Monthly Archives: August 2011

Abaco Day 4 – Little Harbour to Tilloo Cay

Tour The Foundry At Pete’s

For three generations the Johnston family has been casting bronze sculptures using an ancient lost-wax process. Ask about a tour of the foundry operation – they are offered erratically (mid morning around 10 seems a good time). We were lucky to be with a group that had pre-arranged a tour. The foundry operates Monday through Friday.

An artists-in-residence program invites sculptors to visit and cast their own pieces using the “lost wax” process – a fairly rare opportunity today. We watched two artists, besides Pete, hammering away on their recently cast scuptures – while French ex-Pat artist Richard Appaldo explained the process. Richard, who has been at the atelier for 25 years, was Randolph Johnston’s last apprentice and manages most of the production. He also proved to be an erudite, charming and enthusiastic guide.

If you want to learn more about the family and the lost-wax process, Artist on His Island tells the remarkable story.

The Johnston Family Gallery is also open – and, of course, the mile and a half stretch of beach is always waiting.

Then Set Sail For Tilloo Cay

Tilloo Cay is a very narrow three-mile-long private island that lies between the Sea of Abaco and the Atlantic Ocean. Acquired through a private donation, the Tilloo Cay National Reserve is one of five Abaco National Parks managed by Bahamas National Trust. It features 11 acres of unspoiled natural environment that is a nesting area for tropical and other birds. Wedged between Tilloo Bank to the south and and Tilloo Pond to the north is a large anchorage. If the weather is settled, this is a good place drop anchor in the protected lee of the island (if it isn’t, consider heading up to the top of the Island under the “castle.” There’s no beach but the snorkling is interesting and the protection a bit better). Swim or snorkel at Tilloo Cay’s quiet side – this area is well known for its large sand dollars and star fish.

Dig out the books, the CDs, the Black Berries or just take a nap on the bow…..

Abaco Day 3 – Sandy Cay to Little Harbour

The next stop is storied Little Harbour on Great Abaco Island – home to famous Pete’s Pub & Gallery. A leisurely sail south ends with a slightly dicey harbor. Watch the tides, especially for the monohulls the higher the tide the better (mlw is 3.5 ft.). The opening is between Tom Curry’s Point and the beach. Put a look-out on the bow and be aware that the changes in water color can be deceptive (the deepest is actually light green)!

As you approach, parallel Tom Curry’s Point, and watch for the crescent shaped channel. Slowly follow the casually marked entrance – pairs of red and green markers are made up of assorted found objects – into the secluded, tranquil, anchorage protected nearly 360 degrees. Pick up a moorings labeled “Pete’s” ($15 cash or MC/Visa at the Pub).

Once inside, the almost fully protected harbor is lined on one side with palm-studded beaches and on the other with a rocky headland pocked with an enticing cave or two. At the head of the harbor is the Pete’s Pub and Gallery – they rent moorings, serve casual fare in an open air palapa, and preside over an atelier and foundry.

In the eary fifties, well-known sculptor Randolph Johnston, a former professor at Smith College, left what he called the “mega machine” to move here with his wife and four children. He built a house for his family and a foundry to cast bronze sculptures using a 5,000-year-old lost-wax process. Today his son Pete and grandson Greg continue the tradition – casting sculptures depicting the local marina life in both bronze and gold. Some of their larger pieces have been installed in public placesthroughout the Bahamas – others are small enough to be packed in a suitcase.

If time permits, swim off crescent beach at the harbor’s eastern side or walk over dunes to a mile and a half stretch of white sand interrupted by stands of coral. Or tour the Johnston Family Gallery – an attractive, Spanish-style white stucco building at the water’s edge (open Monday to Saturday). In addition to the sculptures, the gallery features glass-topped tables with bronze bases as well as T-shirts and other fun stuff.

Start the evening’s festivities at Pete’s bar, fashioned from pieces of Langosta, the old sailing vessel that carried the Johnstons and their three boys to Little Harbour. The specialty is The Blaster – Little Harbour’s version of a rum punch – and, of course, Kalik beer. Adjacent to the bar, a row of old Adirondack-style chairs host the regulars – a mix of sculptors, semi-perment yachties and locals.

For a casual dinner, make camp at one of the picnic tables scattered under the palapa or on a deck at the water’s edge. Their fresh just-caught fish is legendary – and they serve great burgers as well. The menu is posted on a board and changes daily. The primary choice is usually fish – with a pasta selection, a chef’s choice marinated chicken, and burgers. The entrée price range for lunch is about $10-17 and for dinner roughly $18-25. Their kids’ offerings run $10-15 (cash or Visa/MC).


Abaco Day 3 – Lunch Hook – Lubbers Quarters to Sandy Cay

Spend the morning at Cracker P’s ocean beach or dinghy over to quiet Tahiti Beach or get an early start to Sandy Cay or head right down to Little Harbour.

If snorkeling is the day’s goal, drop a lunch hook off Sandy Cay Reef which is the heart of 2100 acre Pelican Cay Land & Sea Park. A marine fishery reserve, it is protected and managed by the Bahamas National Trust, the park rules forbid the taking of any sea or plant life as well as littering or dumping (closed heads, of course) – and word is they really enforce this.

The boundaries of the park are from Pelican Point on Great Abaco to the north end of Lynyard Cay, then north outside all of the Pelican Cays, except North Pelican Cay which is not included, then to the southeast end of Channel Cay, then encircling Gorling Cay, and returning east of Cornish Cay to Pelican Point.

Located between Cornish Cay and the Pelican Cays, at high tide, Sandy Cay looks like two islands when water covers the long narrow beach. The snorkeling goal is Sandy Cay Reef which runs along the east side of the Cay and has been called one of the most beautiful in North America. Anchor on the west side of the island, and then either dink around to one of the six small-boat moorings that lie right along the edge of the east side of the reef or land the dink on the island, and walk across to the reef side. Look for the path that runs between the dunes and the coral. And then swim out to the reef. Despite the fact that the latest cruise guides claim that there are ten dinghy moorings plus five big -boat moorings that are further out (and require a long swim or a dink ride) – we could not find any but the original six.

Reportedly, the best snorkeling is off the little rock island about half way on the eastern side of Sandy Cay. Expect to see Elk Horn coral, spotter rays, giant sea turtles and grouper. There are underwater caves and the island, itself, is a nesting area for many species of birds

NOTE: Cruising guides note that the holding ground in not terribly good, so, if the weather is anything other then very settled and you’ve anchored, consider leaving someone on the boat, which we did, and trade off snorkeling. And forgo the experience completely if there are breaking waves or large ocean swells.

Abaco Day 2 – Marsh Harbour to Lubbers Quarters & Tahiti Beach

An easy eight mile sail from Marsh Harbour and a half mile east of Elbow Cay’s Tahiti Beach, Lubbers Quarters is a small island in the archipelago. If you arrive early in the day, consider anchoring off Tahiti Beach near Baker’s Rock – one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in all of Abaco – for swimming and beach combing and a gradual conversion to island time……..

Later in the day, you can either dinghy the half mile to Cracker P’s on Lubber’s Quarters for dinner – located in the middle of the island’s east side. Or upanchor and move closer, which is what we did – after a lesiruely dinner a long dinghy ride loses its appeal. Be sure to anchor far enough offshore so as not to foul their power cables. Then dinghy to the 200 foot dock (they ask you to throw out a stern anchor so there is room for everyone).

Cracker P’s is fun and funky. You are greeted by a row of philosophical “Burma Shave” style signs that line the dock. It’s a beach shack that sits on a seven and a half acre bay-to-sea estate with lots to do. A small beach lies off the dock on the Lubbers Channel/ Tilloo Cut side. But climb their steps up and over the forty foot high sand dunes to find a large sweep of pristine beach at the edge of the Sea of Abaco.

Lubbers Quarters is surprisingly lush with many sapodilla (planted by the original Cracker P), mahogany, tamarind, and mangroves. Houses are scattered throughout the cay – with a concentration in two subdivisions – Lubbers Quarters Cay and the Abaco Ocean Club. Head a little off the beaten path to find Bougainvillea interspersed with Wild Orchids, Bromeliads, and Hibiscus. Along the beach, one might spot an egret or heron and perched in the mangroves and mahogany trees White Crown Pigeons, West Indian Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Banana Quits or Hummingbirds – and maybe even a Man ‘O War circling overhead.

If the kids are bored, Cracker P’s keeps a closet full of board games as well as the equipment for volleyball, bocce ball, croquet, horse shoes, badminton, ping pong, dominoes and darts. Or tell them the Legend of Paul John Simmons, alias ‘Cracker Pinder.’ The story, along with a picture of the infamous Cracker P, is posted on a wall near the bar. The short version is that Simmons shot the sheriff of Oglethorpe, GA and had to get out of town. He headed to Florida and ended up in the Abacos – finally ending up on Lubbers Quarters. Here he fished and farmed, trading his vegetables for meat and staples, and planted hundreds of sapodilla trees. Today the fruit is the base of the eatery’s barbecue sauce. In 1954, he left………….. .