Little Harbour and Back
By the skin of our keel we left Hope Town Harbour on Saturday, January 28th. The entrance channel to this small protected harbor is quite narrow and especially shallow at low tide, therefore it is prudent to time your arrival/departure on a rising tide or right around high tide. (Remember this is where we tried to help the French family off the shoal at the beginning of our first visit). On this day high tide was at 6:58 a.m. and low tide at 1:17 p.m. We were pulling away from the fuel dock at 11:00 a.m, which was quite an exit in and of itself when our stern anchor was nearly scraped off the side of the boat by a fuel dock piling. Falling tide and just less than 2 hours to low. Very important for us to stay IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHANNEL. If ever there was a time to levitate it was now. We inched out ever so carefully, with one eye on the depth sounder and the other eye on the water, and were back out into the Sea of Abaco without incident. Whew. Our direction of sail this day would be south with our destination Little Harbour. Another harbor which must be entered at high tide given our 5 foot draft. It’s not a straight shot from Hope Town to Little Harbour because you have to navigate around shallow areas in the Sea of Abaco but it is a relatively short distance. We had stiff wind conditions for a great sail and made it there in just 5 hours. Tide lesson: generally speaking, tides swing every six hours from high to low. So we were approaching Little Harbour on a rising tide, which was great, but it wasn’t quite high enough for our comfort when we reached the entrance at 4:00 p.m. Hmmm… what to do. Our charts showed a couple of nearby day anchorages outside the harbor entrance that could be used to wait for the appropriate water depth for entering. The wind and wave conditions at the time we were there did not make those suggested anchorages look very appealing. We decided to turn and sail back just 1 mile to Lynyard Cay where we could anchor and further discuss our options. By 4:30 we had the hook set in a nice spot with Lynyard Cay blocking the wind and waves. We had an hour of daylight left – we could sit for 45 minutes then head back to Little Harbour and enter on a rising tide, but with a falling sun. Can’t read the water without the sun. We decided to not push our luck for the day and to just enjoy the sunset in our current location. Little Harbour could wait ‘til morning.
Aptly named, Little Harbour is very small and the cruising population that anchors in it’s protected waters probably doubles the population of this settlement. We were one of 11 boats in the harbor during our three day stay. (Any more than twenty boats and the harbor would be quite full.) This perfectly sheltered bay is surrounded by beach and limestone cliffs offering caves to explore. Little Harbour’s claim to fame is Pete’s Pub and Gallery. Pete’s parents sailed into this remote harbor with young Pete and his two brothers in 1951 on their schooner “Langosta”. They didn’t leave. They lived on their boat in the harbor and in one of the larger caves until they constructed their initial thatch-roofed home. Pete’s father, Randolph, was an artist renowned for his wax casting in bronze. Here is where he would build a foundry to continue his work – which includes the piece “St Peter Fisher of Men” that is owned by the Vatican museum. Pete continued in his father’s footsteps and keeps the foundry running with his own castings which are featured and for sale in the rustic gallery next to the equally rustic and well-known “Pete’s Pub”, which offers it’s own art in the form of a rum drink called the “Blaster”. Just over the sand dune from Pete’s Pub is an expansive beach bordering the Atlantic. Back inside the harbor we were visited daily by dolphins. On the most memorable occasion we were in the dinghy and one came out of the water, blowing a spray of water out it’s blowhole just inches behind Rod, surprising him and making him squeal like a little girl. It was great! (Rod objects to this description, but that’s the way it happened.)
On Wednesday, February 1 we awoke to the most beautiful day we’d yet to experience in the Abacos. It was perfectly calm and not a cloud in the sky. We left Little Harbour that morning, on the high tide, and went directly to Sandy Cay, a snorkeling reef and fish preserve that is best enjoyed in settled conditions. While there were many interesting and colorful fish to watch it was the coral that was most amazing with such a variety growing together and forming intricate structures. Brain coral sprouting Fan coral protected by a fence of Elkhorn coral. See our MSN site for pictures.
We continued back north after our glorious day of snorkeling and sunning on the deck of Lucky Peek. We anchored for the night off of Tavern Cay and timed another short jump the next day with the high tide to Tahiti Beach, on the south end of Elbow Cay. On the beach that day we met some nice folks (Joe, Katie, baby Gracie, and their friend Cory) who were in the last two days of their month-long vacation on Elbow Cay. After we had lunch at Cracker P’s on Lubbers Quarters, a small island just west of Elbow Cay, we accepted their gracious invitation to come to their rental cottage that evening for a dinner of fresh grilled Wahoo. It was an enjoyable evening visiting with them and hearing their entertaining stories of their lives in Canada, eh. We laughed when we realized that this was the first time we had actually been in a house in two months!
We pulled up anchor the next morning under conditions that were so perfect we didn’t even need Forrest. Under sail alone we glided out of the anchorage and continued our return north. It wasn’t until we reached the entrance to Marsh Harbour that we had to start the engine to maneuver into the anchorage. We had mail waiting for us at the Marsh Harbour post office and we needed to do laundry at the Coin Op and restock fresh food. And, we were just a day away from Super Bowl Sunday! We joined some of our friends in the area; Earl from LunaSea, Robert and Carolyn from Gypsy Common, and Brant and Eleanor from Lazy Bones in going to Snappas Bar and Grill to watch the big game. It was there that we met our newest friends, Virginia and James of s/v Windspirit. James and Virginia are taking a short break from their careers before James relocates from England to New Zealand in May by spending the next couple months sailing about the Abacos on the beautiful Tayana 48 they borrowed from Virginia’s parents. Since meeting them we’ve been staying up way past our bedtime but we’re having loads of fun! We left Marsh Harbour together on Tuesday, February 7th and sailed in tandem over to Elbow Cay. James and Virginia had not been to Hope Town yet and we wanted to return to the area to do some fishing and snorkeling. We anchored outside the harbor below the Hope Town lighthouse again and dinghied together out to Johnny’s Cays to try and spear dinner. I opted to stay above water in the dinghy while the hunting party dove below. They didn’t surface with any fish but on the way back to the anchorage we passed over a large shallow area with a grassy bottom which is a prime location to find conch. Conch are basically sea snails, so I’ll let you deduce how challenging they are to “catch”. After catching one each, James taught Rod how to get the conch out of its elaborate shell and clean it. I then used the meat and made a tasty ceviche-like conch salad for the four of us. On a subsequent hunt a couple days later on the Atlantic side of Elbow Cay, James speared a trigger fish and a margate, which made for a fantastic dinner of poached fillets that evening.
The weather has turned cooler again and we’re sitting out the current cold front inside Hope Town Harbour on a mooring next to James and Virginia. We’re still staying up way too late but we are enjoying the fun company. We all plan to leave here tomorrow or the next day and go explore Great Guana Cay for a few days. We’re looking forward to warmer temperatures, calmer winds, and hopefully more fresh fish.