2015 Season Begins!…Ft. Lauderdale to The Abacos – Bahamas

January 25th, 2015  (-5 hrs on UTC)

Our first major destination would be Hope Town in the Abaco Group of the Northern Bahamas. This is a panoramic of the anchorage of which \”Beach House\” is in the right middle.

Dear Friends and Family,
We had a nice weather window to leave Ft. Lauderdale on with the cold fronts from up north providing a nice WNWesterly to scoot the 71 miles to Old Bahama Bay Marina at the northwest end of Grand Bahama Island. Our plan has been to go over the Little Bahama Bank to the north of the island and work our way to Hope Town/Marsh Harbour and it\’s famous Lighthouse at Elbow Cay.

On our first night, we got to Customs just in time and they were in a hurry to clear us in as they were engrossed in the Seattle/Green Bay football game.
That was easy! Normally, we keep the boat buttoned up pretty tight with the screens to keep the bugs out. As there weren\’t any bugs, Nikki left the top hatch to our stateroom open and about 9:30 pm while brushing my teeth, I hear her scream, \”There\’s a RAT on me!\”….

So…Nikki turned on the light and crammed herself back in a corner. She saw \”Mr. Ratty\” hide in the opposite corner under our TV (which is wall mounted).

I had Nikki get out of the cabin and slowly removed everything I could where Mr. Ratty could possibly hide. Eventually, I scared him to the corner by the head of the bed and the last thing I did after removing the top sheet was to pull the pillow and of course (already) had closed the cabin door. I also opened the side port lights, hoping I\’d be able to escort Mr. Ratty out for an evenings swim! Well, to make a long story shorter, once Nikki had given me a bucket and a piece of cardboard to cover it with, I was able after 20 minutes of going back and forth across the bed from his two hiding places to coax him into the bucket. I held the bucket up to the window and it was un-necessary to force him out…he jumped out and I could hear him swimming for the dock pole to create mayhem for the next unsuspecting yachtie to pull up to his dock. During the chase, he once stopped cold and on top of the TV bracket, gave me the look of, \”You\’re not going to kill me are you\”? He started to look like the rat in the film \”Ratatouille\”. As such, I was glad I didn\’t have to kill it and we had an understanding that this boat wasn\’t big enough for the three of us! Nikki sterilized the cabin, we buttoned up tight and were done for the night!

The next day we took off through the reef with a moderate north wind which fortunately did not kick up any seas on the shallow bank as the outer reef knocked the wind waves down to just about nothing. We stayed at a very remote anchorage called Great Sale Cay. (Yes, that Sale, not Sail). Don\’t know the story, but it might be quite interesting? Basically…a flat mangrove. Reading the guide, we decided to put in a long next day and get down to Green Turtle Cay.

Green Turtle was an eclectic mix of White Bahamians who were descended from British Loyalists and escaped to these island during the Revolutionary War. More came during the US Civil War to escape the Union. Despite their history, everyone here black and white seem to get along just fine, but no one seems to intermarry.

The accent of the White Bahamians sounds like a faded UK accent with a touch of Southern. It melds into an almost \”Yankee\” sound. For those of you who don\’t know what a \”Yankee\” is…it\’s a US North Easterner. (Not a Baseball Team or a generic term for ALL Americans in this case). For those of you not from the USA, don\’t ever make the mistake of calling a US \”Southerner\” a \”Yankee\”. Those would be fightin\’ words….:-)

The entry to Green Turtle was very shallow but we were rewarded with a lovely completely enclosed lagoon when we were deep inside. We took a mooring for the night from local \”Donnie\” who was quite a character. Nikki and I took a walk around town and interestingly, found a large lit, blue and white Star of David on the wharf.
I suspect the local church has an affinity for the land of Jesus? We never found out, but right after we took the photo, the town\’s generator went out and it was like a ghost town. We walked back to the boat in the dark where I began to work on our new season \”teething\” issues.

So far, our main charging system didn\’t work….found the problem. I replaced a 160 amp fuse and we were back in business. I\’ve also replaced an oil cooler, fixed some water maker leaks and with Mike Lonne\’s help figured out why one of our key features on the auto pilot wasn\’t working.

I\’m down to a minor (I hope) issue with our big watermaker (we have two!) and a mysterious engine coolant leak (which is very minor)and so far \”unfindable\”. I\’ve place paper towel all around the engine, but it still remains a mystery.

We left the next morning for the shorter trip to Marsh Harbour which is the government seat, small industrial port and the banking hub and marketing area. We did a quick shop at the lovely \”Maxwell\’s\”, but moved on the 6 miles to Hope Town which is picture post card.

Hope Town Marina – View of Elbow Cay Lighthouse

The famous thing about this place is the Elbow Cay (which is where Hope Town is)- Lighthouse. Built in 1864, rebuilt in the early 1930\’s, it is apparently one of only three manually monitored lighthouses in the Western Hemisphere. The other two are also in the Bahamas. One on San Salvador and one on Great Inagua Island.
There was a great fuss when the light was first built as a cottage industry of \”wreckers\” were living here. Their livelihood depended on one or two shipwrecks a month (which the light was built to prevent). I can just imagine how that craziness went down.

We met the two guys who trade off during the night maintaining the light. First, it has to be wound up, which keeps the light revolving for two hours! It then has to be wound again. It is also manually lit and kerosene is the fuel. It has a mantle like a Coleman lantern and a pressure tank that has to be pumped up every few days. \”Elvis\”, who has been doing this for 18 years, gave us the complete tour and let us watch and mini assist in setting the light off. First, Elvis isn\’t too exact about the time he lights this puppy up. Lighthouses are supposed to be lit from \”sundown\” to \”sunrise\”. Well, let\’s just say he\’s \”in the ball park\”. (Tonight he lit the light about 90 minutes after it was pitch black!)…Sailors beware. In truth, no one in there right mind would try and enter this reef system after dark and with modern GPS, the lighthouse becomes a \”check\” to see that all is well. As an aside: We saw Elvis try to light the light tonight and apparently he couldn\’t get it going as it has not been on all night (It\’s now 10:15 p.m. as I write this). There is a generator back up with an electric light, but I don\’t know why it\’s not on? (We found out that the lighthouse is indeed down for scheduled maintenance for the next four days!)

Nikki assisting Elvis (who was definitely in the building) to wind the light mechanism which must be done every 2 hours! All Night Long….

The lighthouse is very picturesque. A Red/White stripe pattern really sets it off against the backdrop of the bay. The history and the view are worth the experience and we\’re really glad we got to come here. In 2004, this was to be our destination sailing in from Gibraltar and the Canary Islands. Unfortunately then, we were \”weathered out\” with really late Spring Gales in the Straits of Gibraltar. So, in memory of my Dad and Cindy who were on that trip, I really wanted to come and see the light….

The Fresnel Lens which weighs in excess of a ton. Here we see the mantle lit which Elvis had just done. The light is visible for 17 miles. It must be covered from the inside during the day or, like a magnifying glass might light something in the distance on fire!

We\’ll be here for another day or two, including today which in my 61st birthday! Thanks for all of you who wrote me on facebook last night and I love the e-cards as well. Having internet is nice, but some of the cards don\’t come through…welcome to the outer islands mon….

Nikki always bakes me a cake. Isn\’t she wonderful! With our new oven, it doesn\’t even get burnt…:-)

The winds have been up, but we should get a nice opportunity soon to make the day hop to Eleuthra Island before heading toward Andros and \”to the west\”….:-)

We plan on at least making the east end of the Panama canal this season and getting to explore the Western Caribbean. There may be a few surprise stops along the way?…

We have been tardy getting this post out as our email system was lost for awhile and Web Guru Ken Edwards figured it out and saved us. Thank you Ken!

That\’s all for now…feel free to write at any email you have for us…
Scott and Nikki