Sunday, June 29, 2014

Storm Chasers

From Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas, we elected to do a 25 hour crossing to the Fort Pierce inlet and then up the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) to Vero Beach, Florida.  We could have broken up the trip with stops at Great Sale Cay and the West End, but we decided that we had a good weather window.  Also, the timing worked better for making the inlet and the ICW in daylight hours.

The first half of our trip crossing the Little Bahama Banks was grand.  Perfect conditions for a crossing.  Wind was less than 5 knots and the waves were less than 2 feet.  At nightfall conditions started changing.  After 2 ½ years down island, we had mostly forgotten how severe thunder storms that form over large land masses can be.  Dodging container ships and large tankers at night while in heavy rain and strong winds can be somewhat stressful.  But, that was not our biggest concern.  Lightning bolts as big as Sequoia trees were!

Our radar displays the storm cells for us nicely.  The problem is trying to maneuver around cells building and moving at 25 knots in a 7 knot boat.  After a couple of unsuccessful attempts it became apparent we were storm magnets.

Motivator once again proved that she can take more than us and brought us safely back to the USA.  Unfortunately, our thunderstorm magnetism continues as we work our way north.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Abacos

Motivator on a mooring in Hope Town

As mentioned in a previous blog, many boats that cruise the Bahamas never leave the Abacos.  Venturing south to the other islands that make up the Bahamas is just too daunting for them, and they rightly believe there is plenty to do in the protected waters of the Sea of Abaco.

Motivator’s crew quickly got into “cruising” the Abacos with stops at our favorite places.

After Little Harbour, our first stop was Hope Town on Elbow Cay.  The brightly painted little cottages lining the narrow streets makes Hope Town one of the cutest places on earth.

Elbow Cay is another one of the islands settled by British Loyalist escaping persecution from those pesky American Revolutionaries.  My guess is that today there are more Americans with second homes than descendants of Loyalists living on the island.

But, the Loyalists had a few setbacks.

Swim up bar at Hope Town Inn and Marina

We were interested in seeing the Hope Town Inn and Marina that was still under construction on our last visit to Abacos.  They are still building cottages adjacent to the compound, but the main part of the development is completed and open for business.

The new marina’s dockage rates were more than we wanted to pay for the pleasure of being shoehorned in among the mega yachts.  So we opted for a mooring ball nearby and were happy to use their stellar WiFi.

Fellow cruisers told us that the restaurant at the Hope Town Inn and Marina was excellent, but we had to go back to one of our old favorites, Capt’n Jacks.

Another must-do for us is On Da Beach.  It is a healthy bike ride out of town, but worth the effort.

The specialty of On Da Beach is a drink called a “Turtle Racer.”  It consists of Bacardi Gold, banana rum, Amaretto, and pineapple juice.  More than one, and you are ready to race turtles.

Marsh Harbour was our next stop.  Maxwell’s Supermarket rivals most grocery stores in the states and is a short bicycle ride from Mangoes Marina in Marsh Harbour.  Pollie has “invented” a grocery carrier that bungees to the back of her bike.  Other than looking like a “bag lady,” it works pretty well.

Great Guana Cay is worth a stop in the Abacos.  The last time we were there was in 2011 on our sailboat Serenity.  We were surprised to find an available mooring ball in the small harbor.  The reviews on indicated that Motivator might be too large for the moorings.

However, the next morning when Troy from Guana Dive came by to “knock us up” and collect the mooring fee, he didn’t even blink at our size.

The big attraction a Great Guana Cay is Nipper’s.

Nippers is funky at best, but it is a good place to have lunch and relax either on the beach or by one of their two saltwater pools.

Our last stop was Green Turtle Cay (sorry, no pictures).  We only anchored there one night to stage for making a 180 NM (25 hours) run back to the states.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Little Harbour

From Spanish Wells Motivator headed for the northern most islands in the Bahamas, the Abacos.  With nothing but open ocean between us and Western Sahara in Africa to the east, this passage can be rather “sporty” in the wrong weather conditions.  But, Motivator’s crew has learned to wait for the right conditions.  “No hurry, mon.  You in the Bahamas, mon.”

The next problem is crossing the three foot bar at the entrance to Little Harbour with a boat with a 4’ 7” draft.  You must time your arrival to coincide with high tide, or anchor behind nearby Lynyard Cay.  Many crews, like we did the first time in the Abacos, askew this beautiful harbor because of the shallow entrance.

Motivator’s bottom cleaner wanted the calm water found in Little Harbour for a cleaning session using the hookah breathing system.  We carry the Brownies brand system that is powered by two small motorcycle batteries.  It gives me about one hour of cleaning time before needing a charge.

Pete’s Pub at Little Harbour is a quintessential beach bar that actually has good food.  Next door is the Johnston family gallery and foundry featuring some incredible bronze sculptures.


In 1950 Randolph Johnston and his family left behind the “Megamachine” in Massachusetts in search of the perfect place for Randolph to do his sculpting.  They had planned on cruising the Caribbean in their converted 47’ schooner, but when they entered Little Harbour they knew they had found their paradise.

Pete, Randolph’s son, took over the foundry after his father passed away and now also runs probably one of the more popular watering holes in the Abacos, Pete’s Pub.

Since our last visit two years ago, there has been some low level development around Little Harbour.  Included is Pete’s Private Club House built out on one of the docks.  Its purpose is mainly speculation, but one story is that it is Pete’s private getaway.

The Abacos feel like an extension of Florida, and many of the “cruisers” you find here never venture further south.  Their boats are not the same as we were used to seeing further south.  This Carver does over twice the speed of Motivator, but at an incredible 30gph burn rate.  The owner indicated that he seldom passes a fuel dock without stopping.