Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco

Green Turtle Cay was founded around 1783 by American Loyalists. Some of the first loyalist were actually black—freed slaves that did not want to risk their freedom in the new American experiment. Ironically many slaves and slave owners followed. Initially they all arrived at Harbor Island, Eleuthra, but soon many moved to the uninhabited Abacos—Green Turtle Cay, Man-o-War Cay, and maybe Hope Town. From a boater's point of view it is not hard to see why. These islands all have wonderful natural harbors. Green Turtle Cay has two of these harbors—White Sound to the NW and Black Sound to the SE. The settlement of New Plymouth is adjacent to Black Sound.
City Limits 

White Pepper has been to White Sound in 2008 and written about it in this blog. Nothing has changed except that the mooring balls are much improved. There is still the renown Green Turtle Cay Marina and the Bluff House Marina but little else. The entrance to White Sound is slightly deeper so that is were we went initially and picked up a mooring ball by Donny's Marina. Mr. Donny Sawyer came out and invited us to move over to one of his mooring balls in Black Sound which we did.

Black Sound suffers from a reputation of being too shallow, but White Pepper never sounded less than 7 feet coming in on the top half of the tide. The entrance is well marked and once past that there are no issues.
Heading into Black Sound

Donny's Marina was a treat with good mooring balls, a sturdy pier, garbage bin, showers ($4) and water (.20/gal.). He has excellent internet access. We rode out a heavy easterly blow there for five days. We explored New Plymouth, swam in Gilliam Bay, and went to one of the 5 churches on Sunday.

The settlement of New Plymouth like all of Abaco is quaint, colorful, and well maintained. Most of the houses date to after 1866 when there was a great hurricane, or after 1932 when there was another great hurricane. Some of the grave stones do date back into the 1700's.
Graves old and new on an exquisite evening in New Plymouth

A unique part of the town is the museum and nearby sculpture garden. The museum is set up to reflect how life would have been lived on Green Turtle Cay around 1900. There are many artifacts from other dates as well. It was quite interesting. The sculpture garden is a stunning monument to the Loyalists past and present. Note in the picture me below that one of the young women statues is a black girl.
Sculpture Garden

One interesting fact that White Pepper learned was that many of the Green Turtle Cay islanders reverse immigrated to Key West. One man, Mr. Stephen Curry, became the richest man in Florida in the late 1880's. They were known as Conchy Joe's. Some took their own houses with them piece by piece. There were so many of these Conchy Joe's that Key West eventually became known as the Conch Republic. I wonder if Jimmie Buffet knows about that?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Whirlwind Tour of the Abacos

White Pepper was blessed to have friends, Kathy and Robert, on board for a week. After arriving at Mangoes Marina in Marsh Harbor, the first evening we all had cocktails on board Lark Spur. Lark Spur is a beautifully maintained Hinkley Bermuda 40 Ketch owned by fellow Texans, Tom and Diane Carpenter. Tom keeps is boat in pristine condition and maintains an active cruising schedule at the age of 87! The next morning we set out on a whirlwind tour of the Sea of Abaco from south to north.

First up was Little Harbor. After a 17 mile drive south White Pepper entered the channel into Little Harbor. It is shallow with a controlling depth of about 4 feet. We arrived 2 hours after high tide but still had 6 inches under the keel. After a deep exhale we picked up a mooring ball. We kayaked and visited Pete's Pub again. We also rendezvoused with mutual friends Tammie and Bruce on Dos Libras.

The next morning on the high tide we left for Tilloo Bank. This area is known at the “remote” part of Abaco and does remind me of the Exumas. It is a great stop for snorkeling and beach combing.

Robert and Kathy had seen Hope Town on Elbow Cay so we went to the next cay in the chain, Man-o-War Cay. We picked up a mooring ball and went exploring. Man-o-War was Robert's favorite cay. He was impressed with the boat building tradition and the funky fastidiousness of the place. I was amazed that it was over 240 years old and probably little changed save for a new coat of paint.

Next stop was Treasure Cay. This is at the far northwest corner of the Sea of Abaco. It is a highly civilized development anchored by an amazing beach. The beach is about 2 miles long and filled with fine white sand. At the far end of the beach is the new Treasure Sands Club. All 6 of us spent a wonderful afternoon there eating lunch and lounging by the pool. It was a spot of luxury and felt good to pretend to be rich.
Pool At Treasure Sands Club

Walk back up Treasure Cay Beach 

The next morning we left Dos Libras and made a quick march back to Marsh Harbor. After lunching on tuna sandwiches at Snappa's we had to say good bye to Kathy and Robert. It had been a wonderful week! White Pepper had done it all before (except Tilloo), but it was great to do it again with friends.
White Pepper with Kathy and Robert at Snappa's

Now White Pepper had to look reluctantly to Florida and the slow trip home.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Aphrodite Uses One of Her Nine Lives

Aphrodite, cat, flopped into bed between Jan and I about 2 am soaking wet and exhausted. Cats do not pant like dogs when totally exhausted, but rather lie perfectly still. Aphrodite clearly had fallen into the water, climbed up a piling and now had nothing left. White Pepper was at a dock in Mangoes Marina, Marsh Harbor Marina, Bahamas. We were at the dock to ride out a storm that later became tropical storm Ana and later pick up guests. I had been worried all night that Aphrodite would try to go ashore because of the 6 boats with dogs aboard 5 had left. The remaining dog was too little to scare Aphrodite.

Aphrodite has negotiated docks and piers successfully all of her on board life; however, Mangoes was a special challenge. At low tide it was 4 feet higher than the deck. A south wind blew the White Pepper at least 2 feet off the dock. Then a leap between the life lines created problems with trajectory. I had seen her jump off several days earlier, and she barely made it. A few minutes later she was frightened back onto the boat by a large dog named Mollie.
Mangoes Marina. Note the high docks and wide slips.

Readers might now say, “well just do not let her do it.” But cats do not listen to instructions. They are experiential learners. Besides we could never bare to confine her. She has always been a free range kitty.

Jan and I had comforted our selves that if she fell overboard she could climb up one of the pilings to the dock and then jump back on the boat. When the time came this act must have proven harder than we had imagined. Hard creosote pilings are a lot tougher material than soft oaken tree bark around Beeville, Texas. That night we found one claw completely missing and 5 more broken off . The remaining claws were burred smooth. There was a large splinter in one paw. In addition Aphrodite has gained considerable weight. She must have had a struggle hauling that tummy up the large round piling. I will never know, but I suspect there was more than one attempt before gaining the safety of the deck.

The next night we knew that she could not survive another climb and closed off the hatch despite the heat. Ordinarily shutting the hatch would generate big protest from Aphrodite. This night she rested quietly knowing that she would not be wandering. The next night, having picked up guests, we moved off the dock to an anchorage.