GREEN TURTLE CAY, ABACOS
BLACK SOUND MARINA
Black Sound Marina was nice enough, small and quaint and resembled a family owned place though we never saw the owner, only just a guy named Carroll who was a contact while the “owner was gone to the mainland”. It was very small “marina”, with no more than 8-10 slips, and most were filled with little fishing skiffs and a couple funky looking bigger power type boats, the origin of which looked mostly homemade. It was a real hodge podge around here.
There was not enough water to have the luxury of washing off the heavy crust of salt we had acquired while making our crossing over the Banks so we did what Larry would call a quick PTA squirt (some phase he picked up while in the marines years ago and I’m not going to explain it if you don’t know what it means) and that would have to do her for awhile.
Larry asked Carroll how to get on the internet.
“You have to have a code and the owner is the only one that knows it and he’s gone to the mainland!”
Carroll was eighth generation on the island and you could tell. He had that strange accent you hear frequently in the Bahamas, and especially when you travel further south to more isolated places. It’s kind of a mix between old Elizabethan and Bahamian and the other identifying factor was that he looked like most of the other “loyalists” throughout the Bahamas. Can’t put my finger on what that is exactly but after one spends some time in the Bahamas you begin to notice their similar physical traits. In other words the gene pool is not that expansive.
MISSED THE OTHER CRUISERS
There is not one thing touristy about this marina and it’s definitely not on the cruisers circuit. The marina had some advantages, one being that it was close to town which was the primary reason we came here. Even though it was a short walk to town, I didn’t like it. I missed the “action” (as Larry calls it) of being at a busy marina where other cruisers are coming and going. A place where you can hear the stories they tell.
I also didn’t like being under the thumb of the couple that kept their boat here permanently. The lived in an old trawler in the slip right next to us. He also had a couple little runabouts that he kept in two other slips. They were busy bodies, always watching everything we did and telling us the “way it is” on the island and everything else in life. It got really old after awhile.
A BIT TRASHY
Though the marina was close to town, the walk to it was surprisingly littered with trash, not only along the small neighborhood concrete roadside from the marina but also along the shoreline to town. Add to that the constant “low tide smell” which resembled more the odor of a sewer than drying shoreline. In all it was a bit surprising. It was not the beautiful and clean image I remembered of New Plymouth.
In the past few years we were always struck by the pristine little settlement of New Plymouth. Now so many of the colonial cottages looked to be in disrepair, many were just boarded up with plywood and several of the charming historical structures looked to be rotting away. What is going on here? Maybe the bad economy has hit them hard. People didn’t seem as friendly either or as happy. It could be just my impression on a bad day and I hope so as I really liked this place so much.
CRAZY PIT BULL
I also hated the fact that every time we took Ziggy for a walk we had to go by this long hip high chain link fence that was the only thing keeping us separated from this crazy insane pit bull that ran back and forth, chasing us the length of the fence, all the while mouthing raspy barks as us. He must have had his vocal cords removed because nothing would come out except short cough like sounds along with the motions of hyper barking and add to that foamy slobber spraying in all directions. The sign “BEWARE OF DOG” insured our respect and fear of him. I love pit bulls but this guy really scared Ziggy and I. Once we got beyond the fence we walked by the neighbors who were quite the opposite, barely nodding a hello. It felt like we were trespassing.
The marina was in a protected place, a good hole for weathering out storms unless the wind was blowing from the East, then you were at the mercy of your fenders, hoping they could manage to keep you off the tall wooden, splintery docks. The docks were so high that at low tide it was like mountain climbing to get up and down from the dock to the boat. Try doing that with an overweight 25 lb. pooch slung over your shoulder and it’s a challenge. Zig is pretty good about hanging on your shoulder, he’s a bit like a little monkey, but this was pushing the limit.
We had a nice view of the anchorage though and it included a spectacular sun rise the first morning we were there but even with that it didn’t overcome the creepy feeling that we were always under the eye of the couple in the next slip over. He had his hair cropped like he was just inducted and talked about his days in the marines as if he was a career marine, like it was still yesterday. Even his runabout was named “Semper Fi”. We were all surprised when we found out he had only served a couple years in the marines, and years ago, but still he was living it like he was still enlisted. What bothered me was when he jokingly would threaten to throw Ziggy in the water, or smack his face if he got in this way. I didn’t find it humorous.
So, need I say more? It was decided, we were going over the Green Turtle. Final Approach wanted to come along as well. Although we never discussed why we were leaving I think they wanted to leave for many of the same reasons. So the next morning we both headed over to White Sound and Green Turtle Club.
HEAVENLY GREEN TURTLE CLUB
What a difference this place was. Though we weren’t close to town, we had other cruisers to talk to, a nice restaurant, pool, and beautiful beaches nearby to walk to with Ziggy without the fear of attack by a crazy pit bull and snarls by unfriendly neighbors and most importantly without the watchful eye of the “Semper Fi” people. As far as getting to town, it was simple, we just rented a golf cart.
We couldn’t believe how empty the docks were compared to our trip before. The Bluff House Marina across the way was completely empty of boats except for one. Last time both marinas were full, and the anchorage was crowded. Green Turtle I think always offers a “special deal” to entice cruisers and it was working. The “deal” was that anything you spent at the restaurant or bar could be applied to the cost of your dockage. So essentially you could stay for free if drank or ate enough.
Of course nothing is inexpensive in the Bahamas so it was all relative. Luckily the food was really delicious and fresher than what we could buy at any of the small grocery stores in town, so we were happy. They had a nice laundry room and most of the machines worked which was unusual for the majority of places we’ve been cruising, even in the good ole’ USA. We had several beautiful beaches to explore that were within walking distance. The bar was fun too. It was decorated floor to ceiling with dollar bills left by visiting cruisers. Each bill had something scribbled on it, either a boat name or some saying.
Over all it was a great place to be.
NEW PLYMOUTH, GREEN TURTLE CAY
It’s funny because the minute we left Black Sound Marina and came to Green Turtle Club Marina, everything looked better. New Plymouth didn’t look so littered, didn’t smell so bad, and didn’t look so run down. I guess Black Sound was making me a little cynical.
I love New Plymouth Town. It’s one place that doesn’t change much like the rest of the world. The little colonial streets are still the same, as they’ve been for hundreds of years, with the same colonial cottages all painted in pastel colors. It’s such a lovely place.
We all went to Blue Bee’s for dinner one night. It was a fun experience. The food was good and got a bit of the local experience. It’s located in one of the little houses right in town and the owner is friendly and gracious. You can call on the radio to make a dinner reservation as that’s how everyone communicates on the Cay. You can even call the little grocery store on the radio to reserve some fresh baked Bahamian bread for the following day. There are no phones per say.
New Plymouth Photos
Blue Bee’s is spotless clean, although Bob, from Final Approach, kept making embarrassingly commenting, and too loudly that “You’ll have no problem finding their restroom, just follow the smell”. I think he had one too many Goombay Smashes which Blue Bee’s invented. They were really good but powerful. Don’t be in a hurry if you go there because it took us a hideous 3 hours to have dinner which was really testing my patience. I kept reminding myself that we are in the Bahamas and they don’t rush anything in the Bahamas. What else is there to do anyway? Not one thing except sit back and enjoy.
We all had a good dinner, each trying out something different: lobster, roasted chicken, grouper, and steak. The dinners all come with the regular Bahamian sides, a choice of coleslaw, potato salad or peas and rice. It doesn’t matter where you go in the Bahamas as the choices are always the same. Everything is prepared by hand and we were told, totally fresh but they need to add to that, “and as slow as molasses”. There were no soft surfaces in the restaurant so the acoustics were null and void and after three hours of yelling at the top of our lungs over the table to each other and still not hearing a thing the other person said we were glad as hell to get out of there and back in the golf cart heading in the dark of late night back to our boats.
WRECKED AND WRETCHED
We also, had lunch a few times at the Wrecking Tree Restaurant. Peggy, from the Final Approach, made me laugh so much because she kept getting mixed up, and would mistakenly call it the Wretched Restaurant. It wasn’t wretched though. It was a local hangout and had outdoor seating so we went there a couple times with Zig. One day as we drove by we saw a black kid preparing some conch by the back door. He had a piece of plywood on top of an overturned trash can, using it as a make shift table to whack away at some fresh conch that was in a few minutes going to be served to a customer. You could never get away with that in the states.
New Plymouth Photos
LIQUOR STORE CAFE
We never were able to eat lunch at the liquor store in town though we heard the food was great and the experience fun.
Food served in the liquor store you say? I don’t know how they ever came up with the idea but it works and is popular, often requiring reservations. The café/liquor store is in a small shoe box building downtown and its nothing more than one room with no windows. There is no décor, just shelves for the liquor on one side and a small diner counter on the other. It probably doesn’t seat more than 6 people
PEGGY AND BOB
Peggy and Bob, Final Approach, at least for the moment, were our new cruising companions. It always seems to happen when you are cruising in waters that are unfamiliar and especially where there is no USCG. People start clinging together, as it’s better to head off together than alone in case something happens. It’s also nice to have another cruiser to share weather opinions, etc. What really bonds is if your boat runs the same speed and has the same draft, then you are a good match and a real plus and the most important, is that you like the people, then its marriage made in heaven.
I’m not sure exactly why this happens but it does, no matter what coast you are on. So for now Peggy and Bob were are our new buddies. I’ve always found it to be remarkable that we meet so many people that we like and have things in common with when boating. You can go all through life and never meet people as friendly or as easy going and adventurous. We all seem to look at life the same. I don’t know whether it’s just these similar interests or whether it’s some kind of crazy bone we all have genetically that isn’t shared with the rest of the population. I’m also truly amazed at the women we meet on boats, how independent and adventurous they are.
Anyway, Bob and Peggy were good mates and we had a lot of fun together as we explored most of the island together and searched the beaches for the phantom sand dollars, which we never found, and having many dinners and drinks together. We had a good time together.
THE LADY WITH NO RIBS
We shared stories about other boaters that we met and talked to on the docks. Especially the boat that came in with the woman that seemed to have no ribs. I actually remembered seeing this woman when we came to the Bahamas before on the Nordhavn but just can’t remember where. The husband drives the boat in business slacks, dress shoes and shirt and looks as if he’s going to the office. She frequently wears a crushed burgundy red dress that is synched in so tight at the waist that it takes your breath away, and not in a good way. Her waist is literally about 4” wide! This is no exaggeration. Honest. She was the talk of the docks as we all tried to figure out what might have happened to her or why she was this way. No one had enough nerve to ask. They had a son, or so we think it was their son, as there was some visible resemblance to them, but sadly he was slow or retarded it seemed. I remember him also from our trip before as they treated him like their deck hand, nothing more than a worker.
Once they docked it wasn’t long before they came over to ask about our boat. They wanted to know what it was and where we got it. They seemed nice enough but there was just something different about them. They were from Manteo, on the Outer Banks and I guess that explains some of it. Sorry to say so but true. I asked where they were headed and she said they usually go to Man-O-War until they “ruined the place with the new condos” so now she said they go to Spanish Wells in Eluethera. Both those places are a little different so again it made sense.
I introduced Larry and I and she in turn introduced herself and her husband and then pointed to their boat where their “son” and dog were. She said “and that’s Tully”. I said “Oh, and what’s the dog’s name?” She simply said “I told you, it’s Tully!” She never mentioned the “son”. It was the strangest thing.
During our stay some Canadians came in to the slip beside us. The guy was really nice and very considerate. If he was going to vacuum the sand from his cockpit he would warn us first about the noise and would apologize saying it would only be a few minutes. He said they just spent a month at Treasure Cay and loved it. They rented a slip for the month and got a special deal only paying $500 for the month. Leave it to the Canadians. The beach he said was beautiful and the harbor is a good hurricane hole so if it’s blowing cats and dogs elsewhere, it won’t be at Treasure Cay!” That was good to know.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE CRUISERS GONE?
The docks have been pretty empty, even the anchorage and mooring field had scarce a boat or two. Both Larry and I were commenting on it. Even at the West End, the marina was not full like 4 years ago. Was it the economy? We wondered, or was it just the bad weather and winds this winter? Though, how could anyone have predicted a crazy winter like this?
It wasn’t long before we had another forecast of gale force winds coming our way and it was like ants to honey, cruisers were coming in to the harbor. They were all coming in to White Sound to get tied up or pick up a mooring and wait for the next blast. The docks began to fill, even the sail boaters and the Canadians, who are notorious for their stead fastness of anchoring out and avoiding the cost of the docks, they too, came in. It was starting to get exciting again. We all hunkered down for the storm and there was a buzz on the docks for the next few days.
THE NEXT PREDICTABLE MOVE
After the worst of the blow was over and when it looked like a weather window coming, you could see the men gathering again in small groups on the docks, talking weather and when they thought would be a safe time to move on to make Whale’s Cut, the next notorious leg, known for rough seas if you don’t calculate you crossing right. It was predictable. Testosterone was flowing as egos inflated about who knew when the best window was. I always get a kick out of watching the process and how it plays out.
Most concluded that the day after tomorrow would be the best possible day to go. Final Approach though decided to go a day earlier. The winds had calmed down but even though the winds are down it doesn’t always mean the seas are down. They usually need a day to flatten out after a strong blow. We were in no rush to move on. We wanted to stay in Green Turtle for a few more days and there was no reason for us to go out in rough seas. We waved goodbye as they headed out, their next stop would be Treasure Cay. We’ll catch up with them somewhere down the way. So off they went. We got an email later that day that it was really rough and they were surprised. I wasn’t.
We received an email from them again but that night. They didn’t really like Treasure Cay saying there was nothing there and it wasn’t as “classy” as Green Turtle Cay. The dock master put them right by the bar and it was noisy and the restaurant was only serving pizza the night they arrived. They planned to move on as soon as weather permitted. We were surprised. The Canadians liked the place but Final Approach didn’t. Completely different opinions, wonder why.
THE NEXT MOVE
We saw another weather window after spending three more days at Green Turtle. I wanted to go to Treasure Cay because another big blow was coming right after, with gale force winds for a full three days. Larry had been thinking about going to Man-O-War but I didn’t want to get stuck there with nothing to do for three days. I didn’t want to go to Marsh Harbor for another gale force storm though it was exciting when we were there in the Nordhavn. We sat out one of those 4 years ago and it was so bad it broke up part of our teak swim step and several people at anchor dragged and lost their hold. The winds blow down that harbor and straight into the docks. We were worried constantly that a boat would lose ground at the anchorage and ram into us. Some boats had to turn on their engines just to keep themselves in place with the strong winds even though they were hooked.
If the Canadian said Treasure Cay was a hurricane hole I’d rather be there. Okay it was a done deal. We both agreed we were going to Treasure Cay. We emailed Final Approach and told them we were going there. They said they didn’t like it and wanted to move on to Marsh Harbor. So the next plan was to meet up with them in a few days and go to Hope Town together. We don’t particularly like Marsh Harbor so had no interest in spending anytime there except to fuel up. We’ll just sit out the gale force winds at Treasure Cay.
The day before we left Green Turtle we had finally a nice warm calm day after days and days of crap, well weeks of crap weather. Zig and I actually were able to enjoy a ride in our kayak for the first time since we were on the West Coast of Florida. We floated around the harbor just enjoying the calm waters.
Whale Cut is the next challenge for cruisers in the Abacos. We all must get through it to explore the rest of the Abacos. It can be treacherous so you have to watch the weather and seas and make the crossing at the perfect time or you can have a really bad experience. We have a good window tomorrow so should be a piece of cake.
I’m beginning to really understand that saying: “the calm before the storm,” almost too well on this trip. It was dead calm this morning, not a ripple across the water. Everything reflected in the water like a perfect mirror. It’s getting to be a repetitive pattern around here. The calm is so deceiving, like a predator, leading you on with kind words and glimpses of nice things with the calm weather, letting you think that things are OK and innocent. It’s nothing but a false sense of security luring you into letting your guard down and then just when you are too trusting and vulnerable it unleashes the evil wrath it has concealed so cleverly. It’s like the black smoke in LOST. It doesn’t fool me anymore.
PERSYTENCE, OUR PARTNER TODAY
I knew we’d leave early again, its Larry’s way. Larry had spoken with Persytence, a 42 foot Grand Banks yesterday. We planned to go together through Whale Cut this morning. They anchored out at Manjack the night before and we were to meet them at 8:30 AM just outside the channel from Green Turtle and then would make the crossing together. Larry had us off the dock and on our way about a half an hour before schedule. Once we got out the harbor channel he hailed Persytence to see how far away they were. They answered back and said they too were on their way. I could see them in the distance. I watched as he began to pick up speed to catch up to us as the sea spray coming off his bow got bigger.
DISTRACTIONS AT THE DOCK
Help with lines from people on the docks when we leave sometimes causes problems for me. I appreciate the help but sometimes I’m much better off just doing things myself. Just as we were getting the lines off, someone down the dock came to help and ended up throwing the lines off before we were ready to go when I had just asked him to hold the one line until we were ready. It didn’t matter though as there was no wind or current this morning.
And then one old guy came hobbling down the dock, yelling at us to wait. He wanted to give us a bag of food they didn’t use on their boat. He said they were leaving today for the states and couldn’t leave the food on their boat for a month while they were gone. All these actions were friendly and kind and appreciated but the sometimes they just give me grief as I get distracted from the job at hand and make mistakes. As the old guy handed me the bag of food he asked how much our boat cost. Good grief! I would never think to ask anyone a question like that. I’m surely not going to tell him and everyone else on the dock what we paid for the boat. So I quickly gave him a wide range of what it could cost depending on what you put in it and how you decided to finish it. He can imagine whatever he wants with that.
COULDN’T THEY HOLD IT?
The water in the harbor and marina was absolutely filthy this morning as boaters had obviously dumped their holding tanks. Totally disgusting.
ANIMALS ON THE HORIZON?
As we began to head out to the Atlantic there were no elephants on the horizon. That was our first clue when we started cruising down here of how the locals determine whether the seas are bad or not. We had never heard the expression before. “If you see elephants on the horizon you better not go out”. Ziggy all was all nervous even though there are only a few dogs on the horizon.
NOT THE ONLY ONES
I can see the masts of two sailboats that are partnering through the cut. They got an earlier start than we. They are just dark grey images as we face the East into the sun. That’s good, the more company the better. Larry thinks I’m nuts to get nervous today but nevertheless I get the life jackets out. What’s the problem with that? Better to be safe than foolish. Who cares if someone laughs? It makes me feel better.
We can feel the swells of the ocean again. It’s such a short distance that we have to go to get through the cut that it seems so silly to get all worked up about it. Ironically, I guess that’s what I love about cruising. It’s the unknown, the planning, and the strategy to get to the next stop. It’s such a great journey no matter how big or how small. It’s always different, new parameters. I just can’t come up with anything else to compare to it. I never said it was easy but it’s the challenge that I like and the beautiful places it takes us too.
We had a Dickens of a time getting our emails in Green Turtle Cay. If we did manage to get online, it was brief and infrequent. We finally got an email from Bob that he sent almost 10 hours ago and they were only a few miles away. I can see 4 sailboats now and one power boat going around whale cut.
I’ve forbidden myself to read the cruising guides anymore. They just are a bit much, putting too much fear into the event. I will read later what it says about this crossing and why so many get intimidated by it. Both times we’ve come through here it’s been pretty easy.
Whale Cut is just south of Green Turtle Cay where a sand bar lays across the Sea of Abaco with depths of 3 feet. Most boats are forced to go East around Whale Cay and back in about two miles further south. The problem is that the Atlantic Sea forms huge swells when the wind is in any Easterly quadrant. Seas can build up on the rocks & reefs and if you are not careful will pull you off coarse.
The Canadians warned us of a pole that has been cut to just below the water’s surface. “Be sure to avoid it!” he said. Now you wonder why someone doesn’t put another pole on it to mark it instead of leaving something so dangerous.
Here we go, into the cut. I can hear the ping of Larry’s auto pilot as he clicks it several degrees to port and we head toward the cut.
There are three black rock low mound mini islands off to our left. The turquoise water is breaking on them. It doesn’t look bad. We can see the tail end of Green Turtle and some white beaches along its shore. That is a wonderful place to visit that’s for sure.
Ziggy is nervously licking my ankles. What a nutty dog, I guess I will let him if it keeps him occupied. He likes the taste of my skin lotion. I can’t imagine that it would taste very good. I type away on the computer as that’s what keeps me occupied. He and I are a lot alike. Everyone has to find their nitch when uncomfortable.
A power boat is coming this way. He made the cut coming from the other direction, heading to Green Turtle. He looks like he’s headed off into the reef, the shallow waters. I ask Larry where is he going and he said he’s going the right direction but is crabbing across the water as there’s strong current. Wow, I’ve seen crabbing, but that’s really crabbing.
We have 4 ½ to 5 feet swells, 8 seconds apart with a 6 knot wind on top. It’s wobbly but a nice ride.
We pass a sailboat. We pass the northern point of Whale Cay and make a turn to the starboard to run parallel to it. I hear Larry’s chart plotter beep again. It’s telling us we’ve reached our waypoint and need to change course to the next waypoint. Larry was moments ahead of the beep and was already making the needed corrections to now head south, parallel to the shore of Whale Cay. Off a ways in the distance to port are waves breaking on outer reef. So we have waves breaking now on our port and on our starboard side.
I must say we couldn’t have picked a better day to do this. Ziggy is now huddled under Larry’s elm seat. He looks a bit sea sick and unhappy but I guess feels protected under Larry.
We make our next turn and head in, back into the protection of the Cays. Off to our port is the entrance towards Guana Cay and on to Marsh Harbor. That’s where the channel is marked with poles and where one is below the water as the Canadian warned. I’m glad we aren’t going that way. I didn’t like it the first time we went through and I don’t like the looks of it this time either. I find the markers hard to make out, which is green and which is red. It just looks like a bunch of brown poles to me.
IN THE CLEAR
We are finally back in protected waters again. It’s over and was an easy ride. All that talk and worry on the docks and it was no big deal.
The Grand Banks, Persytence, hails us. They say they decided they too are going to Treasure Cay. They were going to Marsh but maybe they have the same idea we have, to take the protection of Treasure Cay’s harbor, a so called hurricane hole, for the next several days.
We almost forgot to pump the holding tank before we went to Treasure Cay. Wow, that would have been terrible. We should have dumped it out in Whale Cut but I guess were so preoccupied with getting through that we forgot about it.
We hear a boat called Rinky Dinky on the radio hailing another boat. It reminded me of Pelosi who was on the news last night ridiculing the Republicans for wanting to start over with the Healthcare Bill and to take is slow and careful. She said we can’t do what the Republicans want by taking itsy bitsy, rinky dinky, teeny weeny, little spider steps to overhaul healthcare.
It was a very short trip today but over bloated with so much trepidation. It was all for naught as usual and all the cruisers that went through are just fine. What the heck was all the build up about? It was pretty easy with the right weather.
We hail the dock master at Treasure Cay, over and over will no response. Finally Final Approach calls us back on the radio. He said the dock master was out walking around on the docks. They were just coming out of the marina and Bob said not to worry as there was plenty of space and plenty of water depth might as well just come on in.
As we headed in the well marked harbor entrance Final Approach was coming out. I took a couple pictures and as we went by Peggy, she yelled out “Don’t let them give you a slip by the bar, it’s too noisy!” We thanked them and said we’d see them down the road.
The dock master finally answered Larry and gave us a slip assignment. Larry asked if it was close to the bar and noisy. The dock master said he could put us as far from the bar as we wanted, so reassigned us. We ended up out in the boonies and with a long walk to everything but at least we weren’t near the bar so that was fine with us.
At first glance, Treasure Cay looks like so many places you’d expect to see in the states. It’s a manmade harbor with the canals lined with condos. So far not too exciting but we’ll explore. We’re not going anywhere for at least 3 days with the storms on the way.