Saturday, July 23, 2011

A wonderful week!

Whew!! Time has just flown by this past week!! We've been so busy enjoying our time in the Abacos, that I've been somewhat neglectful of the blog. (My apologies!) We did so much that I'm not sure I can do justice to all our small adventures and many activities, but I'll try! To briefly recap the highlights of the past week:

Tuesday morning the men went offshore fishing in Tingum while the women moved Equinox to a new anchorage. (Gotta love capable women!) Muriel learned how to operate the windlass and was introduced to the safety steps and basic routine we go through to weigh anchor, then Karyn piloted the boat from Marsh Harbour to the north end of Great Guana Cay. We ladies had the anchor down and were enjoying lunch on the flybridge in the new anchorage by the time the guys came back, unfortunately sans dinner, being bested once again by the fish. Nary a nibble on the calm seas, but better luck next time! For an afternoon of fun, we took Tingum around to the Atlantic side of Great Guana, snorkeled on the reefs off the northern shores and explored a bit of the beach behind Baker’s Bay. After a great day in the sunshine, a quiet dinner aboard followed.
Roles were reversed on Wednesday, when Muriel and I took Tingum for a cruise along Great Guana Cay, before running north through the "Don’t Rock Passage" to Green Turtle Cay. Due to the time of the tides and Equinox's deep draft, Ron and Paul brought Equinox around Whale Cay out to the Atlantic, then back in to the Sea of Abaco through Whale Cay Cut with no issue. Seas were easy; gentle swells with a 9’ duration, so conditions through the cut were just fine. We anchored off New Plymouth, and went to Pineapple’s for grilled fresh snapper burgers, a couple rum punches and seabreezes, and reveled in the sunshine as we ate near the shore. We happily brought home some tubs of freshly made conch salad, one hot and spicy, one mild, for that evening’s appetizer. Yum!
View of New Plymouth from Pineapple's on Green Turtle Cay
The blazing heat of the afternoon forced us all into the water to cool off – and rather than dive or snorkel, with the Sea of Abaco being incredibly calm, we opted to waterski! We pulled out the old HO slalom ski, rigged Tingum for skiing, and away we went: Karyn, Paul, Muriel and Ron, in that order! It was a delight! Tingum is a great ski platform; it's so much more powerful than Eclipse, which is what we used to ski behind! We all popped up on the ski almost immediately and grinned our way across the water on each of our runs. SO fun! 
Muriel taking a turn on the ski
Paul, all smiles after skiing
We eventually made our way to Fiddle Cay, where we relaxed in the shallows of the sandbar, letting the current pull us through the cool waters before heading back to Equinox. Ron decided to ski part of the way back, and did a great shallow water start before working on a few hard cuts across the wake. At the height of one such turn, the ski broke, with the boot coming clean off the ski! Ron went flying in a riotous tumble and landed in a hard plummet, surfacing with a bloody bruise on his right calf and a sore back. Definitely not how we wanted to end the ski session, but we were thankful that Ron wasn’t hurt worse. It was a pretty spectacular spill, though! 
After returning to Equinox to shower and refresh before dinner, we had a surprise – one most welcome and delightful – when a shout marked the arrival of a boat alongside Equinox. Standing on the bow was Brendal, of Brendal's Dive Center! (For those who don't know, Brendal is the long-time owner of the well-known dive operation on Green Turtle Cay, and his gregarious nature endears him to all. Check out their website: www.brendal.com.) It was so nice to come out on the aft deck and discover Brendal waving and grinning happily, shouting hellos and welcome backs as his mate pulled the boat alongside. They were returning to Green Turtle with a group of divers after a great day of diving and picnicking on the beach when Brendal spied Equinox and insisted on a detour to say hello. We are so glad he did! After confirming we all would be coming into the Green Turtle Club to hear the Gully Roosters that evening, he promised to see us there. How nice to be welcomed back, time and again! The people of the Abacos are so warm and genuine; their hospitality is legendary. And, really, it only underscores why we love to cruise: getting to know the locals and becoming friends with the people of the islands.  (To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, who wants to swim in a roped-off sea?)
Later that night, we did indeed go hear the Gully Roosters and do a bit of dancing, although Ron wasn’t up for much of the latter since his back was bothering him quite a bit. We were happy to see Brendal once more; we had time to catch up, dance, and laugh. Muriel enjoyed doing the "Electric Slide" with him -- great fun! Finally, after a few more dances and a lot more music, we headed ambled back to the boat. En route, at the GTC fuel dock, was a huge fuel barge called the Tropic Sun. The size of it in such a tiny harbor was totally unexpected; just imagining how it got into White Sound was mind-boggling, considering the fairly shallow controlling depths and sharp turn at the channel entrance!

The remainder of the week Equinox was on the move. We meandered back towards the States: from Green Turtle Cay we stopped at Allans-Pensacola Cay on Thursday, then stopped in Wells Bay off Grand Cay on Friday for part of the day. By late afternoon, we were underway yet again, starting our crossing back across the Gulf Stream to the St. Lucie Inlet. We had to get back in time for Paul and Muriel to return north, and since we had a lovely weather window, we opted to do a night crossing off the Little Bahama Bank. Our reasons for doing so were twofold: we not only wanted to arrive in daylight since we were towing Tingum, but also because the inlet is shoaling quite a bit just inside the jetties, and Equinox needs a high tide to get through it safely. Due to the time of high tide at the inlet, we had to arrive in the early morning for the most water. Plan, plan and plan again....there are so many variables to take into account when cruising!

The night crossing passed quietly, with a shooting star or two under clear skies to brighten the night, and an occasional squall in the distance to add to the light show. Beautiful! We each did a short watch 2-hour watch and by day break, we were approaching the St. Lucie Inlet. Being Saturday, fishing boats small and large were charging out of the Inlet in great numbers (at one point, I counted eight boats all exiting the inlet, as I peered through the binoculars) so we had to be rather careful with timing our entry! Thankfully, our entrance through the jetties was uneventful, but the water under the hull did get very thin indeed once inside. (I hate it when the depth sounder reads "- - -" because the water is too shallow to get a good reading! Let's just say it's not a good feeling!) But again as always, all's well that ends well, and Equinox is now back in Jensen Beach, safe in her home slip. Another "bon voyage", literally!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What A Difference A Day Makes!

Goodness....what a breezy weekend! After Bret blew through on Sunday, the weather settled quite quickly. I thought for some reason, that it would take several days for the storm to clear out, but both the winds and the seas calmed within a day. Who knew? So...while we had blue skies and calm seas once again, we used the time to our advantage! We hopped in Tingum and ran down to Little Harbour, home of the famous Johnston sculpture gallery and foundry, as well as Pete’s Pub. Ron and I have been to Little Harbour before, but always in the off season, when the foundry was closed or when Pete's was undergoing renovations and nary a soul around. This time, though, we enjoyed the place leisurely, with lunch at Pete's: triggerfish sandwiches with peas and rice, along with seabreezes on the beach. Nice!
Little Harbour was established by Randolph Johnston, his wife Margot and their three sons, who sailed into the glorious little safe haven back in 1951. There were no other inhabitants or signs of man at that time except for the distant Little Harbour light; Ran and his family actually lived in one of the large caves along the high cliffs around the west side of the cove until they built themselves a house! The family has been here in Little Harbour ever since: Rand established a foundry and gallery, and years later, Pete's Pub was established by Pete Johnston, Rand's middle son. Despite numerous setbacks including fires and hurricanes, the gallery, foundry and pub are still in existence, having been re-built or renovated over the years. The place is fascinating to see, and a testament to the resiliency and resolve of the Johnston family.
One of the amazing sculptures outside the gallery at Little Harbor
The foundry is known for its unique bronze sculpture, made using the "Lost Wax Process" that employs a technique first used when bronze casting was discovered over 5000 years ago. Artwork by Randolph and his sons is known world-wide, with one piece of Rand's "St. Peter the Fisher of Men" residing in the Vatican Museum in Rome. The foundry is managed by Pete, and his sons Greg and Tyler, who continue their father's and grandfather's craft. The gallery contains sculptures large and small, from dolphins, turtles and other sea life to original works by Rand Johnston. 

We enjoyed our time at Little Harbour immensely before returning to Equinox. We went ashore for a fun celebration in honor of Muriel’s birthday; we watched a  glorious sunset over dinner at Curly Tails right on the Marsh Harbour waterfront. Delicious food, good wine....ah! Plus, it was followed by another layer cake made by Chef/Capt Ron! A full day, and one much appreciated after the appearance of TS Bret! Who knows what will blow in tomorrow?
Our sunset during dinner
And...dessert! Happy Birthday Muriel!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Glorious Weather to Tropical Storm Bret

Indeed, being on a boat, the weather dictates all. The one constant in cruising and boating is that Mother Nature rules: schedules, plans, and hoped-for activities are subject to immediate revision and change. Numerous times. Multiple times. The only constant is...you guessed it...change! 

All activities must align with the current weather and resulting sea-state -- it’s no fun to get tossed about on rough seas during a passage or even tossed about in the dinghy in an attempt to get out to the reef to dive. We take it to heart, for safety is paramount. Our boat can handle rough weather far better than its crew, and frankly, we have no desire to get beat up! So yes, weather means there is always change in the air -- and we're very conscious of it aboard. 
When we have friends visiting, they're usually quite eager to share in our adventures and want to enjoy their limited time aboard to the fullest. The hope is for calm seas and glorious skies, with time spent out fishing, diving or just on a gorgeous Bahamian beach under bright and warm sunshine. 


Ron, Paul and Muriel on the beach

Well…sometimes the weather cooperates! We've enjoyed it thoroughly with Paul and Muriel, our long-time friends, who are aboard for the next 10 days. Happily, we’ve had a couple of days of hot sunshine and relatively good weather. We've snorkeled and gone diving from Tingum, enjoyed the sun and its warmth on the beautiful shores of Matt Lowe's Cay, and even celebrated the full moon (at Cracker P's monthly Full Moon Party). 

The moon rising over Elbow Cay to the east of Lubber's Quarters
as seen from the deck at Cracker P's
However, their hopes for a sun-drenched, laid-back vacation had to be revised...Mother Nature sure is fickle! In a matter of a single day, in moved the the gray clouds, drenching rains and gusty winds of Tropical Storm Bret. 

Tropical Storm Bret, hovering over the Abacos
With the poor weather keeping us pinned down in the harbor, any hopes to enjoy the beaches of Abaco farther north are on hold. It's much better to be safe in a secure anchorage, than sorry to have insisted upon any intended plans to move. 


Our Sirius weather overlay showing the tropical storm winds of 50 kts
of TS Bret. Equinox is the small black boat icon beneath it, among the
green bands of rain.
So, the weather is definitely making its presence known this trip. (Welcome to our world!) Last night we were awakened with the tail edge of the storm moving sharply through, bringing wind gusts up to 45 knots and jolting all the boats in the harbor. Most were securely anchored, but there was the inevitable unattended sailboat that was dragging anchor – it went sliding towards our friends' boat Evrik in the winds, before it continued careening through the anchorage. Erik had been watching it on radar moving steadily closer, and managed to fend off the marauding boat with Evrik’s heavy fenders, protecting Evrik from damage. Dicey times in Marsh Harbour!

After the initial onslaught of the winds, the VHF radio was suddenly crackling with voices, alive with concern about anchors having trouble holding in the winds, worry over the the safety and position of boats nearby, news that power was lost on island, and how boats were faring at the marinas. In the torrential rains and high winds, it was hard to see anything outside the boat beyond the rain whipping past the windows and the sea spray flying (this in a protected harbor!); we used our radar, chart plotter, anchor alarm radius and compass to confirm that Equinox's anchor was still securely holding despite the winds, with plenty of water under her hull. (There are sections of Marsh Harbour that are shallower than others; just earlier in the day, knowing the winds were coming, we’d had to readjust our position and re-anchor to ensure we wouldn’t swing over areas that would be too shallow at low tide.) At midnight with the storm roaring through at its worst, we were grateful indeed that we had done so, and sat back, marveling at the light show in the skies. The power of nature is up front and personal on a boat! 

"What is the good of your stars and your trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?"  
                                                                                     - E.M. Forster

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer daze...

Ahoy, my friends! No Bahamian history lesson today, rather, just the usual travelogue and commentary on our escapades of late! We spent one day being somewhat industrious for ourselves, doing a bit of routine maintenance: oil change for the 12 kW genset, an impeller change for the hydraulic stabilizers, and the general checking, care and feeding of other boat systems. Not to worry, though, we haven’t been all work and no play! Once the cloudy, overcast weather trough left the area, we’ve been enjoying light breezes and fabulously calm seas, so have been out in Tingum enjoying the reefs of Abaco to the fullest. We’d met another cruising couple, Evelyn and Erik, aboard their 57’ Nordhavn, Evrik, earlier in the month up in Great Guana Cay, and happily, they’re anchored near us here in Marsh Harbour.

Evrik on anchor in Marsh Harbour
We’ve been having great fun with them, from dinners aboard both Evrik and Equinox, snorkeling around Matt Lowe’s Cay, to diving several days in a row off Fowl Cay preserve aboard Tingum. The reef structure there is very pretty, with several large and very friendly grouper who follow us around the reefs, begging for handouts. (Not that we have anything to give them, but they are clearly used to some divers doing so, so they hang out with us the entire dive.) 
Heading out in Tingum for more diving
During yesterday’s dive we had two large bull sharks join in the fun; they arrived halfway through the dive and basically escorted us the rest of the way back to the shallows where Tingum was moored. It was pretty neat, I have to say; it was almost as if they were as interested in seeing us as we were in seeing them! They would cruise past, checking us out, then swim a slow, easy route away through the coral formations only to come up from behind us and join us once more. Initially, it was a bit disconcerting, especially if you weren’t keeping an eye out behind you! But they were calm and merely curious – I don't believe they were eyeing us up as dinner! But, as they were bull sharks, we weren’t throwing caution to the currents, either: we didn’t try to get too close but just continued our dive, maintaining our relaxed pace until we were back to the boat. It made for an exciting dive, though!
After diving another day, we went south to Lubber’s Quarters and had lunch at Cracker P’s. Cracker P’s is an Abaco bar and grill named after a local recluse who made Lubber’s Quarters his home back in the early 1900s. The story goes that Paul John Simmons was born 1879, and lived in Lexington, Georgia after fighting in the Spanish American War. In 1915, an “unfortunate event” occurred when his family duck began “terrorizing” the neighborhood, culminating in a fight between Simmons and Oglethorpe County Sheriff Hickory Cartwright. In the ensuing struggle, Simmons shot and killed the sheriff, becoming a wanted man. He then fled to Florida and caught a schooner to the Abacos, where he made his new home. After a couple years in Marsh Harbour, Simmons became a close friend of the Abacos commissioner, Mr. Lucene Pinder, and his family. Eventually Paul John took the Pinder name, becoming known as “Cracker P Pinder” before he settled on Lubber’s Quarters. There, he fished and farmed; he was known as an excellent shot with a rifle, and he planted many sapodilla trees, the fruit of which is used in Bahamian Barbecue Sauce. He would pole a boat to Marsh Harbour once a month for supplies, where folks would bring him meat and fish in exchange for the vegetables he raised. Cracker had a limited wardrobe, rarely washed (supposedly he often went naked while on Lubber's Quarters) and became somewhat eccentric as he grew increasingly reclusive and solitary. He was seen less and less as the years went on, and his legend grew the less he was seen, until his death in 1954. There's a photo of him above the bar:
"Cracker P" of Lubber's Quarters
Ok, so I was wrong about no history today -- couldn’t help myself! It's always interesting to hear the history and background of places we visit, and this was no exception! Plus, we had a great lunch of grilled conch burgers and fresh grilled snapper: a perfect way to round out a day of diving! Can't complain, now can we?
Sunset over Marsh Harbour

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Independence Day, again!



One good Independence Day follows another! Did you know that the Bahamas celebrates their independence on July 10th? Yes indeed! While they cheerfully celebrate the national holidays of all countries (ours included) due to the large role that tourism plays in their nation, they have a wonderful time celebrating their own holidays! The blue, yellow and black Bahamian flag flies proudly, with float parades, and special events from church services to family fun days, to junkanoos – a masked and wildly decorated parade of drummers and dancers that combines a bit of Mardi Gras mixed with West African roots, and spiced with island flavor. The celebrations reach all communities throughout the nation, and its a fun time indeed! 


The road to independence for the Bahamas was a long one, but generally peaceful, for the most part. According to accepted history, Columbus landed at San Salvador Island in the Bahamas to claim the Caribbean islands for the Spanish on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. (There are some scholars who think Columbus actually made his first landfall at Guanahani Beach on Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos, but that is another story!) The word “Bahamas” is believed to come from the Spanish, "Baja Mar," which means "shallow sea.", referring to the shallow banks that surround much of the archipelago islands:
You can clearly see the "baha mar"  -- the turquoise waters of the shallow banks
of the Bahamas in this photo from MODIS, courtesy of NASA. 
From Spanish rule to Dutch, the Bahamas changed hands yet again when they were claimed by the English in 1670. For the next 300 years, the Bahamas remained mainly under British rule. (The one exception was a brief one-year return to Spanish rule in 1782, before the British ruled once more.) In 1838, slavery was abolished, and many former slaves remained on the land and eventually became land-owners themselves. Although all residents of the Bahamas were free, the Islands remained a colony of the United Kingdom, and were eventually granted limited self-government in 1964. The Bahamas became a British Commonwealth in 1969, officially ending the colonial rule, and finally, the Islands became a nation on July 10, 1973. 


Since then, during the past 38 years, the Bahamas has evolved from a small colony on the periphery of the British Empire into a vibrant democracy, with tourism and international banking the largest part of their economy. We can attest to the genuine warmth and welcoming attitude of the Bahamian people; their hospitality and willingness to share their beautiful islands is one of the reasons we enjoy cruising here so much. Definitely a cause for celebration, in my book! Happy Independence Day, Bahamas!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Introspection

“Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour."      ~ Walt Whitman


There are times when cruising offers up a double-edged sword, moments of beauty and moments of pain. What, you ask? Cruising isn't "living the dream"? Well, yes it is, but I refer to…the isolation. The ocean is a big place, even when coastal cruising, so there is isolation at times. It's never an easy thing to handle, for it contains both beauty and pain, truth be told. The beauty can be everywhere and evident, yet as for the pain....well, everyone feels it differently, and everyone deals with it differently.

For me, I feel the pain most poignantly after friends leave; the boat is quiet and large, and there is a slightly uneasy feeling of something missing. It’s a feeling of loss, a feeling of being too far away, of being alone, of being without easy contact with loved family and friends. It’s difficult to handle at times; for me, isolation intensifies the emotion of longing and love, making the  simple act of missing everyone all that more difficult. That is the curse. 

A second edge to the curse is if you are a "people person". Because beyond missing loved ones, just the social isolation can be quite hard if you enjoy being with people. Ron, for instance, is very much a type A, gregarious personality. He loves being active and wants to be doing something – and all the more fun if he's doing it with others – be it fishing or diving, exploring new places or bicycling on island. He enjoys sharing his hobbies with others, the simple "doing" as well as the companionship. (For him, isolation and enforced inactivity is cause for mutiny aboard!) Thankfully, we are always meeting new friends and faces; happily, it is in our nature to be open and receptive to doing so! But it is also the reason that isolation and seclusion can be a challenge. Who knew?

Yet despite the disadvantages and pain, there are times when isolation is a thing of incredible beauty and growth: imagine being on anchor by a beautiful palm-lined shore of a secluded island with the one you love, walking hand in hand on pure white sand with nary a soul in sight. It’s truly bliss: being in the moment, enjoying the serenity of it all, sharing it together. It defies description. At that moment isolation is indeed an amazing experience, for it brings you closer to the one you love. Isolation brings a focus and an intimacy, something deeper than what the usual, chaotic, high-speed life on land allows -- definitely something to be cherished and appreciated!

Thus, the experience of being aboard, being alone on the water and being away from it all can be liberating. It gives you choices. In the quiet moments, you become aware of the infinity of the sea, the immense span of the sky, and the very tiny, infinitesimal role you might play in whatever wind-blown anchorage you find yourself. The solitude brings you closer to your inner spirit, closer to the truth of your place in the universe, and it forces you to face your challenges and examine your weaknesses. It allows you to dream and imagine, to sit back and reach for the stars. Go places in your mind, explore within your heart, and simply take time to realize what is truly is important in your life. There aren’t any land intrusions to judge or distract. And how amazing is that? Suddenly, solitude connects you to what is vital and meaningful.

I'm now able to sit back and accept that there is power in being alone, in solitude. I now recognize that cruising and being aboard is a gift: we are luckier than most in that we actually achieve that cursed, blessed solitude, that essential isolation in which we can examine our consciences, reflect on what satisfies our souls, and discover how to give wings to our dreams. Allow yourself to do the same, whether you are on land or on sea. The future seems limitless now, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Green thoughts

Tuesday was a quiet, “turnover day” for Equinox. Our friends have departed,  so after a fun-filled vacation-mode week, it was back to routine housekeeping and maintenance chores aboard. I vacuumed from stem to stern, scrubbed showers, cleaned the galley, laundered linens, cleaned out the main A/C sea water pump intake filter - removing a bit of a seagrass snarl from within - and cleaned the shower sump screens as well as the dryer vent screen. (Unfortunately, the dryer vent is not so conveniently placed, being under the far reaches of the helm station on the port side. It’s a bit of a Twister-like crawl to get in there, to be honest...but, as it needs to be done, I do it!) Meanwhile, Ron re-stowed lines, secured fenders, and handled the top-side cleaning chores to make sure Equinox was ship-shape, along with the extra tasks needed to clean Tingum. While I did my chores, I got to thinking about how cleaning aboard differs from routine house cleaning on land. 

One very major difference from a simple house on land is that our boat is a self-contained little city of sorts: we must watch things like fresh water availability to holding tank levels (sewage) to energy management. We don’t get a bill from the electric company, we don’t have any garbage collection, nor are we hooked up to city water mains. Instead, we tote ashore any garbage ourselves, pump-out our holding tank at marinas whenever we can, make water for our daily needs through reverse osmosis and buy fuel (diesel) for our energy needs. Electricity is not a given! We have to know how much power we are using, (amps) versus how much power we have on hand from our generators or battery banks (watts). Sounds simple, but it’s not! You need to be mathematically inclined: you need to figure the amperage that a generator can output at 120 volts, keeping in mind that wattage is equal to volts times amperage (w= v X a). Divide the wattage by volts to find the amperage (a = w/v).  Now, remember that some generators may be a dual voltage type and also output 240 volts….ouch! Thank goodness we have a voltage/amp meter that tells us what we are producing and what we are using! Math really isn’t my strong point! But we are very careful to keep an eye on our power consumption so that we don't draw down the batteries too much or overload the generators. We try to use no more than we need.

But after awhile aboard, it becomes second nature to manage all the above. From cleaning to power management to water use and production (reverse osmosis is an essential thing!), we're aware of our needs. Much more so than on land -- whether out in remote anchorages or out on the high seas, it's vital to know! And, being cognizant, we try to be ecologically sound whenever we can, be it by monitoring our power use, our fuel consumption or  by recycling and re-using items. Some days we are green and are able to leave a smaller carbon footprint, but then there are moments in adverse conditions when we are cahoots with Capt. Kirk: “Scotty, give me all she’s got!”. It's all about balance – on land or at sea, we know we aren't perfect, but at least we are aware and always try to do better! 

Happy Independence Day!

Flags aloft on a regatta boat for the 4th

The 4th of July was another active day, full of fun and sun! We took Tingum out for a bit of diving in the morning, off east side of Great Guana Cay. Vicky and Jim relaxed aboard while Jay, Ron and I meandered through the coral tongue and groove formations below. While it wasn’t an especially remarkable dive, we saw several critters from Pederson cleaning shrimp, banded coral  shrimp, to a nice lobster. Ron even spotted a leatherback turtle before it took off. Always fun to be underwater!

Once on the surface after the dive, we noticed the same large turtle at the surface some distance off…and staying up an unusually long time. We quietly moved the boat closer to find not just one turtle, but two good-sized leatherback turtles, mating! How cool is that?? (Of course, no one had their cameras, either - darn!) Leatherbacks are endangered species, so just seeing one is a treat, but seeing two actually mating was pretty spectacular. The two were clinging together, bobbing about and totally oblivious to our presence; I’m pretty sure the female was just happy to be allowed to get her head above water now and again to breathe!! According to National Geographic, leatherbacks are the largest turtles on Earth, for they can grow up to 7 feet long and can exceed 2000 lbs. Their inky-blue carapace is different from other turtles in that it is somewhat flexible and almost rubbery to the touch, and is very hydrodynamic. Leatherbacks can dive to depths of 4,200 feet—deeper than any other turtle—and can stay down for up to 85 minutes. (Guess I needn’t have worried about the female!) We moved off after a bit so as not to disturb them, but again, what a special experience!

In the late afternoon, we tried our hand at fishing offshore south of Great Guana, near Scotland Cay, but to no avail, the fish weren’t hungry. Nary a nibble! While Jay was happily dealing with the outriggers and lures, the rest of us intermittently napped or nodded off in the shade beneath the t-top – always a necessity after a day on the water! By evening, Grabber’s had their own party vibe going on once more with a Regatta party around the pool and on the beach. Live music and contests, including Grabber’s Hermit Crab Races, were only part of the festivities! After a leisurely dinner at Grabber’s, we walked over to Nipper’s for some late night music, dancing and fireworks on the beach. Quite the day, with many ways, to celebrate the 4th! 

Regatta partiers by Grabber's pool

Cloudy but beautiful afternoon nearing sunset


Hermit crabs are surprisingly fast!

The dancing crowd at Nipper's, awaiting the fireworks




Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer smiles!

What makes cruising so much fun? For us, it’s the adventure of exploring new places, making new friends, as well as introducing old friends to familiar, favorite island spots. We love sharing with guests the many joys of simply being aboard, giving them a taste of typical days on the water. True, there are the occasional trials and tribulations in boating, but for the most part we have a unique lifestyle that offers greater appreciation for the little things in life, things that most take for granted when living on land. Water seems to make everything more immediate, interesting and intimate, somehow!

Vicky at the helm of Equinox en route to Great Guana Cay
While Jim, Vicky and Jay were aboard, we gave them a taste of trawler speed voyaging -- albeit very briefly -- when we moved from Green Turtle Cay to Great Guana Cay via Whale Cay Cut on Saturday morning. They couldn't get over the comfort and the ease of a full displacement hull, even in the swells outside on the Atlantic, but it really was a lovely day for a cruise. (Although, we may have created a monster, since Jim now says his Intrepid is for sale!) We easily anchored off Great Guana Cay in Fisher’s Bay, and spent the weekend visiting familiar places and faces: Nipper’s, Grabber’s and Orchid Bay. It was the usual party central at Nipper’s on Sunday afternoon, but Grabber’s had their own party vibe going on each afternoon and evening with many of the Abacos Regatta boats anchored off their beach and many of the sailors in and around the pool. Fun indeed!


The party never stops on Sundays at Nippers!
The pool at Grabber's, filled with Regatta participants and followers
Gorgeous summer sunset over Orchid Bay Marina.
We also had fun exploring new spots: Baker’s Bay Marina Village, which is now welcoming public boaters to their facilities along with their members and guests. They have an exceptionally welcoming staff and it’s delightful that the whole place has a great positive vibe. We had lunch in their fun Bakery and General Store, and enjoyed a drink at their “Conch Shack” on the pier, and chatted with some boaters who were in the Abacos for the Regatta. There is lots to do here as a member from golfing to beach-combing, but it's fabulous to have Baker's Bay be so accommodating to the casual cruiser who happens to stop by in his dinghy! Love it!


Heading out in Lucy, with Jay at the helm
Sunday was a full day of exploration, as we meandered down the Sea of Abaco in Lucy. We went sight-seeing at Man-o-War Cay, viewing their charming harbor from the boat, stopped for lunch at the Abaco Inn, then went lounging on Tahiti Beach. Before lunch, on Lubber's Quarters we discovered another new place for fun, too! Lubber’s Landing is a great new eco-resort with a fun island bar/lounge right next door to Cracker P’s, the original restaurant on island there. It's a great addition to the island!


Funky and fresh decor adorn the lounge walls at Lubber's Landing


Lyrics to "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley adorn cute
interior shutters atLubber's Landing


Ron at the open air bar. They have fun decoupage bar stools
with old Bahamian photos and fun articles!






Love this frog door knocker!
Amy and Austin, the owners, have three beautiful guest cottages (more are planned) on their 13 acres, each well-built and eco-conscious, with gorgeous furniture, tile floors, recycled glass tile showers, and oh-so cleverly decorated! The island lounge/tiki bar is fabulous – again, well-built with incredibly creative island d├ęcor. We enjoyed a private tour of the place courtesy of Amy, then enjoyed her fresh-squeezed fruit juices as delicious ingredients in creative cocktail creations! This place is welcoming and a great place to kick back and relax  in style!
Vicky showing off her lemonade: fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon pieces
muddled with blue agave nectar for just the right amount of sweetness!
The weekend was full of just so many perfect ingredients: good friends, new experiences, pink sand, our boats and turquoise water. Yes, cruising is fun!! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stranded Naked 2011!


The highlight of the past few days though, was the beginning of Regatta Time in Abaco, and the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Beach Party on Friday! In case you are not familiar with Stranded Naked, it is a houseboat that was brought to Green Turtle Cay from Ft. Lauderdale back in 1988. In 2008, its owner, Bobb Henderson, hosted a party to celebrate their 20th year “on island”. In a gesture of thanks to their generous adopted community on Green Turtle Cay, Bobb charged a modest fee from each guest, then donated the monies collected to the Green Turtle Cay Volunteer Fire Department. These philanthropic parties have grown every larger, and are now the official kick-off for Regatta Time in Abaco. Free food and drink for the first 1300 people -- over 280 cheeseburgers, 600 hotdogs, 400 pounds of Fries, 100 gallons of Margaritas, and 100 gallons of Boat Drinks were available!  (Check out their website, www.strandednaked.com for the history of Stranded Naked and many fun photos!)

The Stranded Naked houseboat itself!
We have reached Margaritaville indeed!
Ron and I attended the Stranded Naked Party last year, but this was the first time for Jim, Vicky and Jay to attend this classic event, and enjoy it we did! The sun was out, the clouds held off, the weather was here on the sand bar off Fiddle Cay! Our "boat base" of operations was Lucy, the 35’ Intrepid, which we brought over early in the day to join the myriad of others who were anchoring in the shallows near the designated swim area. There were boats of all kinds: center consoles, skiffs, sport-fish boats and express cruisers, kayaks and cabin cruisers! Once you received your wristband and signature Stranded Naked plastic cup, you were good to go…you could get unlimited drink refills until things ran out! It's a family event; besides all the food and drink, there was ice and water, plus Kool-aid for the kids, limbo contests and hula-hoop contests, and free raffle giveaways. We delightedly purchased some t-shirts and a couple of souvenir towels – we were more than happy to do so, since the proceeds of their logo merchandise to fund the event. It's really an amazing day as all other goods/services are donated, and the various tables manned by unpaid volunteers. It's a huge feat to coordinate it all!  
The contest area
Some of the party revelers in the shallows off Fiddle Cay
It was a fabulous time, as always! The five of us spent time chatting, floating or wading in the water, meeting new people, sipping cool drinks, listening to “live Jimmy Buffett music via CD”, people watching and generally just enjoying the upbeat atmosphere and ambiance. Loved it! Bobb Henderson was, of course, wearing his famous “landshark” hat, and we enjoyed checking out all the festive swimsuits and outlandish outfits; some folks are definitely fruitcakes, thus oh so fun to watch! We all felt quite lucky being together, enjoying yet another boating adventure with like-minded folk, having fun in the sun in the Abacos!! 
Bobb Henderson in his hat, with Karyn
Definitely an original use for Hawaiian leis!