Cooperstown to Marsh Harbor

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Lydia Fell

Oct 16, 2009, 1:41:40 PM10/16/09
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09/11/09 – Marsh Harbor, Abaco

Well, the girls have gone home to their parents after a month on board, and we’re back to the rhythm of life at sea with nothing more to plan past our daily chores.  The “dailies” are a necessity, however, and procrastination only makes for bigger, less manageable jobs.  While the girls were with us, I didn’t give them chores (which I probably should have); it was all we could do to keep them involved with their home-schooling on board, which was mostly of the nautical genre.  So, having spent two days on accounting, while Skip made some epoxy repairs, it’s time to catch up the log, and then clean this boat.  Tomorrow, there’s laundry to do, and it’s time to start polishing the stainless steel again.  (Note here, that if I haven’t told you this before, stainless steel is just that – it stains less.  It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t rust, eventually).

The girls flew out of Marsh Harbor on Friday the 9th, in a 17-seater aircraft with Craig Air.  We counted 5 other people, and one dog, who were flying to Jacksonville, FL, so I imagine the girls got their pick of window seats.  Hopefully, that was a fun experience for them too; their parents are newly qualified pilots, and the girls have absorbed a great deal of their parents’ aviation training.

We took them to Cooperstown, where I took pictures of them with some of the local children.  It was such a peaceful little town, where the kids poured out onto the streets after school, nestling together in groups ranging from 2 year olds to 12 year olds, interestingly, girls with girls and boys with boys.  Everyone looked after each other, with no fear of danger, or traffic, or crazies in their community.  It was such a lovely thing to see.  Skip spent a little time with some boys who needed some work done on their bicycles, and dinghied out to the boat to get the appropriate tools.  The boys bikes were a bit rusty from all the salt air, but they’re very accomplished trick riders, performing “wheelies” that last the length of an entire road.  There are no children sitting indoors in front of TV, video games or computers; they’re all outside, living like children used to live when Skip and I were growing up,  inventing their own games, or just chatting in groups.  As we walked along the road, a few kids joined us, full of smiles, offering to show us where the grocery store was, or where we could get some pizza for dinner.  We did, in fact, buy pizza for dinner, which was made and cooked in a little blue house, and delivered to us outside on the porch.  The crust was very sweet – rather more like the homemade bread here – and while very different from the pizza in the States, it was delicious.  The girls thought they’d died and gone to heaven after a diet of whole grains and veggies on board.

We went on south a bit to Manjack Cay, where we met Bill and Leslie, famous among sailors in the Abacos.  Bill and Leslie were also cruisers, but when they went to Manjack, which was barely, if at all, inhabited 19 years ago, they decided to settle there.  They’re still working on long-term projects, but they have built a beautiful timber home which is totally powered by solar, and have huge underground water tanks to store rain water.  All the materials used in building their home had to be barged in from Marsh Harbor, and it’s a work of art.  Their property is spectacular, with hydroponic vegetable and herb gardens, beautiful landscaping, and pet chickens and roosters for eggs.  After claiming it back from the wild, they sowed grass, planted palm trees, and cut paths through the jungle, all over the island. Bill put in a wifi system which can be picked up from several neighboring cays, and aside from the bugs (prevalent this time of year) they want for nothing and are completely self-sufficient.  They invited us to walk their trail across the island to the ocean side, which we did, and found ourselves on another gorgeous, white sandy beach, completely empty.  It was a wonderful day.

We anchored well off Manjack after the mosquitoes became too much, and headed down to Green Turtle Cay the following day. New Plymouth, the hub of Green Turtle, is an old Loyalist settlement dating back over two centuries ago.  It’s pastel painted houses, and their white picket fences, reminded us of a quaint New England fishing village; certainly it was entirely different from any other Bahamian islands we’ve visited.  The streets were narrow, and pristinely clean, to the extent that I wondered if people came out and swept the roads at night.  Most of the traffic, what there was of it, was by golf cart, and a large portion of the population were white, descendants from the Loyalists.  It was utterly picture postcard beautiful.  It also had a wonderful local library, which we visited with the girls.  Madi, an avid reader, had a ball in there with all the R L Stine books, while Quin made friends with a local girl, and they played computer games together.  I took a backpack stuffed with books we’ve already read, and exchanged them out for a new batch, filling our library again.  Reading is a major part of the down time all cruisers have, and I’m catching up on a lifetime of having no time to read at all.  It’s wonderful.

From Green Turtle, and on a hot, calm day, we took the boat through Whale Cay passage, notoriously dangerous during a “rage” when northerly winds funnel the seas through the cut, but it was like glass when we went through.  We headed south then, back in the Atlantic, and paralleled Great Guana and Scotland Cays,  catching our first Bonefish (we think!), before coming back inside the Cays through the cut north of Man-O-War Cay.  From there, it was an easy and deep run to Marsh Harbor.  Once the anchor was down in the harbor, we went about cooking our fish dinner, which we all enjoyed.

10/16/09 – anchored off the Parrot Cays

Once the girls had left, we decompressed for a few days in Marsh Harbor, shopping for some fresh veggies and eggs, washing our sheets at the local Laundromat, and cleaning the boat.  We spent a few hours with some American “locals”, who were living on their boat, and working at the local school for the disabled.  They graciously sat down with us, laid out our charts, and pointed out all the great snorkeling areas and various interesting spots mostly known to locals only.  The next day, we headed out to anchor off Fowl Cay Preserve, just north of the cut we’d come through less than a week before, and anchored in crystal clear, shallow water.  We managed to catch a small baracuda on the way, which made for a sumptuous dinner that night.  The following morning, armed with our snorkeling gear, we dinghied out to the coral reefs on the east side of Fowl Cay, and had the most rewarding snorkeling experience we’ve had yet in the Bahamas.  At nearly low tide, we enjoyed beautiful, purple fan coral, brain coral, and even a few examples of some coral that grew just like a palm tree, just a couple of feet below us.  The reef was alive with fish, and I regretted not bringing our bottles of cooked rice to get them right up in my face.  I saw a variety of different Parrotfish and Angelfish, the colors of which were stunning.  There were many, and various Triggerfish also – truly, it was like swimming in an aquarium. 

The next day, after some hull-scrubbing to remove the green beard that was decorating our water-line, we moved the boat a couple of miles south, off Man-O-War Cay.  We explored the settlement yesterday, originally the boat building center of not just the Abacos, but the entire Bahamas.  While it’s a small settlement, we saw more wealth on this island than on any other in the Bahamas so far, with some very expensive homes and private docks scattered along the shore.  It was, again, predominantly a white population of native Bahamians, with beautiful small frame homes, immaculate (and I mean, immaculate – even the sandy ground was raked of leaves) yards, which were full of orange trees and sea grapes, coconut palms and flowering shrubs.  I never saw a car; most everyone got about in golf carts.  Not only is this a dry (and tobacco free) island, but there are Biblical quotations on every other utility pole, reminding all Lambs to stay on the straight and narrow.  I stopped in at Albury’s Sail Shop, originally renowned sail makers, but who now produce, on ancient sewing machines right there in the store, canvas bags of all description and color.  I talked to the grand-daughter of the original owners, she being well into her senior years and working at her sewing machine, and learned of how her grandmother had started the canvas bags when she married into the Albury family.   We had a chat about the design of my “backpack”, which is really a large purse, which leaves my hands free for getting in and out of the dinghy.   I believe she may copy that design for the future.

When we got back to the boat, we took advantage of the first serious wind we’ve had here since we came to the Abacos, and sailed south four miles on the genoa alone, to anchor off the Parrot Cays, west of Hope Town.  This afternoon, we’ll brave our dinghy in the short choppy sea, and go and explore the island.

Today is Friday, and on Monday, Skip’s youngest son, Michael and wife Katie (aka “Fish”) fly in to Marsh Harbor for 12 days on board Flying Pig.  They’re excited, as are we, to experience all the wondrous adventures we still haven’t had, and are saving up for when they’re here.

So, I’ll leave it there.  Hope you enjoyed the pictures I put up; if you had any trouble viewing them, drop me a line and I’ll give you some clues.

Take care – be happy.

Love, Lydia

S/V Flying Pig
Morgan 46 #2
"The only way to live is to have a dream green and growing in your life - anything else is just existing and is a waste of breath."
Ann Davison
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