To The Bahamas, Part 14: Green Turtle Cay to Marsh Harbour

2012-04-17; 22:30 — Marsh Harbour/Boat Harbour, Boat Harbour Marina slip #422

What a great day! We had a wonderful time all day, although it got a little bit tiresome at the very end of the day. But I should start at the beginning.

We actually got up fairly early and threw off the docking lines just after 09:00 this morning. The wind seemed really very nice, but we were all a little anxious about Whale Passage (sometimes called Whale Cay Passage), because it has such a fearsome reputation. There is a weather/sea phenomenon here on the Little Bahama Bank called a “rage”. This occurs when wind and waves combine from a particular easterly direction and at such a size and force that all passages opening between the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean are impossible. In fact, a cruise ship company had dredged a channel deep enough to get one of its ships through Loggerhead Pass (less than a mile south from Whale Passage…just on the other side of Whale Cay, in fact) and up to a dock on the next cay south, but found that it couldn’t even get the cruise ship in and out safely when a rage was in progress! Talk about serious stuff!

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 148 -Whale Passage description

So, we motored out of White Sound and out into the Sea of Abaco, then southward past NoName Cay, turning easterly towards Whale Passage. We noticed that there were a number of other boats seemingly headed out the Passage, some of them ahead of us and others behind us. We also saw a (smaller) number of boats that had just come in through the Passage, and they looked none the worse for wear. In the event, the wind was perfect and the waves ran less than one foot high all the way.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 150 -Entering Whale Passage

As soon as we were out the Passage and into the Atlantic, we decided to raise the sails and shut off the stinkpot. We sailed over to Loggerhead Pass and then back in through that Pass into the Sea of Abaco. Conditions were absolutely perfect. The sky was almost completely clear, with just a very few, mostly wispy, clouds showing, the seas were very calm, and there was a perfect 15-20kt wind coming in from the east. So we sailed down the Sea of Abaco towards Marsh Harbour. And I still have this enormous grin on my face from realizing that, here we are, actually sailing our very own boat, in the Bahamas, in perfect conditions. What a rush!! We tacked back and forth as needed, sometimes coming within 30 meters of shore before tacking away. Once, unfortunately, I botched a tack and we had to quickly start the engine to ensure the boat didn’t go onto the rocks, but as soon as she turned away we killed the engine and continued to sail on.

Along the way, we passed by a group of islands called the Fish Cays. They were essentially “in our way” and Frank was more than a little frustrated that we’ve been in the Bahamas for several days now and he hasn’t even been into the water. So we stopped beside one of the Fish Cays for a snorkle.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 154 -One of the many Fish Cays -I tried to snorkel here

Sorry, folks, but the water was simply too chilly for me. I’m strictly a warm-water kind of guy, I guess. And Barbara felt the same, so Frank went in by himself. He didn’t stay in too long, but not because of the water temperature. He had some difficulties with his snorkel and decided that he’d rather solve them later on in fresh water, not salt water. But at least he got to go into the water! Barbara and I really wished that the water were warmer, but it’s only April, after all.

On a fun note: For the very first time, I dropped the anchor and set it under sail only (no engine), and when we were done, I sailed off the anchor and raised it also under sail alone! Gee, maybe I’m starting to get the hang of this!!

Too soon, we neared Marsh Harbour. But we’d decided not to go into the actual harbour at Marsh Harbour, but to go instead to the opposite side of the peninsula and into Boat Harbour. That required that we tack to the north and go up about four miles to round Matt Lowe’s Cay (named after the famous pirate…of whom we’d never heard until we read the Cruising Guide), then back south about four miles to the entrance to Boat Harbour. Barbara radioed ahead to the Boat Harbor Marina and had a slip reserved for us, so we gently motored into the marina entrance and into slip #422.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 155 -Boat Harbour Marina, Bahamas -1

Late in the day, as we were dropping the sails in preparation to enter the marina, there was a sudden thump atop the bimini! I accused Barbara of accidentally releasing the line clutch that held the topping lift (to keep the boom higher than the bimini top), but it turned out that I was too hasty in evaluating what had happened. In reality, the quick-release shackle at the business end of the topping lift (attaching it to the end of the boom) had broken! Actually, the pin that held the shackle closed was missing. (A few days later, we found part of the pin in the cockpit.) So, naturally, the boom fell down and went, well, boom.

Once we were safely in our slip, Frank and Barbara hauled me up the mast (almost to the masthead) to retrieve the topping lift, which had gotten itself wrapped around the backstay. Once we had it back down to deck level, I rigged a loop of line onto the aft end of the boom to which I attached the topping life with a knot. “It just goes to show ya, it’s always something,” as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 161 -Jim in the bosun's seet being pulled up the mast

After that little task was completed, we headed off to see what we could of Marsh Harbour. The marina in which we are berthed is part of a kind of fancy resort complex, complete with gate and guard. Once out of the complex, we hit the main road and rather arbitrarily turned to our left. (Well, it wasn’t quite arbitrary; I turned us left because I recalled from the map I’d seen that the main part of the town was in that direction. For Frank and Barbara, though, it probably seemed arbitrary.) We strolled along for about a kilometer or so, but just about everything we encountered was closed — even the liquor stores.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 162 -Some homes in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas

Marsh Harbour is reasonably attractive, but very obviously driven primarily by tourism (which, we’ve come to learn, is actually the Bahamas’ only significant industry). We saw many stores selling very upscale jewelry and other luxury goods that would have been remotely affordable to the locals. That doesn’t really set well with any of us, but it’s just about universal these days, isn’t it?

Eventually, we came to an interesting-looking restaurant called “Snappa’s” that overlooked the Marsh Harbour harbour, thus looking westwards. As it was close onto sunset, we decided to go in for a drink. I ordered us a round (“big ass margarita for me, iced tea for the lady, and a beer for my mate here”) and we grabbed us a little table out on a sort of deck over the water. Unfortunately, it smelled like there was a running sewer beneath our table, so that didn’t last too long…just long enough to get a few pics of the sunset (alas, no green flash).

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 165 -Sunset over Marsh Harbour, Bahamas -1

As we were already sort of peckish, and nobody was volunteering to cook dinner once we got back to the boat, we eventually decided to eat dinner there at Snappa’s, but we did move to an inside table before ordering. We ordered another round of drinks, then ordered our food. I had a burger (adventurous, ain’t I?), Barbara had (I think) some sort of seafood salad, and Frank had fish. The food was OK at best and it wasn’t cheap, but at least we didn’t have to cook.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 164 -Frank, Barbara, and Jim at dinner at Snappas Bar and Grill in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas

And now to bed, because tomorrow we’re headed south and west — far west, at least back to West End, if not all the way to Florida. Our little adventure is almost over :(

<<All photographs Copyright © Frank Pellow, 2012. Used with permission.>>

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