Kir McLinn

  • Day275

    Great Abaco part V - Sale Cay

    June 21, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ☁️ 90 °F

    Allans Cay was intriguing but the wind was a bit strong and we had our focus on getting home to the US at this point and less on exploring.

    We had a truly beautiful last day sail in the Bahamas. Couldn’t have asked for better weather. Strong consistent downwind, sun with light puffy clouds, minimal waves… sigh… I’m going to miss this.

    There were 4 other sailboats at Great Sale. The weather windows for crossing had been few and far between with the recent uprising of squalls so we weren’t surprised to see so many others staging for a crossing. Our last Bahamian sunset, probably for a very long while.

    At 6:30 AM we listened to Chris Parker the next morning. Squalls in the northern Bahamas were diminishing today but down by Georgetown and Turks & Caicos told another story completely. Ongoing squalls throughout the day with gusts in the squalls up to 45 knots. Yikes, no thanks. Our wind forecast for the next 48 hours looked like it had weakened overnight unfortunately. Our sail was looking more like a motor with each weather update.

    We had 120 nautical miles to cover from Great Sale to Fort Pierce Florida. And we did it in 21 hours.

    The first 50 miles are in the outstretched Bahama bank with depths between 12-18 feet. Once you cross outside of the banks, open ocean takes over – sea monsters thrive, mast crushing waves pace the wild seas, and cargo ships are blindly roaring up and down the gulf stream. But it’s okay, we’ve got this, we’ve traveled the open ocean before and crossed the gulf stream once…. Really, we were set up for another run of the mill overnight. We watched the weather like a hawk a week in advance, we checked the boat over – oil checks, cleaned haul, rigging was good and we had a benign weather window. Nothing to fear but fear itself.

    The next 70 miles include a 30 mile spread where we’ll cross the gulf stream and grab a 2-4 knot boost northward. We left at 2:00 PM and had a great 8 hour sail. Around 10 pm large oncoming storm clouds worried Mike (who had first watch). The wind became light and inconsistent and Gaia acted more like a cork in a bathtub being swayed back and forth rather than a sailboat cutting through waves with a purpose. Mike took down the sail and thus began the motor portion of our passage. I took over for the next four hours and I don’t recall it being particularly fun. We now entered the gulf stream and the ‘washer machine affect’ was in full swing waves sloshed from two different directions rocking us back and forth uncomfortably. I saw 3 or so cargo ships and a couple of sailboats taking the gulf stream North. Around 5 AM Mike took over again and brought us into Fort Pierce. I warily watched, having not actually slept during my downtime. It was beautiful but it definitely had a distinct American feel to it; large buildings and abundance of cars and hotels…all the amenities you could ask for and more.

    We were back in the United States. Hey We Were Back!
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  • Day274

    Great Abaco part IV – Goodbye Bahamas

    June 20, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ 🌧 50 °F

    Goodbye Bahamas You’ve Been Swell

    We began our sail from Green Turtle to Allans Cay with beautiful wind and sunny skies. A rain storm came through and Mike took a few shots of me sailing in 25-30 knots. A bit intimidating at first but once you get your bearings, it’s all about minding your p’s & q’s, don’t cross the streams, keeping your eye on the ball…. paying attention.Read more

  • Day273

    Great Abaco part IV - Green Turtle Cay

    June 19, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ☀️ 48 °F

    Green Turtle Cay has two harbors Black and White. White Sound Harbor is home to New Providence, a loyalist town, and scattered stores along old narrow streets. We anchored in Black Sound Harbor which really only has two places to visit via dinghy, a marina in the SW side, and another marina on the NE each with their own respective bars. The first night we went out for drinks with the family on the Pearson at the NE Green Turtle Marina. The bar inside the marina restaurant made me step back a little when I first entered. Every square inch is covered in US & Bahamian green-turtle-dine-bar1 dollar bills, signed or drawn on by a black sharpie. The patriotic economist in me cringed. I know it’s not illegal to write on a US dollar bill but it is illegal to deface or destroy it…. and … aren’t you destroying it by purposefully taking legal tender out of circulation and scribbling ‘I rule’ all over it in block letters….shouldn’t the only signature on that dollar be the Secretary of Treasury? Okay, okay, I’m done being a kill joy…. aside from those complaints, I thought it was really cool inside. Outside of the bar a Bahamian band played that had been practicing together for 30 years. We all danced and met other cruisers. It was a beautiful night.

    The next day was a bit rainy so we stayed locked up on Gaia, I did make a dinghy ride over to our friends on the Pearson. It was their daughters birthday and I had vanilla frosting on board and some left over wedding bubbles. I decided to put them to better use and gave them to the Birthday girl and her Mom. Later that day we also had cake. :) Yum!

    The First Time We Dragged

    The weather wasn’t terribly great to move onward so we stayed in Black Sound harbor for another day. It was that day a great storm front passed. In the afternoon we watched as the dark clouds moved over, then the strengthening wind and downpour of rain. As conditions worsened we watched under the dodger as other boats dragged, picked up anchor and tried anchoring again and again in the strong winds. One by one we saw the boats retreat to mooring balls. We, thankfully stayed put through their ordeal and even opened a couple of beers, commenting on the fact that we haven’t dragged EVER – we should have knocked on wood, our hubris got the last laugh. We were down below when we heard a loud whistle. Curious we both poked our heads up…. Gaia was jack-knifing … moving parallel to the wind instead of nose first, a key trait of dragging. Mike moved quick to turn on the engine and got behind the helm as I moved forward, glancing at the wind indicator, which read 34 knots. We tried 3-4 times to anchor each time more difficult than the last. I began shaking uncontrollably from exposure to the wind and rain so I ran back and took care of the helm and put a jacket on. Mike took his luck in getting the anchor stuck in the mud as I found out how difficult it was to keep the boats nose into the wind. I saw the wind peak at 38 knots and thankfully the storm broke soon after. We were able to anchor in 15 knots and rest for the afternoon. What we believe to have happened was the mud and weeds will hold but only up to a certain point. It was a difficult anchorage to be in for a storm that’s for sure.
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  • Day272

    Great Abaco part III –Nippers & Grabbers

    June 18, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    We made the simple motor to Great Guana Cay where we anchored next to a 36 foot Pearson. A father and two young daughters pulled over on their dinghy and we chatted about our shared bondage to a Pearson sailing vessel. Turns out they are a family of four vacationing through the Abacos for two weeks. We made loose plans to meet up on land for a drink.

    We took the dinghy to shore and entered the famous bar Grabbers. I immediately loved it; palm trees, hammocks, the ring game, and other beach games scattered about the premise. We decided to continue onward to the infamous Nippers bar and to see the sights of the island. The island was simple and beautiful, streets and dirt paths were mainly ran by golf carts. Along a dirt path, we passed a rusting tractor, where it appeared a bunch of 8 year olds had taken it upon themselves to beautify. At Nippers we had the infamous ‘Frozen Nipper’. It was good and packed an equally potent punch. The view of the beach was astounding but the bar … well it had an odd funk to it…so we returned to the polished bar of Grabbers and had overpriced drinks that knocked my socks off (if I had socks).

    On our return to Grabbers we bumped into the vacationing family on the sister Pearson. We ended up having a round of drinks with the couple while the two young kids played on the beach. They were a fun couple and we planned the next few anchorages together.

    The following day we anchored on the northern point of Great Guana where we snorkeled some amazing coral beds and hunted for our nassau grouper… we had no luck in hunting. At least the motor over was beautiful.
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  • Day270

    Great Abaco Spilligate! to Marsh Harbour

    June 16, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    We later went out to enjoy the nightlife and started at, bizarrely enough, a pizza and wine place….very unique to the rest of the island and welcoming. We quickly began talking to the bartender and a local who was building a house around the corner. We learned that Abaco pine is extraordinarily dense. This also explains why we see so many homes built out of wood instead of stone and concrete. I learned from Bermuda that islands in hurricane locations build stone homes since it holds up stronger in the stormy weather and because pine is not as abundant. In the Bahamas there are four islands that still maintain and export pine: Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and New Providence. We continued to chat to the two locals who confirmed, everyone who lived on this island ‘are good folk’. After a glass of wine, we continued back to the main drag and had a blast at a bar where happy hour is from 12 to 12 and a live band kept rocking the house song after song. We danced to Wagon Wheel and chatted with the crew of a catamaran all night.

    We also learned a few Bahamian phrases… thought I’d share a few:

    Well Muddo! – exclamation of surprise

    Spilligate – to go out and have fun

    Kerpunkle – drunk

    What da wybe is – what’s up

    We spent longer than we thought in Hope Town, after all it had everything we were looking for, fun environment, cute town, friendly folks, and of course a coffee shop.

    Marsh Habor, Great Abaco is located just across the Abaco Sound on mainland Great Abaco. It was our first introduction to traffic lights and multiple cars on the road since….. I can’t remember the last time I saw a traffic light to be honest, December in Bermuda perhaps? We were really hoping to get engine oil in one of the marine/car stores. When we found out the engine oil was $55 / bottle and it wasn’t even the brand we wanted… we kicked ourselves in the butt ….. again. We eventually sucked up the price and bought 3 jugs worth of oil. It was hot and we did boat work, we didn’t particularly like Marsh Harbor…. except for the grocery store….. the grocery store was amazing!
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  • Day267

    Great Abaco - Hope Town Elbow Cay

    June 13, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ☀️ 77 °F

    Our spree of squall-ish days continued and we motored around the inner shallows of the Abaco Sound to Hope Town, Elbow Cay. En route Mike enjoyed programming down below as I, coated in foul weather gear, sang songs as loud as I wanted in the intermittent rain showers, I was in the zone. After a few hours he poked his head up and asked if I wanted a break, I smiled and told him to go back below, I wanted to keep singing in the rain. The sun finally began peeking out as we crept into Hope Town. Reviews of this harbor reported people running aground at depths of 4 feet near low tide…. For us, there was one worrisome instance where some skippy-little powerboat hogged the channel and we saw the depth sounder go from 4.7 to 4.0 to 3.7 (our aground depth) to 2.0 to 25 to 17. This indicated we muddled the bottom enough to confuse our depth sounder. Thankfully, we were able to power through the muck with no issue.

    We were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and take in the quaint harbor once we secured Gaia to a mooring ball.
    We walked around town where bikes controlled the streets and every summer home seemed to be decorated by Martha Stewart….We admired the beaches and crashing waves and took in the midday sun and greenery. One of the small plots of land was a cemetery with a sobering past. The cemetery marks the resting place for over 100 residence who died in the 1850 Cholera epidemic.
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  • Day266

    Great Abaco - Sandy Cay

    June 12, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    The following day we ended up motoring to Sandy Cay for what we heard was an excellent snorkel spot. Just before slack tide we dinghy’d around the point, secured the dinghy to a mooring ball, and dove in. The sky was becoming overcast and visibility was a bit murky, probably due to the recent tumultuous weather. Despite the strong current, we enjoyed the beautiful coral reef. We didn’t last very long, which worked in our favor; we made it back to Gaia just before another torrent of rain began.Read more

  • Day265

    Great Abacos Little Harbor

    June 11, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ⛅ 73 °F

    In the Bahamas, we became accustomed to infrequent and expensive grocery stores; restaurants which required a phone call in advance so someone could open the restaurant and catch food; secluded anchorages, and scant strangers. The Spanish Wells and the outer banks of Great Abaco were loyalist enclaves that have now been seemingly taken over by Floridians. For us, it was a stark contrast to the rest of the Bahamas. And all it took was an 8 hour sail from Eleuthera to Great Abaco. That’s exploring for you, traveling to new places, you find new experiences, people, and food you sometimes didn’t expect to see, meet, or eat (hopefully in that order).

    Little Harbor – Southern Abaco

    We anchored outside of Little Harbor, which is a shallow inlet to a protected little harbor. The dinghy ride into Pete’s Pub and Gallery is speckled with numerous green turtles. We even spotted the same colorful catamaran we saw in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. I took the sighting as a providential sign of good things to come, after all Guadeloupe was amazing.

    We tied the dinghy to a piling on the beach and walked in barefoot to the open-aired bar. The ceiling was completely dressed in T-shirts stapled to the frame from undoubtedly rowdy, adventurous, and lively travelers. We meandered the sandy-floored bar and strolled over to the boardwalk which lead to a beautiful seaside beach. The bar was a bit dead at 5:00 so we were thinking of heading back. Until – a few sport fisherman wandered to the bar. We began to talk and suddenly, one of the men asked us out of the blue if we’d like a big grouper. Mike and I (stress on just Mike) have been attempting to spearfish – specifically hoping to get a grouper. We both laughed and said ‘hell yeah!’. We thought he was joking. He came back with another guy and asked, if we really did want their ‘excess’ catch of the day… We thought it through, we had a fridge, sure we could keep a fish. He had a deckhand wheel it on over. Within minutes, there was a guy and a wheelbarrow and the biggest dead fish I’d ever seen (42 pounds). The son of the skipper caught the mystic grouper at a depth of a thousand feet using an electric powered reel. They left it in the bin for us to take…. now what. The entry of this giant fish gathered a few locals who told us they know people who could help us gut the beast on the dock here and share in the meat. I couldn’t think of a better scenario. Mike went off to grab the chef who was on a boat in the harbor and I stayed next to ‘little beastie’. I got to talking with one woman and her daughter who were so kind and entertaining. She came back and took the cart saying, why wait for the chef, I’ll gut the fish for you now. Impressed, I said why not. She wheeled the fish to the end of the pier and I found out she grew up on a trimaran here in this very harbor. She knew everyone there was to know and talked me through gutting a grouper. Mike eventually arrived and we both got a lesson on the technique of gutting. As we watched, other locals came in and began carving at the head, discarding bits and pieces to the sharks below. The community that gathered around were so wonderful, we had a mini impromptu afternoon fish gutting party.

    The locals told us of the amazing history of Pete’s Pub and Gallery. It begins with Randolph & Margot Johnston. They moved onto their schooner, The Langosta, with their children Marina, Bill, Pete, and Denny. In 1950, they sailed off in search of an island and new home, escaping the ‘megamachine’. They found Little Harbor which had little more than a thatched hut at the time. On the North edge of the harbor is a soccer field sized cave, this is where they made a home. Along with the bats and the crabs, the family built a home in paradise. Pete grew to be an artist and opened Pete’s Pub where tourists come for afternoon libations to this day.

    We returned back to the boat with a healthy amount of fresh fish and cooked it. Just as dinner came to a close a harrowing wind swept through the anchorage. We checked our GPS and surroundings, we were in good holding but our neighbors…. well it appeared as if our neighbors had conjured the flames of hell on their stern! Not kidding. They must have left the cover of their grill open and the embers had turned to a full grown flame. Our neighbors stern moved and rocked with the pounding waves and whistling wind. A ray of light illuminated someone on the bow trying in vain to get more scope out on their anchor (scope is the amount of chain you have on your anchor; more chain = a safer holding) – poor souls. We looked over to the neighbor anchorage, where the sport fisherman were anchored. It appeared their powerboat and a nearby catamaran were both dragging. We watched the show continue until the wind decreased to moderate strengths.
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  • Day263

    Spanish Wells & Buddha's Bar

    June 9, 2016 on the Bahamas ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    From The Exumas we were itching to head back home towards Boston. It’s been about 9 months of sailing and exploring many many islands so the idea of sailing West (WNW) to Nassau, the Berry Islands, and Bimini then visiting the Abacos was too aggressive of a touring plan for us. It boiled down to; do we sail to the Berry Islands or the Abacos. By sailing to the Abacos, we’d be furthering our distance North and it’d be in beautiful Bahamian waters. It also meant missing out on Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and my beloved Bimini. On the other hand, Mike had been through that area and we’ve both visited Miami. For us, the best decision was northbound or bust. (And since I’m part economist….) On the other hand, we’d land in Fort Pierce from The Abacos instead of Miami from Bimini, a 120 mile gain on the FL coast or about 3 days of motoring.

    We had a beautiful flat sail from Sail Rock off the northern-most point of the Exumas, through the cut in northern Eleuthera, and straight to a small island to the west of mainland Eleuthera called St. George aka Spanish Wells. Worth mentioning is Current Cut, which we used, it can be a harrowing ordeal if timed incorrectly. Tides tend to have about an hour lag from those posted in Nassau. For the greatest ease, aim for slack tide. If you cross during the right max ebb/max flood, you could gain as much as a 6 knot boost! Hit it at the wrong time, that canal just might shoot you back out like a bad bottle of rum… ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin

    We stopped behind Meeks Patch and enjoyed the anchorage before winding our way through Spanish Wells and up around Gun Point, Eleuthera. Pro tip, don’t anchor in the channel when you can anchor in Gun Point. Yes, there are some wakes and it’s a further dinghy ride to town but it’s night and day when you compare scenery. You could anchor in the murky water with industrial buildings and homes in the channel or look out on a white sand beach, palm trees, and an adorable villa at Gun Point…. up to you. Spanish Wells has marine stores but warning about engine oil, it costs $55 here. We needed just over 2 larges cases of it and began kicking ourselves in our butt when we passed the opportunity to buy it in Puerto Rico for $30. We decided to hold off and wait for the next port before changing the oil.

    If you do stop in Spanish Wells, be sure to stop at Buddhas (aka The Schoolbus bar). A very industrious man who seems to know everyone and be everywhere. We sat down to a few burgers and beers and he told us his story of acquiring a liquor license. He also mentioned there are people out there who believe all of Eleuthera is without alcohol and so they don’t visit. For any of you wayward souls, this is not true. Mike and I enjoyed a few cold beers at the bar.

    In stopping here, we needed to drop off trash, do laundry, and stock up on groceries. There’s a large grocery store on the NW side of town with similar prices to every other store (maybe cheaper than the Abacos). As for laundry, we asked the marina if we could use their facilities, they said no. We were told there’s a public machine a few blocks down. We lugged our dirty laundry in the sweltering heat over a hill to a closed convenience store. In the back was an overgrown yard with a shack and a broken down door. That’s where the public laundry facility was….. great. Now we just needed change to operate it… So Mike took off to go make change. I sat on the stoop and passerbyers would stop and make sure I was okay. Just as I began to wonder how far Mike would walk for a few quarters, in comes a golf cart with Mike on the back. The spirited woman in the passenger seat shouted ‘Get on in! I hear you have laundry to do.’ I laughed it off thinking ‘ thank god Mikes back, lets get this over with…’ No, that woman was serious. We were going to do laundry at their vacation rental home. Turns out, they saw us get out of the dinghy with an oversized sail bag and pinned us as cruisers. Having been cruisers throughout their own lives, they decided to help us out. They drove us about a mile from our dinghy and opened their home to us, offering us water and food. We started the washer and sat down as they told us about cruising in the 70s. I thought we had heard some great stories from friends but wow, they took their boat out there and really experienced sailing life without all the safety gizmos and gadgets we use today. They even shared the story of how they were demasted and grieved of their poor vessel in shambles while sitting on a beach and how they bounced back and fixed it. And as we left, they grabbed their beach bag and spear gun and were off to the beach to go spear fishing and swimming for the afternoon, despite the evening clouds. I wish them well in their own active lives and look forward to when I see the next opportunity to pay it forward.

    Next post… The Abacos!
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