ABACOS SKIPPERS BLOG
Despite the airlines best efforts to subvert, divert, delay and loose luggage and crew members, it seems that everybody has finally made it to the base with all their belongings intact.
The land adventure from Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbour turned out to be more exciting than initially anticipated as the designated vehicle, albeit slightly overloaded with crew and luggage, provided an exhilarating experiencing to its occupants as it wandered across the road, bottoming out on every bump and finally surrendering its right side mirror as Keenan, with all his race driving ability, managed to maintain a straight course on the left hand side of the road to the base… Adam on the other hand, becoming the designated transfer agent, finally conquered the route having covered it several times. Adam is owed several rum drinks….
Boat 2 seems to be in high spirits as they partied till the full moon began to wane. The surprise arrival of Bahamian Mama created quite a stir with the male members of the crew, which puts me in quite a dilemma, should I add her to the crew manifest or not? I guess we will have to see how much of a part she plays on the boat before we make the final decision.
The scramble to finalize provisions, correct the minor boat issues and be checked out by the “Friendly Base Skippers” had the crew chomping at the bit to get out on the water. Finally as we pointed the bow toward Guana Cay the crew settled down with red bull and vodka laced fruity drinks. Adam on Boat 2 decided to try his hand at trawling with bass spinners and showed the doubters by catching not one, but two fish, one being a decent sized mackerel.
Settlement Harbour was full so the skippers decided to move to Fishers Bay, just north of Settlement. This turned out to be a great decision as the bay is well protected and close to several providers of rum infused guava drinks. The minute the crew determined that rum was readily available they departed on a pillaging quest, on kayaks, paddleboards, dinghies, some even wanted to swim… I have heard that rum can have this affect.
After a short hike over the hill to Nippers, a colorful oasis on the beach, the crew began sampling the Nipper Juice, and as one crew member commented “a couple of these will make you forget your Mama”. Jay swam the 200 yards out to the reef where he was able to bag a yellow jack with his Hawaiian sling. A Hawaiian sling is a pole, about 6-8 feet long with a spear head on one end, and an elastic rubber tube connected to the other that can be used to “spear” unsuspecting reef fish. Some locals helped the crew try “curb”? which is found on the rocks and eaten fresh… supposedly tastes a little like Conch… Looked more like a sea slug to me… Not to be outdone by all the fishing stories, Terry caught a Bat Fish with his hands. Probably one of the most weirdest looking creatures I have ever seen This creature is a fish that has developed arms and legs and actually walks along the bottom of the ocean rather than swims. As the crew finished the Nipper Juice, they began their way back to the boat via Grabbers, a half way stop located in Fishers Cove. Grabbers, the home of the famous Guana Grabber has a nice beach, pool, bar and restaurant. The GM personally waited on us and we were impressed with the $7 lobster tails… We watched the sun set over the bay before heading back to the boats for some much needed rest. It is hard work playing in paradise.
Early start to the day as the crew split into three groups, scuba divers, snorkelers and shellers. Shellers are those crew members who spend their time searching the beaches for perfectly formed shells. Boat 1, the “dive” boat remained at Fishers Cove while the other three boats motored towards Bakers Bay. Boat 4 took the snorkelers and headed to the outer reef to snorkel but rough seas and high winds made conditions unfavorable for snorkeling and they returned to Shell Island. The shellers headed to Shell Island aka Spoil Bank Cay. Spoil Bank was formed when a cruise ship company dredged the channel and deposited the sand there. Spoil Bank is covered in shells making it a sheller’s dream come true.
The divers explored the reef south of Guana Cay, a reef that was teeming with fish. This reef also had a system of caves which at times resulted in total darkness as the divers traversed the tunnel system.
After diving, Boat 1 powered toward Shell Island to rendezvous with the other boats. Shell Island lived up to its name, afforded the shellers many opportunities to collect really good shells.
After exploring Shell Island the crew boarded the boats and all headed toward the southern tip of Green Turtle Cay. Melinda decided to trawl behind the boat, letting out line with a small bass lure attached. The next minute she is screaming “fish-on, fish-on”… We shut the boat down and she landed a decent sized barracuda. Doug then threw his line in and a few minutes later we had landed another barracuda… Melinda hooked a third barracuda but it got away just as it came close to the boat.
Upon arriving at Green Turtle Cay, we anchored in shallow water near the point of a secluded cove, close to No Name Cay. The bottom was grassy and it took several tries to get the anchor set. Dinner was prepared, Boat 2 serving up a Mexican themed dinner with full Mexican costumes, wrestling masks and more….
The crew decided to build a large bonfire on the beach. Wood was collected and stacked ready for darkness, however the crew had underestimated the level of tidal swing and discovered that the stack was underwater by nightfall.
An early morning start with a brisk paddleboard trip around the cay. Then paddleboard yoga, and no, to the crew’s disappointment the skipper did not participate. NoName Cay is known for its swimming pigs so we moved the boats the short distance from Green Turtle Cay so the crew could feed the pigs. As we arrived in our dinghies, the larger female pigs swam out to meet us, mouths wide open. Melinda used a spear loaded with food to entice the pigs to swim back and forth to the dinghy for the food scraps. The little piglets surround the crew who had stopped on the beach, begging for scraps. The crew discovered that if you rub their bellies, they flop over onto their side and lay quite still. Green Turtle Cay, White Sound, our next stop, is a small island with a population of about 450 people with the main settlement being New Plymouth. New Plymouth was founded in the 1800s and is just loaded with history. The crew swarmed the golf cart rentals and were soon racing down the dirt road to feed the turtles at Cocoa Bay. Some small lemon sharks were also spotted in the shallows. All the feeding activity caused the crew to develop a thirst and so the train of golf carts motored down to New Plymouth, to the Pineapple Bar and Grill, a quaint spot located right on the ocean facing west, which provided a view of the evening sunset that was spectacular. The skippers, while exploring the town discovered a small shop that made homemade ice cream, so each had to indulge in the creamy delight. A reconnaissance party was dispatched to find a suitable restaurant and soon word tricked back that James at the Leeward Yacht Club knew of Ultra4 racing and would be delighted to cater to the whole group… and so to the Leeward Yacht Club we went. The MahiMahi catch of the day was excellent and the skippers ordered mudslides in honor of Ginny (Captn Larrys Wife) whose love of this frozen chocolate, baileys and kalua laden drink is second to none.
Woke up to no wind and water that was like glass. Turned our golf carts back in, finished up breakfast and headed toward Manjack Cay (pronounced Munjack). Handsome Jay, on a high from vodka laced monster drinks and breakfast protein shakes decided to try wake surfing behind the boat, successfully standing up and riding the waves generated by this 700HP, twin diesel powered 50 foot catamaran. The crew also successfully bagged some spiny lobster for dinner. We anchored on the western side of Powell Cay in an beautiful cove with white beach sand and blue water. There is a sunken boat that acts as a reef, close to shore where several large angel fish have made their home. Those wanting to shoot fish (Hawain Sling) headed out to the Atlantic side of the island where we found a great reef teeming with fish. Bagging the fish was a totally different story, turned out to be more of a challenge than initially expected. In addition to using the incorrect spear, the crew struggled with the silting sands and rough seas as they dove down into the large overhang trying to bag a decent sized fish. Keenan shot a large grey jack but he escaped before he could be landed.
With concerns of a storm arriving, the flotilla headed south, wanting to cross “The Bar” before the storm hit. We followed boat 4 through Loggerhead channel just as the sun was setting and finally anchored off Treasure Cay in soft sand. After a feast of grilled lobster, the crew chummed the water and hung the remains of the baraccuda overboard to see if we could entice some fish to the chum. The crew spotted a large shark just outside of the light perimeter which resulted in much disbelief. Then Keenan, who had a lure in the water almost hooked a large hammerhead shark.
Some rough weather rolling in, the bands of squalls have dampened the crews spirit. Turned the bow toward Treasure Cay and called ahead so that the spa was on standby as we prepared the crew for a morning of pampering. The skipper had to be talked out of having his pedicure with threats that he would lose his mancard… I think that card was lost on the last trip along with CT…
Around lunch, the crew returned rejuvenated and relaxed and appeared ready to conquer the next adventure. Doug came back well oiled from his morning shore adventure. Taking a southerly heading, we departed Treasure Cay for reef located just outside of Marsh Harbour. This tiny reef, Mermaid Reef turned out to have the best collection of fish, lobsters and other marine life of the entire trip. The reef is surrounded by a rocky shelf, so we had to anchor about 100 yards away from the reef and dinghy in. There are a couple of red dive buoys located on the south easterly side of the reef as reference.
We arrived in Hope Town just as the sun was setting and managed to secure the last mooring balls in the field. There must have been at least 50 boats moored in the field. Turns out there is a music festival with some local country and western bands playing. Some of the crew sampled the wines at Wine Down Sip Sip, a local wine bar and the rest of the crew dingied over to CaptnJacks for dinner before retiring to the boat. I was not impressed with the food or service at CaptnJacks and would not recommend it as there are many other good restaurants. As we sat on the trampoline on the bow watching the stars, the first bang of a fireworks display began overhead. A fitting end to another magical day in the Abacos
The crew decided to explore the Lighthouse in Hope Town. As we maneuvered the dinghy over to the gas dock, the preferred arrival location for lighthouse explorers, we discovered a manatee hovering under the dock. Doug had heard of that Manatee will come to fresh water, so the crew commandeered a fresh water hose and ran the water over the dock. To our disbelief the manatee came over toward the fresh water to investigate and provided some excellent photo opportunities.
The lighthouse is the oldest working kerosene powered lighthouse in the world. More impressive was the clock style mechanism that has a weight that is wound up and then allowed to drop during the night providing the turning mechanism. The 360 view from the top of the lighthouse afforded a magnificent view of Hope town and back over the Sea of Abaco.
The crew wanted to do some additional snorkeling, so with the winds out of the south, we powered toward Sandy Cay and anchored in the lee with plans to explore the reef. Not much of a reef to be found, however the sandy beach was covered with Conch shells and the crew gathered a few. After checking out the access to man-O-War cay, the crew headed further south looking for the supposed reef off Lubbers Quarters Cay. With the weather coming in fast, we decided to anchor at Tahiti Beach and explore the Atlantic side to determine if we could snorkel the reef there. However, the swell and rough water prevented any access. With snorkeling out, the crew turned their hand to collecting coconuts. Chris shimmied up the coconut tree like it was a ladder. Unfortunately Handsome Jay tried to do the same and ended up crashing back to the ground, receiving the best looking roastie between his legs. After much effort, Chris finally was able to open a coconut to sample the contents. As we headed back to Hope Town the storm finally caught up with us. The 30 knot winds and heavy rain prevented us from being able to enter the channel at Hope Town, so we maintained a holding pattern before finally dashing thru the entrance during a break in the downpour. An early morning start allowed us to beat the low tide and cross the entrance at Hope Town as we headed back toward Marsh Harbour to turn the boats back in and depart for the airport.