locations!....but thankfully nothing major.

I did want to write about one thing that happened while we were in the Exumas....now several weeks ago.......read on!

Things that Go Bump in the Night

While we have become very comfortable with our new Mantus Anchor....yes, we love it!  you never know what your anchoring mates are using, or how well they know how to anchor......what shape their equipment is in etc.  That's why its nice to be up towards the front of the anchorage.  We were in Black Point, Exumas waiting out a blow - 30+ kts.  It was actually relatively calm and we were on our friends boat TraSea.  Just finished dinner...of course it was night and pitch black, when suddenly BAMM!  What the hell was that.  We all dashed to the cockpit and sure enough, we had been hit on the side by another boat.  they were on deck and disoriented.  What happened?

Well - I had not heard of this before, hence the reason for the story.  The other boat had not turned off thier windlass breaker...in fact they didn't seem to know they had one!  The "up" switch had apparently shorted and while they were in thier cabin, the anchor raised itself and they were  adrift......if fact, the owner said when he came on deck he was confused by all the other boats in the anchorage moving.  Well I'm sure that woke him up quickly.  Fortunately no damage was done.  We helped them get secure for the night using our dinghy (and making sure he didn't hit our adjacent boat).  But anyway - a little anecdote about cruising and when you get that dreaded "Bump in the Night".
Happy Hour - thank you to Tom and Judy on Destination Unknown - Treasure Cay.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Now in the Abaco

Its March 1 and it's a gorgeous day here in the Abaco....or is it Abacos?  There seems to be some confusion over that, so if you can shed any light on it, please share!

I am writing this from the very sheltered and lovely anchorage/mooring field at Treasure Cay.  Our trip from Harbor Island was as follows:

Harbour Island to Little Harbour

This was a longer leg needed to get us from North Eleuthera to the Abaco Islands. 
Sailing Buddy TraSea passes us
Our route took us in the open Atlantic crossing the Northeast Providence Channel, headed north and offshore from Great Abaco Island.  Unfortunately there is not much civilization or anything in the way of an anchorage that we could see before Little Harbour - so this forces a 60 mile sail.  We were joined by good friends Dave and Tracy who flew in to join us at Harbour Island.  The crossing was "sporty" with winds from the SE at 18-22 and some pretty big seas (8-10 ft).  Notwithstanding this, the boat and crew did well.  With reefed sails we were averaging 7-7.5 kts.

Little Harbour - Odelisque moored behind us
As we approached Little Harbour we were hailed by new friends Dean and Marie on Prairie Two.  They had made the crossing the previous day.  Their report of breaking waves across the entrance to Little Harbour was good information and on their recommendation we continued a little farther north to the North Bar Channel.  This still had some breaking waves, but was wider and deeper.  The entry was challenging, but OK.  Once inside the reef, we elected to anchor at Lynyard Cay as we were loosing daylight.  This proved to be a nice anchorage with a nice beach for Salty to explore.  

The next day, we made the short hop south to Pete's Pub and the mooring field in the very protected bay.  We came across our friends boat - S/V Odelisque on its mooring outside Pete's Pub.  the owners are friends that live near our home and have recently bought a house at Little Harbour.  We hope to catch up with them in a couple of weeks when they will be here.

Hopetown

The following day, we headed north again, but this time with the protection of the outer Abaco Islands.  We headed north on the Sea of Abaco to the wonderful town of Hopetown.  Although we tried to get a mooring in the harbour, all were taken, so we anchored on the outside.  We took the opportunity to .......well of course visit a bar, re-stock some provisions, and get dinner ashore.  The following morning we also made a trip to the Hopetown Lighthouse.  This impressive lighthouse is reportedly the last remaining operational kerosene powered lighthouse in the world.  I have not validated that claim - but it was a really interesting visit!

While in Hopetown, Salty made a new friend....a Manatee.  What an experience!  He came nose to nose with this magnificent animal and they actually kissed. Neither were afraid or intimidated....it was just pure curiosity from both of them.  what a moment!
Salty and the Manatee!


Nippers and Marsh Harbour

From Hopetown - another short hop.  This time to Nippers and a stopover in Fishers Bay.  Then on to Marsh Harbour and a stay of a couple of nights in Mangoes Marina - probably the friendliest marina in Marsh Harbour, layed back, and at less than $1 a foot, a bargain.  Dockmaster Ray made us very welcome and was a great source of advice and local knowledge.  It also happened to be Junkanoo that night (Saturday), we we simply had to visit the local festivities.  The carnival was very layed back and certainly unrushed!  People lined the main street to watch the passing parade.
Crew on the beach at Nippers
















Dave and Tracy.....another bar!


It was a great experience and extremely colorful.  There was street food available so we sampled the local pork chops........very good!

Unfortunately Dave and Tracy had to leave us to return to Houston on Monday, so we said our sad goodbye's....hoping they will once again join us later on our trip.  Hope you had fun guys!







Treasure Cay Beach

Treasure Cay

From Marsh Harbour, we again made a short hop.......everything is pretty protected and line of sight navigation in the Sea of Abaco.......this hop took us to Treasure Cay.  The enclosed anchorage and mooring field is very well protected and the beach here is reportedly one of the top beaches in the world.  Top beach in the world....well that's quite a claim, but certainly very nice and Salty loved it!








Well - there's supposedly a cold front coming in tomorrow.  We considered moving on to Green Turtle Cay....but when we checked its busy up there.  Everyone is hunkering down for the wind.  While I don't think it will be too bad, maybe 20s but not like we saw in the Exumas........this sure isn't a bad place to hole up for the next day or two!


More in a few days.....in the meantime, check out our realtime location at this link:





Monday, February 19, 2018

The Devil's Backbone....and Harbour Island

Northern Route to Spanish Wells
Goes through this area!
Over the past few days we have been moving north at a fairly leisurely pace, with the exception of one longer leg from Highborne Cay to Spanish Wells.  Studying the charts would give one sime cause for concern and perhaps second thoughts about our intended route.  I include a screenshot of the area in question.  Quite a lot of rocks! and the route goes straight through the middle of them!

Well actually it was not that bad and as I said, I would not have attempted this but someone gave me waypoints back in 2014 and assured me it was fine.  We made it through twice in 2014 and had a terrific sail though that area again this week.  Yes there are rocks....its generally 12-16 ft deep....and most look to have clearance.  The odd one has you worried.  We made the 50 or so miles from Highborne Cay to Royal Island and anchored in the well protected natural harbour there.  After a night, we moved on to Spanish Wells.  I can't give you one specific reason, but I just like this quaint, quiet little town.  The marina - Yacht Haven is now finished and we had a great stay.  A little pricey at $2.50/ft.  but that has become the new norm in the Bahamas.  They have a great restaurant and nice pool, and very friendly staff.

Today, we took on the challenge of the Devil's Backbone; known as perhaps one of the most
notoriously tricky passages in the Bahamas.  We hired the services of a local pilot "Bandit" and took 3 sailboats through the passage.  To be honest- - it didn't seem too bad and I think we could have done it alone.  However, the warnings on the Charts are enough to make you think that a pilot is definitely warranted.  We were also very fortunate to have excellent and calm weather.  I am sure its a different story in challenging seas, at the wrong state of the tide etc!  Anyway, Bandit did a great job - we negotiated a discounted rate for 3 boats and were joined of course by TraSea and also OnY' Va - new Canadian friends we met in Spanish Wells.

The passage through the backbone was very uneventful, but definitely scenic.  And this passage brings one through to the beautiful "Harbour Island" on North Eleuthera.  We had been told about a wonderful anchorage just north of Harbour island, inside the Devils Backbone called Man Island, so we decided to check it out.  Very glad to do so as this turned out to be a wonderful spot with great beach and access to the Atlantic Side of the island.  I have included a screenshot of the chart location. 
Man Island - Note Devil's Backbone to the North
We have spent the last two nights here and thoroughly enjoyed the peace and calm.  Although you can see through to the Atlantic there is no roll or swell here - its just an amazing spot - perhaps one of the best anchorages so far on this trip.  so thank you to Leslie and Ralph on "S/V Now and Zen" for sharing this spot with us!

Anchorage - Man Island, North Eleuthera
We are headed in to the marina at Ramora Bay today as we are picking up friends Dave and Tracy tomorrow.  Since things are quiet up here, we negotiated a discount rate with the marina - not quite as good a deal as Leslie and Ralph apparently got.......but not bad at $1/ft/day.  Definitely our best deal since Bimini.  We are looking forward to exploring Dunmore Town on Harbor Island later today.......and we will be cooking lobster for dinner - purchased from local divers yesterday at $10 each.

The plan from here is to head to the Abacos - likely Little Harbor.  Hoping that the great weather we have been enjoying the past few days will last for this next 50 mile leg.

Check out our current location at:
https://share.garmin.com/Midnightsunii

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Headed North and Maybe a Revised Plan?

So - the one great thing about cruising is that you can change the plan at any time right.....well we may be about to do that.  our original plan was to go south through the Exumas, then either continue on to the BVI or head across the south coast of Cuba to Mexico.  Well Mexico seems to be on the list, but the passage on the south coast looks difficult.  Difficult is that there is no place to stop until you get past Guantanamo.....and we have Salty with us who needs shore stops.  Hmmm....we have been thinking about this challenge for a while and we are now considering a change of plan.  We are actually headed north right now to the Abacos, and the thought is then to hop back to the US, then down to Veradero, Cuba ..........north coast of Cuba to Mexico.  We shall see.....one day at a time!

Bahamian Class C Boats
So we have now made it down the Exuma Chain to Georgetown, and are headed up to the Abacos.  The Exumas have been beautiful and we have enjoyed it despite a stream of cold fronts hitting us one after another.  Since my last post, we went to the 5F Festival at Little Farmers Cay and saw the Bahamian class C boats race.  We entered the Cruisers Race on TraSea and were the firs monohull to finish!!

Racing in the Cruisers Race

JR - the wood carver - Little Farmer's
There was a great party hosted by Little Farmer's Yacht Club with free dinner and drinks for participants. Everyone was asked to make a donation to the local school and church.  It was a fun event!





After the 5F festival, I have to say that one of the highlights of the trip was a day visit to Pipe Cay and Pipe Creek.  The waters there were unbelievably crystal clar and the blues and greens just amazingly beautiful.  Photos simply do not do it justice ......but it is a sight to be seeen.
Pipe Creek

Sand Bar at Pipe Creek
Sadly, we said a temporary farewell to Rick and Juli here.  They have some boat and medical issues to attend to so have decided to head to Georgetown as we venture north.  We hope we will catch back up with them in a month or so.

We did run into another Pensacola boat yesterday - Kimberley on Sustenance II.  She is a friend of our good friend Brian, and we happened to find her a couple of boats away from us in the anchorage at Norman's Cay.  Small world!

While at Staniel Cay, we also caught up with good friend Rivers Brink on her amazing Chesapeake Ketch.  It was cool to hear about her somewhat eventful trip so far.  She had to fix a spreader bar with duct tape while in Bimini!
River's Boat "The Pearl"

Pirates Cove Folks stick together!


After an overnight stop at Norman's, we headed north to Allen Cay to see the Iguanas.  Hmmm.....creepy little things! and they were very curious about us.  We day anchored then exited to the north side of Highborne Cay for the night.  Its a beautiful anchorage, but it does tend to get a bit rolly! - even in pretty settled weather.  So, tonight we splurged and got a slip at Highborne Marina and dinner at Exuma!






Damn!  these things want my beer!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cold Fronts and Swimming Pigs?

I am writing this post as we sit out yet another cold front.  This time we are at anchor at Black Point, Great Guana Cay.

This is located just a few miles south of Staniel Cay - home of the swimming pigs.  For our real-time location, please check out:
https://share.garmin.com/Midnightsunii  I think I will out a link to this on the side bar of this page.

This past week of so, we had a lot of fun with our sailing friends Brian and Patrick.  If you have seen any of our video, Patrick is responsible for the "It doesn't get any better than this!" clip, featured in many of my video!  http://www.midnightsunii.com/videos---cruises.html

We picked up Brian and Patrick in Emerald Bay.  Similarly, TraSea picked up Zach.  After sitting out a cold front - yes notice there is a pattern to all of this.......we set off north to see some of the local sights.

Wanting to visit Staniel Cay, we elected to stay on the dock there for a night.  This turned out to be a poor decision.  Although its a great location, the docks are high and pretty exposed to weather, facilities are slim, and the price is high.  And to top it off, the dock hand gave me bad directions as to where to dock resulting in Midnight Sun running aground.  No Boat US or SeaTow...and a falling tide called for some quick action.  Even with full reverse and bow thruster running the wind was holding us in shallow water.  one of the dock hands got in a fast boat and tried to pull us off - no joy; so we asked him to push our bow around.  He wanted to lean us with a halyard, but since we have a wing keel, I know this can just tend to dig us in further.  The push on the bow with revers and thruster worked thankfully and we made it back to the dock.  Anti-grounding rum failed me this time.  I did have one, but just put it down to not having enough!

Anway, we spent the evening at Staniel Cay and were able to get some provisions.  The following day we moved to a mooring ball located right adjacent to Thunderball Grotto - a spectacular cavern inside a rock that you snorkel into.  This was featured in the 007 Movie "Thunderball" - as the name suggests.  Inside, we saw spectacular fish and were able to feed them breadcrumbs and grapes.
Swimming in Thunderball Grotto

Now if I can get some stills from me GoPro, I will add a few here [post edit - photos added].  I got some great footage for the next movie........but that always seems to take a long time to get together.  If these cold fronts keep up, maybe I will get motivated to work on it sooner!
Looking up - Thunderball Grotto


Pig Beach - Big Major's Spot

From Thunderball, we moved the short distance to Big Major's spot.  There is a large anchorage there.  On the south end of this anchorage is the famous "pig beach" - home of the swimming pigs.  A little further north is a quaint little beach with picnic benches and decorations that i think has been built by cruisers.  We anchored fairly close to this as it made a good landing spot for Salty.  Further north is Fowl Cay and a resort are that can be easily accessed by dinghy.  We didn't venture there on this stop - but it looked nice and that likely translates to "expensive".......but i am sure we will check it out while we are in the neighborhood.
Yes - they do swim for food!

So after a few days of play, it was unfortunately time to start making our way back towards Georgetown in time for our guests to depart.  On our return, we elected once again to stop at Little Farmer's Cay.  We wanted to explore Oven Rock, located just north of Little Farmers.  We had stopped and explored tha actual rock on the way up, but were disappointed as we had heard of a cave....but we had not done sufficient research.









We thought this was the entrance to the cave.........but it is not.  The way to the cave involves walking anout 1/4 mile north up the beach, finding a trail that heads inland another 1/4 mile or so (marked by some stone mounds and a white marker)....and then voila!
Oven Rock Entrance





The cave entrance itself is spectacular and fairly well hidden by overgrowth.  But once you find it access is easy and safe.  I understand that you can scuba 700 feet back into the cave.....but not me!  I was happy to explore on foot.  We had taken headlamps so were able to access back probably 150 ft or so and yes, it was well worth the short hike over the gnarly coral path.
Stalegmites?

Rock Pool


Some of the rock formations were quite amazing.......and Salty found a source for a quick drink of fresh water!  Whoever had left that bucket there did it quite some time ago based on the lime formations in it.....but the water was fresh.







Cool looking secluded beach on the Atlantic Side

















So after a day of caving - time to head back to Little Farmers.  This time we ate at the Yacht Club....but it was not as good as Ocean Cabin by a long measure.

After dropping off our guests, and another night in Emerald Bay, we headed north seeking shelter for the next cold front.  This time Black Point........and a day at the beach before hunkering down.