August and we are back on board

After a wonderful month at the lake we packed up a rental car and drove to Washburns Marina in Solomons, MD. A couple of days of provisioning and we were on our way taking the slow path to Maine. Our goal was to get to Southwest Harbor Maine around September 20 and as I write this we are sitting in Gloucester Harbor on September 7 so we are making progress.

The new master stateroom cabinets installed at Washburns match the existing perfectly and all of the other contracted maintenance work was completed. Only the Garmin chart plotter warranty replacement was not ready as Garmin did not ship it in time. The unit installed last year works but quits if you flush the head, use the thrusters or engage the anchor windlass. Quirky to say the least. Garmin has agreed to allow Hinckley to replace it this fall so we have learned to reboot the system after each flush.

Our first two days traveling were perfect. Light breeze and brilliant sky. Night one was spent on the Sassafras River and we had the privilege to witness the “supermoon” while at anchor.

Supermoon on the Sassafra

Supermoon on the Sassafra

From the Sassafras it is an 11 hour run to Cape May NJ. The trip takes us through the C&D canal and down the Delware River to the Cape May Canal. We were last on the C&D in 1988 when we purchased our classic, 1966, Morgan 34 sailboat and sailed her back to Long Island Sound. That trip also showed us how dangerous alcohol stoves can be as we managed to catch the curtains on fire in pea soup fog. This trip was less eventful. The C&D is an interesting waterway. Originally conceived in the 1700’s actual construction took years with lack of funds a big impediment. Finally in 1829 it opened for business. Since then numerous improvements have been made to accommodate larger ships and the current version is 14 miles long, 450′ wide and 40′ deep.

C&D Canal

C&D Canal

The lower Delaware river does nothing for us and we powered down it as quickly as possible. On the NJ side is the Salem Nuclear Power plant giving us another good reason to move quickly.

Salem Nuclear from the pilot house

Salem Nuclear from the pilot house

Cape May is a fun town and since we had not been there in decades we were looking forward to our stay. We had originally planned to anchor in the harbor and we did the first night. However upon waking in the morning we found a sailboat practically tied to our stern and decided to grab a slip at South Jersey Marina. It was perfect. Tara decided to drive down from Philadelphia to join us and we spent a fun two days visiting the beach and walking the streets looking at the old Victorians.

Cath and Tara in Cape May

Cath and Tara in Cape May

Cape May

Cape May

Cape May still has a sizeable commercial fishing fleet and the boats looked to be in good shape. There was a superb retail fish market a short walk from the marina which we visited both for dinner and fresh fish.

Cape May fishing fleet

Cape May fishing fleet

We decided to make a big push from Cape May and travel the entire length of New Jerseys Atlantic coast and anchor somewhere behind Sandy Hook. We left Cape May shortly before 10AM and headed north. Passing Atlantic City the first building we noticed was Revel Casino. It was the newest and already it has closed.

Atlantic City

Atlantic City

We rounded Sandy Hook after midnight and found our preferred anchorage inhabited by dredges. The only other choice at that hour was tucking in behind the Atlantic Highlands jetty. We found a spot and dropped the hook at 1:30 AM with the NY skyline to the north.

The next morning dawned clear and cool. It was not a typical August day in NJ. We had reservations for Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City. We know it well having kept a power boat there for two years and of course because I worked in Jersey City. The view of lower Manhattan is always thrilling no matter how often you see it. By water its a powerful sight to behold.

Verrazano Bridge

Verrazano Bridge

Approaching New York

Approaching New York

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Our two days at Liberty Landing were busy. Friday we walked the state park that abuts the marina. It is a great public asset and draws visitors from all over. You can access the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the Park or just enjoy the over 1200 acres of landscaped landfill that was once the terminus of the Central Railroad of NJ and the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

If you were alive on 9/11 and have any connection to New York you cannot help but notice the void in the Manhattan skyline. I watched that day unfold from my old office in Jersey City. I will never forget it and we made plans to visit the recently opened 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We took the ferry directly from Liberty Landing to lower Manhattan and walked to the museum. We had 3:30 entrance reservations which we had purchased online. Suffice to say it is a powerful museum and should be visited by all. We spent hours viewing the exhibits and watching the films.

That night we got together with an old business friend and his wife at a nice Italian restaurant in the Village. The following night we had dinner with another old business friend and his wife after cocktails on board Big Smile. It was a fun whirlwind stop.

Leaving Liberty Landing we proceeded around the tip of Manhattan and up the East River. Many iconic photos have been taken from spots along the river and I need to post a couple of my own. The day was perfect and we hit the current at the right time.

Colgate Clock in Jersey City

Colgate Clock in Jersey City

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Liberty Tower and Woolworth building

Freedom Tower and Woolworth building

United Nations and Chrysler Building

United Nations and Chrysler Building

The cruise out Long Island sound was uneventful. Our goal for the day was Northport on the north shore of Long Island. I had been in contact with a friend I work with at Stratton Mountain and we both wanted to show each other our boats. We managed to raft up the next day and give each other a tour of our respective boats. Jorge’s boat is a brand new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey which contrasts completely with our trawler. It was good to see Jorge and we wished him fair winds.

Jorge's Jeanneau Sun Odyssey

Jorge’s Jeanneau Sun Odyssey

Northport Harbor

Northport Harbor

From Northport we continued on to Port Jefferson a harbor we had not seen in decades. We then bounced across the sound to Connecticut and anchored in a picturesque little community called Sachem Head. Many beautiful homes dot the shoreline including one with a minature version of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge on LI Sound

Stonehenge on LI Sound

Continuing our trip eastbound we pulled into a small harbor on Fishers Island. Although only a couple of miles off the Connecticut coast Fishers Island is actually part of Suffolk County NY. It is also very exclusive with a year round population of about 200. Kayaking was superb and the waters were exceptionally clean.

Anchored off Fishers Island

Anchored off Fishers Island

Newport RI was our next stop and we were looking forward to going ashore as again it had been many years since we were last there. On approach we came upon two great sights. First was the USS Saratoga. This Forrestal class supercarrier was commissioned in 1956, the year we were both born. She was decommissioned in 1994 and after many attempts to preserve as a museum it was sold for scrap to a Texas company. We happened to have seen her as she was being towed out of Newport where she had been stored after decommissioning.

USS Saratoga

USS Saratoga

Entering Narragansett Bay we came upon the Newport Bucket Regatta. These are not your typical sailboats but very large yachts with professional crews. The photo below is of “Meteor”, a 52 meter monster.

Meteor

Meteor

Nantucket Lightship

Nantucket Lightship

The old Nantucket Lightship has been converted into a luxury yacht and is available for charter. Newport is a fun town and a boating paradise.

Now it was time to head further up the Narragansett to visit Cath’s brother Barry and his wife Rebecca. Their beautiful home on Touisset Point has a gorgeous south facing view down the bay and fortunately for us it also is a relatively short dinghy ride from a well protected anchorage on the Kickemuit River.

Driving up Narragansett Bay

Driving up Narragansett Bay

After two great days with Barry and Rebecca we headed back south to Jamestown RI where we were getting together for dinner with some friends from NJ. Jamestown is a more laid back town directly across from Newport. We picked up a mooring at Conanicut Marina in the center of Jamestown and had a fun two days exploring the island by foot. Also a great dinner with our friends Gordon and Janet.

Cath and Gordon on Big Smile

Cath and Gordon on Big Smile

Leaving Narragansett Bay we headed east to spend a few days on Marthas Vineyard with my cousin Nance and her family. It was a fun 7 hour run which took us up Vineyard Sound and past Cuttyhunk Island and the other islands of the Elizabeth Island chain. Interestingly all but two of the islands are owned by the Forbes family. Cuttyhunk and Penikese are the exceptions.

Our Vineyard destination was Oak Bluffs harbor as we had slip reservations at the Oak Bluffs Marina. We got a great slip assignment closer to the jetty and away from the town noise. Not long after securing the lines and plugging in the electric Nance and her daughter Kelly were on board. The next three days and nights we caroused with my cousin, her husband Rob and two grown children Kelly and Dave and their respective boy/girlfriend. It was a blast. They have been vacationing on the Vineyard for many years and know it inside and out. We had only been there once before. I will let the photos below show how much fun we had. Cath and I thank Nance and family for being such gracious hosts.

On the deck overlooking Vineyard Sound

On the deck overlooking Vineyard Sound

Nance and I

Nance and I

Yup even a beach

Yup even a beach

Kelly and pup on board

Kelly and pup on board

Dave and Sarah cooked and awesome dinner

Dave and Sarah cooked an awesome dinner

Celebrating Dave's birthday sans candles

Celebrating Dave’s birthday sans candles

Eventually we had to leave and head to Nantucket. It’s an easy 4 hour motor eastward and upon arrival we contacted Nantucket Moorings for our mooring assignment. They run a first class mooring operation with clean, sturdy gear. We had reserved five nights and were glad we did. We fell in love with the island and its architecture. We learned there is an architectural code as well as a dress code so of course I purchased my Nantucket red hat. We rented a “barely” two up scooter for a day and also bought a three day public bus pass. Both modes of transport worked well and we got to see most of the island. There is certainly no shortage of money here but what impressed us was the access to the beaches. They were all different but all accessible.

He blew by us on the way to Nantucket

He blew by us on the way to Nantucket

Brotherhood of Thieves. A good lunch spot

Brotherhood of Thieves. A good lunch spot

Our scooter

Our scooter

One of the many homes Cath chose for us

One of the many homes Cath chose for us

Nantucket Harbor

Nantucket Harbor

Nantucket at night

Nantucket at night

One of the many beaches

One of the many beaches

Classic

Classic

Nantucket ended the month of August for us and we pulled out Wednesday after Labor Day. The weather for the month was beyond expectations. It was cooler, no doubt, but with little to no humidity. Also barely a drop of rain. We are on our way to Maine.

 

Lake George and Vermont

The month of July is ending and soon we will be back on Big Smile. Our anticipated departure from Solomons MD for parts north is delayed about a week due to the delay in shipping of the cabinets from China to the east coast. Washburn’s Boatyard did email some pics today of the newly arrived cabinets and they look beautiful. Can’t wait to see them installed.

The lake has been superb with gorgeous, dry weather and temps averaging in the 80’s. We have had a number of guests including an aunt and uncle, a cousin who had not been here in 22 years and both our kids. We also had the pleasure of helping launch our neighbors sailboat and our friends sailboat all on the same, glorious day. The six of us had not been together since last summer.

After a full day of launching and sailing

After a full day of rigging, launching and sailing

Our sunfish got a lot of use in July. It may be small but it’s big on fun.

Uncle Rick

Uncle Rick

Cousin Doug

Cousin Doug

We also had lots of fun fishing. It is not the same as saltwater fishing from Big Smile but Tara’s boyfriend did catch a 27″ lake trout which we cooked up. The taste of lake trout paled in comparison to the Black Fin Tuna and Cero we caught in the Bahamas. Many smaller, uneditable versions jumped on the hooks but even an unsuccessful day on the lake is better than “a day at work”.

Mitch with his 27" lake trout

Mitch with his 27″ lake trout

Baked lake trout

Baked lake trout

Tara with a much smaller catch

Tara with a much smaller catch

Doug was happy with his catch

Doug was happy with his catch

Tara's birthday

Tara’s birthday

Our friend John came over for a last minute sail to end the month of July. A very unusual sail we had as the wind was from the west which carried us all the way to Anthony’s Nose, a prominent feature on Lake George.

Last sail for July

Last sail for July

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Back to Vermont for several days then down to Washburn’s to pick up Big Smile. We are hoping this years hurricane season remains as serene and problem free as last years.

 

Back to the states

Friday morning we dropped Andrew and Nicole at the Great Guana Ferry dock. Albury’s Ferry runs regularly scheduled service to Marsh Harbor. From there a quick taxi to the airport and back home in a few hours. Our trip would take much longer. The plan was to head thru the “Whale” to Green Turtle Cay where we would spend a night at the Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina. Weather was perfect and no Atlantic swells kept us from transiting the whale. Three hours after leaving Great Guana we were at the Bluff House dock. As it was Memorial Weekend a Big Bill fishing tournament was taking place. Between Bluff House and Green Turtle Club we counted over 25 fishing boats that night. Bluff House has a small but nice beach with a beach side bar. We spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting in lounge chairs.

Bluff House beach

Bluff House beach

Fishing Boats at Green Turtle club

Fishing Boats at Green Turtle Club

After breakfast we headed out for the 8 hour run over to Great Sale. The weather was good and so was the fishing. We alternated between catching Cero which we kept and Barracuda which we cursed.

A very nice Cero

A very nice Cero

Battling a "Cuda"

Battling a “Cuda”

Last Bahama sunset

Last Bahama sunset

This last leg was to be our longest yet. Great Sale Cay to Charleston SC was a 385 mile run. The multi day forecast called for light winds and small, short period seas. The first 65 miles are on the Little Bahama Bank where water depths are consistently 12-20 feet. With auto pilot steering we spent the day looking for sharks and other sea creatures in the crystal clear water. It is easy to know when you have left the bank. In the span of two miles you go from depths of 30 feet to well over 1,000 feet deep. Color changes are quick and fishing, at least for us came to a quick stop. We caught only one immediately after leaving the bank but it turned out to be the largest Cero we caught the entire trip.

It is approximately 320 miles from the exit point of Little Bahama Bank to the Charleston SC Harbor entrance. It is also a straight line with a compass heading of almost due north. After leaving the bank, wind and seas remained flat for hours. Around 4:30 PM our radar began to pick up thunderstorms building to the west. We could see the sky darken and while pelting rain is annoying it is lightning that always concerns us. It never rained but what we saw at about 5:15 two miles off our bow was something we had never witnessed. Dropping out of a cloud was a large waterspout. NOAA identifies two types of waterspouts, tornadic and fair weather. We were ignorant of the distinction at the time and all we thought about was the strength of a tornado. Since our radar showed the line of storms moving to the northeast we altered course to the west and proceeded to put away anything loose and check all our tie downs. By time we were done the waterspout had disappeared. Getting back on our heading we got a camera and waited. At 5:30 another one appeared two miles or so off our bow and heading slowly towards us. This one we were able to get a picture of as we altered course to port. The waterspout only lasted a few minutes but it was intimidating.

Waterspout heading towards us

Waterspout heading towards us

The line of thunderstorms continued for a couple of hours but we did not see another waterspout. Unfortunately the storms wreaked havoc with the seas and the rest of our trip would be much less pleasant. Seas built out of the northeast and as we approached the Gulf Stream the collision of the two elements kept our stabilizers working overtime.

This was a 51 hour trip requiring two overnites. It is very difficult to adjust your biological clock to the watch system you have set up. One night is easy. By the second night my midnight to dawn shift was tough. It was made tougher by the fact that we were approaching Charleston SC shipping lanes.

2:13 AM and 43 miles to go

2:13 AM and 43 miles to go

At 2 AM radar and AIS showed several ships within twelve miles all heading in different directions. The Port of Charleston is big, ranking 8th in the US in dollar value of goods handled. The entrance during the day is straight forward although you do pass container ships at very close range. At 9:30 AM we pulled into Charleston Harbor Marina, 51 hours after leaving Great Sale Cay. Our friends on Silver Heels would arrive the next day having left the Bahamas 70 miles east of our jumping off point.

Two days later we left Charleston for Wilmington NC. We arrived at the mouth of the Cape Fear River at 2 AM and had to drop the hook right off the channel for a few hours sleep before continuing up the River to Wilmington.

Port of Wilmington

Port of Wilmington

Big Smile docked in Wilmington for about two weeks while we headed north by car. On June 17th I flew down to pick her up. I left Wilmington the next day and six days later we were docked at Washburn’s Boat Yard in Solomons, Maryland. It was my first long distance single-handed cruise and all went smoothly.

Entering a turbulent Beaufort Inlet

Entering a turbulent Beaufort Inlet

Made it: Solomons Maryland

Made it: Solomons Maryland

Big Smile will spend the month of July at Washburn’s getting some upgrades and maintenance work completed. We will rotate between Vermont and Lake George. If all goes according to plan we will leave Solomons by August 1st and head to Martha’s Vineyard and beyond.

 

The Abacos

Since we had been to the Abacos the prior two springs this years trip would be shorter. We were, however, able to get to some different anchorages having come from Spanish Wells to the south not from the US east coast. Lynyard Cay would be our first stop. Our friends Jim and Beth arrived an hour later and dropped their hook. Lynyard Cay is a small island but it provides good protection from the Atlantic swells and is a dinghy ride from the well known Pete’s Pub in Little Harbor. The next day the four of us dinghy’d over to Petes for drinks and dinner. As funky a place as you will find in the Bahamas Petes also serves good fresh seafood. A couple of miles to the west of Lynyard Cay is a bay that goes by the name of “Bight of Old Robinson”. We had read that there was awesome kayaking thru mangrove swamps, blue holes and the bay itself was filled with what one trawler owner described as “turbo turtles”. After towing the kayaks over with our dink we found the mangroves. We also found the turbo turtles. These dark shapes zipped thru the shallow water at breakneck (for a turtle) speed. We could only get within about five yards before they would dart away in a zigzag fashion. There were scores of them. The mangroves were fascinating and one could get lost if not careful. We never did find a blue hole but three divers died several years ago after getting lost in the blue hole.

Bight of Old Robinson

Bight of Old Robinson

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Flying a kite on a deserted beach

Flying a kite on a deserted beach

Our son Andrew and his girlfriend Nicole were joining us in Marsh Harbor. This was the main reason for cruising back thru the Abacos on the way to the states. After Lynyard Cay we had a couple of days to relax prior to their arrival and chose one of our favorite harbors to try out a newly refurbished marina. Hope Town on Elbow Cay has a small, well protected harbor with moorings and a recently updated facility, Hope Town Inn & Marina. We booked two nights but stayed four and would eventually return with Andrew and Nicole. It is a beautiful, first class facility. Probably the nicest we have ever stayed at. Located on the west side of the harbor it even provides a free boat shuttle to the small town on the east side. As we have written about in past years, Hope Town is incredibly picturesque with small pastel painted  homes and cottages. It also boasts a lighthouse which you can climb.

Marina shuttle

Marina shuttle

At the marina pool

At the marina pool

Hope Town Inn & Marina

Hope Town Inn & Marina

Big Smile at the dock with our friends boat Silver Heels in background on mooring

Big Smile at the dock with our friends boat Silver Heels in background on mooring

Day sailing in Hope Town Harbor

Day sailing in Hope Town Harbor

Hope Town Harbor Lighthouse

Hope Town Harbor Lighthouse

View from the top

View from the top

Andrew and Nicole arrived from Washington DC and took a cab to Mangoes Marina in the heart of Marsh Harbor. While Marsh Harbor is an oft used convenient stop for boaters it is not a place we would want to stay for long. You can stock up on food, booze and fuel and leave. It is, though, a very convenient stop to pick up guests.

Mangoes Marina

Mangoes Marina

Arrival at Mangoes

Fueling up in Marsh Harbor

Neither had been to the Abacos so we decided to do some back-tracking including Hope Town and the Bight. Since we all love to eat, especially Andrew and Nicole we arranged for a favorite restaurant to pick us up at the Hope Town dock and transport us to dinner. The restaurant known as “Firefly” is superb. The outdoor dining during a beautiful sunset is hard to match. And the food is spectacular.

Sunset at Firefly

Sunset at Firefly

Our agenda for the 6 days was loose. We made stops at Tahiti Beach, Man O War Cay and of course Great Guana Cay with the famous “Nippers” and magnificent beach. At Nippers we caught up with our friends who coincidently had a couple of their kids visiting for the week.

Andrew at the helm

Andrew at the helm

Tough life

Tough life

Nicole leads Cath in yoga on the bow

Nicole leads Cath in yoga on the bow

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Nippers Beach

Nippers Beach

Man O War Cay

Man O War Cay

Nippers

Nippers

Swimming at Nippers

Swimming at Nippers

 

Rest Period

Rest Period

The six days went real fast but the weather was perfect as was the company.

 

 

Cat Island, Little San Salvador, Eleuthera and Spanish Wells

After a couple of days at beautiful Emerald Bay Marina it was time to move on. Prior to leaving we managed to do lots of laundry in their “free” washer and dryers, attend their Monday evening cocktail party, and make good use of the free internet. The only downside to Emerald Bay is its isolation on the north end of Great Exuma. With the nicest clubhouse we have seen since leaving the states we enjoyed the isolation. We also met a couple who docked right next to us the day before we left. While we only chatted for a short period of time our travels would bring us together again on several occasions and we would eventually become very good friends. More on that later. Cat Island was to be our first stop out of the Exumas. It was an easy 50 mile trip across Exuma Sound to our anchorage at New Bight. During the crossing we trolled out two lines hoping for a good catch. I had yet to clean my first fish and was determined to make it happen. At over one mile deep in spots the sound is known for its excellent fishing. Halfway across it happened. A line went taut and on it was a beautiful Black Fin Tuna. A keeper for sure. Once at anchor I set about cleaning and cutting tuna steaks which we ate that night. Man they were good.

Black Fin Tuna

Black Fin Tuna

DSCN2968 DSCN2980   Cat Island is sparsely populated but does have the distinction of having the highest elevation in the entire Bahamas. Mt Alvernia, at 206 feet above see level, is directly east of New Bight settlement. At the summit of Mt Alvernia is a hermitage built by a Catholic Priest named named John HawesFather Jerome as he was also called lived at the Hermitage for many years and died in 1956 at the age of 79. We walked up the hill from New Bight to tour the hermitage. It is open to all and has been restored over the years. 

Mt Alvernia

Mt Alvernia

DSCN3031 DSCN3025 DSCN3014 DSCN3018-Edit DSCN2994 Thirty miles up the coast of Cat is Orange Creek Settlement. It sounded nice and turned out to have a gorgeous deserted beach. On the ride up the poles went out but this time it was a 34 inch Barracuda that we hooked. They are nasty looking and can be eaten but also are known to carry Ciguatera. This food borne illness is caused by eating certain reef fish whose flesh is contaminated with toxins. Large Barracuda eat many of the smaller reef fish and it accumulates in their flesh. Overboard went the Barracuda. DSCN3046-Edit DSCN3051

Our original intent after leaving Orange Creek was to anchor for the night at Arthurs Town, just an hour south of Orange. Arthurs Town is the boyhood home of Sidney Poitier. The anchorage was not at all protected and after three hours of bouncing we decided to move on to the island of Little San Salvador. A pleasant three hour ride had us anchored it what looked like a Hollywood set. Little San Salvador (also known as Half Moon cay) is owned by Holland America Line. Holland America purchased the entire island in 1996 and it is a cruise ship destination. To their credit Holland America has only developed 50 of the 2400 acre island. What you see from the anchorage does make you laugh. In our two nights of anchorage no cruise ships appeared but a sailboat came in while we were out snorkeling. It turned out to be Jim and Beth on their Passport 49 “Silverheels”. As mentioned we had met them in Emerald Bay a week prior. Being the only two boats in the bay we invited them over for cocktails. It was to be the start of a great friendship.

Little San Salvador cruise ship beach front

Little San Salvador cruise ship beach front

Our next island to visit is one I have been looking forward to for decades. In 1974 we had a family vacation to Eleuthera and stayed at Winding Bay beach cottages near Rock Sound. The beach as I recalled was beautiful and so was the small resort. It was my favorite island vacation as a kid and I have always wanted to revisit the resort and beach.

Four hours after leaving Little San Salvador we pulled into Davis Harbor on the south end of Eleuthera. The island of Eleuthera has had a varied and very interesting past. Originally occupied Arawaks this native population were deported by the Spaniards to work in mines and eventually died out. The first Europeans to arrive came in 1648. Known as the “Eleutherian Adventurers” they gave the island its name.

The island prospered for many years and several well know American industrialists including Arthur Vining Davis, Juan Trippe and Henry Kaiser invested in various businesses. Unfortunately due to changes in foreign ownership laws when the Bahamas gained their independence in 1973 all of the large resorts or agricultural businesses were abandoned or forced to be sold to government favored Bahamian interests. The Bahamians did not know how to run these businesses and corruption, greed and incompetence closed many of them. Today some resorts are coming back but alas Winding Bay Beach Cottages no longer exists. It was not government takeover though it was the forces of nature. Hurricanes have taken their toll and Winding Bay Beach Resort was destroyed decades ago and the successor resort Venta Club was destroyed by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

We rented a car for a 24 hour period to find my beach and other sites that I recalled from long ago. The beach we found but it is not as nice as I remember. No signs of the resort we stayed out exists and the Venta Club is boarded up.

Winding Bay

Winding Bay

Eleuthera is 110 miles long and averages maybe 1.5 miles wide. One main road runs north/south. We did not drive the entire length but it was fun to visit some of the old towns that I remembered. They included Tarpum Bay, Rock Sound and Governors Harbor.

Heading back south to the marina we stopped at a small road side restaurant for a late lunch. There we met the owner Gigi who had recently lost her husband to a motorcycle accident. Gigi is a delightful woman. Her fresh conch salad and fritters were superb.

Coco Plum's

Coc Plum’s

Cath with Gigi and her nephew

Cath with Gigi and her nephew

Coco Plum's beach side Tiki Bar

Coco Plum’s beach side Tiki Bar

There is an Ocean Hole on Eleuthera in Rock Sound. While on my 1974 vacation I was able to borrow a scuba tank and remember well the fish and turtles I chased down the walls. The Ocean Hole is a natural “blue hole” and connects to the ocean hundreds of feet down. It of course is still there and a small park has been built to provide access to the clean waters. We were told by Gigi that this is where local children learn to swim.

Ocean Hole

Ocean Hole

We left Davis Harbor marina and cruised north to Governors Harbor. With a large well protected anchorage Governors Harbor should not be missed. It is the capital of Eleuthera, the largest town and has many beautiful, Victorian era homes. The anchorage proved tough for us as we could not get it to bite into the grassy bottom. On our second attempt we actually hooked some sort of underwater cable. When I dove on the anchor and saw the situation I was reluctant to touch it as I could not see the ends of the cable and had no idea if it was energized. After five attempts and moving around the bay we finally got it to stick.

The town is very steep. After dinghying ashore one walks up a long road to the “summit” before descending down the east side to the Atlantic. It is a very nice walk however and eventually brings you to the nicest beach we have ever seen in the Bahamas. French Leave Beach is both long and wide with exquisite sand and water. Towards the south end is a bar/restaurant called “The Beach House”. It is on the beach and offers not only a fantastic view but awesome food too. There was once a Club Med on the north end but no sign of it could be seen. Hurricane Andrew wiped it out in 1999 and it was never rebuilt.

French Leave Beach

French Leave Beach

Beach House Restaurant

Beach House Restaurant

Beach House Restaurant

Beach House Restaurant

From the top of the hill above town one can see the harbor and Cupids Cay, a tranquil section of Governor’s Harbor. Heading down from the top you pass numerous pastel painted homes that date to an earlier era.

Big Smile anchored in Governor's Harbor

Big Smile anchored in Governor’s Harbor

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Farther up the island is a place called the “Glass Window Bridge”. It is here where Queens Highway crosses what is sometimes referred to as the narrowest place on earth. It is where you can stand and view the dark blue waters of the Atlantic and turqoise green waters of the Caribbean. The “Glass Window Bridge” was painted by Winslow Homer in 1885. At that time it was a natural stone bridge created by nature. That bridge was destroyed by storms in the 1940’s and subsequent bridges have been built and destroyed. It is fascinating to visit. We anchored for a few hours just south of the bridge and took the dinghy ashore. It had been 40 years since I last stood on the bridge. Just south of the bridge we found a small sign pointing to a historic area on the Atlantic side. We found no buildings but did discover a sensational carved rock bay/canyon. It was low tide so we were able to easily and safely climb down to enjoy the hollowed out caves and pools.

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Before crossing over to the Abacos to meet up with our son Andrew and his girlfriend we had one more island to stop and explore. St Georges Cay lies just to the west of the northern tip of Eleuthera. The entire Cay is comprised of the settlement of Spanish Wells and most people including us only knew it as Spanish Wells and had never heard of St Georges Cay. Spanish Wells is a charming little community measuring 2 miles long and a half mile wide. It is predominantly a fishing village. Golf carts are the way to get around and so we rented one for the day. We also happened to be in the same marina as our friends Jim and Beth and joined them on board for cocktails the night before departure. They, like us, were meeting their kids in the Abacos. They had arranged for a guide to take them thru what’s known as the “Devis Backbone” on the north side of Spanish Wells. This is an area of difficult to see and navigate reefs and most captains elect to hire a pilot boat. Jim asked if we wanted to follow them out the next morning and split the cost. We jumped on it as we had not made any prior arrangements. I think every boat at the marina was leaving that Tuesday. Forecast called for calm seas and a northeast breeze. We had not seen calm seas in over a week and the crossing from Spanish wells to the Abacos is open water with nothing between you and Africa. We pulled out of the marina following Jim and Beth on “Silverheels” and our guide boat “Little Woody”.

Spanish Wells fishing fleet

Spanish Wells fishing fleet

Following Silverheels and Little Woody

Following Silverheels and Little Woody

The crossing was smooth and the fishing was superb. I caught my first Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) but as Cath and I were bringing it into the boat our tackle broke and we lost a gorgeous fish.

Mahi- Mahi

Mahi- Mahi

Many boats chose this day to cross as the weather was perfect.

Silverheels getting ready to raise sails

Silverheels getting ready to raise sails

Defever trawler "Sea Pearl" side by side with "Big Smile"

Defever trawler “Sea Pearl” side by side with “Big Smile”

Approximately 7 hours later we motored thru a benign Little Harbor Cut and anchored behind Lynyard Cay.

Following Sea Pearl thru Little Harbor Cut

Following Sea Pearl thru Little Harbor Cut

The Exumas

We left Nassau at the end of March and headed to the Exumas where we spent a month exploring the many Cays that comprise this beautiful 130 mile long island chain. There are over 360 islands within the chain, the largest being Great Exuma. Our first stop after leaving Nassau would be Shroud Cay. We picked Shroud based on discussions with other boaters. It proved to be an easy 7 hour crossing of the “Yellow Bank” and we dropped anchor at 3:45 PM. The kayaking proved to be as good as we had been told.

Shroud Cay sunrise

Shroud Cay sunrise

It was at Warderick Wells Cay that we really began to understand the beauty of the Exumas. Warderick Wells is home to the headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea ParkThis park was first suggested by an American in 1953 and the idea was adopted by the government and established in 1958. Approximately 22 miles was set aside and is overseen by the Bahamas National Trust. It is an exquisite area of the Bahamas with many Cays to explore by boat, kayak and on foot. The park maintains some moorings and twice we picked one up at Cambridge Cay. Warderick is the epicenter of the park. It is also home to BooBoo Hill. BooBoo Hill is an easy climb to the highest “peak” in the Exuma Chain. Legend says that the cry of ghosts can be heard at night. To appease the sea gods tradition is to leave an offering to King Neptune. This offering, usually in driftwood with the name of the vessel, will bring fair winds and weather. Well, as we knew nothing of this tradition we were desperate to find something to offer. In our galley was an unused cutting board and Cath went to work creating what we hoped would be an acceptable and good looking offering. The next day we marched back up the hill and placed ours upon the pile. It must have worked for it is now a month later and we have had beautiful weather.

Cath carefully places our offering

Cath carefully places our offering

DSCN2623-Edit Cath and I had the pleasure to actually do some back tracking thru the Exumas and this post will cover both voyages. Halfway thru the month of April we had made it down to Georgtown, Great Exuma as we were scheduled to pick up Cath’s brother and his wife. Prior to meeting them at the airport we rented a car and explored a bit of Exuma. We had not been there since 1988 and one goal was to find the house we stayed in. We knew it was north of Georgetown and we remembered what it looked like but we never were able to find it. We did find, south of Georgetown, on Little Exuma Cay a restaurant called Santanna’s Grill Pit. Trip advisor had it rated # 1 so we checked it out. Well it is a shack on the beach with bench seats around a bar and tables overlooking the beach. It also happens to serve the best lobster we have ever eaten.

Santanna's Grill Pit

Santanna’s Grill Pit

We picked up Barry and Rebecca at the Exuma airport and took off the following day heading back north thru the Exuma chain. Our first stop was Rudder Cay, 36 miles up from Georgetown. This would be our first snorkeling stop with them and it certainly was a unique one. Just south of our anchorage lying in about 15 feet of water is a full size stainless steel sculpture of a mermaid at a piano. It was commissioned and placed by David Copperfield. Why I don’t know.

Mermaid and piano

Mermaid and piano

Rebecca stretching to be first to the piano

Rebecca stretching to be first to the piano

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Barry inspecting the piano

Barry inspecting the piano

Continuing north our next stop would be Bitter Guana Cay. This would be one of the several overlapping stops we made southbound and northbound. Bitter Guana is home to the Exuma Island Iguana a subspecies of Northern Bahamian Rock Iguana. Growing to a length of over 3 feet they are impressive to see scampering around the beach and lying motionless under the vegetation. DSCN2825 DSCN2736 DSCN2731-Edit DSCN2814-Edit

Cave on Bitter Guana

Cave on Bitter Guana

A short cruise north brings you to Big Majors Cay. This is a very popular anchorage for cruisers. It is close to Staniel Cay and Thunderball Grotto and has its own unique animal attraction, swimming pigs. These feral pigs range in size from piglets to bruising beasts. They will climb into your dinghy if you get to close as the big ones can really swim.

Rebecca training a large one

Rebecca training a large one

DSCN2847 DSCN2848   Staniel Cay has one of the quintessential bar/restaurants that all boaters look for. The marina is small but we managed to get a slip reservation for one night. Their marina attracts dozens of nurse sharks who hang about looking for handouts during fish cleaning in the late afternoons. It’s a sight to see. We ate dinner ashore at Staniel Cays quaint restaurant.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Nurse sharks

Nurse sharks

Within sight of Staniel Cay is Thunderball Grotto. Scenes from two James Bond movies were filmed here. The grotto has several entrances which at high tide require you to swim underwater to enter the cave. Inside the ceiling is 20 feet high with many natural skylites eroded through from rain. These skylites allow sunlight to penetrate and light up the interior. Many species of fish can be found here.

In the Grotto

In the Grotto

Cath hanging In the grotto

Cath hanging In the grotto

Screenshot 2014-05-12 12.57.23-Edit   Warderick Wells and Cambridge Cay: These two magnificent spots lie approximately 15 miles north of Staniel Cay. I called to reserve a mooring ball at Warderick but none were available for our size boat and so we dropped the hook off Emerald Rock as we had on the south bound trip and explored from there. Of course we had to take our guests up Boo Boo Hill and show them our sign. We also found a blow hole which Cath and Rebecca used to do their hair.

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Top of BooBoo Hill

Top of Boo Boo Hill

Hiking in Exuma Park

Hiking in Exuma Park

Cambridge Cay, just south of Warderick Wells is near the Exuma Park Sea Aquarium off O’Briens Cay. Cambridge has mooring balls and we grabbed one. The Sea Aquarium is a snorkel site with an amazing variety of fish. It is an easy dinghy ride from Cambridge and has mooring balls to tie your dinghy to. The snorkeling is some of the best you will ever find.

Parrot fish eating reef

Parrot fish eating reef

Screenshot 2014-05-12 18.39.04-Edit Screenshot 2014-05-13 09.07.32-Edit Screenshot 2014-05-13 09.02.36-Edit   In addition to finding fish underwater we also snorkeled on two plane wrecks. A single engine wreck located near the Sea Aquarium was in about 20 feet of water. The fuselage was intact and you could carefully enter it and exit on the other side. The other was near Staniel Cay and was a twin engine wreck in only about 5 feet of water. They were both fun to dive and they also attracted a large quantity of fish. Screenshot 2014-05-13 09.28.14-Edit Screenshot 2014-05-13 10.09.03-Edit While Big Smile is not a fishing battlewagon we do try to catch them on extended cruises. Barry was successful very quickly and landed a nice size Cero. Slightly larger than a Spanish Mackerel it can put up a good fight. Not only did he land it but also cleaned it and what a meal we had that night.

Barry setting up the rods

Barry setting up the rods

Cero, cleaned and ready to cook

Cero, cleaned and ready to cook

Eventually we had to start heading back to Great Exuma and we chose Great Guana Cay as our last anchorage. After dropping the hook we immediately went ashore to find the cave we had read about. It contains two fresh water pools each over 50 feet deep that you can tank dive. One branches off over 500 feet.

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Our final full day with Barry and Rebecca was a five hour ride down Exuma Sound to Emerald Bay Marina. Seas were 3-5 feet with wind on the nose but we all found a spot to relax and enjoy the ride. The Exumas were a wonderful adventure for Cath and I and we had a great eight days sharing it with our guests. DSCN2915-Edit DSCN2843-Edit DSCN2917-Edit   DSCN2919-Edit

Nassau

The Berries are everything beautiful about the Bahamas and Nassau, well it’s not the same. Our 38 mile ride from Little Harbor in the Berry Islands to Nassau on New Providence Island was uneventful. We were approaching Nassau Harbor from the West, the same entrance used by all the cruise ships. Nassau Harbor Control keeps tabs on all comings and goings and it is required to hail them to obtain permission to enter the harbor. The entrance cut is not big and Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney,  etc have the right of way. No ships were entering or leaving and permission was easily granted after supplying Harbor Control with our ship and destination information. It was noon on a Friday, one of the three busiest days each week.

Nassau Harbor entrance with Atlantis in background

Nassau Harbor entrance with Atlantis in background

Unlike main passenger ship harbors in the states Nassau Harbor lets everyone make there way. We saw no Bahamas Defence Force boats around the cruise ships and we were able to get as close as we dared.

Norwegian Getaway

Norwegian Getaway

Our destination was Nassau Harbor Club and Marina. Located on the east side of the harbor we had to pass under two high bridges. These bridges service Paradise Island and in particular Atlantis Resort. Atlantis officially opened in 1997 but was further developed and expanded over the ensuing ten years. During our week in Nassau we visited Atlantis twice. It is huge. “The Dig” is a series of aquariums located beneath the lobby of the Royal Towers and is the world’s largest open air marine habitat. It is fascinating as is the entire resort. Many parts are closed to the public unless you buy a day pass which we did not. However we found out The Dig is open to all at night so we got to visit it and the casino of course.

Atlantis Resort

Atlantis Resort

Our marina was perfectly situated across from the best supermarket in the Bahamas. While it was named “Fresh Market” it was not to our knowledge related to Fresh Markets found in the states. It did carry a large selection of food and we stocked up. Our departure from Nassau was delayed as we waited for a part for our watermaker to be flown in. We took full advantage of the delay and did quite a lot of wandering about both on foot and by local bus. The bus (jitney) rides were fun as the bus route layout is a large circle. Your route into town depended on which bus number you chose. We had three choices on the one way road (all heading away from town) outside the marina and all took about an hour to get to the main downtown where the cruise ships are tied. The bus drivers are all characters and play whatever station they want on the radio system. They also take shortcuts as they decide. To get off just shout “bus stop”.

Downtown Nassau is a typical cruise ship venue. Duty free shops abound and overweight tourists line the streets. Shops close up around 6 and the buses actually stop at 7PM. We had read about a foodie tour, Tru Bahamian Food Tours and signed up for a three hour walk and food tasting. It was a great time and we lucked out by having the owner, Alanna, do our tour. In her 20’s and full of energy she provided running commentary and history. She is a Bahamian native who went to college in the states and loves her country. 

Our guide "Alanna"

Our guide “Alanna”

Docked next to us was a sailboat named “Serenity” owned by Mike and Mary Jo. They graciously asked us to join them snorkeling off their boat on a reef outside the harbor. It was loaded with Bahamian reef fish and one shark. Lots of fun.

Cath and Mary Jo

Cath and Mary Jo

Nassau has a small zoo with gardens named Ardastra. We decided to walk there one afternoon and arrived in time to catch two late afternoon events. The first was Parrot feeding. After cleansing our hands we were let into a large Parrot cage and given sliced apples to feed to the birds. Hungry and tame they were.

IMG_0188The best event was the trained Flamingos. A zoo trainer paraded and marched them around a ring in near precision timing. He allowed a couple of guests to join and Cath jumped right in.

Cath and the Flamingos

Cath and the Flamingos

Of course Nassau has a lot more Bahamas culture to enjoy and Potters Cay is not to be missed. It is a huge, noisy and vibrant fish and vegetable market under the exiting Paradis Island bridge. You can buy meals to go or sit and eat at any of the stands. A constant parade of cars cruises thru to look and buy.  A great place to experience and eat wonderful food and drink the local beer, Kalik.

Conch salad at Potters Cay

Conch salad at Potters Cay

Potters Cay

Potters Cay

Our watermaker part finally arrived and I got it installed. The watermaker now works but now there is a seal leak meaning we lose a gallon for every 15 gallons we make. A problem we can live with. March 29 had us clearing out of Nassau Harbor to the east and on to the Exumas.

Berry Islands

From Bimini our original route was to take us southeast across the Great Bahama Bank to Chub Cay but we decided to explore more of the Berries and head ENE to Great Harbor Cay before turning south. The run across the bank was an easy eleven hour ride with the autopilot handling most of the work. We caught only two fish and while reeling in fish number one suddenly the line went slack. It had been a good fight till a shark took its share.

Shark attack

Shark attack

We dropped the hook off the Great Harbor settlement by 6PM and watched a perfect sunset.

Settlement of Great Harbor Cay

Settlement of Great Harbor Cay

The very next morning we pulled into a fully protected marina, the only one on Great Harbor. We spent three nights at their dock and explored the island by foot and bicycle. Great Harbor has one of the longest and nicest beaches we have ever seen and at low tide the colors are incredible.

Grat Harbor Cay Beach

Great Harbor Cay Beach

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Leaving Great Harbor we headed north to round the top before running down the east side to Little Harbor Cay. The top of the Berries has a couple of islands owned by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise lines. Two ships were anchored and ferrying hordes of vacationers. Fortunately these ships cannot get into most Bahama anchorages.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines

About half way down the Berry chain is Little Harbor Cay. There is a small house with a sometimes open bar/restaurant called Flo’s. Flo is now deceased and we met her daughter as we kayaked in to inquire about dinner. Unfortunately for us it was her birthday and she was “island hopping” so we did not get to taste Flo’s conch salad or chowder.

Flo's Conch Bar

Flo’s Conch Bar

The kayaking along Little Harbor was awesome with sharks, rays and starfish to admire.

Scott finds a starfish

Scott finds a starfish

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Cath finds the mother of all starfish

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DSCN2365About three miles up from where we anchored was a small beach on Hoffman cay. A five minute walk brought us to a “Blue Hole”. This vertical cave is about 600 feet deep where it connects to the ocean. It has been explored by Jacques Cousteau. 

Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay

Blue Hole on Hoffman Cay

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Hoffman Cay

Hoffman Cay

We thoroughly enjoyed the Berries and will return.

 

 

Florida to Bimini

A month of skiing in Vermont was wonderful. The conditions were near perfect and from what I have read more snow has arrived. However we have left the cold behind and are now in the Bahamas.

Our flight from Newark to West Palm was easy as usual and after several days of intense provisioning in Stuart we fueled up and headed out of the St Lucie inlet for a full day run down to Ft Lauderdale. Perfect FL weather had us anchored in Lauderdale by dinner time. The Lauderdale inlet was busy with three cruise ships departing within an hour of each other. We slipped in behind the second and just made it thru the turning basin when cruise ship number three headed out. We were politely moved along by a well armed Coast Guard tender.

Ft Lauderdale Inlet

Ft Lauderdale Inlet

Anchored in Lake Sylvia Ft Lauderdale

Anchored in Lake Sylvia Ft Lauderdale

A gorgeous early morning departure out the inlet started our two and a half month Bahamas cruise. We had been to the Bahamas the prior two springs but only to the Abacos and only for a couple of weeks each. Our first destination was Bimini. It is an easy 56 mile crossing when the weather is right. And this day was perfect. The Atlantic and more importantly the gulf stream was glass smooth. Numerous boats chose this day to cross as it was the only perfect day in over a week of testy weather. We were accompanied by loads of flying fish.

Leaving Ft Lauderdale inlet at sunrise

Leaving Ft Lauderdale inlet at sunrise

Bimini is one of the many ports of entry into the Bahamas. Our destination was Browns Marina and we made the crossing in 8 1/2 hours. After filling out customs, immigration, and vessel paperwork provided at Browns a quick trip to the customs office and a $300 dollar payment gave us permission to enter and stay for 90 days. Bimini is a popular fishing destination and hosts several large tournaments each year from the Bimini Big Game Club.

Bimini Big Game Club

Bimini Big Game Club

Since the 1920’s many celebrities have ventured to Bimini for it’s world class fishing. Zane Grey and Ernest Hemmingway are two of them and apparently Ernest liked drinking and brawling along with the fishing.

Today there is a large casino and housing/condo development under construction by the Malaysian firm, Resorts World. Not all are on board with this change to the low key Bimini life style. We ended up staying four nights on Bimini due to a weather front that brought strong east winds and small craft advisories. We agreed four days was plenty on this island.

Browns Marina

Browns Marina

Tied up at Browns

Tied up at Browns

South Bimini

South Bimini

Vermont

Our month here in Weston ends this weekend and we make our way back to Big Smile. It has been cold and snowy but it is Vermont. The skiing has been superb. I complete my mandatory work days tomorrow and conditions should be great with temps in the 20’s. Cath is on her way back from visiting a cousin and aunt in Maine and we are both looking forward to the Bahamas.

Stratton is our main mountain. We are biased of course as we have season passes as a result of my volunteer work. It is, in my opinion, the best mountain in Vermont with the ability to work magic on the slopes with snow guns and groomers. The group of volunteers I work with, and there are over forty of us, ranges in age from forty something to about 80. Maybe older but you would never know it. More snow is coming Monday but leave we must . It was fun.

Riding the "gondy"

Riding the “gondy”

We did escape one day and took a long drive up to Sugarbush to ski. We had never been there and thoroughly enjoyed the new (to us) trails and vistas. It was a Wednesday before the Presidents week holiday and the place was empty. First time I can remember spending an entire day on a mountain and never sharing a chairlift. Nice.

Sugarbush

Sugarbush

Sugarbush summit looking west towards Lake Champlain

Sugarbush summit looking west towards Lake Champlain

Last weekend we had the pleasure of having Tara, Maia and Nina visit for two days of skiing. Conditions were perfect despite a brief Friday warm spell and some rain. Temps dropped, Stratton groomed and all was good for Saturday and Sunday. They got in two full days then back to New York and Philly.

Tara & Nina at Stratton

Tara & Nina at Stratton

Cath, Tara, Nina & Maia

Cath, Tara, Nina & Maia

 

Cath enjoying a "Powder" Day

Cath enjoying a “Powder” Day

Driving to work. Beats the Lincoln tunnel

Driving to work. Beats the Lincoln tunnel

 

I did take a quick drive over to Lake George to check on the house. Everything in order and the lake was ice choked. Even a fair amount of snow something the lake has been lacking in recent years.

Silver Bay, Lake George

Silver Bay, Lake George

Time to start closing up Vermont.