Sunday, January 15, 2012

Florida to Grand Bahama Island

Ocean Reef Yacht Club
Lucaya, Grand Bahamas
26 30.243 N 078 39.718 W

Our friends Polly & Mo arrived on their DeFever Trawler and tied-up along the New River waterfront walkway in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We met them one night at the Downtowner Saloon for two-for-one happy hour and were introduced to two other DeFever Trawler owners......  

....We were invited  to celebrate New Year's Eve aboard Jeff & Izzy Rogers DeFever Trawler, the Izzy R. They were renting dockage along the New River that fronted on a very unsual piece of property in Ft. Lauderdale knowns as the "New River Castle".....

.....Coincidentally, the owner of the castle and docks was also hosting a big New Year's Eve party on the castle grounds that included a live band, fireworks, open bar, food, etc. that we were also invited to attend. We took a tour of the catle interior. LtoR: M & K, Mo & Polly, Diane & Steve, and Jeff (Izzy is taking pic).

This is an outdoor view of this quirky little castle. It reminded me of a huge sandcastle. The New River Castle is located on the New River near Downtown Fort Lauderdale. The original structure was built circa 1920 and converted to the castle in the early 50's? The castle is made of coral and has been renovated into a guest house.  It has quite a history including being visited by Ringo Starr and owned by a local drug lord.

With the New Year celebrations behind us it was time to complete our provisioning for our time in the Bahamas. We borrowed our friend Ted's car and made a final shopping run. Now the problem is where do I put all this stuff? It took awhile but I got it all in.  

After one last dinner at The Downtowner Saloon in Fort Lauderdale with Mo & Polly (right) and friends Verena and Silvio (middle), from Blues Breaker, who we had not seen since last March in the Exumas....

..... we sailed (actually motored) out of Fort Lauderdale at dawn on Sat. 1/7/12, just as the last of the cruise ships was coming into the Port Everglades inlet.
This is (Kathy's version) how a Gulf Stream crossing should be!! Can you believe we are out in the middle of the ocean? We scan the weather charts and reports daily to try to pick a weather "window" like this. We read and napped and fished (unsuccessfully) for the 9-1/2 hour, 68 mile crossing.

We arrived at Old Bahama Bay Yacht Club in West End, Grand Bahama around 4:20pm and the captain was able to get us cleared through customs before the 5pm closing time. West End is a convenient port of entry from Florida and used by many cruisers as well as weekend fisherman from the States. Customs is in the pink building behind the sailboat. The marina is in a protected manmade basin. Looking west, beyond the spit of land is the Florida Straits.

We left West End on Sun. and had a beautiful sail down the coast to Lucaya on the southwest side of Grand Bahama. We entered Bell Channel into Port Lucaya, intending to anchor in one of the many canal coves for at least a week while waiting for a watermaker part to be shipped in from the States, but found the anchorages to be too tight for our boat. The next day we raised anchor and backtracked down the coast a few miles to the Ocean Reef Yacht Club. This marina is a favorite of our friend's Rich and Carol Wellman (The Great Catsby) and now we know why. Carina is tied along the seawall of the marina. The marina is part of a time share so that the boaters are afforded all the resort amenities including 2 pools, hot tub, restaurants, tennis court and a small gym and spa, cable tv, etc. There is a small community of cruisers here, many who spend the full season or longer. The monthly rates were so good we decided to stay for the entire month of January.

The weekly schedule of resort activities. There are so many things to choose from the days just fly by. It's hard to see on the board but Mon. night is the weekly welcome dinner for timeshare guests that is also open to us boaters. It includes a free Bahamian themed dinner and three drinks. We arrived on a Mon. so we felt the party was just for us and it was a great way to meet our fellow cruisers.

Sunset view from Carina's deck. It just doesn't get any better...however we have said that a few times before haven't we?
Ahhh... back to white sand beaches and turquoise waters.  This beautiful beach is within walking distance of the marina resort.
Hank (and his wife Diane) are one of the marina's long-term liveaboard cruisers. He goes out lobstering on the reefs in his dinghy just about everyday and brings back his limit. Last Thursday night they invited all the boaters to a potluck dinner at one of the resort's pool patios. Here Hank is grilling some of the 60+ lobsta' tails he had saved up. Delicious!

The cruiser's enjoying the lobster potluck. The count was 43 at this dinner...with 60 lobsters that meant there were seconds available.
Junkanoo is a Mardi Gras like street parade with music and colorful costumes, which occurs in many towns across the Bahamas on Boxing Day (12/26) and New Year's Day. Last night (Sat. 14th) a dozen cruisers from the marina hired a cab and we attended the Junior Junkanoo parade in downtown Freeport. This was just like regular Junkanoo but with school children from pre-school through highschool. It was so cute!!

This is one of the high school groups. Notice the colorful costumes and headresses which are all handmade. Each school group had a different theme related to Bahamian history and culture. We had a home cooked Bahamian fish fry dinner with all the fixins that we purchased from one of the local street vendors before the parade started. It was delicious. Then we took our seats on the bleachers to enjoy the show. We really enjoy taking part in the local culture and events as we travel around. It's part of what makes the cruising lifestyle so enjoyable for us.