The stress of docking soon melted away, as we began to explore the amenities of the Bluff House Marina. Because this is their slow season, they have a “Docking for Dollars” promotion where you can offset your slip fees with purchases elsewhere at the resort, including the restaurant, bar, gift shop, and even the Laundromat. It didn’t take us long to start spending our reserve. The first night we had drinks in a cozy lounge at the Bluff House Inn at the top of the hill behind the marina, followed by dinner at the restaurant. Everything was delicious and the wait staff was friendly and welcoming.
One of the drinks we were encouraged to try was a unique local drink called a Gumbay Smash. When we asked what was in it, the bartender said she couldn’t tell us. Undeterred, Dave had one anyway. It was good, but strong. We were told that when we toured New Plymouth, the town on the island, we should go to Emily's Blue Bee Bar, where the drink was invented and have an original.
We toured the town of New Plymouth the next day. It was our first chance to tour a more remote Bahamian town. The streets were narrow and therefore mostly one way. They were shared by cars and golf carts, not to mention the many dogs, cats and roosters that roamed the town. The buildings were various pastel colors that made it all very charming.
We had come to Green Turtle Cay anticipating some windy weather – gale force, actually – forecast for Sunday. The winds were up before then as well (as evidenced in our docking), with another gusty day on Friday, our second day in port. This didn’t deter us from visiting New Plymouth by dinghy on Friday, having rejected the option of walking or biking the 4 miles. This would allow Val to use one of our bikes, so she and Graham could bike into town. However, we’ve made better decisions than this one.
The winds were at our back on the way to town, but the trip was still bumpy. The weather was forecast to get windier, so Cathy was nervous about the trip back. We had to leave the protection of our harbor to go around the point to New Plymouth, exposing us to the bigger waves of the Bighy of Abaco. Since we didn’t know exactly where we were going ( the tourist map in Cathy’s pocket didn’t exactly qualify as a chart) we made some false turns on our way there. We finally entered what looked like the right harbor, but as we tried to sort out where we were supposed to land, we found ourselves plowing up the bottom. It wasn’t clear what the shortest path to deeper water was, but the wind seemed to be blowing us toward the channel – sort of. We began hand-paddling in the direction of the channel, when it became clear we should use the oars. (Yeah, that’s what we lug them around for.) However, as Dave was unstrapping them, a piece fell in the water, so we had to focus on retrieving that first. We finally made it to deep water and the dock. Meanwhile Cathy is thinking that this doesn’t bode well for our return.
As we toured the pleasant little town, the buildings were blocking the increasing wind strength, giving us a false sense of security. Sure enough, as we headed back to the dinghy, we could see white caps on the water. We pulled away into the wind and were soon getting waves washing over the bow. Cathy tried to look where we were going, but was soon getting so many waves in the face that her eyes were stinging from the salt water. We were both soaked through before even leaving the harbor and the dinghy was filling with water. Cathy wasn’t loosening her grip on the dinghy to assist with bailing, so we just kept plowing into the wind, as Dave bravely took a beating, since he didn’t have the luxury of looking away from the breaking waves. The only good news was that the water was warmer than the air, so it actually warmed us up slightly with each dousing.
We finally made the turn for the more protected channel into White Sound and the waves began calming down. Cathy started the process of bailing, all the while wondering why we didn’t use the drain plug. It wasn’t the right moment to bring it up though. We finally returned to the boat and a welcome hot shower. Good thing today was laundry day.
Friday’s winds were followed by an incredibly calm day on Saturday, but Sunday lived up to its ugly forecast. The winds started to build overnight and by mid-morning they were steady at 25knots. Around noon, as they continued to increase, the anchored boats in the harbor started swinging violently and 3 or more starting dragging anchor. Graham and another boater from the marina jumped in their dinghy to go help one boat, which was being single-handed and had also lost control of its boom. While they helped him retrieve his 2 anchors and pick up a mooring ball, another trawler sounded a horn because it was in danger of crashing up against the rocks. His neighbor dinghied over to help, but it finally required another boater to assist them in getting their anchor set in a better location.
As these 2 boats were finally secured, a trawler was headed up the channel toward our marina. We were in awe that someone was actually traveling on a miserable day like this one. Once they had tied up securely, the captain said, “Is it OK if I kiss the ground?”
Needless to say, we were glad we were securely tied to the dock.
We plan to move further south once the winds die down, but we must go around Whale Cay, which means a brief trip (about 2nm) “outside” the protection of the barrier islands into the Atlantic. This short passage can be treacherous due to conditions far out in the Atlantic, so needs to be approached with caution. We will wait for the right conditions and head farther south to Great Guana Cay.
We first headed south toward the Whale Cay Passage on Tuesday (Feb. 20th), but turned back when we couldn't get a report of anyone actually traversing the passage. One small boat turned back, so we decided to do the same and instead anchored out. We backtracked a few miles and tucked in at Manjack Cay, along with about a dozen other boats, many of whom had made the same decision. We hooked up with another friend of Bonnie Lass, Frank on Jubilee, a 20 foot Flicka. They had met at West End, just after crossing from Florida. Frank played taxi service and shuttled us over to Bonnie Lass, where we enjoyed the beautiful sunset and good company. Bill, the owner of the house on the island, came out to chat. He knew most of the boaters in the harbor and could tell you where they were from and where they were headed. We were surprised at how welcoming they were to the many cruisers coming through the area. They even provide an wireless internet connection that reaches well out into the harbor (which is the source of this update).
Frank described how beautiful Bill and Leslie's house and grounds were due to all the hard work they had put in over the 15 years they lived here. This is just one of the many places to explore on Manjack Cay. We won't get the chance this time, but look forward to returning here on our way back from Marsh Harbor.
But, for now, we are headed south, once more attempting to go through the Whale. We hope for better luck today, which is the first completely calm moring we have had in quite a while. It looks like a "go"