DECEMBER 30th, 2010
Headin’ for Guana!
Suppose it’s a good time to start my trip blog. My wife Cherie and I and Dave (Diver 763) and his wife Kathy are going to spend 10 days on Great Guana Cay, Abacos, Bahamas, return to the states and spend another 10 days roaming out of Ocala. We plan on meeting my In-Laws on the Island and will do a few dives off their 24ft pocket cruiser. We hope they make it over as the weather has to be perfect for them to make the crossing, if they don’t make it we will most likely meet them in the keys and spend a few days diving around with them before continuing on to Ocala. We have a few dives planned with Troy Albury of Dive Guana as well as some shore dives right in front of the house we have rented. Dave and Kathy have never been to the Bahamas before so they will have a treat that they will remember for many years.
Cherie and I have been on the island and surrounding areas 4 other times in the last 15 years and dearly love the place and the people. Life on Great Guana is rather laid back. If you want partying and night life, you picked the wrong spot. There are a few small resorts on the island but they are not even close to the hot spots of say, Nassau. The best known “hot spot” is Nippers. Most every Sunday there is a huge pig roast that draws people far and wide. Good food, live music and lots of booze. Not to say there isn’t a lot to do there but the “Out Islands” all run on “Island Time” which is much slower than most people are used to. There is a small but very well stocked grocery store, a small liquor store where you can buy just about any spirit you like as well as ice and the Bahamian beer called Kalik. There is a Batelco office (Bahamas phone company) a church and a fire/recue department; just the basics with a population of less than 200. Like I said, very quiet and laid back.
To get to the Abaco and “Out Islands”, one must endure a short 1 hour flight from just about any of the major Central to South Florida coast airports. I say endure due to the fact that you fly in a somewhat smaller version of aircraft that you are used to unless you do a lot of regional flying from small airport to small airport. Most of the aircraft are of the Canadian Dash 7 and Dash 8 aircraft that typically have 15-30 seats. Think small, think light and think chummy as there isn’t a lot of room on these flights. Most flights are no more than an hour but if the weather is rough, be prepared for an interesting flight. My Father-in-Law and I flew into Nassau in September of 1999 on the tail end of Tropical Storm Harvey right after Hurricane Floyd ran over the top of Marsh Harbor, Abacos, Bahamas. We had to make the trip to salvage his 45 ft Chris Craft that had been torn up by Floyd. We left Miami in a heavy rain storm that was punctuated by thunder and lightning. To make a looong story short, the flight crew tried to serve us a drink and gave up as we would hit an air pocket and suddenly drop 200-300 feet every few minutes and the wings were pitching up and down and all the passengers could do was tighten their seatbelts as tight as possible and complete the “white knuckle” ride. We greased onto the runway at Nassua in one of the most impressive landings I have ever been a witness to. I must say though that since that flight, every flight has been quite pleasant.
I’ll try to keep adding to this blog daily but may skip a few days here and there , I’ll keep checking in the closer it gets and make a few entries up till it’s time to leave…… Can I go NOW????
JANUARY 1st 2010
Dropped off regs and BCD’s at Big Horn Divers in Kalispell, Montana for annuals. Should be able to pick them up in about a week and a half so will start pulling all the dive gear together then. Probably wait to pack clothes for the week before the trip. Seems like an eternity before we leave but I think I’ll pull through…….
JANUARY 30th , 2010
Well it’s 9 more wake ups and I’m ready to leave! The term SHORT comes to mind. Today I’m on the road doing a computer service call for HP and I just drove 100 miles on slick roads with a new blanket of snow falling just to find out that the parts for the job aren’t on-site yet. Just Ducky! 100 mile trip back in the dark and snow to look forward to after an all day wait on FEDEX to deliver my parts so I can go to work…… Hmmmmm sounds like it’s time to take a dive vacation to the Islands…….
FEBRUARY 1st, 2010
7 more wake ups and I’m out of here! Dee and Darrel ( Cherie’s folks ) still haven’t made it across so we may need to revise our dive plans. We were hoping to return to the States and meet with a group of Dive Buddys to do some dives at Ginnie Springs, Florida and some dives off of Ft Lauderdale area. Just have to go with the flow, got another week to make alternate plans anyway. Will look at the situation again in a few days.
FEBRUARY 8th, 2010
We are on our way to Spokane WA so we can catch the Freedom Bird out to the Islands. Temps in the Upper 30’s are making us REALLY looking forward to 10 days in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Looks like Cherie’s ( my wife) folks won’t be joining us in the Bahamas as they still can’t make the crossing so they are making way to Key West to meet us when we return to the states. We were really hoping for them to join us on Guana but we will survive….. Gives us some better dive ops off the boat in the Keys anyway.
F EBRUARY 9th, 2010
We knew something was not going to turn out so good as soon as we watched the national news when we woke at 6:00 am. Our flight to Orlando was set to leave Spokane with a small layover in Salt Lake City where we would continue on to Midway Airport at Chicago and then on to Orlando. The news said that the day was starting out with 30-45 minute ground stops and looking like it was getting uglier by the minute. When we landed in Salt Lake they informed us that we weren’t going anywhere as Midway had been closed and our flight had been cancelled. As we pondered what we were going to do Southwest advised us that the flight was back on but the dispatchers had re routed us directly to Orlando. Oh Waaaa! We got into Orlando 2 hours early and had a very enjoyable flight. Who cares that the whole East coast was experiencing record snowfalls….. We are on our way to a 10 day dive trip to the Abacos! Before retiring, we realized we hadn’t eaten real well all day and decided we would visit T.G.I Fridays for dinner. Several Mojitos ( Very alcoholic rum drink ) later we enjoyed a fantastic meal with a Great!!!! set of friends Dave (Diver763) and Kathy. Even though we were only a block away from the hotel, it took over 20 minutes to get back. Our navigation skills were a bit challenged……The girls got to laughing so hard that both of them peed their pants and we had to figure out a way to wash clothes in our hotel bathroom. Haven’t had this much fun in years!
FEBRUARY 10th, 2010
Woke up this morning (with a bit of a hangover) to find the wind was still blowing @ about 10 15 Knots from the north. The weather reports on the Abaco area weren’t much better… Sunny with north winds @ 25knots. Diving viz is @ 0 and the temps were cold for the season. Yea! Going to Paradise and we get weathered out…..
It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it! Paradise is waiting and we need to get going!!!! We left Orlando right on time and made a flawless landing in Miami in a 757 and only had an hour to kill in Miami before squeezing into a small turbo prop for the trip to Marsh Harbour airport. About 10 minutes before we should have started to board our aircraft, they informed us that our plane’s engine was broken so they were going to put us on another plane as soon as it landed and they could refuel and re-cater it. We left Miami about an hour late and with a strong tailwind, we ended up being 30 minutes late into Marsh Harbour. Joe Knowles, our cab driver picked us up and got us to the grocery store and then dropped us off at the ferry. The ferry system runs 5 trips a day to Great Guana Cay daily so making the ferry is fairly easy. If you do miss the ferry, there is a cell phone # you can call to contact the Captain that is on call and that little phone call is going to cost you around $100.00 + $23.00 per person + $100.00 after 11:00 pm. Pretty good incentive to make the last ferry…..
We got to meet a nice young gentleman on the ferry that we found out was the cousin of the lady that is the caretaker of the house we were renting so we talked him into calling ahead so she could meet us at the dock when we arrived. Might also mention here that communications are limited (and sometimes expensive) and there are only a few options. AT&T is the only cell carrier that I know that works other than the local Batelco phone company and their system. We are a ALLTEL cell dealer and our phones are dead in the water over here. Until AT&T completes the purchase and upgrade of the ALLTEL system we will just have to use the local system, email and Magicjack for keeping connected to the states.
We are staying at the Lemon Tree House and find the accommodations to be top notch! Our view is straight out to the Sea of Abaco and Fishers Bay. Delia Cay is just off to the right of center and the sun sets just off the right edge of this small cay. On our other trips here we have snorkeled around Delia and have been greeted by a myriad of different fish, eels, rays and shells. The Sea of Abaco has a different bottom (grassy) than the Atlantic side of the island. Squirrel fish nest in little holes in bunches and as you swim towards them they go tail first down into their holes in a “wave” and reappear behind you as you pass. We have encountered huge Eagle rays here as well. Our 2005 trip was one of the most enjoyable due to the weather cooperating to give us a large percentage of days in the water.
FEBRUARY 11th, 2010
This was our first full day on the island and we awoke to sound of wind which didn’t bode well for diving. If it’s too lumpy out on the outer reef, normally they won’t go out. We tooled around the island on the golf cart showing Dave and Kathy the sights of Settlement ( the only town on Guana ) which took all of 10 minutes! The afternoon activities were a small siesta back at the house and then for dinner we decided to go up to Nippers and see about munching on some seafood. Each one of us got a different type of seafood so we could share and get a taste of everything. Lobster Fritters, Conch Fritters, Grouper Fingers and my favorite Peppered Maui Maui. The Fritters and finger are battered strips of meat and are to die for…. The Maui Maui is seared and then peppered and served with ginger, soy sauce and a ball of wasabi. Best damn sushi made!
We stopped out at Orchid Bay Marina, Cherie and I had spent 2 nights in a slip with the 45’ Chris Craft cabin cruiser( the Cherie Lynn ) there with her folks when we first came to Guana in 1999. That same year we spent 2 nights anchored in Bakers bay and enjoyed snorkeling on the Atlantic side of North Guana Cay. Beautiful unbroken sandy beach now it’s all a huge new development. We decided to head to Nippers for dinner and a few beers (ended up being this strange frozen rum punch that Nippers serves). Dinner was fantastic and the music was blaring ( as usual ) and with the weather being so windy the storm shutters were dropped down on the main bar that produced a small area around the semicircular bar. The bar was only occupied by a few people maybe 7 people with the bar tender and the owner, Johnnie, the other people were a couple locals and 3 people we had to figure out. Of the 3, 1 was a short well endowed and I might add well endowed Indian (India) and she eagerly introduced herself as Priya Rai. It was immediately apparent that she was enjoying herself as she was dancing to each song that was played, the only place she wasn’t dancing was up on the bar. We deduced that the other 2 gentleman were Kid Rock and a gentleman friend. We asked the bar tender if in fact it was Kid and he confirmed it. Kid was taking pictures with his Iphone and his friend and they were both enjoying the show Priya was putting on. Out of the clear blue Ms. Rai Popped her shirt up and flashed us with the finest pair of man-made objects I have ever witnessed. Needless to say the wives were not impressed and we had a few more drinks and decided to make our way back to the house. Just for gigles I did a search of Ms. Priya on the internet and found that we were in the presence of a real life porn star.
FEBRUARY 12th, 2010
We chalked last night up as a double celebrity sighting after we confirmed this morning that it was indeed Kid Rock partying at Nippers. Just lately there have been a number of celebrities hanging out @ Nippers from Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore.
Wind finally let up this morning and the view off the front deck offered a very placid and flat Sea of Abaco so our first thought was of diving. Dave and I jumped onto the golf cart and made the 5 minute ride over to Dive Guana to see what the weather forecast was bringing for diving. Just as we got to the dive shop, Troy Albury, the owner and operator was just giving the daily dive report on the OII (Out Island) Net on VHF 16. The daily weather report is given by a retired meteorologist that now lives aboard his boat and cruises the Out Islands of the Abacos, Bahamas. “Barometer Bob” has been really accurate on every trip we have made down here. Just found out “Barometer Bob” died about 3 years ago but his wife has maintained the barometerbob.com website up and running. It is a compilation of weather reports from land and ship observations in the Abaco, Bahamas area. Great resource!!!!!
Troy confirmed that today was going to be the day for diving as there is another cold front moving in tomorrow so we decided to make a 2 dive trip out to Fowl Cay Park. Fowl Cay Park is a preserve that was finally given Park status in 2007. We went back to the house and woke the girls and got them ready to make a 9:30 trip out to the reef. The first dive we made was about 45 minutes and was only about 21’ of water. The Tunnels is what this dive site is called and holds true to its name as there are many tunnels and overhangs. We were greeted by a school of yellow fin snapper who tagged along pretty much the whole dive. Parrot fish, Wrasse, Grouper and Sergeant Majors were everywhere. A myriad of other small fish greeted us as we wove through and around the structure. We regrettably had to return towards the boat as we reached 1200 # of air. Hated to leave such a beautiful area…... We moved about a ¼ mile out to the outer reef for our next dive. Kathy didn’t join us as she had sucked a bit of sea water and was not feeling up to another dive. The next dive was to “Grouper Alley” and it aptly named as we ran into a VERY large Grouper tucked back in a hidey-hole. We had just dropped down to around 45’ and we got to see a very large Moray Eel that impressed Cherie quite a bit. I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination hearing a choked scream out of her regulator. Again we were mobbed by a large school of yellow fin snapper. We followed Troy up and over a cut in the structure and seemed to “fly” as the surge sucked us forward 10’ and then would push us back 2-3’ just to suck us forward again. We dropped over to the “outside” of the reef and leveled off at 45’. We were now outside of the reef looking at a near vertical wall of coral. We passed by an outcropping of structure standing 24” around and about 4’ tall topped by the largest brain coral I have ever seen. It looked like some giant creatures scepter sticking up out of the sandy bottom and reminded me of the old sci-fi film “The Brain”. Some beautiful overhangs and vertical walls surrounded us in an awesome colorful cathedral of reef structure. We tried to milk out the last of our tanks just under the boat. We just didn’t want to leave and return to the surface. Troy led the way back and helped Raymond get us out of the water and out of our gear.
Once out of the water we proceeded back to Great Guana Cay and Dive Guana’s dive shop where we had to get the obligatory T-shirt and set another dive up for the start of next week with Troy and Raymond. The winds are building and clocking around to westerly winds now and the forecast says that they will continue building to around 40 knots. Nice thing is that the winds are expected to build until 3:00 am and then drop down to 15-20 knots. The house we rented has Satellite TV so we were able to watch the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We had talked about going there since it is right in our back yard but when it came time to pick sitting in snow watching world renowned bobsledders, skiers and such over diving off a tropical island……. Well you can figure out the rest of the argument yourself.
I might mention that the house also has DSL so we are able to communicate easily with the outside world. I made sure that nobody has my number, not to say I’m not below calling the kids back home and twisting the knife a bit reminding them that the temps here are in the low 70’s and we are having the time of our lives. I have to admit doing the same with the gals running the store for us…. We usually bring them trinkets and such back so they forgive us. Eventually
I use a Magicjack and a small fold-up portable phone for communications and it seems to work quite well for our needs. I carry a thin portable scanner and very small battery powered printer and online fax services to do most of our business calls and faxes. Quite compact and still keeps me communicating with the outside world. We are experimenting with Skype but I haven’t delved into it enough yet to give a yea or nay on it.
Well this morning the westerly winds have the Sea of Abaco roughed up quite a bit. We had winds that were clocked at over 50 knots so the night was full of things going bump in the night and it was a bit hard to sleep but we made it through the night. We have a trip over to Man-O-War Cay planned today to attend an art festival and to do a little geocacheing. There are now geocaches on just about all the islands. We will also do the same back around Ocala and the Keys. The trip over to Man-O-War was fairly smooth given the amount of whitecaps that were on the Sea of Abaco. The ferry is a very powerful 72 passenger, single screw, diesel boat that rides smoothly through the roughest of waves. Even when you think it is going to be a rough ride, these ferry boats have one of the smoothest rides I have seen. The Art and Craft Festival was mainly a fundraising opportunity for the school system and was a really neat cross between a flea market and a smorgasbord. There was a little of everything from art and crafts to jewelry and food with crab races and raffles for everything from dinners around the neighboring islands to a round trip air charter and dive and snorkel trips. It was a day well spent with enjoyable company and good food. Man-O-War is a “dry” island so there is no alcohol served to the public and they have an open container law where they will fine you for having alcohol in public. Nice little island but just not a party place. We found a sign stating there was seafood for sale so we went up to the hardware store and there was a young lad selling lobster, grouper and rock crab. We wheeled and dealed a bit and made a great deal on 6 lobster tails and a large slab of grouper. Tonight’s meal was a fine lobster dinner for 4 which we will celebrate Valentine’s Day as we plan to make the Sunday pig feed at Nippers Bar and Grill tomorrow. We didn’t get any geocaching done as we were only on the island for about 4 ½ hours. We’ll try again next trip over to Man-O-War or next trip to the Bahamas.
FEBRUARY 14th, 2010
Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
I’m up at 6:00 am and see that the wind is still blowing so it looks like another fill day for activities. One thing to remember about that dream trip to Paradise is that not every day is going to be perfect. You always need to have fill-in activities planned so you don’t end up staring at the walls of the cottage/house. Our trip so far has been 95% island activities and only 5% diving. Weather can be very fickle so you MUST have contingency plans when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. So far we have done quite well filling in those hours/days that are wind –out or rain-out. The Haines are very close friends that we have known since High School that we have paled around for years and our likes and dislikes are very similar. To make a trip work where everybody is in close proximity all day long, is really hard. Everybody has to pull together and so far we have clicked together and have had no problems: I would venture to say that we will remember this trip together for many, many years to come. I just snuck over to Dive Guana and Troy was there so checked on when best time to go out to dive again would be and he said the weather was getting better by the hour but best diving would be tomorrow so we set up a 2 dive trip for in the morning. We are going to Baker Bay for lunch so we are going to try to squeeze in a little snorkeling this afternoon of possible.
Ouch! The power just went out! Thank Goodness we just finished with breakfast and I had taken a shower early this morning. Now everybody else has to take a shower without lights but good thing is that pressure in the system was enough to take showers. Dave lucked out and took his shower after the power came back on about an hour later.
We took the golf cart up to Bakers Bay and got to see a HUGE 200’ motor yacht called “April Fool”. It’s dinghy used to get ashore is a 24’ beast! I found her specs on the Internet and am amazed at the amount of money just sitting there on the water. We tried to get up to the end of Great Guana but there was a security guard that wouldn’t let us by to see the new golf course they are completing there. A lot of the locals tried to block the project but money talks…….. Google the project by using Bakers Bay Great Guana to see articles on all sides of the issue. I remember Bakers bay as the abandoned cruise line resort that we visited just 5 years ago, now it is a HUGE development with 100’s of slips and the new golf course.
We met up with Randy, Sharon and the 2 girls today up at Nippers at the Sunday pig feed. W keep suggesting places for the kids to snorkel and even invited them over to the breakwater at Dive Guana. The wind has abated enough to get out into the Sea of Abaco to do a little snorkeling around the Dive Guana breakwater and Delia Cay. We left Nippers and got our snorkel gear together and trucked down to the breakwater and just after we got in and wet they showed up but the girls had gotten a bit chilled swimming in Nippers pool so they didn’t want to get wet again. We told them we were defiantly going back out to dive with Troy tomorrow so we suggested that they join us and we would have Troy take us out to an area that we could dive the reef and the small girls could still snorkel around the boat. Everybody decided that it sounded like a plan so looks like we may have company on the dive boat in the morning.
FEBRUARY 15th, 2010
Randy and the kids stopped by and it sounds like the girls aren’t up to going out with the adults to snorkel so Randy rented a 21’ boat from Dive Guana for a little more cheaper than the snorkel trip would be so when they came up to the house I showed them some neat places to go and showed Randy the places to stay away from. If you aren’t a certified and experienced captain, there are some not so nice places that can be devastating to a boater. Sounded like they enjoyed themselves going out to Spoil Bank Cay aka Shell Island. The kids got to comb the island which is a man-made island made up of debris from dredging of the original cruise ship channel going into Bakers Bay when it was a cruise ship destination. The site was abandoned when there was some a string of really bad weather and they almost lost a cruise ship to a rage in Whale Cay Passage.
Today Troy, from Dive Guana, took us 4 divers and 6 snorkelers out to the North end of Great Guana. The scenery above water has changed greatly in the past 5 years on Guana. Where there was just raw land and jungle on the north end of the island, there is now a manicured golf course visible from the ocean. We anchored over the mid reef at a site called the White Hole. The divers were the first to get geared up and then the snorkelers took to the water. Once we settled on the bottom and grouped up we proceed to follow Troy where he pointed out many different coral formations and diversified sea life. The viz was good @ 65-70 feet but still had some debris in it from the windy weather we have been experiencing. This is Winter weather so it can change in an instant. I have been down here in February to as late as 1st week of June and prefer the milder temps now but the calmer weather seems to be in early to mid May. The place starts getting a bit crowded in May on into the summer but the temps are also much warmer. Our early June trip was a bit uncomfortable to get acclimated to but was doable and it was nice to be able to get out on the beach and work on the tan if we wanted. Our 2nd dive was further out to the outer reef to a site called the Cathedral. Very diversified wildlife and coral. Just after entering the water and approaching the reef structure we were mobbed by a school of chub that blew over the top of the reef, it appeared to be a cloud of fish. The main part of the reef was a vertical wall and as we worked our way around to the Atlantic side we found the opening of the Cathedral and swam into the mouth of the cave. The openings in the structure comprising the roof allow shafts of filtered sunlight into the Cathedral and Dave was able to capture the interesting effect. I can’t describe the light, it was just too cool, you have got to check out the photo to see the cool way the light filtered down. The cathedral was large enough for 5 divers to go in and not bump into each other. Right outside the opening we ran into a nurse shark and a bit father down the structure we happened upon a lion fish. Troy said he would come back later and poke a hole in it, guess they don’t move very far, even if disturbed. The lion fish was not cooperating as it was nosed into the structure and was just showing it’s tail to us. Couldn’t miss that it was a lion fish though as it’s spines on the end of the “feathers” looked like they meant business. As we continued back towards the boat a school of 15 or so barracuda glided by keeping an eye on the situation. Great dive and I would highly recommend this site to anybody that wanted to see diversified reef and wildlife.
Well today is a weather day, it started out really windy 20-25 knots out of the WNW and is clocking around to the NNW. Today everybody is just lounging around in PJs watching satellite TV or reading. I’m on the couch nursing a nasty chest and head cold. I had a hell of a time clearing my right ear on both of yesterdays dive and I’m sure if I tried to go out, I’d just get wet and end up back on the boat. I’ll go down after the little drug store opens and see what there is to fix me up. Stopped over @ Dive Guana to let him know we weren’t going to make it out to dive and he told me that Dr. Troy would prescribe 3 Nipper secret Rum drinks and call him in the morning. He advised me that if I didn’t go to sleep after 3 Rum drinks I would pass out anyway. Well we’ll see what the drug store has before I try the Island prescription Troy gave me….
Dave sat down at the garage area and cracked a coconut open with his dive knife. Troy offered a machete and then retracted it saying he didn’t what to see Dave lose a finger. Should have seen Dave with the dive knife, I don’t know which would be more dangerous; the machete or the dive knife. Dave finally coaxed the coconut open and was rewarded by clear liquid which meant that the cocoanut was good. He broke up the meat and we all tried a section, sweet cocoanut! Even the girls enjoyed the fresh treat. I like cocoanut anyway and fresh out of the husk is Fantastic. Beats the hell out of packaged flakes. Well back to vegging out and seeing what the weather is going to do.
Changes and updates made to blog 2-17-2010