Category: Boating

GTC 101: Playing Here (Part Three: Land and Water Sports)

This is the seventh installment in the series, Green Turtle Cay 101: A Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here, Dining Here and Playing Here.

Beyond boating and fishing, sunbathing and sandcastle building, visitors to Green Turtle Cay enjoy access to a variety of land and water sports.

WATER SPORTS

bahamas, abaco, munjack, snorkel, shark

Tom snorkels with young sharks during a day trip with Lincoln Jones.

The Pig Whisperer of Green Turtle Cay

z IMG_9137 222You won’t find it on any map, but Piggyville is fast becoming a favourite day-trip destination for Abaco visitors. Named for the feral pigs set loose there in recent years, Piggyville is located on tiny No Name Cay, just south of Green Turtle Cay.

Though wild hogs certainly exist on the Abaco mainland, they’re far less common on the cays. So how did these pigs get to No Name Cay? I’ve heard several theories around Green Turtle, but nobody knows (or will admit to knowing) for sure.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, no name cay, pigs

Craig and Jan Russell

A couple of years ago, Green Turtle Cay resident and long-time animal lover Craig Russell began hearing stories about pigs on No Name Cay. About a year ago, he went to see them for himself. Recognizing that the animals had limited access to food and fresh water, Craig (often accompanied by his wife, Jan) began making twice-weekly trips to No Name to care for them.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, no name, pigs

Earlier this month, Craig and Jan invited me to come along on one of their trips. Watching Craig interact with the pigs, its easy to understand why some Green Turtle Cay locals refer to him as the Pig Whisperer. He has organized the beach where the pigs congregate, creating separate areas (and providing containers for) for food and fresh water, and posting signs for visitors.

As soon as we arrived at the beach, Craig sought out each of the six pigs — a sow and five piglets — to ensure all were healthy and accounted for. Several times during our visit, I watched him seek out the runt to be sure she got her share of food and water, and to treat her to an extra apple or corn cob.

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A new Piggyville sign, made for Craig and the pigs by local children.

Perhaps due to the popularity of their swimming cousins in Exuma, the pigs on No Name Cay have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. In the hour or so we were there, at least seven different boatloads of visitors pulled up to visit with, feed and photograph the pigs!

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Though looking after the pigs costs Craig in terms of fuel and boat maintenance — not to mention his time — he says the only help he really needs is contributions of food and water.

Here’s how you can help care for the pigs of No Name Cay:

  • Bring food and fresh water directly to Piggyville. According to a Berryman Institute report I found online, feral pigs are “opportunistic omnivores.” They’ll eat virtually anything – vegetation, meat, eggs, insects, etc. Craig says the No Name Cay pigs don’t eat onions or meat with bones (boneless is fine), and they’re not terribly fond of citrus fruit. However, they love bananas, apples, grapes, corn and carrots. (For obvious reasons, be sure all food is relatively fresh and water is clean.)z IMG_9071 222
  • Plan your Piggyville visit during off-peak times. At this time of year, fewer people visit No Name Cay mid-week than on weekends, and hardly anyone visits during the fall and winter. These are the times when Craig and the pigs could most use a little help.
  • While we were on No Name Cay, I noticed that though most people who came to see the pigs brought food, few if any brought fresh water. Please consider bringing along a gallon or two when you visit. Containers for fresh water are located perhaps 30 feet or so left (south) of the food area.

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  • Food, water or cash donations can be dropped off at Craig’s home on Green Turtle Cay (second house north of Abaco Yacht Services, the same side of the street as the boat yard, with a white picket fence.)
  • If you own or work for a restaurant or food store on the Abaco mainland or the cays, please consider donating over-ripe produce, leftover meat, baked goods or other food scraps to the pigs.
  • Forward a link to this story to anyone you think might be able to help, and encourage them to lend a hand.

To assist in other ways (corporate support, anyone…?), or to learn more about the No Name Cay pigs, drop me an email and I’ll forward Craig’s contact info to you.

One final but important note. Similar to the sharks, rays and barracudas we encounter in Abaco, the No Name pigs are wild creatures. Though unlikely to bite or attack without provocation, they’re certainly capable of doing so. As such, they should be approached with caution and common sense.

Related: The Pig Whisperer Needs Your Help, No Name Pigs Need Water

The Latest Addition to My Bucket List

Granted, at nearly $2700, it’s not exactly budget-friendly, but wouldn’t this transparent, two-passenger Molokini sea kayak be fantastic for exploring the clear waters around Green Turtle and the other Abaco Cays?

o-CBH-570 Though it looks delicate, the Molokini is actually made of the same polycarbonate that’s used in bulletproof glass and fighter jet canopies. According to its manufacturer, Clear Blue Hawaii, it offers views as deep as 75 ft in calm ocean conditions.

How amazing would it be to encounter dolphins in this kayak? Or watch turtles feed in the grassy shallows south of New Plymouth? Or paddle out to the reef east of the cay to observe the colourful ocean life?

The Molokini is definitely going on my bucket list!

GTC 101: Playing Here (Part Two: Boating and Fishing)

This is the sixth post in the series, Green Turtle Cay 101: A Guide to Getting Here, Staying Here, Dining Here and Playing Here.

bahamas, abaco, boating, fishing, sunrise, green turtle cay

Sunrise over the boats moored in Black Sound, Green Turtle Cay.

The waters around Abaco are some of the most beautiful in the Bahamas – maybe in the world. So it’s not surprising that Green Turtle Cay is a popular destination for mariners and anglers. Regardless of your boating experience or skill level, there’s much fun to be had on the water.

bahamas, abaco, abaco cays, abaco life

Abaco and its Cays – Map courtesy of Abaco Life magazine.

Don’t own your own vessel? Not to worry. There are several boat rental companies on the cay, including Reef Rentals, Sunset Marine and Donny’s Boat Rentals.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, reef rentals, boat, gillam bay

A quick and easy trip from the settlement of New Plymouth, the beach south of the Gillam Bay point is gorgeous, unspoiled and, more often than not, deserted. It’s a great place to sun, swim and hunt for shells. We just anchor in the clear shallows a few feet offshore and wade to the beach.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, gillam bay, boating, conch

Enjoying fresh-made conch salad on the south side of the Gillam Bay point.

Directly opposite Gillam Bay point is No Name Cay, perhaps known best for its resident swimming pigs. (Bring snacks and some fresh water for them if you can. But use caution when interacting with them — though adorable, they’re still feral creatures.)

A few minutes north of Green Turtle is Fiddle Cay. It’s the perfect picnic spot, complete with a gorgeous sandbar on which to anchor, a charcoal barbeque and wooden tables in the shade. Beyond Fiddle Cay, Munjack Cay boasts beautiful white-sand beaches on the ocean side.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, munjack cay, lincoln jones, boating, fishing

“Lincoln Park”, at the northeast end of Munjack Cay

Across the Sea of Abaco is Treasure Cay (not a cay at all, but the second-largest community on the Abaco mainland.) Treasure Cay beach was voted by National Geographic as one of the world’s best, and it’s a great boating and dining destination.

For experienced boaters who want to venture further afield, Guana Cay, Man-o-War and Hope Town all make for enjoyable day trips. If you’re renting a boat, be sure to check with your rental company beforehand, since some restrict vessel usage to specific geographical areas.

bahamas, abaco, hope town, elbow cay, boat, lighthouse

Sailboats in Hope Town Harbour

Fishing Guides

If you’re not comfortable operating a rental boat, or you’re looking for a local expert to lead your fishing expedition, there are a number of highly experienced, local guides on the cay, including:

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Tom’s bonefish, caught during a fishing day with Capt. Rick Sawyer

Captain Rick Sawyer – A local guide for nearly to 40 years, Rick offers bonefishing and deep-sea fishing trips in the waters around Green Turtle Cay. Tom and I had a fabulous day bonefishing with him a few years back.

Lincoln Jones – Back in the days before our trips to Green Turtle Cay were consumed with all things Fish Hooks, we had the pleasure of spending a day on the water with Lincoln. Fishing in the morning, and lunch on the north end of Munjack Cay, where Lincoln cleaned and cooked our catch while we swam, snorkeled and fed the local sea life. What a blast!

Ronnie Sawyer Another terrific, long-time local guide, Ronnie leads deep-sea and bonefishing expeditions by boat or by foot, out of Green Turtle Cay or Treasure Cay.

The Rock Fishing Charters with Eddie Bodie – Though we haven’t yet been out with Eddie, he’s a favourite of many of our friends. He leads great deep-sea fishing day trips, which I understand are tons of fun, especially for groups.

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, coco bay, bonefishing, rick sawyer

Bonefishing in Coco Bay, Green Turtle Cay

Fishing On Your Own

Subject to weather (and of course, luck), there’s no shortage of good fishing spots around Green Turtle and the other Abaco Cays. Tom and I have had our best luck off the eastern shores of Green Turtle and Munjack Cays, inside the reef.

A lot of anglers also bonefish from shore, primarily at Coco Bay, the shallows south of the Gillam Bay point or the flats beside the cemetery.

A few tips for boating and fishing around Green Turtle Cay:

  • Before doing anything else, pick up a copy of the Cruiser’s Guide to Abaco. So you know, aside from being a loyal customer, I’m not affiliated in any way with this publication. But it’s a terrific, comprehensive annual guide to boating in the area, and includes up-to-date maps, tide charts, guides to good snorkeling and scuba spots, approaches to harbours, water depths, etc. Even on land, we refer to ours constantly.
  • Grouper season is March 1 to November 30. No grouper may legally be taken between December 1 to February 29. Similarly, crawfish (Atlantic lobster) season is August 1 to March 31. No crawfish may legally be harvested outside that window, and crawfish with tails shorter than 6″ may not be taken at any time.
  • On a related note, the Bahamas National Trust recently launched its Conchservation campaign, which encourages locals and visitors to protect the country’s dwindling conch supply by not harvesting juvenile conch.  A mature conch (and therefore, one that can be harvested) will have a fully formed lip at least 1/2″ thick. For more information, see the BNT’s Conchservation brochure.
  • It should go without saying, but always use care and caution while on the water. Though good, basic medical care is available in Abaco, serious injuries may require airlifting to the U.S. — which is expensive and can delay critical treatment. And with rental boats, if you break them, you’ve bought them. I’ve heard several stories about renters whose intoxication or irresponsibility cost them the price of a boat — or worse.
  • Tropical weather can be unpredictable, shifting quickly from clear skies and calm seas to huge swells and gusty downpours. For up-to-date forecasts, check out Barometer Bob, or monitor your VHF for the Cruiser’s Net. The Green Turtle Club also broadcasts a detailed weather forecast by VHF each morning, usually between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Here are some other sources of information about boating and fishing in Green Turtle Cay and Abaco:

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, ronnie sawyer, bonefishing

Bonefishing in Settlement Creek with Ronnie Sawyer

 Have I overlooked your favourite boating destination, fishing guide or spot? Drop me a note and I’ll add it to the list!

Coming next in the GTC 101 series: Watersports – SCUBA, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding and more. Stay tuned….

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Photos Wanted for Museum Exhibit

Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum has put out a call for historic photographs and artifacts to be featured in their upcoming exhibit, Men of the Sea.

Abaco Bahamas Mailboat Stede Bonnet

M/V Stede Bonnet
Photo credit: http://www.oldbahamas.com

The museum is looking for images of Abaconians (at that time, they were usually men) who made their livings at sea by wrecking, fishing, sponging, crawfishing, sharking, shipping and mail delivery, serving as sea captains or crew members on a vessel, etc. Also of interest are related items such as compasses, sextants, documents, etc.

Lionel Augustus Albury

My grandfather, Lionel Albury

My own family’s men of the sea included my grandfather, Lionel Albury, who worked for a time as a crew member on the vessel Anne Bonny, shipping bananas from Haiti to Cuba.

His brother, Ancil (“Spotty”) Albury, captained the Stede Bonnet, which transported mail and supplies between Nassau and Abaco.

And my great-grandfather, Herman Curry (who built Fish Hooks), supported his family by fishing and selling his catch to mailboat crews and the logging camp at Norman’s Castle on the Abaco mainland.

My grandmother spoke often of Pa Herman’s experiences on the sea.

Daddy had a smaller boat at first, then he got a bigger one with a well in it. One day he came in with his boat loaded down with amberjacks. Another day he came with the biggest loggerhead you ever saw tied up beside his boat.

Back then, fish was a ha’penny a pound, about three cents. Amberjacks were four cents. When the mailboat Priscilla was coming, Daddy would get up and clean a dollar’s worth of fish, and that was as much as he could carry in both hands.

He would go fishing seven miles from home. He would drop Mama at Munjack Cay to work at the farm and he would go out to the reef. It was dangerous. If anything happened to him in that little dinghy, Mama would never know.

He sunk a boat once. After that, Virgie (her sister, Virginia) would get to the upstairs window and cry when he left. She could see his boat when he went up around the Bluff. He’d have just a little piece of sail up. He took chances. He had to.”

I know a lot of folks who read this blog have Abaconian ancestors who were sea captains, fishermen, spongers, crawfishermen or mariners of one sort or another. And I suspect that your family attics or albums contain historic photographs or other items that would be ideal for this exhibit.

If you have images or artifacts you’d like to donate or loan to the Men of the Sea exhibit, drop me a note or call the Albert Lowe Museum at (242) 365-4094.

A Snowman in Abaco

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Sam the Snowman, who bore quite a resemblance to Burl Ives.

During his lengthy career, Burl Ives recorded hundreds of songs and played many notable characters.

But – at least for my generation — he’s perhaps best-known for playing Sam the Snowman, narrator of the stop-motion animated Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (which, coincidentally, is the longest-running TV special in history and first aired 50 years ago this month.)

I caught a bit of the program on television a few nights ago, and it reminded me of some photos of Mr. Ives I discovered in my grandmother’s photo album.

Turns out he was an avid yachtsman who, for many years, owned a home in the Aunt Pat’s Bay area of Hope Town. Funny that a man so famous for playing a snowman should winter in Abaco — which is about as far away from flurries and frost as one can get!

P.S. Can anyone identify the man with Mr. Ives in the above photo?

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