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Abacos highlights 10/7-19/09

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  • Flying Pig
    Abacos highlights 10/7-19/09 Hi, all, We left you following having put our granddaughters on the plane, somewhat exhausted after a month of chasing challenges
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2009
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      Abacos highlights 10/7-19/09

      Hi, all,

      We left you following having put our granddaughters on the plane, somewhat
      exhausted after a month of chasing challenges aboard, a disappointing
      initial Abacos experience, but a very nice passage to the Bahamas.

      We had a week of downtime, almost immediately started by hailing an incoming
      sailboat which turned out to be local. Good news for us, bad luck for our
      prior guests (though they really didn't have enough time, even if we'd have
      known about it earlier, to do much about it), we got a very good tutorial on
      where and what to do/look for, in the Abacos.

      What a revelation! Where, before, we'd been entirely disillusioned about the
      Abacos, this period would prove to us the abundance and beauty and amazement
      of this area of the Bahamas. Choose your easy chair while we tell you a bit
      about of what we've seen and done since our last log...

      On the 13th (a Tuesday), with settled weather in store promising potential
      snorkeling, we headed off to the fuel and water dock at 3:45. We'd waited
      until then to catch the high tide, as the water here in Marsh Harbour is
      pretty skinny most places, and with our 7' draft, we wanted to be sure we
      could both get there and leave from there without having to deal with even a
      keel-polishing experience. Fuel here is much more expensive than we found
      in Nassau last year in December, but not so much more than we found in
      Georgetown, but it was a shock to pay more than $4 a gallon for gasoline,
      and close to that for diesel. Whether it was because we expected to not need
      very much, or because we filled up there, our water, rather than their usual
      fill-rate $20 was only $10. However, there's a 5% surcharge for credit
      cards, something we've not experienced in any other places we've spent our
      money in the Abacos so far, adding insult to injury.

      In any event, we were off the dock by 4:30 and out the entrance to the
      harbor without incident. By 5 PM, we'd boated a lovely 30" (just small
      enough to be confident!) barracuda. I hung him on the gaff off the back of
      the boat so as to not have to deal with it under way, and by 6PM, we'd
      anchored in about 10' of water, off John Russel Cay (the one with the hut on
      it) near Fowl Cay, for some snorkeling.

      For those who know enough to be worried for us, and for those interested for
      their own fishing, as barracuda are relatively abundant in these waters,
      here's how we decide whether or not to keep a 'cuda: The problem with
      Barracuda and other fish which eat fish in coral-laden water is that such
      prey accumulate toxins which can result in ciguatera, a nasty
      bacteriological condition which is cumulative - once you've had it, it can
      only get worse in the future (not that it disables you permanently!).
      Similarly, the amount of such fish eaten drive the safety of eating
      barracuda. We find it very delicious, so want to take advantage of it when
      we can.

      Our metric is two-fold. First is that they are highly territorial fish.
      Thus, they don't wander very far. As was the case off Cat Island, on the
      "inside", if there are no reefs available to them, nearly any size works.
      Or, if it's less than 30", generally speaking (the "recommended" cutoff is
      36" from what we've been able to learn), they've not had long enough for the
      toxins to build up sufficiently for it to be of issue. Like some fresh
      water areas which have mercury and other issues, size matters :{)) - the
      bigger they are, the more they're likely to have accumulated enough nasties
      to give them a pass.

      So, while we are in an area, near where we caught this one on the way out of
      the harbor, where there are some reefs, the size didn't put us off.
      Likewise, we had no reaction, usually within 3 hours of eating "infected"
      fish, so we confirmed our confidence.

      Once anchored, I set to filetting, and, after some marination, we very much
      enjoyed our 'cuda - first, grilled, and, later, after much marination (which
      effectivel "cooked" him) in the fridge, a delicious 'cuda (like tuna in
      prep) salad. As it's much more "steak"y than tuna, however, he didn't mush
      up much, so it was more a matter of dicing. Still, delicious!

      It turned out that we'd parked on the edge of a sandspit, and we bumped a
      few times at dead low tide, but otherwise had a very lovely evening.

      Wednesday October 14 had us snorkeling around the back side of this lovely
      little (well, tiny!) island in the Fowl Cay preserve (no fishing) on the
      reefs just to the Atlantic side. WOW! Made us rethink our awe and wonder
      of the Exumas, as this was enchanting. We anchored our dinghy in the sand
      between two obvious reefs we discovered in our reconnoitering, and very much
      enjoyed our wandering around. After getting a bit chilled, we came back to
      the boat and did a bit of side and bottom cleaning. We still had a slight
      beard on the waterline from our time in Saint Simons Island, or, perhaps,
      from our time in the harbor here. I thought it would be a simple brush-off,
      but there were tiny barnacles in the area, so I wound up using a painter's
      spatula, and got about 2/3 of the waterline cleaned up. Sometime in our
      downtime, we'll find an achorage where we're very close to the bottom, I'll
      put on my extra weights and fire up the hookah, and go stand on the bottom
      and do the rest of it as well as give our bottom a full sweep.

      As our snorkeling was on the Atlantic side, we needed very calm conditions,
      something we'd not experienced with the girls aboard, so it wouldn't have
      worked in the time they had available, but we surely do wish that they'd had
      the opportunity to see what we did; it likely would have colored (pardon the
      expression) their experience with us very favorably :{))

      In any case, we got to looking at our satellite view of our travels on our
      spot page (www.tinyurl.com/flyingpigspot), still very available over our
      internet connection, and saw the sand we'd bumped. We'd moved a bit, before
      we got into our dinghy to avoid that experience again, but by 4:15 we were
      off to Man O' War, anchoring in, again, about 10' of water between Garden
      and Sandy Cays, for protection against the wind and seas. This is not the
      fabled Sandy Cay where there are dinghy moorings for the spectacular reefs
      there (see coming posts for more on that), but, instead, just the closest we
      could get in the very shallow water of the area. It was a long ride to the
      settlement, but the water was fair and not troublesome for us.

      We visited the settlement on Thursday, October 15th, in relatively cloudy
      weather, so it wasn't oppressively hot. The MOW settlement is home to
      several boat builders, including the famous Albury, which makes many boats
      seen here and in the races of the classic work boats which are so popular
      with the Bahamians. If you've never seen one, it's a very unusual boat, cat
      rigged (mast very far forward) sloop, with a HUGE boom which extends out
      over the back of the boat. An enormous amount of sail for the size of the
      boat, typically it will have a plank which can be shifted from side to side,
      and up to a dozen men sit on it for counterweight ballast. Very fast boats,
      it was what used to be used for fishing, but now is used only for racing or
      pleasure sailing - and yet, it's so ubiquitous here that boat builders have
      a substantial business providing new versions of the old work boats.

      As we were docking the dinghy, a golf cart rolled up, and one of the folks
      we'd met on Manjack greeted us, saying they'd seen us coming in on our
      dinghy. Turned out Jan was an employee of Albury Boat Builders, and gave us
      the mental cook's tour/preview of the town, as well as a ride to the grocery
      store where we could work our way back down through the community.
      Following her advice, we enjoyed our trip, including sitting out a squall in
      front of one of the many seasonally-closed businesses. Like all the Abacos
      towns we'd experienced, this one was very much more prosperous, in general,
      than we'd experienced in the Exumas, but wasn't the continually-manicured
      look of Green Turtle Cay, perhaps because of its more working-nature
      (several boatbuilders, a famous canvas shop we enjoyed, etc.) population,
      rather than a cruisers' destination. Having spent some time associated with
      a boat builder, and having done a LOT of fiberglass work on Flying Pig,
      walking by the building sheds where one of the builders was laying up a
      sport-fishing type hull brought back lots of positive memories :{))

      However, MOW is a very small community, and it didn't take us long to arrive
      at the coffe shop to enjoy our Barnies coffee, freshly ground and brewed for
      us. There we met a European couple who were on holiday there, staying with a
      family friend of the guy who'd previously spent all his childhood summers
      there. However, his father, before he died, sold their property there, so
      it wasn't available to them - but the boat and lodging of the lifelong
      friends were! - so they were very much enjoying their vacation in all his
      old familiar haunts around the Abacos. He, too, was a valuable source of
      information about where to go and what to see...

      By early afternoon, we'd made it back to our home and had the anchor up for
      Hopetown by 3:45. One of the real benefits of the Abacos is that most of
      the islands are very close together, and going from one to the other is a
      very small deal. We can enjoy ourselves early in the day, and still be in
      and settled by evening. In any event, VPR (visual pilotage rules) are in
      effect in the Bahamas/Abacos, which means that it's well you get where
      you're going in daylight hours, the better to avoid any really hard stuff on
      the bottom!

      Wind was pretty close, but favorable, and we did our passage on a close
      reach in 15-17 knots apparent wind, making 5.8 knots on the genoa alone. By
      4:45, we'd anchored in 11' of water, so it was a very short sail - and thus
      the decision to sail on the genoa alone. Putting up and
      lowering/flaking/covering the main isn't a big deal, but it's more work than
      rolling out and then furling the genoa. With that much wind, we didn't need
      any more sail area, anyway.

      We'd anchored off the Parrot Cays, well outside of Hopetown, again due to
      the shallow depths present, and in this case, to get some protection from
      the blow expected in the next several days. As it turned out, while the
      wind blew pretty hard, due to the Elbow Cay, where Hopetown's located,
      protected us well from any fetch of consequence, and we were very
      comfortably ensconced.

      We slept in on Thursday, October 15, A-Gain! :{)) and then motored our
      dinghy into the very protected, very shallow approach-ed harbor for
      Hopetown. Not knowing the lay of the land, we put our dinghy on the dock at
      the marine store at the foot of the lighthouse, and asked if it was OK -
      which it was, entirely, with the staff there. There was a path from the
      store which led to the approach to the lighthouse, so, after browsing the
      store, and trying to find a replacement anchor roller to replace the
      new-but-disintegrated hard rubber one on our bow, we went up to the

      This is somewhat of a famous lighthouse, being still mechanically operated.
      It has huge glass Fresnel lenses which focus the light in 5 bursts as it
      goes around, a massive clockwork assembly which must be hand wound every 90
      minutes, and is fueled by kerosene. Seeing the original, polished brass,
      pressure tanks (think Coleman lantern on steroids) alone are worth the climb
      of the 101 steps to the top. Virtually all other lighthouses in the world
      are now automated and electronic/electric lighted, with nobody in attendance
      other than routine occasional maintenance checks. In addition, they have to
      haul up the jerry cans of kerosene manually, which they do mostly via a
      pulley arrangement which brings it up to the level of the tanks. Apparently
      there are two keepers, as there are two identical octagonal houses just
      below the lighthouse. We speculate that either they rotate weeks on and
      off, or shifts or something else- tourist-y info doesn't speak to that part
      of how this works...

      It's famous in another way in that the area used to, 150 years ago, make its
      living from scrounging shipwrecks which were common occurrences in the
      Bahamas. In fact, though it was decided to build this years before it was
      actually finished, it was destroyed twice while under construction, by
      locals who wanted no lighthouse there which could interfere with their
      making a living salvaging the wrecks! However, eventually, the British
      government intervened, and soldiers finished it off and staffed it for the
      first many years. It's now become a tourist attraction.

      While we were atop the lighthouse, open for visitors during the daylight
      hours, we looked out over the harbor and saw the tiny hurricane hole - large
      enough for several boats on moorings, and one already stern-tied off to the
      mangroves surrounding it, with a couple of anchors out front. Out in the
      cut, we could see our Flying Pig bobbing at anchor, and on the other side,
      the crashing surf. Sated, we made our way down, and signed the guest book
      on the way out. From there, it was a short dinghy ride over to the public
      dock, one of several stops the local ferry boat makes in that small harbor.
      We sat under the bus-stop-type shelter and looked at the local free paper to
      get a feel for where we'd go, and set out to explore.

      Hopetown is comprised largely of Front Street and Back Street, even though
      there's a great deal more island to explore, and the "roads" are about as
      wide as a golf cart, the ubiquitous mode of transportation in the smaller
      communities. As before, we're here before the season, so lots of
      businesses, sadly including the coffee shop, are closed, but there are
      interesting shops along the way. One surprise is the grocery store which,
      while small, is very well stocked, including, in particular, quarts of lemon
      and lime juice, staples in Lydia's beverage service, as she adds lime to her
      beer, and makes lemonade in copious amounts. Better yet, rather than the
      usual 50-100% greater than stateside prices, these were the equal or better
      of WalMart's! We'd cleared out WalMart of lemon juice, but they didn't have
      lime, so we cleaned this grocery store out of lime juice and took what we
      could carry in lemon juice on the way back!

      In between we walked the streets of the town, enjoying the New-England
      styles present, and climbed the Monument Hill on the dunes overlooking the
      Atlantic. Done long ago to honor the dead of some ship which had foundered
      in the surf and reefs many years ago, there was also a public cemetery which
      was interesting if you like looking at tombstones. While, if there was a
      commercial business attached to it, there was nobody there, we also saw a
      huge number of painted-alike sturdy bicycles. It may be that they are
      rentals, or, as I've heard it said about some communities welcoming
      cruisers, it may be that you just pick one out and then bring it back when
      you're finished. Certainly, there was no security (fence, notice, anything
      of that sort) surrounding all these bikes, and nothing looking like a place
      someone could arrange such use.

      However, along the short way we traveled, there were many rental agencies,
      advertising places to rent for up to 5000 per week! Apparently, during the
      season, which we think starts in a month or so, is very good to them...

      The wind and seas weren't all that promising, so we just puttered around the
      boat on Saturday, October 17, with my writing my much overdue log on our
      trip to St. Augustine, and Lydia playing with her kids and grandkid over the
      very good WiFi signal we had at our anchorage. Sunday, October 18, we
      pulled out the hook and sailed our way back to Marsh Harbour, having gotten
      a VERY different view of the Abacos in the last 10 days from that of only a
      few days prior. We got in and worked our way to a closer-in location,
      hoping to be able, in the forecast higher winds for the time my son and his
      wife would arrive, to have a shorter wet ride back to the boat from the
      Union Jack public dock. We sort of picked our way cautiously, being careful
      of the tide state, as it's very close to our depth, or shallower, close to
      shore, and threw out the hook in 8' of water at low tide, allowing a foot
      under us.

      As it turned out, and as you can see, now a couple of weeks later, we being
      in the same spot in our SPOT satellite locator page
      (www.tinyurl.com/FlyingPigSpot), we anchored in very shallow water, but then
      floated over, as we let out our scope, a very much deeper section of the

      So, we'll leave you here, once again snugly at anchor in Marsh Harbour.

      Until next time, Stay Tuned! :{))


      Skip and Crew

      Morgan 461 #2
      SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
      See our galleries at www.justpickone.org/skip/gallery !
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      "You are never given a wish without also being given the power to
      make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
      "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
      its hand
      (Richard Bach)
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