LIONHEART CRUISE:

BAHAMAS PART II

 

         

 

On February 6, 2007, we left Man O War Cay and made our way to Boat Harbour Marina at the Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor.  This was a trip of about 6 miles, made tricky by the shallow depth of the water in this area, particularly the passes into the harbors on both cays (pronounce key).  Marsh Harbor is on Great Abaco Island and is the major town on Great Abaco.  It's not a quaint town like Man O War Settlement but the airport is there and the town itself offers every supply and service needed. 

The population of the entire island is about 10,000.  This information was given to us by a Bahamian policeman who picked us up the first day we visited Marsh Harbor by ferry, before we brought Lionheart to the marina.  We were walking along the road into town from the ferry landing and a van pulled up next to us.  Richard, thinking it was a taxi, asked how much it would be to take us to town.  The driver laughed, pointed to the Royal Bahamian Seal on the door, and offered to take us to town anyway.  On the way he told us about the Bahamas and their problem with illegal immigration.  Yes, the same problems seem to crop up in remote corners of the world as in California.  In the Bahamas it is the Haitians who have immigrated illegally since the Islands gained independence from Britain in 1972.  In any event, the policeman indicated we should stay to the main roads while visiting and he showed us the shopping areas and major stores.

The day we arrived in Boat Harbour we joined the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club so that we could participate in the many social activities of this very active group.  The dues are quite reasonable for this Club which was started in Marsh Harbor by some American cruisers who were regulars, wintering in the area every year.  Some of our "Looper" friends had preceded us to the marina and advised us that we should immediately join with this happy group.  Happy indeed, within hours of docking Lionheart, we found ourselves at the yacht club's Pirates of the Caribbean Party where the rum punch was yummy, dinner was served, a treasure hunt had, skits performed, and a good time had by all for a mere $5.00 each!  This was quite a change from the generally high prices for food and drink at the eateries and watering holes in the Abacos.  There are some good deals offered by said eateries and watering holes on a daily basis.  To be informed of happy hour specials and just about every other piece of information pertinent to the many cruisers staying in Marsh Harbor for the winter, one listens to VHF Channel 68 at 8:15 AM every morning.  The news of the world, the ever important weather report, and a general review of every activity available in the area is delivered by a dedicated Cruisers Net.  Other activities organized by the cruisers themselves (mostly the yacht club members) include morning walks, group trips to Nippers (more on this important Abaco destination later), group trip to giant flea market on Man O War, Founders Days in Hope Town, conch shell blowing lessons, afternoon exercise classes and much more.  Most of boaters we met at our marina who were not "Loopers" come to the Abacos every year around December 1 and stay until April 1.  The marina rates are cheap and they settle in for a winter of sun and fun in Marsh Harbor.  They are very kind and friendly to the cruisers who decide to join their group for a few weeks or months and a good time is had by all.

While February was a very windy month which kept us primarily at the dock, we passed the time with morning walks for me, boat chores for the Captain, and regular housekeeping for both of us.  Reading, needlepoint and crossword puzzles are also among my favorite activities.  We have been introduced to a new author, Carl Hiaasen, who sets his whacky novels in Florida, and have enjoyed 2 of his books.  Without a doubt, my favorite reads this year so far were The Glass Castle  and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.  Other activities included a weekly shopping trip to the super market in town, accomplished by foot or by bicycle, usually on the day the supply boat arrived.  This timing was important to ensure a good selection of veggies and dairy products.  Thankfully, we had stocked up on staples and frozen meats in Florida because the prices for food in the Bahamas is about double for most items.  Rum, however, is pretty cheap because it is made in the Bahamas.  Fire In The Hole is a favorite among cruisers.  The name explains it completely!

We enjoyed meeting our "Looper" friends at the Jib Room for ribs on Wednesdays, a little bridge playing with Karen and Bill on Candy Dish, Valentines Day dinner at the resort restaurant......mmmmm good!  The yacht club's Commodores Ball was held on February 16.  Needless to say, I and all the other cruiser women had a hard time coming up with appropriate apparel for such an event.  The men, of course, just put on long pants and a shirt with a collar and they were dressed to the 9's!  It really didn't matter because the music was great and the dancing went on until we were all pretty much dead on the floor.  On top of the yacht club parties, the resort sponsored a party every other Monday night with music provided by a local fellow named Brown Tip.  By day Mr. Brown Tip has a boat bottom cleaning service....by night he is a working deejay who accompanies the music by playing a saw.  He also has an accompanist who plays maracas.  They are not the only guys who provide this type of entertainment but they are very popular with the Boat Harbour group and it is fun to watch them play and to dance to the music.

On February 20, I was invited to play Scrabble with a couple of ladies.  I thought this would be fun and went like a lamb to slaughter.  This was a game of Scrabble like I have not seen before.  First of all, one of the gals had lists of words......ALL of the 2-letter words, ALL of the Q words, ALL of the X and Z words, and these included words like ab, ee, and many others that I have never seen before and have now forgotten.  They also specialized in making words that added on to words already on the board so that they would get a score that included the old word and the new word.  They also would do ANYTHING to get a triple word score, particularly one using a high scoring letter.  As the afternoon wore on with little ole me falling far behind, I wished I had accepted the hostesses offer of a glass of wine to start.  I have mentioned this to my old friend Judy Collins only to be told that she was glad that I had finally encountered a properly stimulating (or humbling) game of Scrabble.  I must say I was intrigued by this particular style of play but I didn't get invited back for another round.

To sooth my ruffled Scrabble feathers, we left the marina on February 21, traveling about 20 miles down the coast of Great Abaco to Little Harbor.  It's a charming little bay.  It is well protected from the wind but it has a very shallow fairway to get inside.  We arrived during the very highest tide for the area.  We left 24 hours later at the next highest tide.  What Little Harbor is known for it Pete's Pub, the home of the "Blaster" rum punch, and a foundry where the owner of Pete's Pub makes cast bronze art.  The gallery is very nice and the cast sculptures are interesting and unique.  After visiting the gallery and the beautiful white sand beach, we went to Pete's Pub and, guess what?  After 2 blasters we were blasted.....surprise!  The Scrabble Queen, Patty, was there too and she had 3 blasters.  Had to keep up her strength for the next unsuspecting Scrabble wimp.  The day after the blasters we left Lionheart at anchor at Lanyard Cay and took the dingy over to Sandy Cay and went snorkeling over a beautiful reef.  We saw many beautiful fish and coral but I was mainly impressed by the beautiful sea rays.

On February 25, we attended the Great Loop Rendezvous and beach party.  All the "Loopers" from the various marinas and anchorages gathered at the Abaco Resort beach for a potluck lunch, Looper story telling, conch blowing contest and tug-of-war.  It was fun to catch up with "old" friends from the 2006 Loop group and meet others who are just starting their adventure.  There are also a number of boats who are going for their second loop.  It's not only the trip that is so enticing but it  is the people and the camaraderie that develops among the travelers that make the experience what it is.

Meanwhile, the Cat Unit of the crew continued his exploratory ways by getting off the boat every time he thought he could escape.  He usually announced his intention by sitting on the step and emitting a loud howl and then he jumped onto the dock.  He seemed to love exploring the grassy area adjacent to the dock and beat  a fast retreat to the boat whenever a bicycle rider appeared or any loud noise.  He would also lie down and present his tummy in a shameless bid for attention from any friendly person walking by.  While he almost upset one bicycle rider and stayed out way too late on one occasion, he never fell in the water and he earned his privilege of going "off boat" at least once a day.

The last weekend in February had us on a yacht club cruise to Sea Spray Resort on Elbow Cay.  On Friday we headed out early to catch the high tide and anchored about 2 miles outside the resort fairway.  We decided to walk into Hope Town from the resort which turned out to be quite a trek.  After making a wrong turn (hard to do since there is really only one road on the cay) and walking about an hour in the hottest part of the day, the resort van picked us up and drove us the last half mile into town.  There we observed the annual Founder's Day celebration.  The Abacos were settled by American Colonials who were against the Revolution.  Some brought their slaves.  Hope Town residents recreate the landing and settlement of the town back in the 1800's with period costumes and activities of that time in history.  Back at the resort we joined the yacht club members for a dock cocktail party and dinner.  All richly deserved after our long long walk earlier in the day.  The next day found the group partying around the beautiful resort pool all day.  The Captain and I took a long walk on the beautiful white sand beach and engaged in a search for "sea glass".  Sea glass collecting is a popular pastime among cruisers in the Bahamas as well as by local artists who make jewelry and other art objects using this glass.  I thought this would be a good alternate to collecting shells which take up a lot more room than little pieces of glass.  The glass is derived from glass bottles and jars that have been thrown into the sea, broken, and the shards washed by the sand until they no longer have sharp edges and they are opaque as in sandblasted by nature.  I liked this stuff so much that I found the most well known glass jewelry maker in Marsh Harbor, Marlee Mason, and bought a beautiful glass pendent and earrings.  The pendant is a stunning piece with a silver sea ray swinging over the opaque white glass.  Friends and family will see me wear for years to come.  It is a beautiful souvenir of our time in the Abacos.

This weekend also found us having dinner at the locally famous Cracker P's Full Moon Party on Saturday.  There was actually a lunar eclipse that night which will not be repeated in this century.  Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see the eclipse properly.  On Sunday we headed to Great Guana Cay to attend the weekly pig roast at Nippers.  Nippers is another locally famous beach bar.  We docked in Orchid Bay Marina and walked over toward Nippers.  As we neared the turnoff that would take us to the top of the cay and thus to the bar, a golf cart stopped and offered us a ride.  This is the Nippers "van" and the driver had an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth.  He said that he was not allowed to smoke while transporting passengers and that pretty soon he expected he wouldn't be allowed to drink on duty either!  Hail Mary and pass the Nipper! (That's the name of the rum punch at this establishment.) We spent the afternoon walking on the beautiful white sand beach in front of Nippers and enjoying the food,  drink and dancing.  As the afternoon progressed and the crowd got bigger and drunker, the dancing got more interesting and a great time was had by all.  On this day we learned that the grand finale of the winter season was the Barefoot Man's Concert at Nippers on March 25.  People from all over the Abacos come every year to this much anticipated event so, of course, we made a reservation at the marina to attend this event.  We were not disappointed by the entertainment provided by Barefoot Man nor the reported 2000 people who crammed themselves into this rickety (at best) establishment for the concert.  In fact, some people arrived at 3:30 AM to sleep on tables on the upper deck to assure themselves a good view of the proceedings.  The music started at 10:00 AM.  By 10:30 the pool cabana roof had been totally occupied by a group of young women in bikinis and a lot of male onlookers.  Dancing was non-stop for hours and it got pretty up close and personal.  Unbelievably, the roof of that flimsy establishment did not collapse nor did a single person fall into the pool.  The party went on all day and into the night.  At one point an older woman (whom we did not know....Thank you God!) who was on the roof we were on across from the dancing roof, started flashing the crowd across the pool and they started flashing back.  All in good fun and made possible by that demon....the Nipper.

March zipped past in much the same whirl of winterbird living relieved by a visit from our friends Paula and David, my former bosses and close friends from SCR.  They came to celebrate Paula's birthday.  We took them to see Nippers.  Let me tell you, on a weekday it's not the same place.  We had a very civilized lunch on the patio and walked again on the beautiful white beach facing the Atlantic. We also stopped by Grabbers, the other beach bar on Great Guana Cay.  Yup, they serve Grabbers rum punch.  We visited Treasure Cay, back  on Great Abaco.  Another beautiful beach but the day was too windy to walk.  They treated us to the best meal we had in Marsh Harbor at Wally's restaurant.  I showed Paula the sea glass jewelry and she decided she needed a piece too.  All in all, they enjoyed a laid back Bahamian vacation and we enjoyed company from home very much.

One other outing that is definitely worth mentioning is our afternoon spent at Winding Bay Club on Great Abaco.  This is a fabulous membership resort which offers golf, equestrienne sports, a spa, water sports, and a five star dinning room.  Club membership is $60,000.  The cottages start at $1.75M and lots for individual homes start at $1M.  The facilities and view make it, without a doubt, the most beautiful resort in the Abacos and we enjoyed our time there very much.

Since we had decided to visit California the first week in May to attend Erik Miller's graduation from Woodbury College, we needed to begin heading back to Florida April 1.  Erik is the young man the Captain mentored from eighth grade through college and he had promised to attend that much anticipated graduation ceremony.  So, on April l we left all our cruising and partying friends and headed for the Florida coast.  This time the weather window came immediately, so we headed north and west to Crab Cay the first night and Manjack Cay the second night.  There were about 8 boats anchored there waiting to cross the Gulf Stream on Tuesday morning, April  3.  We were up before the moon went down or the sun came up, heading west through the Bahama Bank and across to Lake Worth in Palm Beach where we arrived late in the afternoon.

The next day we attended to checking in with US Immigration at the Port of Palm Beach and saying goodbye to our cruising buddies.  We will probably catch up with some of them in the Chesapeake this summer and others we will probably see in the islands again next winter.  However, next winter we will head further south than the Abacos.  Perhaps we will even make it as far as the Terks and Caicos.  While we had a great time in the Abacos, we have decided it's more our style to keep moving and seeing as much as possible during each year that we cruise.  Our time to retire to the winterbird lifestyle is not yet. 

We are spending April in Florida visiting Disneyworld, Cape Canaveral, Sarasota, Everglades City and anyplace else that catches our interest, while Nick is going to a Pet Resort for a vacation stay.  When we return from California in May, we will head up the ICW to the Chesapeake, including a 2 week stay in Washington, DC.  At the end of summer we will attend a Trawler Fest in Maryland and we will spend Thanksgiving in Williamsburg, VA, with the Maynes and the Nolls.

Look for another chapter on the website in June.  We always love to hear from our family and friends and encourage you to come visit Lionheart at the future destination of your choice. 

 

 


 

 

 

The lighthouse in Hope Town Harbor on Elbow Cay is a major landmark in the Abacos

Nick enjoying his dock privileges in Boat Harbour

Pete's Pub is the huts behind the Capt.  Lionheart in in the harbor over his left shoulder.

The Captain and the Admiral at the Great Loop Rendezvous Beach Party at the Abaco Resort on Feb. 25, 2007

The tug of war rope broke at the Looper Rendezvous and a good time was had by all.

Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club dingies head for Cracker P's Full Moon Party

Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana Cay.  The pool deck overlooks the Sea of Abaco.  Great Abaco Island is almost visible on the horizon.

Breakfast on Happy Clamz (Doug & Lesley center) with Amersea (Judy and Fred left)

The Admiral and Brown Tip get down at the Dock 7 Party in Boat Harbour

The view of the Atlantic from Nippers with our friends Paula and David on a weekday in March

Same place at Nippers during Barefoot Man Concert

Another Looper, Frank, Captain of Peacekeeper and boat dog Diamond enjoy the fellowship of Dock 7

The Captain heads for town to pick up provisions on his bicycle with dock cart turned into trailer.  Always a sight for sore eyes or one that makes your eyes sore!
The Limbo at  the Jib Room.  Our last night in Marsh Harbor.
Leaving our Dock 7 pals on April 1, 2007
The Captain blows his conch shell at one of our last sunsets in 2007 in the Bahamas
The Admiral and the Captain cut a rug at the RMHYC Sock Hop.  Notice the Admiral's new sea glass pendant.