Just a Nice Day

We get one nice day per week now, an improvement from the no nice days, week after week. “Nice” is defined as no rain, low winds. We’re not asking much, are we? We packed lunches and took off in our dinghies for Tahiti Beach, with Cutting Class. Tahiti is the go-to place when you only have a day.

The water was incredibly clear that morning, but the dinghy was speeding through the water and my slow eyes just couldn’t see everything. I imagined how nice a glass-bottomed kayak would be.

It was dead low tide at Tahiti with a nice crescent beach to wander. At higher tides we snorkel in the shallow water to find sea glass and treasures, but this day was a good opportunity to photograph the ripples in the sand.

Footprints and ripples in the sand at a very low tide on this slightly cloudy morning.

Footprints and ripples in the sand at a very low tide on this slightly cloudy morning.

And an even closer look. I think they are very cool.

A closer look at the ripples. I think they are very cool.

Three little hermit crabs

Three little hermit crabs

Two old conch shells washed ashore. They have been around for awhile.

Two old conch shells washed ashore. They have been around for awhile.

I was off wading in the water on the opposite side of the beach when I spied a dark shape swimming near. As luck would have it, I did not have my camera in hand. Dashed back to the beach blanket to grab the camera and back out to the ray. He was farther away and the photo isn't very clear. Have to take my word for it - it was a big sting ray.

I was off wading in the water on the opposite side of the beach when I spied a dark shape swimming near. As luck would have it, I did not have my camera in hand. Dashed back to the beach blanket to grab the camera and back out to the ray. He was farther away and the photo isn’t very clear. Have to take my word for it – it was a big sting ray.

Not a great day of beach combing, but not awful either. Gathered some nice sunrise tellurian shells (the pink and yellow stripings.)

Not a great day of beach combing, but not awful either. Gathered some nice sunrise tellin shells (the pink and yellow stripping) and two clean and complete crab shells.

Hanging out with our Bahama/Connecticut buddies, Marcia and Dan.

Hanging out with our Bahama/Connecticut buddies, Marcia and Dan.

Elbow Cay Lighthouse, standing tall to let us know we are almost "home."

Elbow Cay Lighthouse, standing tall to let us know we are almost “home.”

Magnolia, our Morgan buddy boat, was returning to Hope Town that day after wandering around the Exumas for the past ten weeks.

Happy hour on the flybridge, something we have not been able to do very often.

Happy hour on the flybridge, something we have not been able to do very often.

I made my "deconstructed lasagna" for a welcome back dinner. Dan refers to it as "self-destructing lasagna" which must mean he plays a key role in destructing the meal. ;-)

I made my “deconstructed lasagna” for a welcome back dinner. Dan refers to it as “self-destructing lasagna” which must mean he plays a key role in destructing the meal. 😉

Allow-calorie dinner, complete with an ice cream ending. How else would you celebrate friendship?

A low-calorie dinner, complete with an ice cream ending. How else would you celebrate friendship?

Hope Town harbor has been incredibly crowded this winter with open mooring balls in very short supply. I’m not sure if it is because there are more cruising boats and definitely more charter boats around than two years ago or because the boats are moving about as much because the weather has been so poor. We knew we were going to base ourselves here so we take our mooring for a month at a time, adding a “reserve” buoy to it when we do leave for a few days. Sometimes we worry that even the reserve sign won’t prevent someone from taking the mooring. There was no open mooring for Magnolia when she arrived, so Anthony and Annette anchored outside Elbow Cay. That’s fine for a calm night, but the winds were predicted to pick up once again. Early the next morning, Al spotted an open green mooring and quickly made arrangements with Truman, the owner.

Magnolia entering the crowded harbor. Al handing off the mooring lines to Anthony. We all feel better knowing they are safely secured and can rest after their salty travels.

Right – Magnolia entering the crowded harbor.
Left – Al handing off the mooring lines to Anthony.                                                                                   We all feel better knowing they are safely secured and can rest after their salty travels.

This was simply a really nice day, nothing extraordinary, as far as new experiences or places, except that good friends are extraordinary gifts wherever you are. Nice = extraordinary.

Got Conch?

It’s no secret that I love the coral-colored queen conch shell. I took a look back at some of my old blog posts from 2014 and surprised myself at the many photos of conch shells – the ones we collected (Beach and Sea Treasures), the conch horns Al made (Sounding the Conch Horn 1 & 2), and the various ways people decorate with conch shells.

My hand-painted baby plate

My love of conch shells had an early beginning with this hand-painted baby plate made for me. My mother’s family name was “Schell” and my given name has a shell sound to it — “miss shell”. Oddly enough though, it wasn’t until 60 years later that I began to collect conch shells.

From the Bahamas National Trust: The Queen Conch’s scientific name is Strombus gigs. “The conch is a large sea snail. It has a large shell with a short conical spire with blunt spikes. The shell’s exterior is orangeish (not always apparent because of algal growth; the aperture (opening to the inside of the shell) is a shiny rosy pink colour. The mollusk itself has a mottled gray head with a large proboscis (like a nose or beak) and long eye stalks with eyes at the end. Beneath the shell is a strong foot with a “claw” like a pointed toenail. Conchs are either male or female just like people. The male has a black arm over his right eye. The female conch has a groove that runs down the right side of her foot.”

Conch shells have been rare during this winter of 2015-2016. We have not been able to collect as many conch shells as 2014, none at all for quite a while. How could I match the 24 that I brought home from our first trip?? I’ve been pretty disappointed. 🙁

Then, late one afternoon, at the Hope Town Inn and Marina, I spied a fishing boat on the dock cleaning the day’s catch. A closer look and wowweee, the guy was cleaning conch, something I had never watched before. I didn’t want to bother him while he was working but couldn’t resist watching and asking a few questions. Also grabbed my camera for photographs, which I tried to take discreetly.

This was my first opportunity to see someone “crack” or “knock” a conch, the process of separating the animal from its lovely home. The tools are simple, a hammer, screwdriver, and knife, but the technique is challenging.

cracking conch

He holds the shell with the opening downward and the point inward, hitting the shell with the hammer to make a hole on the spire between the 2nd and 3rd row of pointy nubs.  A knife is inserted in the hole and the tendon is cut which releases the conch.

cleaning conch

It is called “jooking” when the animal is finally pulled out by its foot-like body part. Cleaning the conch is messy and tricky and known as “slopping.” Oh yeah, I get that.                                     Although the shell is beautiful, IMHO, the creature inside is ……, there really is no tactful way to describe it. It’s ugly.

Al agreed that I could have three conchs to take home, but after he left, I talked the conch guy into one more. They were beautiful mature specimens.

The shell's exterior is bit grimy with overgrowth, but when turned over the bright coral colors are shining.

The shell’s exterior is bit grimy with overgrowth, but when turned over the bright coral colors are shining.

After acquiring the shells, they require cleaning which starts with a bath in bleach water complete with vigorous scrubbing. Tow of them had some conch bits left inside. Al had to pry and pick them out so they didn't stink up the boat. He's really pretty indulgent about my obsessions. ;-)

After acquiring the shells, they required cleaning, which starts with a bath in bleach water complete with vigorous scrubbing. Two of them had some conch bits left inside. Al had to pry and pick them out so they didn’t stink up the boat. He’s really pretty indulgent about my obsessions.    😉

It’s also no secret to anyone who knows me well that I do not like to eat conch. I’ve tried, tasting conch salad, conch fritters, cracked conch. I just don’t care for the texture or taste. So there won’t be any photos of any conch specialities.

The Queen Conch is endangered because many other people do like to eat conch in all forms. So much so that the Bahamas exports $5-$7 million dollars worth of conch each year. The February 1, 2016 edition of The Abaconian, ran an article about the status of the conch population. Over-harvesting has already led to commercial extinction in Florida and Haiti. Bahamian regulations require that any conch harvested must be fully mature with a lip thickness of 15 millimeters (about .2 inches.)   Successful mating and reproduction requires a minimum density of fifty adult conch per hectare with 100 conch per hectare for sustainability. (The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square meters, 100 meters by 100 meters. Picture two footballs side by side for a rough estimate of a hectare’s size). Research has confirmed that in every commercial fishing ground surveyed over the past five years has less than 10 conchs per hectare, a density which cannot sustain reproduction.

As we travel around the Abacos, we see evidence of how many conch are harvested, and that many are only juveniles without a fully developed mature lip.

Piles of empty conch shells by the docks in Man O' War and here in Hope Town.

Piles of empty discarded conch shells by the docks in Man O’ War and here in Hope Town.

The day we dinghied around Snake Cay, we stumbled upon even more conch graveyards.

Feeling sad about seeing all of these old discarded conch shells.

Feeling sad about seeing all of these old discarded conch shells.

The water was so clear and shallow that we spotted this living conch beneath us.

The water was so clear and shallow that we spotted this living conch beneath us.

We came upon this pile of conch shells that looks more recent with more color.

We came upon this pile of conch shells that looks more recent with more color.

I talked Al into dinghying close enough to climb onto the rocky little island and pick out a few shells.

I talked Al into dinghying close enough to climb onto the rocky little “island” and pick out a few shells.

Six more conch shells in our dinghy.

Six more conch shells in our dinghy.

We have kept these two beauties out on display.

We have kept these two beauties out on display.

Treasure Cay

The weather pattern has continued – big winds, very cool for here in the Bahamas. After the most recent high winds and surf we used our bikes again to visit the beach area down by Abaco Inn.

The wind was so strong the tops of the waves were getting blown off. They remind me of horses with their manes blowing back.

The wind was so strong the tops of the waves were getting blown off. They remind me of horses with their manes blowing back.

Looking up and looking out form our walk on the beach.

Looking up and looking out form our walk on the beach.

As soon as we heard there would be a 2-3 day suspension of the wind, we left Hope Town harbor to visit a new place – Treasure Cay. Treasure Cay is 20 nautical miles north of Elbow Cay, located on the eastern shore of Great Abaco Island, near Don’t Rock Passage (remember that??) It isn’t a “cay” (island) any longer, but rather a peninsula that juts out from Great Abaco. At one time it was separated from Great Abaco by a small inlet that was gradually filled in from hurricanes and storms.

I found some history about Treasure Cay in a small document from the Mariners Cove Condo Association.  This was the location of the first settlement in the Abacos. A group of Loyalists (the colonists who sided with the British during the American Revolution) from New York arrived in September 1783 led by Sir Carlton. As the little band grew, dissension and infighting broke out among them (I have no idea what caused the dissension other than to imagine that, like today, any gourp of humans trying to organize and govern themselves are bound to have disagreements!) The majority of the population moved 20 miles southeast to Marsh Harbour and the settlement of Carleton then died out after a few years. But…. I also read in another source (Steve Dodge) that the settlement was destroyed by a hurricane in 1785. So….???

Fast forward to the 1950s and Leonard Thompson, a WWII bomber pilot, born in Hope Town. He acquired the lease to the land from the Crown with the condition that he build 5 permanent buildings, a hotel, golf course, roads, and dredge and landscape. Thompson and investors pulled it all off and opened the hotel in 1961. The area was known as Sand Banks Cay on charts, but the owners legally changed it to a more “romantic” sounding name, Treasure Cay, playing off the history of Spanish treasure galleons that sank along the coast of Treasure Cay in 1595.

Through the 1970s and 1980s Treasure Cay continued to grow with second home buyers, a second hotel, condominiums, villas, time shares, marinas, medical complex, and small airport nearby. The sport fishing industry has also added to the growth. In 1972, the movie “The Day of the Dolphin” starring George C. Scott was shot in Treasure Cay.

Besides the history, why did we decide to make a visit to Treasure Cay? We hadn’t been here before and other cruisers told us we should go, especially for the beautiful beach.

Pretty nice day, a little cloudy and cool as we passed the Fish Cays.

Pretty nice day, a little cloudy and cool as we passed the Fish Cays.

The entrance to the Treasure Cay channel is somewhat hidden until you are practically upon it. Follow the markers around the shallows and there you are!

The entrance to the Treasure Cay channel is somewhat hidden until you are practically upon it. Follow the markers around the shallows and there you are!

Treasure Cay welcome

Nothing like a little welcome sign to let you know where your are and how deep (or shallow) the channel is.

I have heard people (Floridians?) say that the Abacos are just like Florida, and I have never understood how anyone could think that. Not at all. Not at all. But, now that I have seen Treasure Cay, I think this is what they must mean.

We took a mooring off the channel in this little basin.

We took a mooring off the channel in this little basin, right in front of the condos.

There are condos and canals all over. Very reminiscient of Florida. There are concrete walls that surround the canals and hold back the soil.

There are condos and canals all over. Very reminiscient of Florida. There are concrete walls that surround the canals and hold back the soil.

We dinghied in towards the marina to explore Treasure Cay.

BATELCO phone booth! I wish now that I had picked up the phone to listen for a dial tone. I will bet it is not a working phone booth.

Do you know what this is??? If you are older than 20, you will. A BATELCO phone booth! I wish now that I had picked up the phone to listen for a dial tone. I will bet it is not a working phone booth.

THE Treasure Cay graphic (same as on the welcome sign in the channel) in the center of the round-about. Yes - a roundabout! There were also little subdivisions of homes along the road.

The Treasure Cay graphic (same as on the welcome sign in the channel) in the center of the round-about. Yes – a roundabout! There were also little subdivisions of homes along the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were three things on our list to do at Treasure Cay. First, was the laundromat. Friends told us that you can have your laundry done (note the word done, as opposed to do your own laundry) for $4.00 per wash and $4.00 for drying, plus a tip. Really???? It costs me $5.50 to wash and then $5.50 to dry each load at the marina in Hope Town, doing it myself which includes lots of waiting. We had our sheets and towels done while we had fun.

Second, the beach is beautiful. On our second day, we spent the afternoon there.

The Coco Beach Bar sits overlooking the beach.

The Coco Beach Bar sits overlooking the beach.

A gazebo is on the path over to the beach.

A gazebo is on the path over to the beach.

First look at Treasure Beach, a long crescent shaped beach of fine grain beautiful sand. So civilized there are umbrellas, but you have to pay $10 to sit under one.

First look at Treasure Beach, a long crescent shaped beach of fine-grained, beautiful sand. So civilized there are umbrellas, but you have to pay $10 to sit under one. The lounges are free. 😉

Ahhhh, looking out a sailboat passing by in the distance. Sunny skies, blue water, white sand. The Bahamas, mon.

Ahhhh, looking out a sailboat passing by in the distance. Sunny skies, blue water, white sand. The Bahamas, mon.

It was still too cool for us to plunge into the water, which was a shame, but it was fine to walk in with our toes.

It was still too cool for us to plunge into the water, which was a shame, but it was fine to walk in with our toes.

A snow fence for the sand!

A snow fence for the sand!

Third, Cinnamon buns from Cafe Florence. Florence and her husband Captain Forty own a little bakery that sells huge cinnamon buns.

Cafe La Florence Dishing out those giant buns!

Cafe La Florence
Dishing out those giant buns!

Confession time. We each ate our own cinnamon bun., no sharing.

Confession time. We each ate our own cinnamon bun., no sharing.

Evidently, the Treasure Cay guys meet here at Cafe La Florence for morning coffee and breakfast and to hang out. Like McDonalds back in the states??

Evidently, the Treasure Cay guys meet here at Cafe La Florence for morning coffee and breakfast and to hang out. Like McDonalds back in the states??

WOW! Were we surprised to see spotted leopard rays as we dinghied. Look at the length of the tail!

WOW! Were we surprised to see spotted leopard rays as we dinghied. Look at the length of the tail!

We anchored for our second night and left early the next morning. After leaving the Treasure Cay channel, we looked back and could see the Don't Rock rock.

We anchored for our second night and left early the next morning. After leaving the Treasure Cay channel, we looked back and could see the Don’t Rock rock (on the right.)

An easy ride back to Hope Town and look who we pass, on their way back from Great Guana Cay and Marsh Harbor - our buddies, Cutting Class.

An easy ride back to Hope Town and look who we pass, on their way back from Great Guana Cay and Marsh Harbor – our buddies, Cutting Class.

Which of those three things is my favorite at Treasure Cay? Tough question.  I’d have to say that if you go to Treasure Cay, you have to do all three and enjoy them equally,  for obviously different reasons.