Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christmas in the Abacos

Our first anchorage with Baboo - Great Guana Cay

As I write this I'm sitting in the cockpit motoring north along the Gulf coast of Florida.  It's a calm day (currently) with a very light 5-10 knot breeze pretty much straight on our nose. 

The weather was great when I started on this entry but the wind kicked up to 18 knots and the seas in the Gulf of Mexico are quick to overreact at the slightest provocation, so it got lumpy quick and I had to head down below to finish up.

Our goal is to be in Tampa late tonight (Tue Jan 6th) or early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon and evening, it's going to be nasty out here with 40-45 knot winds and lows in the mid 30s-20s degrees F.  But more on the trip home later.  First, let's catch-up on our Christmas in the Bahamas.

As mentioned previously we had a bit of a comedy of errors actually getting out of Texas and to Abaco. Once we arrived, a day late (Christmas day), we really enjoyed ourselves.

Kara and I ended up, randomly being on the same flight into Marsh Harbour, as our delivery skipper (Blaine Parks).  Blaine was flying down to enjoy the holidays in Marsh, actually staying with the folks who own the marina where we kept Baboo (current name) since sailing her down with Blaine in October, less than a week after we bought her.  So we all bummed a ride from another Marina resident, and returned to Marsh Harbour Marina and the Jib Room (restaurant) for the tail end of their Christmas day potluck dinner.  Kara, and I headed down to drop our bags and check out the boat, which was in great shape and just as we left her.  We also emptied our little cooler back pack of the frozen meats and cheese that was my carry-on.  Everything was closed on the island and we knew the stores would be closed on Christmas day and the day after...and we like to eat. So we kicked on the fridge and stocked it, just about the time Capt. Blaine showed up with a big platter of Christmas potluck dinner, so we stuck that in the fridge also for dinner and went up to the Jib room to meet our neighbors and enjoy a few home made Margaritas.  The ritas where courtesy of Pete and Sharon from EMERALD LADY, a beautiful tug style trawler.  These guys are the real deal, the kind of cruisers you read about and hope to meet one day.  Super friendly and helpful folks who owned a nice 40 ft sailboat (Caliber I believe) for about 15 years and then decided they wanted a little more room and comfort so moved up to EMERALD lady.  We also met a great group from Norway who was in the Abacos for 3-4 months babysitting an amazing 80ft motor yacht (Heartbeat) for some family friends.  It's a rough life, but hey I guess someone has to do it and if it can't be us, it might as well be them.

Christmas in Marsh Harbour Marina - A neighboring boat

Kara and I where able to sneak away from the party for a while and take advantage of the Marina's WiFi to try a little Facetime video chat with Kara's family.  We have a Christmas tradition with them that includes a White Elephant gift exchange that's usually a great time.  One of the problems with us being gone for the holidays this year was that we'd miss out on all our family Christmas traditions which is typically Christmas eve with my family and Christmas days with Kara's.  We celebrated Christmas the weekend before we left but we really wanted to participate in the white elephant thing again this year, so we bought our gifts and wrapped them, and then left them with Kara's mom for Christmas day.  Unfortunately the marina WiFi wasn't super fast and there where quite a few folks trying to facetime and skype with their family's, so video was out of the question.  We ended up going with text messaging, which worked surprisingly well, thank to Kara's brother Ryan for the running play buy play and relaying our messages for which items to steal.  Thanks again Ryan, that little bit of home made a big difference to us both.  After the gift exchange we stayed up late sitting around the marina and drinking cold beers on a nice warm evening with our new friends from Heartbeat.  We then retired to the boat for our first evening aboard in 3 months.  I'm still impressed buy how comfortable that forward Pullman berth is.

The day after Christmas (boxing day in Abaco), we spent most of the day getting the boat ready for some cruising.  Took a break late that afternoon and dinghied across the harbour for dinner and drinks at Snappa's.  Snappa's is a little bar and grill right on the water and is open year round.  A cool place to relax and enjoy some local music, and a few rum's not bad either ;)

Boxing day Sunset - Marsh Harbour

Saturday morning we put the finishing touches on the boat and then enjoyed the local scene with steak night at the Jib room.  The food was excellent and the crowd was festive, with a 'local' bluegrass band coming to liven things up after dinner.  Who knew we'd head all the way to Abaco and get to enjoy some down home banjo music for the gotta love it.

Steak night - time for some tunes!

Early, in the evening we met up with our friends and they gave us a limited tour of Heartbeat, which was truly beautiful inside.  I mean the crew quarters/kitchen area where very impressive with inlaid wood and granite counter tops.  Literally all the comforts of a VERY nice home. It's amazing what a mere $4.5 Million will get you.  So after steak night, and a few Bilge Burners from the Jib room, we invited them to join us aboard Baboo for some cold beers and a few rum and crystal lights.  Probably not what they where used to but they seemed to enjoy themselves and we ended up staying up way to late and being slightly over served that evening.  Which made it tough to get up and moving the next morning, at least for me.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, our departure was delayed from 11 AM to closer to 1 on Sunday but we had a nice 90 minute trip over the Great Guana Cay (pronounced key) for a late Sunday Brunch at Nippers.

Sunday brunch at Nippers

Kara - Taunting the Poisonwood tree

We then headed down to Grabbers, on the beach right near our anchorage to enjoy the sunset, and since I was beginning to feel human again a few rum and diets.  If you ever find yourself in Abaco, check this place out for a beautiful anchorage and the sunset from their beach is not to be missed.  The great thing for us was that since capt Blaine was down for the holidays and was boat-less, and we had a spare bunk he joined us and played local tour guide.  Since brunch at Nippers is pretty much the thing to do on Sunday's, we where also able to catch-up with the folks from Emerald Lady and Heartbeat that night. Nippers was fine, but Grabbers was a great place to relax, chat and just enjoy life for a while, along with a great sunset.

Sunset at Grabbers on Great Guana Cay

The next morning we got up early, hand ground some coffee and enjoyed sunrise from the cockpit. Waved good bye to Pete and Sharon from Emerald Lady and headed over for a little snorkeling at Fowl Cay. 

Fresh ground coffee in the cockpit, with a beautiful wooden schooner in the background.

Unfortunately, when we got there the wind had picked up and the Sea of Abaco was actually fairly choppy, so we decided not to snorkel.  The plus side to the wind was of course that we where able to enjoy a really nice sail down to Treasure Cay.  We really enjoyed the sail, once we got comfortable with the idea of "deep water" meaning 10-12 ft.  We only draw 4'8", so this is not a problem, just a bit of a challenge to get used to being able to see grass and coral clearly on the bottom as you sail over it.  But hey, there are worse things in life and it was a great day. 

Sailing in the sea of Abaco - The water here is about 10ft deep

Sailing to Treasure Cay - jib and main only (staysail furled)

 We topped it off with a few drinks on a beautiful Sugar Sand beach, followed by dinner over at the Tipsy Seagull.  Where we ran into a captain friend of Blaine's, who was working a charter aboard a sweet Neel trimaran.  He was super friendly and even better his guests had excellent taste in music.  Always nice to enjoy a few drinks at sunset in tropical location with Poison, Guns and Roses, and Motley Crue songs in the back ground...but maybe that's just me.

The next morning we got up just before dawn to beat the tide out of the inlet and headed for Hope Town.  There was no wind at all for most of the trip so we just motored down.  Even with the motor running, it was an incredibly peacful trip.

Calm morning on the sea of Abaco, as we motor towards Hopetown.

Speaking of shallow water, when we got down around Hope Town it was about 2 hours after low tide.  The charts show water depths as around 4 feet for much of the approach and we where seeing about 5.5-6 on the way in.  Even though Blaine had done this a million times before.  Kara and I where a bit nervous, so turned around to anchor for an hour and wait on the tide.  We decided to fire up the grill and cook the good old Texas burgers we had brought with us. So we anchored in 10 ft of gin clear water, dug out the grill parts and just as I was mounting the grill, it rolled over and I watched the cooking grate and thermal briquettes (it a magma gas grill) plop into the water.  Oh well, as I mentioned the water was nice and clear, warm'sh, and I could clearly see everything so grabbed a pair of goggles, a swim suit and jumped in to retrieve them.  That done, Kara rinsed everything while I took a few minutes to inspect the hull, which was surprisingly clean after her 3 months relaxing in Marsh Harbour.  Now based on my...vast years of boating knowledge...I'm not sure what I was expecting or why, but suffice it to say Baboo was much cleaner than I had pictured in my mind.  So, I climbed out of the water, rinsed of with a fresh water shower on the transom and dried off to grill some burgers.  Once we had finished eating, the tide was in enough that we could 'comfortably' navigate the approach and channel to Hope Town.  This would be Kara and I's first experience grabbing a mooring ball on our own, but we reviewed the hand signals we learned in the BVI's and had been using for anchoring and where able to grab the ball on the first attempt very easily.  If anyone was watching, they probably thought we had years of experience and where super salty sailors....suckers! 

Hope town proved to be a great place and we spent the afternoon exploring the views form the lighthouse, enjoyed some Ice Cream at the sugar shack, a few drinks a very pretty little beach with a super friendly bartender, and dinner. 

View from Hopetown lighthouse.  Baboo is hidden by my giant head

Kara and the results of a cup of "C is for Cookie" ice cream at the Sugarshack in Hopetown.

Cold beers on the beach

That afternoon Kara and I decided we where ready for low key day and would just stay another day and enjoy New Years Eve in Hope town vs heading to Green Turtle Cay which had been our plan previously.

Sunset in Hopetown

Baboo anchored in Hopetown

I got up early the next morning to take drop Blaine off at the ferry dock so he could enjoy New Years back with his friends at the Jib Room and went back to the boat for coffee and breakfast with just Kara and I in the cockpit.  Then we dingied out of the harbor and around the corner to Tahiti Beach, where we snorkeled and just relaxed a bit in the sun.  As you may remember, our dingy is a bit of a junker and with that little Tohatsu 6hp, it took us about 30-40 minutes to get there.  They great news is, that after falling off it's motor mount on the way down from Maryland (previous post) it still runs great.  We opened it up before leaving in October and it looked like it had stayed dry despite swinging around on the lock cable and trying to take out our davits.  So we thought it would be fine, and so far (knock on wood) it's been very reliable...but I digress.  Since we where getting hungry, we dingied back to the boat, cooked some lunch and then headed into town to check out the youth Junkanoo (essentially, Bahamian style carnival), hit the beach for a bit and then head over to the Hope town Inn and Marina for our New Years extravaganza.

Kara, chauffeuring me back to Baboo from Tahiti beach

We got to the place right around 6:30 ordered a couple drinks and they sat us at our table.  It was super windy 25 knots or so, which made keeping things on the table outside a bit challenging but it was a really nice place.  I little bit on the fancy side for our taste but it was New Years and we wanted to really enjoy it.  Unfortunately, the place had some of the best Internet access of our entire trip, and while we where waiting Kara check her email and noticed email from her mom letting us know that the cat sitter who was taking care of our cats had called and one of them, Kara's cat of almost 15 years, Abby had died while we where gone.  This wasn't totally unexpected, but as you can imagine really put a damper on the evening, so we ended up pushing our food around on our plates and heading back to the boat for a very early New Years.  We did wake up when they started the fireworks at mid-night and went up to watch them from the cockpit which was nice.  Anyone, who's ever lost a pet knows what a huge whole it leaves, we'll miss you Abby.  Hope you're in a better place and comfy and happy.

We'll miss you Abby

Abby and our other cat Boxy - pretending to ignore each other while snuggling for warmth

The next AM we got up early to beat the tide, and when we got out it was really blowing 25+ and neither of us was really in a mood to go sit in an anchorage and be alone so we headed back to the marina to get a jump on prepping the boat fro the return trip home and be around folks to take our minds off Abby.  On the way to the marina we realized it was going to be some pretty challenging conditions to back the boat into our slip particularly given the fact that we had docked the boat exactly zero times on our own.  We did a slow cruise by the marina to make sure the coast was clear and plan our approach and then went and anchored while we prepped our lines, bumpers and courage.  Fortunately, we where able to speak with Blaine who came down to the dock, I dingied over and we chatted about the approach.  He agreed it was very challenging conditions having to swing the boat head to head in 25 knots, in a narrow space and then back her in and offered to do it for us and I was SO close to just letting him do it.  But dammit, she's our boat it's not going to get any easier unless we start doing it so we planned the approach and then I headed out to the boat, tied the dingy up nice and tight on the stern, we rehearsed the plan verbally and then headed in.  We made a couple of practice runs outside the marine to rehears that head to wind thing (thank you bow thruster) and then lined up for the final approach.  As we headed in with a full audience (including the owners of another IP40) who showed up while we where away, I swung the boat head to wind as we'd rehearsed and while it wasn't a perfect backing procedure we got in fine with no yelling or damage to anyone or anything, so I'll consider that a win.  Thanks again cap't Blaine for the willingness to talk us through it and be there to fine tune our maneuvering from the dock.

Baboo - ready for the trip home

That night (New Years day), Kara and I just relaxed and took the dinghy to dinner for a few drinks.  The next day we spent most of the day doing laundry and getting the boat ready for the return trip home.  Made a provisioning run (by dingy) and a mile walk to the store and then met a big group of folks from the marina for dinner and lots of good conversation.  It was cool to talk with folks who've been out cruising and about there reasons for going and hearing all their little tips.  We friended several of them on Facebook, so we could keep in touch and then said our goodbye's and headed back to the boat to get a little sleep before our early morning departure.

I'll give you all the details on that later but right now I need to head back up to the cockpit.  As I've been typing this I've actually had to put on pants (gasp) for the first time on this trip, it's getting chilly out there.  I also had to come down below to get out of the wind since the seas have been building and I was getting worried about being able to keep the laptop dry.

So until next time...

No comments:

Post a Comment