Sunday, April 26, 2009

North Abacos, back to the U.S.

Where do I begin?! Its been so long since we've had any Internet and so a long time since we've blogged. We've been busy! After all the family left, we went back to Marsh Harbor to get a package and to re provision a bit, we encountered a ton of wind there but accomplished what we needed and left for Great Guana Cay. We ran into friends, Rob and Teena there, we met them initially at Marathon and then saw them at Green Turtle. We spent a nice time at Grabbers hanging out, swimming and catching up. They had cruised the Abacos and shared some great info on places to go with us.
We then rounded the Whale once and for all. The Whale is a cay that sticks out into the ocean and therefor one must go "outside" to get around. The way that the Abacos are laid out with Great Abaco and the chain of Cays creates a protected bay between with narrow opening to the ocean. Because the inlets are narrow they often are subject to fast currents and breaking waves, when there is strong N- NE weather they become quite treacherous and this is know locally as a rage. When listening to the weather the conditions are announced and rated for safe passage.

So once on the other side we spent about a month hopping from one uninhabited cay to another. Here are the highlights:

Powell cay was a favorite! A beautiful island with beaches all around. Great swimming and fishing! The first time we were there the kids and I scored on the ocean side beach combing for shells. Charles spent a lot of time fishing with great success, much to every ones delight! The kids fished as well and took much pride in their catches!

They caught grunts at a wreck there and barracuda on the flats. The flat fishing was fun using poppers and small buck tails brought in nice barracuda such as this one! They were then filleted, marinated and grilled. Only the small guys are edible, less than 5 pounds. At one point Charles hooked one from the beach and reeled him in right up onto the beach, this was pretty exciting all around. They are beautiful fish with black spot and a mouth full of sharp teeth. There are many a barracuda story amongst the cruising community!

Another great place is Allans-Pensacola Cay. This is two islands that are sort of side by side with a fairly protected harbor on one end. There is a path to the ocean side and on the day that we spent there we lucked out with winds from the west and therefor a flat calm beach on the ocean side! The water was crystal clear, warm and with a sandy bottom. We played and swam all day. Someone had also set up a swing an a tree from flotsam and the kids spent some time on this.

Not bad, eh?

We saw a ray swimming along the beach the kids followed it as far as they could. Later in the day we had just finished swimming and were thinking about packing up when we saw a small nurse shark patrolling up and down the beach. Soon after we saw a large reef shark doing the same and then another large nurse shark! This was very exciting as it always is to see any animal in its natural environment. The beauty is indescribable!

The kids had tons of fun playing all sorts of spearing games on the beaches. One in the dinghy spearing and one either towing the dinghy under swimming power or pretending to steer the outboard! GO, go go! They shout, the spear flies and they always get their catch! Turtles, sharks, rays, fish, anything goes and all is gotten in the world of play!


Dakota landed this beauty, oh happiness is a fish on the hook! (or even better in the boat and on the grill!)
On April 15th Charles celebrated his 42nd birthday in Cooperstown on Great Abaco at a restaurant called Richie's. We had barbecued chicken and rice and peas. We then re provisioned as much as we could and moved on!

On of the things that we had to do a lot in the Abacos was dodge weather. There are still quite a few cold fronts (northerly winds usually around 20 mph with higher winds in squalls) around and we were constantly looking for good land protection and good holding for the anchor. One place we spent many a front was Crab Cay. Here there wasn't all that much to do on land but we went just for the front and then would move on to Powell mostly to enjoy the beaches and swimming while the weather was good.

Swimming off the boat! A real pleasure is that we spent so much time in the water. It warm enough to just hang out in!

Alistair with his catch, a little grunt! They are called this because out of water they actually grunt. They are pretty little fish that hang around wrecks and reefs.

We then proceeded to sail around the end of Great Abaco to a cay called Cave Cay. Mostly mangroves and infrequently visited is remains a wild and unspoiled place. We felt we could have appreciated it better had we had a dinghy with an outboard to really explore the area.

We left the next day for Great Sale Cay a good stop off for those travelling between the Abacos and the States. On the way we caught a great mutton snapper. This is a very tasty fish a sure favorite of ours, thus the grins!
The island has coral rock and beaches, sandy shores and flats. Something for everyone!

The kids could not resist a swim of the coral rock. Here we saw many fish swimming around the coral and also a small turtle!

Diving in!

An example of the coral rock, aptly named moon rock or the iron shore.

Alistair with the lady pirate on the beach.
Another mutton snapper succumbed to Charles' charm. They are called snapper because if you get your finger near its field of vision it will snap at you! Yikes!

He later was marinated, grilled and consumed with thanks.

Here are a few pics of a front coming through. This one had lots of lightening and rain, which we collected for drinking water. The lightening is intense, all around the boat.

We found a window to cross and it looked like another would not appear for two weeks so we grabbed it! We staged at Mangrove Cay in the middle of the Little Bahama Bank and left at 2 AM. The night was calm a beautiful, many shooting stars and our last sunrise in the Bahamas!

The day was hot so the kids were allowed to take off their life jackets and just wear their harnesses as long as they stayed clipped in. The harness had a line attached and we have lines and metal loops around the boat to clip into so that if the boat gets jogged or you loose your footing it keeps you on the boat!
The ocean swells were there but not too big and so the crossing was long but not bad at all.

The color of the water is awesome, Alistair described it as " so blue that it is purple" - its true!
We passed many man-of-war jellies. At one point we had a school of spinner dolphins surf the bow. These dolphins are smaller than bottle nosed and love to leap and jump. Pure joy!

Back home after 17 hours, we anchored in Jensen Beach, Florida and radioed our new friends, Steve and Sophia on Sea Fox, who had crossed the same day, to let them know we made it.
The next day we called family to catch up, Alistair smiles with joy as he talks to Manny (Micheline, Charles' mom).
We are now in Vero, doing laundry and getting groceries for a few days. Early next week we will start our journey north.....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Family visit in the Abacos

We arrived at Green Turtle Cay near 3 weeks ago, we spent some time exploring the reefs, spearfishing and exploring the town of New Plymouth in anticipation to my sister, her husband Bruce and two kids Max and Grant arriving to spend some time with us followed by the Waterman's a week later.

Alistair outside of Sid's supermarket in New Plymouth.

The Bernstein family arrived and we all eplored beaches, the island and Pineapples. This is at the Pineapple's pool (bar/beach club) where the kids played in the pool and swam in the beach while the adults caught up with each other and sipped on Kaliks.

Laurel taking a picture of Bruce at Pineapples.

Max showing us one of the huge starfish that are scattered over the shallow grass beds.

Here we all are having lunch at Harvey's for some good local Bahamian fare. (grouper & rice and peas)

The cousins at the Bluff House beach, happy to hang out together.

George, Greta, Mathew, Nancy, Scott and Derik arrived on the 25th of March, smiling as the ferry pulled in. Glad to see some sunshine, us and of course the little guys Dakota and Alistair.

Lisa and family overlapped with the Waterman's by two days. This is all of us at Miss Emily's Blue Bee Bar having a Goombay Smash their signature drink. The bar walls are covered with cards and the ceiling rafters have t-shirts signed by the many patrons that have left them behind. Looks like Miss Emily has seen a lot over the years.

Laurel's " Desperately in need of confession" T- shirt up at Miss Emily's

Island transportation is mainly by Golf Cart. This is in New Plymouth where Nancy drove us around that afternoon.

Scott and Derik enjoying island life.

Laurel's new hat at Coco beach.

Dakota and Alistair with the kids from "Sweet William" a neigboring boat.

Dakota walking Coco beach.

This is a very small octopus that Derik and Scott found.
Scotty and Alistair at Turtle Dreams.
I went out with the boys one night, where we had great fun playing pool with the locals at Sundowners.
The rental house that the Watermans chose had a sort of open air widow's walk on the roof, very cool with great views of Coco bay and the Atlantic, the house like many we've seen around here are named by their owners, this one was named " Turtle Dreams"
We all took the opportunity to take family photos on the roof.
Lunch at Harvey's

On the penultimate day of the Waterman's visit we went for a ride on the Alice around the island, Mathew as always hadn't been on the boat 15 minutes before he caught this mutton snapper, we added him to the pile of fish for a fish taco dinner that night.
We really had a great visit both with my sister and family and all the Waterman's, there's a lot that happened like kite flying, shell collecting expeditions, many special afternoon's watching sunsets, snorkeling, some great walks and even some rum drinking that I'm not covering in detail here, suffice it to say that all left happy and feeling that they had a great visit.