Abacos at a Walking Pace: Dec 19 2006
Dec 13 we left Green Turtle after an eight day stay due to strong winds. We fueled up and departed at high tide (harbor entrance can be as low as 4.5 ft at low tide - no need to guess on that one) for a night at anchor at Manjack Cay before making the hop to Marsh Harbor via...(drum roll please)...the Whale Cay Channel. Every area has its tough spots and this is the one in the Abacos (Northern Bahamas islands). It is tricky because a shallow bank (3-4 ft) extends from the mainland to the outer island...thus most boats must pass outside Whale Cay (this includes us) through Whale Cay Channel. The channel is fairly shallow (approx 12 ft) and is susceptible to rage sea conditions (breaking waves across the channel) when ocean swells come from the northeast...resulting from locally strong winds or storms hundreds of miles away. The bottom line is to wait for good weather and favorable conditions - light wind and calm seas. We have been listening to loads of weather forecasts in order to pass at the best time...and off we went 12/14 and all was fine - rollers but no breaking waves! We were anchored by Noon in Great Guana Cay.
A little bit more about weather reports. Chris downloads a grib file every morning which gives wind speeds and direction in our area out five days from NOAA - this is a great use of your tax dollars and is free...simply check it out at www.noaa.com. In addition, Erin listens to numerous reports via the SSB, HAM and VHF radios with coffee in hand as the sun comes up each morning...some are the same info at different times but frequencies do not always come in clearly from day to day so Erin hops around a bit...6am (8137 USB - Chris Parker), 6:30am (4045 USB - Chris Parker), 7:30am (8104 USB - Chris Parker), 7:45am (7268 LSB HAM waterway net), 8:15am Cruisers Net (VHF 68 - also has social goings on in the Abacos), 8:30am (12350 Chris Parker), 8:30am CruiseTimers (8152 USB - also has check-ins around the Caribbean and Florida) and 9am (6221 Chris Parker). These were all info sources that we checked every morning in anticipation of the Whale.
Once in Great Guana Cay we explored the small but fast developing island. We had a cocktail at the famous Nipper's (had to miss the Sunday pig roast due to a weather window - www.nippers.com) and strolled along the beach. Check out the lemon shark that kept pace with us just along the surf line...wow! We also made it to Grabbers - another beachside institution - with great french fries (and tzatziki for dipping - we were in heaven).
We pulled up the anchor from Great Guana Cay and headed for Marsh Harbor (12/16). It is a short hop and without any time pressures we sailed along with the screecher at 5.6 knots in 15 knots of wind. It was a beautiful day and a peaceful sail. Marsh Harbor is the third largest city in the Bahamas and boasts one of the two traffic lights in all of the Bahamas. The harbor is well protected and has great holding for the anchor (some cruisers refer to it as a velcro bottom). We were anchored by 1:15pm and happy to see several familiar boats already at anchor - Alize and Peregrine.
Uh oh - we have a bit of a freezer problem...possibly the understatement of the century...it is unfreezing all or our great US meat! If we cannot get it fixed we will have a cruiser BBQ and invite the whole anchorage...but first, refrigerator-man Chris will take a look. Out comes the volt meter and all sorts of checks of the equipment, chats with cruisers and manufacturer website researching. Phew - it seems that we may have dodged this bullet. The freezer is back freezing but we will be diligent about eating our stores in case the situation arises again.
Marsh Harbor is the big city but it still has lots of homemade goodies and regional food specialties. Chris started the tasting with a homemade chicken curry meat pie - wonderful!! Erin had a Bahamian breakfast specialty - souse with a side of grits. Souse is basically chicken soup...but the most flavorful chicken soup I have ever had complete with onions & potatoes and seasoned with peppers and lime juice! Yum! (Chris - Yuck! Smelled funny to me ... )
It is onto boat projects on a lovely, sunny day (12/18); cleaning and inflating the fenders, cleaning the dinghy, laundry, generator fluid changes, fridge clean out and odor removal (who left a baby diaper in there?!), lube oil changes in both engines and generator, changed fuel filters in generator...a good solid day of work. Chris is absolutely thrilled and has now completed all maintenance and our systems are up to date - oh, happy dance!! Now onto sundowners and snacks at a neighbor boat! Tonight we will bring Peanut Chili Chicken (thanks for the recipe Laurie); cubed chicken marinated then baked at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes and served with baguette slices and toothpicks. The sauce is mostly pantry items...thus a good boat item; 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup chili sauce, 1 T. salt, 1/2 t. cayenne, 3 T. garlic (minced), 1/2 t. black pepper, 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup soy sauce and garnish (if desired) - 8 scallions (minced) and 1/3 cup cilantro.
We want to thank friends and family for all the emails keeping us up to date on what you are doing - we love it! Also, we get questions from time to time and I thought I would mention one here...checking into a new country. When we crossed from the US waters of Florida to the Bahamas waters we raised the Q flag (quarantine flag - all yellow) from the right halyard of the mast. The Q flag stayed up until we had cleared customs. Once cleared by customs we lowered the Q flag and raised the Bahamas courtesy flag...yes, Erin made both of them with her sewing machine. The courtesy flag for a country is not always the same as the country flag. The Bahamas courtesy flag is a red background cut into quarters by white stripes with the country flag placed in the upper left quarter. The aquamarine and yellow of the flag signify the beautiful sandy islands surrounded by the ocean and the black reflects the vigor and unity of the Bahamian people. Hope that helps and keep the questions coming.