Saturday, February 27, 2010

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!

Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Rene.Foree/2010BahamasII?feat=directlink

2 comments:

Ben said...

Hi,

Glad to see you got back afloat without further mishap. What's the draft of Pipe Muh Bligh?

We'll be on a charter down that way the end of April. I'm curious about the approach to Cracker P's. Looking at the Dodge guide, it looks pretty shallow. Were you able to approach in Pipe Muh Bligh, or did you leave the big boat somewhere like Elbow?

Thanks!

Ben.

Rene 'n Stacy Foree said...

Our draft is 5'3"

We only attempted the Cracker P's approach from the South, not from the Hope Town channel. We did not have any issues on a rising, half tide and anchored right off their dock. You do have to follow the charts pretty closely as the shallows are certainly there. We saw a low draft catamaron run aground because they were following the middle of the channel instead of the charted route.