We returned to Hopetown, with its signature candy-striped lighthouse, for a couple of days during this visit to the Abacos. We managed to snorkel the reef again, sample some conch fritters at Munchies and take away 2 freshly-baked loaves of whole wheat bread (they were literally fresh out of the oven) from Vernon’s. However, the highlight of the trip was a return trip to the top of the lighthouse – this time at sunset. This is one of the few lighthouses in the world still manually lit and wound using its original works. It was a rare treat to be allowed to see how it is done.
We kept bouncing back and forth between the anchorages across the Sea of Abaco, staying near Great Abaco when the winds blew from the west and moving to the out islands when they settled and blew from the east. At Great Guana, we snorkeled, walked the beach, enjoyed the pool and the view at Nippers, and socialized at the Wednesday potluck at Grabbers. While at Treasure Cay on Great Abaco, we sampled the famous Café La Florence cinnamon bun and took in their award-winning beach, and then back in Marsh Harbor, we made preparations for our return trip to states – studying the weather, planning routes, changing the oil, topping off propane and food, and repositioning the cabin for a longer time underway.
As the first of April approached, we knew Marianna would be heading back to the US with the first weather window. We began looking at the weather as well, but were going to follow only if it allowed for a run all the way to Charleston. Traveling through Florida had no appeal at this point. Amazingly, a perfect weather window began to be forecast for – what else? – April 1st. As it began to be more certain that this was for real, we made our plans to take advantage of it. We sat in Marsh Harbor for the winter’s last angry blow, which actually spawned a tornado in Freeport, but as soon as the winds began to settle down, we looked for our opportunity to move.
With little opportunity to sail, we wanted to position ourselves to be able to top off Orion’s fuel tanks as late as possible before leaving the Little Bahama Bank. We also wanted to arrive in Charleston earlier in the day on Saturday, since the current would turn against us around noon. (Last year we arrived at 2:30pm.) That meant shaving 5 hours or so off our running time from last year. To do this, we decided to anchor on the banks, about 15 miles beyond Great Sale Cay, our starting point for last year’s trip. We traveled from Manjack at first light, heading out at the lead of a dozen or more boats taking advantage of the same weather. Every hour or so to break up the monotony of the long day, Cathy would run a Jeopardy quiz show on the radio, using a calendar she got for Christmas. This was something we had done all winter with Marianna. However, with the first round, we were joined by Aurora, who chimed in on an answer that had Marianna’s crew stumped. With each passing round, the participants grew, until we had 5 boats playing: River Rat, Grateful Attitudes, Aurora, Marianna and Our Turn. We cruisers are easily amused.
Not everything was going so well on Orion, though. Before leaving the Bahama banks, Cathy went to turn on the inverter to charge the laptop, when a nasty spark and some accompanying smoke prompted Dave to disconnect it until further investigation could be done. Then, at the end of the first day, the toilet stopped working. You don’t want to know what we had to do about that one. The next morning, the ham radio wouldn’t power up. That turned out to be just a fuse, but it took a bit of work to discover it. And then, as if to remind us that it's still there, the rudder started leaking just 4 hours out of Charleston in a sea so smooth it could be mistaken for glass. Go figure.
And now we are set to enjoy another Easter in Charleston. It doesn’t get any better than this! (Well, except for a working toilet . . .)