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Spanish Wells, Hatchet Caves, Governors Harbour

We left Royal Island for a nice short sail to the island community of Spanish Wells. After several weeks of being out in the more rural islands, Spanish Wells’ bustling industry and community were a welcome sight. The island supplies most of the conch, lobster, and fish for the Bahamas, so it has a huge fishing fleet and vibrant economy. The community stems mostly from a settlement of English Royalists that fled the US during the Revolutionary War and has become a very close knit community with a friendly small town atmosphere.

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We picked up a mooring as there was no good anchorage nearby and explored the town. We found a beautiful beach with silky sands and those wonderful Caribbean water colors.

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It was Grant’s birthday so we ate lunch at a local diner where we thought we were in the middle of a family reunion (seriously, we asked someone if there was an event going on). We went to the grocery store and splurged to get Grant a steak and mashed potatoes birthday dinner. After the groceries were put away we headed to the beach again, this time by dinghy. Amelia wished Grant a Happy Birthday Bahamas style.

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We read books in the shade of a palm tree and walked the beach for the afternoon. After a relaxing afternoon we had a wonderful dinner. Grant said it was one of his best birthdays ever.

After Spanish Wells we sailed down through current cut’s swirling waters and into the sounds on the leeward side of Eleuthera. We headed for Hatchet Bay, the most protected anchorage on the island. It boasted free government moorings and, as we learned from the internet, a huge historic cave with a mile of underground meanderings.

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What did we do our first day there but head straight for the caves.  We could not find a map of its location, but took our GPS along with coordinates. A long 3 mile hike along Eleuthera’s only highway we got an unsolicited ride from a nice young woman and were there in no time. Eleuthera is all limestone and has many caves and rock formations. The indigenous Lucayan people buried their dead in the caves and early settlers lived in them.

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We brought multiple flashlights and began wandering down through the caves. There was over 100 years of graffiti along its walls. Many from the 1890’s and turn of the century when this was apparently a popular destination. We loved walking around through the history and the natural beauty of it all.

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We traversed 2 of the 3 levels to the cave, not wanting to push our luck by exploring the lowest level with a couple feet of water in it. We decided it was worth coming to Eleuthera just to explore the cave. After we hiked back to the boat, we decided to go for a swim and salt water bath. The 30 foot cliffs along along the coast made for a wonderfully protected boat ride with lots of sea fans along clumps of rock washed from the cliffs. We saw many reef fish, a surprising number of jellyfish, and found a sea cave we could dinghy 40 yards into.

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The next day the expected North wind blew with some rain squalls in the morning. We did some chores on the boat and Grant went to explore some of the wrecked boats he saw piled up on the shore from a recent hurricane.

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Grant, tainted by his time at a wonderful used and consignment marine store: Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies, was surprised to see thousands of dollars worth of boat gear sitting in the sun on these wrecks. Hatches, winches, cleats, a wind generator, stainless gear, engines, and much more. (Grant took nothing)

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He also found the burned out shell of an old powerhouse with much of its equipment rusting in place.

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With no drop in wind expected for the next several days, we decided to head for Governors Harbour while the wind was still blowing 20 knots, but from a better direction than it would be later in the week.

Check out episode 4 of our “Day in the Life” video series:

04 A Day in the Life- Cruising Albin Vega Velocir 1-29-12

Onward to Eleuthera- sailing southward

A really interesting site about Eleuthera history, ruins, caves and wrecks:  www.projecteleuthera.org

Back to work getting ready to sail southward to Eleuthera.  We filled Velocir up with food, fuel and propane.  We have been sailing to different places based on the wind and have not really used any fuel since we got here!!  But we did get some for the dinghy.

The produce boat had just come in and our fresh food was a treat.  We had lamb chops (from New Zealand) and fresh strawberries.  The next day we worked on the boat and waited for the right weather to sail to Little Harbor, our jumping off point for Eleuthera.Velocir

The sail to Little Harbor was relaxing and felt like a day sail.  We caught two barracuda.  One was huge—the other tiny!Beach Debris by Velocir

In the anchorage of Little Harbor, Abacos there is a sandy spot with a few trees ornamented with a collection of “treasures” washed up from the ocean beach on the other side—a short walk away.  Old floats, a diesel can and plastic bottles in as many shapes and sizes as you can imagine.  We took the path to the beach and looked for ourselves at what a modern beach strewn with plastic bottles and nets looks like.   There is so much trash that it is not trash, it is a scavenger hunt of lost items, only sadly they will never decompose.

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Of particular interest was a ??????? At first it looked like a plane because of the window, but on closer inspection it has a giant hook on the end of it and Amelia decided it was a rigid life raft from a cruise ship or something.  Hopefully she is wrong because, well…..this is all that was left of it.

The weather was holding up in the reports for our crossing at E 10-13 kts, moderating throughout the day. We left the next morning at sunrise.  The conditions were a little more choppy than anticipated but acceptable.  We don’t want Velocir to take on too much or else her foredeck is awash with water and she is plowing into the waves all day.  This was good enough that she wasn’t getting wet, and wasn’t losing boat speed.  Instead we were flying at 7-8 kts of speed with our main, reefed jib and engine on.  We were happy to motor and get there well before dark.

During the crossing our inflatable dinghy, Raptor, which was deflated and lashed to the shrouds, jumped ship after overcoming it’s ties and slipping through the lifelines.  On its way overboard it made a small thump Amelia didn’t think much of, but Grant looked back and saw what had happened.  (Possibly some expletives followed)  Luckily it was during the day and we could see!  We quickly brought in the jib and put the engine in neutral to slowly sail around and come up to windward of the floating blob.  Amelia was at the helm and couldn’t make it to windward, but got aside just downwind of it.  Grant reached over and grabbed it but it was so heavy and slippery he could not get a good hold.  We could see it was slowly sinking and taking on water.  Grant let the main sail down and Amelia revved up the engine, once again getting just downwind of it.  This time both Amelia and Grant reached over and were able to get a good hold.  It was tremendously heavy!  But we managed to drag it into the cockpit.  Luckily our boat is low on enough on the water that we were physically able to do this.  We are glad this story has a happy ending.  We love our dinghy and need it.  It will make us think twice about how we tie it down next time.  Just before we left Marsh Harbour in the Abacos a boat had lost their dinghy (towing it behind them) in the small Sea of Abaco and weren’t able to find it.  It could have easily been lost.

We anchored in Royal Sound, which is a protected anchorage just west of the popular town of Spanish Wells. It was earlier than we could have hoped, so we happily had dinner and went to bed.  The next day we went to explore the abandoned mansion on the island.  Getting our dinghy inflated was a bit more difficult because we first had to drain the tubes! Abandoned Mansion on Royal Island by Velocir

The mansion has a worn jetty that we tied up to.  It is very overgrown, but we could see that the steps leading up to it had long trellised gardens on one side.  The story is that the mansion was pretty spectacular, but sometime about 50 years ago the caretaker left and locals looted it.  Literally everything was taken from the buildings except for the blue tile throughout.  Not sure how true the story is of course.

Abandoned Mansion on Royal Island by Velocir

It was an open layout with many buildings.  The bathroom was separate from the living room, and there was a separate building with a bar table.  The doors had been taken off their hinges and the windows ripped out.  It must have been quite something once.  A large paved driveway and road led down to a larger jetty on the other side of the island.

Royal Island by Velocir

It was fun to explore, and we are looking forward to seeing Spanish Wells and other parts of Eleuthera.  A lot of cruisers don’t come here.  The protected anchorages can be few and far between, and in general we realize it is not as protected sailing as the Abacos.  With a limited schedule we would probably be in the more popular Exumas.  (A couple on a trawler randomly came up to us and asked if we wanted to buddy boat to the Exumas and when we said we weren’t going there they actually tried to pressure us!!)  But luckily we can travel where we like, and we’ve heard Eleuthera has some pretty spectacular beaches (even some with good surf) so we will be exploring here for a little while.Small Hermit Crabs by Velocir

Grant and his handful of mini-hermit crabs!

A Day in the Life- video blogging

Amelia had a super awesome time visiting her little cousin in snowy Seattle.  They saw the city sights and ate a LOT of ice cream!  Amelia returned the day of the snowstorm, her flight being one of the only ones that wasn’t cancelled that day.P1010001

She returned to the boat bearing gifts for Grant.  His birthday is coming up, so he was spoiled with a new camera, new fishing reel, his favorite peanut butter pretzels and his favorite beer – Racer 5, as well as some local brews from Seattle.P1010002

With our new camera we are going to try more video.  Up until now we have taken pretty nature videos mostly, and we would like to capture and share more of a day-to-day life video.  If there’s anything you’d like to see or wonder about let us know!  Our first video is about groceries, running errands and installing a new bilge pump.  Exciting, I know!

Moseyin’ Part Duex

After resting for a couple of days whilst waiting out a lightning storm, Blake and Grant motored and sailed, as the wind allowed, to Spoil Cay off of Great Guana Cay near Baker’s Bay.  Sadly, there were no lobsters where there had been lobsters before.  Grant signaled to Blake, who jumped in and swam to him, whereupon Grant told Blake that he was signaling him to not jump in because there were no lobsters but there was an overly curious 4 ft bull shark.  Blake said we should really work out a better signaling system.

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While on his way back to the boat, Grant speared a skate for use as fish bait.  Foreshadowing.

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The next day, at their next anchorage not more than a couple miles from Spoil Cay, the brothers Howerton happened upon a den of lobster.  They speared four lobsters and saw many more.  And there was much rejoicing.

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Grant decided the occasion was worthy of some of his coveted warm beer.

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The brothers enjoyed their feast of baked beans, lobster with melted butter, and warm Maryland beer.

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Their bellies still full of lobster, the boys threw out the genoa for an easy hour reach to Guana Cay harbor where they anchored in the lee of a tall rocky peninsula.

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They sipped rum and enjoyed a picturesque Bahamian sunset.

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Later that night they paused their game of cribbage to go look at the stars when all of a sudden the quiet calm of the night was shattered by the whine of 150 lb. monofilament line peeling off the fishing reel.  Grant sprang into action and soon subdued the beast from the inky deep.  Blake administered a lethal gaffing to the jugular and thusly was their prey dispatched.  Grant filleted their catch, then the brothers asked the internet what kind of fish they were going to be eating the next several days.  The fish turned out to be a lesser amberjack, the biggest catch of the trip so far.

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Who would have guessed that they would catch their fish after dinner, and on the evening before the Nipper’s Sunday Pig Roast (all you can eat); an event they had planned to attend all week. So they went to shore and got a huge bag of ice.

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Nippers is the most famous beach bar in the Abacos and no visit to the area is complete without tasting one of their signature Frozen Nippers and/or attending a Sunday Pig Roast.

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They had a great afternoon enjoying the view and eating more than they should have. On the way back to the boat they found a fresh coconut.

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Not only is a coconut harder to get into than ever imagined, but the meat of a fresh one is delicious and a better movie snack than popcorn.

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During the night, the wind picked up considerably and shifted more east, meaning the poorly placed rental boat that had arrived that afternoon was right on top of Velocir. To make a long story short, the rental boat drug their anchor onto Velocir just as Grant arrived from a trip to town. Blake and Grant scrambled up on deck and did their best to fend off the runaway boat while the rent-a-captain looked shocked and ineffectively tried to drop fenders between the boats.

Blake and Grant scrambled to get their engine on and ready as they thought the rental boat would snag their anchor. As they looked up the offender was setting sail and heading for Marsh Harbour. A nautical hit-and-run! Attempts to contact the boat via radio were ineffective. Fortunately there was no fatal damage, only a bitter taste in Grant’s mouth.

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After the eventful morning, they sailed again for Man-O-War Cay to wait out a predicted storm.  While there was no thunder or lightning, the wind was up something fierce.  With reefed sails, the boys still made record time.  Even with a great anchorage, the boat rocked and wind howled all night.  Blake still feels like he is rocking even if he is on land.

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Seeking refuge in the cabin, what else could they do but make some tasty amberjack burritos?

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The next day they went to shore and wandered down the one golf cart street that runs that section of the cay.

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Local calls only.  25 pence.

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After more amberjack burritos, Blake and Grant set out under reefed sails.  They were on a reach in 25 knot winds for Marsh Harbour.  Grant was much more confident in the near gale conditions than Blake, who had not yet fully experienced the sailing prowess of Velocir.  Twenty minutes after this photo was taken two rain squalls came through.  Each time, the heavy rain silenced the wind and the boat rolled helplessly, waiting for the winds to fill the sails once again.

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The weather became more moderate in the protection of Marsh Harbor.  Blake and Grant cleaned the boat and ate conch fritters at a nearby waterfront bar and grill.  Blake schemed on ways to not leave the Bahamas, and enjoyed Haitian rum and a Cuban cigar during his last Bahamian sunset as turtles swam around the boat.

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Moseyin’

Amelia’s parents reluctantly left the Bahamas and Amelia is off in cold Seattle visiting family. Well, cold for her, locals in t-shirts give her a double take when they see her bronzed face peaking out from underneath a wool hat. Grant and his brother Blake are now moseyin’ around the Sea of Abaco. The brothers bought their first boat together and sailed it around the chilly, windy waters of San Francisco Bay. This is an improvement.

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Monday after they said goodbye to Amelia they sailed down in a nice and easy 10 knot easterly breeze to Tilloo Pond, a cozy anchorage surrounded by, well, nothing.

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They stopped to check out a sunken barge, saw a big nurse shark and whole bunch of other fish. Just on the other side of the hills above is the Atlantic ocean and a weird moonscape of rock formations.

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After bravely retreating from the very pointy rocks they did a little fishing trip to a nearby jetty. Several fish were chased, no lobster was found, but a couple good sized conch were gathered. Grant did, however, come nose to nose with a very curious young sea turtle. There was an incredible red to pink sunset that night.

The next day they had a 2 mile an hour spinnaker ride to their next anchorage at Snake Key. Despite some nearby construction, it was a beautiful spot.

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A nearby shallow area protected by islands made for a great dinghy adventure. There were a lot of young sea turtles zooming around in the shallow water, but only one fish was hooked and lost. The remnants of some sort of building, seen on the way over, turned out to be some sort of factory barge. Inside of the rust pile were two monstrous engines, 12 feet tall and 17 feet long each.

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They each had what looked to be an 8 cylinder flathead engine for a starting motor and were just incredible.

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Grant was especially interested in the 4 foot tall capstan on the front of it.

The next day up goes the anchor again as they set off for Man-O-War Cay. With a brisk wind out of the Southeast they worked their way around points and sandbars, sailing all the way to the harbor entrance.

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They had a great lunch and walked around the island a bit and then bought a couple of lobster tails for $8 and had a wonderful dinner. So far, baked lobster is better than grilled lobster.

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Today was a lazy day involving swimming around the boat, reading in the hammock, and going to shore to get lobster for dinner, again. The rain and 15 knots winds forecast for the day turned into a sunny flat calm. Sailing San Francisco Bay together was a lot of fun and made a lot of great memories, but its got nothing on this.

Runabout Adventures

Renting a runabout in the Bahamas has given us so much speed and mobility compared to our Albin Vega Velocir.  We have spent this past week using it to explore many harbors and islands in the Abacos.Velocir

Out by a submerged barge, Grant went to spear some fish and lobster.  The water has become very chilly after a few days of heavy winds from the North.

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Grant used a few different types of spear tips.  One has three prongs, another has just one tip with a hinged tab that locks the tip in like a hook.

Spearfishing in the Bahamas by Velocir

It was a very calm day with just a few clouds.  It was relaxing to sit in the boat while Grant hunted for dinner.

Spearfishing in the Bahamas by Velocir

He speared a lion fish, which is an invasive species.  They have no known predators and touching their beautiful spines can kill you.  It is good to kill them instead!  Grant said it was pretty slow in the water.

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Grant also found this good-sized lobster! 

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On our way to a big sandbar we saw a sea turtle in the water!  (look Em!)

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The sandbar was full of life.  Pretty starfish,  sand dollars and hermit crabs.

One hermit crab in particular was huge!  It has a very hard scaly claws, and then softer hairy legs.

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Lots of conch.

Androsia Fabric by Velocir

Then we went into the island of Man-O-War to explore.  This island has more locals living downtown, which is different from Hopetown where the houses are mostly rentals.  This fabric store has Androsia fabric, made on the island of Andros in the Bahamas.  We used this fabric on the tables for our wedding.Velocir

Islands of the Abacos.

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Boatbuilding is a major industry on Man-O-War, where they construct Albury boats.  They are known for their heavy fiberglass construction.  This wooden boat was among many built locally on the island.  As you walk along the harbor there are signs for many different boat builders.

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We went back to Hopetown, having enjoyed our day of snorkeling, walking on the sandbar and exploring a new island.  The runabout has been a great way too see a lot in one day!

For the next week and a half Grant will be cruising with his brother, and Amelia will be visiting her cousin in Seattle!!!

Ringing in the New Year

We celebrated the New Year with family in Hopetown, Abaco Bahamas.  There were great fireworks show and junkanoo celebration on the streets.  We went out for a delicious dinner of stuffed lobster!DSCN0312

The midnight fireworks were really great!  We are staying in a house right now and slept in a real bed, had real showers and put ice in our drinks for the first time in months.

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Velocir is having some alone time by the picturesque lighthouse in Hopetown.  We sailed her over from Marsh Harbor.  It is a lot more charming here and bustling, with many tourists and boats all over the harbor.  It is the nicest place we have been to in Abaco.DSCN0353

New Years day we went snorkeling on the reefs and then went to Nippers.  Last time Amelia was at Nippers there was literally no one there.  Not another person except her family and the staff.  Nippers is a really popular bar overlooking the beach that cruisers always talk about going to.

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It was pretty crazy on New Years day!  It was swarming with scantily clad drunk young people.  Having lunch with my family with all of this going on was a little comical.

We wondered where all these people come from, maybe there is a resort nearby?

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We have enjoyed having a runabout and going out to the reefs for snorkeling. We did a morning fishing trip Monday, but had no luck. It is getting a bit cold here, but we’re hoping for a couple more sunny days before family leaves. Things should warm up again until the next cold front!

Velocir’s 2011 Blog Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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