Bahamian Dinghy Racing

We were lucky enough to be in the Exumas for the 5F’s – First Friday in February at Farmers Festival.   It is a three day affair.   I was told (but I’m not sure) that it was arranged by the Government in an attempt to get people from all the islands together in one place to celebrate – and mix up the gene pool a little!!    Perhaps “fornication” should be added to the 5 F’s – but don’t quote me on that!   Whatever the purpose, we had been hearing about it all the way down the islands.   When we were in Black Point we saw their entry “Smashie” and from then, our money was on them.   There were a couple of boats in various stages of completion; one had the keel plank laid and the transom starting to take shape; another had the planking all laid up and was ready for finishing off.  (You might need to click on some of the photos to see the detail).

We sailed down to Little Farmers Cay on Friday in an armada of boats all heading in the same direction.  We anchored near Oven Rock, a little away from the main beach; a long dinghy ride in, but it looked like a zoo down there.


The whole event took place off the beach at Ty’s Sunset Bar and Grill.   There was a DJ pumping out music at decibels that destroyed eardrums and the kitchen was churning out food with no let-up.   A great atmosphere, and by now we had met (or at least recognized from previous stops) many of the cruisers,  so it was like a reunion.

One race on Friday (I think it was a practice) and three on Saturday.   There was no wind for the Friday race and the start line was close to where we had anchored so  Garth went over in the dinghy and took some photos. We don’t think that much attention is paid to rules – some were rocking the boat, some were sculling – whatever took you to the finish!    Which was simply a mark laid in the water – no line to cross.

Some of the boats were well equipped – some were simply glad to be out there …

The winds were fresher for Saturday’s races – we went out to watch the start.   The booms on these boats extend way beyond the transom – we found a boat called H2O (same as our Harbor 20!) and helped them undo their sail as their support boat was bringing a different one.  The skipper of H2O was not a young man and I’m sure he brought lots of experience to the team.  They were certainly in there with the top guys.

There were numerous sail changes as the wind picked up.   Unlike the formal start sequences that we are used to, everyone just waits, anchored, sails down, in a (sort of) straight line until all the boats are ready.   There is a dinghy flying a Bahamian flag which runs up and down the line, the race officer shouting out the course to three or four boats at a time as he goes – once it seems as though everyone has their chosen sail on, and knows the course, he waves a flag in the air – and it’s all systems go.

Some go well, some go badly.    It seems as though the more competitive boats pull themselves forward on their anchors without raising their sails immediately.   This gives them some momentum and clear air, and only then do they pull up the sail.    For the rest, it is chaos!!!   The booms are so long that some hit the water as the sail goes up – the helmsman loses steerage and there is banging and crashing and shouting …..

dsc04622We zoomed down to the first mark and it was just as interesting.   So much has to happen and everyone is converging at the same time.    Boats coming up to the mark just yelling “starboard” continually, whether or not they have water on the mark – how there is not more damage or people in the water I’ll never know!    These guys are really good sailors.



Our Smashie was one of the better boats and came second overall I believe – we backed a winner!   This is all done for cash prizes and very impressive silver trophies, so they are all “in it to win it” that’s for sure.


The winner was Whitty K – we had chatted to them on the way to the start and they had seemed to be pretty confident.   We waited a while for the prizegiving but as it got dark we thought about our long dinghy ride back and decided it was time to go.  What a fabulous event.





Continuing South

WE have finally reached Georgetown!   Our most southerly destination – we have made it.   What have we done since I last wrote?

After waiting out the front that passed though us at Spanish Wells we had a wonderful day sail down to Rock Sound, which is at the bottom of Eleuthera.   You always have a mental picture of a place – and it’s never right!!!   The cruising guides had painted Rock Sound as a thriving community; what caught our eye was that there was a coffee bar with wifi – we imagined sipping a good cup while catching up with emails, banking and other communications.

It seems that Rock Sound has come upon hard times – a lot of the places are closed and things look very run down.   There was a most beautiful Anglican church right on the beach – imagining worshipping there??   There was free coffee and free wifi at the grocery store … not quite what we had been dreaming about!    So we went back to the boat and cooked on board.  The sunsets are equally beautiful no matter what onshore amenities there are!


Next morning we went walking around again.   They have a huge blue hole almost right in the middle of town.    We heard that they had done some dye tests and found that it opened to the ocean a couple of miles offshore!!   They have stocked it with fish that come swimming over when they see visitors arrive.


We had seen a sign showing the road to the ocean beach – and a bar and restaurant.   It said 1.5 miles – we decided to go.   After two miles (black tar road, extreme heat = sweating and sore feet!) we reached the beach road, but no sign of the restaurant and bar.   We turned left for a while and were about to give up when we saw another couple coming towards us.   They had been there before and led us – we were so close and if they hadn’t come along, we would have turned around.   So grateful we didn’t – we found Northside Cottages and Restaurant, Rose Gibson – Proprietor.   What a delightful person.   She cooks to order, and so started cracked conch and coleslaw from scratch when we got there.   She poured us some much  needed cold water and suggested we take a walk on the beach while she got ready.   Her view is just amazing and the water, when you get down there, is almost transparent it is so clear.


The other couple did the same – after we got back from our walks we started talking (as you do) and it turns out that they had spent four years in Annapolis, had bought their boat from us through Teta, and she had worked at Fawcetts when Kate worked there!!   What a small world.  They had spent a lot of time in Rock Sound and their tales redeemed the place for us.   The best was meeting Rosie.   She is a widow and has a home in Freeport but runs the restaurant and cabins in Rock Sound on her own.  She has 5 children, one son living in Freeport, the other son at college in Canada, the girls (all graduated from college) living in Canada, Australia and Switzerland and she travels around the world visiting them.   One of her daughters married a doctor who worked at a hospital in Johannesburg – her grandson was born there and she has visited a number of times!   What a surprise!   She showed us her photograph album – presenting flowers to the Queen, and also met Nelson Mandela on his visit to the Bahamas shortly after his release.     She said that she and her husband had been educators in Freeport – they must have been well recognized.   You can see from the photos that she is very ordinary in appearance, but she is so much more than you would expect when you meet her.dsc04364

Another surprise there was when she told us she had a piece of the space shuttle under her deck.   Garth went down and found this – we aren’t sure what it is, but Garth thinks it is titanium, a pressurized helium tank.   Perhaps from one of the ones that exploded?


From Rock Sound, we made our way down to the Exumas.   With fairly strong wind, we decided to head straight to Waderick Wells …. which is simply – paradise!!    There are just no words for the clarity and color of the water.   In the north mooring field, there is a deep channel which carves its way through sandbanks and you pick up there, according to your depth and length.   We waited there while a front passed through and were happy to share a cruiser’s happy hour on Saturday night.


There’s a whale skeleton on the beach – it died in 1995 as a result of trying to digest plastib bags.   Waderick Wells is in Exuma Park where you are not allowed to pick up anything that you find, or leave anything behind – no trash.   It is pristine and we went snorkelling on a coral reef with tons of fish.   We don’t have an underwater camera but took some pictures through our glass bottomed bucket – worked quite well I thought!

Garth walked to the top of Boo Boo Hill and left a piece of driftwood with our boat name on it – a cruiser’s tradition.

The next day we walked along another path and found equally beautiful scenery …

We were sitting on our boat late one afternoon when we saw the Loretta Anne come in and try to pick up one of the outside moorings.


Although they had a carbon fiber boat hook (!!!), it was not long enough to reach from the foredeck down to the mooring ball in the water.   After trying several times, and trying unsuccessfully to reverse up to the mooring ball, Garth jumped in our dinghy and went to help.   They dropped down their mooring lines and he was able to thread them though and attach a retrieval line.    Saved the day!!    They stopped by later with a pretty turtle bag with two bottles of delicious pinot noir to say thank you!    (Google the Loretta Anne, it’s pretty impressive!)  We shared the wine with Mel and Gary and their friends Dick and Kay when we went over to share a tenderloin that Dick and Kay had brought with them from Canada – so spoiled!!   Another wonderful evening on Second Sojourn and new friendships made.

We had other boats pass us by on this trip –


We went to Cambridge Cay – passing … Island, which is owned by the Aga Khan.   A bit of a controversy with the local Bahamians as to what the government is allowing him to do on the island, when they are trying so hard to keep it all natural and pristine.   His house is in the middle of the island with amazing views; a beach site ready for parties; and housing for his staff and boats.  Not a bad job if you could get it!!!


We left  on a very rainy day – multiple drenching downpours on our way down to Black Point.   Mel and Gary were ahead of us sailing into the black clouds.  We arrived in Black Point with God’s promise of no more!

We loved Black Point.   The local people are so friendly and welcoming – great local restaurants and a GREAT laundry – lots of machines and the owner bakes doughnuts and carrot cake!   (Your priorities change when you are cruising!!)  We stayed there for a couple of days and then headed down to Farmers Cay for the 5F’s – First Friday in February at Farmer’s Festival!   It was amazing and I took tons of pictures – a separate blog – soon!!!

After that we made our way back to Black Point to watch Super Bowl on Sunday night.   A wonderful experience with lots of locals who were even more vocal than Garth!!    With no skin in the game, we were rooting for the underdog which seemed like a great idea …. for most of the game.    Oh well, perhaps next year the Ravens will be in it.

Stopped at another beach on our way down to Georgetown – just too amazing.   And a picture of a ray that was next to our dinghy – you never know what you are going to find

So that’s where I’m leaving this blog – we are learning all about Georgetown (they call it day camp for seniors – lots organized activities!!!)   Will keep you posted.

Another one …. so soon?

I don’t mean to bombard you with blogs – just that I have more pictures and if I don’t get it sent while we are at a place with wifi, they just accumulate and the next blog takes forever!  Also, I want to say thank you to everyone who comments and leaves messages – I do see them but can’t load the blog to reply until the next time we get to wifi.   But I appreciate the support; it’s nice to know that friends are enjoying following along.   I get a bit bamboozled by technology – I don’t know how to get back to things – so please know that I am seeing and appreciating your input!

We knew there was a big front coming and decided to head a little south to Hatchet Bay, a completely enclosed harbor, and ride it out there.  You have to go through a narrow cut where the tide is extremely strong.  You’re supposed to go through at a slack tide but I think we miscalculated a little – our boat speed was 6.4 knots but the current was ripping us through at 10.5!!   As we came through the other side we were delivered into a beautiful sound with a sand bank, people paddling and incredibly clear water – you can see the bottom clearly at 20 ft.


The coastline is rocky and sheer – you can sail along very close to shore and the rock formations are amazing.   There was one house that we both decided we wanted – a great all round porch and a stairway down to the water with a ladder to get in and out.   I’m sure there are many lobsters down along that ledge, just waiting to be our dinner!  We almost went past the entrance to Hatchet Harbour – you will see how narrow it is from the sunset pics that follow.

We were hoping to tie up to a mooring ball to ride out the storm.   No such luck – they were in terrible shape, with no maintenance having been done for two years.   The guy in charge of them said he wouldn’t use one without having an anchor out as well!   We made the decision to stay overnight at anchor and then head back to a marina in Spanish Wells to ride out the storm.   The trip down to Hatchet Bay, although technically a waste of time, was an absolute gift because the next morning we had the most spectacular sunrise – not a breath of air and absolutely breathtaking.  And the “behind” pictures are just as special.




I couldn’t help imagining the gulls singing along to Y-M-C-A !!!!!

The day was perfect.   As we motored back to the cut it was so still that there was no horizon – two fisherman seemed suspended in air.   As always, I was drawn to the patterns in the water, and as always, there were interesting craft that passed us by.


Spanish Wells is a great little town.   We tied up in the marina and while the weather was still good, rented a golf cart and explored.   An interesting fact was told to us – unlike many islands where the young people move away, there are enough jobs and activity here to keep them, and you can sense this as you drive around and see neat homes and neighborhoods.   Down on the waterfront the buildings are fun ….

and water transport is used very creatively!   The cargo on the shrimp boat appeared to be scrap metal.   But they don’t take all the scrap metal away, much of it remains, rusting, all over the island.

We stopped at a beach bar, and saw some beautiful beaches, and even an osprey who was wintering here (not sure that the wiring on that pole would pass code in the US!!)


The marina filled up with like-minded cautious cruisers as the storm approached.   We were grateful to be tied up securely to a dock – the winds, as forecast, gusted to 50 knots and it was sustained at about 35 knots for a long while.   It poured with rain; we had thunder and lightening – everything on the boat got a good wash!

It is still blowing some, but we will leave today and go back to anchor at Royal Island  and then back down Eleuthera, heading to the Exumas by the end of the week we hope.










Land Ahoy – Eleuthera!!

After Kate, Will and Penny left we spent a few days in Marsh Harbor getting the boat straight (!!), re-provisioning and doing laundry. Only when you are cruising do you appreciate the appliances you have at home –large fridge, freezers and most of all washer/dryers to use at your whim. At $5.50 a load to wash and another $5.50 to dry, you think twice before tossing the slightly worn top or pants into the washing pile! Besides the expense, not many places offer laundry facilities because water is a precious commodity down here, so laundry day is a big deal.

There was a humdinger of a storm forecast for the 7th so we scuttled over to Hope Town to hunker down. It blew and it blew and it blew. After the big storm, the winds stayed strong and there was no chance of heading south for a while. So we explored Elbow Cay by golf cart for a day.

(The boat in the picture on the right is a Nicholson 31 – the same design as the Morgan 31 we were building in Durban in 1981 and in which we planned to cross the ocean with the two children – boy were we optimistic!!   Hats off to our parents for their support in that project – I’m glad things changed and our lives took the path they did!)

We golf-carted down to Tahiti Beach and had a wonderful walk as the tide receded – found three pretty baby conch which had been left high and dry and were waiting for the water to come back in; beautiful sand flats with amazing patterns left behind; and then, as always, on the ocean side: rugged rocks with wild seas.




On to Sea Spray Marina where we had a good lunch (we hear the names of these places every morning on the Cruiser’s Net – VHF Channel 68 where they give you weather updates, sea conditions and everything that is happening around the islands in the Abacos). The highlight of my day was when we stopped at Firefly Resort for a drink and found that there was a manatee at the dock!! He was huge and lumbering and not pretty, but so friendly and I could finally see what one looked like. Gary (who used to train dolphins many years ago and knows such a lot about sea life) went down to pat him, and when another guy on a boat reached out, the manatee flipped over, as though he wanted his chin scratched!! It was a very special day for me.



We did a Trivia night at Captain Jack’s, joined the Sip Sip Sots (which supports animals on Abaco), did a Bingo night, ate on the boat, ate on shore, watched football when we could – all passing time until the weather changed. We went to a great lecture about Wreckers – it was a government sanctioned profession in the 1800’s.  When ships foundered on the many reefs and rocky shores the wreckers used to go out to save the crews and salvage the cargo. A lucrative business all round as the government took a percentage of the spoils and it was a major source of income for the Bahamas islands. (It was different to piracy as the goods would have been lost had the wreckers not gone out – pirates were basically thieves). Looking at some of the coastline it is not surprising that there were so many ships sunk!

Muffin and the talking dog Lucy took us on a great walk along the lighthouse side of the island where no cars can go – she collects driftwood and shells and all kinds of bric-a-brac which she crafts into items for sale in support of various island charities. Her husband Will, owner of Mac & Cheese (which is anchored on the beach on the water’s edge so that the planks stay swollen and there are no leaks) helped Garth craft a step for our deep-drafted dinghy so that getting in and out was not as difficult.


Finally there was a forecast for a break in the weather! Time to go. We set off south and went into Little Harbor – one of the more famous, almost land-locked anchorages in the Abacos. In the 1950s a professor from Smithy College, Massachusetts, Randolph Johnston, decided he wanted to take his family away from the rat race (was it a rat race even then?) and headed South for the Caribbean and then to the Pacific. After spending some time travelling around the Bahamas he decided he didn’t need to go any further than the Abacos and anchored in Little Harbor. He and his family lived in the caves and set up a bronze casting foundry on the island – he is famous for his bronzes and although he has now passed on, his son Peter carries on the family tradition. It is a place that most people visit, with beautiful diving just outside the completely contained harbor.

Again, we went for a beach-combing walk along the ocean side – we were struck by the different rocks that make up the shore line.   It is very rugged with no delicate shells – everything gets smashed to pieces and only the strongest survive.

The sea creatures all have to cling on for dear life – but there is always beauty to be found in the minutiae!


We spent a night there and had to leave the next morning in order to get out of the entrance on the high tide. We joined the armada that had gathered behind Lynyard Cay – everyone had been holed up waiting for a weather gap to head south, and Monday looked to be the day.



At 6.00 am we heard the first boats on the radio as they were going through the cut in the reef – their report was “rolly, but no breaking waves”. We saw the lights of all the boats moving in the direction of the cut – I think about 15 boats left – we were off!  I don’t have a single picture of the crossing.  Although it was do-able, it was not pleasant. It was about a 50 mile trip – the seas had not laid down yet and the waves were 10’+, with winds constantly at 20 knots, gusting up to 25 at times. We had two reefs in our main and the genoa half way out – the boat sailed beautifully like that, but the waves were beam on and so we were riding up and falling down – the whole way! I was not feeling great – fortunately I had made some sandwiches and various things early in the morning and packed a bag for the cockpit. I sat and lay huddled for most of the way – Garth was a trooper and did it all himself. He took a number of direct hits from huge waves that left him drenched – fortunately it wasn’t a freezing day. Finally we saw land and soon we were in the lee of Eleuthera – seas calmed and we were there! We dropped the anchor at Royal Island and just chilled.
Next day we did some chores and then went ashore. There are ruins of a once-beautiful plantation that had been built in 1937 and then abandoned. It was so sad to see everything broken down and overrun with vines and graffiti. The thing that amazed us was the floors – tiles in all the rooms that were still there, perfect, grout intact and not cracked or chipped. Must have been some special craftsmen who laid them. We walked all over the island – enough exercise to make up for the completely sedentary day before!



This morning we sailed over to Spanish Wells. A commercial town that supplies more than 50% of the Bahamas with lobster and fish. The water here, despite the fishing boats and commerce, is crystal clear.  We will eat ashore tonight (about time!) and do some exploring of the island in a golf cart tomorrow. And from here, more heading south and seeing what we find. Another big front is expected this weekend so we will make sure we are somewhere protected.  In the meantime, the sunsets remain spectacular!!




Happy New Year

It’s 2017.   The dust is settling, the Christmas decorations are being taken down (hopefully!) and I hope that the new year holds happiness and health for all of our friends.

We booked a flight out of the Bahamas on December 10th so that we would be home in time to celebrate Penny’s 4th birthday on the 11th – should have been easy.   But there was a front coming through and low cloud here, so the incoming flight could not land.   After countless delays and uncertainty, they finally cancelled the flight that night – luckily we had our boat to go back to; others weren’t so lucky.   We finally left at lunch time on the 11th – to get to Atlanta and find that there were no seats on the connecting flight into Baltimore.   We went on standby and a couple of planes left without us.   Finally we were called up just as the doors were about the close.   As she printed the boarding pass, the couple whose seats we were taking rushed up to the gate (she had been “shopping” and lost track of time!)   Feeling bad, I grabbed the boarding pass, put my head down and scuttled down the boarding ramp, determined that we would get on that flight!    So we made Penny’s birthday, even though it was 8.30pm before we got there!

We had a whirlwind trip home – Christmas time is always so busy and we caught up with friends, spent lots of time with Will and Penny, and worked hard at doing all the things we needed to set ourselves up for being away again for another four months.   I wish I could be more casual about paperwork, but I had my nose in the computer for a lot of our visit.   That way I can relax now, knowing everything is “under control”.

We went to the school Christmas concert and loved it – each year the kindergarten class are the main characters.  So Penny’s group featured as bell ringers, and Will’s class presented Christmas songs with words and actions.   All so adorable –  St Anne’s is an amazing school.



We loved being at home – the swans arrived in our absence and Garth picked up his share of the feeding.  We are so lucky to have the privilege of having these beautiful birds in front of our house every year.   We counted about 95 at a time this year – with quite a few cygnets among the group.



Christmas was low key – I made the Beef Wellington which seems to have become our tradition.   The day was mild and beautiful – we were able to open the big door and weren’t cold at all!


We have great neighbors – we routinely meet on our front lawns with a glass of wine in hand as the sun goes down – Christmas day was no exception, and mother nature obliged with a humdinger sunset.


And then it was time for the big adventure!   Kate, Will and Penny flew back with us on the 29th to escape the cold and see in the new year.  Unfortunately our luggage never made the connection in Atlanta and so we lost a precious day waiting for it to be delivered.   The kids were not phased too much – we had to find them a summer alternative to their long sleeves and shoes and socks which was an interesting exercise – but they swam happily in the marina pool in their underwear and ate their first conch fritters with relish!


We wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Hope Town so made our way over as soon as we could on the 31st.   We went to the Reef Bar which is on the ocean side of the island with a fabulous beach and the most incredible clear turquoise  water.

We had an early lunch – opposite a cemetery which had a very steep hill which was an irresistable invitation to run down with hair flying!   There was a gate a little way away, but they found a couple of loose planks in the fence and did what kids do …


There was a junior Junkanoo scheduled for the afternoon – we found a playground to keep them busy while waiting.   Will is at that age where he jumps and swings and climbs on everything possible.   Penny keeps up, but with an age-appropriate reserve!   The Junkanoo was small but full of energy and such fun!


Time to go back to the boat and take a nap to be ready for the celebration.   We managed to book the last table at the Harbour’s Edge restaurant for the early sitting.   A delicious 5-course meal – our entree choice was Surf and Turf with lobster – yum!   They provided headgear – Will immediately adopted a Humphrey Bogart persona – Penny wanted the man’s hat rather than the feathery crown which they gave for the girls!   Afterwards we went down to meet up with Mel and Gary and the boys sported the headgear I had bought for the kids while sharing some Franschoek wine!!


New Year’s Day – my birthday! – and it was time to move on.   We went over to Nippers on Guana Cay for their traditional Sunday pork roast buffet.   The children had seen our photos and were looking forward to swimming in the pool with the pirate on the bottom!  The water was freezing apparently and they got in, but clung to Kate – not sure if it was really that cold or whether they were beleiving Garth’s stories about the pirate getting them.   But they didn’t let go for a minute.

It became shoulder-to-shoulder crowded at Nippers so we moved down to the beach at Grabbers – more swimming, eating and drinking!   Will and Penny donned the wetsuits which Chris and Jean Humpreys had kindly passed on to them and went for their first snorkeling lesson in “real” water.   They loved it and we got some real surfer-looking photos!

Every day down here seems to end with a memorable sunset ….


Next day we set off to see the swimming pigs.   We had to go around Whale Cut into the ocean.  Fortunately the swell was reasonable and the passage unremarkable – except for a float plane which took off right next to us!   By the time I got my camera it was already in the air, but was an interesting experience for Will and Penny

Noname Cay where the pigs live was the highlight of the trip!   Craig Russel who takes official care of them had arrived with food, and they were eating from the trough.   There were a number of 7-week old piglets who were just charming!   After a little encouraging, Will and Penny both fed them some of our bread, and by the end were petting and patting with confidence!   Craig had brought some coconuts which he opened with a machete – not something that you would ever experience in Annapolis!   The kids ate coconut right out of the shell before it was given to the pigs – who cleaned them out!   They drink from pipes attached to a huge water tank – Piggyville is alive and thriving.


The tide was high and the water was pristine – more snorkelling for the kids and they saw fish swimming by.   Garth found a live conch and they were a little unsure about the animal living inside.   I thought it looked a lot like Kate …..

All round it was a gorgeous day, and a perfect end to a great visit.   From there we went back to Green Turtle Club – more swimming in the pool and then a delicious final meal together.   We loved having them on board – this visit was a highlight for us and we hope we instilled a sense of wonder, adventure and wanderlust in them – that the world is a place full of things to see and do and experience.

This blog has been all about family – from here we set off for Eluthera and the Exumas next week, to places we have not visited before and our own experiences to be enjoyed.



Hope Town


We arrived in Hope Town and fell in love all over again!    It is situated on Elbow Cay and is built around a perfectly enclosed harbor so that no matter which way the wind blows, you are protected and the water is calm.   The icon of the town is its lighthouse – built in 1864 it is the last lighthouse in the world that is hand operated without any electricity.   I’m going to  quote the brochure and give you some facts and figures – the lighthouse warrants it:

“The lens and turning equipment in this lighthouse, made in the early 1900s by Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England, is still in place today, working beautifully.  The lighting source is a 325,000 candlepower “Hood” petroleum vapour burner.   A hand pump is used to pressurize the petroleum (kerosene) which is in the heavy green iron containers below the lantern room.   The fuel travels up a tube to a vapourizer within the burner which sprays into a preheated mantle.   Pressurized camping lanterns operate similarly.   The beautiful Fresnel lens with its five “bulls-eyes” concentrate the mantle’s light into piercing beams which shine straight out towards the horizon, instead of up and down and all around, as in a camp lantern.

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 or “quicksilver”.  This reduces the friction, which would otherwise be caused by wheels or rollers.   Weights on long cables, when wound up to the top of the tower by a hand winch, are able to, through a series of bronze gears, rotate the heavy apparatus, once every 15 seconds.   It works like a gigantic grandfather or cuckoo clock, and the keeper on duty has to wind up the weights every two hours.   This 19th century system operates totally without electricity and runs very smoothly at that.   Thanks to its dedicated keepers, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse continues to shine exactly as it has every night for almost 80 years.”

Hope Town works hard to maintain the lighthouse and there are many fundraisers to keep it going.   But somehow locals and visitors alike feel a pride and identity with the lighthouse and deep pockets are often emptied for a good cause.

We walked to the top, all 101 stairs, and the view was spectacular


This is a picture of the last 14’ Abaco dinghy built in Hope Town by Winer Malone, a local craftsman, who built them entirely with hand tools and without plans.   In fact there are two versions, a 14’ and a 12’ – the size reduced when he moved house and the new house had a 12’ shed instead of a 14’ one!!


Our friends from Annapolis, Muffin and Will Heyer, come down on their boat every year to spend the winter in Hope Town.   They are very involved in local volunteer activities and we met some lovely people with them.   Will has one of the five Abaco dinghies left in Hope Town, and came sailing by in it one day – of course Garth had to try it out!!    It is called Mac & Cheese;  one of the others is called Peas and Rice – both popular side dishes down here (might be spelled Peace and Rice I think).

Later that day we shared stories and stone crab claws with Will, Muffin and their friend Bill Fulton, and Mel and Gary.   A great evening.


After two days on a mooring, we decided it was time to explore and we sailed down to Sandy Cay to go snorkeling.   The sea was a little choppy and the waves were a little strong so we didn’t snorkel for too long, but it was good to be out in the water.   Gary took some photos with his go-pro – he wasn’t sure why they were not properly focused, but I want to put them in as a reminder for us.   Snorkeling is amazing – we have wet suits so it’s not cold, and the only sound you hear is yourself breathing.   Everywhere you look things are moving and catching your eye and you drift over the coral beds just taking it all in.   We are tempted to try and get an underwater camera, but then you become “the photographer” instead of just an observer of wonderfully natural beauty.   It’s a toss up.

On the way back the sky clouded over and the scenery was all the more dramatic for it.


We were lucky that our visit coincided with the annual Combustion Music Concert which benefits three local charities.   An American who has a home on Hope Town came up with the concept – he is in the music industry and invites his country and western songwriter friends, at his expense, to come to the islands.   They have four performances over the weekend – this year there were 11 songwriters singing their No. 1 hits – between them they have over 80!  They don’t charge for their appearances and all the donations go directly to the charity.   We are not country and western followers, but the music was great and the crowd was energized and it was a great evening.

We decided that we wanted to get some sailing in – no matter where the wind took us.   On Sunday we unhooked the mooring ball and set off for Treasure Cay.   The conditions were perfect; the seas were calm and the wind was behind us.   Gary and Mel have a spinnaker, and we had our sails set wing and wing, and it was a day to remember.


The water here is so clear and you can see the bottom at 25ft.   I tried to capture it on the camera; these show it a bit, but you need to be here!!

In the third picture above the dark bit is the shadow of our sail on the ocean floor!


We picked up another mooring ball in Treasure Cay and went ashore for some frozen drinks and football.  Treasure Cay has a 3-1/2 mile beach – rated as one of the top ten in the world.   We went for a walk at sunset; the colors were soft and muted, the water lapped the shore and the sand at the edge was hard and easy to walk on.    The shadows on our footprints made them look as though they puffed up instead of sank in – and the shadows in the soft sand made incredible relief patterns.

The restaurants down here are expensive.   You can understand it, but the budget doesn’t always stretch to too many meals eaten ashore.   So I made an appetizer and Mel cooked the most delicious pasta with scallops in a lemon sauce – worth twenty restaurant meals.   We have been lucky to sail along with Second Sojourn – they are great friends it is always nice to have a second opinion on weather and destination; Garth and Gary have an ongoing cornhole challenge while Mel and I keep in touch with our friends and families.


The weather was perfect for sailing again yesterday so after another long walk on the beach we left Treasure Cay and headed around the Whale Cut and came back to Green Turtle Cay.   Love it here in White Sound – we will try and explore the beach side of the island this morning, and then head into town for some lunch and a bit of provisioning.

We will head back to Marsh Harbor by way of Man O War Cay tomorrow.   Garth and I are flying back to the States on Saturday for Penny’s birthday and Christmas.   We will leave the boat at a dock in a marina while we are gone (we still have a freezer full of frozen food that needs to be kept cold!).   We are so looking forward to seeing Kate and Will & Penny, and also our house, our neighbors and our friends!   Not sure I’m ready for the cold though – it has been between 70 and 80 degrees here, cooling off at night with a fresh breeze through the hatch above our bed – perfect!!

This little boy was playing peek-a-boo with his mom at a coffee shop in Hope Town – I couldn’t resist his delightful face!    I definitely need that grandchild fix!!!

So this may be the last blog until the new year – when we come back on Dec 29th Kate and the kids will come with us for a week.   We are so looking forward to Will and Penny enjoying the beaches and seeing the magical world under the water when we go snorkeling!   We wish everyone a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.








Happy Captain!

Guess who’s having a ball?!?!?!?


All the work that he put into restoring this boat and making sure that it was everything it needed to be has rewarded us beyond measure.   It’s comfortable, it works  -and if it doesn’t, he can fix it!  We could not wish for more.

We left Manjack after that lovely walk over to the ocean side and headed to GreenTurtle Cay.   This is one of the bigger islands and has lots of accommodation available should you wish to come to this area other than by boat.   We stayed at Green Turtle Club which was a great marina with everything to offer.   They have an excellent chef and their menu leaves you wanting to try everything.   We did it justice!   We were there for Thanksgiving and had our first Turducken.  (Deboned chicken inside a duck inside a turkey).   It was delicious and served with all the traditional sides.   We caught up with all our laundry ($$$), filled up with water ($$$) and diesel (also $$$) – but that’s part of the experience and we expected and budgeted for it.  I wish I had taken a photograph of the marina – it is spic and span and so well run.


We found the burgee that our BOLD (Beneteau Owners Living the Dream) group had tacked up in the bar when we were all there in 2007 – we added a $1 bill with our re-visit update.   Tall Gary kindly stood on a stool for us!


On Thanksgiving day we dinghied over to New Plymouth, originally a settlement of British Loyalists who left the USA at the time of Independence.   They had their ups and downs, but the town survived and is now quaint and welcoming.  The pictures show a typical little house, the old jail and what a lovely final resting place!


Great Thanksgiving options at this place!     And loved the “stupid” sign.

Christmas decorations were up everywhere already – I thought that only happened in the States.   Don’t know whose job it was to string the cactus – glad it wasn’t me!


The next morning we left in time with the tide (the channel into the sound is very shallow and not to be attempted at low tide) and planned to be at Guana Cay that night.   We stopped at No Name Cay – lovely beach – and found that they had brought pigs to the island!   We can’t wait to show Will and Penny …. although the pigs get a little bit “pushy” when it comes to grabbing food from you.   I ducked behind Garth a couple of times when the snorting and pushing got a bit close!

We walked around the island – the other side had another long beach with interesting shells and rock pools.  We went for a great swim, walked out through the grass to the sandy patch where it was a little deeper – until Gary, who had brought his snorkel and goggles saw a huge ray settled in the sand!    We all went horizontal and swam until we were in 2ft water and HAD to stand!!!

The conch live on the sandy bottom and among the grass – it was nice to see some live ones as you normally just see the empty shells.

Sailed over to Guana Cay where we visited our favorite haunts – Nippers and Grabbers (sounds a bit suggestive when you put them together like that!?).   We will spend New Year’s Eve at Nippers with Kate and Will and Penny.  We have done it before with the Clarences and it is a wild night.


Next day we wanted to get to Marsh Harbor as a front was due to come through and we needed to be in a protected anchorage.   On the way we stopped at Fowl Cay, which is a protected reserve.   It was a perfectly calm day and we were able to snorkel around these two big patches of coral reef.   We were the only ones out there (we have found that it is still early in the season – a lot of the places are still closed, but it means that there are seldom other boats where we want to be and it suits us perfectly).  A photograph just doesn’t seem to be able to do justice to the color and quality of the water – but this picture of Second Sojourn I think shows how the exquisite turquoise light was throwing back on the sides of their boat.   We were in about twelve feet of water and the dark patches, if you zoom in, are actually grass that you can see clearly on the bottom.   It blows me away.


So we are finally in Marsh Harbor.   The biggest town in the Abacos with all the amenities that we may need.   I am going to the telephone company tomorrow to see how to make the data I purchased on my local sim card work …. definitely need a twenty-something on hand to help with this kind of stuff!!  I thought about it and realized that many of you reading the blog don’t have a clear idea of exactly where the Abacos are – so here are two photographs of our chart book.   The first shows the relationship of the main island to the USA and to Nassau etc. and the second give more detail of the relationship of all of these cays that we are visiting, which are sort of barrier islands to the main Abaco Island.

We will stay here in Marsh Harbor until the weather improves and then make our way over to Hope Town on Elbow Cay.    Another favorite spot with lots to do.


We’ve arrived in Paradise!


We left Lake Worth at 5.00 am – still dark, but the light was coming into the sky.  Three of us left togther – Gary and Mel on Second Sojourn and George Shipp on Shipp Mates.   He had anchored near us in Lake Worth and was single-handing all the way from Canada and I think he was happy to be in convoy with us.   The forecast was not perfect, but very do-able we thought.   It started out lumpy and I took my Dramamine!  The sun came up and we said goodbye to the mainland – it is a very special experience to look around and the whole horizon is only water.   As the day wore on the seas flattened and we ended up motor sailing in a perfectly flat deep blue sea.   I love the way the water looks and colors from the sky reflect on it.

We had anticipated a really long ride over, but we arrived at West End by 3pm – a very successful day.   Unfortunately West End had been badly hit by the hurricane with many houses destroyed.   The marina didn’t seem to lose too many buildings, but there was limited power and water and their restaurant and bar were closed.   Not to worry – we hauled out the steaks and champagne and celebrated our arrival in grand style!   As anticipated, the water is clear and turquoise; the beach is white and the people are the friendliest around.  Old Bahama Bay is a great resort and entry point to the Bahamas.

The picture of the piling shows how clearly you can see the bottom – ten feet of water.   We decided to stay on Sunday as the winds were strong – we found a friendly diver who had just brought in his catch of lobster – we were set for dinner!    I’m including a picture of the beach bar which didn’t survive the storm – and the pool was pumped out, so for our Bold Group from 2007/8 we weren’t able to relax quite as much as we did then.


The three of us set off early again next morning to head for Great Sale Cay.   Nothing there, but when the sun sets and you are sharing a glass of wine with friends, what more could you wish for?

I often wonder which side of the sunset I prefer – the blaze of glory as the sun disappears, or the soft pinks and mauves that fill the sky behind you.  The night is so black – not a light anywhere and the stars just shimmered.

When we go out to sea, we put our dinghy on the foredeck for safety – we wore lifejackets on the way over, even though it was so calm.   You shouldn’t put yourself in a position that you might regret later.   Some pics of the command post – you can see the instruments showing our course – touchscreen so you can easily zoom in or out, and the wind instrument showing strength and direction.   (I should have tidied up a bit before this pic!)

Garth wants to give a particular shout-out to our friend Terry Clarence, who has the Rolly Tasker Sails dealership in Annapolis – he is SO happy with the wonderful sails that Terry supplied us!  He took these pictures of the sail shape for those of you that will appreciate them!


Our next planned destination was Green Turtle Cay, but we decided to stop on the way – we snorkeled off Moraine Cay and were rewarded with pristine coral banks – my impression was that the coral and fish were all purple and yellow and everywhere you looked could have been a calendar picture!   The tide was running through quite fast, so we dinghied out and then drifted back over the reef holding onto the dinghy.   We did this three times – could have stayed all day!    Of course, this also presented my personal biggest challenge – getting back into the dinghy.   We had a rope stepladder which helped some, but as you stood on it it shot underneath the boat …. needless to say my clamber in was not elegant or graceful!   But I did it and am here to tell the tale.   I would do anything for an underwater camera to be able to share the amazing world under the sea that we saw that day.

From there we set off for Manjack Cay.  We were a little late and sailed into the anchorage as the sun set.   Another contrast of the bright sunset and passive light behind.

This island is owned by a family who have lived there for 18 years – they have generously shared their island and made paths for visitors to get to the beach on the other side.   It was about a mile away, but the path through the brush was cool and dappled and we saw so much of the vegetation up close which you can’t really appreciate as you sail by.   The beach was spectacular!!


Lots of rock pools and their interesting inhabitants.   What looked like a simple hole in the rock revealed a whole ‘nother world when you looked closer …

We sent to Green Turtle that day – but that will have to be the next blog, as the internet service that I am “borrowing” is very slow and the pictures are not loading quickly enough.  We tried to get our phone set up and have a bit of a hiccup – apparently the iPhone 4 that I brought for the Bahamas sim card does not have the latest software, so my next task is to download it – at this speed, might take a while!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and you are relaxing on this long weekend.   Christmas is around the corner!









Waiting in Florida

We made the excellent decision to go “outside” from Vero Beach down to Lake Worth.   It was Sunday and everyone and their brothers were out on their boats enjoying the beautiful day.   Lots of wake and activity and in this stretch there were SEVEN restricted bridges in ten miles.  Many of the old lifting bridges along the waterway have been replaced with high bridges that allow unlimited access.   But on this stretch, no.   The bridges open either on the hour, half hour, or sometimes on demand but you still have to call the bridge tender to open and wait your turn in all the traffic.   And if you just miss an hourly one, you have to wait that long for the next opening.  So we set off in a beautiful sunrise and motorsailed with Mel and Gary alongside – with beautiful sea and clouds as our view.   It got a bit choppy for a while, but that passed and it was a good day.


We had hoped to cross the gulf stream on Tuesday, but the forecast was a little rough with strong winds forecast on the Bahama side so we decided to wait.   It gave us a good opportunity to do some maintenance and get the boat ready.   We shared a hired car with the Tisdales and we hit Sam’s Club and a grocery store for final provisions.   I would kill for a bigger fridge!!!   We watched the super moon rise …

….after the sun set.    You can tell we are in Florida by all of the high rise buildings!

So we are at Lake Worth FL waiting to cross – we plan to go tomorrow even though the weather might not be absolutely perfect – if we waited for perfect it might never come!   We need to get there so that we can acclimatize, explore and get our boat situated for when we leave it to go home for Christmas.  We will get a sim card for our other phone and hopefully be able to send one or two blogs before we leave.  Otherwise I will do it from Annapolis when we get home.

So the waterway part of this adventure ends – it has been fascinating and a lot of fun.   But looking forward to what lies ahead.   Garth just headed off to the little French cafe we found for breakfast and the newspaper – his habits are hard to break!!  But I know he is not going to find one of those once we are in the Bahamas, so this is his last chance!!dsc01944

















Continuing South

After leaving Beaufort we went to Hilton Head and had a wonderful dinner with Sue and Kevin Keogh where there was lots of talk about Harbor 20’s!   I can’t believe I didn’t take a photograph around the dinner table.    It was sobering to see and hear about the damage that Hurricane Matthew wrought – I have a lot of photographs and will make a separate post of them.   Seeing the damage and imagining the individual lives that have been impacted makes me so sad.

I don’t understand those that say they find the waterway through Georgia boring.   To me it is one of the most beautiful stretches – okay, it’s a bit twisty-turny but every turn shows something new.

Sometimes the beauty of the anchorage at sunset is not when it’s all ablaze, but when the light mellows and softens and the moon rises.


There are times when you see a channel marker in the middle of the marsh ..???? – only to find out that the waterway curves around and you spend half an hour getting to where the crow could take you in five minutes.

We passed Thunderbolt Marine where Garth had worked on a 105′ boat “Victoria T” for Lex in the early days – all the boats are so big that their scale is lost in the comparison.   One of the boats had been partially shrink wrapped – bet Brad would have loved that job!

How about these vultures roosting together in a tree?  I had seen them circling and thought perhaps there was some food they were after, but it seemed they just needed to rest their wings.   On all three trips we have done down the waterway, we have passed this lovely house on a narrow island – each time we get a good feeling about whoever lives there in complete solitude – I’m sure a lot of books are read in that house.   Another house which is also remote, but not as livable.

We stopped for fuel at Jeckyll Island, but the timing was not right for spending the night.   We had wanted to go to Fernandino Beach, but their docks had been completely destroyed by the Hurricane and they weren’t even able to have dinghies land to go ashore.   So we stayed on the north side of the sound and spent the night at Cumberland Island, which had been recommended as a great stop.   It is a wildlife refuge and we saw the wild horses (apparently descended from the Spanish herds) and wild turkeys.   Unfortunately their dock had also been destroyed and we were not able to go ashore and over to the beach side.

Into Florida – it is amazing how every state is so distinguishable from the others.   As wild and twisty as Georgia is, so Florida is straight and developed.   Miles and miles of houses alongside the water, some fancy, some shabby, some manicured, some overgrown, but almost all of them with a pier and dock of some kind.   Looking forward to seeing some of the mansions around Jupiter!

Our next stop was St. Augustine.   After three nights on the hook we were looking forward to someone else cooking our dinner!   We met up again with Mel and Gary who had picked up Mel’s sister Moira and her husband Mike in Savannah and the six of us enjoyed exploring St. Augustine.   It is the oldest city in America and has a much more Spanish flavor than the historic towns we are used to up North.   We really enjoyed it and hope to spend more time there visiting museums etc. on our way back next year.  The buildings on the right are all the Hilton Hotel – how much better to preserve the waterfront as it was than build a big block building.

What was the Flagler Hotel has become Flagler College – a fine arts institution that is spectacularly beautiful.  Hopefully those students appreciate their surroundings!

A very old fort, the lions that give the Bridge of Lions its name, and two very tame herons that we met on the dock.

Continuing south we had a beautiful calm evening at Rockhouse Creek, just below Daytona Beach.   A soft gentle sunrise as the fishing boats headed out to sea; and the shoreline definitely Florida, with the textures and colors of the vegetation showing the change.

And then we were in Manatee country!   I heard someone on the dock tonight saying that in all the years that they had been doing the trip through the waterway they had never actually seen a manatee – this year they were in abundance.   There was one particular cut joining two rivers where fisherman lined the sides – in boats and on land – must have been a good feeding spot for them.   Unfortunately it is hard to get a photograph – for the most part all you see is an exposed hump which rises and falls – I managed to get one shot that showed some body parts – but your guess is as good as mine as to which end is which and even how many of them there were!

We passed Cape Canaveral on the way down (I am so thrilled with my camera – I would never have been able to get such a shot with our old one).


Melanie and Gary have a 63′ mast.   All the fixed bridges on the waterway have at least a 65′ opening, but with tides and all the additional water from the hurricane, they always have to take a very deep breath when passing underneath.   Their VHF antenna regularly pings the cross beams as they pass; my boat-envy of their spacious Beneteau 49 diminishes at these times (but not for long!)  We passed under a most beautiful bridge that had mosaics of dolphins and manatees and lovely terracotta shells – wish I could remember the name of the town.   Spent the night at Cocoa and woke to a glorious sunrise before setting off for Vero Beach- from where this is being written.

We will set off for West Palm Beach in the morning, and it seems there is a weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream over to the Bahamas on Tuesday.   If we can get all of our stuff done, and if the forecast holds, that’s what we’ll do.   Once in the Bahamas we will try and get a local sim card for our old phone, but I’m not sure how connected we will be to the internet.   So if you don’t hear from me for a while, be patient – I will post as soon as I can.

I get notifications that people are following the blog – thank you, it makes it worthwhile doing if I know you are interested.   I use their method of inserting photos – I hope that you can click to make some of them bigger so you can see the detail.  We’re having a good time so far; but also looking forward to getting over to the turquoise water and white sand.