A little video to get you started.
If you want to get in the mood with a little Bahamian Music, click on the link.
Please note: The most recent post is at the top. To view the trip in chronological order, scroll to the bottom and read by day. We welcome your comments. Just click on “leave a comment” at the head of the comments section. We love to hear from our readers!
You can click on the photos to enlarge them. Click again for more enlargement. Back button returns to blog.
The kid’s’ underwater pictures are up. You will just have to scroll through the blog to see them all.
Everyone is home and settling into summer. Aliya is at theater camp in New York state, Griffin is starting basketball camp, Hannah is getting ready for her counsellor training at Camp Toccoa, and Harrison is doing summer reading. As for Lou and Don, we are catching up on chores and getting ready for the cool temperatures of Lou’s mountain cabin. Kevin McGary is taking care of a few things on Moonstruck. Just about our summer routine.
Did I mention the only negative thing about this trip? From our temporary home base of Gasparilla Marina it requires about a 400 mile round trip to get to the East coast of Florida. So, this morning at 7:00am sharp we pulled out of the Manatee Pocket and headed West at 16-17 knots—-that is another story. After 12 1/2 hours, 5 locks, 2 bridge openings, and 90+ degree temps we are back at Gasparilla. It was a long gruelling day, but we needed to get home.
Everybody is safely back, and that is the important thing. There is one thing for sure, though. Next time we go over it will be for a longer stay. The real beauty of the islands besides the beautiful water is the laid back life style. We need to experience that more.
We are still waiting for the kids to write their impressions of the trip. Until then, let’s keep on cruising.
Lou and I have just returned from presenting outselves at the Home Land Security/Customs Office at the Port of West Palm Beach. We must be shifty looking characters, as they took a very long time of looking at computer screens before OKing our re-entry into the US. Capt. Bill Evans said that it was probably a mistake to be legal, as we are losing all kinds of government benefits. Maybe next time we will be smarter. I think that they were profiling us.
We will return the rental car this afternoon, and be ready to depart in the morning for Gasparilla Marina, our home port. Here is one picture from our last stop in Stuart that did not get in. it is of the Whistle Stop Cafe near the Stuart Corinthian YC. It is a good breakfast place. Yes, it is near the railroad track.
We are back in the States. We left Great Sale Cay this morning at seven_thirty am and arrived St Lucie Inlet at 1140 am. It was a great crossing. We started out with 2 footers and it calmed down to 1 footers about half way across. That was alot better than the 5′ head seas going over. We also made 25 knots instead of the 14.5 knots going over. The water was beautiful. I tried to take pictures of the water where the Little Bahama Bank meets the Gulf Stream. The mixtures of the Bahama aqua color with the Streams cobalt blue are just beaufiful. Unfortunately, the color differences are so subtle that the camera does not pick them up well.
We have checked in with Homeland Security and have been given our arrival number. We now have until 1:00pm tomorrow to present our bodies and our passports at the Homeland Security Office in West Palm Beach. We will have to rent a car to drive down. I certainly am glad that they are exhibiting this much due diligence getting Lou and me back in the country. I just wish they could keep terrorists off airplanes. Being the good citizens we purport ourselves to be, we will present ourselves and go through whatever more red tape is necessary.
Hopefully, back to Gasparilla on Friday, clean the boat Saturday, then the real world Sunday.
If you look carefully at the above picture, you may be able to see the cobalt blue of the Gulf Stream mixing with the aqua blue of the Little Bahama Bank water. It is alot more brilliant when you are there. If you would like to see more detail, click on the picture then click it again. The darker areas are not shadows, but are the areas of the darker Gulf Stream water swallowing the aqua colored water of the Little Bahama Bank. Click the back button to go back to the blog.
We departed Marsh Harbour Marina at 0900. We made out way past Great Gauna Cay to the infamous Whale Cay Passage. Because it was more of a wussy than a lion today, we road its ocean swells at 25 knots. We have had two good runs at it, but never fail to respect this piece of water. It can take you out. At 1000 hrs we were at our waypoint at Green Turtle. We entered White Sound and were tied up at the Green Turtle Club at 1030 hrs. This is a great stop, and rather than spend two nights at Great Sale Cay we thought this would be nice.
We had lunch at the grill where Lou conched out on conch fritters. These were supposedly for David Dalton, but she looked as if she was enjoying them. They are the best I’ve ever eaten.
Because we had skipped the village of New Plymouth on the way down, we rented a golf cart to check it out. We had a lovely time, and took some great photos. Lou found out what a Goombay Smash is. We stopped at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar to try one of her original concoctions. It’s amazing how clear things become after having one.
The village is charming. Lou said that she could live there. She also says that most everywhere we go.
Don found his piece of property on a secluded beach. Here he is enjoying relaxation in his favorite recliner. Now, if he could only find his remote control. Oh well, it will show up in island time.
Cream cheese brownies at the McIntosh Bakery and Restaurant were brought back to the boat for desert with coffee. Life is sure tough in the islands, but someone has to do it.
Just some notes about the islands of the Bahamas in general> When away from the glitz of the tourist areas of Nassau and Freeport parts of the Bahamas can resemble a third world country. Not where we were. We always felt free to go where we wanted and let the children explore. Where we were there were no big hotels and few resorts. Groceries are expensive at about three times US prices with very limited choices. You eat what the supply boat brings in. Can you imagine a super market in the US with no milk, bread, or vegetables on the shelves. it happens here frequently. In many places, water is metered at 25 cents per gallon. It cost $40.00 to fill Moonstruck’s water tanks. Electric power is expensive and undependable. The average charge for a marina to hook you up to electric is$22.00 per night. Hanging on a mooring or at anchor, which we did several nights, is much cheaper. Diesel fuel in one of the cheaper places, Marsh Harbour, is about $4.50/gal. You can figure up what 300 gal. cost. That is about 40% higher than in the States. The whole trip took about 9o0 gallons. When I say the electricity is undependable believe it. The power company will cut off power anytime they feel a need. It can last from 2 to 4 hours then come back on. No one seems perturbed by this. They just go on like nothing special is happening.
In spite of all this, it is a special place. It is all about the water. The small villages or towns are facscinating. Seeing how simply the people live is enlightening. Man-O-War Cay is our choice of this group of islands. It has a great harbor, the beaches are not to be believed, and the people live simply. It is a working island. If there were any hotels or resorts on this one, we didn’t see any, and we walked most of the island. We could live there.
Tourism is the life blood of the economy. Many people own second homes in the islands. You probably should own a boat as the only other access is by ferry. There is little or no industry. They fish, catch conch, or work in a service business such as a boat yard.
If you are looking for a flashy all luxuries resort go to Nassau or Freeport. However, if you have a sense of adventure go to the out islands and get off the beaten track. These are the Bahamas we love.
Now back to the trip.
We hope the kids will write their impressions of the trip to be posted later. They did not see any teenagers during the whole trip. They were the only ones visiting the Abacos as far as we know. They had no TV, cell phones, or video games the whole week. Did they get bored? Not so as we could tell. They were interested in most everything they saw. They took the dinghy to the towns by themselves, climbed the Hope Town Light House, and swam at beautiful beaches that they were the only ones there. How special is that?
This is the day that we all knew would come. The kids fly out today. They packed up, and we checked to see that “their peppers were in order”. We called Brenda, Taxi 151, on channel 16 of the marine radio (marine radio is how everyone communicates here). She picked us up, and delivered us to the airport. The kids are quite the internatioal travelers, now. They went to the counter with their tickets and passports and took care of business all by themselves. We saw them get on the plane. Then Brenda took us back to the boat stopping by the Price-Rite Super Market for a few last minute items to get us back to Florida.
The kids will fly to Nassau on Bahama Air, Orlando on AirTran where they go through customs, then on to Atlanta and their parents waiting arms. Yep, quite an adventure for them. They have handled it well.
Looking at the long range weather, the best days for crossing back to Florida seem to be Wednesday or Thursday. We will look in the morning at the weather again. If it is favorable for getting around Whale Cay Passage, and the forecast holding other wise, we will head out of here tomorrow. The plan is to anchor Monday and Tuesday nights at Great Sale Cay. then get an early start for the crossing on Wednesday. It looks like Lou and I will be doing this one alone, as we have no one with us and no buddy boat crossing. We will not be able to get weather forecasts at Great Sale. It is just too remote for radio or internet. We will just have to see how it feels. Any light wind out of the southern quadrant is what we are looking for. Cruising this way is fun, but make no mistake about it, it is serious business.
We cruised slowly back to Marsh Harbour. We took on 300 gal. of diesel fuel and 160 gal. of fresh water. The engines are checked, the dinghy stowed, and the boat is ready for the return trip.
The kids wanted to snorkel the reef one more time. We got the gear and turdged over to Mermaid Reef. The water was brilliantly clear with the sun shining brightly. It made the colors of the fish almost glow. There were so many fish in front of our faces that Hannah got a little frightened that they were so close. Of course, we were feeding them. There was every color of parrot fish, groupers, angel fish, yellow tail snapper, several small fish of many colors, and a school of ballyhoo that seemed to just swim around my head. It was spectacular. We had some cheap underwater cameras that may or may not have gotten some good shots. We will see when it is developed. The kids had a great time.
Saturday night at the Jib Room is the big steak cookout. We took the kids up for the food, music, and dancing. They had a wonderful time dancing and doing the limbo. Griffin even got his big 6’5″ frame under the bar four or five times. The kids had a great time. We did too. We will miss this place.
We have spent the day here at Man-O-War. Went to the beach again. The water is so gorgeous that it is hard to describe. When you are in it, it feels so soft that it is almost like silk. We bought Mahi-Mahi and grilled out for dinner. Lunch was at the Dock and Dine here at the marina.
Harrison says that this town sure has alot of boat yards> It sure does. They do good work at reasonable prices here. It has been interesting as well as entertaining watching the town work. There are no cars on the island. The streets are only wide enough for two golf carts to pass. Yet they have a gridded street pattern of sorts. The homes are all different and on small lots. At 5:00 there is a rush hour of sorts. Most of the transportation is by ferry boats and freight boats that serve the island. The freight boats look like landing craft with cranes. They can dock, off load big pallets of materials, and be gone in 5 minutes time. They stop at alot of islands and docks on each island. It works. We even saw them delivering palm trees.
There is a full moon tonight hanging over the harbor. It is really kind of making us sad that this trip is sort of winding up. The kids leave Sunday to start their summer, and we will be working our way back to Florida and home. Paradise really is all that it is said to be.
No pictures with this, but some were added to the blog below. Just schroll down to see what was added.
Back to Marsh Harbour tomorrow. Later.
Some of the pictures are up. You can go back to Hope Town to see some of the area. We pulled in today at Man-O-War Marina on Man-O-War Cay after three days of hanging on a mooring and the hook. We had lunch at the dock grill, and the kids are off to explore the town. A brief rain shower just passed through. We like this place. Oops, have I heard that somewhere before?
As the lady here at the marina said, all the islands are different. This one sure is. After a long walk, Lou and I discovered this to be one of our favorites. It is more of a working island than some of the more touristy ones. It has a wonderful sheltered harbor, and the marina is great. The marina also has good WIFI.
I am writing this swinging on the anchor behind Baker’s Rock at Tahiti Beach on the South end of Elbow Cay. The water is calm and gently rolling with an almost full moon hanging in the sky like a lamp behind me. Sound idyllic? You bet it is! All six of us laid on the bow to watch the stars and moon reflecting off the water. Absolutely one of the most pleasant nights that I have spent at anchor.
Tahiti Beach is one of the most beautiful places in the islands. The beach is lined with palm trees, and the clear, aqua, shallow water seems to go forever. It is truly in the words of Jimmy Buffet “One Particular Harbor” where the children play on the shore each day, and all is safe within. Aliya said that it is knock dead gorgeous.
Hope Town with two nights on a mooring ball, was all it was “hoped it would be”—-a great harbor with a picturesque, candy-striped light house, and a quaint town around the harbor.
We have been in Hope Town on Elbow Cay swinging on a mooring for 2 nights. A great place. The plan is to anchor at Tahiti Beach tonight and be in Man-O-War Cay Friday. We have had very spotty internet, so no real updates. We have alot of stuff to add as we get better connections. So far so good!
Big day for us today. The kids Hannah, Aliya along with Harrison and Griffin, arrived at the Marsh Harbour Airport. Yes, indeed, it was a big day!!
We arrived to pick up the kids via our taxi driver of choice, Brenda. She provided them an educational tour of the town (not the regular kind of educational tour). She did this while introducing all but Hannah to driving on the left hand side of the road. It is a little off putting to say the least. We picked up a few groceries since the supply boat had come in. Then it was back to Marsh Harbour Marina.
We did dinner in the Jib Room with music and dancing. Their Saturday nights are quite special with dancing and limbo. We all had a great time.
The Jib Room here at the marina had their famous BBQ’d rib dinner last night. We never thought about there being good BBQ in the Bahamas, but it was absolutely delicious. Lou ate a whole rack of baby backs. We had great company at our table as Lou was invited to sit with two ladies that live on the island, Sue and Kay. Kay owns a dive shop and knows Steve Newman——small world stuff! Marvin, one of the staff at the marina, did a great job of the cooking.
The Jib Room is a happening place on Wednesday and Saturday evening. The locals make their reservations early for the good food. Even though Marsh Harbour is the third largest town in the Bahamas, it is still a very small town. it is the best place in the out islands to provision. The supply boat for the grocery stores came in today. There should be some fresh dairy products and vegetables after the shelves are stocked. The electric company turned off the power today for 5 or 6 hours. It is said that they cannot produce enough power for the needs, and it happens frequently. We are starting to get into this island life style! Once you get into the rhythm of the islands, it is not too bad.
We went grocery shopping yesterday and did laundry here at the marina today. Mundane tasks in paradise are not even bad. Grocery prices are sky high and choices some what limited. The largest super market in the second largest city of the Bahamas had no milk or hamburger buns. With the high prices, it must be tough for the average workers here to feed their families.
We will straighten up the boat to get ready for the kids arrival on Saturday. That will be a big day for all of us! Here’s hoping Hannah can shepherd them through customs and changing planes in Nassau.
By the way, here is a link to the navigation chart showing the area of our travels. http://explorercharts.com/images/Chart_NB.jpg
When you click on the link, you should get a magnifying glass cursor that you can put over the area that you want to see enlarged. The area that we are in is located on the Little Bahama Bank. Marsh Harbour is on Great Abaco Island to the far right. We will be in the area of the Sea of Abaco with the kids. Lots of great places to see and snorkel.
It is important to note that the depth numbers on the chart are in meters—not feet. The depths off the Bank are from 2000-20,000 ft. deep. That is over your head, folks.
David Dalton arrived at SCYC at about 10:00pm Friday evening. It is a good thing as we have now found a buddy boat to cross the stream tomorrow (Saturday) with. Mr. Maxi a 55′ Searay berthed at the YC was planning to cross. They asked if we would like to buddy up for the crossing. My answer was “would we!!!!”. So at 6:15am we pulled away from the dock and headed for the St. Lucie Inlet. 5-7′ rollers in the inlet with 20knot easterly winds on the nose. We had 3-5′ seas for 3 hours at about 14 knots to cross. A little rough, but a good crossing none the less. David Dalton said he would not want it much rougher than that. Lou did great, and slept for a good part of the passage.
We dropped the hook at Great Sale Cay at 1:30pm after an easy cruise of 18 knots across the Bank. Took a swim in the cool, clear water, and grilled for dinner. It doesn’t get much better than this. We slept like logs with a cool breeze blowing through the boat> We were up early for the 2 hour run to Green Turtle Cay. What a great place.
Kevin and the Gully Roosters perform Wednesdy evenings at the Green Turtle Club.Click on the link and scroll down for the dancers. Let’s Go Go to Abaco!
When finished hit your back button until back here.
We would loved to have stayed at the Green Turtle Club for a few days, but we have a schedule to meet the grandkids in Marsh Harbor. Monday morning looked like a good time to get around Whale Cay Passage, So we headed for Treasure Cay arriving at noon. Treasure Cay has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The place was full of German tourists.
Then this morning it was off to Marsh Harbor to await the grandkids arrival. We love this place. Marsh Harbor Marina is a small friendly marina with a Rib BBQ tomorrow night and steak BBQ Saturday night complete with island music. There is a pool and a great snorkeling reef with small private beach about 200 yards away.
It was kind of sad today. David Dalton took a cab to the airport to head back home. We had a great run.
Click on the link. You can put it up full screen. How’s this? Stone’s music and the contestants for the Miss Universe Contest. When done hit your back button.
Lou and I along with Kathy and Norm Blinn left Gasparilla Marina at 9:40am May 11th. We cruised down to Ft. Myers for fuel, lunch, and a grocery stop at Publix. Then it was up the Caloosahatchee River and through the Franklin Lock to Rialto Harbor> Rialto Harbor is a beautiful stop with its moss draped trees and meandering paths. We walked up to the main highway for some Pizza at a small convenience store. It was surprisingly good. Norm and Kathy said it was the best they had since living in Naples, Italy.
Wednesday morning it was time for some serious cruising as we made it all the way across the Okeechobee Waterway to Stuart. We arrived in the Manatee Pocket at 3:00pm. A great crossing from the West coast of Florida to the East coast. We fueled and tied up at the Stuart Corinthian Yacht Club. Here we are awaiting a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Sunday or Tuesday look to be the best days.
David Dalton could not stand cowering behind his desk in Chattanooga any longer. He has decided to venture out and drive down to rescue the winsome Miss Lou from the dastardly captain of the Moonstruck. He plans to make the crossing and fly back to get his car in Stuart.
Stay tuned as the weather forecast is changing daily.
Both Lou and I have been busy getting personal stuff taken care of for the next month or so. Kids passports and travel documents are taken care of. Their flight reservations are made. We are registered with customs for our return. We international travelers like to say that our “papers are in order”. We are taking care of banking and packing tomorrow. Then it is drive down to the boat Saturday. Clean the boat and stock up with groceries Sunday. Norm and Kathy are coming in on Monday. Hopefully, we will be able to leave on their arrival for a short run to get a head start on the crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway.——–Stay tuned.
Well, plans are fiming up for the crossing to the Abacos in the Bahamas in May. We are bracketing the trip around the only week that the 4 grand kids are available. So, the day after school is out they are flying into Marsh Harbour for a week. Our job is to get the boat over to meet them there. Just takes a little juggling around. Now, it is in the hands of Mother Nature. Ordinarily, in May the weather fronts are mostly through, and the winds have shifted from northerly to the easterly quadrant. That should make crossing the Gulf Stream more pleasant.
The plan is to move over to Stuart to wait for the weather to be favorable for a Gulf Stream crossing. The route planned is St. Lucie Inlet to enter the Little Bahama Bank at White Sand Ridge. Then a course North of Great Sale Cay to either Spanish Cay or Green Turtle Cay to clear Bahamian customs. From there it is working our way down to Marsh Harbor to meet the kids.
Stay tuned as this is a pretty big adventure for the kids. Lot’s of swimming, snorkeling, and dinghy exploring.. Just getting the arrangements for the trip is quite a deal. Coordinating and putting on supplies are like preparing for an expedition. We are all getting pretty excited about being there with the kids. That makes it very special for us. Norm and Kathy Blinn are planning to start out with us to do the crossing of the Okeechobee Waterway. As we get settled in the Abacos Jan and Bill Evans had planned to fly in, but have now had to cancel. We are disappointed in that because they are dear friends, and have cruised many, many miles with us. It looks like Lou will just have to put up with me with no relief. Our schedule is just not firm yet, and probably won’t be until we make the crossing and get by Whale Cay Passage.