Thursday, February 4, 2010

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.

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