Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

…often go awry. How true that statement is! We are still in Hope Town and will remain here for a few more days. The winds have picked up more than expected and we have heard reports that the northeast swells are already starting to make their way in the ocean passes. There is also a threat of severe thunderstorms, so we will stay secured to our mooring. The Harbour Rats are applauding that we are not leaving.

Speaking of the Harbour Rats, Dave gave a group of them lessons in Sunfish sailing yesterday. He did a final check out with them so they could go sailing once we have finally departed the island. I was in my kayak paddling around the harbor and stopped by to see how everyone was doing. I saw Dave in action and he is a fantastic teacher! He is thrilled to be able to do this and he now has 19 club members that know how to assemble, sail, and stow the equipment properly.

Our wifi connection will be terminated on March 31st, but if anything exciting happens before that, I will be sure to write another post. I plan on keeping this blog going even during the summer. Thanks for checking in and reading all my ramblings!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Departure Plan

We are down to our final few days in Hope Town. We will be leaving right after the last Sunfish race on Sunday and heading north to Treasure Cay. This is where we will stage for getting across either the Don’t Rock Passage through the shallow sand bars or the Whale Cay Pass out into the ocean around the sand bars, and then on to Green Turtle Cay. Not only do we have to do this passage at high tide, but we also have to have light winds. To complicate it even more, if there are offshore high winds and swells coming in the pass, it causes a rage on the sandbars with waves breaking, and sometimes even becomes impassable. I get stressed out just thinking about it. Hopefully all the ideal conditions will line up and it will be favorable for a calm trip on Monday.

Once we get to Green Turtle Cay, we will get settled in and get the boat ready for summer storage. This entails lots of cleaning and polishing inside, including walls, drawers, blinds, cabinets, etc. The cleaner the boat is inside, the less mildew accumulates. We should be much better off this year since our leaks seem to be in check right now. Outside the boat, I put a coat of wax on all the stainless steel to help protect it from rust. We also install all the heavy duty covers for the windows, and store and secure all the sundeck furniture, satellite dish, kayak, and sailing dinghy. Then the watermaker gets ‘pickled’ and special additives are put through the membranes to kill any micro-organisms and salt that can get caught in there. We now have a solar panel that is hooked up to our battery bank that will keep a slow charge on them while not in use. It’s quite a process that we go through. Plus, once the boat is in place to be hauled out by the travel lift, we have to flush out the engines and generator with fresh water. This is always an interesting quest, since my job is to actually taste the water coming out of the exhaust to make sure it is fresh and not salty. Yum!

This will probably be my last blog until we get back to the U.S. Our internet runs out soon and we may not be able to find any other source for it until we get to Daytona. Once we are there though, I will fill you all in on our latest adventures. Check back frequently anyway, since you never know, I may find a convenient wifi spot and be able to give an update.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ocean Kayaking

The expected cold front finally came through yesterday morning. The sun came back out and the wind changed to the northwest. We received a VHF radio call from our neighbor Ben on Belinda B, who said that he had just walked his dog on the beach and it was flat calm in the ocean. It was low tide and there was barely a ripple even breaking on the shore. This was our perfect opportunity to portage our kayak from the small harbor beach, over the sand dune to the beach and ocean.
Here’s Dave whitewater kayaking (or perhaps I should white sand kayaking?) down the dune to the beach. Kowabunga dude!

Getting into our two person kayak was easy, but we did have to time it around a few small waves that were breaking.
It was spectacular paddling though the reefs and along the shore.

While we were out having fun, the tide was coming in and the swells started making it over the reef, so we ended up surfing back to the beach, but nothing dangerous at all, just fun!

Today we heard that someone saw a humpback whale in deep water just past the reef. That really would have been quite an experience! We will have to add this to our things to do list when the NW wind makes it too rough in the Sea of Abaco to go kayaking or boating.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rainy Day

Today it looks more like Maine than the Bahamas. We have been having thunderstorms and rain since 4 A.M. in advance of a cold front. Luckily there haven’t been any high winds. In fact it is flat calm and the boats are pointed in all different directions. This is a good way to meet your neighbors, since the moorings in Hope Town are very close together, and sometimes we get stern to stern and have to push off. This only happens when the wind dies and the current is slack, both a rarity.

When it rains there is a steady stream of water that flows from the flybridge down onto the sundeck and then out the scupper drains into the water.
It’s a great time to clean the decks but it’s a shame to waste the water. Dave, forever the inventor, has come up with a great water diverter and catchment system. By plugging up the drain holes from the flybridge and installing a hose, he can either divert the water overboard so the sundeck doesn’t get wet, or run the hoses into containers. First we let the rain wash away the salt water on the decks. Then the remaining fresh water is stored for either cleaning or flushing out our engines and generator when New Horizon goes into summer storage.

What an ingenious idea!

Friday, March 19, 2010


The spring migration has begun. The amount of boats here in Abaco has increased dramatically lately. The cruisers that spend the winters in the southern Bahamas are travelling through these islands on their way back to the U.S. and Canada. Next week‘s weather is predicted to be calm, so our marine VHF radio is buzzing with calls from boaters looking for other people to buddy boat with on the trek back across the Gulf Stream to Florida. After that, most of them will continue to home ports north via the Intracoastal Waterway. From the sounds of it, there will be a mass exodus from the Bahamas starting tomorrow.

In the fall, the migration repeats itself only southbound this time. We are so glad that we now leave New Horizon in a storage yard in Green Turtle Cay. It is so nice not to worry about traveling the shallow 1600 mile waterway up and down the east coast, or waiting for a weather ‘window’ to make the crossing. Sometimes you have to wait weeks for the right conditions to get across to the Bahamas. One year we gave up and ended up back in the Florida Keys.

There is always the chance that a hurricane will pass over the islands, but the boat is quite secure where it is stored on land. Flying over the ocean for an hour, and then three more hours back to Glenville is well worth the risk we take of leaving the boat in the Bahamas. I always like to tell the pilots of the small planes we travel back and forth to Abaco in, how much easier and quicker it is to go by plane than our own boat. It never fails to get a chuckle out of them. The last time we flew, it was windy and you could really see the high seas and white caps from the plane. When we landed and I made my comment to the pilot he really laughed and said, "but it would have been so much more exciting in a boat!" My response? "Decisions, Decisions...10 hours of bashing through waves, or one hour of flying. I'll take the nice smooth flight we just had any day, thank you very much!"

Monday, March 15, 2010

MOW Walkabout

We have been out exploring some of the other islands. Another one of our favorites is Man-O-War Cay. MOW is a very quiet and pristine island and in fact it is a ‘dry’ island, meaning that no alcohol is sold or served. The small flower lined streets remind me of Cherokee and you won’t find any signs of trash or a yard in need of grooming.

Many of the houses on this cay have Widow's Walks or Widow's Watches where the wives used to wait and watch for their husbands to return from the sea.

This house has a seperate little guest room that is aptly called a Snore Box.

The local population is all white and the Haitian workers that come over by ferry from Marsh Harbour during the day are all required to be off the island by nightfall.

The residents are very industrious and MOW is the boat building center of Abaco. Albury Skiffs have been made here since the 1950’s.
Originally they were wood, but they are now building gorgeous fiberglass replicas of their first models to keep the tradition alive.
Plus they continue to build their highly sought after center console boats.

MOW also is known for their own wooden Abaco Sailing Dinghies. Three new boats have recently been launched. Although much the same as the ones made in Hope Town by Winer Malone, they still have little differences.

Boat repairs and bottom painting of boats are also done here and the boatyard hauls boats out on a railway system.

While we were there, two wooden sailboats were getting painted and one was getting a new sailing rig installed.

The island has two protected harbors and the settlement waterfront is a busy one.

This is also the home of the Albury Ferries that carry passengers to and from all the different islands.

The Albury Sail Shop is also located along the waterfront, and not only do they make and repair sails, but they have all sorts of lovely high quality travel bags and sewn gifts.

The grocery store that is right on the water is also owned by the Alburys (are you noticing a trend?), and it is so organized that they almost follow you around and straighten shelves and replace the items that you bought as you pick them off the shelves.

A trip to MOW is not complete without having Lola pull over in her golf cart to offer you her famous homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. The rolls are especially delicious, warm and dripping with sweet frosting.

We have always enjoyed walking the length of this two mile long skinny island. The landscape is very diverse with lush foliage lined paths to the south, the settlement in the center, and ocean front trails to the north. At one point to the north, there is a causeway so narrow that the waves from the ocean break right over to the Sea of Abaco.
The southern trail winds its way around to a quaint Robinson Crusoe type open air cottage called the Owl’s Nest, complete with its own MOW Dinghy.

Man-O-War Cay may only be about 3 miles away from Hope Town, but as all of the islands are a little different from each other, MOW definitely has a flavor and character all its own.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It Is Official

We are having our Commodore’s Dinner tonight and we will be sitting at the elite head table. Dave is now officially the Rear Commodore of the Hope Town Sailing Club. What this means is that he will spend a two year duty being Rear Commodore, then two more years being Vice Commodore, before actually doing a two year term as Commodore. I sure hope our boat is still floating by the time this all comes about. His duties right now are to assist the other officers as needed as they ‘groom’ him to take over as head of this 300 member prestigious club. Not that he gets to make decisions on his own since everything is run by committees. It’s more of a figurehead position and the director of meetings. Still it is very commendable that he has been chosen for this honor. He is looking forward to working with this great group of people who cooperate and mesh well together. He will be the second youngest Commodore that they have ever had.

Not only will Dave be climbing the Commodore ladder, but he will also be Chairman of the House and Grounds Committee and in charge of maintenance and repairs of the clubhouse and dock. Hopefully there won’t be any hurricanes because that could really make for a mess and an interesting season of rebuilds.

I also am more involved with the sailing club and am now the Assistant Editor for their website. I send in reports and pictures for harbor happenings, BIC details (brief informal cruises), along with articles and the results for both the cruising boat and Abaco Dinghy/Sunfish races. It’s a natural that I would do this, since number one, I am on the internet quite often, and number two, Dave and I are both on the race committee and help run the races and regattas. Plus living on the boat in the harbor puts us in the center of activities and we enjoy taking part in the cruising events.

Last but not least, Dave has also acquired another, newly formed, title in the HTSC as Sunfish Fleet Captain. The club has 7 Sunfish sailboats that club members may use, but they are actually owned by the Junior Sailing Program. To keep everything in perfect working condition for all parties involved, Dave is in charge of doing check-outs of prospective sailors, training them how they are set up and then stored correctly. This is his favorite job since he also gets to go sailing to help make sure there aren’t any problems with the rigs or sailors.

It's a tough job but someone has to do it!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Every Day Life

Our lives the past week have been uneventful and we are taking care of boat projects. I am trying to fight a sinus infection and a touch of bronchitis. Dave has been repairing and painting the decks.

We have been sewing windshield covers for when we store the boat next month. We also made fabric sun covers for the dinghy for the summer.

Dave raced Sunfish again and came in 4th out of 9 boats. It was a windy day and he even flipped his once, but righted it so fast that he barely lost any momentum.

There is a website that we keep an eye on that shows all the marina and fuel costs in the Bahamas, and is updated once a month. Last night Dave checked it and said that one of the marinas in Marsh Harbor had lowered the price of their fuel to $3.42 gal., compared to over $4.10 at most other places. We called to confirm that this wasn’t a misprint and ended up coming over here today to fill up. We didn’t really actually need the fuel, but chances are it certainly won’t be this low again for quite some time. We ended up getting about 300 gallons (we hold 600) and now we will even be set for most of next season. The ironic thing about the cheap price is that we told a couple of our power boat friends about the good deal and Ben on Belinda B, just passed by us as in the anchorage and said that the marina told him that they are now out of fuel! I guess the word got around fast, or they were tired of pumping today, since they told him to come back tomorrow but the price may not be the same. For once we actually lucked out and got the discounted price.

Since we are here in Marsh Harbour, the hub of Abaco and third largest city in the Bahamas, we might as well take advantage and stock up on food. The freighter was in port today, and although the grocery store was pretty depleted, they told us that it will be totally restocked by tomorrow morning. We have also gone to “The Chemist” to order my prescriptions for the summer. Prescriptions here are about 1/3 - 1/2 the cost of what they are in the United States. One year we were in Spanish Wells near Eleuthera and I needed to get my Advair refilled. Not only did the pharmacy there give me discount for getting 3 of them, but he also said just round the total amount down. You certainly won’t find that happening in the U.S.

Today the sun feels so good and it was almost 70 degrees out. The prediction is for the weather to get better every day. Perhaps “spring has sprung!” However, the past week’s chilly temperatures and winds have brought the water temperatures down to 65 degrees. Dave has been in the water though, trying to clean some of the barnacle and sea growth off the prop blades and bottom of the boat. The bottom starts to grow a beard that looks like wavering grass or fur while in the salt water. This growth really slows us down when motoring and trying to steer and maneuver can be difficult. When New Horizon gets hauled out for storage, the bottom of the hull gets a thorough pressure washing. At least the scraping and cleaning that Dave did today will hold us over until that happens. Tomorrow we should be able to ‘fly’ back to Hope Town at about 8 miles per hour.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Grove-Mart is a great inexpensive place to ‘shop’ anywhere in the world. They have ‘branches’ in every country. I can understand if you have never heard of it though. Grove-Mart is the name we affectionately use when exploring for items that have blown and floated into the mangroves. Originally we came up with the name when we owned our house in Marathon in the Florida Keys. After storms, there were always treasures to be found in the mangroves, which boaters in Boot Key Harbor forgot to secure or bring inside. We would take our kayaks on safari and wind up with pails, bait buckets, fenders, cushions, boat hooks and fish gaffs, among many other items. This sporting event carries over not just here in the Bahamas but even when I am kayaking up on the lakes in the Adirondack Mountains. We are starting to get quite a collection of fenders that I have found way back in the bulrushes.

One of the best ‘purchases’ that we have made at Grove-Mart happened quite recently. We were kayaking in an interesting mangrove creek right outside of Marsh Harbour that very few people even know about.

Low and behold, on the ‘top shelf of the store’ was a bimini/canopy top for a small boat, just hanging way up in the branches. It was a bit rusty and looked like it had been there for quite some time. It must have blown in last year when there was a waterspout in the area. Later, Dave went back with our dinghy to investigate further and found that it was the exact right size for the boat. What are the chances of that? He brought it back, cleaned it up, repaired a few stitches in the top, and has installed it on the boat. Now we will have both sun and rain protection. What a find and at the right price.

Until we get back to civilization and Wal-Mart, we will have to make do with Grove-Mart. It’s definitely more fun, less crowded and no standing in line at the check out! Well, except for maybe these two guys...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Up Up and Away

Tonight we were able to see the Delta Satellite go over head after being launched from Cape Canaveral. It went directly over the harbor and the first burn was really visible. Later I found out that the satellite will monitor conditions and watch for storm development on earth. It was impossible to take pictures of the satellite tonight, but last March we were able to see and photograph a shuttle launch at sunset, that was really intense and lit up one of the nearby clouds.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Junk-achoo & Stairway To Heaven?

Both Dave and I have caught colds. In fact almost all of the cruisers from Hope Town that went to Junkanoo seem to have acquired the same affliction. Dave spent two days in bed and got over his quickly, and then I woke up with the worst sinus pain, pressure, and congestion I have ever had. My face was even swollen. The upside to this was that the wrinkles on my sun damaged skin disappeared, although just temporarily...darn! I'm feeling better now too and hopefully it won't affect my asthma. I just wonder how many people we passed this virus on to while working at the fair, without realizing it.

While I was convalescing yesterday, Dave got called to help with a project at the lighthouse. The halyard for the huge flagpole had come loose and someone needed to go up and fix it. Many of the locals are afraid of the water and afraid of heights, so the only people they could think of that would go up there were the Haitians since they are used to climbing coconut trees. Unfortunately none could be found when needed. Since Dave is used to climbing up trees at home to attach ropes, so they can be cut and pulled down in the right direction, he volunteered. He went up to the top of the 60 foot pole with a combination of climbing up the ladders and being hoisted with a safety line attached to bosun's chair, used for going up sailboat masts. He was assisted by Steve on 'Salty Turtle'(thanks Steve for the pictures), Town Councilman Harold Malone, and local businessman Truman Major, who owns half the moorings in the harbor and runs a charter fishing business. While Dave was going up the ladder, Truman encouraged him by shouting, "You da man Dave, you da man!" He also kidded him saying that it had actually been a couple of years since the halyard was set loose, and it had taken that long to come up with a plan and in a matter of minutes Dave 'Got-R-Done'. Now when the flag is flying again, Dave can be proud that he had a part in it.