Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We are at Green Turtle Cay, having arrived a couple of days ago in anticipation of my sister and family visiting and then the folowing week my inlaws and Mathew, Nancy and kids.

The above photo was taken in Man-O-War Cay, like many of the islands around here it is populated by loyalist descendants, they often have industrious, tight religous communities and just like Spanish Wells no alcohol is sold, these islands are dry, although you're welcome to bring your own to the local eateries.
Man-O-War has a very long tradition in boatbuilding and boat repair. Today they build both in wood and also now fiberglass. This is a picture of a boat being repainted. The main waterfront street is lined with boatyards, canvas shops, and boutiques. Very nice indeed.

We spent the weekend at Guana Cay, great island with beautiful beaches, good barrier reefs and island clubs. We anchored in Fisher's Bay and dinghied over to Dive Guana where Maria helped us out and gave us some local knowledge including where to find sea biscuits. You can see the how clear the water is here. The water in the Abacos (so far) is a handsome turquoise green.

We played in the beaches and the boys got to play in the strong surf. With me keeping an eye on them for undertows and the like. Just one of those parent things that's hard to shake.
There are many island clubs here in the Abacos that cater to tourists, travellers and locals. Two of the locally famous are Nippers and Grabbers, with the anchorages filling up on the weekends to listen to Rake and Scrape and take advantages of the pools and island atmosphere. The price of admission in our case is a couple of the local beers (Kalik). Cheap entry for an afternoon of swimming in the pools and listening to good music.

Here Is Alistair with his old man at Nippers.

Above is Dakota who has become half fish and will not pass by any opportunity to snorkle, swim , wade, splash, etc.

This is at Grabbers which had a rake and scrape band, here one of the tourists joins the locals to try it out. They use saws and scrape the tooth end with the back of a knife, depending how the saw is bent etc, they get different sounds. Was great to experience.

This is Laurel at Grabbers, nice digs for an afternoon.

This is at the beach at Grabbers on our way home, here Laurel just discovered some sea biscuits, we found many on the grass beds around the boat, just by snorkling for them. these Laurel found off the beach at low tide.
The Abacos are vastly different from the Exumas, they are far more developed and have large communities and provide more entertainement and things to do for visitors. There are more rental homes here, many charter boats, fishing guides, scuba outfits and overall more people. Most likely their proximity to Florida, makes this an easy getaway.
When we first arrived it was a bit of shock after being in the sparsely populated and more desolate Exumas, but alas one adapts and we are enjoying what the Abacos has to offer. The kids and us are specially loving the easy access to pools, other kids, good music and excellent reefs. Many of the Abaco islands have barrier reefs, many are a short swim from the shore. Just yesterday I had the opportunity to swim out to one see a lot of cool fish and reef and spear a couple for the dinner table. Not a bad way to spend a morning.
I have felt very fortunate to do this voyage with my family. Has been easily one of the best experiences of my life.
If you are considering some such adventure, my humble opinion is that it's worth doing and worth what you end up sacrificing (jobs, money, etc.) For life is proverbially short and we don't know what's coming, and what's better than great times and bonds with the ones you love.
Best, C

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Abacos

Before we left Spanish Wells Dakota and I went for a walk around town to look a little more. We went all the way to the tip of the island and sat in a gazebo overlooking the bank and the ocean, also the main island of Eleuthera. This pic is of the ocean.

This is the cemetery in Spanish Wells and it is interesting because here they cannot dig into the earth because the coral rock is too hard so they build up with cement. They also decorate highly with plastic flower wreaths. Notice the men resting in the shade of the tree in the background. It was just past mid-day and quite hot.

We then sailed to Royal island and left early the next morning for the Abacos. It was an exhausting crossing with not enough wind and enough seas and way too much weed in the fishing hook! Charles caught a 48 in mahi mahi and I even saw it jump right before it broke the line and got away! Dakota was devastated! Pasta for dinner again!
We made it in by 5 PM and anchored near Lynyard Cay for the night. This morning we left again early for Marsh Harbor, our big motivation was propane for we were almost out and Alistair had asked for biscuits for breakfast and pizza for dinner for his birthday. It the least we could do, right?

He opened his gifts underway and is happy to be six!

Okay so this looks strange, except if you know that Alistair told me that he didn't want cake and we had gone to get ice cream earlier in the day. So he held the candle and we sang and he made a wish! The pizza was great!

We spent a little time walking around Marsh Harbor today. We had curried chicken patties at a local deli, cheap and yummy! We then went and found home made ice cream for Alistair's birthday cake. I found this beautiful Palm tree and the hibiscus flower around 5 in across.

Marsh Harbor is one of the largest towns in the Abacos and bustles with activity. The harbor is quite large with many cruising boats and restaurants, marinas and resort line the harbor. Cars racing around and people walking and talking and all that. We were in a little bit of a re-entry shock coming from the Exumas where a large island has a few houses and a bar and an average on has one or two houses or maybe just pigs or iguanas. Unaccustomed to the hubbub we weaved and stumbled into the deli and were saved by the curried chicken patties.
Tomorrow we will head to Man0war cay or to Great Guana cay for swimming, snorkeling and beach combing before we tackle ................the Whale. Just call me Ishmael.......

p.s. We want to thank our friend Lauren for her phone assistance when dakot sliced his foot open pretty badly on a conch shell. It was about 1 inch long and quite deep right on the pad of his foot. She directed us as to the proper care for best healing, thanks Lauren! Its all healed! See you this spring!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The grouper, the shark and yours truly

We had a great time in the Staniel Cay area, where we anchored in the lee of Big Major Cay, great anchorage with good snorkeling and beautiful beaches.
We had all gone snorkeling at the northern tip of Big Major which has small coral heads combined with a coral garden and a sandy deeper trough. I had my pole spear with me. I'd been seeing a lot of small groupers when I spotted one of takable size. He spotted me too and he quickly scampered under a coral head. Seems this is the grouper way, when in doubt go straight into your hole. It took me a while but I did finally manage to spear him in his hole but then couldn't get him out. My spear was laying at the bottom attached to the grouper while I got a breath of air before giving it another go, as I started down I spotted in the distance a shark coming our way, I couldn't tell what type of shark it was and I wasn't going to hang around to find out. I swam back to the dinghy where the kids where already in and Laurel and I got in. We then dinghied over the coral head to see the action.
The shark turned out to be two sharks, both nurse sharks. While they are fairly bening as long as you don't mess with them. I didn't want to get back in the water to compete with food with them. They both had their snouts straight in the grouper hole but couldn't get him, eventually one left, after a beach break, we got the boat hook and went back, to see if we could hook the band on the polespear and pull it out. At this point I was concerned with just getting my spear back. We floated over the reef and actually managed to hook the band, I started pulling and tugging at it with the boat hook, when all of a sudden it all came out, but with no grouper and then I realized no spear tip! I looked down and the shark had the grouper and my spear tip. The tips are expensive and I didn't want to lose it, so I gave the shark a quick jab with the boat hook and it scared him away and he took off. Laurel held the boat at the edge of the shore and after a wary look, I swam in recovered the tip and grouper. He was a bit worse for wear after the shark, but whole, see him in the picture below.

We cleaned him on the beach, and then had this sting ray come by, looking for grouper scraps. The Bahamas are loaded with rays and we've seen many but having this one swim back and forth just a couple of feet from us was really cool. The kids loved it.

We also visited a place called Rachel's bubble bath or Rachel's pool. It is at the top of Compass Cay and is a natural pool that is protected from the ocean by dunes and reef, however at mid to high tide the waves crash over a coral slot and froth into the pool, you can see it in the picture below. If you stand just in front of the break you get immersed in the froth and bubbles, great experience, we did it with our masks and snorkles to really get the full effect.

Below is the northern bank side of Compass Cay where we did some beach combing before pulling our anchor and spending the night at Bell Cay.

We left at first light the next morning and sailed 35 plus miles to Allen's Cay. We managed to get in early so had a great time at a beach, where we did some conching and where I managed to spear another grouper. We walked across to the bank side where someone had erected cairns. I wanted to include the picture below so you could see how jagged and rocky the Cays can be. These are ancient coral and are really jagged, sharp and pointy. The Cays tend to be a combination of this and of course sand beaches.

We are currently in Spanish Wells on Eleuthera where we arrived yesterday, had a nice and and uneventful crossing, although went through a section where we had to slalom our way around the coral heads. We will spend most of today here, then stage for our crossing to the Abacos late this afternoon at Egg Cay. Spanish Wells is a fishing and working community and as I write this fishing boats have been leaving the harbor one after another all morning. Here is Laurel walking along the waterfront yesterday afternoon.

We most likely won't write again until we're somewhere in the Abacos and have internet access.
Best, C.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Well, since we blogged last we have been on the move! We left the Exuma park and sailed to Black Point on Great Guana Cay where we met some folks on a boat called Osprey. They have two kids a little older but all four of them were thrilled to play! We went for a long walk to the northern end of the island and saw the 'white elephants', large white limestone cliff like rocks that stick out into the Exuma sound. After a couple of days we then made our way to Staniel Cay, where Charles went to explore the town and I entertained the four kids (Osprey was there too). We had planned to stay a couple of days and snorkel the famous Thunderball (007) but alas the weather once again intervened and we left to get protection from 40 knot squalls at the Exuma park. Although it was frustrating to be back we had a great couple of hikes and lots of great swimming, too. Every Saturday night the park puts on a bonfire and cocktail hour on the beach which we joined in with enthusiasm. A group of kids were there and our two took full advantage, as did we.

The hike we took takes you through really rough rocky coral that the islands are built on. You end up on beaches and short cliffs with great views of the sound and the banks. On the walks if your lucky you might see a hutia, a native mammal that looks kind of like a guinea pig. The hutia are endangered, so it is a great thing to see them here.

We also spent an afternoon just hanging out on a beach right in the anchorage and pretty soon all the kids came in to play and they had a ball! We haven't met too many kids so when we do it is very exciting! The kids frolicked in the water and the sand all afternoon and fell into bed that night. Happy exhaustion!

We now are back in Staniel Cay. We spent some time at the beaches on Big Major Spot and now have come back to Staniel to try to snorkel Thunderball tomorrow! The weather is wild and windy and keeps us on our toes! We will start to head north by the end of the week making our way towards the Abacos where we will meet both our families. It could be a couple of weeks before we have internet access again, at which point we will blog again! xoxo to all. L