Saturday, March 31, 2012

South Sea of Abaco

Heart Shaped Coral Rock found at Little Harbor
Also left behind as this is a park
We have been lost in the beauty of the Sea of Abaco below Whale Cay. For the past week or more, we have been exploring areas of beauty and crystal clear waters unlike anything we have seen before. Everyone talks about the "Gin Clear" waters of Abaco and the Bahamas, but until you see it, swim in it, and snorkel it, you simply cannot understand how clear it is. This area "South of the Whale" offers so many anchorages and interesting towns such as Hopetown and Little Harbor, that it is impossible to select a favorite location. Besides the towns, there are spectacular beaches, low tide sand banks and gorgeous coral reef formations to explore. The winds are common trade winds, blowing from the east at 15 knots, and the destinations are mostly north and south, so we can sail to nearly everywhere. After sailing, we select a beach to anchor behind or a town to move into and set the anchor in 6-10 feet of water. We can easily watch the anchor dig into the bottom.

Radeen explores the beach at Little Harbor

Life here is simple, peaceful, easy, relaxing, casual, and breathtaking in beauty. After taking over 2,500 photos, I still cannot capture the perfect photo. Many are beautiful, but the real scene is even more beautiful than pictures can show. We will be sad to turn toward home, but we have another week or more before we do, so we will continue on soaking up the beauty of the Sea of Abaco...

Here are a few photos selected from hundreds...

Pete's Pub, Little Harbor docks
Radeen and Hayden at Pete's Pub, Little Harbor
Our Boat Buddies, Radeen, Tom, Carrie, Eric, Carey, Pat, and Bobbie

4 Island Packets on moorings, Little Harbor
Blue Water off Sandy Cay, Bahamas Land and Sea Park
Sunset in Marsh Harbor
Tahiti Beach, Sand Bar at Low Tide
Rip Curl Girl, Radeen snorkeling off the dinghy
AM morning coffee and walk on Tahiti Beach
The very tip of Tahiti Beach at low tide, looking back to the dinghy and our boat at anchor
Octopus at rest
Octopus swimming
Towing the dinghy, notice the shadow on the bottom, 10 feet down!
Google Map of South of Whale Cay


We are beginning to ask ourselves...."Why go Home?".....but lucky for us, we still have a week or two before we need to make the trek north to Rock Hall, MD. It will take 45 days to travel north, and about 3-4 days to work our way up and around the north end of the Abacos. Then again...we could just stay....

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hopetown Lighthouse

Elbow Reef Lighthouse at night, after being light by Sam
Properly named the Elbow Reef Lighthouse in Hopetown, this lighthouse has been actively operating since 1864! The lighthouse is 89 feet tall and stands 120 feet above sea level as it is built on a hill overlooking the harbor. The light is visible for 17 miles. During the most recent hurricane, Irene, Sam the lighthouse keeper kept the light lit and running as it was the ONLY light that was on in the Abacos. Residents commented on seeing the light during the storm and said that as long as it was lit, they knew they would be OK.

Sam, a second generation lighthouse keeper, used to climb the steps as a very young boy with his father as he watched and learned how to manage and maintain this historic lighthouse. We were lucky enough to spend an evening with Sam, who demonstrated the process of lighting the light. First, he preheats the gas mantel with a cup of burning alcohol for 10 minutes. Once hot, the pressurized kerosene mixture can be turned on, and with great skill and caution, the flowing gas is lit. With a loud pop and then a rushing, blow torch sound, and next a hissing and roaring, the lens is quickly filled with the incredibly bright light of the lit mantle! This is all happening while Sam is sitting INSIDE the Fresnel lens, adjusting the gas flow and pressure, making sure that the light is burning properly.

Sam, a second generation lighthouse keeper
Sam is very passionate about his job and he is extremely proud to be one of two lighthouse keepers who live on the property. Sam and Jeff share the night shift and must hand wind and lift the weights with a large crank handle every two hours! Yes, every two hours, they climb the 101 steps to the top of the lighthouse and crank the weights back up to the top. These weights then slowly drop, pulling the gears and rotating the massive Fresnel lens which is resting on bearings and also a bed of mercury! Once the light is lit, the lens is pushed to begin its rotation. The weights are then engaged and the light is officially up and running.

It was a true honor to see this process and to hear Sam tell of stories as a child working the lighthouse with his father. Elbow Reef Lighthouse is a world treasure and will soon be the last non-automated lighthouse on earth. Thank you, Sam, for your passion and your love of the was an honor to see it with you!
Walking up the hill from the harbor to the lighthouse
One of the keeper's house on the right at the base of the lighthouse
The sign over the door with lighthouse facts
Looking up into the center of the lighthouse at the spiral staircase
Halfway up, the views out the window over the harbor are beautiful
Two tanks of fuel and two tanks of pressurized air send the fuel to the light above
Note the hand pump on the right side that adds pressure to the air tanks! 
Looking into the Fresnel Lens, the bearings and oil cans help it rotate
One of 5 lens that flash in a pattern of 5 flashes then a steady light in 15 seconds
The gears and steel cables that are wound and drive the rotation of the lenses
A daytime view over the harbor from the outside walkway that circles top the light
Sam (on the left) inside the lens, pre-heating and burning a cup of alcohol fuel under the mantle 
Sam taking a match and moving the flame up to the now flowing gas
The flowing gas is visible here! Sam preparing to light the gas, all while INSIDE the lens!
POP, the gas ignites, the roar is heard and the lens is illuminated!
Note the chimney above the burning mantle
A view looking out on the night harbor
Note the reflection of the lenses in the glass 
Thank you once again, SAM, for your demonstration and your dedication to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse in Hopetown. This visit was especially significant for Radeen, since her dad was a lighthouse tender on an island in Alaska in the late 1930's. If you are ever in Hopetown, this is a MUST SEE event. Simply go up to the base of the lighthouse before sunset and wait for Sam or Jeff to talk to you about the lighthouse and then climb up to the top with them and watch this historic process.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hopetown Architecture

Here is a photo essay focused on the beautiful buildings and surroundings of Hopetown on Elbow Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. Hayden used to teach Architectural Drawing and Passive Solar Design and he really enjoys photographing buildings while focusing on color and detail. Here in Hopetown, on this sunny afternoon, he shot over 100 photos and these are the best 28.

Enjoy the tour....this place is so beautiful....

Captions not needed, just photos....

OK, this is not architecture, but a curly tail lizard is cool

Check out the feet....OK....back to Architecture....

The lower triangle lines up with this upper triangle as a range for entering the channel
here you are looking directly out the entrance channel....OK...back to Architecture...

A sign on a back porch, Hopetown, Bahamas

The Methodist Church and beach access walkway
The Church looks overlooks this quiet beach

This island is full of doves and their cooing can be heard all day long

Look at the flag, it is always windy here, so it seems. 15-20 tradewinds nonstop

Thank you for taking a look at the architecture and beauty of Hopetown here in the Abacos. Next tour....the Hopetown Lighthouse.