10.11.2012 - 17.11.2012
It may be better in the Bahamas, but it’s gooder in Guana.
We just can’t seem to quit Guana Cay. We all want to find paradise don’t we?
I have found my paradise. It is a perfect streak of white and green amidst the bluest of sea. It’s got sand in all the right places, a beach bar exactly when and where I need it, and it’s alluringly empty. It’s balmy and sun glazed, soft to the touch and rich with impossible color and flavor.
Let’s go to Guana, why don’t we?
Shuffle through the sand with me and for a moment, forget your office chair and scoop up a handful of sea shells, feel the peace, and smell the sunshine above the hectic buzzing of your day.
DAY 1: HURRY UP AND GET THERE.
We arrived before 10:00 a.m. and in no time had our toes buried in that soft Guana sand.
The flight to Marsh Harbor takes about 4.5 hours from where we live. It’s a quick and easy trip and when I see that water appear, my heart does a little backflip.
We had 4 newbies with us this time – my aunt and uncle and friends of ours from Canada that flew down to join us. We had a great little house, Seaside, that sat right on the water with a nice dock and a huge boat. We were also on the island for a full week this time….something we rarely do. AND we were finally here during lobster season, something we usually miss.
We were greeted at Grabbers, a great beachside bar and grill, by Sunny, the coconut toting wonder dog.
Nothing starts a vacation better than throwing a slobber coated coconut to a sand covered dog, while perusing a menu filled with fried things.
One of the things I love about the Bahamas is that they see nothing wrong with frying lobster. The only thing that makes lobster better is frying it. Well…..or maybe putting some bacon on it.
One lobster in da bag and 2 frozen grabbers later, we spent the afternoon doing nothing more exciting than unpacking our bags, watching the hermit crabs crawl across the deck, and grabbing some lobster bites at Grabbers for dinner.
DAY 2: WHEN THEY KICK YOU OUT OF NIPPERS, MAN YOU’RE REALLY DRUNK.
There is no sight more beautiful than the beach on Guana on your first morning on the island.
It was Sunday. Anyone who has read my blog before knows what Sunday is on Guana Cay.
Sunday is Party Day at Nippers. There are frozen drinks, loud music, bad dancing, and an island buffet filled with BBQ pork and Bahamian mac n’ cheese.
As we made our way toward that rainbow fence leading to all things fun and hilarious, I only hoped it didn’t end like the last trip where I found myself at day’s end sitting in a too warm swimming pool filled with what appeared to be puke and floaties of cole slaw, too nippered to even think about moving, but instead, just shooing the cole slaw away with one limp hand, wondering who puked in the pool, and hoping it wasn't me.
The key to the frozen Nipper is to count. Keep up with how many you have had. Once you lose count, well, it’s pretty much over for you.
We enjoyed the beautiful day, the sparkling pool (which appeared to be puke and cole slaw free this time), the fabulous food…and then somewhere in the afternoon….. I lost count.
Those frozen Nippers get me every time.
It was a fun day, no one got hurt, no one got thrown out, and we all managed to make it back home with all of our limbs and teeth intact.
I think I slept through dinner.
We’ll call that a good day.
DAY 3: FUN WITH BOATS 101.
This was our day to get familiar with the 26’ Hydrasport that we were going to be using for the rest of the trip. This was bigger than the boats we were used to and it had a few mechanical glitches that we needed to get figured out before there was going to be any smooth sailing.
For that reason, we thought sticking close to home was a prudent choice.
We decided not to go any farther than Man-O-War cay.
We ran into our first problem when we entered on the shallow side, like we are used to doing in our smaller boats. We noticed a man on the shore waving at us.
“These people sure are friendly,” we thought as we all smiled and waved back.
In reality, he wasn’t giving us a “Hey, how you doing?” wave, he was giving us his best “What the hell are you doing????? Get on the other side you idiots, before you run aground!” wave.
We figured that out when we found ourselves on the sandbar.
Can you believe that nice man jumped in his little boat and towed us back off?
I got the impression he’d done this before.
The boat was on empty and there was no gas on Guana, so we headed to the marina to fill up. After getting gas, the boat wouldn’t start.
Wouldn’t even turn over.
Well, this was just ducky.
Forty-five minutes of cleaning battery connections, checking wires, and finally buying a brand new $235 marine battery later, we were in business!
We headed into the Dock and Dine on Man-O-War for what might, quite literally, be the best burger in the universe. It was good enough to make us forget all about that $235 battery.
As we walked the streets of the quite little island, we realized it actually has several very nice shops.
We found some hand printed fabric in one and of course, we had to visit the Albury Sail Shop where the ladies still turn out canvas bags sewn on old fashioned sewing machines.
Despite it’s ….challenges….the boat was a super nice boat and was equipped with a GPS marked with all the local lobster houses. The boat’s owner had shown us how to find them.
What is a lobster house, you ask? Bahamians build habitats to attract lobsters. There are lots of them, but you’ll likely pass right over them without ever noticing them if you don’t know where they are. A lobster house might be a car hood, a piece of corrugated roof tin, or a storm shutter set in place and attached to a cinder block.
Essentially an artificial miniature reef, these types of structures are illegal in the U.S. but in the Bahamas, they are part of the regular program. Lobster season runs from August 1 through March 31 and you are allowed to have up to 10 lobsters on one boat.
Don’t dare have live caught lobsters and dive gear on the same boat, though. It’s not legal to catch lobsters using dive gear in the Bahamas. Only free diving is allowed.
We were about to go buggin’ in the Bahamas.
Sooooo.........Our first lobstering experience was not exactly a success. It was getting too dark, the water was too rough, and we had no idea what exactly we were looking for. We must have gone back and forth along the shore for an hour without seeing the first lobster house.
We finally got frustrated, called it a day, and went to Grabbers for a lobster dinner.
DAY 4: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
Still not 100% sure how confident we were that we’d gotten all of the boat’s issues worked out, we still didn’t want to venture too far. We thought we’d just head to the north end of Guana Cay and visit Spoil Bank Cay, aka Shell Island.
Because Shell Island is located very close to Baker’s Bay…we decided to wander in.
There are many who were not supportive of the Baker’s Bay development or of what it did to Guana Cay and the potential lasting effects of that development on the reef. This is not a vote for or against Baker’s Bay and all that it stands for. We just decided to have lunch there.
And dang it, we enjoyed it.
Baker’s Bay is a beautiful and exclusive development that land locked the most beautiful beaches on Guana Cay. You can still visit them, you just have to do so by boat. We also found that, despite its exclusivity, Baker’s Bay was very welcoming when we pulled up to their docks for lunch.
They have a very nice Market Restaurant, but it was a beautiful and breezy day, so we opted to eat down by the water at the Conch Shack. They made us some delicious rum punches and I had a lobster salad sandwich. Prices are higher than most places around Guana (about $15 for lunch), but we decided it was a nice option when visiting north Guana.
After lunch, we headed toward Shell Island.
Shell Island is a small uninhabited cay just off the shore of Guana. Formed as the result of undersea dredging to make a cruise ship channel, it now provides an excellent place to find an absurd number of shells. It’s a beautiful spot and you can literally spend hours here, just prowling through piles of shells or relaxing in the clear water just off the beach.
I have been to Shell Island many, many times, but have never done anything more than prowl the beach near the boat. I decided to walk all the way around. This would, in fact, make me feel like a superhero or triathlon caliber athlete. Yes, I walked around an entire island.
I am going to pretend that you are impressed.
The far side was eerie. What must be the product of several hurricanes, it’s just a pile of sunbleached, leafless trees, piled in a twisted heap along the shore. I had to walk out into the water just a bit to get around, and as I stepped on what I thought was some rock, my foot sunk deeply into squishy clay.
It made a huge sucking sound as I pulled my foot out and literally danced the remaining 40 feet across the clay lined shore, screaming, “Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” the whole way.
I made my way back around to the boat and no one was there. Apparently, they had all followed me around and were now, no doubt, knee deep in that squishy clay.
Is it wrong that I thought that was funny?
As the others came around the bend, I could see that Syd had something big in her hand. I squinted and peered. What was that? Did she find a big conch shell? A coconut?
She walked up to me with a 6 lb. mass of clay.
That she wanted us to rub all over our bodies.
Right that moment.
While Sydney was thinking, “Oh my goodness, it’s like a free spa treatment. Do you know how much a sea mud treatment costs? It will leave our skin all smooth and amazing…” I was thinking, “What the hell is in that? What if there are microscopic parasites? How do we even know what that shit is? It could contain some 30 year old toxic cruise ship waste. What if we break out all over? I don't want to end up on one of those Discovery Channel shows where they find thousands of spiders inside someone's elbow.”
But Syd had carried that giant ball of clay for 30 minutes, so I did what any good friend would do….I grabbed a handful and smeared it fearlessly ….all….over….my….body.
Now, I realize that this probably doesn’t sound very smart, but I should point out that no one has accused me of being very smart.
Friends at home: We are not trained professionals. These photos were taken of idiots who unwittingly smeared a mysterious clay-like substance all over their bodies without thought of the consequences. We do not recommend trying this at home.
It actually felt great. This was awesome. What a fantastic idea! It was silky soft and felt good on my skin. It didn’t have any smell and was cool and luxurious. I was just starting to think this was an AMAZING idea….when I started to itch. All over my body. I looked at Sydney and Susan.
“Are you guys itching?” I asked.
“OH MY GOD, YES!” they screamed as we all plunged into the water and started scrubbing ourselves furiously with sand.
The good news is that we emerged with super soft skin and no one broke out. The bad news is that we’ll never really know what the hell we rubbed all over our bodies.
Ignorance is bliss, I always say.
We decided to eat in that night and grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and tossed a salad. I found some apple crisp mix and canned apples leftover in the pantry and whipped us up a dessert.
The sky put on quite a dinner show as we ate.
DAY 5: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPETOWN.
I did not wake up with blisters and welts on my skins. No hives. No rash.
Praise the lord. We had survived the great beach mud adventure. Now it was time to decide what to do for the day.
A trip to Elbow Cay is a must on every trip to Guana. Not only is Hopetown a great destination all in its own right, but you can combine the trip with a stop at Lubbers Quarters and a visit to Tahiti Beach. It simply makes for a phenomenal day.
We did Hopetown and all that it entails: a visit to Vernon’s, a cruise through all the shops, and a final stop at Hopetown Harbor Lodge’s Reef Bar.
There aren’t many bars in the world with a view like this one.
I wanted to eat lunch somewhere new, and we knew that Lubbers Landing over on Lubbers Quarters was open. We were headed to Tahiti Beach anyway, so it seemed like a great idea.
It was a great idea…..except that they had no refrigerator since the hurricane and couldn’t make us anything but drinks.
Never mind the lack of food….this place was AMAZING. I have no idea how I have missed it up until now. If you are a regular visitor to Abaco and you have not been to Lubbers Landing yet, do yourself a favor.
It had the most perfect décor ….open and airy, with a chic, tropical bohemian vibe. Classy, but earthy. I am not sure how they pulled it off, but it was just right.
We grabbed bags of chips off the boat and sampled their saltwater margarita. If everything else is as good as that margarita, I can’t wait to try this place again.
They also had a pole. While your first thought might be, “Drunk girls dancing,” let me assure you, it’s not that kind of place. Okay, at least the day we were there.
The pole is a unique twist on the hook and ring game. You throw the ring around the pole and as it unwinds, it may or may not ring the hook, depending on how good you are. If you are good enough, you get a free shot of Patron.
We were not good enough, but they did let me parade around in this dazzling hardhat, one of several that are required of spectators.
Any beach bar with a fabulous margarita and a hard hat that I can wear is tops in my book.
We ate enough chips to put off lunch for a while longer, so we motored on over to Tahiti Beach.
It was right at low tide and the sandbars were doing that thing they do so well.
Everyone wandered around looking for sand dollars and sea biscuits, while I embarked on a margarita-fueled, one-woman endeavor to save every beached starfish that was stuck on the sandbar that day.
They probably all died anyway, but Greenpeace would have been proud. I think I’ll tell them about it the next time I see them downtown. Maybe they’ll make me an honorary member and give me one of those cool jackets or something.
All that starfish saving made me hungry, so we stopped back in Hopetown to have a late lunch at Captain Jacks.
This coconut fried lobster with a side of macaroni and cheese might have been my favorite meal of the trip.
We spent the evening at the house, as Syd made her legendary taco salad. I had learned to love this dish on our first sailing trip with Sydney and her husband, Keith, in the BVI. Nothing tastes better than this taco salad after a day in the sun.
Well, except maybe bacon.
Or lobster with bacon on it.
With a side of macaroni and cheese.
I’m going to stop now.
DAY 6: LOOKING FOR TREASURE.
It had been a windy week, which doesn’t make for the greatest boating, and we’d been waiting for a semi-calm day so that we could try to boat over to Treasure Cay.
Windy weather is tough when you want to go boating. In the Abacos, it can be brutal. With sea swells that turn a pleasant boating experience into an exercise in survival, I feel like calling up Mother Nature and telling her to fire Wind. Who gives a crap about Jack Frost or Father Time? Dammit, give a promotion to Sunshine or Beach Weather.
By Thursday, with only 2 days left, we figured out that we weren’t going to get a wind free day. She was going to blow and we were going to like it or go cry in our cocktail, it was our choice.
We chose to like it.
The passage from Guana to Treasure is a bit tricky, because it gets very shallow. The sea was choppy and we were in a much larger boat then we were used to, but we had a good GPS, our handy Dodge Guide, and an excellent description of the passage provided by Dr. Ralph (http://www.drralph.net/DontRockPassage.html) so we felt good to go.
The passage was no problem and the views of the water were spectacular.
The problem came when we got there.
The water was just too rough. We couldn’t anchor the boat properly and there was no way to get ashore without getting totally soaked. I know because I tried. And I got totally soaked.
After the 5th wave struck me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to climb the ladder to get back on the boat, and I began to envision something like the scene in A Perfect Storm where the boat capsizes under a wall of watery doom, I looked at Matt and screamed, “Abort mission! Abort mission! Operation Get Ashore is not a go. I repeat – NOT A GO.”
We jumped back on the boat and motored around to the Treasure Cay marina, which is what we should have done in the first place. It’s literally across the street from the Coco Beach bar, so we were able to leave the boat tied to the dock and walk across.
It was a beautiful day at Treasure Cay and we celebrated it with a round of their sky high frozen drinks.
These might be the weakest drinks in all of Abaco, but they are also the most delicious.
Coco Beach bar will let you use their beach chairs and umbrellas if you are eating and drinking with them. I like this because it’s one of the only places on our vacations to Abaco where I can lay in a beach chair like a civilized human and not end up with a bucket full of sand up my wahoo by the end of the day.
We left early enough that the boys could try their hand at lobster fishing again while there was still some good light. Now that we had figured out the GPS “direct to” function, it was easy. Find a lobster house on the GPS, tell it “direct to,” and go.
When we spotted our first lobster house, you’d have thought we just saw the real Santa Claus or found a suitcase full of money.
“There!” Matt shouted as he looked at the underwater camera screen, which gave us a perfect view of what was directly underneath the boat. Immediately, the boat was in neutral and the guys were grabbing masks and fins and plunging into the water.
Bill surfaced with a big grin. Thumbs up. They found the lobster house.
Matt grabbed the spear, the gloves and the lobster bag and down they went.
We sat nervously…waiting….seeing nothing but bubbles come to the surface.
That’s when they both popped up with lobsters in hand! Yee-Haw!!!!! We had bugs!
Once they got the hang of it, it got easier. They kept going until we had 6 lobsters, one per person. Or three for me and three for everyone else to split. Whatever everyone felt was fair.
Lobster. It’s what’s for dinner.
I told the guys that if they would boil them, I’d grill them after. I felt bad enough stealing the little fellas from their homes while they watched Spongebob with their families, there was no way I was shoving them in that pot of boiling water.
Yes, I understand the obvious irony of my starfish saving frenzy the day before in light of my new found penchant for crustacean murder. I won’t try to explain that it’s totally different when it’s lobster, because that will make me sound like the hypocrite that I am. And Greenpeace might take away my cool new jacket.
While the guys did lobster-killing duty, the girls fixed pasta and salad. It was a feast fit for a king.
The sun set on another perfect Guana Day.
DAY 7: FINALLY, MY PERFECT BEACH DAY.
What’s better than eating six fresh lobsters that you caught yourself for dinner?
Why, eating a lobster and bacon sandwich for breakfast.
I told you the only thing better than lobster was lobster with bacon.
It was our last day and I had not yet been to my favorite place on Guana Cay…the north end beaches.
Yes, those coveted beaches that have been so needlessly cut off from us riff-raff by Bakers Bay. But I had a boat, and that beach was going to be mine.
We usually motor all the way around the northern tip, to the ocean side, before pulling up to the shore. There is a beautiful and deserted slice of perfect beach there that has become one of my favorite places in the world.
However, Mother Nature had not yet fired Wind. He was still doing his best to huff and puff and blow my house down, so the ocean side didn’t seem like such a good idea.
That’s when we saw this stretch of perfection.
It had my name written all over it.
You know the only thing better than a beautiful deserted beach? A jar of homemade Tennessee mango moonshine to go with it.
In a word….it was PERFECTION.
It was my perfect beach moment.
It was a beautiful day, so we decided to return to nearby Shell Island, this time for shells, not mud.
As we motored over, we were joined by a pretty large pod of dolphins. We counted about 6 of them. I am not an action photographer. I am painfully slow and I am not good at shooting moving subjects. Like dolphins. I usually end up with a photo that has some obscure black blob in it that I have to insist is a real live dolphin, feeling like the guy that took that grainy shot of the Loch Ness Monster or that blurry Big Foot photo.
No, really. That’s a really live dolphin. Really. It is.
We stayed on the boat until the sun was low in the sky. We were loath to go in because it was our last day. It’s hard to let go of all of that sunshine and impossible beauty and head back home.
We ended the day with a sunset at Grabbers and more fried lobster goodness at Nippers.
Goodbye Sunshine. Goodbye Beach Weather. Goodbye fried lobster and sea mud. I will miss you all.
Goodbye Wind. I won’t miss you. You suck, really, and your super nature powers should be removed...or at least severely limited.
Thanks for going to Guana with me. I’m sorry the moment is over, but I appreciate you sharing it with me.
Now go shake the sand off of your feet, dig the swimsuit out of your butt crack, step back into your office, and get back to work.
I’ll see you next time.