I finished our last posting with us arriving into Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island. We are now in the area known as the Southern Abacos. This is a nice easy harbour to enter, with plenty of room to anchor, and one is protected in all directions if the wind should be blowing strongly. Also it is GREAT fishing in here. We have not seen any one else fishing from the back of their boats, but the locals assure us that it is quite safe to eat fish from this harbour. So, we have our lines out each evening. I have caught four mutton snapper, my biggest being 30 inches in length and weighing 10lbs. (see photo of Alec holding it) The next was only slightly smaller, then a couple of lovely fat smaller ones. Mark has also caught three which have been a good size. I gave my second one to the local conch man who gave us a lovely conch salad. Good trade.
Marsh Harbour is the third largest town in the Bahamas with a population of around 6,000 residents. The town has most of what one needs, apart from boating spares which the boys have been looking for. Our starboard instrument panel has died on us, but at least we can still start the engine. The trouble is, now that the boat is coming up for ten years old, (yes we have been going that long now, and how time has flown by, and, what an Adventure we are having) new models of these panels are out and we think it will be quite difficult to find a replacement. Why do companies do this – discontinue an item that works well ? Anyway, Alec is on-line doing some research as to where he may find one. A job every Captain/Engineer has to do in some port somewhere. At least it will not stop us from continuing on.
The 3rd December sees the Annual Abaco Christmas Festival in Marsh Harbour. Every settlement has some sort of festival at this time of the year – in fact here they hold a festival for almost anything. So along we went to check things out. There was a huge food court where locals sell yummy Bahamian dishes. I am sure my fish ended up here that I gave to the conch man as fried fish was on the menu!! Alec and Mark sampled all sorts of things. Again my G.F. diet prohibited me from sampling most things as so much was battered and fried, but it sure smelt mouth-watering. The Police Marching Band put on a performance, then it was the turn of the local school children. Unfortunately we had to return to our boats and did not see the Calypso Bands, but I am sure there will be another Junkanoo Parade at another of our Island stops.
Mark does not pick up his new crew member here in Marsh Harbour until the 14th December, so we have decided to head out and visit a couple of the other popular “must see” Cays close by. Our first is Man-O-War Cay. It is well known for its 200 plus year old boatbuilding and sail making traditions, plus, the community traces its descendants from the Loyalists who arrived and settled on the different Cays around the area. The migration of the Loyalists was at the end of the 18th century. They were the people who were unhappy about living in the “newly” independent United States formed in the wake of the American Revolution. They fled the colonies will all their possessions, slaves, cattle, and some even the bricks from their former homes, to start a new life under the security of the British flag, where they were rewarded with huge grants of land. Sadly for them they found it almost impossible to make a living from the poor thin soil as they tried to grow cotton and other crops. Their animals did not thrive, and some in despair returned to the States. Others headed for England, and those that stayed usually made a living from the sea. So here on Man-O-War Cay 70 percent of the residents can trace their ancestry to the first “Albury” family settler!!
|Mark & Alec, Man-O-War Cay|
Man-O-War Cay also has a great sheltered harbour, but one cannot anchor inside as the area is full of mooring buoys which you pick up for a fee. The weather is reasonable, and we want to fish later, so we choose to anchor out at the northern end of the Cay in Corn Bay. SHAMAL drops anchor at the entrance to a private marina in sand with excellent holding. Someone has gone to great expense to have this built, but no-one is in residence at the moment, so we gather we will be fine here for a night. That evening I catch yet another shark!! Back it goes. Later that night the winds pick up and Mark is in for a rolly night as he has had to anchor further out due to the draft of his vessel. Next morning we up anchors and move closer to the entrance of the harbour and we are more in the lee of the island so it is more comfortable for him. Then we take a tender ashore to explore.
It is a unique port, again with “golf cart” size streets. There is a marina inside the harbour. The boatbuilding businesses are on the harbour waterfront along with restaurants built out over the water. The sail making shop has extended its production into making canvas bags and other souvenirs from old sail cloth, but quite expensive items. We walk over to the Atlantic Ocean side to one of the beautiful white sandy beaches. Then it is back to a restaurant for cold drinks – no alcohol is sold on this Cay due to the residents strong spiritual commitment, and this keeps this community somewhat apart from the outside world. Still it attracts many visitors as it is so peaceful and protected.
Once back on our boats the wind has picked up again somewhat, so we decide to motor over and anchor in the shelter of two smaller Cays not too far away. SHAMAL again picked a good spot between Garden and Sandy Cays, and on the edge of a channel. These two Cays are also privately owned with homes, and harbours built for their boats. That evening we set off in the tender to catch our Jacks for bait, then it was rods out. I catch two beautiful mutton snapper once again. The first 28 inches long and weighing 8lbs, and the second 26 inches long. They are now both in the freezer vacuum packed once skilfully filleted by Alec.
Next stop, Hope Town on Elbow Cay. This truly is the quaintest place yet. Again a lovely harbour with a marina, but again full of mooring buoys. The winds have dropped again so we anchor out as more fishing is planned. Mark had no luck the night before. We drop anchor under the candy-striped lighthouse. It is the only active had-wound kerosene burning lighthouse left in the world – so we are told. It has been beautifully restored and stands out among the Cays in this area. We took the tenders into the harbour and did the usual walking tour, first visiting the lighthouse with panoramic views from the gallery deck. The original tower was built in 1846, and there have been a couple of major upgrades since then. Then it was a tender ride around the harbour as Mark was looking for another friend off a yacht, then over to the other side of the harbour to see the sites. This truly is a garden village with flowering shrubs in bloom everywhere. The quaintest houses all beautifully painted in an array of colours. I visited all the gift shops while the boys sat on brightly painted seats provided outside.
The following day we set off to the northern end of Elbow Cay in our tenders to catch bait, and look for crayfish and conch. Mark took us into a channel where he found four conch and three crayfish. It was too deep for me to dive, and Alec had to drive the tender around and keep an eye on Mark and an eye out for sharks. Yes when fishing in these waters one surfaces quickly with your catch and dumps it into the tender so not to attract unwanted visitors!!!!
Now we have returned to Marsh Harbour as a cold front is passing through the area and we are having rain at long last. The salt from the rigging and decks is being washed away – WONDERFUL. We are not the only ones enjoying this rain as we see other cruisers out with buckets and brooms washing down their boats.
Lots of love
The Admiral and the Commander.