26 February 2007

Hope Town, Abacos, The Bahamas

February 26, 2007

The harbor at Hope Town. Can anyone find Whisper? (hint: look for the smallest sailboat in the middle of the picture)

We’ve spent the last few days exploring Hope Town and enjoying the beaches on the island. On Friday we biked towards the south end of the island and hiked down to a beach where we took advantage of the nice winds and few people to fly our kite. Hans is becoming an expert kite flyer and manages to fly the kite so the corners skim across the surface of the sand before shooting back up in the sky.

A beach on Elbow Cay (the island on which Hope Town is located).

The path to the beach.

Hans flying the kite.

The Hope Town Volunteer Fire Department held their annual fundraiser on Saturday. The main street running through Hope Town was blocked off and they had organized games, food, drinks, a bake sale and a silent and regular auction. The historical marine artifacts that were up for sale at the auction were gorgeous, but we just couldn’t figure out where we could store a 1920s brass telescope on Whisper!

The auction benefiting the Hope Town Volunteer Fire Department.

Yesterday we lounged around for most of the day and around sunset we walked to the top of the lighthouse to watch the lighthouse keeper light it for the night. The lighthouse was built in the late 1800s and it is still lit by kerosene and needs to be hand-cranked every two hours to keep the beam circulating. It is quite an operation to light the wick and we were lucky enough to be invited to the top of the lantern to get a sort of inside-out view of the lighthouse.

vertigo, anyone?

The Hope Town light house.

23 February 2007

Hope Town, The Abacos, Bahamas

February 23, 2007

We arrived in Hope Town on Wednesday afternoon and picked up a mooring in the crowded harbor thanks to some inside information from Brad on the catamaran “Mothra.”

On Thursday, the Hope Town Sailing Club hosted its bi-monthly cruisers’ race which is open to any cruising sailboat as well as local boats. We were excited to participate and attended the skippers meeting at 9:00AM. After getting briefed on the rules, we quickly dinghied back to Whisper and started stowing things away, hoisting the genoa and getting ready for the race. About 11 boats came out to race and they ranged from 18 feet to a 48 foot racing, carbon fiber, catamaran “Lickety Split” captained by our friend Toby. Needless to say, he beat us by over an hour, and all the other boats beat us as well and we came in dead last. Sorry Whisper for loading you down with all of our stuff! On corrected time, however, we came in second to last! It was a beautiful day nonetheless and it was fun to practice sailing maneuvers. The Sailing Club hosted a BYOB awards ceremony after the race, complete with lots of appetizers and munchies. Toby and Brad joined us back on Whisper for drinks and then we hit the “bar scene” (two bars!) in Hope Town.

Lickety Split sailing past us.

The second leg of the race, all the boats running downwind and Whisper keeping up the rear. It was rather difficult for her two competitive captains to come to terms with last place...

The awards ceremony at the Sailing Club after the race.

This morning, Kristen went back to the Sailing Club to attend a seminar on Ancient Celestial Navigation led by Steve Dodge and on the way back to Whisper stopped off at the grocery store and picked up a hot, freshly backed garlic & herb baguette. 6 hours later, the baguette is history! We went snorkeling this afternoon off the beach and the water temperature is much warmer than it has been. This evening we’re going over to Carla & Gordon’s boat, “Gray Fox,” for dinner. They are a young couple who are nearing the end of their year long cruise.

The beach at Hope Town on Elbow Cay.

Kristen snorkeling.

20 February 2007

Project-ville, Marsh Harbour

February 20, 2007

Internet connections leave much to be desired in Marsh Harbour. There are many different places to go online, however most of the free ones have poor reception and the local wireless service costs $20/day or $40/week. Thus, the reason for our blog being updated less frequently than usual.

We dropped off the cracked chainplate with CJ Welding yesterday morning and are crossing our fingers that he’ll have it repaired and strengthened by this afternoon. Meanwhile, we’re taking advantage of being stuck in Marsh Harbour and are working on some boat projects. Kristen has been varnishing handholds, hatchboards and other trim pieces while Hans is tackling the cockpit sole. Before leaving Fort Lauderdale, he constructed a wooden floor for the cockpit which not only looks nice, but also serves to keep our feet dry while sailing as the water flows underneath the wood and doesn’t slosh over our feet. Currently, Hans is constructing brackets for the wooden floor which will allow the floor to be raised flush with the cockpit seats and, with the addition of cushions, will create a double-bed for comfortable, outdoor sleeping.

This part of the Abacos is an interesting place. It appears to be owned and operated by one family, the Alburys. The story is something like this: Back in the day, Nellie Archer farmed a plot of land with her family on Man-o-War Cay. One day she heard voices from the beach and found several survivors from a wreck on a reef, including 16 year old Ben Albury. The majority of the residents of Man-o-War Cay can trace their roots back to Nellie and Ben. The local ferry service which shuttles people between the nearby cays is the “Albury Ferry Service”, there is an Albury taxi company as well as CJ’s Welding, the company working on our chainplate, which is owned by Charles Albury.

We biked to the Marsh Harbor Boat Yard to drop off the chainplate and bumped into an elderly gentleman on his daily walk. He was eager to show us a nearby beach where odd shells and pieces of shellfish wash up. Neither of us are very interested in beachcombing as we don’t have anywhere on the boat to keep bits of flotsam and jetsam, but we tagged along anyways. He was right; we were able to find quite a few interesting shells, vertebrae and even a piece of a jaw. We left the “treasures” but took a picture instead.

Hans looking for shells and potential lobstering spots.

The shells, etc. that we found.

18 February 2007

Blustery, bouncy, bumpy Marsh Harbour

February 18, 2007

We’re at anchor in Marsh Harbour sitting out a cold front which NOAA has forecasted to have gale strength winds. We’ve tucked Whisper behind a marina so there is minimal waves, though the wind has been reported at 40 knots. It is as comfortable as can be on Whisper and we feel very safe and warm. We went over to a neighboring boat, a 26 foot Falmouth Cutter. A.O. and his wife, Lindy, treated us to coffee, cake and hot chocolate and lots of small boat discussion. Their boat is very seaworthy and is built with safety as the top priority. A huge bank of black clouds appeared on the horizon indicating the frontal boundary, so we jumped in our dinghy and sped back to Whisper.

We played a good game of Scrabble (score: Kristen 1, Hans 4. arrrrrggghhhhh, says Kristen!). Now we’re about to have a lunch of split pea soup and homemade tortillas. Kit Kat just finished a huge, unauthorized lunch of Iams. Unbeknownst to the competitive Scrabble players, she climbed into a locker under the vee-berth, clawed through two plastic bags and a food bag and gorged herself. Now she is exhausted and sleeping in the clothes locker (or, she’s just hiding from the wrath of Kristen and Hans who are tempted to lock her outside).

Our stay in Marsh Harbour has been extended by the discovery of a crack in the forward chainplate (the piece of stainless steel that holds the forestay to the bow and in turn helps hold the mast up). We had read about this weakness in Vegas on the Vega listserv and contemplated beefing up the chainplate before leaving Maryland, but it looked fine and we decided that we couldn’t replace *everything* on Whisper. Since we knew about this weakness, Hans has been keeping an eye on it and he found the crack before any serious problem (dismasting!) could develop. There is a welding shop here so it should hopefully be a straightforward job and we can start traveling to more scenic harbours soon.

14 February 2007

Marsh Harbour

February 14, 2007

Whisper at sunset in Marsh Harbour.

Happy Valentines Day!

We’re spending some time enjoying the “big city” life of Marsh Harbour, also known as the “Hub of the Abacos.” The town really does seem to have everything one needs, ranging from a guy on the docks selling conch salad to a KFC, Subway and TrueValue hardware store. The crew of Whisper is currently in negotiations to decide if we want to install a sub-woofer to enhance our stereo-surround sound. Kristen and Hans are both in favor of the idea, but KitKat thinks that it is hard to justify the expense when so much food could be bought for the same price.

We met up with three guys from Indiana who are on a “man-cation,” aka a bachelor party, for Chris who is getting married in April. They were all very enthusiastic about our sailing plans so yesterday we took them for a brisk afternoon sail. They took turns steering and testing just how far over Whisper can heel (a comfortable 20 degrees) and how fast she can sail (we averaged 5.5 to 6.5 knots yesterday). After an invigorating time on the water, they treated us to a delicious dinner at CurlyTails Restaurant, by far the best restaurant food we’ve had in the Bahamas. Dinner led to drinks and the crew of Whisper is feeling rather groggy this morning. It’s an overcast day so our snorkeling plans are on weather-hold until tomorrow, so today we’ll think about reconfiguring our clothes storage which is a constant battle.

The new crew from Indiana.

safety first!

KitKat doing what she does best...this is where she sleeps when we're sailing.

12 February 2007

Treasure Cay to Great Guana Cay to Marsh Harbor

February 12, 2007

On Saturday morning we had a beautiful sail from Treasure Cay to Great Guana Cay. The winds were on our beam so we set our sails and our course and left the rest up to the autopilot while Hans did some fishing and Kristen worked on the crossword puzzle.

The two sailors on the way from Treasure Cay to Great Guana Cay. Kitkat, get back to steering!

Hans' first catch with the handlines...a baby barracuda.

On most days, we can see the bottom while we're sailing.

The main purpose for our trip to Great Guana Cay was the infamous Nippers’ Sunday Pig Roast Buffet. We headed over to Nippers’ around noontime and met up with Dylan and Mark from “Freya,” the steel boat from Maine that we last saw in St. Augustine. An hour or so later, the gang from Green Turtle and Ocracoke showed up along with Jerry from Newburyport and the fun really started! The pig roast was good, the sides were excellent, and the rum punch was dangerously good. The group gathered there was a mix of tourists staying at hotels on the island and boaters like ourselves and after everyone had a couple rum punches, the dancing really began in earnest. We hear that later in March Nippers’ gets really wild and people are dancing on the roof! On the way back to Whisper, we bumped into a literal boat load of Italians who were on a charter vacation. They came over for a coconut opening demonstration led by Hans with his machete on the foredeck. Later in the evening, we went over to visit Jerry and his girlfriend Laurie for some delicious shrimp scampi and salad.

Hanging out at Nippers. Laurie, Robbie, Hans & Jerry.

The view from Nippers.

After listening to the weather this morning at 9:00AM, we quickly weighed anchor and sailed out of the anchorage toward Marsh Harbor with the goal of arriving before noon and the potential squalls and 30 knot winds that are heading our way. We had a fun, fast sail to Marsh Harbor with our average speed between 5 and 6 knots and a heel of about 10-15 degrees. We had the anchor down at 11:30 just as a boat from Sweden pulled in the harbor. Marsh Harbor is the “mecca” of sailing and boating in the Abacos so we’re excited to go ashore and see what the town has to offer. It’s not all fun and games, however, as our first chore is to find a Laundromat.

We always see magnificent sunsets, sunrises (sometimes), and daytime cloud shows. These are some pictures taken just over the last 3 days.

10 February 2007

Treasure Cay, Great Abaco Island, Bahamas

February 10, 2007

Air temperature: 75ºF/24ºC
Water temperature: 70ºF/21ºC

The beach at Treasure Cay. Matt Doyle: are you excited yet?!

We left Green Turtle Cay on Wednesday morning under sail, ghosting out of the harbor in very light winds. The trip to Manjack Cay is a mere 4 miles so we were in no big hurry. We had taken down our small jib and put up our big genoa to give us a little more “speed” (read: 2 knots). It was a beautiful day, but eventually we relented and turned Boris on so that we could get there before the sun got too low to go snorkeling.

Several cruising boats from Green Turtle Cay had decided to go to Manjack for the night and have a bonfire & potluck dinner. We were the last boat to arrive (being the greatest optimists when it comes to sailing) so to get the party started we cued up some Daddy Yankee, Shakira and Mala Fe on the stereo and blasted it at full volume as we came into the anchorage.

We had a fun night at Manjack with good food and live music provided by the crew of Whisper, and a few other volunteers. (We have accumulated quite an assortment of musical instruments on Whisper: a guitar, harmonica, maracas, washboard, spoons and lots of pots and pans).

On Thursday morning, after enjoying some rum-raisin pancakes, courtesy of Anne & Neville on “Peace” for breakfast, we hoisted our sails, pulled up our anchor, and sailed out of the anchorage to great fanfare from the other boats. It was another day of light and variable winds, but again, since we only had ten miles to go we decided to sail the whole way even though our average speed was only about 2.5 knots. Our destination was Treasure Cay, (not really a cay at all but part of the much larger Great Abaco Island) where they are said to have one of the top ten beaches in the world, as rated by National Geographic. With this distinction, what could we do but spend a day at the beach, reading books and enjoying the view?

We’re now readying to weigh anchor yet again, and sail over to Great Guana Cay, where we’ll meet up with the crew from Green Turtle Cay for Nippers famous pig roast on Sunday.

Our route through the Abacos so far.

Hans trolling for fish.

Hans cutting up some coconut for breakfast. He still has all his fingers.

Kristen posing for the camera.

07 February 2007

Leaving Green Turtle Cay

February 7, 2007

The main drag in New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay

The old jail in New Plymouth

We’re getting ready to pick up our anchor and leave Green Turtle Cay. Our destination: Manjack Cay, a whopping 3 miles north of here. Several of the boats anchored here are heading that way to have a beach party today and tonight, so we’re joining in with all the fun.

Parties seem to take place every other day around here. On Monday night we were invited over to John, Terry and Jen's house on dry land. They are visiting the island for two weeks and have rented a place. They know Robbie from last year when they did the same thing, so we were invited by extension. It was a fun night with great food and intense card games.

The party crowd at the end of the night on Monday. Left to right: John, Betty with her dog Idgy, Mike, Robbie, Jamie (in front), Sybill, Kristen, Anne, Neville, Brad, Jen, and Jerry.

John, Jen, Terry and Brad, play some kind of card game...

Everyone gets a little excited during the Texas hold'em poker game.

For the past few days the weather has been cloudy, windy and cold (by Bahamian standards at least). But today the sun is out and it looks like a great day to go snorkeling, since the water is very calm. Yesterday morning we biked to town to get some groceries. In addition to produce and other staples, we found some terrific Irish sausage (yum!) and a loaf of fresh-out-of-the-oven Bahamian bread. Kristen spent a couple of hours with Robbie, our snorkeling guide, trading music for her iPod.

Later we went for a long walk around the north end of the island. It was low-tide, so we were able to walk along the beach circumnavigating half of the island. We came across two houses where they had brand new sea-planes “parked” just off the beach. We talked to the owner of one of the planes. He and his wife lives in Canada in the summer and fly their plane to the Bahamas for the winter. He said that it is a pretty uncomfortable plane to fly long distances in, but once in the Bahamas it’s ideal, because you can land anywhere. Not a bad life.

Last night we were invited over to a boat from Newburryport, MA, for dinner. Jerry, our host, cooked up a great dinner with the sausages we had bought earlier in the day, as well as some pork chops and mashed potatoes. It was a real feast. He entertained us with stories of harrowing sea crossings (including an ocean dinghy ride in 8 foot seas, and also of a Gulf Stream crossing with 52 knot winds out of the north)… and we thought that our crossing was a bit bumpy.

After tonight’s party on Manjack, we’ll head south again, either to Treasure Cay or to Great Guana Cay.

05 February 2007

Green Turtle Cay

February 5, 2007

Grattis på födelsedagen Sofia!
Happy Birthday Sofia!

We’ve been settling in nicely at Green Turtle Cay. We’ve gotten to know quite a few of the other sailors in the anchorage as well as some people on shore.

Yesterday afternoon Hans and Alan (from Voila!) walked to the beach to do some surf-side fishing. Hans caught a nice sized yellowtail snapper (before the reel broke on the fishing rod) which we fried up for dinner.

Last night we made the 20 minute dinghy trip to town to watch the Superbowl (boo Colts) and had a VERY wet dinghy ride back to the boat. Hans was steering and bailing at the same time and Kristen was using her full-length yellow raincoat to try to block the waves that were going over our heads. But we still love our 7.5 foot dinghy. Even if it is a little on the wet side. At least the water was warm!

Today Voila! left Green Turtle Cay on their way North to Florida and then home. As they motored out the anchorage, we quickly pedaled to the north end of the island to catch a glimpse of them. The winds were so strong that they had already gotten pretty far away from Green Turtle Cay so they were quite far away but we were able to see them through our binoculars. It is quite windy today so they were the only boat out there.

Whisper at anchor at Green Turtle Cay (taken today around noon).

The dinghy dock at the Green Turtle Club. They are very friendly to sailboats at anchor and let us use the dinghy dock, laundry, etc.

Our bikes parked on a trail on the island.

Voila! sailing in the distance.

03 February 2007

big underwater bugs

February 3, 2007

Two major developments have occurred over the past few days: one, Voila!, our sistership, dropped anchor a few boats south of us in the harbor; and, two, Hans successfully speared his first lobster!

Voila! arrives in Green Turtle Cay

Felicity on Voila! tops of her homemade cheescake with some blackberries. YUM!!!

A fellow cruiser, Robbie, has been taking us snorkeling and lobstering over the past couple days. He spent the last 4 years diving in this area, so he knows the best lobstering spots and has a very fast a comfortable dinghy to take us to them. He also took us “sightseeing” to some large coral heads where we saw fish of seemingly every color, size and shape imagineable. It was like being in a large aquarium or an underwater garden. Today we saw turtles, parrotfish, a manta ray, angel fish, puffers, grouper, many different types of coral and sea grass, lobster (for dinner!), and Kristen even saw a nurse shark sleeping on the bottom. Matthew, on Snow Day, will tell you that nurse sharks are harmless and have no interest in humans, but that didn’t stop Kristen from swimming away as fast as she could. After a cold day of snorkeling yesterday, we stopped off at the local dive shop and bought some second-hand wetsuits. Hans bought a full-body style and Kristen has a long-sleeve top. Both were much appreciated today and nobody felt cold.

Kristen shows off some of the catch. The limit is six lobsters per boat per day, so far, we've gotten our share each time we've been out (with the help of Robbie, who knows where to go and what to do).

We’re currently cooking up some lobster broth in the pressure cooker from the shells and then we’re dinghying over to the next boat for a birthday celebration. We’ll bring the lobster!

01 February 2007


We've finally gotten the video "Sailing on Whisper" to work properly on the blog. Hopefully everyone can see it!


Snorkeling at Green Turtle Cay

February 1, 2007

We've met our sister ship, Voila! We've been following Allen & Felicity on Voila for the past year as they've traveled down the ICW on their Albin Vega and we've been keeping track of their adventures in the Abacos this winter, so it was with great excitement that we saw them pull into the harbor at Green Turtle Cay the other day. We've been spending quite a bit of time comparing boats and poking around on each other’s boats to see what is done differently and to get ideas. We’ve also been treated to Felicity’s great cooking; chili & cornbread last night topped off by cheesecake with blackberries. Unfortunately they are heading back to Florida soon as their season is ending, but they’ll be back in the Exumas next year.

Yesterday, Kristen, Hans and Allen went to the Atlantic side of the cay to do a little snorkeling. Allen and Hans brought along their spears in hopes of some fresh fish or lobster for dinner but they had no luck.

The beach at Green Turtle Cay. We swam a couple hundred yards to get to the reef.

Hans & Allen on the hunt.

One little fish swimming in the reef.