Maintenance | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Bahamas - Green Turtle Cay and Boat Yard Fun

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This week Paul and I enter our second week of working in the boat yard at Abaco Yacht Services at Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco island group of the Bahamas. We had a couple of days delay with heavy rain and thunderstorms last week and now we're waiting for a part to come in by courier, a part we need to install before launching, and so it goes.

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But delays are common when doing annual maintenance or boat repairs especially in off-the-beaten-path places like Green Turtle Cay where communications and shipping can be more time-consuming in some situations.

Related: Paul's Tech Blog “Problems in Paradise”.

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But despite this, we like working and cruising in quiet charming places like Green Turtle Cay because life is good and the people friendly. When you are in beautiful and supportive environments the occasional things that go wrong just seem easier to handle.

Although Paul and I enjoy doing our own work on the boat, boat yard work can be messy and in hot climates can be exhausting, so finding a nice location like Green Turtle Cay and setting things up to be fun helps to keep your enthusiasm up.

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One of the major things we've done to make this year's round of boat maintenance more pleasant is to rent the cottage next to the boat yard office. We normally stay on board when working in the yard since it's convenient and saves money, but soaring temperatures in the boat yard in September in the Bahamas makes onboard living onshore pretty uncomfortable and with the mosquitos and no-see-ums that come out at night we decided to treat ourselves. (At anchor away from shore there is always a breeze and mosquitos are rarely a problem. It's just because the boat is ashore.)

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The Twin Gables Cottage is as convenient as living on board in the yard and it's nice to have a relaxing air conditioned place to retreat to for a shower and a rest when we need a break from boat work. The cottage has a huge kitchen and we're having fun cooking and baking things we wouldn't on the boat in the heat of the boat yard.

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There's lots of space so we've even had friends over for a meal and drinks. It is adding a sense of having a vacation to our yard work, part of our “keep it fun” philosophy. If you can work such a thing into your budget ($125 per day with discounts for a week or more) and the yard you're working in offers this opportunity we would highly recommend it.

Related: For photos of the cottage interior see “Back to the Boat in the Bahamas”

Many of our cruising friends in the Mediterranean do this each winter. They find a nice apartment or house to rent close to the boat yard and move off the boat for a couple of months while doing work and new projects on their boat. It offers a change of scene and an opportunity to become a part of the community in the foreign country that you're visiting.

Another thing we recommend doing to keep things fun during annual maintenance is to get out of the boat yard at least once a day. We can walk to the beach from the boat yard at Abaco Yacht Services which gets the blood flowing and a swim helps ease and stretch out those aching muscles. This too adds to the sense of having a vacation and gets our mind off bottom paint.

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We also made sure we had transportation so we could easily run for supplies (there is no public transportation) but also to go to the little settlement of New Providence for a drink and the occasional meal out.

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These gas powered golf carts are the main mode of transportation on Green Turtle Cay and can handle the potholes in the roads on the island. Driving them is fun!

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Yesterday the community held a fundraising dinner in town to raise money to buy new Christmas lights so they could expand their annual Festival of Lights in December. A heaping meal of fried chicken, macaroni casserole and coleslaw was just $10 plus we met a lot of friendly folks from town. We returned to bottom painting with renewed enthusiasm today.

Doing little things to add a sense of fun and “holiday” can make all the difference when you’re dealing with difficult tasks while cruising. It’s easy to get focused in on boat jobs and forget that the reason you’re “out there” is to travel, explore, make new friends and enjoy new experiences.


Back to the Boat in the Bahamas

Home in Canada still means boating!
Paul, his nephew Sam, Sheryl and her niece Giorgia at the LCYC Junior Sail Program

One of the joys of part-time cruising is that you can enjoy the best of both worlds – life ashore with family and friends at the best times of year and life afloat living a healthy outdoor lifestyle while enjoying new destinations and the camaraderie of the international cruising community.

This September Paul and I will be celebrating 25 years of cruising together and for 16 of those years we have maintained a home base and studio back in Canada. We need to get home to do post-production work in our studio for the Distant Shores sailing TV series as well as other video, writing and speaking projects but we love the time at home to reconnect with our loved ones and recharge our batteries and enthusiasm for the cruising life. When you cruise long-term you can start to take things for granted.

Related: “Maintaining a Homebase while Cruising”

This summer we were home for 6 weeks and last Thursday we returned to our boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49 sailboat with a variable-draft keel, where we had dry-stored her in the boatyard at Abaco Yacht Services (AYS) on Green Turtle Cay, Abacos, in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is in the hurricane belt and July and August is right smack in the middle of hurricane season (June to November) but Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, our insurers for many years, offers a hurricane clause protecting us for a higher deductible in named storms if we prepare the boat correctly in the event of a storm.

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This includes dry-storing the boat with tie-downs which the boatyard at Abaco Yacht Services offers as well as a secure location.

So on Thursday August 28 we were up at 4:00 AM to be at Pearson International Airport in Toronto to catch an 8:00 AM flight to Charlotte NC, then to Nassau, New Providence, the main hub in the Bahamas. We flew over Green Turtle Cay and the boatyard en route which gave us a thrill.

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In Nassau we had a two-hour lay-over before catching our next flight on Pineapple Air, “the sweetest way to fly” to Treasure Cay in the Abacos.

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The Pineapple Express is a little 12-seater plane and since the 7 passengers booked were there in good time we left 15 minutes ahead of schedule for the half-hour flight to Treasure Cay.

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We had the same pilots flying us there as we'd had on the way home who we could watch at work as we flew, dodging thunder clouds, to our destination. It is a pleasure to watch them operate the plane. They hardly need to speak to each other but work in harmony, knowing what each has to do and when. And they are so laid back!

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We arrived at the little airport at Treasure Cay and was met by “Uncle Lou” the taxi driver who for $10 US drove us smartly to the ferry dock so we could catch the 4:00 PM ferry across the sound to Green Turtle Cay. The ferry ($13 US per person) delivered us right to the dock at Abaco Yacht Services where we received a warm welcome from the staff at the boatyard.

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All was well despite two tropical storms that had blown through in our absence. The boats are well cared for and properly prepared here at AYS. As you can see, Paul was very happy to get back to the boat :-)

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August and September are the hottest months of the year in the Bahamas and even though AYS allows you to live aboard your boat while you're working on it they also offer a charming air conditioned 3-bedroom cottage for rent right on the property ($125 per night) that we decided to take advantage of. There is a special rate for a week or more.

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Many boatyards offer some kind of accommodation so you can tear your boat apart while you’re doing work on it, but it's usually just a hotel-style room not a lovely place like this to retreat to for a break from the heat and to relax in at the end of the day.

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The kitchen is fully equipped and a pleasure to cook in. We feel as if we're on holiday!

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We also have “wheels”. The main mode of transportation around the island is off-road golf carts so the AYS office manager, Mary, organized a rental for us from Island Road Runner Cart Rentals. The carts are regularly $45 per day but you can get a discounted rate off-season from them. Most cart rental services offer this and special weekly rates as well.

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It's a great to way to get to the beach (which we could actually walk to easily from the yard) but mostly it’s convenient for running for supplies while we're working on the boat to get her ready for the upcoming season. We hope to launch by the end of next week and spend a few more weeks cruising around the Bahamas before heading south through the islands for another season. (We will be taking a short break in October to the USA to conduct seminars about Outfitting and Provisioning for Cruising and Ocean Sailing at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis MD the weekend of October 9-13th. Hope to see you there!)

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Stay tuned for more adventures in the Bahamas and Caribbean!