April 8, 2014
Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos is a beautiful resort town. Clean and polished, the main means of transport is via golf cart. The island is small so there are very few cars. There are plenty of restaurants and shops and it is clearly geared for tourists. We did most of our exploration by foot and enjoyed our stay. While out exploring in the tender we noticed a nice boat anchored in a small cove. We went closer for a look and soon met Joe and Susan who invited us aboard where we met Baci, their small cruising dog who was a delight. Their boat is a Grand Banks 49 and we got a tour, which we reciprocated aboard Shear Madness the following day.
Darin and Dick were soon to leave us as they had flights departing from Nassau. We had booked them on flights from Treasure Cay to Nassau and on March 22 departed to head to Treasure Cay. Upon arrival, the swell made for uncomfortable anchoring and we could not get into the local marina, as the depth at high tide is only 6 feet. So we went to plan B – head to Great Guana Cay to the east. Though a short trip of less than ten miles, this required exiting through Whale Cay Channel into the ocean, then back in through another pass as the waters inside are too shallow for us to navigate. Great Guana is a larger island than Green Turtle, but it is still a resort – very clean and nice with plenty to see and do. We explored on foot and by bike and tender. I searched for two geocaches and found one – at the famous “bobber tree”, a native tree decorated with numerous floats used to mark fishing locations. We visited the famous Nippers bar on a beautiful beach and had breakfast at a local restaurant where Bradley tried the chicken souse – a native kind of stew. It was yummy as were our bacon and egg sandwiches. We had a chance to enjoy some snorkeling and spearfishing and Bradley nabbed his first fishes via spear – two nice snappers on a small reef. They made a wonderful dinner! In the Bahamas, you are only allowed to use a pole spear or Hawaiian sling, not a spear gun. Unlike a gun which shoots a spear, allowing it to travel a much greater distance, these more rudimentary devices require you to be much close to the intended target. Bradley is very good at stalking fish until he can get a good shot off.
On March 24th, the day of Dick and Darin’s departure we pulled anchor with a plan – head towards Treasure Cay towing the tender. When we got to the point where we would turn the big boat south to head towards Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco, Dick, Darin, and Gary would offload onto the tender and proceed to Treasure Cay where Dick and Darin would make their way to the airport and Gary would then catch up with us en route (the tender can go much faster than our 7-8 knot cruising speed). This plan worked well and soon Dick and Darin were off, Gary was back on board, and the tender was again happily being towed behind us.
As we approached Marsh Harbour, the weather forecast was not promising. Though not dangerous, we knew we were in for some strong winds over the coming days, so we needed a place where we would have good protection. That turned out to be Sugar Loaf Cay just outside Marsh Harbour. On the way in, we spotted three other Nordhavns! First was a pretty yellow boat called South By West who we chatted with on the radio. Next was Tabula Rasa which was very exciting because we have been following each other’s blogs and have emailed back and forth but had never met. Finally was Let’s Dance, who was anchored just across the bay from us. Once we were safely anchored, we jumped in the tender to go meet Scott and Paula on Tabula Rasa. We had a great visit and it felt like we were getting together with old friends rather than just meeting. Philippe from South by West stopped by in his tender and we made plans to meet him later. More good friends were soon to come – George and Marci with their cruising Golden-doodle Gulliver stopped in briefly to pick up guests so we caught up with them to visit and to finalize some plans for summer cruising in Canada and possibly Greenland. George also showed off his latest toy – a remote controlled helicopter drone which carries a GoPro camera and takes amazing aerial video!
The winds continued to blow but I got out for a little paddle boarding. There was a stretch where I had to fight some strong winds and currents, but once inside a small lagoon, it was quite protected and just like being in a big swimming pool – except for the amazing fish and turtles I saw! The day after we meet Philippe we heard him put out a call to the marina for some help. As the winds clocked from west to north, his anchorage became uncomfortable, so they had decided to pull the anchor and move into marina. However in the process of pulling the anchor in, the boat became grounded on a large flat area. Gary and Bradley decided to take our tender through a narrow pass to see if we could help. Once we arrived, Bradley dove in the water to check out the situation. The good news was it was not too bad and just to his port the water got deeper. Simply by letting him know where the deeper water was, he was able to gently turn his rudder and put his boat in reverse. With each wave that rolled S by W, he slowly freed himself and was safely away. Even thought we really did not do much, to help, Philippe and his wife Claude invited us to South by West for a wonderful dinner a couple of days later. We really enjoyed getting to know them and in the “it’s a small world” spirit, it turns out they had known one of the previous owners of our boat and had been aboard her in the past.
Marsh Harbour has stores and restaurants, but is not a resort town like Green Turtle or Great Guana. We made a run to the local grocery store – large and well stocked – for some fresh fruits and veggies and explored the town and surrounding areas by foot and bike. Before departing we invited Scott and Paula from Tabula Rasa and Bill from Let’s Dance over for drinks on Shear Madness, after which we went out for a wonderful dinner with Scott and Paula. We are honored that Scott included a review of us in his “tiki bar” reviews (which sounds even more fun to do than my book reviews!)
As the winds settled, we made plans to depart to begin our journey southward. We did a short trip to Lynyrd Cay where we anchored to position ourselves for an early morning trip out of Little Harbour Cut. After anchoring we went ashore at Little Harbour, home of Pete’s Pub and more importantly, coconut palms! We obtained several coconuts during our walk, which meant a new project for the boys! If you’ve never had a coconut fresh off a tree, it’s not all that easy to get into! A small arsenal of machete, hammer, screwdriver, a few words that can’t be repeated, and a little time resulted in some wonderful fresh coconut meat!
On March 31 we exited through Little Harbour Cut and headed towards the top of Eleuthera Island. Soon the fishing lines were out as we were heading for deep water and prime fishing territory. It took some time but we eventually hooked a fish – a large one as it turned out. Even slowing the boat to idle speed did not allow us to get the fish in, so we had to turn around and head back towards the fish, making gradual progress until the fish got slowly but surely closer to the boat. Soon we were ready to bring it on board – this was without a doubt the largest fish we have caught! But at the last minute a sickening Snap! And the line went slack as the fish swam away. Darn – we had just snapped 80-pound test line! Probably our own lack of expertise as we were trying to manhandle the fish on board. Oh well, it’s the one that got away!
After a beautiful passage we anchored just off Royal Island near Spanish Wells at the top of Eleuthera. Gary and I went ashore to Royal Island, I on my paddleboard and Gary on his surfboard. Once ashore we went for a nice walk through what seemed to be a vacant resort and a housing development that some time ago had been divided into lots but never built. There were dirt roads cut which made for easy hiking and some wonderful views. Bradley and I boarded the tender the next day to head into Spanish Wells, a nice town with several commercial fishing boats, a marina that is being rebuilt following hurricane damage many years ago, and some nice shops, marine stores, and restaurants. We noticed some heavy equipment clearing lots on Royal Island and I was up for another walk before departing, so I paddled ashore again on the morning of April 2, my birthday. I had been walking for a little while when a truck approached. The driver said he was responsible for maintenance on the island and that it was private and they didn’t really want people walking around the construction area. At first he said I could continue walking where I was going and began to drive away. Then he seemed to think better of that and returned, politely offering me a ride. I tried to convince him to just let me walk, but he gently offered again so I climbed in. He proceeded to give me a tour of the island, saying that new owners were trying to get the development going again. He took me to the resort area, which had some gorgeous buildings, a beautifully maintained pool, restaurant, and gym facility. Apparently the resort was operating until recently but is now closed until the next phase of development is done. It’s a beautiful place and hopefully will succeed this time. It was a very nice way to be escorted off the island! When I returned to the boat, I got to test my birthday present – a new boarding ladder for the tender! Bradley and Gary had spent the morning making if from parts Bradley had purchased a while ago. After some testing and adjustment, it works just fine! I will now be able to get back into the tender a lot more gracefully after swimming or snorkeling! After a wonderful day, Bradley and Gary prepared a fabulous dinner of lamb chops and baked potatoes accompanied by a magnificent sunset.
Our next destination was Ship Channel Cay at the north end of the Exumas. We had a perfect day for this 50-mile, seven hour trip. Once in deep water we hooked another fish. Gary brought it in so easily after the last one that I thought it must have got away. But indeed there was a very nice Spanish mackerel! The good weather continued as we anchored and soon were experiencing the most delightful snorkeling and spearfishing yet! We feasted on a fabulous 7-pound Nassau Grouper (well some of it is in the freezer) and Bradley also nabbed a fish we are having trouble positively identifying. So here is your challenge – please help us identify this fish (see photo). Everyone who correctly identifies it will be entered into a drawing for a Shear Madness shirt! Click here to submit your entry.
Speaking of fish identification, in our last post we included a photo of the fish we caught on our last trip. That has been identified as a Little Tunny or False Alabacore, which has sparked some discussion about whether it is a good fish to eat. Many people apparently scorn this fish, but we enjoy it. Our fish guide has this to say about it (see photo).
After two days of beautiful reefs, crystal clear water, and lots and lots of fish, we departed to head towards Cat Island. Once back into the deep waters of Exuma sound, we once again hooked a fish. This time it was an 8-pound mahi-mahi. Too bad we had already planned a chicken dinner! But it was good the next night. As the weather remained perfect, we decided to stop for the night at the south end of Eleuthera Island. We anchored by mid-afternoon, launched the tender and set out for some more reef exploration. We found several beautiful reefs, and a few big fish, but they were wary and Bradley couldn’t get close enough for a shot at any of them. Nevertheless it was a great day in the beautiful waters! From there, it was on to Cat Island, an uneventful trip even though the wind and waves picked up a bit. Soon we were safely anchored at Bennett’s Harbour, ready for our next adventures.
Click for new Book Reviews and a new Shenandoah flag photo (the flag was LOB – lost on board for a bit, but has re-appeared so is back to being photographed). Click any photo to enlarge (photos are lower quality this time due to limited bandwidth connection).