Wednesday, February 22, 2017

West End, Bahamas to North Palm Beach, Fl

Total Miles Traveled 2033

We left our mooring at Settlement Harbor February 16th with an excellent forecast for crossing Whale Cay and I am glad to report it was an uneventful experience.   I read an article at the Bluff House Marina “Disaster at Whale Cay” that told of a sailboat that planned the crossing on a clear sunny day in April 1986.  As the sailboat approached the Atlantic Ocean, the seas began to rage making it difficult to navigate around the Cay to safety, luckily they made it.  Little did they know a Bahamas freight boat was also approaching the passage when the rage seas arrived.  The violent seas tossed and turned the 160 foot freighter causing it to capsize losing two of its crew members.   

The disaster was the result of a major storm system several hundred miles away in the Atlantic Ocean creating ocean swells approaching 20 feet to arrive at the passage several days later. 

As we entered back in to the Sea of Abaco, we stopped at No Name Cay, an island that is the home of wild pigs.  We planned to take the dinghy in for a close look and feed them a few scraps, but the wind direction on the water made it too rough for the dinghy ride.

We continued to Green Turtle Cay and visited the town of New Plymouth founded in the 18th century.  The village can trace their roots back to the Loyalists of the American Revolutionary War.  Green Turtle Cay was officially settled in the 1770’s by Loyalists to the British flag and named it after the many green sea turtles that once nested there. 

Green Turtle Cay was located near the shipping routes to and from the New World and was lucky enough to face a continuous stream of wrecked ships. New Plymouth once hosted one of the largest wrecking harbors in the Bahamas.  Over a dozen schooners were geared and maintained for the business of salvaging wrecks. The Wrecking tree is where the wrecking vessels used to bring their salvage to sell.  From here, under the shade of the tree, the loot was cataloged and prepared for shipment to Nassau.  The wrecking tree restaurant was built around this tree preserving the history of the island.

We left Green Turtle Cay February 17th and anchored at Great Sale Cay, a great day of cruising and an awesome sunset.

We arrived at West End February 18th to prepare for our return to the United States.  After looking at five different weather forecasts we decided Tuesday February 21st would be a good day for a crossing indicating the wind would be at our back with 2 to 3 foot seas…..about our limit.  We would be crossing with 3 other boats in case one of us had any unforeseen issues.   Another weather system would be approaching Wednesday and the next seven days would be impossible. 

We left the marina at 7 a.m. with ideal conditions to start our crossing.  About 2 hours after our departure, we noticed ship AIS targets showing up on our chart plotter.  It almost looked like a game of battleship and they were all heading in our direction, although at this point they were not visible.  The black horizontal line is our plotted course; the large black boat symbol on the line is our boat.  The blue triangles are the ships.  The small triangle on our boat is one of our buddy boats and it is actually about ¼ mile ahead of us but I am zoomed out to show the ships, and yes those numbers on the chart are the documented depths at those locations.  

We were the last boat in the group and at our speed; we didn’t have to alter our course, the ships crossed in front or behind us.  I can select each ship on the chart plotter and see the ships name, length of the vessel, direction of travel, and speed.  We also transmit our vessel information so the ships can see our information.  All vessels monitor VHF channel 16 and can hail a vessel by name if needed.  Two of these ships were cruising at 15 mph.

If you look close, you can see one of our buddy boats "The Lower Place" changing course to pass behind the ship.

This container ship looks like a small city in the middle of the ocean, it was only moving at 2 mph.

The last 15 miles or so was pretty rocky, the wind blowing over 40 miles of ocean behind us caused a few 3 to 4 foot waves.  We learned last year, our boat can handle a lot more than we can….thank goodness.  We arrived at Lake Worth near West Palm Beach Florida and had to report our arrival to the US Customs and Border Patrol. 

South Florida is not nearly as organized as Michigan, we waited for an hour to talk to a real person on the phone, was given an arrival number and an address to report to within 24 hours?  We’re on a boat; don’t you have a dock we can report to?  No you must find transportation to the office at Rivera Beach with the arrival number and your passports.  We were fortunate to have crossed with a boat from this area and they picked us up today in their car and took us to the check in facility.  When we crossed into Michigan from Canada last year, we pulled into a marina with a border patrol office and were met at the dock by customs officers.  It appears it would be very easy to enter this country undetected by water.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Little Harbour to Great Guana Cay

Total Miles Traveled 1816

We had windy weather moving in so we cruised back to the protection of Treasure Cay for a couple of days, then moved to Great Guana Cay on Saturday February 11th .  We grabbed a mooring ball then took the dinghy to explore the town.  Our first stop was the Guana Dive shop to pay for our mooring.

Underwater scooter, you sit on the seat with your head inside the bubble, then you are lowered into the water.  An air tank keeps the bubble full of air.  The scooter travels about 4 mph and a buoy on the surface keeps you at 15 feet of water.

I don't think so......

We walked down the main street to Grabbers, a local bar and grill located on Fishers Bay.

After a well-deserved cold drink we continued to Nippers, another local bar and grill  overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. 

Path leading back to town.

Today we explored Settlement Harbor and Fishers Bay by dinghy.

This is how you snorkel without getting wet.

This shark is why you snorkel without getting wet.

After returning to the boat, we prepared to grill out on the fly bridge and noticed another shark moving around our mooring.

The water is crystal clear and we can easily see bottom in the 8 foot depth that we are in.

This is the anchor that holds our mooring ball in place.

Another blast of wind is coming in Tuesday so tomorrow morning we will get back around Whale Cay before the Atlantic Ocean kicks up again and spend a few days at Green Turtle Cay.

Sunset at Settlement Harbour, Great Guana Cay.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Marsh Harbour to Little Harbour Bahamas

Total Miles Traveled 1762

This is the water taxi stop at Marsh Harbor, every morning the locals wait here for their turn to ride the taxi to the outlying islands.

We only traveled 9 miles to Hope Town, by far the most picturesque settlement we have visited.  We are attached to a mooring ball within the harbor and found the moorings are very close together.  We picked up Charlie and Robin from “The Lower Place” in the dinghy, and visited friends we met in the panhandle of Florida “Bee Haven” at the marina.  They took us to the path leading to the lighthouse.

The Elbow Reef Lighthouse was erected in 1864, and modified in 1936 to include a Fresnel lens and rotating mechanism that is still in place today.  The lighting source is a 325,000 candlepower “Hood” petroleum (Kerosene) vapor burner.  The entire lens with its brass work, bull’s-eye lenses and additional prisms weighs about three or four tons and floats in a circular tub containing about 1200 pounds of mercury.  It works like a giant grandfather clock and the keeper on duty has to wind up the weights every two hours.  The system runs without the use of any electricity.  The tower is 89 feet high and there are 101 steps to the lantern room.

"Moni Jean" in the harbour

After our lighthouse tour, we took the dinghy to the other side of the harbor to Hope Town. 

The Atlantic Ocean side of Elbow Cay.

On Sunday morning we left Hope Town and stopped at Tahiti Beach for a few hours.

We continued on to Little Harbour,  we did not expect rough water but at one point between the barrier islands  and the Atlantic Ocean we had 4 foot waves…..this was outside our comfort range.  The channel leading into Little Harbour has to be transited at mid to high tide because a section of the channel is only 3.5 feet at low tide.  We draw close to 4 feet and arrived at the channel at high tide.  The waves were crashing into to rock shoreline as we entered the channel; it was a relief to get to a mooring ball.

Pete’s Pub and Gallery was established in the early 1950’s.  Pete’s dad was an internationally known artist renowned for his lost wax casting in bronze.  Their son Pete now runs Pete’s Pub and Gallery, and makes life size marine bronzes and jewelry.  This has been one of our best stops while exploring the Abacos.

 The sign on the wall says if you are wearing shoes, you are overdressed.

Trying to hook the brass ring on the hook.

Better than a no trespassing sign

While exploring Little Harbour we noticed a sign and path leading to the lighthouse.

Little did we know the lighthouse had been abandon, but it was still a fun adventure.