Monday, March 29, 2010

Killing Time in Green Turtle Cay

A windy hello to all of our friends and family! We've been hanging out in Green Turtle Cay for the past 12 days, and are enjoying our last few days here in the Bahamas before we head back to the States. After Stacy's mom left us on the 16th, we took advantage of a short weather window to get through the Whale Cay Passage and arrive here in Green Turtle in time to celebrate St. Paddy's Day with our Dutch friends. The weather was awful that night - think downpours and a flooded dance floor at the Green Turtle Club - but the band managed to set up indoors and we had a blast. It was sooo great to see our friends again, and we've been spending most of our time with them ever since.

We had a bit more excitement today than we'd planned for...yet another storm has come through, and a 30-knot gust pushed us sideways and caused our anchor to drag. We tried raising the hook without doing any damage, but our anchor caught the chain of River Rat, a Hunter 45 anchored behind us. Thanks to 4-6 dinghies that came racing to our rescue, we managed to get Pipe separated from River Rat and pivoted her enough to raise the anchor. It was a scary ordeal, but fortunately no one was hurt and no boats were damaged. Just another reminder of how quickly conditions can change, and how much cruisers look out for each other.

There's been a bittersweet vibe here in Green Turtle as many boats have come in over the past few days waiting for a weather window to go back home. Many of our cruising friends arrived last week hoping to cross to Florida on Thursday, but the window disappeared before anyone could take advantage of it. On the plus side, we've been able to spend more time with the sailors we've become so close to before having to say goodbye. At the same time, it feels like we're delaying the inevitable; we'll likely be one of the last of our group to leave since we don't want to get back to Florida much before April 10th. Most of our friends are heading out in the next 2-3 days, which means we'll be waving to a lot of departing boats.

Weather permitting, we plan to leave GTC soon after Easter. Nicky's daughter has nearly completed her open water SCUBA certification, so we're all hoping to join her on a celebratory dive and Brendal beach BBQ before we go. Once we leave, it's about 100nm from GTC to the end of the Bahama Bank, and then another 230nm to Fernandina. With a good northerly push from the gulf stream, we should be able to make the trip from Mantilla Shoals (on the bank) to FL in about 40 hours. We'll check in one more time before we leave, and then our next blog should come from the USA. Cheers!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mom's Here!

Tuesday, March 9 - Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Please welcome our first (and only, considering we're leaving in two weeks) visitor to the Bahamas: Stacy's mom!! Mom flew in to Treasure Cay on Tuesday afternoon to join us for a week in the beautiful Abacos. We'd met a local cab driver through Ron a few weeks back, and hired him for the round trip to Treasure Cay airport to pick up Mom. We were back on the boat by 4pm and had the chance to introduce her to a few of our friends on neighboring boats. We had happy hour on the boat, taught Mom how to play Mexican Train (dominoes), and called it a fairly early night. We had a busy schedule planned for the week and wanted to get an early start!

Wednesday began with Happy Birthday wishes to Rene, along with the best cinnamon rolls in the Abacos at Florence's Bakery & Cafe. Breakfast was followed by a beach walk along Treasure Cay, where we ran into Linda from Sojourner doing her daily walk and was happy to take a few group shots of us. We went further down the beach than we'd planned, and were surprised to find it nearly 1:30 before we got back. We still needed to shower, shop for groceries, call Rene's mom, and bake a birthday rum cake, all before setting sail for Guana Cay and the Wednesday night potluck at Grabbers. How were we ever going to get all of this done?!

We finally left the anchorage around 3pm to begin the 2-hour trip to Guana. Between the late start, the rum cake prep, figuring out what to make for the potluck, and what looked like an oncoming squall, Stacy was getting a wee bit stressed out. (Author's note: now that the only real stress in my life involves anchoring, weather, and hitting/being hit by other boats, I go a little crazy when pressed into a tight schedule!) But of course, the black storm clouds eventually turned away from us, the rum cake baked en route to Guana, and the winds even let us do some motor sailing for the first hour. Mom got to see Pipe with the jib up, and we had an easy trip across the Sea of Abaco. Stacy went a little crazy again trying to figure out what to make in a 30-minute window once we reached Fisher Bay, but a simple pasta dish and a sundowner eventually cured all. We made it to the potluck, met a few second homeowners and Spring Break-ers, and had a fantastic night.

Thursday brought a 3-day run of lousy weather, so we made a mad dash to Marsh Harbor to hunker down. We debated where to hide out - Marsh vs. Hope Town - and decided we'd rather show Mom Hope Town at its best once the sun came out again. We found a good spot with plenty of swing room in anticipation of the high and clocking winds, and later joined Art (Destiny) and John & Ginger (Be Leaving) at the cruiser happy hour at the Jib Room. Mom had a lot of fun meeting more fellow cruisers, and we made plans to get everyone together for the Jib Room's steak night on Saturday.

We managed to show Mom the highlights of Marsh Harbor on Friday morning before it began to rain...and rain...and rain. We've never seen so much water in our dinghy! Unfortunately, Mom realized Saturday morning that she'd left a porthole in her bedroom open overnight. She thought the water had only pooled on the shelf under the window, and asked us to do a quick check. Rene began to get worried when he found more water at the far end of the shelf...and more so when he opened the first locker to find wet clothes. Nooooo!! The rain water managed to drip from the shelf above to the locker floor below, and kept running backwards through the next two lockers. Anything on the locker floor was soaked, and clothes that were hanging but touching the bottom of the locker acted like sponges. Even the mattress, sheets, Mom's purse, and some of her clothes got wet. What a mess! Thank god Saturday was a beautiful sunny, windy day, and we quickly hung EVERYTHING out to dry. There wasn't an empty spot anywhere on our clothesline and lifelines. By that night, we were more than ready for a good dinner at the Jib Room and a bottle of wine!

Sunday we left bright and early for the hour-plus trip to Hope Town. The winds let us motor sail again, and we arrived near high tide to make it across the shoals outside of Hope Town Harbor. Hope Town is always busy during bad weather, so we were relieved to spot an open mooring ball in the back corner of the harbor. As (bad) luck would have it, the winds had the boats turned toward us, so we had to make a nerve-wracking circle through the mooring field to get ourselves pointed in the right direction for the approach. We were within a few feet of other boats more than once, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally got secured to the mooring ball.

Hope Town was as charming as ever, and we made sure Mom got to see some of the highlights: a walking tour of the village, a stop at the beach, lunch at Harbor's Edge, and breakfast the next morning at the Hope Town Coffee House. We also thought it would be fun to rent a golf cart for the day to see the rest of Elbow Cay, and made our way to Tahiti Beach on Monday morning. What a gorgeous spot! Rated one of the top 10 beaches in the Bahamas, Tahiti Beach is fringed by palm trees and extends into a long sandy spit at low tide. We watched kite boarders do jumps and flips in the shallows, and hunted for shells and sea glass on the Atlantic side of the beach. After a beer stop at Sea Spray Resort's tiki bar, we enjoyed a picnic on the beach near White Sound. The only other person on the beach was a woman waiting for her lobster-hunting hubby. We soon spotted him near the reef with a mutton fish and lobster tail in hand, holding both up and yelling frantically while he backed up toward the beach. A juvenile black tip shark had been attracted by the blood from the speared mutton fish and thought it would enjoy an easy lunch. No such luck, as the guy managed to make it back to the beach with his dinner in hand (after nearly losing his swim trunks).

Tuesday morning we got up early to sail back to Marsh Harbor. Rick & Linda's kids were also visiting, and they were on the same flight as Mom. We piled the three of them back into Sidney's taxi for the hour-long trip to the airport. We hated saying good-bye and wished Mom could've stayed longer. She promises to come back next year when we're in the Exumas...this time with Ken!

Three sets of posted pictures with this chapter:

1) Pictures recovered from our now defunct underwater camera

2) Pictures from the Barefoot Man concert weekend

3) Pictures from the week with Stacy's mom

Barefoot Man Concert, Great Guana Cay

Friday, March 5 - Sunday, March 7, 2010
Welcome to Barefoot Man Weekend! Barefoot Man is the Caribbean's answer to Jimmy Buffet. Having immortalized Nippers Bar in at least three of his songs, Barefoot Man also hosts concerts there during Spring Break in March and the Abacos sailing regatta in July. The signs go up at Nippers inviting you back for Barefoot Man 2-3 months in advance, and people literally plan their Bahamas vacations around the event. (A cruising couple's daughter arrived yesterday for her annual week-long visit. The best part? "She finally made it for Barefoot Man!") We've heard stories of years past when Nippers used to have a palm tree in the middle of the deck. "They had to take it out because college girls used it as a stripper pole during the Barefoot Man concert." Uhhh...yeah. Lest you think Barefoot Man Weekend is all about bikini-clad co-eds soaking in the sun imbibing a few frozen Nippers (that's certainly part of it), it's also a chance for the more "mature" cruising crowd to go a little crazy. Believe it or not, the 40-to-60 crowd was a LOT rowdier than the college kids could ever hope to be. Remember: we cruisers have made happy hours on other boats a daily ritual. We have a lot more practice!

So Barefoot Man Weekend is set up like this...get to Guana Cay by noon on Friday, because the free concert starts at Nippers around 12:30. The concert typically lasts until just before sunset, at which point everyone high-tails it to west-facing Grabbers Sunset Bar ( on Fisher Bay. After enjoying a few gorgeous sunset shots and a couple of frozen Grabbers, most people either a) go to someone's boat for happy hour, b) go back to continue the party at Nippers, or c) pass out. Saturday is typically a recovery day until 5-ish when everyone heads back to watch the sunset at Grabbers. The agenda? Visit with friends, have a couple of Grabbers, and head back to Nippers for the evening concert. Sunday is the traditional day of rest, as long as "rest" includes another party! Barefoot Man finally gets to take a break, but Bahamas-native, Brown Tip, brings his "Rake & Scrape" music to Grabbers from 1pm 'til sunset. Nippers also has their usual Sunday pig roast, so people feeling really adventurous are welcome to do a little bar-hopping.

Ideally, cruisers get to Guana Cay a day or two before the concert to stake out a spot in the anchorage at Fisher Bay. Unfortunately 2010's crazy weather brought high westerly winds, meaning anyone anchored in Fisher Bay would be in for a wild ride. We decided to splurge on a slip at the Orchid Bay Marina and enjoyed the extravagance of leaving our dinghy in the raised position for a change. (Not having to take a cold, wet dinghy ride to a public dock...priceless!) John and Ginger from Be Leaving were on the next dock over, so we all headed up the hill to Nippers where their friend, Ron, was holding a table for us. Brendal brought a boat-load of people over from Green Turtle Cay, which meant we got to see Nicki and her kids, dive master Jack, and of course, Brendal. (Side note: Nippers is actually very kid-friendly, even during Barefoot Man. There are two swimming pools and a gorgeous beach that the kids love, and we all help keep an eye on them.) The frozen Nippers started flowing, and we were soon singing along to Barefoot favorites such as "When They Cut You Off at Nippers", "If You See Kay" (listen as you say it out loud), and "Living Next Door to Alice" (imagine 300 party-goers screaming out the chorus, "Who the F*** is Alice?"). The real charm of the Barefoot Man is that so many of his songs are about the Abacos. Anyone who has spent time here will listen to his songs and recognize the places he sings about: the Fig Tree on Guana Cay (as in "Hang Me at..."), the Conch Inn in Marsh Harbor ("Conched Out at the Conch Inn"), "Hopetown Ferry" (which takes people between Hope Town and Marsh Harbor), and, of course, Nippers Bar. His songs are like a travelogue of the Bahamas, and make us grin even more now that we've spent three months here.

Brendal, Jack, and Nicki headed back to Green Turtle at 4pm, so we wandered back down the hill to Grabbers soon after. There we found Rick and Linda from Sojourner, along with their friends, Vince and Monica. Grabbers was beginning to fill up as people got tired of the Nippers craziness and came in for more low-key fun. We all stuck around for a Grabber or two and then made our way to Be Leaving. John and Ginger had invited us to their boat for an after-Nippers happy hour; tradition says everyone brings an appetizer to share, which can be tricky after spending the day at the concert. Let's just say there were plenty of chips and dips bought at the local grocery that night. We were back on our boat by 10pm and in bed by 10:05. This partying stuff is hard work!

We got up Saturday morning intending to move out of the marina in favor of the free anchorage. The wind was still howling like crazy from the west, so we decided to stay in the marina for another night. (Stacy was soon accused of being a "dock princess".) After an early morning coffee on Be Leaving, we joined Ron, John, and Ginger for breakfast at the Art Cafe & Bakery. We had loved this place the last time we were here, but this time they were a bit overwhelmed by the volume of patrons. They ran out of both ham and sausage by the time we got there, and the resulting bacon omelet didn't quite make the grade. We should've gone for the local fare, as we were told their chicken sous and fish stew were both fantastic. Not feeling particularly energetic, we decided to take advantage of the marina's pool and deck chairs. Being in the lee of the hotel, the pool area was deceptively warm - it got COLD as soon as you stepped into the wind! We eventually made it back to Grabbers for sunset, and made a last-minute decision to attend the Barefoot Man concert at Nippers that night. The Saturday night concert was originally touted as a reservations-required "Dinner and Dancing Under the Stars" event, and initially carried a not-so-cruiser-friendly price tag ($100 a plate was the rumor). At some point Nippers must not have had the expected turnout, because the evening concert soon became a "$10 cover, no-reservations-required" show. We arrived at Nippers soon before the 7pm start time, and were surprised when they waved us in without even collecting the $10 cover. This was getting better all the time! The only downside was that the 20+ knot winds had clocked to the north, meaning if you weren't sitting inside (no luck - it was full) or behind the protective plastic, you got blown out of your shorts. Poor Barefoot Man - his stage was front and center to the blowing winds, and clad in shorts and flip flops, he was barely kept warm by a portable heater he'd brought! We had a fun time at the show, and had quite the people-watching experience as Nippers-infused co-eds danced on the picnic tables.

After a final night at the marina, we moved the boat over to the Fisher Bay anchorage Sunday morning in time for the Brown Tip concert at Grabbers. We stayed at Grabbers until sunset, and finally managed a quiet night on the boat. Monday we'll head to Treasure Cay to try to rest up and do some major boat cleaning before Stacy's mom arrives on Tuesday. Til next time...

P.S. In case you need a glossary:
Nipper (noun): the signature rum drink of Nippers Bar. Its recipe is a secret, but we know it has 5 kinds of rum and a Hawaiian Punch-like fruit juice. Get it frozen (our preference) or on the rocks.
Nipper (verb): the effect brought on by the signature rum drink of Nippers Bar, as in "you've been Nippered"
Grabber (noun): the signature rum drink of Grabbers Bar. This recipe is also a secret, but we think it also has 5 kinds of rum and a grapefruit juice base. We like it better than the Nipper, because the tanginess means you can drink more of them. Get it frozen (our preference) or on the rocks.
Barefoot Man: Check out his website at for info and CDs.
Chicken sous (rhymes with "house"): a chicken broth-based dish containing bone-in chicken pieces, lime juice, hot peppers, potatoes, and allspice berries. Whatever the recipe (and everyone has their own version), this dish is always served in the morning as a cure-all for the night before.