Saturday, February 27, 2010

Back to Hope Town & Marsh Harbor

Sunday, February 21 - Sunday, February 28, 2010
Can you say "gun-shy"? We've taken the long way (i.e. the 20nm "deep draft" route) from Little Harbor to Hope Town. There's a shorter route (only 16nm) to Hope Town on the east side of Lubbers, and it's probably fine for our draft at high tide. Still, we know that the area outside of the Hope Town channel is also extremely shallow, and want to be there near high tide as well. Rather than risk yet another grounding, we're going with the extra 4 miles. We were able to motor-sail for part of the trip, and were hailed by Rick & Linda on Sojourner a couple miles outside of Hope Town. Linda's mom, Mary, and her friend, Peggy, are visiting for the week; they were both flight attendants for Braniff in the 1940s, and have been best friends ever since. After lunch with the four of them and some much-needed wi-fi, we all joined Jim and Linda on Winsome. They have a beautiful boat and we always have fun with them. (Jim & Linda - thank you for hosting!) We spent the next morning at the Hope Town Coffee Shop, enjoying breakfast, coffee, and more internet. Besides being a beautiful spot, Hope Town's restaurants have some of the best wi-fi (free to patrons) in the Abacos. All the more reason to go!

Tuesday afternoon we're back in Marsh Harbor. There are THREE strong fronts forecasted to blow through in the next week - it must be a record! The first one comes through on Wednesday night, the next on Saturday, and a third on Tuesday. All are forecasting gale-force winds (34-40kts), with Tuesday's front bringing "strong-gale" winds (40-45kts). We've followed Winsome over from Hope Town and anchored near them in our favorite spot near the Jib Room. It offers good protection, being farther from the inlet and incoming swells. Gary on Breakaway is still here, too, and the five of us get together on Pipe muh Bligh for chili dinner and Mexican Train dominoes.

Thursday night the Bahamas government holds a "People to People" event at the Commissioner's House to thank second homeowners, cruisers, and other repeat visitors for their contributions to the local economy. They serve hors d'oeuvres and drinks, local artists sell arts & crafts, a band plays island favorites, and best of all, they have a mini Junkanoo! The troup is decked out in their finest festival wear, and Stacy even gets to wear a Junkanoo hat and shake the cowbells. What a night! Jerry on Free Spirit, Carrie & Alex on Knot Now, and Bill & Tike on Skylark are also at the party, and we realize they're all anchored nearby. Friday we reconnect with Art on Destiny, who joins us at Snappa's Friday evening. The weekend is a quiet one, since we're all riding out the weather on our boats. We see 35kts during Saturday's storm and stop looking after that. Sometimes it's better not to know! Monday we'll be off to Treasure Cay to settle in for the next blow. it just us, or has the weather completely taken over our lives? :-)

Marsh Harbor, Lubbers Quarters, & Little Harbor

Monday, February 15 - Saturday, February 20, 2010
We're baaa-aaack. As you've probably figured out by now, Marsh Harbor is a popular stopping point in the Abacos. It's got good shopping, restaurants, bars, and laundry facilities (a big draw for most cruisers), and it's a 2-3 hour sail from just about anywhere on this side of the Whale Passage. Babette, Nicki, and the kids took the ferry from GTC for a shopping trip, so we got to meet up with them for lunch and some major shopping of our own. We hit Abaco Groceries (kinda like Sam's Club), a produce shop, Save A Lot, and Price Right, and the trunk was filled to the brim. It's such a nice change to do a major shopping run like that - normally we only buy what we can carry back to the boat.

We ended up staying in Marsh for an extra day thanks to strong winds, but finally began our journey south on Thursday morning. We arrived at Cracker P's off Lubbers Quarters at lunch time, and were blown away by the incredible view. Cracker P's sits on a low hill, and the extra elevation gives you a gorgeous view of the sea of Abaco, Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The food at Cracker P's also makes it worth the trip; if you ever visit, you've got to try the hot fish dip! As we left Lubbers, we passed a Moorings catamaran that had grounded off the southern point of Lubbers. Unfortunately our motor isn't strong enough to tow another boat off a shoal, but maybe we should've taken this as a sign... After a nice sail down to Little Harbor, we anchored off Bridges Cay (a mile from Little Harbor) Thursday night to await high tide the next morning. Little Harbor has a very shallow entrance channel, with only 3-3.5' at MLW; being 2 weeks before the next full moon, we only get two extra feet of water at high tide. We debated whether to enter the channel or anchor outside of it, and finally decided to go for it when a passing catamaran told us they'd seen 6'8" depths in the channel. Granted, that seemed a little too good to be true, but our confidence was bolstered when a local fishing boat told us that there were good depths, "but be sure to hug the green markers". Okay, the cruising guide says to stay in the middle of the channel, but local knowledge is always best...right?? In we went, and were doing okay until we reached the last green marker. Rene kept the speed down so he could back off if we began to touch bottom, but sometimes our wing keel works against us. Right off the last buoy, we hit bottom and stuck fast. Rene gunned the engine to get us loose, and we even put out the jib to try to use the wind. No luck; all we did was pivot to the left and right on our wing keel, making no real traction. All we managed to do was to turn our boat sideways so that we were directly across the entrance channel. Perfect! This was bad...REALLY bad. Since we couldn't get free by high tide (30 minutes after we grounded), we were stuck here until the next high tide...12 hours away! Adding insult to injury, another local boat came by later to tell us that a speedboat had hit the last green buoy the day before; the buoy had been moved about 30' outside of the channel into the shallows. Could things get any worse? Of course! A Moorings catamaran soon entered the channel, saw that we were stopped, and thought the marker buoys were mooring balls. Before we could tell them to pass in the channel between us and the red buoy, they veered out of the channel to snag a "mooring". And another one bites the dust... Lucky bugger. Fortunately for its crew, the cat had two powerful engines and was able to get loose pretty quickly.

One thing about being grounded, it's a great way to provide entertainment for the masses and meet a few of your fellow cruisers. The motor vessel Red Head came out to try to pull us off the shoal, but we'd already lost too much water. A few other cruisers came out in their dinghies to see if they could help, snapping pictures all the while. :-) At this point, we decided we'd have to try to leave close to the 11pm high tide; that high tide was supposed to have 4 inches more water than the 11am high tide, and would hopefully be enough. A little note about tides: high and low tides occur roughly every 6 hours. Tide times typically shift by 30 minutes to an hour each day, depending on how close you are to a full moon. Since we grounded 10 days before the full moon, the daylight high tide was getting more and more shallow with each passing day, while the overnight high tide had more water. What did this mean for us? If we waited until the next daylight high tide, we'd have even less water than we did when we first grounded. Two of our dinghy visitors were Dick and Debbie from Ar Sgral ("our shearwater" in Gaelic), who graciously offered to come out at 10pm to help us out. We hoped that between our 75hp boat engine and their 15hp dinghy engine, we'd have enough power to get loose once the water returned. The gods finally smiled on us, and we started getting some real water around 9:30pm. Rene had put out an anchor earlier in the day, and we began taking in the slack to pivot the boat in the channel. By the time Dick and Deb arrived to help us out, we were pointing towards the channel exit and were nearly afloat! We didn't even need the extra 15hp, but sure appreciated Dick and Deb's spotlights that helped guide us out of the channel (not to mention their moral support). After a couple of shallow-water scares in the dark, we were finally back in deep water and headed to our previous night's anchorage. We didn't want to anchor in a new spot in the dark, and knew our Bridges Cay waypoint would lead us safely home.

The next morning we moved the boat to a spot outside of the channel and dinghied into Little Harbor. We took a beach walk on the Atlantic side and enjoyed a great lunch at Pete's Pub. Pete's gallery was also open, displaying beautiful bronze sculptures made by Pete and his father before him. R&B Haven and Celtic Cross came in that morning as well, so we joined them along with Ar Sgral for happy hour after a dinghy tour around the Bight of Robinson. Pete's Pub is definitely a nice place and a fun hang-out spot, and we'd recommend it to other cruisers. However, it's more trouble than it's worth if you have a deep draft and are on a tighter schedule - we probably won't be taking Stacy's mom to Little Harbor!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Treasure Cay, Abacos...with a little taste of Green Turtle

Friday, February 5 - Monday, February 15, 2010
What a fantastic sail! We left Hope Town this morning for the 17nm trip to Treasure Cay. The weather gurus were trying to scare everyone with forecasts of 25kt winds, but the reality was closer to 9-12kts. A lone voice on the VHF said it all: "If I don't see AT LEAST 15kts, I'm demanding my money back!" We crept along at 3kts for a couple of hours until the wind picked up to 15-20kts; with the wind in our backs, we found ourselves flying along at 6-7kts. Gorgeous!

There's something about coming into an anchorage and spotting familiar faces, or in our case, familiar boat names. We made it to Treasure Cay in a little over 4 hours and were surprised at how empty the anchorage was. With a storm on the way, we expected to see 15-20 boats; imagine our surprise when we only found 8 other boats, 3 of which are permanently moored there. As luck would have it, there was plenty of room for us to anchor right along side Jim & Linda on Winsome and Dennis & Susie on Tate Wata. Within a few minutes of anchoring, Tate Wata invited us to join them and Winsome for happy hour. Rick & Linda on Sojourner showed up an hour later, and we knew we were in for a great stay.

After an overnight storm that brought squalls and caused the wind to howl through the rigging, it finally calmed down enough Saturday afternoon for us to take the ferry to Green Turtle. We were scheduled to attend the 7th Annual Island Roots Heritage Festival Wine Tasting, a fund-raiser for the May event that celebrates Green Turtle's Loyalist heritage and African roots. We spent the afternoon with friends, Nicki & Babette, and finally got to meet Ba's boyfriend. That night we all went to the wine tasting, where we enjoyed great food and generous pours. They had a good turnout and the Prime Minister of the Bahamas even showed up, taking pictures with the guests. (We'll post pics once we get copies from Nicki.) We spent the night at the girls' cottage, and Sunday morning arrived way too soon for all of us. We grabbed some much-needed cheeseburgers at the Green Turtle Club, and then headed home in time for a nap and the big Super Bowl party at the Tipsy Turtle in Treasure Cay.

We ended up staying in Treasure Cay for a week, thanks to two strong cold fronts that passed through the area on Tuesday and the following Friday. Each one brought 30-40kt winds to the anchorage, and we were thankful to be in a protected harbor. After being one of only 5 boats in the anchorage, we were joined by 10-15 boats ahead of first front. We knew most of our new neighbors, who included John & Ginger on Be Leaving, Jan & Cam on Te Amor, Jerry on Free Spirit, Rob & Bev on R&B Haven, and Bill & Tike on Skylark. Unfortunately the blow also brought in a few charter boats that apparently had little sailing experience. One Sunsail boat came too close to us and motored over our anchor chain; we felt a huge jolt in the boat and ran topside to find our anchor snubber broken ($55 at West Marine, thank you). The next day, another Sunsail boat nearly ran into the stern of our neighbor boat while pulling up anchor; there could've been some major damage if the skipper hadn't run forward and jumped over the bow sprit in time to push off of our neighbor's stern. In all fairness, Rene and I have chartered boats before, and accidents can happen. Still, were we ever THIS bad as charters?? It makes you want to run for another anchorage when you see a bunch of Sunsails and Moorings boats coming into the harbor!

Wednesday night a budding entrepreneur tried his hand at "Movie Night in Treasure Cay", setting up a trailer and projector in the parking lot across from the marina. For $5 a head, we got to see the movie "Avatar", without the 3-D glasses. (Interesting concept, but best picture nominee? Really??) Wouldn't you know it, the cold front brought 60-degree temperatures and not-so-gentle breezes; we really can't complain when you consider the snow blanketing much of the US, but it's still damn cold when you're sitting in the wind chill for 3 hours! We all sat bundled up in the parking lot with three layers of clothing and fuzzy blankets, and ran like crazy back to the boat as soon as the credits started rolling.

Friday morning we headed to Treasure Cay's gorgeous crescent beach with John and Ginger, hoping to catch some of the nice weather ahead of the next front. Their friend, Ron, flew in that day from his home in St. Augustine. He owns a lot with a 3-slip pier near the anchorage, and keeps his sailboat and motor boat here. Ron had some errands to run in Marsh Harbor and invited us to tag along; what a day! We were introduced to our first "Wally's", the punch from the restaurant of the same name; next was a stop at the stall of George the conch man, famous for his fresh conch salad; Ron then took us all to a little roadside bar between Marsh and Treasure, followed by dinner at Touch of Class. We ended the night at the marina bar, until the horizontal rain reminded us that we'd left the windows open on the boat. We jumped in the dinghy as fast as we could, but some major cleanup was necessary on board. Oh, well...we had a terrific day! The next morning we learned that John and Ginger's anchor had dragged overnight, causing them to take 2-hour watches for the rest of the storm. We made it through without any problems, but everyone in the anchorage was wiped out from a lack of sleep. John and Ginger invited us to dinner Saturday night, and we joined them on Ron's fast boat for a run to Nipper's pig roast on Sunday. Nipper's is always a fun time, and the good weather brought a bunch of our cruiser friends to the party. There's already talk of the upcoming "Barefoot Man" concert at Nipper's on March 5th; this will definitely be the place to be!

Monday morning it's finally time to leave Treasure Cay. We've had a fantastic visit with John and Ginger, and enjoyed meeting Ron. As much as we hate to leave, we want to scout out some other spots in the Abacos so we can be better tour guides when Stacy's mom visits us in March. We've heard good things about Lubbers Quarters and Little Harbor, so we're off to Marsh Harbor this morning for a stopover before heading south.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hope Town, Abacos, Bahamas

Wednesday, February 3 - Thursday, February 4, 2010
Welcome to lovely Hope Town! We arrived in Hope Town this morning to find the quintessential Bahamian village, complete with its very own candy cane-striped lighthouse. We've heard that once you visit Hope Town you'll want to move here, and we can see why it gets such rave reviews. Besides having the most photographed (and still working) lighthouse in the Bahamas, it has charming gingerbread-style pastel-colored houses along each street. Its harbor is protected from all wind directions, but fair warning: the harbor is filled with moorings for rent, which means there's no room to anchor inside. We expected this and are happy to contribute to the local economy. (That's IF they'll ever let us; after 24 hours on a mooring ball, we still haven't found anyone willing to take our money! We're told that someone will come around in a boat to collect from us "eventually". They never do...)

Hope Town, on the north side of Elbow Cay, is about 8nm from Marsh Harbor. We arrived outside of the harbor in the midst of a sailboat race and got to see the participants as they tacked around a marker 100 yards from us. There's nothing quite like watching a 40' sailboat heading straight for you until it turns at the last minute! Winds were 15-20kts, and we were all having quite a ride. We had planned to anchor in the lee of the island, but winds were still out of the north, making it a bumpy anchorage. We radioed a friend in the harbor and were told that a few moorings were still available. We found enough deep water thanks to the Explorer charts (our chart plotter said it was 4' everywhere without giving any alternatives), and Ian from Celtic Cross met us in his dinghy to show us the remaining moorings. Luckily Hope Town is well protected, and we barely noticed the wind inside...much easier when you're approaching a little mooring ball in a 25,000-pound boat! We'd just begun to eat lunch when John and Ginger from Be Leaving stopped by in their dinghy. They were headed into town, and we made a date to meet later for happy hour.

We dinghied into town ourselves soon after, and were completely charmed by this picturesque little spot. A walk around town was soon followed by a beach walk on the Atlantic side of the island. Like most of the Abacos, Elbow Cay has a reef that protects its beaches from the brunt of the Atlantic waves. We were able to wander along the surf line looking for shells and sea glass (no luck), finally reaching the northern point of the island before turning back. We eventually made it to Harbor's Edge, an open-air bar/restaurant overlooking the harbor. John & Ginger joined us for happy hour, and we had a great time getting to know them better.

The next morning we dinghied over to the Hope Town Coffee House, famous for their delicious breakfasts, coffee drinks, and free internet. Stacy enjoyed her first latte in two months, and their breakfast sandwiches and quiches were fabulous. John and Ginger met us there, and we all agreed that a beach day was in order. After gathering up our snorkel gear, we hiked across the street to the beach entrance through Hope Town Harbor Lodge. Wouldn't you know, we couldn't pass through without spotting some familiar faces: Rick & Linda from Sojourner were there having lunch with their visitors, so we got to chat with them before setting up camp on the beach. Thanks to the protection in the harbor, we hadn't realized how windy it was on the far side of the island. John & Ginger were brave enough to go out snorkeling, but we decided to be wimpy, hiding under our towels trying to stay warm. We all survived for a couple of hours, but eventually got tired of the dark clouds that blocked out the sun. We really can't complain given the snowstorms in the Northeast, but this isn't sunbathing weather!

This is a short trip for now, as we're leaving for Treasure Cay in the morning ahead of another cold front. 30+ knot winds are expected early Saturday morning, and we want to stake out a good spot before the anchorage gets too busy. We're taking the ferry to Green Turtle Cay Saturday afternoon; there's a charity fund-raiser wine tasting at the Green Turtle Club Saturday night, and it's a great excuse to see Nicki, Babette, and the rest of our friends on GTC. 'Til next time...

Pictures at:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Marsh Harbor Revisited

Friday, January 29 - Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Ah, Marsh Harbor. Many cruisers and Abaconians will tell you that they can't stand Marsh Harbor and will only go to the "big city" long enough to do laundry and get groceries from one of the larger markets. While we wouldn't want to spend months at a time here, we still think it's a fun spot to drop anchor for a few days. Sojourner had made it into Marsh the day before we arrived, and Rick and Linda invited us aboard for happy hour Friday evening. On board, we also got to meet Jim and Linda from Winsome, Ian and Sharon from Celtic Cross, and Michael and Robyn from Estrellita. We enjoyed hearing the stories of other cruisers, some of whom have been coming to the Abacos for 30 years.

If you think it's always sunny in the Bahamas, think again! Not that it's nearly as bad as our home towns of Seattle and Rotterdam, but it does rain here. When it does, we're pretty much house-bound. In the wintertime, cold fronts come through the Bahamas every 3-4 days off of the US coast. More often than not, they just bring lots of wind and slightly cooler temps. Sometimes, however, they stall...right over the Abacos. The front that came in Sunday morning was supposed to stall south of us, but Mother Nature sometimes has a sense of humor. This one stalled right over us and stuck around for 3 days. It rained throughout much of Sunday, and winds picked up on Monday. Granted, a few old salties have reminded us that we won't melt if we get wet, but wind and rain don't make for a fun dinghy ride no matter what the temperature! We were fortunate to get a couple of breaks in the squalls, so Sunday afternoon we walked over to Boat Harbor on the far side of Marsh Harbor to see the art show. We had also planned to meet Dave and Camilla from Southern Heat for happy hour, and made it to Snappas before the next wave of rain hit. We had a fun time with them and their friend, Sharon, and got quite the surprise when Babette and her boyfriend, Tim, showed up at Snappas, having just arrived in Marsh Harbor after a very long flight from Canada. We also spotted our "sister boat", another Catalina Morgan 440 anchored nearby. We wanted to stop by to say hello, but the owner was off the boat. Great minds really do think alike, because the CM440's owner, Art, called us the next morning on the VHF and invited us over to Destiny to trade boat notes. We all had a few boat projects to do first, and agreed that Art would hail us when he was back on the boat. We heard the call sometime after 1:30, thinking he was inviting us over for our visit. Unfortunately he was calling for help, having just had his anchor drag. We reached him a few minutes later to find him rafted up with another boat, Be Leaving. John of Be Leaving had donned a wetsuit and was snorkeling over the anchor. After an hour of maneuvering with John dislodging anchors in the water and Rene hauling them into our dinghy, Destiny was safely re-anchored. Art had a 55-pound Delta, which is one size larger than what's needed for the CM440 and happens to be the anchor that Rene wants. It just goes to show you that nothing is really "drag-proof".

The next morning, Rene helped Art sail Destiny around the point of the island to Boat Harbor. Stacy stayed aboard Pipe to finish some much-needed boat cleaning in anticipation of our happy hour that night. We were excited to play hosts to our boat neighbors, and ended up with 11 people in our cockpit! We had a fantastic time with our new friends, and know we'll see them again as we make our way through the Abacos.

What's that old saying about "when it rains, it pours"? That seems to have been true for us over the past couple of weeks. First, we discovered that our boat VHF will allow us to call out, but we can't hear anything coming in. You'd think we'd have noticed this earlier, but we almost always use the hand-held VHF over the base. Whether the problem is user-error or a function of our earlier lightning strike, we don't know. Next up, Rene turned on our little digital camera to see the pictures he'd taken earlier, only to get the "blue screen of death". If you've ever had your computer hard drive crash, you know what we mean. Besides being a great little camera when we don't feel like carrying the big Nikon, it's also the camera we use to take underwater pictures. We spent more on the underwater housing than we did on the camera itself, so now we have to see if we can get a replacement camera...Ebay, anyone?? In case you've noticed our lack of photos on the blogs lately, we haven't been able to retrieve the old pictures so far. Fingers crossed we'll be able to download them through the printer, or maybe at a Wal-Mart photo center when we get back to the states. Our most recent dive pictures are still on there! Anyway, you know that these kinds of things happen in threes, right? Or in our case, fours... When we first came into Marsh Harbor on Friday, we were quite surprised to see depths of under 5'. Keeping in mind that Pipe is supposed to draw 5.3', we should've felt a bump or seen sand clouds in the water at the very least. Rick had asked us whether our depth gauge was correct when we complained of shoals in the Treasure Cay channel, so this was yet another "data point". Our anchorage neighbors, Ken and Kathy, loaned us a hand-held depth gauge, and surprise, surprise...our true depth was 2' more than what our depth gauge showed! At least it was wrong in the "safe" direction. Can you imagine thinking you actually had 2' MORE water than you really did? Rene found the Raymarine manual and calibrated for 2' offset. Whew...hopefully our next trip across the shifting sand banks will be a bit less stressful. What's next? Oh, yes, the macerator/discharge pump... We won't go into graphic details, but let's just say we came close to thinking we'd need to make an emergency trip back to the US to have our holding tank worked on. Not fun! All in all, things could be a lot worse repair-wise. Everything seems to be working for now, other than our not being able to take underwater pictures until we get back to the states to find another Olympus.

We'll close this chapter of our blog for now. Tomorrow we head over to Hope Town which, we've been told, is the quintessential Bahamian paradise. Can't wait!

Doin' the Abaco Shuffle, Part I: Guana, Treasure, Guana (repeated), and Man-o-War

Wednesday, January 20 - Friday, January 29, 2010
This is what we get for taking so long to update the blog. We've been to a lot of different places and have met some terrific cruisers over the past few days, so our latest blog is once again a novel. What can we say? We've been having too much fun to sit down at the computer and write about it!

We left Green Turtle Cay on Wednesday, January 20th, for the trip through Whale Passage to Great Guana Cay. We finally got a weather window of southerlies, followed by two consecutive days of light winds, and the Whale rewarded our patience. The seas were as calm as we'd ever seen them, with nothing more than 1-2 foot widely-spaced rollers. It was so calm that you could see through the turquoise waters to the bottom with no problem, and we were in 30-40' of water! "Old Man Tux" still managed to get seasick, but Tawny never batted an eye. When the kids are happy (or at least one of them is), you know it's a smooth ride! We reached Guana Wednesday afternoon in time to prep a dish for the weekly cruisers' potluck dinner at Grabbers. Having anchored in Fisher Bay, it was a quick dinghy ride to Grabbers' dock. We were told the potluck started at 6pm, and we were there pretty much on time. This was our first Grabbers potluck, and we weren't entirely sure what to expect. People started coming in around 6:15, and the place was pretty busy by 6:30. We met Dave, his buddy Dave, and his other buddy Dave (yes, really) from Southern Heat, and had a great time talking to them. The rest of the crowd was, shall we say, a little clique-ish. Thanks to a front that began blowing through that night, a lot of cruisers had decided to stay on their boats. Most of the people at the potluck were homeowners or long-term leasers on Guana who knew each other well, and we newbies weren't exactly welcomed into the fold. It was a weird vibe, and unfortunately made for a disappointing first potluck.

Not to worry, our next cruiser event would be the pig roast at Nippers on Sunday. We expected to see friends Rick and Linda from Sojourner, as well as Brendal and the Dutchies from Green Turtle (weather allowing). Enter the big debate: we knew that another front was coming on Friday, meaning the winds would clock around to the west before bring northerlies. Fisher Bay has great protection in NW-S winds, but it's wide open to the west. With 20+ winds, you get some serious wave action in the bay. Stacy wanted to move to the protected harbor at Man-o-War Cay (7 miles away) for the front and come back to Guana on Saturday; Rene didn't want to bother moving the boat for four days. (Rene's the captain and got the final word - we didn't move - but Stacy writes the blog and gets to complain about it here!) Thursday was fairly quiet, but overnight the westerlies came with a vengeance. Pipe's stern slammed up and down on the waves all night, making for some very red eyes Friday morning. Still, we wanted to go into town to have breakfast at the Art Cafe & Bakery. The Art Cafe is known for its wonderful egg dishes, sandwiches, and pastries, and we enjoyed a breakfast of great omelets, freshly baked bread, and strong coffee. Before we left, the chef came out with samples of coconut turnovers - think fresh coconut, butter, sugar, and sliced almonds. Yummmmm! It's a good thing we had a big breakfast, because we needed our energy by the time we got back to the boat. Remember those overnight waves that caused the stern to jump up and down? They'd gotten worse by the time we arrived back at Pipe, and it took us a good 15 minutes to get back onto the boat. Every time we tried to get close to the boat, the stern would threaten to come crashing down on the dinghy. At one point, the bow went up and the stern went underwater, causing the dinghy to get stuck on the sugar scoop. Help! We finally managed to get aboard and quickly decided that our trips ashore were over for the day. The moral of the story is: we're never staying in Fisher Bay with westerly winds again!

Sunday at Nippers turned out to be a blast. Rick & Linda on Sojourner arrived in Fisher Bay on Saturday morning, followed by their friend Jerry and his visitors, Sue & George, on Free Spirit, as well as John and Jonathan on Madeleine. We all headed up the hill to Nippers for the pig roast buffet and the NFL playoffs. What a great day! The sun was out, the beers were cold, and the company was fantastic. The only bummer of the day was that the Whale was in a rage; the waves were massive, making it look like the north shore of Hawaii. That meant that our friends from Green Turtle couldn't make it over to Guana to join us. (That was about to be corrected...keep reading...)

From Guana, we initially planned to go to Man-o-War Cay. After talking to Rick & Linda and listening to the weather, however, we soon decided to follow Sojourner back to Treasure Cay on Monday. We're so glad we did! Treasure Cay is actually a resort area on Great Abaco Island, the same island that includes Marsh Harbor. You have to pay $10 (honor system) to anchor in Treasure Cay, but that entitles you to their swimming pool, showers, laundry, beach chairs, etc. Across the street from the marina is a strip mall with groceries, a liquor store, a bakery, a bank, and a number of other shops. There's also Coconuts Bar & Grill, part of the Treasure Cay Resort and Marina, situated on what's been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world. It's an absolutely gorgeous site, with a three-mile long crescent beach. You can eat at Coconuts on one of the picnic tables overlooking the beach, or you can sit on a table embedded in the sand. The winds on the trip over blew 20-30kts, and we were able to actually sail (not motor-sail) for the first time in the Bahamas. We did 6-7kts of boat speed and felt like we were flying. Woo hoo! Best of all, being at Treasure gave us a chance to see the Dutchies again. Babette, Nicki, Larry, and the girls came over on the ferry from Green Turtle, and we got to spend the afternoon with them. Having seen them nearly every day for three weeks in GTC, we were beginning to have withdrawals. :-)

Wednesday morning Rick & Linda told us they were going back to Guana for the cruiser potluck at Grabbers. After our first experience, we weren't exactly in a rush to go back. Rick & Linda knew we were hesitant and assured us that we'd have more fun since a bunch of other cruisers they knew were heading that way. We hummed and hawed for a few minutes and finally decided to join them. We made it back to Guana in less than two hours, and joined the 15-20 other boats anchored in Fisher Bay. What a sight! Winds were calm and we found a good spot next to Jerry, Sue, and George on Free Spirit. Jerry was having a few cruisers on his boat for a pre-potluck happy hour, and invited us to join them. There was no comparison - this trip was already shaping up to be a lot more fun than the last potluck! What a fantastic night. Dinner was set out around 7pm and the place was packed. There were over 100 cruisers in attendance, and the crowd was incredibly friendly. This was the cruisers' potluck we'd heard about!

Thursday morning we left Guana for Man-o-War Cay. The direct route meant a 7 nm journey to the east across two areas designated as "shifting sand bars". In other words, the charted depths may or may not be right. Stacy kept watch at the bow while Rene managed the helm, and we dropped our speed to a crawl. We crossed over the first sand bar and saw 6.4' depths, while the second bar showed 5.9' depths. We finally made it to MOW at 2pm, where we anchored in the lee of the island rather than traverse the narrow channel into the inner harbor. Our anchoring spot allowed us to dinghy into the northern end of the main harbor, which has a 1.5' controlling depth at MLW (trust us, we grounded in the dinghy). After seeing how close together some of the mooring balls were, we were glad to have decided to anchor out. One 49' sailboat was moored on a rental ball in the eastern harbor, and its stern practically touched the mooring behind it. There wasn't enough room to get Pipe in there and anchored (or moored) to our liking, so we were thankful that winds allowed us to stay outside overnight (Captain's note: remember the bad Westerlies in Fisher's Bay in Guana? If we would have gone to Man-o-War, and not being able to use the moorings inside the harbor, we would have been in the exact situation here!). As for Man-o-War, it was a charming little island with a small "main street" lined by a few shops, cafes, and boat yards. Founded in the 1700s by British loyalists, MOW continues to be quite devout (church services are held 4-5 days a week), and no alcohol is served anywhere on the island. We were told that it's a close-knit community, and we didn't observe as many hello's or friendly waves by locals as we've had in other areas. One night was enough for us, and we pulled up anchor for Marsh Harbor Friday morning.