Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In & Around the Southern Abacos

Fisher’s Bay, Great Guana Cay, Abacos
26 40.12 N 077 07.18 W
(click on photo to enlarge)

We spent a few more days in Little Harbor after sending out the last blog. On Thursday 4/7/11, we had a leisurely sail of about 21 miles north up through the Sea of Abaco and arriving in Marsh Harbor. Marsh Harbor is the largest town and the capitol of regional government for the entire Abaco Island group. Great Abaco Island and Little Abaco Island together make up the main island. To the east and north of these two main islands are a few dozen smaller inhabited cays and reefs that form a protective barrier from the Atlantic Ocean. The relatively calmer and shallower body of water between these outer cays and the main islands is called the Sea of Abaco and is where we have spent the last two weeks. We have slowly been making our way back to “civilization” or at least what is more what we are used to stateside. The Abacos seem to have all the amenities we took for granted back in the US such as TV reception, reliable Internet and even a grocery store to rival a Super Stop & Shop or Publix.

Mangoes Marina in Marsh
 Rather than anchor out in Marsh Harbor, we took a slip at Mangoes Marina (26 32.81 N 077 03.19 W) to make it easier for the major provisioning planned. We plugged into electricity (1st time since George Town in Feb.) and water (1st time since Nassau in Jan.) and immediately went into “condo mode” taking advantage of air conditioning and long showers. It was difficult to leave this luxury and we spent 4 days here. We rented a car for a day to make it easier to get our groceries and liquor back to Carina as well as refill empty medications and propane.

Anchored off Matt Lowe Cay
 On Monday, 4/11/11 we reluctantly turned off the AC and motored just outside of the harbor to do a little snorkeling on Mermaid Reef before continuing a few more miles, dropping anchor behind Matt Lowe Cay for the night (26 33.72 N. 077 01.07 W)

Hope Town Lighthouse
On Tues. 4/12/11 we headed to Hope Town on Elbow Cay (26 33.73 N 076 01.07 W). The famous red & white striped light house in Hope Town is a well photographed landmark. It was built in 1864 and is one of the last of three oil-burning, hand-wound lighthouses still operating in the world.

The bulls-eye lenses and lamp
of the lighthouse
 The light house keeper has to climb the 101 steps every 2 hours throughout the night to hand crank the weights that operate the beacon. The 360 degree view looking out over the harbor, the Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Abaco is striking.

Hope Town Harbor view &
Atlantic ocean beyond from
atop the lighthouse
 Hope Town is a picturesque little town first settled by Loyalist in the late 1700's. After the Loyalist realized that the thin, infertile Bahama soil was not suitable for farming they turned to fishing but also to the more lucrative salvaging of the many wrecked ships that ran aground on the reefs of Elbow Cay... that is until the lighthouse was built. 

Beautifully landscaped
gardens along the narrow walks
 Some of the original houses have been "upgraded" to larger tourist rental homes but the town still maintains its charm with beautifully landscaped gardens and pastel colored houses. Kathy got a night off from cooking by having dinner at Capt. Jack’s restaurant overlooking the harbor.

Harbor side view
 The next day we walked the town, the beaches, visited the Wyannie Malone historical museum and treated ourselves to a homemade key lime pie (with an unusual meringue topping) from Vernon’s Bakery which was delicious.

Sand spit on Tahiti Beach at the
south end of Elbow Cay
After two nights on a mooring in a very crowded Hope Town Harbor among the throngs of charter boat and their vacation-mode partying we decided to “escape” to the south end of Elbow Cay, anchoring off Tahiti Beach (26 30.18N 076 59.08 W). While beach combing Kathy found another legal conch in the waters off Tahiti Beach which promptly became conch fritters for dinner.
Looking down hill towards
 the protected harbor. 
 On Fri. 4/15/11 we had a leisurely sail 7 miles back up north to the next outer cay beyond Elbow Cay. Man-O-War Cay has been one of our favorite stops so far. The island is neat as a pin with well-maintained homes and landscaped yards with tropical flowers.

Kathy outside a small market
 Man-O-War was another island settled by Loyalists in the 1780s and almost all of these industrious residents can trace their roots back to Nellie Archer and Ben Albury. Before she died, Mama Nellie set aside land for a school, church, roads and cemetery.

Field of dreams.
The town's baseball field as well as the town's cemetery are both situated overlooking the turquoise blue Atlantic ocean.

This island still maintains a very deep seated religious and community foundation. As a result no liquor is sold anywhere on the island and all business are shut down on Sunday. Man-O-War is also the traditional boat-building center of the Abacos. The Albury Boatworks still makes excellent quality boats.

The north end of Man-O-War
Cay. Atlantic ocean on right.
Our anchorage and Sea of
Abaco to left
 We spent two nights anchored off a small cove and beach on Man-O-War (26 36.43 N 77 00.98 W). We walked most of the 2-1/2 mile long island. Between walking, kayaking and swimming we've been getting a good work out.

Outside of "town" the roads
give way to single lane
sand or gravel paths

On Sunday, 4/17 we sailed another 7 miles to Great Guana Cay (not to be confused with the Great Guana Cay we visited in the Exumas). We spent Sunday night on a mooring in Settlement Harbor after taking in the party atmosphere of the famous (or is it infamous?) Nipper’s Beach Bar. Nipper’s sits high on a sand dune bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. People flock here on Sunday for the pig roast and “Nippers” (their version of Rum punch).

Dinner at Grabber's
 Great Guana is one of the larger out islands and we will take a few days exploring the anchorages along the west side. Monday 4/18 we motored around the corner and anchored in Fisher’s Bay.

followed by our table-side view
of the sunset over anchorage
 The Admiral received another night off from galley duty having dinner at Grabber’s – another beach bar and grill set among palm trees and sand with a view of the setting sun over our anchorage. Life is good!!!

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