Friday, July 31, 2009


June 17-July 14, 2009

Hope Town, Elbow Cay Overview
Hope Town, Elbow Cay Overview

No, we didn't manage to get the camera working again, nor did we purchase another one! I dug into the photo archives of previous trips and picked out one of my old favorites to brighten up the page a bit. Photos used from events after July 3 are generously supplied from our cruising buddies on NO CALL and SUN DAZE. This final entry about our trip to the sunny Bahamas is being posted from the home dock, for reasons that will become obvious after reading about our time in the Abacos.

The Weather Was In Control

When that thunderstorm at Lynyard Cay finally moved on and we were able to get down our anchor, we were pleasantly surprised to recognize two other boats anchored nearby that we have been friendly with the last couple of years of cruising the islands. VHF communications with them indicated they were in a state of malcontent, having had the most miserable weather they could ever remember. Hearing them talk about the constant winds and daily t-storms made us thankful that we had elected to spend the first part of our cruising season farther south. In fact,when we saw them 10 days later, having been beaten by the weather, they ended up returning to Florida almost a month ahead of their regular return date. They weren't alone though, from what we could hear on the radio chatter, many cruisers had just given up waiting for better weather, or had spent too much of their money going into marinas where they felt more secure rather than getting bounced around at anchor. For example, on July 3, whether it was from poor weather or less cruising because of the economy in general, we anchored at the same spot last year and had 30 boats; this year there were only 14. We would end up waiting until July 11 for our first “ideal” weather day!

The root of the weather problem was centered around winds that were consistently blowing from a westerly quadrant. The Abacos just aren't laid out for cruisers to have comfortable anchorages with those winds. They also have a tendency to bring awful thunderstorms with lots of lightning and the dreaded waterspouts. One brand new Grand Banks we met at Conception Island went by us again and was without its Bimini top and upper deck canvas. I called the captain and asked why he was cruising with the “bald” look and he told me he had lost it all in a thunderstorm while he was in the “protection” of Marsh Harbor. Despite the loss of all that expensive canvas, he was happy that his anchor had held and no other boats dragged into him.

We dealt with thunderstorms lasting 4 hours; fortunately the majority of them occurred during daylight hours. At least then you have a better chance to keep your bearings and those of other vessels in your vicinity. However, the day we had to go pick up Eddie after he returned from his reunion, we debated about whether or not we should haul up our anchor early enough to where we could anchor in an area close to the ferry dock where we had agreed to meet Eddie where we could watch for Eddie's plane to go flying by. The debate ran for so long, time finally ran out and we left in time to what we thought would put us where we needed to be without anchoring or waiting long. I would stand off with FLUKE while Wayne hopped in the dinghy to go to shore to pick up Eddie.

As we neared the rendezvous site, a bad storm approached. The winds and rain picked up. When I read 45 knots on the wind gauge I remarked to Wayne that it probably couldn't get much worse. Another squall line burst through with pounding, blinding rain, and we clocked 60.1 KTS! I was at the helm and couldn't see the bow of the boat and couldn't tell what direction the wind was coming from without looking at the wind gauge. It is important to keep the bow into the wind to try to maintain a steady course. Plus, we were towing the dinghy and we needed to try to protect it by keeping it behind the boat as much as possible. We were lucky there were no other boats in our vicinity, and the worst part of the storm moved through quickly, but we missed the rendezvous time because we had to spend more time underway trying to control the boat and move through the storm. When we got into a clearer area I saw 4 other sailboats, one whose dinghy had flipped over, that appeared to have hauled anchor to ride out the storm underway too.

After we were headed toward the airport dock again I saw a ferry leaving the dock and called the ferry operator to find out if Eddie was aboard. Our plan had been for Eddie to take the last ferry over to New Plymouth where he could try to rent a room if we had not shown up for some reason. The ferry operator told me Eddie wasn't aboard. So, we motored up closer to the airport dock where I could look through the binoculars and see Eddie on shore, acting like our tardiness was no big deal! He had been able to see us underway, and that's why he didn't get on the ferry.

We were all glad to see Eddie again, and he was glad to be back aboard. He had a great time seeing all his old schoolmates, but the weather in CT was cold and damp, and he decided he liked fermenting with his shipmates better.

After we successfully got Eddie aboard, we went back to where we had been anchored earlier that afternoon. The owner of the boat that had been anchored next to us came over and said that after we had hauled anchor and the storm moved in, lightning either hit his boat, or close to it, and 30 different pieces of electronics were not working!

The rain didn't do any good for helping to cool things off and only aggravated the high humidity and water clarity. One day, while fully underway, the pilothouse thermometer read 92°. Most days I couldn't tell any difference between sitting in the dinghy or going in the water, unless I was 20' down .

Making the Best of the Alternatives

These contrary winds forced us into finding more creative places to drop the hook, which was fine with us because one of our goals was to try anchoring in places we hadn't been to over the past years. Other cruisers reading this blog should take note of the places, as they may find them interesting. Our criteria in choosing an anchorage include the following: good holding with our Delta anchor, wind protection, plenty of room to maneuver (and not be crowded by other boats), possible snorkeling potential, and opportunity to land the dinghy for a walk on shore.

Since conditions weren't appropriate to anchor in Baker's Bay, we elected to explore the area around Water Cay and Archers Cay, off of Great Abaco. We found good holding just a bit north of where the creeks enter into the Sea of Abaco. We explored the area by dinghy, but it would probably be interesting to take a kayak into the creek area; we saw lots of juvenile turtles in the creek basin that looks to have a wooden bridge (damaged by a hurricane) connecting one of the small cays to the mainland. On high tide you can land the dinghy and walk on the cays or on the “road” from the mainland where the bridge begins. At lower tide a piece of metal will be visible sticking out of the water near the mouth of the creek with the bridge If you snorkel that area you will see a whole array of construction equipment underneath the water, along with car bumpers and axles. Lots of fish have made this wreck site their home. Snorkel on a rising tide; the falling tide brings too much turbid water in from the creek, and you can't see anything!

After we passed through Whale Cay Passage, we anchored right off Carleton Point, tucked in as far as our 5.5' draft would allow, which is a surprisingly far way up towards the beach and still had plenty of water under us to feel safe if we started bouncing around. Look for a sandy spot between the grass patches to get the best holding. This anchorage will only be good if you have steady winds with a westerly component; otherwise you will get surge from around the point.

If you are a beach walker, you will love having access to land your dinghy and walk for miles on the famous Treasure Cay beach (it is dog friendly!). You can even access the marina facilities and shops by cutting through one of the condo complexes. We managed to find the plaque mounted in the rocky cliff right on the outermost end of Carleton Point. It commemorates the 200 yr. anniversary (1783-1983) of the first Loyalist colony in the Abacos. The colony was formed by a group of people who left New York because they didn't support the American colony's efforts to break free of England. The Abaco colonialists thought England would quit trading with the American colony and trade with the Abaconian colony instead, but their agricultural attempts failed, causing the colony to break up and move to other places. I think those Loyalists must have gotten some bogus information about the viability of the land in the Bahamas and just been so miserable with the idea of true democracy and real freedom that they rationalized their relocation without the facts to their own detriment. The plaque site yielded another treasure, too, a Geocache that we inadvertently stumbled upon, so I felt like a real treasure hunter and even added written comments to the cache's log.

The charts indicate anchoring right off the airport ferry dock in westerly winds. Rather than contend with all the commercial traffic, garbage, and wakes associated with the landing, go a couple of miles north where you can see a sandy shore, but stay south of the string of rocks that parallel the mainland. We have always found good holding in that area. Plus, it is interesting to snorkel the rocks, cuts, and mangroves. I observed a guide taking customers bone-fishing in the shallows behind the rocks on a daily basis. We only caught a barracuda dinghy trolling, but at least it was an outing. Our friends, Dave and Kathy, from Lady K, anchored nearby and spent a fun evening with us for dinner and catching up on a year's worth of news since the last time we had seen them.

Moving farther north up the western side of the Sea of Abaco, past Cooperstown, you will reach Angelfish Point. A lot of cruisers go around Crab Cay and drop the hook on the west side of the point. When we have westerly winds, we like to anchor on the east side of Angelfish Point, short of the cut between the point and Crab Cay, close to the 30' high peak of land. We get good protection from the wind. With all the big rocks along the shore it is a great place to snorkel and troll. Last year we caught a 15# Cubera snapper; this year we only caught a jack, which I ended up giving to a Bahamian fisherman on the shore. We will also remember this anchorage because we had the best pizza party ever aboard FLUKE this year with the crews from NO CALL and SUN DAZE in attendance Wayne made the delicious dough from the recipe he has managed to perfect, we topped the 2 big pizzas with lots of cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple, olives, and sausage. Who needs to call in for a pizza?!!

We finally had the “opportunity” to visit the anchorage on the north side of Allans-Pensacola. We accessed the area by staying close to the shore on the southeastern end of AP Cay and then cutting northward, staying clear of all of the rocks on the northwestern tip of Big Hog Cay, always watching our water depth and proceeding very slowly,moving westward to clear all the Money and Murray Cays before turning towards the beach. You have to look around for a sandy spot to drop the hook. We had good holding with our Delta, but our friends could not get their Super Max to dig in well, but both anchors held when a 30 KT squall moved through that had a slight northerly component to it. You would not want to be in this anchorage with any winds from the north or east as you would be exposed to some Atlantic Ocean rolling in, unless you had a shallow enough draft to try to tuck in behind the Murray or Money Cays, where saw several boats anchored. I found this anchorage to be one of the most picturesque in the Abacos. Plus, it is also a beach walker's paradise with several stretches of beautiful white sandy areas and interesting rocky outcroppings. The anchorage provides ready access for traveling out to the line of offshore reefs and nearer shore patch reefs.

Stranded Naked Again, July 3, 2009

Waiting to Eat
Waiting to Eat

You just have to learn to deal with the weather and not let it beat you down altogether. If all else fails, go to a party. After attending the Stranded Naked party last year we decided if it worked into our travel schedule to be able to go to the party again this year, that's what we would do. Hundreds of others had the same idea and landed their vessels on tiny Fiddle Cay for a day of food, drink, and merriment.

This event is sponsored by the company that sells a line of swimwear called Stranded Naked. The party is the season opener for Regatta Time in the Abacos, an annual sailing competition. At no charge, the company gives away hamburgers, fries, and all the rum punch and margaritas you can drink, and all the Jimmy Buffett music you can stand to have blasted at you from 5' high speakers run off a generator. The company sells artfully decorated T-shirts to help offset the costs. The shirts are so popular, party goers wait in line for hours waiting for the sale to begin. There really is no such thing as a free lunch!

Wayne and Ursa Said the Food was Worth the Wait
Wayne and Ursa Said the Food was Worth the Wait

34th Regatta Time in the Abacos, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, America.

This was to be a big day of socializing for the crew of FLUKE. We spent the morning spearfishing with our friends from NO CALL, Bruce and Janet, who were our spearfishing mentors. Eddie caught two nice grouper so everyone got together on FLUKE for delicious fresh grouper sandwiches. We had to celebrate the July 4 holiday and Eddie outdoing the Master. You know your mentor has done a fine job when the student finally prevails!

Carol and Janet Waiting for the Parade
Carol and Janet Waiting for the Parade

In the late afternoon, we hauled up the anchor on FLUKE from her spot near Manjack Cay to move over to Green Turtle Cay for the evening so that we could attend the Bahamian-sponsored party held at Settlement Point in New Plymouth for the Regatta Time in the Abacos celebration, with this year being its 34th anniversary. We invited Bruce and Janet to ride over with us since it would be their first opportunity to cruise on a Whaleback. The harbor area was filled with boats, many of which had competed in the sailing competitions held earlier throughout the day.

Boats Wearing Their Party Clothes
Boats Wearing Their Party Clothes

Settlement Point was filled with various food vendors from local eateries and organizations selling traditional Bahamian dishes. It was fun to be able to sample some of the different fare, piecemeal at a time. Sponsors supplied free beer and rum punch from a huge tent with fast-moving lines. Eddie was standing in line and a woman came up behind him and squeezed his butt and put her arms around him and whispered “Guess who?” in his ear. Our friends Kathy and Dave were right behind her and wondered what was going on. They all really got a good laugh when Eddie turned around and the woman exclaimed “Oh, no, you're the wrong man!”

Eddie Hoping to Find That Woman Again
Eddie Hoping to Find That Woman Again!

A big stage was set up to give out the awards for the sailing competition and to provide a platform for the live band that played all kinds of music. Following the golf cart parade, came the most interesting “music” from the drummers who were the main event for the Junkanoo-style parade. It was amazing to see how these drummers with a lot of heart pounded on their drums and made a coordinated and catchy beat. Many of the party goers fell in line behind the drummers and bumped and ground themselves until the parade ended.

Pounding out a Beat
Pounding out a Beat

In the Final Stretch, July 5 – 13, 2009

Partied out, we decided to haul up the anchor from Manjack and begin our north and westward move to what would be our final destination for our 2009 Bahamian adventure, Wells Bay off of Grand Cay. There would be no chance of getting another WiFi connection. We made intermediate stops at the anchorages described earlier: Angelfish Point and Allans-Pensacola.

For the final voyage, the flotilla of FLUKE, NO CALL, and SUN DAZE left Allans-Pensacola on July 8 with seas calm enough for us to travel offshore, north of the barrier reef so that we could troll in waters in the 200-300' depths. After the 10 hour cruise, FLUKE had boated the most fish, with the best haul being 3.5 tuna. The .5 tuna still yielded 2.5# of tuna steaks. When I had that fish on the line, I felt a strange vibrating sensation which was the predator fish, probably a shark, ripping through my tuna. I knew I had lost most of the fish when the weight on the line suddenly became less. Ready Eddie was on the ball with the fillet knife and had all the fish “processed” before we even entered the area where we were going to anchor.

We spent 5 nights in Wells Bay. Every day was the same: spearfishing, either in the nearby cuts, patch reefs, and around the derrick wreck off of Walkers Cay. Overall, we didn't even see as many fish as last year. Maybe some of it had to do with the poorer visibility, but we all just thought there were less fish of all kinds, not just the species we were targeting. We had to spend more time looking at more locations, but it was still fun and we got a lot of exercise. Everyone managed to get some good fish, and was the “winner” on one day or another.

Carol With her Winning Grouper
Carol With her Winning Grouper

Besides spearfishing, we spent time doing the regular boat chores. I was insistent about getting the slime scraped off the waterline so that it didn't have to get done at the home dock where swimming in the river water would not be as enjoyable as the water in Wells Bay by several magnitudes. We endured an afternoon of loud rap music played while the locals celebrated Bahamian Independence Day on the nearby beach. I was thankful that the local mosquito control efforts were nil, forcing the celebration to end by 7:00 p.m. before the thirsty blood suckers could crash the beach party. SUN DAZE hosted a great dinner party with Richard's special recipe seafood chowder (conch, snapper, shrimp) served on a bed of yellow rice. Janet from NO CALL brought a delicious ambrosia salad, and Wayne made a braided Italian bread. We all laugh when we have people ask questions about what we eat while cruising, usually with the idea that we have to eat canned foods or find restaurants.

Fine Dining
Fine Dining

The Grand Finale, July 14, 2009

We had to leave today; we had a great 2 day weather window to have calm passage back to Florida. Our plan was to go to Mangrove Cay, about 4 hours away, get up at 0230 for the 15 hour ride back to the home dock in Vero Beach. Since we only needed to go 4 hours, we decided to leave about
3:00 p.m. since there was no point in getting to Mangrove and just sitting there sweltering the whole day. It is only a little speck of a mangrove island in shallow water in the middle of nowhere.

That said, we decided to make one last spearfishing expedition. It was only about 10:00 a.m. when we arrived at the first coral head. The tide was low, and there were quite a few clouds, making it difficult to spot the shallow heads. We hit a coral head and chipped one of the prop blades, so we were restricted in how fast we could go with the dinghy. We weren't having any luck finding much until we made a final stop at a patch reef that had quite a few fish. I speared a nice sized grouper, but it was strong enough to bend all 3 points on my spear and got off the spear and holed itself. I looked for it,with the hope of spearing it with another spear, but had to give up because sharks showed up to look for it too. Everybody back in the boat, please.

It was about 3:30 by the time we were finally ready to haul up the anchor. Wayne went to start the helm computer that runs our navigation software and it wouldn't power up. He tried various things in hopes of getting it started, but nothing worked. We have the backup software for the Bahamas and Florida on Eddie's laptop, so Wayne hooked that up. We were able to leave by 4:30. (It was a good thing the software had already been loaded because when we got back to Vero and Wayne tried to load more charts the CD drive wouldn't work, and we had to replace it.)

We planned to troll on the way to Mangrove in hopes of having one last chance of getting a mutton snapper, the only fish on the list we hadn't gotten any of this trip. We only caught a couple of barracuda. Then, one of the reels got a gigantic birds nest in it, and we had to spend 2 hours trying to untangle the line. It was stinking hot, late in the day, my hair was still stiff with salt from the morning dive, and I needed to cook dinner, so I was not happy working with Eddie on trying to untangle the line to say the least. Calling me a sea witch at that point would have just been a compliment!

Fortunately we managed to get up on time and had a great Gulf Stream crossing, topped off by catching a nice dolphin. We even made it to the home dock before dark and without an afternoon thunderstorm.

Stay Tuned . . .

We are hoping to leave Vero Beach at the beginning of August with our intended goal being the Erie Canal. We should have better WiFi access, a new camera, and more motivation to keep the news current!


  1. Nice to see pictures again.

    I guess since your getting another camera we'll never get to see any of your hand sketches???

    Thanks for today's getaway!!!


  2. Joe said to tell you he is jealous about the grouper! He wants to go fishing with you!
    We also liked the story about Eddie's butt - :}