Christmas in Hopetown (or Meeting People through Adversity)

We had a “plan” In mind when we got to Abaco. We wanted to get a mooring in Hopetown Harbour for a month and spend our Christmas there. Hopetown is a somewhat magical place and we couldn’t think of a better place to spend Christmas. A second reason for the mooring was that winter weather can be cold and windy and the mooring would give us a place to go when the weather acted up.

We were able to find a vacant mooring and got settled in. Shortly after that we noticed that we had water running through the bilge and traced it to a leaking seawater cooling pump. This is the pump that brings water from the sea to cool our engine. It still worked and the leak wasn’t terrible yet but it still needed to be repaired or replaced. We put out the word on the morning vhf radio net that we were looking for a parts source and pretty quickly had the neighbors coming by. Brad on Mothra came over and loaned us a spare pump (that we eventually bought) so we could be mobile again. Logan from Gemini stopped by and offered to bring us a new pump when he came back from a trip to the US for Christmas. Problem quickly solved thanks to some new friends.

The cold and windy weather that we expected wasn’t appearing. Instead we had warm sunny days with mild wind. Probably the kind of days that you think we have everyday out here. We left the mooring and went out to enjoy some solitude at anchor for a few days. We got some snorkeling in and enjoyed beach walks and beautiful sunsets.

It was nice being out of the harbour but we wanted to get back for the Nashville songwriters festival in Hopetown. The festival is organized by Chris Farren, a Nashville songwriter who has a home on the island, to raise money for local causes. This year he brought with him 14 country songwriters to perform their own songs. Songwriters included those for Carrie Underwood, Kenny Cheney, Blake Shelton, and many others. The performances were all in very small venues (no other kind in Hopetown) and were awesome. We attended two of them and thoroughly enjoyed them, including the fireworks after the final performance.

We had been having more trouble with our outboard. The silly thing would generally start and run fine but it just wouldn’t come up to full power. We basically had an 8hp outboard with the performance of a 4hp. We were taking the dinghy into town for Christmas caroling when the motor died before going far. Now what? We could easily row back to Noodin but we’d miss out on caroling. Along came Jim and Laurie from Kismet, friends we hadn’t met yet, who offered us a ride in for caroling. There were around 50 of us wandering the Hopetown streets trying to sing in unison. Singing in unison was difficult because the narrow streets made for a lot of distance between the front and the back of the choir. Probably sounded like we were singing the songs in around. It was a lot of fun though. Some of the people being caroled greeted us with rum shots, sangria, or spiced wine. Afterwards we stopped for a drink and had a chance to get to meet Kismet’s friends, Tom and Chris from Persistence. We ended up sharing fun and games with these couples in Hopetown and it likely wouldn’t have happened were it not for a difficult motor.

When we were in Bayfield, Wisconsin getting ready to depart on this journey we met Matt and Bernice from Bernoulli. They had the slip next to us and we became friends. Matt and Bernice had been contemplating giving up their jobs and sailing off on an adventure similar to the one we were embarking on. Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2017 and we greeted them as they arrived in Hopetown Harbour. We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner with them aboard Noodin and many other good times (even a 30+ knot thunderstorm on the way to Marsh Harbour).

The weather did eventually change and the cold and windy weather did come. Before that happened though we were able to take not so “polar” plunges into the Atlantic on Christmas and New Years days.

After taking the carburetor apart more times than I can count we finally gave up on it and decided to get a new one. This ended up being quite the process but it gave us a chance to meet more wonderful people. We went to Marsh Harbour hoping to pick up our new outboard and ran aground on a hard shoal near the commercial port. The chart showed 10′ of water but it was more like 3′ at low tide. What a surprise to be grinding to a halt. Another of those “What the hell?” moments. We tried everything we could think of to get ourselves off as the tide was falling but couldn’t get it done. Noodin kept heeling more and more as the tide fell. Neither Noodin or her crew were in any real danger but it was damn uncomfortable.

We hoped to get off during the evening high tide so we arranged a little 9pm get together with our friend Jim from Kismet and new acquaintances Tom and Tammy from Mac. Everyone went above and beyond trying to get Noodin off the shoal but the evening high tide just wasn’t high enough. The morning high would be about 7″ higher and would give us our best chance to get off. Of course this meant sleeping aboard Noodin as she went from upright, to deck in the water, to upright again. Not as terrible as you might think but no fun either. As the morning high tide approached, the kedge anchor that we had previously set gradually started to pull us free. Continually tightening the anchor line eventually popped us free as the tide continued to raise. Thankfully there was no damage to Noodin or her crew other than her captains pride.

We had some great times with Rocky and Anne including a delicious dinner, featuring fresh red snapper caught and prepared by Rocky, aboard their boat Carina. We met Rocky in Havre de Grace, Maryland a year before and were excited to see his boat in Hopetown.

One of the greatest things about Hopetown is the lighthouse. It’s the only remaining hand wound kerosene burning lighthouse. We’d climbed to the top of it several times but Rocky arranged a special treat for us and we got to participate in lighting the lens lamp and winding the mechanism that makes the lens rotate. We met the lighthouse keeper, Jeffery, just before dark and climbed the 101 steps to the top.

Jeffery climbed inside the lens to light it as we stood by. After the lens was lit, we took turns winding the mechanism that would keep the lens turning for the next two hours. Every two hours after, Jeffery would climb the steps to wind it again. Thanks to Kara from s/v Vela for the following pictures.

We didn’t get any pictures of the actual winding but below is a picture of a picture that shows Jeffery doing the job.

Our last day in Hopetown found us heading for town on rainy windy day when our dinghy outboard quit again. The wind and oars would get us home fine but along the way we’re Chuck and Carmen on their beautiful catamaran Soul Mates. We spent the entire afternoon visiting, playing games, and enjoying their hospitality. Another example of meeting nice people through adversity. By the way, we have a new fully functional outboard and the old one was donated to a worthwhile cause in Hopetown.

This post got long winded and I apologize for that. I’ll try to keep up with the blogging better. In the meanwhile Noodin has left Abaco and is currently in Rock Sound, Eleuthera.

Bahamas Again

We met Jeff and Karen of Airbender while we were in Vero Beach and after some conversation we agreed that we would cross the Gulf Stream together on our way to the Bahamas. We had a few days before there would be appropriate weather for crossing the Gulf Stream so we laid over at Peck Lake for a couple of days before heading for Lake Worth which would be our final stop before leaving the country. Peck Lake was an awesome stop right on the ICW and a very protected anchorage. A short dinghy ride and a shorter walk got us to the Atlantic Ocean and miles of lonely beach. There was a lot of debris washed up on the beach from the hurricanes as well as 100’s of Portuguese Man of War jelly fish. You definitely had to pay attention so you didn’t step on them.

From Peck Lake it was about a six hour trip down the ICW to Lake Worth. This is a stretch of the ICW with many bridges and fancy homes. There were 6 bridges with 5 of them opening only on the hour and half hour. We tried to time our arrival to be there for the opening but no so early that we had to hold station and wait. Waiting in a sailboat when there is wind and current is not always easy. We missed one opening because the bridge operator decided to open early for some reason but other than that it was a smooth trip.

The weather had been sketchy for crossing the Gulf Stream but we had a weather window to make the crossing a couple of days after arriving in Lake Worth. The crews of Noodin and Airbender made last runs to the grocery and liquor stores. Plans were made to raise anchor the next morning and proceed out the Lake Worth inlet and head for the Little Bahama Bank. We’ve now learned that a cruisers “plans” are really nothing more than ideas as things often change rapidly. This was one of those times. As we were putting things away for our crossing we noticed excess water in the bilge. The bilge pump float switch wasn’t working so we manually operated the pump. It moved water but it smelled hot. We made the decision to stay in the states and make repairs rather than cross the Gulf Stream with a marginal bilge pump. We reluctantly called Jeff and Karen and let them know that we weren’t leaving in the morning but encouraged them to go. There wasn’t supposed to be good crossing weather for another week or more so it was important to go now if possible. They were able to hook up with other friends to leave in the morning and we were happy for them. The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we diagnosed and repaired the float switch problem and determined that all was good with the pump. It was about noon by this time but we decided to haul anchor and head for The Bahamas anyway. We had basically calm weather and motor sailed for about 24 hours to arrive at Powell Cay in the Abacos. We had saved a couple of special passage beers for the occasion.

The next day we arrived at Green Turtle Cay just ahead of Airbender and cleared customs. We were officially in the Bahamas again!