Monday, April 30, 2018

April 2018: More Abacos & Then The Berry Islands

Wed, 25-Apr….From Hope Town to Tavern Cay

The morning of Wednesday, 25-Apr broke with a mostly clear sky, a mild breeze and a mostly dry forecast for the day.  At last!  We rode the dinghy into town to tour the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum, whose namesake is credited with founding the Hopetown settlement back in the 1780’s.  It is a quaint two story, renovated house packed with artifacts and memorabilia whose stories walk you through the Hope Town settlement’s history.  
The Museum Also Chronicles the Islands Boat Building Legacy

It exists primarily because people like Wyannie couldn’t tolerate – and wanted to escape from – the post Civil War conditions in the Carolinas.  We learned that one of the main means of support for these islanders was salvage work – retrieving all sorts of goods from ships that frequently ran aground on the numerous nearby reefs and shoals.  We also learned that they were not too thrilled with the erection of that light house, as it led to a significant shrinkage of the salvors’ line of business.  Their response was to sabotage the light and build bonfires on some of the reefs to attract ships into the shoals.  Fortunately the place was eventually recognized as a great vacation destination and provided them an alternative via a thriving tourism economy.
The View from 'On Da Beach' Restaurant

After that we took a long walk to the south end of the island to have lunch at On Da Beach.  It’s yet another Bahamian eatery that boasts stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and a long sandy beach.  Their Mahi sandwich is quite good.

By then it was time to get back to Ghost Rider so we could depart on the next high tide.  At 1630 We retrieved the dinghy back to the boat deck, released our mooring tethers, and carefully snaked our way out of the harbor channel back into the Sea of Abaco….with just enough water under the keel to keep the boat from bumping bottom.  Despite the circuitous route we had to take to avoid the shallows, it took us less than two hours to reach the Tavern Cay / Tiloo Cay anchorage.  Waiting for us there were Brad and Lorraine Carlton aboard their Nordhavn 55, Adventure.  We dropped the hook nearby in 10 feet of water, got a good set, and settled in for the evening viewing a gorgeous sunset.  Brad and Lorraine joined us aboard Ghost Rider after dinner for some libations and boat / travel talk, and we had a very enjoyable social evening together.
N55, Adventure, Anchored Nearby at Tavern Cay

The next day, Thursday, 26-Apr brought more pleasant weather.  But Chelle had a restless night and wasn’t feeling well, so we just chilled out and relaxed on board all morning.  Rick got a few more chores done, checked weather, and started looking at destination options for the next few days.  By mid-afternoon Chelle’s morning naps had a restorative effect so we took the dinghy out for a tour of the waters around Tiloo and Tavern Cays.  There are some nice properties and upscale homes dotting the shorelines, along with Cracker P’s Bar and Grill further north near Tiloo Cut (which provides a narrow, twisting channel into the open Atlantic.)  The waters were still gin clear providing great visibility of the grassy and sand bottom in depths that varied from a couple of feet up to eight feet, with the typically stunning shades of blue, green and turquoise.
Tooling Around Tavern Key in the Dinghy

We enjoyed another peaceful evening and night at anchor, and while Rick got a good night’s sleep, Chelle did not.

Fri, 27-Apr….From Tavern Cay to Lynyard Cay

By Friday morning, 27-Apr, it was obvious that Chelle still had some kind of stomach bug, likely food-related based on the symptoms.  There were a couple things she had consumed on our last day in Hope Town that Rick had not, so that was our best guess, as he felt fine.  We could not find an oral thermometer in any of the medical kits, so improvised with a digital meat thermometer....she was running a low grade fever, which we treated with Tylenol. Still, by late morning she was able to soldier on, so we picked up the anchor and headed further south.  Based on predicted winds we wanted to check out the bay adjacent to the northwest edge of Little Harbour that promised protection from SSW winds.  But when we arrived there a couple hours later it was pretty obvious the swell from the cut into the Atlantic Ocean just to the east would make that locale most uncomfortable – and there was no way we were going to attempt the very shallow channel into Little Harbor’s basin.
Another Nice Sunset at Anchor

So we back-tracked a mile across to the other (east) side of the channel to Lynyard Cay, and we found the protection from the swell to be excellent.  Although exposed a bit to the SW winds, it wasn’t enough to bother a heavy boat like Ghost Rider.  The depths there held steady very near the shore, so we tucked in pretty close to the shoreline, and found a sandy patch of bottom where we dropped the big Manson Supreme anchor.  It set on the first try, and given the predicted overnight storms we let out some extra rode for good measure.  One of our goals on this leg was to visit Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour, but the wind and swell between here and there made that an unattractive jaunt in the dinghy; besides, Chelle needed to rest, so we spent a quiet evening on the boat, and put Pete’s on our list to try the next time around.

Sat, 28-Apr….From Lynyard Cay to Sandy Point

The predicted front and associated line of TRWs arrived in the wee hours, but nothing approached the severe level. By the time we awoke the morning of Saturday, 28-Apr, only light showers remained in the area….and Chelle was feeling better.  The forecast for the next few days was actually – finally – looking pretty good.  Just before 1100 we retrieved the anchor and got underway, pointing Ghost Rider in a southerly direction.  Three miles later we traversed the cut just north and east of Little Harbour and entered the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Approaching the Southern End of Little Abaco in the Open Atlantic

Sea conditions were as expected, just a tad bouncy with three foot swells out of the east and a two-to-three foot healthy wind chop on top given the 15 knot southwesterly breeze.  The stabilizers did their job in the confused short-interval seas and Ghost Rider happily punched through, with only an occasional “bulbous bow bounce”, averaging 7 knots at a loping 1400 RPM on the big Lugger diesel.  It was actually a nice change of pace to be in open seas and deep water – hardly any traffic with depths measured in the thousands of feet as both sounders lost sea floor contact.

At high noon we had mostly clear skies overhead with small puffy cumulous clouds dissipating in the west, and the remnants of the storm clouds still towering but far to the east.  Outside air temperature hovered in the upper 70’s with the typically high humidity seen in the open ocean after a frontal passage.  By mid-afternoon the winds had tapered off a bit, white caps diminished and the ride smoothed a bit.  Then, as we rounded the southern tip of Great Abaco, the winds and seas picked up again.  It was a see-saw day. 
The Sandy Point Coastline....Not Much There, and Exposed to All But
Easterly Winds

Late in the afternoon, around 1700, we rounded the southern end of the big island and checked out the shallow anchorage on its southwest side, near Cross Harbour Point, but it was rather exposed and rough.  So we continued on another hour or so to Sandy Point…although it wasn’t much better. But we were running out of daylight, so we dropped the hook there anyway, and endured a very bouncy night at that anchorage, generally exposed to the southwest winds and rollers from the open waters of Providence Channel.  The predicted shift of the winds to the north eventually kicked in overnight which helped a little.  It would have been a good time for a flopper-stopper, but this boat doesn’t have one of those.  (See footnotes.)

Sun, 29-Apr….From Sandy Point to Great Harbour (Berry Islands)

The morning of Sunday, 29-Apr was a whole lot calmer than the previous evening with only a fairly gentle roll coming at Ghost Rider from the south.  Weather looked ideal, with clear skies, mild temps and almost flat seas.  We retrieved the anchor and were underway by 0945 and steaming southwest towards Great Harbour in the Berry Islands.
Approaching the Berry Islands....a Popular Stop for Cruise Ships

It was a completely uneventful, peaceful and smooth sortie all the way across the channel; it would be wonderful to be able to bottle and save this kind of cruising weather.  Chelle did most of the driving from the fly bridge (without stabilizers), while Rick handled the first engine room check in between naps; that’s a good definition for a smooth cruising leg.  This one was less than 50 nautical miles and by 1400 we were rounding the northwestern point of Little Stirrup Cay and steering Ghost Rider down the western shoreline of the Berry Islands, avoiding a couple of large cruise ships and several parasail boats along the way.

Just before 1500 we entered the (very) shallow bay that lays just west of the Great Harbor Cay Marina…at low tide.  While the tides only vary by a few feet in this area, we decided then and there that we’d try to depart this place on a high tide when that day came. We saw as little as a half foot underneath the keel before we turned the corner into the (very) narrow entrance into the marina’s basin.  If they were trying to hide or disguise the entry channel to the marina, we have to compliment them on a job well done; you have to idle right up to the rocks before you see where to turn hard to port into what looks like a rock-lined alley.  
The Entry to GHC is Well Hidden As Well As Long and Twisting

Nevertheless we made it into the protected marina basin without bumping bottom, and tucked Ghost Rider into a fixed pier slip bow-first so we could keep the starboard boarding door on the same side as the pier.  As it turned out that really didn’t help much, as the height of the dock’s pier was well above its level….we had to practice gymnastics getting on and off the boat at this place.  But Rick was pleased with it, because it had free fresh water under really good pressure for boat wash downs – an anomaly in the Bahamas – and Ghost Rider badly needed one of those; we were as salty as a Bavarian pretzel by this time.  (But the free wash down water is loaded with minerals….you’re basically trading salt for lots of spots; you definitely don’t want it in your water tanks.)
View of the GHC Marina Basin from our Boat Deck

Rick got to work on the wash down while Chelle handled marina check-in.  And shortly thereafter we were greeted by good friends Jerry and Christine Chafton (and their too cute pup, Annie.)  They’ve been our “neighbors” at the Legacy Harbour docks in Fort Myers for some years now aboard their 53 Navigator, Mystic Lady, and have also been cruising the Bahamas this spring – and we had finally caught up with them.  We’d both had the same idea….with high winds and nasty seas forecast to move in over the next week, this was a good place to hang out for a while.

We got the boat and ourselves cleaned up, had a quiet dinner on board, dipped into a few Goombay Ghosts, and called it a day.
Ghost Rider Sitting Low Tide vs. the Dock at GHC Marina

The weather conditions we awoke to on the morning of Monday, 30-Apr, were excellent, with fair skies, mild temps and a freshening breeze.  Since we would have a whole week here we decided to make this day one for chores.  Chelle wanted to clean the interior of the salty film that inevitably results from ocean crossings with an open boat, as well as scrub down the dinghy, as it was pretty grimy from weeks of usage.  And Rick wanted to knock out several days’ worth of current and forthcoming Wheelhouse maintenance items to allow for off-the-boat exploring the remainder of the week.
Pot Luck Dinner Gathering at GHC Marina

When all that was completed we enjoyed one of the marina’s weekly evening rituals, the Pot Luck Dinner at their nearby picnic shelter.  There was plenty of food and drink, and we got to meet many of the other crews, including Betsy and Hank Knoblock who had their Nordhavn 60, My Harley, here.  And we planned some touring activities with Jerry and Christine as they knew this island very well from previous visits.

We’ll post another update after we’ve accumulated some touring time on this charming island.


** What’s a “flopper-stopper”?  Essentially it is a large folding aluminum plate that is deployed from a boom and secured with several guy wires; the plate is positioned several feet beneath the water’s surface, and the plate’s large surface area provides rolling resistance in surge or wake conditions.  It’s a pain to deploy and retrieve, but it can be quite effective in stabilizing the boat while at anchor in rolly conditions.  You can find more info and pictures HERE.

Our Latest Tracks Down to the Berry Islands and Great Harbour Cay
More Pics to Peruse

Packed in at Hope Town Harbour Moorings
Narrow Streets of Hope Town

The Bar at Cap'n Jacks, Hope Town
Another Shot Around Tavern Cay
View of Cracker P's Bar & Grill From the Bay Side at Tavern Cay

A Charter Sail Boat Anchored Near Tavern Cay

We Eventually Got Lots of Company at the Anchorage at Lynyard Cay
And Eventually the Weather Moved in On Us There

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

April 2018: More of the Abacos, Bahamas

Thu, 19-Apr….From Marsh Harbor to Elbow Cay

We awoke to very warm and calm conditions on Thursday morning and were happy to also find many of the sportfish boats had departed for the fishing grounds.  The resultant decrease in electrical demand on the docks finally gave us enough voltage at the dock’s power pedestal to hook into shore power, charge the batteries and even run one of our A/C units.
Our Track to Marsh Harbor and Then to Hope Town

Sadly this was also the day that Dan and Juli were to fly back to Florida.  We’d had a fabulous time together, but certainly understood they had obligations back home, and a brand new boat of their own waiting for them upon return.  We said our good-byes late morning and they cabbed it over to the airport.

Shortly after that we got back underway, cutting our stay at Marsh Harbor by a day, and pointed Ghost Rider back to the east towards Elbow Cay and Hope Town.  We timed the arrival pretty well, arriving just after high tide around noon.  That gave us just enough water under the keel coming into the harbor’s shallow entrance channel and enter the large – but crowded – mooring field where there were better depths.  We found an empty mooring ball (actually two green floats attached to the bottom), grabbed its two pennants (tether lines) with the boat hook and attached them to our forward cleats.  Later we discovered the two pennants were badly twisted around each other just below the surface and had to spend some time removing and unwinding them to give us a better “fit” that didn’t involve chafing against Ghost Rider’s bulbous bow.
The Mooring Field at Hope Town Viewed from the Lighthouse....They
Pack them in Here

It also took us a while to get accustomed to how close together the boats get here in this mooring field – very different from anchoring where you generally get to pick how close or far you’ll be from other vessels.  Rick measured 75 feet from the two boats nearest us….enough swing room for our 50 foot length as long as nobody drags.  But we would not bring a bigger boat in here.

We launched the tender later in the afternoon and Chelle took it for a spin to make an initial scouting of the harbor area, while Rick tended to some minor boat business and rested a badly pulled back muscle suffered during the mooring line untangling.  But we had a peaceful evening and overnight.

Fri, 20-Apr Through Tue, 24-Apr….Hanging at Hope Town on Elbow Cay

We had decided that the first half of this day would be dedicated to “boat business”; our Wheelhouse maintenance program had accumulated about eleven overdue items that we wanted to knock out before exploring the island.  There were a handful of minor checks (strainers, thrusters and the like) along with changing out both filters on the water maker.  While Rick worked on those Chelle gave the tender some much needed cleaning and waxing attention, and we also got some laundry done and topped off our water tanks.
View of Ghost Rider on Her Mooring...Pic Taken from the Tender
as We Headed to Hope Town Harbour Lodge for Dinner

Unfortunately by the time we completed our day’s assignments the weather turned for the worse a little earlier than predicted.  Showers and storms started popping in the area as a cold front reached down and then just stalled.  So we hung out on the boat the remainder of the afternoon until we found a pause in the weather that looked decent enough to take the tender over to the Hope Town Harbour Lodge restaurant.  It’s one of the more upscale eateries on this end of the island, and the food (Mahi and a seafood medley) were quite good, as were the rum punches.
Chelle with Her Rum Punch at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge

By this time we had also figured out some of the local customs.  The islanders here are known to be a fairly spiritual community, so church bells ring at frequent intervals.  At each sunset you will hear both locals and some boaters blow their conch shells in an uneven sounding ritual (some are good at it, some not so much.)  And they certainly have their own varied definition of “island time”….you can take your trash to shore only once per week during a one hour period; and if you need to mail anything it’s worth knowing the post office (co-located with the police station) is only open Wednesday and Friday from 0930 to 1445; and you cannot rely on the light house lantern being lighted up when you might expect certainly isn't at sunset or even at full darkness, but eventually somebody gets up there and lights the torch.

Racor Drain Repair in Progress....Great Fun
The next day (Sat, 21-Apr) brought overcast skies and intermittent rain showers with brisk winds, so the morning was a good time to attack one more significant maintenance task.  Over the past couple of days a slow leak had developed from one of the main engine’s two Racor fuel filter assemblies at its drain plug.  No amount of adjusting the seeping drain had any impact on it.  So we decided to empty and disassemble the unit for a closer look.  This is one of the older Racor designs, with a two piece plastic drain – quite susceptible to cross-threading which inevitably leads to leaks.  Once removed a close inspection revealed this one was essentially shot; over the years it had been mangled and overtightened, which crushed the internal gasket for the drain orifice and stripped the plastic threads.  We did not have a spare, so for a temporary workaround Rick used JB Water-Weld to plug the two holes at the drain valve’s entry and exit points, and then applied Permatex #2 sealant on the mangled plastic threads.  (No boat should leave the dock without those products onboard.)  We let all that stuff cure for five hours before refilling and leak-testing…and it seemed to be holding for now, hopefully at least minimizing the leak until we get back to the States and obtain a functioning replacement  The bowl can still be drained if needed by loosening the larger drain receptacle, albeit with more of a mess.
The Lighthouse

While the Racor repair was curing we took off in the dingy to tour more of the local sights.  First stop today was the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, which is advertised as the last manned kerosene-fired lighthouse still operational on the planet.  Built in 1864 and standing at 120 feet above sea level, its lamp puts out 325,000 candlepower, making it visible up to a range of 17 miles.  You can climb the stairs to the top (101 steps) and the view from up there is spectacular.

Next we took the dinghy on another side of the harbor to have a late lunch at Harbour’s Edge (we tried Cap’n Jack’s first, but turns out that place is closed on weekends….more “island time” lessons.)  But Harbour’s Edge was just fine, with excellent Caribbean Quesadillas and more tasty varieties of fruity rum drinks.  By the time we made our next intended stop at the local museum it was closed.  We’ll hit that on another day, and besides another band of rain showers were moving in, so we boogied back to the boat.  We concluded the day by making up our own version of the Goombay Smash – three different rums (generously) with orange and pineapple juice (in moderation.)  It was excellent.  We’ve named it the “Goombay Ghost”, as it will haunt you if you have one too many.
View of the Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean to the East
From the Top of the Light Hosue

Early on Sunday morning, 22-Apr, (around 0300) thunderstorms started popping consistent with the forecast.  We closed up the few portals we had open and verified we weren’t dragging in the gusty winds.  The storm cells had died off by sunrise, but we had discovered a rain water leak in the pilot house, leading Rick to conduct an examination of the various things mounted on the roof above.  Based on the location of the drips the first suspect was the flush mount Furuno GPS which had to be disassembled to inspect its cable run. The original caulking around its comm cable hole was deteriorating with some gaps, and there was evidence of water seepage and corrosion on its connecting pins.  Rick dried it out, removed the old caulk, cleaned the connectors with CRC electrical spray, then resealed it all with his favorite Rescue Bond XL1 caulk.
The Pool at Hope Town Harbour Lodge

Since the repair work on the antenna was a one-person job, Chelle took advantage of the same break in the weather to dinghy ashore and relax with some beach time.  The winds were still clocking making snorkeling unattractive, but she was fortunate to get a couple hours of sunning time.  By the time she returned to the boat Rick was finishing up his repair, and then the rain moved in again.  Shortly after midnight the rain became a torrid downpour….and we still had a leak in the pilot house.  Rick removed the instrument panel to keep it dry, disconnecting all the instrument wiring, and placed a bucket under the rapid drip as an overnight stall tactic.
Tearing Into the Pilot House Rain Water Leak....More Fun

The next morning, Monday, 23-Apr, Rick was back on the pilot house roof disassembling the search light.  At this point we were pretty sure that was the leaky culprit, so once again Rick went through a remove-and-recaulk exercise.  This one took several hours as it was apparent someone else had previously attempted the same thing, and there were several old screw holes up there that also required sealing.  We left the pilot house panel in its disassembled state so we could better judge how effective all that was during the next set of rain showers – which were definitely still in the forecast.

That same day our 12KW diesel generator reached bingo hours for its next oil change (every 200 hours, which doesn’t take long when you’re island hopping on the hook), so we tackled that in the afternoon as well.  By 1730 we halted the boat business work and relaxed the remainder of the evening. 

On the morning of Tuesday, 24-Apr, we awoke to more rain showers as yet another squall line moved in from the west.  The good news was that our pilot house roof patches had reduced the rain water leak to a very occasional drip…it would have to do until we got back to the States for some professional FRP work to create a new base for the search light mount.  The bad news this morning was the generator wouldn’t crank; that turned out to be a poor battery connection at the starter solenoid which was a quick fix.  That was a good thing since we were boat-bound until / unless the weather moderated, and it was warm and muggy with the boat closed up against the rain – the air conditioning felt good.

Taking the Dinghy to Cap'n Jack's for Dinner....with a Line of
Storms Moving in From the West
By early afternoon rain was still falling with more storm cells on the horizon; the forecast kept changing, and not for the better.  We gave up on island touring, and Chelle caught a ride on the ferry over to Marsh Harbor for some fresh food shopping while Rick tended to a few more minor chores and then relaxed with a book.  Shortly thereafter the rain stopped and the skies cleared – so much for the meteorology around here.  Rick went up to the boat deck with his book for some much-needed sun and chill out time.

Chelle Relaxing Over Dinner & Rum Drinks @ Cap'n Jack's
Chelle returned from her ferry ride and market run – with lots of fresh fish and some rum refills – around 1700.  And then the clouds moved in yet again, with radar showing more storms on the move and headed our way.  This was getting old.  But we bet we could dinghy over to Cap’n Jack’s for dinner and make it back before that next line of weather arrived, and it turned out we were correct.  And the seafood and salad (and rum drinks) were quite good.

Just before 2200 the rain started again and we called it a night.  Tomorrow our plan is to head south a few miles to the Tahiti Beach anchorage, but will have to wait for a late afternoon high tide and a break in the weather to make that move.

View of the Harbor Entry / Exit Channel from the Lighthouse....the Shoals on the North Side Are Visible
Even at High Tide....the Ones on the South Side and Around the Bend Are Not So Obvious

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

April 2018: Off to the Bahamas

Sun, 8-Apr…Departing Old Port Cove

Departing Palm Beach and OPC...Heading Down the ICW to the Inlet
In spite of the previous night’s unpromising weather forecast we arose early on Sunday morning to check the weather one more time….and Rick found it good enough to go.  TRWs were still forecast for Palm Beach, but late enough in the day that we knew we could avoid those with an early take off; and the TRW prognosis for our West End arrival point had moved back in the forecast timeline enough that we thought we could beat those with a 1700 or earlier arrival.  The sea conditions also looked to be good enough – just 2 to 4 feet predicted with reasonable intervals, and mostly with winds from the WSW, so we didn’t expect the Gulf Stream to get very sloppy.

After finishing up our preflight checklist we started engines, tossed off lines, and were underway by 0800.

The initial ICW leg – less than 45 minutes of inside cruising to reach the Lake Worth Inlet – was smooth under mostly sunny skies and light westerly winds.  As Ghost Rider exited the inlet and aimed east we still had very benign conditions – a barely perceptible wind chop on top of gentle two foot swells.  It was about as good as it gets for a daylight crossing, and the fly bridge was the perfect place to be on such a nice morning.
Juli & Chelle Piloting from the Fly Bridge

By the time we were in the Stream an hour later, Dan had two trolling rods rigged with Rattle-Jet lures and we got the fishing lines wet.  However, as it turned out there were no fish in these waters today.

Juli, Chelle, Dan and Rick rotated informal shifts at the helm, although we mostly ran with the autopilot in “Track” (nav computer) mode for the bulk of the crossing.  The AP did a commendable job compensating for the Gulf Stream current, crabbing from 12 to 15 degrees to starboard the first half of the route and keeping cross track error to a minimum.  Over the last two hours the current seemed to let up as heading and course converged.
Danno Had the Trolling Rods Out in Short Order

Late in the day we could also see a small line of TRWs forming ahead of us near Grand Bahama Island.  A long range look at the radar revealed some small cells in the 36-to-48 NM range, and the XM weather display indicated they were moving mostly east, away from us.  That fortunately turned out to be true, and by the time we were within visual range of West End Settlement the storms had dissipated and the seas were nearly flat.  The entry channel to Old Bahama Bay Marina is fairly straightforward – at least in the daylight; it’s definitely lacking sufficient night clues, especially where the channel takes two short 90 degree turns between the rock jetties.
Entering West End Channel Approach to Old Bahama Bay

We had no difficulty maneuvering Ghost Rider once inside the marina’s basin finding plenty of depth, a wide slip and a helpful dock hand.  Rick got everyone checked in at the customs office allowing us to take down the yellow Q flag and hoist the flag of the Bahamas, then after Dan and Rick hosed down the boat we settled in for the evening.  A line of TRWs moved in shortly thereafter keeping us inside Ghost Rider, but the forecast for the next day looked good.

As for “boat business” Ghost Rider ran well all day, with no stabilizer leaks observed; however, we still had some minor drips from the leading edge of the main engine’s oil pan.  Rick torqued those just slightly.

Mon, 9-Apr…Relaxing at Old Bahama Bay

Dan & Juli on Ghost Rider's Boat Deck at Old Bahama Bay, West End.
The next morning brought excellent weather….light breezes and sunny skies, with temps in the mid-80’s.  After a few boat chores and rigging some light tackle fishing gear (thanks Dan!) everyone got the chance to enjoy the charms of the Old Bahama Bay Marina.  It’s a well-kept facility with colorful lodges, large swimming pool and a pristine beach on the island’s east side.  It’s worth spending a day there.  For those so inclined, there are also reputable fishing charters and eco-tour boats based there.

The "West End" of the Grand Bahama island was originally settled in back in 500AD by the Lucayan natives, but even still by 1836 had a population under 200.  It was the Cival War in the States that really built it, as the Union embargo on the Confederacy created fantastic smuggling opportunities just 55 miles from the coast.  Today the population of Grand Bahama is around 14,000, with Freeport as its main center of tourism, and the West End a mecca for fishing.
Some Bungalows at Old Bahama Bay Marina

It's a good entry point for exploring the Bahamas, the Abacos in particular.

Tue, 10-Apr…From West End to Great Sale Cay

While the longer term forecast wasn’t great, our departure weather was perfect and we were underway by 0900.  Initially we ran north for about two hours to reach the cut to the east near Memory Rock.  Up to that point the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean were fairly smooth with a mild two foot swell on the beam from the west and a light wind chop on top.  After making the turn to the east and into the shallower waters of Little Bahama Bay the sea state settled in at about 1.5 feet quartering on the stern.  It was a fine ride with helm duties rotated among the four of us on the fly bridge.
The Partial Barracuda That Dan Caught

Dan had a couple of trolling rods deployed and it wasn’t long after our easterly turn that the starboard side line went off.  Chelle slowed the boat so Dan could fight the fish on better terms.  By the time Dan got it to the boat we had about one third of a barracuda on the cockpit deck – apparently there was a bigger fish out there that was pretty hungry.  As the afternoon progressed we caught several more cudas (whole ones) – not good to eat, but they made pretty good cut bait.

As we neared our destination – an anchorage at Great Sale Key – our local conditions were still quite benign but we could see on our Sirius/XM weather display that nasty weather was behind us and moving our way.  Likewise, additional storm cells started forming nearby and were moving towards us…the skies quickly turned from clear and sunny to grey and threatening.
Squall Line Approaching Our Anchorage at Great Sale Cay

We entered the southern anchorage area of Great Sale just after 1700, sighting five other boats already anchored there.  We maneuvered among them and found a good place to drop in about nine feet of water, setting the hook in a sandy bottom at 1730.  And we set it hard, using 1300 RPM in reverse before we declared the anchor fully set, and using plenty of scope (all chain) given the deteriorating weather.  Within 30 minutes a line of storms moved in over us from the west with initial gusts at 40 knots, followed by sustained winds of 30-35 knots for the next two hours.  We had white caps and 3 foot rollers in the bay.  In spite of the hobby-horsing our anchor set was solid and did not budge.  During that time several other boats scurried into the bay seeking shelter, and by sunset we had nine boats in the anchorage.  Given the lousy weather we kept the boat closed up and ran the generator to provide everyone with air conditioned quarters.
Hunkered Down in Comfort for the Night

A few hours later the storms had passed and winds died down a bit, and thankfully we enjoyed relatively calm conditions overnight, with just a light swell and winds under 15 knots. 

Wed, 11-Apr….Anchored at Great Sale Cay

The next morning our anchor watch software told us the anchor was still solidly planted and hadn’t dragged at all.  The winds started to pick up again and we could see more storm cells in the area, although fortunately they bypassed us this time.  We spent some time looking at the (Sirius/XM) weather forecast (for the most part there is no cell signal and no Internet access here.)  The prognosis had improved from the night before, but it still wasn’t great.  Based on wind strength and direction changes over the next day or so – westerly but clocking around to the north and east – along with the projected afternoon storms, we decided to stay planted for the day.
Emptying the Laz to Gain Access for Battery Multimeter Tests

While the anchorage was still a bit bouncy (not a good day for launching the dinghy), we still had a leisurely day to tend to some boat chores and do some fishing.  After the early morning storm cells had passed by us we shut down the genset and opened up the boat.  Rick and Dan tended to some basic preventative tasks concerning various sea strainers and pumps, and also ran some house battery tests with varying loads, while Chelle and Juli tended to some light cleaning and more meal preparations.

Around mid-morning Dan put out a spinning reel with some of the barracuda cut bait, and it didn’t take long to get a hit.  Fortunately this time it wasn’t another cuda, but instead was a small (about four foot) black tip shark.  We had all heard those were good eating, so we kept it, filleted it and grilled it for lunch.  We highly recommend it.
The Blacktip Shark We Boated....and Ate -- Delicious!

Later that afternoon we got the opportunity to briefly chat with another Nordhavn, as N57 White Raven pulled into the anchorage just after 1500.  We chatted on VHF with Pat and Steve Strand for a while to catch up on each other’s cruising plans.  They were making their final stop in the Bahamas after six weeks of cruising here and were headed to Charleston, SC for their next stop.  Late in the day Rick powered up and tuned the SSB radio to the NWS offshore weather frequency and listened to the latest forecast, while doing the same thing via the Furuno’s XM/Sirius satellite weather feed.  It was generally acceptable for the next few days, although winds would be steady at 15-20 knots out of the northeast.  That made our planned stop at Allans Cay the next day a reasonable one as its orientation would provide protection for those predicted winds.

Thu, 12-Apr….Great Sale Cay to Allans Cay

Since the planned sortie for the day was a relatively short one – less than five hours – we had a leisurely morning while the generator purred along to recharge the house batteries after a full night of inverting had brought them down to around 84%.  At 1000 we completed our preflight checklists, cranked the engines, retrieved the anchor, and set off for our next island hop.
Rick & Chelle Posing for Juli's Camera Underway to Allans Cay

The day’s weather was as predicted with the temps in the mid-70’s, and humidity at 63% under partly cloudy skies.  The breezy conditions gave us a short 2-3 foot chop, which Ghost Rider handled with aplomb.  We let the generator run for another hour to complete its bulk charge cycle, bringing the batts to 97%, then shut it down to let the alternators take over from there.

Our route this day initially took us north to loop around Great Sale Cay, then ESE to run along Little Bahama Bank.  The winds increased to around 20 knots on the nose as the day went on, giving us 3 foot rollers at about 2 second intervals; that resulted in plenty of sea spray over the bow but Ghost Rider punched through it fairly smoothly.  We arrived at Allans Cay around 1430 and coasted in as close as we could to the shoreline and while still staying in depth that gave us two feet under the keel; then we dropped the hook and set it with some extra rode given the winds.
Dan on the Pole with a Nurse Shark on the Hook.

We readied the dingy for launching but then the winds picked up a bit more…followed by the arrival of several sharks.  Dan actually hooked a “small” (about a five footer) nurse shark on one of our spinning rods.  So we decided to wait on getting off the boat for now.  Perhaps the better-sheltered anchorage at Green Turtle Cay the following day would provide more favorable conditions for that exercise.

We enjoyed a gorgeous sunset under utterly clear skies, followed by a delicious dinner of black tip shark fillets, and called it a night.
A Beautiful Sunset at Our Allans Cay Anchorage

Fri, 13-Apr…. Allans Cay to Green Turtle Cay

The sortie to Green Turtle Cay was even shorter than the previous day’s trip so we slept in the next morning and enjoyed another leisurely morning hanging on the hook.  The winds were still cranking at 15 to 20 knots from the northeast, but we were secure with a good anchor set and adequate protection from the island.  Around 1045 we yanked the hook up and set off on a southeasterly heading through the Sea of Abaco.  We encountered short seas to 3 feet and some scattered though very light rain showers, and once again it was a comfy ride; but it wasn’t a fly bridge day.
Ghost Rider at Anchor with Snubber Deployed at Green Turtle Cay.

Around 1400 we neared the planned anchorage on the west side of Green Turtle near the small town of New Plymouth, and Rick noticed an AIS transmission from another Nordhavn anchored there – N57 Worknot, owned by Gale and Mary Plummer.  We hailed them on the VHF and got a good preview report of the depth and spacing available, taking a lot of guesswork out of the ensuing anchoring maneuvers.  It was fairly shallow with 2 feet under the keel since we were arriving at low tide, but that was good enough and we found a nice patch of sand to drop the hook.  We got a good anchor set on the first try once again, only a short distance from Worknot.

Shortly after we got the arrival / shutdown checklist completed, and hosed at least some of the salt off the boat, Gale arrived in his tender to welcome us to the area.  We had a relaxing chat on the fly bridge, and got an update on their travels along with some good guidance on attractions on the island, swapping some Nordhavn war stories along the way.
Gale & Mary's N57, Worknot, at Anchor Alongside Ghost Rider

Late that afternoon we finally launched the dinghy and the four of us piled in to first tour Black Sound bay, and then went back out and around the corner and into the Settlement Creek harbor at the town of New Plymouth.  We found the dinghy dock there, tied off the tender, and took a brief walk through part of the town.  It’s a classically small, quaint and quiet Bahamian settlement, which will warrant more touring time. There are several interesting eateries there, and we stopped for an early supper at Harvey’s Island Grill where the cracked conch and lobster was superb.

Once back on the boat we fired up the generator for a few hours to run the water maker, get some laundry done, and top off the charge on the house batteries.  Then we shut down, opened the windows and enjoyed a peaceful night at anchor.

Sat, 14-Apr…. Hanging at Green Turtle Cay

McIntosh's Eatery at Green Turtle Cay....Excellent Conch & Lobster
We took care of some minor boat chores on Saturday morning while waiting for a few showers to pass, and then in the early afternoon dinghied into New Plymouth once again to try out another restaurant for lunch.  This time we ended up at McIntosh’s where the cranked conch and cracked lobster plates were too tempting to pass up; and it fully met our expectations.

After that we rented a golf cart and toured the entire island.  The Atlantic side beaches and waters here are stunningly beautiful.  There are many strips of smooth white sand bordering ocean waters whose colors cover an amazingly wide spectrum of awesome blue and turquoise shades.  Eventually we ended up at the far north end of the island where we found yet another gorgeous beach with plenty of sand dollars, as well as a coral covered northern-most point where one could simultaneously view both the open waters of the Atlantic on one side and the more protected Sea of Abaco on the other. 
Just One of the Beach Views on Green Turtle

On our return leg we took a spin around the well-protected northern bay called White Sound where we found a large mooring field and marina facilities in considerably better shape than what we saw in the south bay in Black Sound.  In that same area we stopped at the Bluff House Beach bar and enjoyed the two-for-one happy hour while overlooking the pristine waters of the sea on the west side of the island. The Goombay Smash is a specialty there and not to be missed….it’s a mixture of several rums with flavorful fruit juices making for a wonderfully relaxing tropical drink.  Two of them will definitely get you attuned to “island time”.
Enjoying the Goombay Smash at the Bluff House Beach Bar

Eventually we made our way back south, dinghied on back to Ghost Rider, and then enjoyed another peaceful dinner and overnight while hanging on the hook.

Sun, 15-Apr….Green Turtle Cay & Great Abaco Island

As we studied the weather forecast the next morning it became pretty clear that we would not want to spend another night in our current anchorage.  A nasty cold front and associated storm system was headed our way from the northeast and would be in our area late Sunday night and Monday morning, clocking the winds around to the west and northwest.  Not a good wind direction for this anchorage.  Our escape plan was pull the anchor and motor the short distance across the channel to the eastern shore of Great Abaco.
This Sign Says It All, Don't Ya Think?

But that still gave us some time to take the golf cart back to the beach for some shell collecting and also grab another (conch!) lunch at Harvey’s Island Grill.  Gale and Mary joined us, and the guys talked about boats while the ladies talked about everything else.

We returned to the boats around 1400, hoisted and stowed the tender on the boat dock, then made the short sortie over to Great Abaco’s shoreline.  Winds were still cranking, now out of the south from 20 to 25 knots, but we found good holding about 450 yards from the shoreline and 550 yards north of Worknot’s new location.  We found depths much better than what the charts told us to expect, with 7 feet under the keel at low tide.  While we still had 1-2 foot rollers making Ghost Rider bob around a bit in the stiff wind, we had put out extra chain rode and backed down hard on the anchor in anticipation of the coming squall line.  The anchor set was solid. 
N57 Worknot Anchored Nearby in Our New Location

Mon, 16-Apr….Hanging Off of Great Abaco Island

The cold front and associated squall lines moved in during the wee hours of the morning and showers continued intermittently until late morning.  The winds clocked around to the northwest a little earlier than predicted, but overall we were in a good place.  Rick had lowered the taller antennae just in case of lightning, but we never saw any nor did we hear thunder.

Our next planned leg would take us further south to Great Guana Cay, and while that was yet another fairly short run of 17 miles, it involved crossing what is known as Whale Cay Channel.  That particular stretch of shallows has a deserved reputation for being wickedly rough and occasionally even dangerous – one guide book says that in certain conditions (called a “rage”) it can be suicidal to attempt to cross due to the way large waves coming from the open Atlantic interact with the shallows and rocks in the narrow strait.  Given the recent frontal passage and stiff winds, we decided to give that patch of water another day to calm down a bit.  So we had a lazy day just hanging on the hook off the shoreline of Great Abaco Island.
Dan, Juli & Chelle Taking the Tender to Great Abaco's Nearby Shoreline

By early afternoon skies had cleared, and air temperatures reach into the upper 70’s with 15-20 knot winds from the northwest.  We launched the tender again, and Chelle, Juli and Dan dinghied to the shore to stroll the narrow strip of beach and collect some shells.  Meanwhile Rick took care of a few boat shores, updated the work-in-progress blog diary, and also enjoyed some quiet time for a little reading.  (Current book: “The Grey Seas Under” by Farley Mowat.)  He also tended to the engine room and lazarette preflights in anticipation of the next day’s departure.  We had another peaceful evening on board Ghost Rider and got a good night’s sleep.
Another Captive Sunset While Anchored Off of Great Abaco Just Across
the Chennel from Green Turtle Cay

Tue, 17-Apr….From Great Abaco Near Green Turtle to Orchid Bay on Great Guana

The next morning brought mostly clear skies and the expected brisk breeze from the north that followed the frontal passage.  We retrieved the anchor and were underway by 0900 heading SSE towards the Whale Cay Channel.   The VHF radio reports of conditions in “The Whale” were good though, and turned out to be accurate – a bit sloppy at times with three foot swells at short intervals with white caps on top, but nothing near what the locals call “rage” conditions.  We plowed our way through it without issue and approached Orchid Bay Marina on Great Guana Cay just before noon.
Our Dock's Entrance to the Orchid Bay Facilities on Great Guana Cay

The marina is protected from the Sea of Abaco by a substantial man-made rock breakwater, so it was calm water and wide fairways, but there was some confusion over slip assignment, which resulted in us having to dock Ghost Rider twice; the first time bow-in resulting in the realization that the finger pier wasn’t long enough for us to disembark the boat; the second time stern-in which provided marginally better de-boarding logistics.  It all proceeded without drama, and besides, Rick needed the docking practice after so many days of anchoring.

After we got the boat all tucked away, we had a relaxing lunch at the marina’s Sunsetter restaurant, which also provided us marvelous views of the Abacos inside waterway from its sea-side dining deck.  Then we rented a golf cart and went on a tour of the island.
Lucn on the Deck at Sunsetters

Like Green Turtle Cay, Great Guana Cay is mostly a golf cart community that is a bit more commercialized, but that’s a very relative scale in the Bahamas…only 150 people live here along its 7 mile strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Sea of Abaco.  The eastern side features elevated bluffs that overlook the open ocean, providing commanding views of its beaches, reefs and crystal clear Bahamian waters, with their typically stunning green-blue colors.  We drove from one end of the island to the other, exploring side roads and sandy paths and shelling along the beaches.  On the return drive we stopped at Nippers Beach Bar & Grill which is perches on the southeastern bluff overlooking the Atlantic.  Famous for its “Nipper Juice” (yep, another multi-rum and fruit juice drink, and we yes downed some), it’s definitely a party place with its open air seating, swimming pool and boisterous Caribbean music.
The Beaches on Great Guana Cay 

After returning to the boat to get cleaned up and catch up on emails, we relaunched the golf cart for the short run to Kidd’s Cove Bar and Grill for dinner.  The food is excellent – whether conch, grouper or mahi – once it finally gets served; you need to be on island time, and the Goombay rum cocktails help with building that patience.

Another Bach View on Great Guana Cay
The Approach to Nippers Beach Bar & Grill
View of the Beach from Nippers Position on the Bluff
Dan, Juli & Chelle Enjoying Nippers
Wed, 18-Apr….From Orchid Bay to Marsh Harbor

We awoke to our very first calm and sunny morning in the Bahamas early on Wednesday.  Ghost Rider’s bow was facing the breakwater at the edge of the marina basin and just beyond it the Sea of Abaco was completely flat.  Yay.
Finally...a Perfectly Flat Sea Just After Daybreak....Yay!

Figuring this would be another short sortie day – just a couple of hours across the channel and a bit further south to the Marsh Harbor area – we had a relaxing breakfast, caught up on email and the news, and checked out of the marina.  Around 1030 we cranked engines and departed.  The cruise down to Abaco Beach Marina at Boat Harbor, which is on the east side of the Marsh Harbor peninsula, was perfectly smooth under clear skies and temps in the upper 70’s.

Perfect…until we arrived at the marina, as they seemed totally unprepared for our arrival in spite of the reservation we had made early this morning.  After about 20 minutes we finally got a slip assignment, and as Rick approached the designated slot, the marina called on the VHF radio and announced they had assigned the wrong one…and were still working to find another.  Rick backed Ghost Rider out of the narrow fairway and back into the wider entry fairway; but after another 10 or 15 minutes of station-keeping (and still no slip assignment) he decided to exit the marina basin entirely into open water to make the wait a bit less stressful; marinas can be tight quarters when you have nowhere to go.  Fortunately the near calm conditions made for fairly easy maneuvering.
Aerial View of Boat Harbor....This Place is a Sportfishing Zoo

After another 30 minutes the marina finally called us back on the VHF to assign a different slip, so back in we went and docked Ghost Rider stern in.  We figured that would be the end of the day’s drama, but….nope.  The power quality at this marina is somewhere between bad and terrible; showing only 215 volts on what was supposed to be 240 volt power pedestals made the ship’s inverter/charger very unhappy….and after a short spell we had to start the generator to power the boat.  Continuing the less than stellar experience, the water pressure at the dock was almost nonexistent, so we decided to s-l-o-w-l-y top off the boat’s water tanks instead, and later use the boat’s own pump pressure to wash off some salt.
The Pool & Pool Bar Are Nice....But That's About It

As it turned out there was a large fishing tournament about to start, and the marina was inundated with large sportfishing vessels; whose crews proved once again they are the best at being obnoxious and rude.  The marina itself is quite well constructed and visually appealing, with a nice pool area and poolside bar, so we enjoyed some brief time ashore; but we’ll be cutting our stay here short and seeking another place to spend the next night or so.  Paying marina and water fees plus having to run the generator is just plain nuts.

Our rough plan is to head back east across the channel and check out the mooring field near Hopetown on Elbow Cay if we can get there on a high tide.

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