Green Turtle Cay to St Marys GA

Before we left Green Turtle we dinghied over to White Sound on Mother’s Day to have lunch at the Green Turtle Club where they were serving complementary conch fritters to all the moms.  It was a good move on my part to be with a mom that day.



A couple houses near the Leeward Yacht Club where we were in Black Sound.  The Abacos were so much more like the US than the Exumas.  Both were great, just quite different.

After lunch we walked over to Coco Bay, not very exciting, and then on to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island.  The barrier reef that runs along the east side of the Abaco Cays is the third largest barrier reef in the world, the largest is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Any guess where the second largest reef is?  Give it a try…Answer at the end of this post.


We will miss the beautiful clear waters and beaches, but we will return next year.

Tuesday evening we decided to have our last dinner in the Bahamas on board.  We had pasta with meatballs, a nice salad and for a special treat we uncorked a wonderful bottle of wine that Ginnie’s sister Patty and her husband Tom gave us for the trip.  Dinner and the wine were fantastic.


Check out the conch horn as our centerpiece.

On Wednesday at noon, with a high tide, we left Green Turtle Cay.  We were very cautious leaving because the high tide was actually lower than when we entered.  The day we arrived the tide was 0.86 meters above datum, when we left it was only 0.82 meters.  Well surprise, surprise, we actually had more water under the keel.  The lowest we saw was 7.5′, about 13″ under our keel.  Once clear of the channel we set our route to get us out over the Little Bahama Bank and then turn north to enter the Gulf Stream and on to St Marys.  We sailed/motor sailed the 345 miles in 47 hours.


On our way home, the wind was only 5.4 knots, we were motor sailing, but doing 10.4 knots while in the Gulf Stream.

On arrival at the St Marys Inlet we turned south in the ICW for a few miles to get diesel at Florida Petroleum, then went back north and entered the St Marys River.  A short way up the river we again turned north up the North River.  Ginnie called St Marys Boat Services where we had reservations to have the boat hauled for the summer to let them know we were approaching the boat yard.  Rocky,  the owner’s son and manager of the boat yard, told us we were in sight and to take our time getting there as they were just launching another boat.  We passed that boat on the way in and as we approached we were told to drive right up and into the travel lift.  Hows that for service.  Within 50 hours of leaving Green Turtle we were hauled out and on the hard.  Talk about culture shock.  I keep thinking something is wrong, the boat isn’t moving any more.


I had to back into the travelift so we didn’t have to remove the two head stays


Looking out across the North River.

Tomorrow we rent a car locally for a few days to run errands, go to West Marine ( now that’s a long shopping list) and get the boat ready to be stored for the summer.

Answer:  Belize, if you knew the answer, congrats…now go make yourself a Dark & Stormy.

Leaving Hope Town for Man-O-War, Guana Cay and Green Turtle Cays

This is a bittersweet time for us, as much as we have enjoyed the adventure, we are both looking forward to getting home, yes the brick and mortar places in Mystic, Newport and Tiverton that need our attention.  Many times we referred to Firecracker as our home while we were cruising, a slip of the tongue, maybe not, she really was home for 5 1/2 months for Ginnie and 7 1/2 months for me. But most important of all is that we will be able to spend more time with family and friends.  I am so excited to be able to see Reese again and Graeme for the first time.

I guess if the flowers are on the trees in CT it’s time for us to go north.


Now that’s a happy kid!

Hope town was such a surprise to us, we loved it here and plan to return next year.


One of our last days in Hope Town.

On to Man-O War..

Man-O-War Cay is a small island about 2 1/2 miles long with about 300 Bahamian residents and a hundred or so foreign family calling it home.  It has been known for years for it’s boat building Albury family.  In the past the boats were built of wood but now fiberglass is the standard.


When we walked up from the dinghy dock we found this submersible/submarine type contraption.  With all the rental boats here I thought about maybe inquiring, but Ginnie nixed that idea in a hurry.


Back at the last post I mentioned a Lignum Vitae tree that was in Hope Town, well this tree is on steroids compared to that one.  Now I’m not sorry about not going back to take a photo of the Hope Town tree.

We were fortunate to be able to meet and talk with Don Albury.  He builds the Albury 20, 23 and 27′ open boats.  Check it out at  Seeing these boats out in the Sea of Abaco in rough conditions is just amazing.  They are great boats.


Here Don is showing me the last wood Man-O-War sailing dinghy built by his grandfather, it is still raced and continues to win it’s share of silver.

At the north end of the cay is a section of island called “The Low Place” by locals.  It is exceptionally narrow with a beach on both sides separated by a roadway built into the rock.   The distance between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Abaco is about 10 metres across.


Ginnie on the Sea of Abaco side.



Two photos looking out across the Atlantic Ocean.


This is one of the golf cart “roads” heading back toward the settlement.


Two Abaco sailing dinghies in the harbor.

Guana Cay and the famous Nippers!…

Stopping at Guana Cay and not going to Nippers would be reason to be keel hauled.  So we jumped on a golf cart that was waiting to take us to the most famous spot in Guana Cay.  On our way we saw a back hoe that broke down, sat a while and was then painted by a local artist or two.


It’s just another “Bahama Ting”.

After we were dropped off from the cart we were excited to be getting to Nippers.


We’re getting close now, I can hardly contain myself.


We’re almost there…this looks like a a great place.


The beach looks great too.  It really was a great bar to enjoy the view of the Atlantic.

At the north side of the harbor was another bar, Grabbers.  I wonder if it’s better to be Nipped or Grabbed?  You can be the judge.  We ran into Mary Wesley and Jerry from Canell, a beautiful Valiant 50, designed by Bob Perry, the designer of Firecracker.  We played tourist, after a few drinks we all had a great dinner at Grabbers.


Ginnie is on the right, the one with the very long arm.


Mary Wesley and Ginnie with Firecracker and Caneel on the horizon.


It doesn’t get much better that this.  BTW the white inflatable is Fuse, our dinghy.DSC_0283

Well maybe it does get a little better, could it be that getting Grabbed is better than getting Nipped.


This pool was at Grabbers, looking out onto Fishers Bay.

The next morning I decided to clean the bottom of the boat for our trip back to the States.  We have a SCUBA tank with a 60′ hose so I can dive and do maintenance while the boat is in the water.  With calm winds it was the ideal time to get this done.  After putting on the wet suit, weight belt etc. I eased into the water to find that I had a helper.  The barracuda didn’t help much so maybe just an observer.


My new best friend, a 4 to 4 1/2 ‘ long barracuda.  That’s our keel behind the barracuda.



He stayed with me for the hour it took to clean the bottom.

Heading Home

Today is Tuesday the 14th and tomorrow we will leave Green Turtle Cay at about noon when the tide is high.  We need all the water we can get.  Remember we draw 6’4″ and this is not an especially high tide so we should have about 7′ at the shallow spot near the entrance to Black Sound where we are.

We will be sailing direct to St Marys GA where we will have the boat hauled and stored for the summer. This leg of our trip is 345 nautical miles.  Normally we plan our passages at a speed of 6 knots, but with the Gulf Stream moving us north at up to 2 1/2 – 3 knots it should take us about 50 or so hours, getting us into St Marys in the afternoon on Friday.

Ginnie has been securing everything on board for the trip back and I have set up the jack lines (nylon webbing that runs from the bow to the stern on the port and starboard side decks) as well as our inflatable life jackets and safety tethers.  We clip our tethers onto the jack lines if we need to go on deck when sailing offshore.  At night we are always clipped in, even if we are in the cockpit.

When in the Navy I stood 4 hour watches, that’s the standard for on board ships.  On boats our size the watch duration is whatever works best.  Some cruisers like 2 hour watches, some 4, but we have decided on 3 hours.  I’ll start at 2100 hours, Ginnie will take the mid-night to 0300 hrs, and I’ll do 0300 hrs to 0600 hrs.  The rest of the time we will nap as needed.

Our route will be to head north west from Green Turtle Cay into the Sea of Abaco, passing to the south and west of Manjack Cay, Powell Cay, Spanish Cay, Allans-Pensacola Cay, then to the north of Great Sale Cay to the Little Bahama Bank.  At the western edge of the Little Bahama Bank we turn further north at Mantanilla Shoal and head for St Marys in GA.

When we were at the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) gam in Melbourne, FL last December we were able to obtain Local Boaters Option registration cards from the US Customs and Border Protection officer that was there.  These cards allow us to re-enter the US by simply making a phone call as we are arriving in US Waters which saves a lot of time by not having to go ashore to find a Customs office.


Life Aboard Firecracker

People ask what it’s like to live on board a boat, how do we get along, don’t we get tired of being together all the time?  Well we get along very well, and when Ginnie goes home to see Sarah and Devon and now her TWO grandchildren, I miss her very much.


Reese, Ginnie and Graeme, does it get any better than this?  Well maybe if the whole Pettitt family could be here with us in the Bahamas, maybe in a year or two…

One may think that all this time spent aboard the boat would be boring.  We look at each other at the end of the day and say “Where did the day go?”  Cruising is sometimes like being on vacation, especially here in Hope Town, where it is quite civilized with a very up-scale marina and many fine restaurants.  In the Exumas it’s more like being on an adventure with small islands and cays to explore and miles and miles of beaches where we may be by ourselves.  Snorkeling and going out to get some conch or lobster is great fun throughout the Bahamas.

Cruisers love to gather for pot lucks, either on board or on the beach.  There never seems to be a shortage of food or drink.  If you remember one of our previous posts we went to what I called “Survivor Beach”, just north of Monument Beach on Stocking Island, this was our favorite spot for pot luck dinners ashore. 


Another pot luck, toasting the sunset at “Survivor Beach” back in February.

Cocktails would be served anywhere as long as the sun is over the yard arm.  Some boats however appeared to have shorter yard arms than others.  One fellow from Canada didn’t seem to have any yard arms, he was never without a can of beer in his hand, at any time of day.

Ginnie and I have been doing a lot of reading and watching DVDs.  Thanks to Tom for your loan of many DVDs.

Boat repairs, or as it is referred to here, “Working on boats in exotic places” is another way to lose a few hours in a day.  Nothing serious has gone wrong, just maintenance and repair.  Engine oil changes, tighten this or loosen that, patching leaks in the inflatable dinghy tubes, new bilge switch for our forward head shower sump, pump up the pressure in the accumulator tank for our fresh water supply pump, changing zincs on the propeller and shaft, cleaning the bottom of the boat using a hookah rig with a scuba tank, well you get the point.


Patching the dinghy, I finally got tired of pumping it up daily.

Then there’s cleaning the boat, polishing the stainless up on deck, jeez there’s a lot of stainless!  Washing down with fresh water when we are at a dock and it is included with the fee, otherwise, at up to 60 cents a gallon, we wait for rain.  Maybe we will install a reverse osmosis water maker for next winters cruise.  What I don’t understand is why we need to clean the inside of the boat as much as we do, Ginnie blames Oliver, my cat.  Come on now, how could a little 7 pound ball of fur create all that mess.


A picture of innocence.

Just like land based household chores, we need to do laundry, take out the trash, go shopping, and get haircuts and so on.  However every time we go somewhere new we need to find where everything is.  The Explorer Charts for the Bahamas have been a great resource as well as the  If need be we will ask for “local knowledge” on the VHF radio, someone always seems to be able to help.

Getting water and fuel can be as easy as pulling up to a dock, or having to go ashore in the dinghy with 5 gallon containers to get gas for the dinghy and generator, diesel for the boat and water.


25 gallons of water, 10 gallons of diesel and 5 gallons of gas ready to bring aboard.

Each day we listen to Chris Parkers weather on our single side band receiver and the local cruisers net on the VHF radio every morning.  We plan our navigation for the next legs of our journey, enter new way points into the chart plotter and setting up routes for the auto pilot to follow.   Having our navigation planned and entered into the chart plotter ahead of time is essential, trying to perform these tasks underway is sometimes very stressful.  I enter the latitude and longitude of our waypoints into the chart plotter, check them twice as they are entered then I read them back to Ginnie for a final check.  Having a waypoint in the wrong location could be a bad day on board Firecracker.


A few of the almost 200 waypoints we have entered for the Bahamas.


Above is part of the route we plotted from Lynyard Cay to Marsh Harbor.  The waypoints at the left side of the screen mark the entrance to Marsh Harbor.  The black boat shape at the upper right hand corner is us on a mooring in Hope Town.

And before you know it, another day is ending.   A glass of wine in the cockpit to watch the sunset, maybe a second glass to look at the stars…and if something didn’t get done today, there’s always  mañana.