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  • Writer's pictureElaine Berberich

Yacht Club Abacos Trip

Updated: Apr 9

On December 9, 18 members of the Fairfield Harbour Yacht Club left the comfort of their homes and community and headed for a week-long trip to the  Abaco islands in the  Bahamas.

Abe Lincoln once said, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the ax.” Phil Katz, Peter Clay, and other members of the Cruising committee of the FHYC followed this advice with meticulous planning that made this trip happen.

The FHYC membership survey conducted at the end of 2022 indicated that the membership desired to have a bareboat cruise in the future. Bareboat cruising means that those aboard have their own captain and cooks. 

The Cruising Committee started putting together plans for this event in 2022.  During the January 2023 membership meeting preliminary information was introduced about this plan and got an overwhelming response from the members.  Once the details were established regarding cost and timing. The required participation information was presented to the membership, and the required nine couples signed up for the cruise. By early February, reservations were confirmed for the bareboat Cruise in December 2023. 

The travel arrangements were with Moorings in Marsh Harbour.  Several couples arrived a day early so they could explore Marsh Harbour as well as obtain provisions.  The boats were boarded on Saturday with couples spending the night and were ready to leave on Sunday.  The expedition included two sailing catamarans and one power catamaran.  As the group boarded their vessels, they managed to find enough places to store clothes, equipment, and food for a week. There were emotions of excitement of exploring a new area for some and memories for others. 

Almost everyone was thinking, “How are we going to spend time 24/7 with people we really don’t know that well?” There were emotions of spending time with new people as well as apprehension about hopping on a dinghy!  Couples took turns planning and preparing a meal, and provisions were obtained the day before at Maxwell’s and Dockside Grocery.  Armed with a giant list, the Clays, Kings, and Nashs filled their carts with fresh vegetables, meats, and other gourmet items for their individual boats.

In the spirit of the Bahamas Door Dash, taxis were filled with food and delivered to the boats from a surprisingly adequate grocery store and helpful taxi drivers.  Kathy Clay had encountered a woman who advised shopping early as the store runs out mid-week. Two full carts each were obtained by the shopping crews and delivered by taxi to the ships.  Almost everyone had stored some non-perishable food in their luggage to make sure there were capers, cumin, tuna, and pasta for the gourmet crew.

On Sunday, the destination was the notorious Nipper’s Bar located in  Settlement Bay on Great Guana Cay. Several were looking forward to the Sunday pig roast, which had been canceled.  Phil Katz called a “fruit basket upset,” and each table was filled with couples from different boats, allowing us all to get to know each other better.  This was the first adventure for some to use dingys.  The best advice was given by Peter Clay, who said, “Just get on your butt and scoot!” and only one anonymous member fell in.   The next morning, the power boat separated from the group, and the two sailboats stayed together for a few days.

Everyone enjoyed the charming town of Hopetown, filled with shopping, golf carts, restaurants, and the Elbow Reef lighthouse. The lighthouse is the last kerosene powered lighthouse in the world and involves complex maintenance. Ritchie Thomson recalled how similar this was to the St. Ann’s lighthouse in Scotland remembered when he was younger.   Everyone who took the tour was impressed by the keeper and his skills and how much he loved living there.  

And then there was food, glorious food.  Most of the boats planned 3 dinners on the boat—three dinners out.  The challenge was to prepare an award-winning meal on a small gas stove, but all meals rose to the occasion, including shrimp and vegetables on the outdoor grill, taco casserole, tuna in oil over pasta, chili, and “cleaning out fridge and supplies soup.” Meals out included a variety of different foods, including every possible way to make conch, such as chowder, cracked, and fried fritters.  Julia Thomson commented ‘ the best food we had was cooked on the boat.” and everyone agreed.     

The power boat was J-9, but Steve Hustad called her Je’nine, which sounded more like a French lady. Steve Hustad was the captain, Doug King and Matt Esmacher were the crew, and Anny Chiu, Kathy King, and Michelle Esmacher were the ladies-in-waiting (a term coined by Kathie King). Snorkeling was high on this group’s list, and participants ranged from beginning to experienced.    

Manjack Cay, east of Nunjack Rocks, was the furthest distance from Marsh Harbour and the favorite of the group, where they saw many varieties of tropical fish, coral drop-offs, and a ray swimming in the shallow waters near the beach. Some planned locations were affected by wind and weather.  Locations for the power boaters included Hopetown, Great Guana Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Manjack Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay, Man-O-War Cay, and then back to Marsh Harbour, traveling approximately 100 miles for touring and using 87 gallons of fuel. There were some great food adventures, especially at Florence which is known for its cinnamon buns and huge chocolate chip cookies. 

The sailing Cat Soleil was captained by Phil Katz. Its crew included Peter Clay and Joel Berberich, as well as ladies-in-waiting Linda Duncan, Kathy Clay, and Elaine Berberich.

Phil and Peter have over 50 years of experience combined and were well prepared for this voyage.  The Soleil traveled to Great Guana Cay, Man of War Cay, Hopetown, and Lanyard Cay before heading back to Marsh Harbour.  Favorites of this group included coffee in the morning prepared by Phil, a long golf cart ride, floating and swimming in the bay, playing cut-throat games at night, and getting to know each other.  Linda Duncan summed it up when she said, “ I had a great time on this trip not just for my normal boating experiences (spending time on the water with good weather and exploring new places), but I especially loved the opportunity of  working/eating together, playing games, and sharing our life experiences, and creating new friendships.” 

The other sailing Cat was named Magic and was captained by Ritchie Thomson with a crew of Lou Nash and Art Thingulstad with ladies in waiting Julia Thomson, Sharon Nash, and Deb Swan.  This boat traveled to Grand Guana Cay, Man-O-War Cay, Hopetown, and  Baker’s Bay.  On the last day, it was decided to do some serious sailing, so Louis Nash took the helm and made it all the way back to the marina in record time, with Sharon taking a turn being at the helm as well.    A favorite activity of this group, along with the other sailing cats, was being moored next to each other and being able to swim back and forth.  Sharon Nash said that swimming was one of her favorite activities, along with taking the dingy out with her husband and just exploring.    

Bob Dylan said, “Take care of your memories, for you cannot relive them.”

After starting to pack and clean up for one last night in the Bahamas,  everyone got ready to fly back to North Carolina with fond memories of this adventure.  Like any boating trip, conditions were not always perfect, and we learned the importance of having a Plan B.  Years from now, most of us will not remember the exact route we took, the restaurant we ate at,  the name of the store we found the conch shell in, or what card games we played.    What we will remember is the laughter, the pride of doing something challenging, seeing everyone work together, learning everyone’s “weird” habits,  getting to really know each other, and the creation of friendships.  The December 2023 FHYC was all of these and more.

If anyone is thinking about a bareboat trip or traveling to the Bahamas, please come to the June 13 meeting of the FHYC at the Community Center at 7 p.m. The captains of the three catamarans will give details of the trip and answer questions. You do not need to be a member of the Yacht Club to attend. 

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