A little rant…I was really bummed when the external hard drive with EVERYTHING (blogs, photos, videos) that you all have yet to experience, broke. In an effort to save myself from the pain and heartache of redoing all of that work, I sent the hard drive in for repairs to 2 different places. Neither one could fix it, unless I fork over $1000. Way too expensive for what it is.
I just have to accept that if this blog will ever get caught up, I’ve gotta just suck it up and redo the work…bleh…
So, I’m going to try to skim through the details of the last 6 months, to present-day, especially since the next adventure is literally just around the corner: 30 days to New Zealand and counting!
Onward to Marsh Harbour
2nd Week of April, 2016
Jake and I felt that we have thoroughly explored the Abacos and were anxious to keep going. The norm has always been to make miles over staying in place for a long time. The bad weather cleared, giving us a window to make our move. The plan is to go to Marsh Harbour to provision, settle in a short while and then journey to Cuba with our friend’s Bel Canto (another cruising couple we met in the Bahamas).
I was excited to wake up to a calm, clear morning that would allow us to sail to Mermaid Reef (just south of Marsh Harbour). We thought it’d be better to “park” Bosco here, instead of inside the bay. We should still have access to everything we need, but can avoid the crowds.
The 10 miles was easy and conditions were fair for sailing. We only turned on the engine upon entering the shallows to drop the anchor. There were a few other boats, all of which were gearing up to leave. A couple small trawlers pulled up to the reef, obviously to snorkel. But we were the only big boat. 🙂
We dinghied to shore, scouting along the beaches to find a decent spot to pull up. Unfortunately there is nothing but private landings over here. We decided to risk it, and leave the dinghy on one of the beaches. No lock or anything. A risk that hopefully won’t bite us in the bum. Our goal was to find a bank where we could get Euros for our trip to Cuba and grab a few fresh items at the grocery store.
Looking at a map, Marsh Harbour has an interesting shape. Compared to where we are, we have to walk around the entire peninsula to access “town proper”. From the inside of the Harbour, it would be a cinch. But from the outside, we have to go all the way around. That is, over 2-miles on foot to access the stores we desired.
Of course this is all hind-sight. We didn’t realize this until after the fact. We hoofed it in the baking sun for over an hour. I was wishing I had my gym shoes, these sandals kinda suck for long distances. It was beautiful though.
We found the main street that conveniently all four banks on the island were situated. Two of them were local, so we knew those wouldn’t help us. One was canadian and the other international (Caribbean). After tons of research, we learned that there is a 13% exchange fee for US currency in Cuba. We hoped to avoid that and come in with something else (either Canadian dollars or Euros). Euros would be ideal. Apparently nowhere accepts Bahamian dollars ….Not Turks and Caicos, Not the US, Not Cuba.
The first bank we tried, was RBC (Canadian). After waiting in line for 30 minutes, we learned that they were plum out of all hard currency other than Bahamian. So that won’t work. The First Caribbean was just up the road, and seemed more promising. This is the true international bank, and though it was busy, it seemed our best hope. After an hour in line, it was our turn. We were so glad to hear that they have Euros and we could get them for fair exchange rate. AWESOME!!!!
Or so we thought…We had to provide our CC and ID’s and Passports…oh crap. We forgot our passports on the boat. And of course we are nowhere near able to get them quickly. To make matters worse, the bank was only open for another 2 hours and would be closed for 3 days. CRAP!!!
Naturally we were furious. We jogged the whole distance back to the dinghy (which was still there thankfully!) in under 40 minutes. But we were tired and hot, cranky and running out of time. Plus we still have to go back. Jake suggested we move the big boat around to the inside of the Harbour, which would be faster than doing this whole thing again.
So we did. Its always scary parking in a crowded anchorage with tons of boats, especially when its a new area you don’t know well. Maybe the holding is poor or boats don’t give enough rode on their anchors? You just never know. Thankfully we have had lots of experience anchoring. It took a few passes but we settled into a spot, only 1000 yards from the Marsh Harbour Marina. It was just above 4 feet at low tide, we are so happy with this shallow draft boat at times like these.
Jake opted to dinghy to shore while I hung back with the boat. Both of us needed a break from each other. Moods were cranky and lack of food only added to our irritability. I made myself a cup of coffee and got to work editing photos & video, hopeful to catch us up.
Jake was gone for almost 2 hours. He made it to the bank, waited in line, and filled out all the paperwork. Our credit card was charged for the $1000 in cash (which we would exchange). All was fine until the teller went in back to collect our Euros. Instead of cash, he came out with the bank manager, who informed Jake they can only exchange Euro, but cannot give it out. For whatever reason, its their policy. Too bad they didn’t share this with us sooner? Jake was livid.
On the bright side, Jake brought back some food: hot dogs, beans and chips for lunch, apple-glazed pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner. And a bag of Chips Ahoy for dessert (a delicacy that we have come to appreciate and rarely splurge on). We earned it after today.
Back onboard, it was mellow. The sun set and the bay was quiet. Birds flew about, singing their songs. It was quite serene and magical. A moment that could easily have been missed. Thanks for that little gift, universe.
The night came and both of us were spent. As I was about to pass out in the V-berth, I saw something small moving out of the corner of my eye. It took me a moment to realize that the movement was actually a couple of ants…which TOTALLY freaked me out. I jumped from bed and refused to go back until it could be properly investigated. How did we get ants in here?
So instead, I slept out in the cockpit, under the stars.
I came below decks sometime in the morning and slept out in the salon. Both Jake and I were up by 7AM feeling much better and pleasantly rested. Bad moods have abated and Jake happily fixed us strawberry pancakes for breakfast.
With no real plan for the day, we thought we would go investigate the marina directly behind us. This is where we plan to park for a bit, and thought maybe we could get in a day early (since we planned to come in tomorrow). Plus we can scope out the docks beforehand, to make docking easier.
It was still early, only 930AM and we dinghied to the Jib Room, a restaurant which is also the marina office. And sure enough, there is a space available for us to move. But since we’re already here, we thought we would go to town first before moving the boat. I had a few things I wanted to pick up (a new camera memory card, some fresh coconut bread, some more groceries). We meandered the town for about 3 hours. Jake met a pseudo-homeless man who was super cool and nice. The grocery store was HUGE (holy cow huge). It felt like we were back in the US, with so many options and brightly colored packages. Where are we again?
We had tons of stuff in tow – I was most excited for the fresh bread to make french toast with! It took some time to get everything back to the dinghy and then over to Bosco. Then we decided that we might as well move Bosco the 1000 yards into her space. I was confident, but also really nervous. We’ve only docked a handful of times now, and while I’m much more comfortable with it, its still scary. There was only 1 obstacle, a huge motor yacht that was sticking out in the entrance of the dock, but otherwise we were all clear.
And 5 minutes after we pulled anchor, we were comfortably in our parking spot. It was the easiest docking experience ever! One guy came over to help us with lines, but it was fast.
AHH a sigh of relief. Now we can settle in, manage chores and just relax for a time. The marina is moderately sized with a really nice sitting area / restaurant called the Jib Room, which is only open a couple times a week, other than the bar, which is open daily. Its got a nice view, and has a small pool, bathrooms, outdoor laundry and bikes we can rent (for free). It was a welcome treat after all of our travels and tribulations.
The day was still young, so we took a walk over to Mermaid Reef. Only this time, to go snorkeling!
YAY!!! The beach was just across the road from the marina. We had to find a good spot to drop in, between the private homes that line the area. It felt so good in the water with a blazing hot sunny afternoon.
Back at the marina we took showers, did some laundry and tidied the boat. Dinner was scrumptious pad thai. And then, early to bed.
The next day we dedicated to cleaning the boat, hardcore. We still couldn’t find the ant infestation – in fact we only ever saw those 2 ants from the other night. There was no sign of any other creepy crawliness going on. And we emptied EVERYTHING to give it a good scrub. Still, nothing. Maybe it was just a fluke? Its so nice to live in a clean boat.
That afternoon we also opted to go back to Mermaid reef. While we explored it a bit the day before, it was a bit choppy making visibility not so great. But it was even better today. Mermaid reef is artificial, manmade. So there is no real coral, but TONS of fish. Apparently they are trained to expect people to feed them, so they like to swarm when a newcomer arrives. These parrot fish and sergeant majors weren’t shy.
At the beach, We met a youngish couple (Rob and Kathleen) and their 8-year-old daughter. They were super cute and sweet. We ended up chatting with them for about an hour and learned all about their lives. They were most excited to hear about our adventures on the sailboat. As we chatted, I noticed dark red sails on the horizon. Is that Calista? YES IT IS!!! Woah our buddies Calista are here.
We were so excited we practically ran back to Bosco just to get on the radio to hail them. And sure enough, it was Calista. We promptly invited them over for drinks and happy hour aboard our boat (and enticed them with the promise of good FREE beer and showers which they could take at the marina). No more convincing necessary, they were psyched.
That afternoon we sat up at the Jib Room. It was a perfect place to get work done AND our new friends (Rob and Kathleen) ended up there for lunch. We invited them onboard the boat to give them a tour. Their daughter was so excited to be on the boat. They live in the Pacific NW and were talking about the prospect of getting a sailboat, maybe this will seal the deal. They were sure excited after they saw ours.
The fun continued on into the afternoon when Calista came over with some homemade pizza and their most adorable puppy, Dookie. We spent the rest of the night drinking through much our beer, some wine, and snacking. Dookie was super adorable and it was great catching up with our buddies Annick and Giles. The Jib Room tonight was hopping. We hung out for a bit, enjoyed the breeze and met some other boaters – or rather, yachties. Super wealthy ones. Nothing like us podunk cruisers.
Dookie met a cute little lady and they were enjoying each other’s company. We had a blast and time flew by. It was after 1030 PM before Calista left us and though we were tired, it was an absolutely excellent time.