burgeetree.jpg (15266 bytes) The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"
 


   The Bahamas
wheel.gif (3486 bytes)2/22/2005 to 3/6/2005

From February 13th to 21st, we anchored in Lake Worth, in the Palm Beach area, awaiting a weather window, provisioning, and preparing for our next adventure, crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.  Our plan was to cruise the Abaco’s then return to Ft. Lauderdale in about three weeks time.  Our “Cottonwood” was scheduled to be shipped home in mid April to Ensenada, Mexico, where we would pick it up and cruise north to our home port of Long Beach, California.  We were looking forward to seeing all of our California friends and family in May when we returned.

At 6:30am, on Feb. 22nd, we left for West End, Grand Bahama Island, and arrived at 3:15pm. We had a pleasant, fairly calm crossing, seeing few other boats, and arrived at Old Bahama Bay Marina, which was like docking in a clear, pale, aqua swimming pool.  The entire island, which was devastated by two hurricanes, was still recovering.  All the plants and trees, as well as the roofs of all the dwellings surrounding the marina, were in the final stages of being repaired.  The restaurants, ships store, and colorful, pastel condos, were all closed.  We walked and biked all around the area and were shocked at all the upended trees and boarded up buildings.  The “settlement”, which is the nearby town to the marina, was nearly destroyed and had little evidence of any businesses remaining.

We stayed at West End three days, again waiting for weather.  One day we took an hour bus trip, (nine passenger van), into the towns of Freeport, Lucaya, which are the big towns on the island.   We met lovely, friendly people, very willing to talk about their island and their personal accounts of the hurricanes.  It was very interesting to hear them speak English to visitors, but then switch to a dialect, which is very reminiscent to Jamaican-type slang.  Very to difficult to follow!  All along the coastline were great piles of cracked Conch shells, evidence of the harvesting of Conch for food by the local fishermen.

We left West End Feb. 25th and headed to an anchorage at Great Sale Cay, a large tree covered island with no visible beaches or habitation.  The next morning we traveled to Powel Cay, with a pretty beach and anchorage.  But shortly after arriving, the wind picked up and it began to rain, and continued to do so for the next two days. So we stayed aboard.  On the third day the wind shifted and made this anchorage unsafe, so we moved across the channel to Cooperstown.  As the wind continued to howl, we checked out the shoreline with the binoculars, and saw only broken piers and pilings, and boarded up businesses.  So we again stayed aboard.  We knew that the month of February and March were not the best, weather-wise, for the Bahamas.  April and May are, but we had no choice and wanted to include the islands in our voyage.  As spectacular as the water and beaches were, we realize how much more beautiful they might have been if we had had more sunny days. 

On the 28th we left Cooperstown and arrived around noon at Green Turtle Cay.  We anchored in a well-protected harbor at White Sound.  We took a short dinghy ride to Black Sound and visited the little town of New Plymouth.  That evening, there was a major lightning and thunderstorm.  We spent the next 3 days at anchor at Green Turtle Cay with sunny but very windy days, good for doing laundry and reading.  Treasure Cay was not too far away, but we hesitated taking the dinghy due to high winds and waves.  We elected to take a ferry across which took about 20 minutes.  There wasn’t much on the island save a long and beautiful beach, with brilliant, white sand.  However, it was so windy and chilly, we could barely enjoy it. 

March 3rd we left Green Turtle Cay and headed to Bakers Bay, a beautiful anchorage on Guana Cay, which turned out to be one of our favorite anchorages.  A short distance across the water was a small island that was created when they dredged the channel for a cruise ship stop that never materialized.  We took the dinghy over and spent a couple of hours walking the beaches, gathering shells and exploring the island.  Looking for shells is very relaxing, and time goes by so quickly you soon lose yourself in the searching.

March 4th we moved to Settlement Harbor, the little town on Guana Cay.  Most notably, and famous in the area, was place called Nippers. There were signs marking the trail to the other side of the island overlooking the beach.  We went over to check it out that evening and enjoyed a nice steak dinner there.  While there we learned that the next day there was going to be a big concert featuring a singer named Barefoot Man.  They were expecting hundreds of people for the vent, which was to feature a pig roast, lost of food and drink and entertainment.  We estimated later, there were closer to a thousand people crowding the area. 

On March 7th, we cruised to Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco Island, the largest town in the Abacos, and anchored near the public dock.  Marsh harbor seems to have just about everything you need, with large grocery stores, drug stores, etc.  We didn’t find it to be a picturesque town, but we enjoyed looking around, meeting the local people and other boaters.  We ventured ashore and stopped for lunch. As we entered the restaurant, I recognized a couple whose picture I had seen in the cruising guide for the Abacos.  “Barometer Bob”, and his wife Patti, host the daily net for cruisers on the VFH radio.  They provide weather as well as other valuable information important to the cruising community.  We introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes. 

Our friends on Bonnie Banks, a 49 Grand Banks, Maggie and Floyd, arrived on the 9th.   We had heard of a great place for ribs and planned to meet up with them for dinner as we had made other plans for the day.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  The wind picked up and it began to drizzle and as we took the dinghy into town.  We spent all afternoon in the doctor’s office waiting for a prescription for anti-seasickness medicine that we had heard was very effective and not available in the U.S. 

By the time we left the office it was starting to get dark, the wind was howling, and it was raining steadily.   We had each separately thought that our boat looked much closer to the dinghy dock than it had been, but didn’t say anything to each other. As we passed a sail boat at anchor, the owner hollered to us over the wind that our anchor had been dragging, and that he had boarded our boat, hooked his line to our spare anchor and threw it out to stop our boat.  Thanking him quickly, we started up our engines and set about pulling up both anchors and trying to maneuver the boat to a safer spot. What a nightmare!  There were a lot of boat around us, and the wind was really pushing us around.  Les had to pull the second anchor up by hand, over the railing, while I failed miserably keeping the boat steady.  I’m not very good at handling the boat in tight quarters or bad weather. We were both soaked to the skin by the time we got the two anchors reset. Then Les said, “Do you want to change and go meet Maggie and Floyd for dinner?” I really thought he was joking, as we had to take the dinghy across the bay to the restaurant in this foul weather, but he was serious.  I said, “No, I'm staying in”. 

The next morning we had scheduled an 8:30 appointment to go see the famous “Wild Horses of Abaco”.  We met Mimi, our guide, and the women who started the one-woman crusade, which have managed to save and protect the remainder of the horses, as well as acquire a large parcel of land with suitable grazing areas.  There are only 12 horses left, 2 males and 10 females, out of more than 200 a few years ago, who are descendants of horses believed to be brought to the island by loyalists in the 1700’s.   Mimi then drove us to a Blue Hole on this property, a round, clear pool of water, very deeply etched through the limestone, connecting to the ocean through a deep tract.  Very Interesting. We just stood over it and peered down and could just see ledges and layers of limestone 20-30 feet down until it got dark.  We stopped along the way to pick wild Cherry tomatoes tand headed over to the saviors who rescued our boat, Lorrie and Marian, on their sailboat, WiWaxy, and offered them some Cherry tomatoes as we had not properly thanked them. They invited us about to share the wine and stories and it was a good end the day.

That evening, aboard Bonnie Banks, we recounted our anchor dilemma over a delicious potluck dinner.  We finally got to visit with them since we had seen them last in Demopolis, Alabama, in October.  The next day, we decided to take our two dinghies and travel to Hopetown, about 6 miles away, on another island. It was a rather long dinghy ride we discovered, windy and bumpy on the way back, but definitely worth it.  Hopetown turned out to be our favorite town in the Abacos.  A very charming place, with a lighthouse, a nice harbor, beautiful sandy beach, many shops and restaurants and cottages, all in pastel colors.  We had lunch overlooking the harbor at Captains Jack’s before we made the return trip to our boats.  When returned to Marsh Harbour, we notice that Chicory had anchored near us. Sure enough, Patti and Dave came over to visit and we invited them to dinner aboard that evening.  In the meantime, WiWaxy came to visit, as well as Dave, from Ahanti, whom we had met in Demopolis. They are having their DeFever shipped home to the West coast on the same ship as ours.  Maggie and Floyd stopped by to drop off some weather info.  We had lots of company that day, and we loved it! 

On March 12th, we decided we needed to start back to Fort Lauderdale to make sure we were available for boarding the big ship home, and not caught in the Bahamas waiting for weather.  We decided to head back to West End so we would be in place to cross at the next weather window.  Bonnie Banks left to Guana Cay to visit friends, and we decided to go to Manjack Cay where we would meet up again.  As we approached the Whale cut, a narrow channel off Whale Cay, flanked by reefs and shallow water, we decided not to continue as it was very bumpy with breaking waves on the reefs.  So we turned around and anchored in Bakers bay.  We took the dinghy to shore and went exploring, and found a makeshift monument made of driftwood with shoes and old Styrofoam buoys hanging from it.  A makeshift bar had been fabricated from wooden planks, tires, and dilapidated lawn chairs.  Someone had written “belly up to the bar” on a sign above the “bar”.  I said, “Very funny,” not a soul there except the two of us.

The next day it was off to Manjack Cay where former cruisers have two houses and a large parcel of land, including a beautiful beach.  They welcome other cruisers to tie up to their dinghy dock and take a mile hike on the nature trail that has been cut through the thicket to the other side of the island.  It was a breathtaking, pristine beach, with the only footprints our own. 

The next two days we worked our way from Powel Cay to Great Sale Cay.  On the 16th we headed back around the north of the islands to West End with 15-20 knot wind, but the islands were blocking most of the effect of the southeast wind, until we rounded the tip of West End, where we encountered 30 knot winds and high waves as we came through the breakers to the Marina. The islands were not breaking the winds here and we encountered 10-12 foot waves for the quarter of a mile into the marina.  Since we had been to the marina before, we had Bonnie Banks follow us in, and it was more frightening to watch them surf down the face of the waves than experience it ourselves.  We stayed at the marina for 3 days waiting for weather before we were able to cross. The restaurant was now opened and we enjoyed a dinner there, and the next night aboard Bonnie Banks before we headed back to Lake Worth.

All in all it was a great trip and we are glad we made it, although if we go again, we would definitely try to wait until after March.

Next, the final leg home..

 
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Hopetown


Hopetown Fire Department


Manjack Cay


At Anchor

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~ Clic on Pics to Enlarge ~


Arriving Bahamas


Old Bahama Bay Marina


Beachcombing on Grand Bahama Island


Great Sale Cay


White Sand Beach


Powel Cay


Our Anchor and a Starfish


Cooperstown from Powels Cay


White Sound


Treasure Cay


Guana Cay


Nippers


Marsh Marbour


Wild Horses of Abaco


Blue Hole


Hopetown

 

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