Where are we? You can see our track by clicking on the track below and where Gypsies Palace is now. Read more
One Particular Harbor is Steve’s favorite song – mine is Boat Drinks, go figure! We found our paradise when we arrived at Little Harbour, which is at the southern end of the Abacos. What makes this place unique is that it is “off the grid”. There is no electricity and only 50 homes all powered by solar or wind generators. It is sheltered on all sides so there is great protection in the harbor. It also has the perfect beach bar – Pete’s Pub – with a sand covered floor, special rum drink and 4 Bimini Rings. We were told by our friends on Imagine This that we would love this place and we agreed. We came back several times!
Little Harbour was settled in 1951 when a family arrived by schooner to establish an artist community. They lived on board and in the caves while they built a home. Little Harbour has the only working bronze foundry in the Bahamas. Pete’s artwork is on display on the premises and he has sold it worldwide.
The approach to the harbor is very shallow so it is best to come in at low tide, unless you are a catamaran! The harbor has numerous mooring balls and nearly every boat was a cat. You pay at the bar for the mooring ball. It is also a great place to kayak or paddle board around.
Pete’s Bar has some of the freshest fish in the Bahamas. Jazzy became right at home running around off leash. All of the customers and children loved him. He couldn’t wait to come ashore. We had a great time in that place.
We enjoyed walking around Little Harbour. It is a short walk to the ocean side and it really is beautiful to see the waves and water. There are some close in reefs out there, too. The houses are very unique and so interesting to view walking along the sand road.
It is always good to talk to locals. We found out that there is a Blue Hole within a mile of Pete’s Pub on Little Harbour. It is easy to miss, but we made several trips to it. It is like a giant aquarium and full of tropical fish.
“But there’s this One Particular Harbour
So far but yet so near
Where I see the days as they fade away
And finally disappear” Jimmy Buffet
This is the last post from the Bahamas. So many enjoyable places and so many anchorages where we just anchored out with nothing but a beach.
We can’t wait to go back next year!
One of the most interesting islands in the Bahamas is Man O War Cay. We found it quite charming with a lot of character, but very different than some of the other stops. We were drawn to the simple life and their history. They also have a very protected harbor for anchoring or docking.
Man O War is the boat building capital of the Bahamas. Albury Boats are specifically made for Bahamian waters. The first Albury came to the island in the 1870’s and started building boats. These Albury boats are seen all over the islands, especially for rentals and ferries between the islands. While on Man O War you can see boats that are still being built right there. In addition to that there is a canvas/ sail making operation that is run by 3 generations of women. They sew canvas bags and hats – none of which are cheap! But, it makes for a really nice industry for them.
Things are definitely quiet on Man O War. The inhabitants are very religious. There are no liquor stores. Just this year the Dock and Dine Restaurant can now sell beer and wine. Prior to that no alcohol sales were permitted on Man O War. I am sure that not many people know this yet that haven’t been back to the Abacos.
Part of the charm of their island is that it is small and it is easy to walk to the beach on the other side. There is a cemetery is right by the beach. A sign tells the story that during a storm many of the graves were washed away. They have restored the location further from the ocean. We noticed that most of the headstones have the name Albury since they were the first settlers. We saw several Russells, too!
We found it very relaxing to stay at Man O War, but maybe the best draw for us was the ice cream stand. It was the best we had in the Bahamas and you know that made Capt. Steve happy!
Hope Town is a village on Elbow Cay that has one of the most recognizable lighthouses anywhere. It is candy striped and lighted by kerosene, which is only one of three that exist. Everyone looks forward to arriving in Hope Town since it is a true village with shops, restaurants and cottages. Most of the transportation is by golf cart, bike or walking. As with the other islands, supplies arrive once a week by barge. All of the locals know when this is and make it a point to get to the markets when supplies are re-stocked.
We delayed our arrival in Hope Town by visiting other cays and really didn’t plan ahead for our arrival. We had been anchoring in Marsh Harbor without a problem. We knew that most boaters in Hope Town Harbor are on a mooring ball. Our plan was just to grab one that was not being used. Well, that didn’t work at all! It seems that staying in Hope Town Harbor is so popular boaters stay for the whole season!
We entered the Harbor and we pretty much aghast at how many boaters were in such a small area. We maneuvered ourselves around looking for an empty mooring ball. We found one and hooked ourselves up. Five minutes later we were told by “neighbors” that we would need to move because that mooring ball belonged to someone who had left to make water and dump their holding tanks. In the Bahamas most of the boats have a water maker on board because water is metered. In order to make water (desalinate) it is necessary to find clean water and that would not be in any harbor. The process can take over four hours. Embarrassed we promptly disconnected and went in search of another location. To shorten the story after five hours of waiting the Hope Town Marina was finally able to confirm dockage for us. This was probably the ONLY time we were stressed in the Bahamas!
Hope Town is enjoyable though and definitely worth the hassle. In the harbor there is a water shuttle that will pick you up at the marina or any boat and drop you around town. It is really easier than using a dinghy. The brightly colored houses make for an interesting walk. We quickly found out that we needed to be at Vernon’s Market at 2:00 for the arrival of their baked goods. We heard about the coconut bread and pies and were not disappointed. Imagine eating coconut bread French toast with Canadian maple syrup from the Loop! It was so yummy!
Hope Town Harbor is where everyone blows a conch shell at sundown. It is wonderful to hear everyone answering each other. Steve really developed quite a talent for holding the note the longest and received applause where ever we went!!
Hope Town is also very close to Tahiti Beach, which is also on Elbow Cay. Boats anchor off of the beach at low tide. Everyone is walking in knee deep water to collect sand dollars or sun bathe on the beach. It really is pretty cool to be in beautiful clear water and find these sand dollars. Jazzy loved it! He was able to run around and had no qualms about getting his legs wet. Note, he did not swim, but would wade. On weekends they have a bar anchored off of the beach, too. It is a must experience when you are close to Hope Town.
We had guests twice while in the Abacos and each time we brought them to Hope Town. They loved the quaintness and the ability to stroll around the village. There is even a song about going to Hope Town that sings in my head when I want to be back!
Great Guana is an island that is 7 miles long protected by a reef that stretches for 5.5 miles off of the beach. It was a frequent stop for us. The beaches are gorgeous with every shade of blue, aqua marine and turquoise. Not much is on the island – a couple of souvenir shops, a food store and a liquor store. That is what makes the Bahamas special. The pace is slower and the scenery is spectacular. We found it a great place to anchor that was protected. They even had mooring balls at $20 a night. The holding was good so we just anchored unless we expected high winds.
At one end of the island is the Orchid Bay Marina. We never stayed there because the anchoring was so good at Guana. However, we would take our dinghy over on Saturdays because they had a wonderful fresh produce stand. Oh, the $5 bloody marys didn’t hurt either! I think we paid $27 for the produce and the bread.Their property is very pretty with a lot of bougainvillea’s.
On Sunday all of the boaters come for the pig roast at Nippers. Nippers is the most popular bar in the Bahamas and we were anxious to check it out. The pathway is clearly marked as we walked up the hill. Music and dancing is a must at Nippers. It is a lively crowd and we met several Loopers there at various times. One of the nicest draws about Nippers is that it is on a bluff with snorkeling from the beach. The first time we were there the beach area was large. After there was a big winter storm, the sea took out their stairs and a lot of their beach.
One of our highlights is that we were there for the annual Barefoot Man concert. He has been performing at Nippers for years and is a legend. Well, of course, we couldn’t miss it. The place was packed and we met many of our fellow boaters there. The Barefoot Man is a hoot and we really enjoyed the music. He told the crowd that next year may be his last appearance there so we are going to need to mark it on our calendar for 2019!
Another reason that Guana is so popular is another bar called Grappers. This is the place where all of the boats dingy to when they are anchored at Guana. It really is a perfect sunset bar. They have their own conch salad stand and we saw live entertainment.
We returned to Guana numerous times. We had guests that came to cruise with us and we made sure they got to have the Nipper Experience!
Apologies to everyone for taking a break from blogging. It seems that once we made it to the Bahamas we took a vacation and perfected the fine art of “doing nothing”! There will be a series of articles about our two and a half months in the Bahamas.
It was now early February. Gypsies Palace and crew were anxiously waiting for a good weather window to make the crossing to the Bahamas. It seemed like it was taking forever for the seas and winds to calm down, but finally we made it to West End, Bahamas from Boca Raton on Fed. 5th. Not many boats chose that day to cross, but it was good for a catamaran. The marina was pretty empty except for other catamarans!
While we were there we decided to try our hand at fishing. Hooray! We caught two dolphin (Mahi-Mahi). That was pretty funny to see us land the fish. We had not done any trolling off of this boat where we caught something. We didn’t hear the line run out and neither of us noticed we had caught of fish on both poles! Steve brought in the first dolphin. Keeping it from jumping back into the water was something else. I didn’t help the matter by jumping up and down yelling, “We got a fish”! Our boat is open the stern and they can work themselves back into the water. We had forgotten to bring the cooler down, too! I thought I was helping when I slammed the net over the top of the fish, but all that accomplished was getting
the fish hook stuck in the net! By the time we got to the 2nd line we lost the fish. We decided that since we were not very prepared it would be wise just to head back into the marina and be happy with one fish! After all, there must be plenty of fish in the sea / Bahamas, right? Read more
So many of you have enjoyed reading our Coastal Journeys on the Loop that we have decided to continue the Blog past the Loop. This will be more about life onboard and full-time cruising. You can still use our Loop track to find us on our website. This is why we named our site “Coastal Journeys” because we love to share the cruising lifestyle. Many of you sit at home and live vicariously through us wishing and dreaming about buying a boat and starting coastal journeys of your own. Well, you can continue to experience our Coastal Journeys on Gypsies Palace.
We were “home” in Boca Raton for 3 weeks while we completed errands, provisioning and waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. It seemed like it would never come! Windy, windy, windy! At the same time, we spent more money thinking of things we “needed” like a fishing cutting table, dinghy ladder, new fenders etc. Some were more obvious like spare boat parts – boring!
We were able to spend the majority of our time behind a neighbor’s house on our old street. We rented a car and took care of flu shots (gads, looking at the news it looked important to us) and vet visits. Do you know we did not catch one cold on the whole Loop, nor were we sick one day? I find that amazing. When we were in the sea of humanity in South Florida I was sure that we were going to catch something! We didn’t, but we sure enjoyed catching up with friends while we were there. Occasionally, we would go out to Lake Boca and anchor and join some Looper friends there.
I mentioned provisioning. That is very important when traveling in the Bahamas. It is not that you can’t buy something, but it will be 4 – 8 times higher than the states. I created a provisioning list and inventory so I actually know what I have on board. I have a freezer chest and that was pretty full when I started so I could not add much there. It is quite a challenge when you think of the canned goods, snacks, drinks, prepared rice, pasta, sauces, cereal, dog food, paper products, cleaning products, toiletries and whatever else that is used in everyday life.
Buying it is pretty easy, but now, where to store everything? Luckily, this catamaran is like a sailboat with storage under the floors. That is all full. There is storage under seats. That is all full. Check out my “wine cellar” under one of my couches. I have extra bags that would not fit anywhere, too!
At the last-minute produce is bought because we may not see a lot of fresh produce. Now that is also a storage issue because the refrigerator drawers can only handle so much. I actually had to write down what was purchased so that I would not let anything spoil. I cleared out the drink refrigerator to make space for produce.
Finally, after all of this planning a Weather Window opened for us. We traveled alone since the weather window was not perfect. That also gave us the flexibility to go fast if we needed to improve the ride. When we left it was perfect – incoming tide in the Inlet so no bouncing around. Of course, perfection doesn’t last and about 10:30 we got the north winds and the seas picked up. I had luckily taken a Bonine since you just never know when seasickness will occur. We expected seas around 2-3, but they were mostly 3-4 with a lot of 4. We continued around 10 mph for a little while until Steve decided that we needed to pick up the speed to 15 mph. That got us to West End Bahamas at 2:00. We left at 7:45.
The first thing that is done is to clear Customs. That process is relatively easy – just forms. Once that is done everyone can leave the boat. We stayed at Old Bahama Bay, a resort with cottages and a restaurant. At this time of year the place is a stopping place for boats traveling to other places. The day we arrived only 2 other boats came in and they were both power cats! How about that! It wasn’t a great ride, but definitely not horrible, but a ride better on a catamaran.
One of our rituals is to find a conch salad stand – our favorite food in the Bahamas. Our next ritual is to find a bar to order a Goombay Smash – our favorite Bahamian drink. We found both, I am happy to report!
The marina was mostly deserted because for the next two days there was no weather window from the states. We had the marina mostly to ourselves.
One thing that was a nice surprise is that there was a large group of “jumpers” and we were entertained by their parachuting several times a day. You just never know when something totally unexpected happens!
Our 2nd day we decided to go out fishing since we had to speed up our crossing the day before and couldn’t fish on the way. Steve had bought bait and we were searching for something edible – dolphin (mahi mahi) or tuna. We rode around for a couple of hours and decided to head back in. Close to the marina we had “Fish On”! I was nearly asleep and Steve was lost in looking at the fish finder so we didn’t react right away. In fact, we were very out of practice and had never caught anything on Gypsies Palace. What was bad is that we didn’t realize that we had a second fish on!
I was jumping up and down with the net while Steve was reeling in a 10 lb dolphin. He landed it in the boat and I was afraid that it was going to jump out so I put the net over it and got it all tangled in the fish and hook. What a comedy of errors. We were too busy to think about the other line and by the time we did, it had gotten away. We also had another dolphin circling the boat while I was jumping up and down. We were laughing and trying to do something with the fish. We had forgotten to bring the ice chest down so we just laid it on the back of the boat. We tried to see if we could find the school again, but they were gone. We decided that we were very happy with our dinner for the night and we go back in. Let me tell you that it was delicious on the grill that night. We have enough for 4 more meals, too!
After all of that excitement the local lobster guy comes to the dock looking to sell us lobsters. Well, of course! They were $48 for 6 with a “shortie” thrown in. I got out the Food Saver and packed everything into my already stuffed freezer.
What a day! Our first fish on Gypsies Palace. Lobster bought at the dock. Marina mostly empty. Perfect weather. What more could you ask for on the start of our next chapter of Coastal Journeys?
Gypsies Palace officially crossed her wake on January 13, 2017 after traveling 6,269 miles. We left Boca Raton, FL on April 1, 2017 and returned to our starting point 9 months later on our Great Loop adventure. Loopers call this “crossing our wake” when we finish where we began. Our average speed was 10.5 mph – our “Looper speed” and maximum speed was 25.1 mph. We went through nearly 100 locks along the way.
WHAT ARE OUR TAKE AWAYS?
- We have seen this country by water which mostly means “small town America”. Our world was about a one mile radius of where ever we stopped. We saw no chain stores for most of the trip. We experienced the goodness of people in these small towns where they were able to take the time to be polite and provide good service. It restored our faith that people truly care about others and are willing to lend a hand.
- There is something unexpected and delightful around every bend. Each day we would start out with a route that would come alive with beautiful scenery or something unplanned. For example, sitting on the boat in downtown Nashville where we had front row seats for a great fireworks show. We loved going places where we had no idea of what to expect.
- We loved traveling through Canada. It was the highlight of our trip. We spent an unexpected 3 weeks in the Niagara region and loved exploring the wineries, farmers markets and golf courses. We fell in love with Butter Tarts and ate more Fish N Chips than we can count! The beauty of anchoring in the North Channel and exploring with our kayaks was something to cherish.
- We are resourceful in solving problems. When we left our water hose on the dock in Jekyll Island we asked the Looper group for help in transporting “Waldhose” back to our boat. The hose was passed along by 5 boats finally reaching us in Annapolis and creating a Looper Legend of Waldhose.
- Never travel on a bad weather day. We never put ourselves in a position to “go” because we had no schedule. We never had a scary day on the water because of that. We became experts in using every weather app available!
- The coast of Michigan is a boater’s delight! Approximately every 25 miles there is a Safe Harbor with a protected marina with inexpensive dockage. The little Michigan towns were wonderful to explore and are located within walking distance of all of the marinas. Craft beers and ice creams shops were everywhere!
- Big cities are fun, too! We docked at the Rock and Dock in downtown Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Charleston is a gourmet delight with wonderful restaurants. Chicago was over the top in things to do that were accessible. The Honky Tonks in Nashville were fun since we could crawl back to the boat late in the evening.
- Starting every morning on the water is a mood setter for the day. There is nothing like watching a sunrise or sunset from your boat.
- Owning less is setting yourself free! We were on the rivers when Hurricane Irma came through Florida. It was such a relief to not own our house or a car. Our worries are all confined to our boat now. And, there can only be so much “stuff” that can go on it. What do you really need in life? Stuff is clutter. We recently went back to our storage unit and I was amazed that we kept that much “stuff”.
- It is the people that you meet that make the Great Loop experience memorable. Everyone says that when they complete the Great Loop, but it is so true. We have collected 160 boat cards from other Loopers as we have traveled. Most were people that we ran into several times along the way. We have shared Docktails, stories, laughs and struggles. Truly all boaters are helpful to other boaters, but the Looper flag is family. We have more friends than we have ever had in our life.
Now we are Gold Loopers! We replaced our White Looping Flag with a proud Gold Flag. This signifies that we have completed the Great Loop and crossed our wake.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR GYPSIES PALACE?
We will spend February, March and most of April in the Abacos, Bahamas. Then we will travel up the east coast of Florida and north to the Chesapeake Bay. Along the way we will stay longer in places that we may have hurried through or find new places to visit. Our plan is to explore the many areas in the Chesapeake and anchor out most of the time. Additionally, we will travel up the Potomac and visit the monuments and museums in Washington, DC. Then we will return to Florida somewhere and go to the Bahamas later next year.
Each summer we will select a place out of Florida to take the boat i.e. Maine, the Pickwick/ Kentucky Lake area. We also have decided that we loved everything about the Loop. We now have our on calendar that we will loop again in 2020 and earn our Platinum flag!
We were sent this poem by our friend, Terry Moy, of Happy Happy upon completion of the Loop.
Congratulations Steve and Debbie!
This is your “Whoop”!
You’ve been to great places,
And done the Great Loop!
Out there things can happen
and frequently do,
even to cruisers
as handy as you.
And when things did happen
you said, “no worries!”, you didn’t stew,
you rolled with the swells
and comforted the crew.
You never waked us, though you had the speed.
You passed the whole gang and have taken the lead.
Wherever you cruise, you’ll be the best of the best!!!
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest!!!!
We will see everyone out on the water as we continue to cruise. We have no desire to end this journey on Gypsies Palace!
“To The Loop!” This was quite a Coastal Journey!
The further south that we go the more catamarans we are seeing as we enter what I would call Catamaran Cruising Waters. There are lots of sailing catamarans along with a few power catamarans. Our next stop was Marco Island, which is past Naples. We noticed a definite uptick in the number of boats that we are seeing especially fishing boats. This is our route to the Florida Keys.
One thing that we enjoyed during our stay at Marco Island is that we took the dinghy to the grocery store and farmer’s market. They have a Winn Dixie with a very long dinghy dock so they do cater to boaters. There is just something about grocery shopping by dinghy that makes it fun! We stayed 3 days and the weather was nice.
A special stop that we made was a little bit out of our way and that was Everglades City. This is well worth it the 7 mile trip up the river to get there. I have known about this place for years. This is part of “Old Florida” where a living was made by hunting and fishing. The marina there is called the Rod and Gun Club. It was built in the late 1800’s and is definitely a step back in time. It is perfectly restored and maintained. There are lots of mounted fish and game on the walls, a pool table room, an intimate bar and white cloth dining room. Read more
Home? Are we home? No, but Gypsies Palace is. We bought her in Tarpon Springs and thought it would be fun to get in touch with her original owners. We have loved how she has performed and wanted to share our Loop experience. Gypsies Palace was used to traveling the West Coast of Florida so these are her home waters. She was commissioned in South Africa and the new owners took possession of her in 2010. They now have a brand new 51 ft. Leopard Power Cat which we got to see while we were in the area. In fact, the original owners were so gracious. They took us all around the area and had us relate our Loop adventure with their friends. We also felt that we were in Home waters!
We had not really explored the West Coast of Florida by water so this was going to be a fun adventure as the warmer weather welcomed us. Tarpon Springs is a Greek community that was founded with the sponge industry so there are numerous Greek restaurants and shops that sell sponges. Upon arriving we were greeted by the AGCLA Harbor Host of the Year, Herb Seaton. He makes sure that all Loopers that arrive in his town are welcomed personally. A Harbor Host is someone in the Loopers Association that volunteers to assist Loopers in their home port. It can be providing transportation to stores or by offering restaurant recommendations. As we traveled the Loop we met several Harbor Hosts that made our stay memorable. While we were in Tarpon Springs we reconnected with other catamaran friends on Colorado Cat who invited us over for dinner at their wonderfully decorated holiday home. This trip down the West Coast was really feeling like home! Read more
Inhale, we are done with the rivers. Inhale, salt air fills our lungs. Inhale, Floridians can breathe. Inhale, Gypsies Palace is nearing her cruising waters where catamarans belong. Two things we love: Salt Air and Oysters. We were in the Panhandle where we can get our fill of both. Many years ago Steve and I were bringing a boat to Texas and we stopped in the Panhandle to get oysters and there were none due to the beds being stripped out from the Gulf Oil spill. Lucky us – oysters are in season and big and juicy!
After crossing Mobile Bay the first town heading east is Gulf Shores, Alabama and that only means one thing – Lulu’s! Lulu’s is owned and run by Jimmy Buffett’s sister and is home to a great waterfront restaurant, music and marina. We were Buddy Boating with Firestorm and we decided we needed to grab some gulf fish and fun. During our stay we actually went back another time during a song writer’s weekend. We were treated by a slide guitar player that had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. That was Jim Vest and he was part of the Nashville Cats back with Dylan and Cash. You just never know what treats are going to be found along the way. Read more