More of the Abacos, Marsh Harbor and Hope Town

On Friday morning the 12th we left Little Harbor for a relatively short trip to Marsh Harbor.  We had heard that Marsh Harbor was the “big city” of the Abacos, a great place to re-provision, both for us and the boat.  Maxwells Supermarket, a short walk from the dinghy dock, was a full fledged supermarket rivaling markets in the US.  What a delight to be able to get just about anything we needed.  However we were not ready for a “big city” experience quite yet.  So after a couple of days we left for Hope Town.

Hope Town, Elbow Cay, in the Abacos

Timing our arrival into Hope Town was very important, the depth of the water getting to the harbor entrance was as low as 1.5 meters (5 feet) at low tide in a few areas.  Being that our keel is 6’4” below the water we had to time our arrival for high tide.  The tidal range here averages about 3 feet.  That should have given us about 8 feet of water.  We actually only had 7’ 3” at one point, that’s only 11” under our keel… plenty of water for the Bahamas.

Hope Town is different from any other place we have been so far in the Bahamas.  Hope Town was founded in 1775 by British Loyalists that were escaping the American Revolution.  Many of their descendants continue to live here.  There is also a large expatriate population here as well.   I have decided to stay here rather than Marsh Harbor while Ginnie goes back to Connecticut to see her new grandson Graeme next week. 

The village of Hope Town is very charming with narrow streets with well kept colorful houses and lush flowers and plantings.  We saw a lignum vitae tree growing in town, this is the national tree of the Bahamas.  The belaying pins and deadeyes aboard USS Constitution and many other sailing ships were made from lignum vitae.

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Some of the houses along the harbor.

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The flowers and plants here in the Abacos are just beautiful compared to the Exumas to our south.  There is more rain and cooler weather here.

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One of the many,many lizards we see every day here in Hope Town and other islands.

Hope Town is the home to the famous Elbow Reef Lighthouse.  Probably the most recognizable landmark in Abaco.  The lighthouse is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world.  The lamp burns pressurized kerosene oil with a wick and mantle.  The Fresnel lenses concentrate the mantle’s light into a beam directed straight towards the horizon.  The lenses and burner equipment, weighing 8,000lbs, float in a circular lubricated tub.  This reduces friction so that the 700lbs of weight, when wound up to the top of the tower by hand, smoothly rotates the 4-ton apparatus once every 15 seconds.  The lighthouse keeper on duty must wind up the weights every 2 hours in order for the red and white candy-striped lighthouse to be seen from 17 miles away.

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Taken from our dinghy at the entrance to the harbor.

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Climbing to the top of the lighthouse gave us an incredible view of Elbow Cay and Hope Town harbor. Wide angle view (8 MM lens) of hope Town Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean

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Ginnie with the entrance to the harbor in the background.

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View from a window near the top.

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I’m loving that 8MM lens.

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We’ve also discovered some of the best restaurants on this entire trip with wonderful atmospheres, great views and service that rivals the best restaurants at home.  What a delight Hope Town has been. 

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Tahiti Beach at the southern end of Elbow Cay.

When we arrived we were listening to the morning net on the VHF radio, one segment is for cruisers to announce their arrival or departure.  We heard that Stan and Diane Cardinal aboard Dealers Choice were here from Mystic.  After our arrival announcement they called us on the VHF and then dinghied over to say hello.  Together we have snorkeled at a sunken barge, went out to collect conch, toured the island in a golf cart, and had dinners out and on board our boats.  BTW, Stan makes a great conch salad, but watch out for those hot peppers!  For those of you who are familiar with Stonington, Stan and Diane own the marina that has Marilyn Monroe and the Italian Chef fishing off the end of one of their docks.  Marilyn and the Chef are there all year.  You can see them when you drive on Route1, right at Cardinal Cove.

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Stan being towed behind the dinghy looking for conch, we didn’t have much luck this trip.

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Sunken barge.

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It was an overcast day, sorry not much color.

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One of the sunken trucks, looks like a VW minibus.

When we arrived in the harbor we picked up a mooring that is part of the Hope Town Marina.  Along with the mooring we were able to enjoy the pool and free WIFI.  This marina was recently rebuilt and is spectacular.  Here are a few photos.

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This sculpture is made of fishing rods and the copper fish over a simulated reef.

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One evening just at sunset the sky and the water were the most incredible color.  The sunset was not great but the color seemed to be surrounding us.

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No PhotoShop here, everything took on this coral color.

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Even Oliver (AKA Velcro) came out for a stroll on deck.  I don’t think he’s figured out what to do about the large turtles that come by the boat.

Hatchet Bay to Royal Island then on to Little Harbor in the Abacos

The morning of the 8th, Monday we left Hatchet Bay and sailed through Fleeming Channel, leaving Eleuthera for Royal Island.  This is an Island that was once an estate and plantation.  The harbor at Royal Island is used by cruisers sailing between the Abacos and destinations..  In 2007, a development group that supposedly involved Jack Nicklaus and Roger Staubach began a development that involves the entire island and anchorage.  A 200-slip marina was planned for the north central shore of the lagoon.   A golf course was planned for the north east end of the island.  All development appears to have stopped when we were there, not an uncommon site throughout the Bahamas.

Bob and Brenda on Pandora came into the anchorage shortly after we arrived.  Pandora is a Saga 43 like Firecracker.  They invited us aboard for cocktails and it was good to see them once again.  BTW their home port is Essex, CT.

We left Royal Island on Tuesday the 9th headed for Little Harbor in the Abacos.  The wind was on our beam, letting us have a great sail.  At the start we had the mainsail up with the small self tending jib averaging about 6 to 6 ½ knots.  About half way to Little Harbor we furled the self tending jib and set the 130% genoa which caused our speed to increase substantially.  We never dropped below 7 ½ knots and reached 8.4 knots a number of times.  All this with less than 12 knots of apparent wind!  Firecracker is a fun boat to own and sail.

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Speed Over Ground 8.4 Kts, Apparent Wind 072 degrees at 11.8 Kts……

Little Harbor, Abacos

The entrance to Little Harbor is very shallow, even at high tide I felt it would be possible to run aground.  The lee shore is all rock ledge with waves from the cut crashing in spectacular fashion.  It was far more prudent to anchor in the lee of Lynyard Cay with many other boats.  We walked across to the Atlantic side of the island.  There was good surf but the shelling was a disappointment, we’ll just have to stop at more beaches.

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Looking north toward the cut we used to enter Little Harbor.

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No, we weren’t cold….

While on shore we met Susan and Paul from Still Inseparable, a 43’ Shannon.  We also ran into Robert and Lauren on board Apogee, so we all went to Pete’s Pub for lunch.

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This is the road.  The heavy ropes laid across the road are speed bumps, no kidding that is really a road and the ropes are speed bumps.

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Pete’s Pub in Little Harbor, a quintessential Bahamas pub.

Bob and Brenda told us about a spot where they had found sea biscuits so before we left for Marsh Harbor we dinghied over to see what we could find.  Clypeaster Riticulatus, AKA sea biscuits or cake urchins were plentiful in about foot deep water at low tide.  Here are some of the ones we kept.

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The Foundry at Little Harbor

While in Little Harbor we were fortunate to be there when a pour was scheduled at the Johnston family foundry.  Rather than my trying to describe this process, I’ve copied some of the Pete’s Pub info from their website, my photos are below.

Little Harbour’s remote and lush surroundings offered inspiration for bronze sculptor, the late Randolph Johnston. The Johnston’s family has had a vivid history since settling this harbour over 50 years ago. Here they built a Bronze Art Foundry to cast their renowned sculptures. Peter Johnston continues his father’s art in bronze and gold depicting the marine wildlife around him.

In the Foundry, the Johnston’s produce bronze sculpture using the 5,000 year old Lost Wax Process. This is the only bronze foundry in the Bahamas.

The Lost Wax Process

  1. A sculpture is created out of clay.
  2. A flexible rubber mold is made of the sculpture, consisting of two halves.
  3. The clay sculpture is removed from this rubber mold and set aside.
  4. The mold is put back together and liquid wax is poured inside.
  5. Once the wax has cooled and hardened it is removed.
  6. Wax gates and Vents are applied to the wax sculpture providing a place to eventually pour in liquid bronze and gases can escape.
  7. The wax piece is invested by dipping it into colloidal silica and fused silica flour to make a mold hard enough to withstand molten bronze.
  8. The investment mold piece is placed in the kiln oven to melt out the wax and dry the mold.
  9. Bronze (an alloy of mostly copper, with a little zinc, tin and lead) is melted in a crucible to 2000 degrees.
  10. The investment mold has lost its wax and the liquid Bronze is poured into it.
  11. The bronze hardens quite quickly and the investment is broken off of the bronze sculpture.
  12. The piece is then cleaned and a patina is applied with a light wax

To see a video of a pouring,   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCGdh4qMsm

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Getting ready for the pour, wearing layers of fire retardant gear.

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Liquid bronze being poured into the investment molds.

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In the foreground is the oil fired furnace that melts the bronze in the crucible.

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Happy smiles after a good pour.

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Ginnie with Kristen and Brett, in the above photo.  Brett is the guy wearing the white hat with the name Greg on it.  Kristen and Brett are from New Hampshire where they live and work in a foundry there.  Kristen is an artist who creates the sculptures in clay.  We were fortunate to watch her working on a piece while we were there.   Each year they come to Little Harbor to work for three months at the Johnson’s Foundry.  BTW Kristen and Brett are married.  What a great life, doing what you love and getting to come to the Bahamas during the winter.

Hatchet Bay and the Bat Caves

The entrance to Hatchet Bay was carved through high rocky cliffs.  The bay was once an enclosed pond or lake.  The entrance being so narrow, about 90 feet wide, you can’t see it until you are right in front of it.  We thought it was narrow until we saw the supply ship come into the harbor with what looked like a foot of clearance on each side.  I’m sure it was more, but not much.  The chart book warned of poor holding for the anchor but we had excellent holding in about 27 feet of water.  I think this was the deepest water we have anchored in this entire trip.  It’s much more common for us to be anchoring in 7 or 8 feet.  Remember our draft is 6’4”, lots of thin water here in the Bahamas.

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The entrance to Hatchet Bay

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One of the ships that came through the cut above, yikes, not much room for error!

On Sunday the 7th we ventured off to see the cave that is about three miles north of town.  We were told that we should start walking and someone would stop and give us a ride.  This is not anything like home.  Shortly after we started our walk a car stopped and offered to take us right to the cave entrance.  The driver was Officer Roberts of the Hatchet Bay Police who was off duty and just stopped to see if we wanted a ride.  He dropped us off at the cave entrance, about three miles north of the settlement.  On our way back a car with three people returning from church offered us a ride back to Hatchet Bay, this is like life back home in the 1950’s.  Ginnie asked Officer Roberts if there was much crime here.  He said breaking up a few fights on the weekends and petty theft was the majority of his work.

Ginnie decided that the caves were a little too spooky, we didn’t bring strong enough flashlights and the rocks were slippery so she went part way in while I ventured a little further.  Going down the steel ladder leading to the lower level of the cave was the stopping point for Ginnie.  I didn’t get far enough in to see the bats, not such a bad thing I guess but I was able to get a few photos.  There was some graffiti on the walls near the entrance that spoiled the natural beauty of the cave.  Not being a spelunker, I can’t tell you the names of the formations.

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Ginnie at the entrance to the cave, that smile didn’t last very long.

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Graffiti at the entrance of the cave.

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On our way back into Hatchet Bay we noticed these abandoned silos on the sides of the Queen’s Highway.  We were told by a local Bahamian that they had been part of the Hatchet Bay Farm, a thriving company, started in the 1950’s by a Massachusetts farmer.  The farm raised chickens and cattle, supplying all of the Bahama Islands and Cays.    Hatchet Bay Farm was taken over by the Pindling government in 1975, and nine years later the farm was closed, leaving many locals unemployed.  Locals blame the policies of the  Pindling government for the decline because they chased foreign investment away.

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Abandoned silos.

After being dropped off in Hatchets Bay from our cave adventure we literately ran into a man in his car herding his goats down the road.  I guess there is still some farming here in Eleuthera.

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Check out the car herding these goats to another field.

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A beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of Hatchet Bay.

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Check out the next photo…

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Now that’s someone that is proud to be Bahamian!

What an Incredible Day, a Door Closes and Another Door Opens…

Before we left Cape Eletheura today we learned that Ginnie became a grandmother (Maia, The Romanian Mothers Mother) for the second time.  Graeme Alton Pettitt was born today at 5 AM, 7 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long.  We logged on to our email at 0715 hrs to get the best news of this trip.  Mom and new son, as well as Devon are doing just great.

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Graeme Alton Pettitt, Less than 1/2 day old!!!

To put the heading into proper context, we need to tell the whole story.  Today when we arrived at Hatchet Bay in Eleuthera we heard music coming from shore, well we (I) had to see what was happening on shore.  We dingihed into the Government Dock and walked toward the music.  What we discovered was a wedding reception, if you can believe it, open to the public.  We met the two best men and the junior bride, I guess it’s a Bahamian thing.  One of the best men insisted that we stay and join in the festivities, and have a few drinks.  Well as they say, when in the Bahamas….

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Ginnie and the two best men.

BTW we were the only non-natives at the reception.

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One of the best men and his family.

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A very happy guy to be at the reception.

Not wanting to overstaying our welcome, we wandered down to Twin Brothers to get some dinner.  When we were there we met Eugene Butler, an amazing man who had just today buried his wife that had died of cancer.  Eugene, a very religious person was pleased to hear the Graeme was born today.  He said “One Door Closes and Another Door Opens”.  Eugene was an air traffic controller in Nassau, he started his training at age 16!  The coincidence that Devon is a railroad traffic controller is spooky.

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Eugene Butler, Ginnie and me at Twin Brothers Restaurant.

So on a lesser note, we are now anchored in Hatchet Bay on the island of Eletheura, more to come on our stay later.

Rock Sound, Eleuthera Island & Cape Eleuthera Resort & Yacht Club

When we were entering Rock Sound I asked Ginnie how many boats she thought were going to be in the anchorage.  Her guess was two.  This was probably based on the fact that we were alone in Little San Salvador.  Being that I had to guess at the other end of the scale, I said fifteen.  We arrived to find four other boats so Ginnie wins this one.  The next two days added another ten boats, that’s fourteen, but Ginnie still wins.  Our friends Ray and Cynthia on board Bella Vita arrived on Tuesday and spent the night before leaving for Hatchet Bay.

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Bella Vita, in Rock Sound

We heard about a restaurant on the Atlantic side of the island, the Nort’ Side, run by Miss Rose.  If you go to Dingles gas station and call, Rose will come and pick you up, then bring you back after lunch.  Well, in Bahamas tradition, Rose wasn’t cooking that day.  I guess you never know if she feels like opening the restaurant.    The folks at Dingles recommended another restaurant called Sammy’s which was a short walk.  Ginnie and I both had cheese burgers, definitely the best we have had in the Bahamas.  Sammy’s daughter Margarita our waitress.  This was a great find.  After lunch Ginnie  thought it would be fun to have a banana split, probably our first in about 20 years.    Margarita made us a huge dish that we never thought we could finish, yea right, gone in a flash.

Chris Parker’s forecasts predicted severe squalls for Thursday and Friday with winds here gusting to  30 or 40 mph and up to 70 mph in the Abacos.  Wanting to get to a safe harbor we decided to go to a marina at Powell Point, the Cape Eletheura  Resort and Yacht Club.  Once again, this is not a yacht club.  However this turned out to bean  idyllic secure harbor providing us with very clean showers and laundry facilities.

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This guy let us get up close for his photo op.  He is sitting on top of mangroves, these plants have such a strong root system that boats tie to them during storms, pretty amazing.

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This starfish was about 12″ across in about two feet of water.

Little San Salvador, Hello, is Anyone Here?

We left Cat Island this morning, March 31st, headed for Little San Salvador.  The winds were blowing 16 gusting to 20 kts. out of the south east.  That put us on a broad reach.  With full main and genoa we averaged over 7 kts.  As we approached the anchorage we were at 9.6 kts, what a sail!

Little San Salvador is a shore base for some cruise lines and they have developed the beach to provide all types of water and land based activities for the passengers.  There’s horseback riding, Hobie cats, kayaks, cabanas with hot tubs, many bars, BBQ area, a glass bottom boat, and on and on.  They arrive on the beach mid morning and are back on the ship by mid afternoon.

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This is the cruise ship that was in the harbor when we arrived.

We arrived just as the ship was loading passengers to depart for the next port.  I called the island manager on the VHF to request permission to anchor here and then to go ashore to see the beach and all the facilities.  He welcomed us to anchor and explore ashore.

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Some of the buildings set up for the passengers, these had hot tubs on the first floor.

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It was very private, just the two of us on the beach.

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It was like being on a movie set, nothing is real, but this was a cool bar. No drinks left behind for us.

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This is the entrance to the docks where the passengers unload and load, I guess they mean it when they say “NO Trespassing”.

We’ve just returned to the boat, at 5 PM, and we are the only boat anchored in the harbor.  When we went ashore there wasn’t a soul there either.  So many boats stop here as a jumping point to Eleuthera, and yet we were the only boat here tonight.

Tomorrow we leave for Rock Sound in Eluthera, about 42 nautical miles, about 6 ½ hours of sailing if the wind holds.