With forecasters promising two days of blustery weather, we decided to ride out the wind on a mooring ball at Treasure Cay. This proved to be a good move. When the predicted front arrived, things got feisty even in the shelter of Treasure Cay Marina.
In less squally moments, Maria and I bounced in the dinghy and motored the 200 metres or so to the resort’s dinghy dock from where we strolled through the resort then plonked our still-pink bodies on the white sandy beach overlooking the Sea of Abaco. And because the mooring fee includes access to the pool and wifi, we occasionally returned to the resort to laze around the pool on sun loungers, soaking up the sun and the internet and drinking down the happy hour cocktails at two for one.
We enjoyed the holiday experience here. So much so that we stumped up for another night, ate at the pool bar and bought an extra large pizza that lasted us for one night of dinner and three days of lunches. We salty sailors know how to splash out.
Great Guana Cay
On the 25th November, we let go of the lines on our mooring ball and headed over to Fishers Bay on Great Guana Cay, dropping our anchor in a sandy patch of seabed in three metres of water. Then, after making sure our anchor was correctly set (it was), we headed off in the dinghy to find a spot to land so that we could get to Nippers Bar.
According to the Nippers Facebook page, Sundays are $20 pig roast days. That’s relatively cheap around these parts, so we had some motivation to get there. And after a scan of the beach to find a landing spot, we spotted a smooth section of sand next to a mangrove tree. So, that’s where we landed and locked the dinghy.
Nippers was in full flow when we arrived. The party looked to have been going for hours, and it was only 2 pm. This is a popular place with locals and tourists alike. Some of the holidaymakers looked like they have been partying here since the ’80s – and haven’t returned home since. It’s a sight to behold and to forget.
The Pig Roast proved to be not $20, but $30 (what is it with Facebook?). And that was ‘One time through’, according to the waitress/food guard stationed over the steaming, but untouched, pans of meat and accoutrements. And it is served on a wobbly plastic plate. So, not only wasn’t it the bargain we expected, but it also didn’t look that nice. So we ordered chicken and a burger off the menu instead.
I can understand why the partygoers linger here though. It has a great atmosphere. And the location – right on the beach – couldn’t be better. Although how some of these folks can get so off their faces with beer at $9 a bottle I have no idea.
After lunch, we left the partygoers to party on down (to the floor probably) and took a look around the town. Here are the photos:
With more adverse weather in the pipeline, the next day we scurried off to Marsh Harbour and its huge anchorage. Some people seem to stay here for weeks at a time. We stayed out of necessity. It doesn’t have the same charm as somewhere like Great Guana Cay. On the plus side, it is a well-protected anchorage, the shops are good (if a little pricey). And there are plenty of waterfront restaurants nearby.
We met a Swiss couple at the dinghy dock. We were heading to an outboard shop to see if we could get a spare propeller (an oversight on the part of the bosun) and they were looking for a new outboard. So, we chatted for a while, exchanged details, and ended up having dinner with them later in the week. Willi and Magali built their boat in Switzerland from a set of plans. The plans, for an aluminium hull and superstructure, stipulated the position of the mast and the engine but nothing else.l
Nonetheless, not only did they make the boat, they made it all the way across the Atlantic and completed a season of sailing in the Caribbean too. They plan to sail from here to the Pacific. I am deeply impressed by what they have done. Maria and I agonise over where to put a new coat hook on the boat. I can’t imagine what it would be like having to think of everything from the position of windows, galley, bunks, heads, saloon. A big hats off to them.
While we had access to the supermarkets here, we stocked up with things that might be useful for the folks in Cuba (where we plan to go after Christmas): principally toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap. Although having just read A Slow Train to Guantanamo by Peter Millar, I feel that some of the other ‘first-hand’ reports we have read might be misleading. There may not be a need for essential supplies such as these, but we shall see. While out shopping, we also stocked up on the local beer we discovered at Nippers Bar – and a large avocado the size of a small child’s head.
On the morning of 29th November, we raised the anchor and sailed in a light breeze over to Hope Town – the most picturesque of the islands we have visited so far. It is picture postcard beauty centred around a beautiful candy stripe lighthouse overlooking the sea of Abaco.
There is no anchoring in the harbour, so the choice is to anchor outside or pick up a mooring ball inside. We chose the latter. It’s worth the $20 per night just for the view. And there’s free schadenfreude entertainment provided by new arrivals picking up the mooring balls.
Within a few minutes of arrival, we had the dinghy in the water headed to Elbow Cay lighthouse. This lighthouse has to be one of the few anywhere that it’s possible to visit free of charge – and unaccompanied. There’s no smothering health and safety here. The lighthouse is open to visitors, and you can walk up the steps towards the top, passing on the way the machinery that keeps the lights turning and burning. And at the top of those stairs, there’s a small access door leading to an outside gallery rewarding stair-climbers with a magnificent view.
Hope Town itself is lovely. The pastel shades of the buildings perfectly complement the colours of the sea. There’s a beautiful beach overlooking the Atlantic and, for the fatigued, there’s a couple of benches at the end of a road from where it’s possible to sit and watch the boats come in.
Hope Town is ready for Christmas. The Letters to Santa box is open for requests. Christmas lights and inflatable snowmen spring to life at night along Lovers Lane. And more Christmas lights were being added throughout the town every day.
Tour de Elbow Cay
One evening, we had dinner at Captain Jack’s restaurant (he bears a striking resemblance to Quint in the film Jaws). And the next day we extracted our bikes from the depths of the locker and explored more of Elbow Cay, which happens to be a great place to ride a bike. The roads are mostly good, the traffic is light, and it moves at a sedate pace – principally because most of it consists of golf carts. And most of these seemed to have been employed shuttling guests to a wedding at the Seaspray resort, where we just happened to be when a sudden downpour forced us into a bar.
While here, in the presence of the Internet, I took a look at Google Maps for an alternative route back – and found a road almost hugging the coast that would shave miles off our return trip. And after an almost-sensible one drink, we plonked ourselves back on our bikes and headed back towards the dinghy dock. What Google Maps doesn’t tell you is how crap the roads are. This coastal route might be direct, but it is also in dire condition – alternating between rocks, potholes, sand and occasional smooth. We spent most of the time wheeling our bikes alongside, acting as a pair of unstable zimmer frames for our knackered bodies. Eventually, though, the centre of Hope Town emerged ahead as a smooth-roaded oasis, enabling us to cycle the rest of the way to the dinghy dock.
We wanted to leave the next day for Little Harbour as it’s a great staging point to get to Eleuthera some 50 miles south. But the owner of the moorings hadn’t come along to collect his money. In an attempt to find him, we took a short dinghy ride to the other side of the lighthouse, where he usually operates from, but that didn’t produce a result. The Lucky Strike company might have down on their luck if it wasn’t for Jim and Teri on Indian Summer pointing us in the direction of a couple on a boat further ahead of them who collect mooring fees on his behalf. We learned that Truman Major (Luck Strike’s owner) also runs the special needs school on the island, and the mooring fees form a vital source of income to help with this.
So, with slightly less cash, but a little more virtue, we headed out of Hope Town towards Little Harbour.