First Day of Winter – December 21st

Winter “officially” begins with the Winter Solstice at 12:11 pm today, December 21, 2013. For those of you back home in the north, it must feel as though winter arrived a few weeks ago! The Winter Solstice is a very significant day because it is the shortest day of the year for all of us in the Northern Hemisphere. The United States will receive only 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight today. Al and I have always made note of this day because the days will now start to get longer, adding a few additional moments of daylight each day until the Summer Solstice in June. Hooray!

The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” At the winter solstice, the Sun’s path has reached its southernmost position. The next day, the path will advance northward. However, a few days before and after the winter solstice, the change is so slight that the Sun’s path seems to stay the same, or stand still.

The sunset sets over the dock

The sun sets over the dock. Even down here the darkness comes too early.

The full moon has brightened the dark nights.

The full moon has brightened the dark nights.

Enough science talk! Time to get back to beach talk. It has been busy here in Hope Town with holiday festivities, but we still manage to squeeze some beach time into most of our days. Sometimes just a walk, sometimes a dinghy ride, sometimes snorkeling. The weather has been perfect, breezy and not too hot, just the way I like it.

I really don’t mean to torture you with beautiful visions of warm breezes and beaches, but…. what else can I show you? That’s all there is here – paradise!

Quiet beach along the north end

Quiet beach along the north end

ANother view along the north end

Another view along the north end

Little blue sailboat on the beach

Little blue sailboat on the beach

The driftwood and pine trunks are a vision

The driftwood and dried pine trunks are a natural piece of art.

Marcia and I enjoyed wading in the water on this day.

Marcia and I enjoyed wading in the water on this day.

Al is always working on something! He just loves messing about in boats, large and small. Here he is scrubbing the dinghy's bottom.

Al is always working on something! He just loves messing about in boats, large and small. Here he is scrubbing the dinghy’s bottom.

This is my special beach towel a gift from my GHS math teachers when I retired. The towel is enjoying the trip!

This is my special beach towel a gift from my GHS math teachers when I retired. The towel is enjoying the trip!

Al snorkeling just under the lip of  one of the small Parrot Cays. Looking for lobsters, but no luck!

Al snorkeling just under the lip of one of the small Parrot Cays. Looking for lobsters, but no luck!

He did find a sea biscuit

He did find a sea biscuit

Two brightly colored starfish!

Two brightly colored starfish!

This starfish didn't sink back down, but floated away. I worried that he/she would not make it back down to a soft, safe place below the surface.

This starfish didn’t sink back down, but floated away. I worried that he/she would not make it back down to a soft, safe place below the surface.

There are no beach stones  here to build my towers, but I did make a mini tower from coral pieces. Only about 8 centimeters tall!

There are no beach stones here to build my towers, but I did make a miniature tower from coral pieces. Only about 8 centimeters tall!

Check out that beautiful deep blue piece! This was a good day for hunting.

Check out that beautiful deep blue piece! This was a good day for hunting.

Christmas Spirit in the Bahamas

Merry Christmas from us to all of you! (see the Hope Town Lighthouse in the background?)

Merry Christmas from us to all of you! (see the Hope Town Lighthouse in the background?)

It’s December 20th, 5 days before Christmas and the 100th day of our adventure. It is hard to be away from family for Christmas, no doubt about that. But, we carry the people we love in our hearts with us, and with modern technology we can even stay in touch.

It's nice to be with Dan and Marcia from Cutting Class in Hope Town.  Here we are at the Hope Town Lodge.

It’s nice to be with Dan and Marcia from Cutting Class in Hope Town. Here we are on the deck of  the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.

The community of Hope Town graciously shares its Christmas spirit and welcomes all to participate.The harbor and the settlement are decorated with displays of holiday lights. It is a bit tricky to shoot a picture of the lights at night from a gently swaying boat or from a dinghy, but hopefully this will give you a sense of our surroundings.

This home on the harbor has quite a display of lights.

This home on the harbor has quite a display of lights.

Captain Jack's bar is decorated with cheery colors.

Captain Jack’s bar is decorated with cheery colors.

The full moon shines behind this gazebo

The full moon shines behind this gazebo.

Even the lighthouse is decorated for the holidays.

Even the lighthouse is decorated for the holidays.

We took an evening stroll to see the decorated houses in the settlement (did I mention that it is not called “the town”? Everyone refers to it as “the settlement.”

During the day, this yard is all decked out.

During the day, this yard is all decked out.

At night, it is even brighter!

At night, it is lit up just like the lawns at home.

This is my favorite Hope Town light display.

This is my favorite Hope Town light display.

The two  inns in the settlement have real Christmas trees! And they smell so good.

Hope Town Harbor Lodge

Hope Town Harbour Lodge

Hope Town Inn and Marina

Hope Town Inn and Marina

We did not bring any Christmas decorations with us from Connecticut (it was a space issue and back in September, Christmas seemed far away.) Living on a boat forces one to be become inventive and creative. I had picked up three large pine cones when we hiked Cumberland Island in Georgia, bought Christmas towels and cards at TJ MAXX in Vero Beach, and have combed the beach each day since we arrived in Hope Town. The pine cones became miniature Christmas trees adorned with the bits of beach shells. I bought a pine/fir scented candle and burn it regularly to fill the boat with the smells of a real Christmas tree.

Our little pine cone trees

Our little pine cone trees

Our little sea glass Christmas wreath

Our little sea glass Christmas wreath

Captain Jack’s, a local bar on the settlement docks, hosted a Trim the Tree night – bring a handcrafted ornament and get a free drink. It was also Taco Tuesday (2 for fish tacos for $6) and 2 for 1 marguerita night. I had a few beachy holiday cards and made two of my little boxes, adding green yarn (originally intended as a starboard wind indicator). Voila! Handcrafted ornaments. I couldn’t part with the tiny sea glass wreath I made. Sorry, Captain Jack!

~Captain Jack invitation to the Trim the Tree night ~Box ornaments ~Captain Jack's ~ By the tree

~Captain Jack invitation to the Trim the Tree night
~Box ornaments
~Captain Jack’s
~ By the tree

Hope Town held a caroling night. About 100 people gathered to walk together through the streets of the settlement and sing Christmas carols. We stopped at homes and sang, wishing everyone, “a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” It doesn’t matter where you may be,  “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells” are still included in the repertoire of traditional carols. It was a very enjoyable evening to help us find and share the Christmas spirit. My favorite song, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” was not on the list. 😉 I guess if you are here in the Bahamas that is one Christmas wish that is highly unlikely!

Caroling in the streets of Hope Town

Photo on the Hope Town Sailing Club website - see Al in the crowd?

Photo on the Hope Town Sailing Club website – see Al in the crowd?

Caroling ended at the Harbour Lodge for hot chocolate and cookies.

Merry Christmas!! We love you.

Merry Christmas!! We love you.

Lobster – from Sea to Plate to Tummies!

We awoke to a rainy Monday morning. Water is precious here in the islands and we will pay around 20 –  50 cents per gallon to fill our tanks. We don’t have a water maker onboard because they are VERY expensive to purchase and install, and frankly seem to be more trouble than they are worth. So, as the rained poured down, Al took advantage of our sun shade and placed a tub under it. During the shower, we accumulated an extra 10 gallons. Hooray!

Catching free rain water!

Catching free rain water!

The afternoon was dry, but a little overcast. Not to be deterred from an adventure, Dan and Marcia led us outside to a reef near John’s Cay and offshore of northern Elbow Cay.

Out for a dinghy ride to go snorkeling

Out for a dinghy ride to go snorkeling

 

We used our homemade “look bucket” for the first time. A “look bucket” is simply a bucket with a see-through bottom. You put the bucket in the water and look through it.  Unless the water is really muddy you can see below the surface. In clear waters you can see far down, even to the bottom. I was amazed at how clearly you can see below the surface. It’s like snorkeling without getting wet. It can help to scout out possible snorkeling locations before getting all of your gear on.

Our "look bucket"

Our “look bucket”

Dan and Marcia with their look bucket

Dan and Marcia with their look bucket

Al really gets into his look bucket!

Al really gets into his look bucket!

The snorkeling was pretty good for a cloudy day. We saw fan coral and lots of tropical fish including my favorite parrot fish.

Al snorkeling around

Al snorkeling around

Dan is the ultimate lobster guy, in our opinion. Truthfully, he is part fish or perhaps a “merman.” He snorkels, dives, and then spears the lobster in its hidey hole under the coral. Today was our introduction to spearing lobsters with the hope that someday Al might catch our dinner! Dan caught a good sized lobster. Caribbean lobster is different from the Maine lobsters – it has no claws and is not quite as sweet and tender. But, it is very tasty , as you will soon see.

~Dan with a good sized lobster! ~Dan killing the lobster ~Lobster in the bag

~Dan with a good sized lobster!
~Dan killing the lobster
~Lobster in the bag

Our dinner became a group effort. Marcia steamed the lobster tail on Cutting Class and brought it over to Kindred Spirit. I had some leftover homemade sauce, mozzarella cheese,  and fresh herbs; but I have no yeast onboard because I do not intend to bake in my little oven with my limited CNG fuel. Aahhh! But I do have some flour and we have beer! Beer has yeast, so I made beer flatbread. The recipe is pretty simple:

Beer Flatbread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup beer

Mix it all together in one bowl with your hands and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then roll each piece out (no rolling pin so Marcia and I just stretched it out.) Brush with olive oil and put it on the grill. We used a pan on the grill. Flip it over. Remove and top with whatever you want. Return to grill to melt it all together.

We made a “pure and simple” pizza of sauce, cheese, spinach, then a sauce and lobster pizza, and finally a white pizza with mozzarella, blue cheese and spinach topped with lobster. We had so much fun and the pizza was delicious!!

Michele lightly kneading the beer bread dough. It doesn't take much.

Michele lightly kneading the beer bread dough. It doesn’t take much.

Al baking the dough on the grill

Al baking the dough on the grill

Yummilicious pizzas!! We ate the white lobster blue cheese pizza so quickly I never got a photo!

Yummilicious pizzas!! We ate the white lobster/blue cheese pizza so quickly I never got a photo!

How did these three manage to all wear their Nantucket shirts on the same evening??

How did these three manage to all wear their Nantucket shirts on the same evening??

 

 

 

Settling in at Hope Town

Hope Town is the “town”  on Elbow Cay, an island in the Abacos, in the northern part of the Bahamas. Now that we are here, I have learned that Hope Town is two words, not one; although I see it spelled both ways.  We think this will be our home base for the winter months. As we entered the channel, this little sign reminded us that it is time to sloooow down!

Slow down, mon!

Slow down, mon!

Geography pictures of our winter “home” (and yes, I stole the graphics below off of the internet) —

An aerial view of the northern end of Elbow Cay. We are moored there in the harbor.

An aerial view of the northern end of Elbow Cay. We are moored there in the harbor.

A map of Elbow Cay

A map of Hope Town Harbor on Elbow Cay

A little history lesson from the Winnie Malone Museum“Hope Town was settled by British Loyalists who were seeking safe refuge after the American Revolution.  Many of the settlers came from the Carolinas, by way of East Florida, after that area was turned over to Spain in the Peace of Paris (1783).  The same treaty called for the evacuation of New York by the loyalists.  Many people moved back to England, Canada, or south to the British Caribbean.  The initial settlements were at Carleton (near the current Treasure Cay) and Marsh Harbour.  By 1785, there were over 1,000 refugees in Abaco who were distributed in five or six settlements.  The settlement at Hope Town was founded in 1785, in part, by a widow from South Carolina named Wyannie Malone.  Wyannie, along with her children, started a dynasty in Hope Town that spread the Malone name throughout the Bahamas, over to Florida, and outwards from there.”

We have a view of the Hope Town Lighthouse (officially called the Elbow Cay Reef Lighthouse) with its famous red and white stripes, a Bahama  landmark. It is one of only two remaining hand lit lighthouses in the world. Before we leave, we plan to climb to the top!

Our view of the Lighthouse form the boat

Our view of the Lighthouse from the boat

View of the Lighthouse from across the harbor at Harbour Lodge

View of the Lighthouse from across the harbor at Harbour Lodge

View of Hope Town buildings along the docks

View of Hope Town buildings along the docks

On Saturday, we dinghied around the outside of Elbow Cay along the western shore towards the south end of the island. I spotted something on a point of land so we dinghied closer to investigate.

We could see there was something worth a closer look on that rock ledge.

We could see there was something worth a closer look on that rock ledge.

Out on a point of land, with nothing else around appeared this sculpture. We dinghied closer to see what this was.

A lovely bronze sculpture of a girl doing a handstand on her books.

I am sure that everyone is waiting for  beach photos, so here are some pictures of our first trips to Elbow Cay beaches.

We found Tahiti Beach and stopped to wade in the shallow waters, with the low tide.

Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay

Tahiti Beach, Elbow Cay

Michele on Tahiti Beach

Michele, looking for sea glass on Tahiti Beach

Our first Bahama sea glass!

Our first Bahama sea glass! Found these little pieces in the shallow water.

On Sunday, we tried the Hope Town beach, a short walk from the harbor.

Clear, warm, aqua water

Clear, warm, aqua water

After a wonderful swim

After a wonderful swim

It si fun to have friends to play with -Dan and Marcia!

It is fun to have friends to play with – Dan and Marcia!

More sea glass from our walk along the beach

More sea glass from our walk along this beach. The clear piece on the right has an X marking, indenting it.

Enough for now! Can’t sit around waiting for slow internet to load pictures. The morning rains have ended and it is time to play again.

Kindred Spirit on her Hope Town mooring

Kindred Spirit on her Hope Town mooring