Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 96
July 15, 1999

Last Update 12 July 99 1900ET

| CTR Homepage | Island Index | Search |


BAHAMAS: ABACO / GREEN TURTLE UPDATE '99 BY SANDY ESTABROOK

(Updated 7/99)

The  Abaco  Cays  have been called Out Islands, the Family Islands and 
the  Friendly  Islands  all  of  which definitely apply. Here you will 
find  friendly native folks, a relatively booming economy with none of 
hustles  and  hustlers  of  fast  paced  Nassau,  Paradise  Island and 
Freeport.  Many  of  the  populated  settlements  were  founded by the 
Loyalists  back  in  1780’s  whos  descendants  still remain. You will 
regularly  hear the names Bethel, Sawyer, Lowe, Albury, Malone, Sands, 
Thompson,  Roberts,  Pinder  and  Macintosh  through out these islands 
with each island having its own predominant names.

The  Abaco  Cays  of  which  Green Turtle is part, (we have been going 
since  ‘73)  start  in  the north at Walkers Cay working their way 100 
miles  or  so  down  to  Little harbor. The ocean side and many of the 
passages  between  these  cays  are  covered  with  coral reefs making 
passage between a bit tricky if not impossible. 

Walker's  is  strictly  a sport fishing resort with it’s own operating 
air  strip.  It's  reputation is world wide. Many sport fisherman keep 
their  yachts  berthed  there and fly in for a weekend of fishing fun. 
There  are  numerous  tournaments  here  through out the year, however 
their  once  famous  for their "Shootout" between Hatteras and Bertram 
owners  has  moved  to  Boat Harbour Marina in Marsh Harbour. Walker's 
native  workers  live  on  the adjacent island of Grand Cay who's main 
(and  only) attraction is “Rosie's Restaurant”. Here you can get their 
famous  combo of Cracked Conch, Turtle Steak, Lobster Tail and Grilled 
Grouper. 

Working   southward  you  will  pass  a  half  a  dozen  or  so  large 
uninhabited  cays.  Most  have  their own protected and secluded spots 
where  you  will  always find a few boats anchored. Lying between them 
and  on  the  Atlantic side are some of the most beautiful coral reefs 
you’ll  find  in the Atlantic. Fact is it’s the fourth largest barrier 
in  the  world.  Shooting  up  from  the  depths you can find reefs in 
waters  from  6  to  200+  feet. There are reefs for snorkelers to the 
experienced  diver.  It’s  truly  a  divers  paradise  and a well kept 
secret.  Because  of  these  reefs, passage between these cays and the 
fishing  grounds  outside  can  only be made at a few select locations 
and with local knowledge.

Spanish  Cay  is  the  first  of  the outlying cays heading south from 
Grand  Cay  that has any population and those folks are those attached 
with  the  resort  there.  There  is  an  airstrip  and  a fine marina 
attached  to the “Resort at Spanish Cay” which changes hands every few 
years.  The  most  recent  being  spring  of  ‘99. Outside of what the 
resort  offers,  dive  shop,  restaurant,  bar with occasional Calypso 
singer,  there isn’t much else to do here. And we cant be sure even of 
the  latter  because  of the recent change. Beaches on this Island are 
few  and  nowhere  near  what  will find on others along the route. An 
earlier  owner  of  the  island  (Clint Murchison who owned the Dallas 
Cowboys)  removed  the  Casuarina’s  (Australian Pines) which have all 
but  undermined  the  natural  foliage  of  this  (and other) islands. 
Instead  he  replanted  the island with thousands of coconut palms and 
other  tropical  trees.  In  this  regard  parts  of  the  island  are 
reminiscent  of  the  south  pacific.  Although I cant say for sure, I 
suspect  these  new  plantings,  many of them berry producing, attract 
the  many types of birds that we’ve noticed on this island as compared 
to other cays.

The  next  cay  you  come  to  with  any population (20 Miles south of 
Spanish  Cay)  is  Green  Turtle  Cay and the one we are most familiar 
with.  We  have  been going to Green Turtle since 1973 during the days 
of  Mackey  airlines.  Things  have  changed a lot in 25+ years. There 
were  no cars on G.T. back then. Electricity was only provided for the 
village  of  New  Plymouth with the clubs at the other providing their 
own  generators.  A  flash light was a necessary item for travel since 
the  electricity  would  go off regularly. - "The good ole days in the 
Bahamas".  The  island  eventually  became wired to the town generator 
but  not  without  problems.  Then  in  1997 G.T. started getting it’s 
electricity directly from the mainland of Great Abaco. 

Radio  was  the primary means of communications and still is, only now 
VHF  instead  of  CB.  And of course you didn't see the many satellite 
dishes  that  have sprung up. Recently the small satellite dishes have 
replaced  the  large  eight  footers that still dot some of the yards. 
Cellular  service  too  has  found  it’s  way  and begun impact on the 
island  folks.  As of 1996 the first Internet site was set up in Marsh 
Harbour!  (http://oii.net/)  and  it wasn’t long before quite a few of 
the  merchants  and  resorts have their own web sites which can easily 
be found browsing the web. 

During  our  early  trips we would take our kids. It was a great place 
when  they  were  growing  up.  We didn’t have to worry about a thing. 
They  could  run  around  all they wanted , as kids still can, I might 
add.

Green  Turtle  and it’s village of New Plymouth was originally settled 
by  the  loyalists  in  the  1770's.  Lobstering  and tourism are main 
industries  of  the  island  today. The quaint and picturesque village 
serves  most of the needs of the Islanders. Access to the Island is of 
course  only  by  ferry  (the  "BOLO")  Neigel,  Larry  or Curtis will 
probably  be  your  captain. The BOLO runs from anywhere on the island 
to  a  dock  on  the  mainland  serving  the airport (by land Taxi) at 
Treasure  Cay.  Connecting  commuter  flights  here are to Miami, West 
Palm  Beach,  Ft. Lauderdale Orlando and Nassau. Incidentally Treasure 
Cay  is  not a Cay anymore but the name of the mainland resort and the 
airport  serving  that  area of Great Abaco. It boasts one of the most 
beautiful  crescent  white  sand beaches in the Abaco’s. It’s beach is 
on Great Abaco Sound and therefore has no reefs for snorkeling.

In  New  Plymouth,  there are a half a dozen restaurants including the 
some  first  class dining at the “New Plymouth Inn” (their dining room 
is  not  air  conditioned  as  of  6/99).  For native dinning there is 
always  the  “Wrecking  Tree”  and  “Macintosh’s Bakery & Restaurant”. 
It’s  on  the  street  going  up  the  hill to rousters. Then there is 
everybody's   all  time  favorite  “Laura's  (carbohydrate)  Kitchen”, 
you’ll  find  it  just up the street from the town dock. Here you will 
get  your  plate  piled  high  with  food  for  a  reasonable price. A 
reservation  is strongly suggested. Our favorite native restaurant was 
the  “Sea View” run by Maxine Macintosh, however she married a Customs 
Officer  closed the restaurant and moved to Nassau. Above the hardware 
on  New  Plymouth  Main street is a new restaurant called “The Islands 
Restaurant”.  Its small but air conditioned and recommended for lunch. 
Finally  there  is  Mikes  Bar  &  Restaurant - right on the water and 
probably  has  the best view of all in town. Like so many others their 
schedule  is sporadic. Mikes Mom lives across the street and will open 
for  any  reservations.  You can hail them all your VHF. For decades a 
favorite  night spot for the visiting yachtsman has been “Miss Emily's 
Blue Bee Bar”. She was the originator of the Bahamian national drink -
  of  the  Goombay  Smash. Sadly, Miss Emily passed away in early 1997 
but  the  traditions  of  her “establishment” are now being run by her 
daughter  Violet. Just next door is “Bert's Sea Garden”, and both open 
an  their  mood dictates but usually in the evenings and especially on 
weekends.  Then  there’s  the Island's hot spot, “Roosters Rest” where 
on  the  weekend you can find the Kevin and the Gully Roosters playing 
Reggae  and  Soca (Calypso). By the way the number one hit* of 1999 is 
“Mash  De  Roach”.  It’s even got it’s own dance. Ask Kevin to play it 
for you.

At  this  point  we  should  say  something about the Bahamian food in 
general.  Despite  the variety of fresh local fish their preference is 
to  fry,  and  fry  everything. You can get broiled but it is sometime 
difficult  and  or  has  to  be  ordered  in  advance.  In the upscale 
restaurants  this  is not the case except maybe at lunch. Fresh greens 
are  hard to find and a red tomato - forget it. Their staples are peas 
&  rice,  macaroni & cheese, French fries and coleslaw. Now the water, 
that  is  another  thing. In the Abaco's (which ain't Mexico) we drink 
it  right  out  of the tap and have been doing so for 25 years with no 
problems.  It  is  either  sea  water purified by reverse osmosis (the 
Green  Turtle  Club  and other places) or filtered rain water. Bottled 
water  that  is  sold in the stores comes from the same source. Marina 
guests  hooking  into  their R/O system will pay upwards of 30 cents a 
gallon! Washing down your boat can be costly.

Cottage  rentals  are available not far from New Plymouth. A few names 
that  come  to  mind are Linton's Cottages, Star Cottages and Long Bay 
House  which  are  near  beaches  close  to town. Others Like Coco Bay 
Cottages  can  be  found at the more pristine north end of the island. 
Still  others  can  be  found  listed  in  the  classified of yachting 
magazines  like  Southern  Boating,  Yachting Power & Motor Yacht etc. 
“Islands”  magazine  and  “Caribbean  Travel  &  Life”  routinely have 
listings. And, as of 1999 the internet is full with rental listings.

A  marine  VHF walkie talkie is a must in the islands. You will use it 
for  dinner  reservations,  booking a boat rental, golf cart, ferry or 
hailing  a  taxi  or  just general inquiries. Evening listening to the 
island  chit  chat  is  fun.  They  can  be purchased at marine supply 
stores  in the states like Boat US and West Marine. Be sure to get one 
that  uses AA batteries. Protocol requires you call the intended party 
on  Channel  16  (which  everybody monitors) them switch to responding 
party’s suggested working channel to keep 16 free for other callers.

At  the  north  end  of  the island in White Sound, you will find “The 
Green  Turtle  Club”  and the “Bluff House”. There is standing rivalry 
between  them  both  as  the  managing owners of each are sisters (and 
their  husbands). Seems even in paradise there are family feuds. There 
is  quite  a  story  on  how  this animosity came about but that's for 
another  time.  Routinely  Management  and  employees  switch back and 
forth  between  them.  As  of  spring  ‘99 G.T.C. has hired as the new 
managing  couple, Tim and Meredith a very personal and energetic young 
pair  who  will  attend  to  your  every  need.  They replaced our old 
friends Chris & Julie who are now at the Bluff House. 

Although  there  has been some serious construction and development at 
the  Bluff  House  lately  (‘99)  they  still  have a lot to do on the 
harbour  side  and their Marina. If it means anything, 90% of arriving 
boats  will radio first the G.T.C. before the B.H. when seeking a slip 
assignment. 

Both  have  do first class restaurants with comparable food. There are 
usually  four  dishes  to  choose  from  and  you order your entree at 
reservation  time.  The  Bluff House wins the fantastic view award and 
definitely  worth a visit all be it a few bucks more. Besides there is 
always the ever jovial Vern, the Bluff House’s bartender.

Both  have  marinas  with  rooms and cottages for rent. The G.T.C. has 
cottages  right  on  the  water  where  you can tie up your boat as we 
often  do. The B.H. has elevated seaside cottages with a great view of 
the  sea  of  Abaco. This writer finds the G.T.C. a little more upbeat 
and  an  easier  spot  to get around and explore the north end and its 
beaches.  Add  to this the fact that the recently paved town road ends 
at the G.T.C. 

Since   the  arrival  of  this  road,  you  might  want  to  use  land 
transportation  to  get around. The local Hertz is actually D&P (Donny 
&  Poli) Golf Cart Rentals. Or if you choose you can take Omri’s Taxi. 
He  is  the  only  one  at  the moment. Both can be reached using your 
Marine Radio and calling on 16.

The  Green  Turtle  Club  Bar  is a lively spot hosted by ever smiling 
Debi  or  Wendy. (In the spring of 1998 Wendy’s predecessor Geri moved 
to  Grand  Cay  (I  suspect temporarily) to be with her husband Sidney 
who’s yellow fishing boat sits sunk in front of the Bluff House dock -
  again  that’s  another  story.  The  girls will gladly whip you up a 
great Tipsy Turtle (which will do the job for which it is intended). 

The  Green  Turtle  Club  Bar is a favorite stop over for the cruising 
yachtsman  and  often  the  nights are spent in conversation with them 
and  of their travels. On Wednesday the Gully Roosters comes over from 
town  (with  half  the population) to play at the club. On Fridays and 
Mondays, other entertainment is provided. 

At  this  point we have to mention Brendal (Stevens). I’d call him the 
unofficial  Ambassador of the Goombay Spirit. He used entertain you at 
the  G.T.  bar  with  his one man band and ran the clubs dive shop for 
many  years.  But as of the fall ‘97 he has had a falling out with the 
club  and  is  no  longer  associated  with it. As of spring 98 he has 
opened  his  own dive shop right across the street from the clubs dive 
shop.  Brendal  has been the big draw so the clubs dive shop is not in 
operation  (as  of June of ‘99). This writer just wishes the two could 
bury the hatchet.

As  far  as  diving  goes,  Brendal  can take you on any type dive you 
want,  however  our  favorite is the day trip where he will catch your 
lunch  and cook it for you on a uninhabited beach. Some of the fishing 
guides  do  the  same  thing: Lincoln Jones is one that comes to mind. 
There  are also a couple of boat rental companies Donny Sawyer's who’s 
boats  are  usually  beet  to  hell but seem somehow to always work. I 
understand  he  started getting some new ones as of fall ‘98. This was 
probably  spurred  on  by  a  new  boat rental agency here called Reef 
Rentals  that has all new boats. They all can be reached by VHF radio. 
As  of  1999  the  Green Turtle Club now offers excursions and picknic 
cruises  to  the  neighboring Cays. Ever congenial Louis Louis (Dames) 
will  be  your  host.  I  might interject at this point, the G.T.C. is 
within  a  5  minute  walk  to  a  lovely bay beach at Coco Bay and 15 
minute  walk  to  a  beautiful  stretch  of ocean beaches with all the 
diving  and  snorkeling  you  may want. Add another 15 minutes if from 
the Bluff house. 

There  are  hardware,  gift  and food markets in New Plymouth albeit a 
bit  pricey.  Finally,  a  visit  to  Albert  Lowe's museum is worth a 
visit.  Remember  these  are  the  out  islands. Merchandise has to be 
shipped  to  Marsh  Harbour  via  Nassau  or  the  states  then to the 
outlying  cays,  This  plus  a hefty duty on many items makes things a 
bit costly.

The  fishing, diving and beach combing are great; as good as anywhere, 
even  in  the Caribbean. Evenings are spent with the boating folks who 
often  return.  The native population is as friendly as can be. Blacks 
&  Whites mix without any problems. A truly homogeneous little spot in 
the  world. The original white settlers descendants are still here and 
consist  of  primarily  two families Sawyers & Lowe's. They have a lot 
of  similar  looking  features  (understandably).  If sport fishing is 
your  thing,  contact the Sawyers, a family of fishing guides. The old 
man  Joe is the best and most experienced although he is "sort of semi 
retired"  and be sure to shout. His hearing is starting to fail. If he 
is  busy  try  his  son Ronny who specializes in Bone Fishing. Another 
very  popular  guide is native fellow named Lincoln Jones. Any and all 
of  them  can  take  you any type of fishing you like deep sea to flat 
fishing for bone fish. Just hail them on your VHF channel 16. 

The  main  Islands  south of here have a similar constituent. They are 
Great  Guana  Cay.  Man-O-War Cay , and Elbow Cay with it's village of 
Hope  Town. Marsh Harbor is Abaco’s commercial hub and the Bahamas 3rd 
city  after Nassau and Freeport. It is on the mainland of Great Abaco. 
It  has  an  airport with connecting flights to the States and Nassau. 
The  town  sort of forms a triangle between, and is the jump off point 
(water  taxi)  to the off shore cays of Man-O-War, Hope Town and Great 
Guana.  As  of  1999  there  are two competing water taxi serving this 
area and a price was has broken out between them.

Heading  south  from Green Turtle Cay we should mention an area in the 
Abacos  of  some  renown,  called  the  Whale  Cay Passage. It is what 
separates  G.T  from  the  other  major  cays and Marsh Harbour to its 
south.  Whale  Cay  it  is,  is  just another cay (uninhabited) in the 
chain  the  borders  the  eastern edge of Great Abaco and separated by 
the  Sea  of  Abaco  or  Abaco  Sound.  The  only  problem is there is 
considerable  shoaling  on  the  inside of Whale Cay preventing larger 
boats  from  passing on the protected inside. At this point one has to 
head  out  in  the  ocean  around  the  cay and back in. This route is 
obvious  and  generally  without  problems  except in strong off shore 
winds  or storms. The abrupt shoaling makes the seas treacherous under 
these stormy conditions, which has taken its toll over the years. 

At  the  north  end  of  Guana  Cay  (Bakers Bay) where one heads back 
inside  the  Sea of Abaco is the remains of the old “Red Ship” mooring 
basin  and  the  island  created by the spoil during its dredging. The 
Island  has  been  there  for 7-8 years now with foliage and trees and 
makes  a  lovely day stop in quiet weather. However, the Big Red Ships 
come  no  more,  because  of  the uncertainty of the Whale Cay Passage 
especially   during   winter   months.  (We  do  not  miss  them,  but 
unfortunately  they  have  built  a new place on the protected eastern 
side of Great Abaco).

Guana  Cay  has a picturesque small settlement (pop 105) with a couple 
shops  and restaurants. Here you really feel you are really at an “Out 
Island”.  The  reef strewn beaches and reefs that line the 5.5 mile of 
ocean  side  are  reputedly the most beautiful in all the Abaco's with 
every  shade  of  blue  and turquoise and have the quality one sees in 
the  travel  guides.  The  settlement adjoins the “Great Guana Resort” 
which  provides accommodations and a fine restaurant which is open for 
breakfast,  lunch  and  dinner.  Their  pool  side  barbeque on Friday 
Night,  when their dockage is free, always attracts a big crowd. (Like 
always  reservations  for  dinner  can  be  made  by  VHF  radio). The 
resort’s  equivalent  of  the  Tipsy Turtle is the Guana Grabber - not 
too  unlike  the  others but with a hint of grapefruit juice. Recently 
opened  (spring ‘96) is “Nippers”. It is a trendy new place that lives 
up  to its reputation for its view, on a bluff overlooking the ocean - 
Spectacular.  It really packs them in. The food is just typical island 
fare.  Every  Sunday  they  serve  a  Hawaiian  style  pig roast which 
attracts  folks  from  all  over the cays. Tickets are sold on a first 
come  first  served  basis.  It’s  generally  very  crowded,  and  the 
flies.... 

Early  in  1999  a new marina opened up on the harbour across from the 
settlement  bringing  gasoline to the island for the first time. It is 
part  of  the  soon  to  be  built,  “Orchid  Bay Resort”, and dinning 
facilities  are  soon to be completed. Half way between Bakers Bay and 
the  settlement  an  new  small  resort  opened in 1998 called Seaside 
Village.  It’s  property runs from ocean to bay and is only accessible 
by  boat.  It  is  a cozy spot with about eight rooms and dining room. 
Definitely a quiet getaway spot

All  in all, Guana is more laid back than G.T. but has a reputation as 
the  getaway  party  spot  for  the  folks  from  the neighboring cays 
despite  the  fact  there  are  only  a couple of places to party. The 
Northern  most  dock  which belongs to Great Guana Resort, offers free 
dockage  if you stay for dinner. They too now carry fuel spurred on by 
the competition of Orchid Bay. 

Man-O-War  is  a  busy boat building island of God fearing (no alcohol 
sold  on this Island), hard working folks 70% of which can trace their 
ancestry  to  the  first Albury who at age 16 fathered the first of 13 
children with his 13 year old wife. 

It  is  a  great  spot  for  all kinds of quality boat work and parts. 
Marina  facilities  are  available  however restaurants and lodging is 
sparse.  Still  a  spot  not  to  be  missed  if staying at one of the 
neighboring  islands. No yachtsmen would miss it especially if in need 
of  repairs.  As mentioned earlier the Internet has hit the islands in 
a  big  way.  The  “Man-O-War  Marina”  was  the first to offer E-Mail 
services  to  it’s guests. The "Albury's" Canvas Shop” is the place to 
see  .  Here  you'll find the town ladies making all sorts of bags and 
hats  out  of  canvas.  Every  year I hope to see some new more trendy 
styles.  Maybe  next  year?  Despite  the  enterprising nature of it’s 
residents,  restaurants  are  in  short  supply  however we enjoyed an 
evening  meal  at  “Ena’s”  restaurant  one  of  the  two  very casual 
eateries  on  the island. You will find another restaurant dockside is 
at  the  “Man-O-War Marina”. As with just about all the restaurants in 
the cays dinner selection is made when you make your reservation. 

Marsh  Harbour  is  the commercial hub of the Abaco's and the Bahama’s 
third  largest  city.  It  is  on  the  mainland  of Abaco and forms a 
triangle  with Man-O-War and Elbow Cay. Here you can feel the pulse of 
activity  and  commerce.  You  will also find a culture of the sailing 
community  enroute  to  places far and wide. Hundreds of yachts mostly 
sailboats  will  be  anchored  anchored  in Marsh Harbour at any given 
time  and  it’s  winter hangout for the northern folks. Marsh has some 
really  great  restaurants  and  bars  to gather and hang out with the 
yachties  during  their  happy  hours.  It  is not unusual bump into a 
couple  just  returning  from  a  circumnavigation or beginning one. A 
good  many  of  these  are  within a short walking distance of the old 
established  “Conch  Inn and Marina” which a few years back became the 
base  of  the “Moorings Charter” operation. From here the town is just 
a  10  minute  walk  and  other  hot  spots like “Wally’s”, “Mangoes”, 
“Sapodillys”  and the “Tiki Hut” are found all along harbors edge near 
by.  In  town  there  is  a  luncheonette  style restaurant called the 
“Golden  Grouper”.  On  the  other  side  of the harbour is the “Marsh 
Harbour  Marina  and  Jib  Room”  which  was taken over in 1997 by a a 
young  couple  Tom  and  Linda Leffler who hail from the Tampa. If you 
can  make  the  trip  outside  Marsh  Harbour to Dundas Town check out 
“Mother  Merles”  a  delightfully  renowned native restaurant and also 
the “Bayview Seafood Restaurant”. 

The  Largest Marina in Marsh is actually not on the harbour but rather 
on  the less protect Abaco Sound side. It’s called “Boat Harbour”, and 
along  with  it’s “Abaco Beach Hotel” is a full scale resort. It seems 
there  is  always  something  going  on  here especially for the sport 
fisherman.  Need  a  Taxi  when  in  Marsh?  You  can call them on VHF 
channel  06.  Despite  all  the  positive things I can say about Marsh 
Harbour,  it  cant be called it a vacation spot yet can be a good base 
to  explore  the outlying cays. Just the same it’s worth 2-3 days on a 
two  week  trip  in  the  Abaco's. More than likely Marsh Harbour will 
probably  be  your  point of arrival (if not Treasure Cay) when flying 
in  from  the  States.  Rather  than  go into great detail about Marsh 
Harbour  here,  pick  up a copy of “The Cruising Guide to the Abaco's” 
by  Steve  and  Jeff  Dodge.  Available  at all yachting supply stores 
(it’s  updated annually). Further more you’ll get a better feeling for 
things   from  the  yachtsman’s  perspective  when  traveling  in  the 
Abaco's. 

For  years there had been a voluntary radio service called the Cursers 
Net.  Just tune in VHF Marine radio Ch 68 at 8:15 AM daily for weather 
and  to catch up on all the comings and going and parties too. Frankly 
it  was the primary news source until the startup of the Abaco’s first 
(FM  93.5)  and  only  radio station in ‘98. Note: The Cruisers Net is 
difficult to receive north of Whale Cay.

Elbow  Cay  with  it’s  village  of  Hope  Town  is  probably the most 
picturesque  of  the  four  major cays. It is a photographers delight. 
>From  it’s  candy  striped  light house to its brightly painted houses 
all  punctuated  with  flowering  shrubs  and plants. There are over a 
half  a  dozen  restaurants here and loads of charming houses to rent. 
Right  in  front of the “Hope Town Harbour Lodge” where we often stay, 
is  a  most  spectacular reef for snorkeling. It’s right off the beach 
in  about  5-10  feet of water and works it way offshore to fifty foot 
depths and greater for the more experienced divers.

There  is  a small quaint museum of artifacts from earlier times. Life 
surrounds  the  harbor  on  this Island which has only one narrow (and 
shallow)  opening  for the many visiting yachtsmen. The restaurants in 
the  area  include those at the hotels at “Club Soleil” and “Hope Town 
Harbour  Lodge”  and  our favorite and least expensive “Captain Jacks” 
which  is  right on the water. (It’s for sale as of 7/99 - if I was 20 
years  younger).  Next  to Captain Jacks, down the harbour a bit and a 
little  more  expensive  is  the  “Harbour's  Edge”. Both have bands a 
couple  a  nights  a  week and the latter a lively pool table. “Rudy’s 
Place”  is  famous for excellent fish, lobster and duck dishes some of 
which  have  to  be  ordered  the  day before. They are located in the 
middle  of  the island however he will send transportation. Again call 
by VHF radio for reservation.

Three  miles  south  of  Hope  Town on Elbow Cay on White Sound is The 
“Sea  Spray  Resort”  run by Monty Albury who owns and runs the resort 
with  his  wife  Ruth.  They have full marina facilities and rooms and 
cottages  for  rent along with luncheonette style restaurant. Stick to 
their  pool  side  barbecue  on certain nights a week. Near by is “The 
Abaco  Inn”  and  their  restaurant  which  over  looks  the  Ocean  - 
absolutely  beautiful  butone  of the most expensive. Be sure to try a 
Banana  Flavored  Yellow  Bird  and  something called the Conch Pearl, 
Both  the above will pick you up at your location in Hope Town. Or for 
a  golf  cart,  you  can  hail  Hope  Town  Cart Rentals or Abaco Cart 
Rentals rentals on your VHF. They are often booked so plan ahead.

Continuing  down  the chain, the last stopping spot for the yachtsmen, 
and  now connected to Marsh Harbour by paved road is Little Harbor. It 
is  actually  on  the  mainland  of  Abaco  and  the jump off spot for 
boaters  headed  to  Eleuthera  and  the  Islands  to the south. It is 
accessible  by  road  from  Marsh Harbour. Just follow the road to the 
settlement  of  Cherokee.  Little Harbor is a protected anchorage with 
lots  of  turtles  poking  there heads our of the water. Here you will 
find  “Pete’s  Beach  Bar” which serves Burgers and fish sandwiches at 
lunch.  Their  bartender  Albree, must have been chosen by a Hollywood 
casting  agent.  More  importantly  Little  Harbor was the home of the 
late  Randolph  Johnson  who  made  home here 30 years ago after being 
marooned  during  a hurricane. You can even explore the caves where he 
and  his family took shelter. Mr. Johnson was an artist so he set up a 
small  foundry  where  he  made  his  bronze castings which he sold to 
visiting  yachts  folks. Soon his fame spread till the point where the 
Government  commissioned him to make his now famous statue in downtown 
Nassau.  Unfortunately Mr. Johnson dyed in 1992 and is survived by his 
wife  who still runs the gift shop. Pete is more involved with the pub 
and  we’ve  heard  the  development  of  this  region  is imminent, as 
siblings want to sell of their share of this beautiful property. 

When  in  Marsh  Harbour  you might want to rent a car and explore the 
settlements  to  the  south like Sandy Point and Hole in the Wall. The 
following  is  a  tale  from  one  of our cruising experiences that we 
upload from time to time. 

“........While  in  Marsh  Harbour,  we  rented  a  car to explore the 
settlements  on Abaco not easily accessible by boat. We drove 60 miles 
through  the  pine  barons  to  Abaco’s  southwestern most settlement, 
Sandy  Point.  As we arrived the Churches were letting out and all the 
women  and  children  were dressed in their Sunday finery. We couldn’t 
help  but  wonder  where  in  the  Abaco's  could they buy such pretty 
clothes.

This  picturesque  community  of  about 200 make their living from the 
sea.  We  stopped  by  to talk to a couple of fishermen (not attending 
church)  who went out of their way to tell us of their work. They also 
spoke  of  new  work  opportunities  for  their  village  due  to it’s 
proximity  to  Gorda  Cay  eight  miles off shore. Gorda Cay now named 
Castaway  Island  was  recently purchased by Walt Disney to be the new 
out  island  home  of Disney's “Big Red Boats”. Most of the labor will 
come  from the folks of Sandy Point. Later, we found a spot on its tip 
in  the  shade  of some casuarina’s looking out at Gorda Cay to have a 
picnic while thunderstorms loomed on all horizons”.

The  Abaco's  are truly a Yachtsman paradise, however all of the spots 
mentioned  can  be  visited relatively easy by the landlubber. You can 
enjoy  the  privacy of out lying unspoiled smaller islands and beaches 
that  can  be  reached  by  renting a small outboard motor boat at the 
many  rental services at the cays. That’s how this writer and his wife 
started  and  fell  in love with the Abaco's 26 years ago. This writer 
has  in  recent  times  chronicled  his travels in the Abaco's by boat 
after   moving   to   Florida   in  1990  and  uploaded  them  to  the 
rec.boats.cruising newsgroups of the internet. 

Sometimes  we  fly  over  to  Marsh  and rent a 22 footer from Rainbow 
Rentals  (one  of  the  many) and make the 20 mile trip to G.T spend a 
week  or  two then headed south for a week at the Hope Town Lodge with 
stops  at  the other cays as day trips from those locations. This type 
of  approach  to  seeing  the islands is not recommended for folks not 
familiar  with  boating,  and  navigation.  This  is  not  to say that 
renting  a smaller boat once at your destination and staying “close to 
home”  would  cause  you  and  difficulty,  but  a boat is a must when 
visiting  the  cays.  There are literally dozens and dozens of beaches 
and  or islands that you and your whomever, will find yourselves being 
the only people there. 

If  you are into history, you might enjoy poking around the cemeteries 
on  the cays and reading the epitaphs. It is not uncommon to find them 
over  looking  the  sea at a spectacular location like the one on Hope 
Town’s upper road. 

The  new,  investor  friendly  government  of  Mr. Hubert Ingraham, an 
Abaconian  himself,  a booming economy in the US and it’s proximity to 
Florida  have  made  for  some  serious  development  in recent times. 
Construction  is  booming  and I mean booming. Ferry loads of Haitians 
and  Bahamians  are  seen  arriving  in  the morning from the mainland 
(Great  Abaco)  and  being  transported to job sites all over the cays 
especially  Hope  Town  and  Guana.  If  ever we thought about our own 
place in the Abacos, I think we missed the boat.

For  more  on the Abaco's you might want to check out: http://oii.net/ 
http://www.abacos.com/whitesound http://www.abacolife.com/

Or  pick up a copy of “The Cruising Guide to the Abaco's” by Steve and 
Jeff  Dodge.  Available  at  all  yachting supply stores (it’s updated 
annually). 

Author invites Inquiries; E-Mail sandycay@AOL.Com

PS:  In  previous  trips  to  the  Abacos by boat, we were aboard twin 
engine  fly  bridge  cabin boats. Aside from the fact, that even in 34 
foot  accommodations,  things get a bit cramped on extended cruises of 
a  month  or longer, there was always something else missing. That was 
a  smaller  boat  to run about when in the Abaco's. So early in 1999 I 
decided  to  buy  a  new  boat.  It  had  to  be something larger than 
inflatable  size  yet  able  to  explore the nooks and crannies of the 
many  cays.  It  had  to be fast and rugged enough to easily run 30-40 
miles  in  a  chop  yet  small enough to pull up on a beach. And again 
large  enough to get me to the Bahamas in relative safety in the first 
place.  For  the  difference  in  price  of  the  boat  of its size as 
compared  to  30-40  footers  we  could  stay in one of the many Inns, 
guest  houses or rental cottages and plan on similar trips a multitude 
of  times. The boat I chose was a 26’ Glacier Bay Catamaran powered by 
2-130 HP 4/stroke Hondas. 

It  was  chosen namely for the long distance ocean crossings I’ve read 
about.  I must say it lived up to expectations and then some. I is not 
my  intention  to get into the cruising aspect of my 5 week trip (from 
Longboat Key, Fl).

BAHAMAS: COLUMBUS ISLAND CLUB MED BY JONATHAN GAL-EDD

Trip 6/99

Just  returned from a week at Club Med Columbus Island. This is a very 
nice  resort,  great  food ( Deserts especially), with pretty sand and 
blue water. The diving was fair (so so).

The Club

We  flew via Miami using the clubs charter, other than the usual Miami 
noon  time thunderstorm, the flight was uneventful. The Club Med was a 
minute  ride  from  the  air  port,  and we were the only plain in the 
airport.

The  bus  took  us  to met our GO, tat took us the room. Very easy and 
well managed.

The  resort  has  two  centers , one with registration, bar, pool, and 
main  restaurant,  and  the  other is the Sea center: includes, Scuba, 
Gym  and  another  restaurant,  and disco. It is about ten minute walk 
between  the  two.  the walk is along a pristine beach with white sand 
and  blue  water.  The  rooms  were  very  clean,  and very tastefully 
decorated.  Each  room  had a refrigerator, safe and balcony. Our room 
was between the main building and sea center.

There  were  300  guests  out  of  capacity of 500, we were told July-
August  will  be full. Most of the guest were couples at over 35. This 
is  a  club Med on "valium", people seem to go to bed early (diving ?) 
and  were  not  very  routy. My day was, diving AM, water SKI PM, gym, 
nap,  eat  and  watch  the show. The shows are on at 10:00. Some shows 
were  better  than  others. The disco was alive twice during the week: 
Wednesday, Latino night and Friday the night (before we returned).

We  alternated  eating  between  the main reentrant and the Sea Center 
restaurant.  There  was  no  problem making a reservation. I liked the 
sea  center  restaurants as they were smaller and quite. The best part 
of  the food were the desserts and breads. Club Med had an attempt for 
a  nightly  color  that  no  one followed. Friday was dress night (was 
followed).

People   were  very  friendly  and  took  there  time  when  eating  ( 
especially dinner).

The  GO  were friendly and we maid friends with a few of them. The way 
home  was  (again) uneventful. Club Med took the luggage from our room 
to the airport. The traditional Club Med Good bye with the GO.

Diving

The  summary  (  for  those  who  want  to skip the rest), the reef in 
Columbus  Island  has a major Algae (green lettuce) problem, the coral 
is  dead,  visibility was so so and Club Med operates cattle boats. 15 
dives  in  each  dive  I  saw  6-8  friendly groupers, 2 Angle fish, 2 
trigger  fish,  2  file fish and some grunts. Saw several turtles, one 
shark.  2 people ( not me) had close encounters with hammerheads . Had 
a great night dive.

Details:

Club  Med  diving:  I  bought the Club Med dive package that gives you 
six  dives.  Three boats a day 8:30, 8:45 ( both two tanks) and one at 
2:30  (one  tank).  Each  time you go on a boat use one of your dives. 
Most  people  want the early dives as you get two tanks. The 8:30 boat 
was  full  (43  divers) every day. Club Med has list of 40 sites which 
they  rotate  weekly.  You know which site you will go to depending on 
the  day  of  the  week.  I  only  brought  my  mask and used club Med 
equipment  (included in package). Tanks are colored coordinated pink ( 
one  dive)  blue  ( second dive), instructors use yellow tanks. Diving 
profile  :  first dive 130 feet (Computer)/ 100 (non-computer), second 
dive  70/50.  Dive time 40- 45 minutes. Surface interval between dives 
is  only 40 minutes. The Island has a wall that begins at 50 feet. The 
top  of the wall is very dull with little coral, most of the action is 
on  the wall. The Hammerheads and sharks are deep below 80 feet. Bring 
you  computer  as there is not much to see in the 50 feet range. Buddy 
divers  can  dive  alone  and get of the boat first, this is great for 
the  way out, however on your way back to the boat you can go over the 
wall  ( and 40 divers), or go back over a dull reef and sand (Which is 
what I did).

Algae:  The coral is not in good shape. Several reefs are covered with 
green  Alga. Some one published a problem with Algae on this newsgroup 
a  few  weeks  before  we left. I contacted Riding Rock Scuba and they 
denied.  Well  there  is a lot of it. There was not a Marine life: lot 
of  marine  life  that  repeated it self from dive to dive. Groupers ( 
Nassau  and Tiger) were friendly and you can pet them I saw a cleaning 
station  on  every  dive.  I saw my first (and only shark) on my first 
dive.  I  think they go away when they see 40 divers. The trigger fish 
were  big  and  so  were  the angle fish. On each dive I saw a pair of 
file  fish.  Saw  several turtles, one swam with me for a while. A few 
small  rays,  and  tiny  spotted eel, One big lobster ( walking during 
the  day),  two  king  crabs  did not see moray eels, big rays, puffer 
fish  ,  box  fish etc. The big attraction in Columbus Island were the 
hammer  heads.  One couple saw them at 60 feet. A second group decided 
to  go  on  a  private  diving  excursion (only 6 divers) and paid and 
extra  95$. They saw three hammer heads. The night dive was great, the 
reef  was  alive  the king crabs were walking around , a free swimming 
eel,  a  bug/butterfly , rays. Most of the group spent the entire dive 
with  an octopus that performed on a coral head. My best dives - Caves 
and  canyons.  The  sites  LA Caravasse and Grouper Gully have several 
caves.  My  buddy  in  Grouper  Gully  was a person who knows the site 
well, and we went through caves the size of one diver.

Bottom Line

In  summary  this  is  a great resort, great beach, nice rooms , great 
food  with  mediocre  diving.  This is (IMHO) an also diving vacation, 
where diving is secondary.

COZUMEL BY DOUG AND DEB GILLASPIE

Trip 5/99 

It  will help you to better interpret my comments if you understanding 
a  little  about  who  we are before you read my review. We are in our 
early  forties  and  have been married for over 20 years. We have been 
traveling  for  the last 11 years. We are not even social drinkers and 
do  not  gravitate  to  the bar/party scene. We are not gourmet diners 
and  so  good simple food really pleases us just fine. We enjoy luxury 
but are also value conscious.

Our  previous  visits  to  Cozumel  have all been off of cruise ships. 
When  we  visited  we  knew we wanted to spend more time here and this 
week  long visit has confirmed that Cozumel is a great place that will 
likely  return  to.  We were looking for a relaxing and very laid back 
time together. We were not disappointed.

Vacation Package:
We  bought  this vacation as a package from Apple Vacations. I found a 
special  for  the  dates  we  wanted  advertised  on their web site at 
www.applevacations.com.  We  flew  an American Trans Air (ATA) charter 
out  of  Milwaukee Wisconsin. Apple Vacations rates the hotels/resorts 
they  offer  from  1 to 6 Apples. We booked the 4 Apple Coral Princess 
Hotel  and  Resort.  The  cost was $650 per person for air fare, hotel 
and  all  taxes.  We  were  happy  with  the value. We have booked two 
previous  vacations  with Apple but the last time was probably 9 years 
ago.

Travelogue:
Saturday 5/22/99
Flying  out of Milwaukee is always a less stressful option compared to 
Departing  from  Chicago's  O'Hare  airport. I dropped Deb at the door 
and  then  parked in a remote parking lot for $4 a day. We were flying 
a  Funjet  charter  even  though we booked through Apple. The line was 
long  but  moved  quickly. All the staff we encountered were pleasant. 
Our  flight  plan  was  to  fly  non-stop to Cancun then catch a small 
plane  the  40  or so miles to Cozumel. The flight to Cancun was on an 
L1011  that held over 350 people. The flight was full. We left on time 
and  arrived  20  minutes  early.  Clearing  customs  in  Cancun  went 
relatively  fast.  We  got  a  green  light  so  our  bags  didn't get 
searched.  Because  we  had Apple Vacation tags on our luggage we were 
not  approached  too  often with offers of transportation. We wandered 
over  to  the  AeroCozumel  booth  where a line had formed with others 
making  a  similar  connection.  An Apple representative stopped by to 
check  us  off  his  list and told us we could wait in this line or he 
would  take  us to another place to check in after he had found the 16 
other  people he was waiting for. Well they were having some sort of a 
problem  at  this  counter  and it didn't budge. Finally another Apple 
Rep  grabbed  my  wife's  suitcase  and  led us to another AeroCozumel 
counter  in  another  terminal.  This terminal was air-conditioned and 
much  more  comfortable.  Here we learned that we had a 2 and 1/2 hour 
wait  for  our  5:15  p.m. flight to Cozumel. We were told there was a 
chance  that we might be able to get on the 3:40 flight but would have 
to  wait  and  see.  A few minutes later we were given boarding passes 
for  the  3:40. I had already assumed my vacation mode so we were last 
onto  the  bus  that takes you out to the plane and I waited while Deb 
took  a picture of the twin prop 50 seater we were going to be flying. 
We  were the last ones on the plane and watched as the people ahead of 
us  took  the  last two open seats. There was a lot of talking between 
the  pilot and the flight attendants and then a truck pulled up to the 
plane  and  we  were asked to go back to the terminal. When we arrived 
back  at  the  terminal a very apologetic ticket agent offered us free 
food  and  drink  while we waited. The ticket agent assured us that we 
would  have  seats  on  the  next flight and that our luggage would be 
waiting  for  us.  Deb  was a bit miffed but I felt they were at least 
doing  the best they could to recover from a mistake. In a few minutes 
a  young  man  from  AeroCozumel  stopped  by to inform us that he had 
secured  a  Cesna  that  would  take  us  over  in just a few minutes. 
Shortly  we  were  taken  to yet another terminal. Here we watched and 
waited  as the time for the regular 5:15 flight approached. We finally 
boarded  our  private flight at about 5:10. We flew a single engine 12 
seat  Cesna. The pilot turned around in his seat to inform us that our 
flying  time  to  Cozumel would 15 minutes and that there was beer and 
soda  in  the  cooler  in  the  back  of  the  plane  if we wanted any 
refreshments.  I  was  a  fun  flight which arrived in Cozumel about 3 
minutes  ahead  of  the flight we were originally supposed to be on. I 
give  AeroCozumel  an "A" for effort and a "D" for execution. An Apple 
Rep  met  us  with  our  luggage.  After  the  folks from the 5:15 had 
deplaned  our  Apple  rep  explained about the transfers to our hotels 
(which  were  included  in  the  package) we were soon at our hotel. I 
tipped  the  transfer driver $2. We were staying at the Coral Princess 
in  the  Northern  hotel  zone. This hotel was about a mile and a half 
from  the  town  square.  A  taxi  was anywhere from 23 to 30 pesos or 
$2.50.  We  were checked into our room in a matter of minutes. We were 
issued and had to sign for the TV remote and two beach towels.

Our  room (412) was on the fourth floor facing the ocean. The room had 
tiled  floors,  a  king  bed, small refrigerator, small balcony, desk, 
and   large   bath  with  a  cavernous  shower.  We  also  received  a 
complimentary  bottle (1500 ML) of purified water each day. Additional 
bottles  were just 10 pesos. The only thing I didn't care for was that 
your  room key was used to activate the a/c and the lights. This meant 
that  the  room  was not very comfortable when you first entered it. I 
realize  that  this  was  done  to keep the consumption of electricity 
down.  The  a/c  did  work  well  and  was  controlled  by  a  digital 
thermostat.  We  quickly  unpacked  and then went down to the "welcome 
orientation" with the Apple rep.

I  had been warned by people on the internet that this orientation was 
nothing  more than a push to book tours. There was very little helpful 
information  offered  and  there  was  a gentle push to book any tours 
with  Apple.  The worst part about this time waster was that we missed 
our first sunset talking with the Apple rep. 

After  our  "orientation"  we  took  a taxi to El Morro for dinner. El 
Morro  is  an  authentic  Mexican  restaurant  tucked  way  back  in a 
residential  neighborhood.  This  place  is recommended by Frommers. I 
had  beef  fajitas and Deb had chicken enchiladas. Both our meals were 
very  good.  Total tab including 4 sodas and tip was $20. The taxi was 
45  pesos  to  get  to  El  Morro and 35 pesos to get back to the Coal 
Princess. The free market at work here. I paid each driver $5.

Sunday 5/23/99
We  woke  early  and walked into town. We stopped for breakfast at the 
museum  on  the  water  front.  The view was great. We both ordered an 
American  breakfast.  The  breakfast  was good as was the service. The 
tab  was about $16. After breakfast we went into the square to find an 
ATM.  I  withdrew 1000 n.p. (new pesos) or just over $100. Then we set 
out  in  search  of  Chac  Rental. This was a car rental agency that I 
found  on  the internet that advertised new mountain bikes for rent. I 
had  reserved a bike for the week. Unfortunately I had left the e-mail 
confirmation  along with the address of the place in our hotel room so 
we  were  winging  it  on my feeble memory. We finally found the place 
with  some help from some nice local folks. Now for the bad news. This 
place  didn't  know  anything about mountain bikes for rent. Finally I 
was  sent  down  the  street  to another place that had bikes that had 
electric  motors  on  them.  I  explained that this was not what I was 
looking  for. I little disgusted we hailed a taxi back to the hotel so 
Deb could get her allotment of radiation poisoning. 

We  pretty  much just camped out on the beach for the rest of the day. 
We  did  snorkel  a bit off shore. I had heard that the snorkeling was 
good  here.  There  was  some  fish  activity  though  most  of it was 
sergeant  majors  and  grouper.  There is no reef here so there was no 
coral  at all. The current was pretty strong too. We heard many people 
talk  of  the  squid  and  barracuda  they  had  seen. Perhaps we just 
weren't patient enough.

We  ate  lunch  at the hotel. Deb had a club sandwich and I had shrimp 
ceviches.  Both were good and reasonably priced. On that note we found 
the  food,  service  and prices at the Coral Princess to be a pleasant 
surprise.  We  had  4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and happy hour drinks here 
and our total tab for the week came to about $120 including tips. 

Sunday  night  in  San Miguel is a bit of a festival. The local people 
dress  up  and  come to the square to listen and dance to local bands. 
The  gringos  are  welcome  to  participate  too.  We  went  into town 
stopping  at  Ernesto's  Fajitas  for  dinner.  The  view  which would 
normally  be  nice  was  marred by some commercial ships docked in the 
harbor.  I  had  a  chimichanga and I can't remember what Deb had. The 
food  was  forgettable  but  the  service  was  friendly. We would not 
bother  to  eat  here  again.  After  dinner  we  wandered around side 
streets  until  the music started in the square. On our walk I spotted 
a  couple of places that advertised that they rented bikes. We watched 
the  festivities  in  the  square for a while then took a taxi back to 
the Coral Princess.

Monday 5/24/99
I  got  up  early  again. I was determined to find a decent bicycle to 
rent.  Ever  since  we had booked this trip I wanted to rent a bike to 
ride  around the island. So I was on a mission. I walked into and past 
town  really just trying to kill some time until businesses started to 
open  up.  I  must have walked about four miles total and then set out 
walking  the  side  streets  looking  for a bicycle to rent. I finally 
came  upon  a  small  rental agency (Pelicanos Rentals on 5th Ave just 
north  of  the square) that had decent looking Nishiki bikes. I had at 
least  heard of this brand and they looked in good condition. The cost 
was  $13  a  day.  I rented one and rode it back to the hotel. Deb was 
awake  and  so  we  went  down to eat breakfast by the pool. I had the 
Cozumeleno  Breakfast.  Fried  eggs  under beans and tomato sauce on a 
bed  of  tortilla chips. I topped this with fresh salsa, oh yea! After 
breakfast  I  downed a couple of liters of water before setting out on 
my  circumnavigation  of the island on my trusty bike. I had estimated 
that  it  was  26  to  28 miles around the island. I am an experienced 
cyclist  who rides and races both mountain and road bikes. When I'm in 
good  shape  100  miles  is  not  a  problem. The caveat was that five 
months  ago I had my right hip replaced. I had ridden only a couple of 
times  since  the  surgery and most of my rehabilitation had been done 
in  the  form  of  walking or weight lifting. All of this considered I 
figured  that the ride would take me 2 and a half hours. I had checked 
the  wind direction and new that I did not want the wind in my face on 
the  east  (windward) side of the island. That meant that I would head 
across  the island from the town square, ride south down the east side 
and  then  ride north along the west side of the island. I departed at 
about  11:00  a.m.  The  sun was hot but there was a nice breeze and I 
was  not  going  to  push.  After riding east out of town for about 20 
minutes  I encountered a very disturbing road sign. It stated that the 
Mayan  Ruins  at San Gervacio were yet another 13 kilometers away. Now 
I  knew  that the ruins were approximately half way across the island. 
This  meant  that the short leg of this trip was in excess of 12 miles 
long.  I  was  calculating  fast now figuring that my journey was more 
like  35  miles rather then 26 or 28. Not to worry, I was feeling good 
and  I  knew  there were plenty of beach bars along the east side from 
which  to  obtain  refreshments.  After  over  an hour of riding and a 
brief  rain shower I arrived at Mezcalitos, the first beach bar on the 
east  side.  I stopped and quaffed an ice cold coke and set off again. 
After  riding  a  while longer I realized that I was now committed (or 
perhaps  should  be  committed)  to  this  journey. The island is flat 
which  only  means  that when you see something off in the distance it 
is  a  long  way  off.  The  skies began to threaten so I quickened my 
pace.  Another  hour  or so of riding brought me to the Bob Marley Bar 
which  marked  the Southern tip of the island. Once again I threw back 
a  cold  soda  and mounted my trusty steed. This next section is where 
things  got  kind  of ugly. There was jungle on both sides of the road 
stifling  any  breeze  and quite frankly I was toast. But this was the 
home  stretch  or  so  I  thought. It took me for ever to finally come 
upon  the Allegro resort. My fried brain could not recall the order of 
resorts  or  how far out each was from town. Then suddenly I could see 
the  tops  of cruise ships in the distance. Here again the flat island 
syndrome  mocked me as I pedaled and pedaled and the ships appeared no 
closer  for  my efforts. My reflexes were shot and traffic was getting 
heavier  so  I  retreated to another beach bar to quench my thirst and 
replenish  some  calories.  The  last hour of my journey was a blur of 
dodging  crazed  tourists  in  rental  jeeps or on scooters. I wobbled 
into  town,  past  the  square  and on to the Coral Princess. A mere 4 
hours  and  20  minutes  after leaving I arrived, tired, hot, thirsty, 
starving,  with leg cramps and a blistered bottom. I had conquered the 
island.  Or was it the other way around. As it turns out the island is 
actually  40  miles around. I limped out to the beach to find my bride 
who  was  already  planning  how  she  was  going  to  spend  the life 
insurance  money.  I slammed a plate of shepherds tacos and floated my 
weary bones in the pool. 

It  was late when I pealed my body from the bed. We planned to dine at 
the  Lobster  House  about  a  half  mile north of our hotel. For some 
inexplicable  reason  we walked there. The way this place works is you 
pick  out your lobster tail and they weigh it. You pay for the lobster 
by  weight.  Deb  and  I  split  a  2  pounder  which cost $51. It was 
fabulous.  It  came  with  potatoes and squash and drawn butter. After 
dinner  I begged to hire a taxi to get back to the hotel but we walked 
anyway. Needless to say I slept soundly.

Tuesday 5/25/99
I  again  rose  early.  I  needed  to  return  that awful bicycle. All 
thoughts  of renting it for the week had vanished from my mind. I took 
an  easy  spin  north  to  the  end of the road then back into town. I 
returned  the  bike  and  rented  a  scooter from the same outfit. The 
scooter  was  $25 a day. I rode the scooter around a little to get the 
hang  of  it  before  returning to the hotel. Today we planned to ride 
the  scooter  around  the  island. A much more sane idea then riding a 
bicycle.  We  packed  the snorkel gear, mounted our scooter and zipped 
through  town.  We  stopped  for breakfast at the Caracol Snack Bar. I 
had  noticed  this  place  the  day  before  on  my walk. It is midway 
between  the  Plaza  Las  Glorias  and the cruiser ship dock. The view 
here  was  very  pretty but the food was lousy and the price was high. 
Don't  bother  to  try this place. After breakfast we scooted past the 
cruise  ship dock. It was very busy as there were three ships in port, 
two  Carnival  and  one  Royal  Caribbean.  We stopped at the Palancar 
Beach  Club.  This  was  a  very nice sandy beach. We parked ourselves 
under  a  palapa  and I took up residence in one of the hammocks. This 
place  is  a  Fat  Tuesdays  outlet  I  guess. The beach waiter nicely 
informed  us  that  if we used the palapas or hammocks a drink minimum 
or  lunch  purchase  was  required.  We said fine. We ended up staying 
here  much  longer  then  we  planned to. There was a very mischievous 
spider  monkey  who tormented many of the patrons. I had hoped that we 
could  get out to the famous palancar reef by swimming from the beach. 
The  reef  is  too  far out for that and the snorkeling from the beach 
was  not  good.  After swimming, lounging and soaking up several sodas 
we  decided  to order lunch. We both ordered the chicken fajitas. They 
were  served  on  a sizzling skillet (al la Chi Chi's in the USA). The 
portions  were  huge and were quite good. The salsa was great too. The 
fajitas  were  listed  on  the  menu for $7 so we were very pleased to 
have  found  such  an  abundance of great food at such a good price. I 
had  figured  our  tab  to  be  $20.  Six sodas @ $1 and two orders of 
fajitas  @  $7. I was somewhat disappointed when our check came and it 
was  $27.  According  to  their  math  we  had ordered 7 sodas and the 
fajitas  were  charged at $10 each. I'm on vacation so I just paid the 
tab  but  it did sour what would have been a highly recommended place. 
If  you  go  to  this beach ask about the prices and it may be best to 
pay as you go. 

We  loaded  up  the  scooter again and continued our trek. We observed 
several  au  natural  sun  bathers  and one couple who were frolicking 
naked  in  the  water  on  the  east  side. We made a stop at Coconuts 
midway  up  the  east side. This is another beach bar with great views 
on  a  cliff  overlooking  the pounding surf. My butt was still tender 
from  my  biking  safari  so we simply sped the rest of the way around 
the  island back to the hotel pool. After a rest I mounted the scooter 
for  a  trip to the new supermarket across from the Plaza Las Glorias. 
This  is  quite  a place. I purchased pop, oreos and M&M's - the three 
basic  food  groups!  We  were  both still stuffed from the fajitas at 
lunch  so  we passed on dinner and just took the scooter into town and 
walked around a bit.

Wednesday 5/26/99
Our  original  plan  was to take the ferry over to Playa Del Carmen on 
Thursday.  Because  we  really  had not done a lot of snorkeling and I 
really  wanted  to get out to Palancar we decided to book a snorkeling 
trip  for  Thursday  rather  then  going over to the mainland. We just 
went  ahead and booked a trip with the Apple rep for convenience sake. 
After  booking the trip we hopped on our scooter and went into town to 
get  breakfast at Costa Brava. This is a little restaurant that offers 
the  $2  breakfast  until 9:00 a.m. We got there a little late to take 
advantage  of  this  bargain.  Still  our breakfast which was huge and 
good     only     came     top     $9.    Deb    had    a    scrambled 
eggs/bacon/toast/juice/coffee  combo  and  I  had some sort of Mexican 
egg  dish much like I had at our hotel. After breakfast we went to the 
new  supermarket again. We were running low on pesos and Deb wanted to 
get  some  suntan oil. We basically laid around the beach and pool the 
rest  of  the day. Lunch was at the hotel. American tacos for me and a 
huge  chimichanga  for Deb. For dinner we went to La Prima. This is an 
Italian  restaurant on a second story terrace just off the square. The 
food,  service  and  price  was great. I had a seafood combo pasta and 
Deb  had Shrimp. My dinner had huge chunks of lobster as well as large 
shrimp and scallops. Our tab was around $35. Don't miss this place. 

Thursday 5/27/99
We  had  to  be  at  the downtown pier by 8:45 to catch our snorkeling 
boat.  We  caught a quick cup of coffee at the hotel and then took the 
scooter  back  to  the  rental  company.  We then walked the couple of 
blocks  to  the  town  pier.  We booked the Giligan's two reef snorkel 
trip.  It  left  the  down  town pier at 9:00 a.m. and returned around 
6:00  p.m.  The  boat was a motorized catamaran with plenty of sun and 
shade.  The  trip  included  snorkeling  on  two  reefs  (Colombia and 
palancar)  open  bar,  buffet  lunch and beach party. The cost was $55 
per  person.  It  probably took over an hour to get up to the reefs as 
we  had to pick up people along the way. The crew tried hard to please 
and  really  did  a pretty good job. We first snorkeled Colombia Reef. 
This  was  a  relatively shallow reef but it was swarming with thimble 
jelly  fish.  These  tiny (about the size of a thimble) creatures were 
really  a  nuisance  and  they  did sting but the stings didn't really 
hurt.  They  really spooked a few of the novice snorkelers on the boat 
and  some  got out quickly and didn't snorkel again. Colombia reef was 
really  hard to evaluate because of the distraction of the jelly fish. 
After  a  short  break  we  then  snorkeled  Palancar. This reef is in 
deeper  water  and was spectacular. If ever I wished I was a certified 
diver  it  was on this reef. I would love to dive this reef some time. 
Because  it  was so deep it was hard to enjoy all that there was here. 
I  would  say  we  stayed in the water for nearly an hour and everyone 
was  impressed  with  this spot. We then motored over to San Fransesca 
beach  (no not San Francisco) for our lunch and beach party. The lunch 
was  fajitas,  rice, beans, salad, fruit and punch. The lunch was very 
good  with  a  friendly  staff  serving  it.  After  lunch there was a 
treasure  hunt  that  was kind of lame and some beach volleyball which 
was  fun.  The  it was back to the boat for more open bar and to begin 
the  process of dropping off guest back at their hotels. The ride back 
was  a little rough and because of my propensity for motion sickness I 
had  to  keep  my  eyes  on the horizon. The music was cranked and the 
dancing  began  as we said good-bye to folks as they departed. Somehow 
on  the  return  trip  we  won  a  bottle  of Mexican brandy. After we 
disembarked  downtown  we caught a taxi back to the Coral Princess. We 
showered  and  laid down for just a little while before dinner. When I 
woke  up  at about 10 p.m. we decided that we would pass on dinner. We 
must be getting old because we were both "in the bag".

Friday 5/28/99
Our  last full day on Coz was punctuated by getting up from our chaise 
lounge  to  dip  in  the ocean or pool or to order drinks or lunch. We 
stayed  on the beach to watch the best sunset of our visit. For dinner 
we  toyed  with  returning  to  La  Prima but instead succumbed to the 
sales  pitch  at  La  Mission.  We were offered a welcome drink on the 
house  and a money back guarantee. Deb ordered a Mexican sampler plate 
I  think  I  ordered fajitas. The food was good but nothing out of the 
ordinary.  In  retrospect I wished we had gone back to La Prima. After 
dinner  we  took a taxi back to the hotel and began the solemn task of 
packing.

Saturday 5/29/99
We  got  up  early to get some last minute beach time before our 10:30 
a.m.  departure  for  the  airport.  I  had  a  last  serving  of  the 
Cozumeleno  breakfast.  Deb passed on breakfast. I then went and got a 
printout  of  our  hotel expenses and was amazed at how little it came 
to.  There  was  a  charge  (2.30  pesos that's about a quarter) for a 
local  phone call I had made trying to rent a bike. Our total was 1078 
pesos  @  9.3  pesos  to  the  dollar  it came to $115.91. At about 10 
o'clock  we headed to our room to shower and change for the trip home. 
We  settled  our bill and used the voucher supplied by Apple Vacations 
to  pay  for  our  taxi to the airport. I was in no hurry to get there 
because  I was sure is was going to be hot. I was pleasantly surprised 
that  the  waiting  area  was  air  conditioned  and very pleasant. We 
checked  in quickly and waited for our plane to arrive. After what had 
happened  on our flight in I was determined to not be the last ones on 
the  plane  this  time.  We were kind of in the middle of the pack and 
took  two open seats. We then watched as the same scenario played out. 
There  were  more  passengers  with  boarding  passes  then there were 
seats.  There  were  two pilots in two front seats who refused to give 
their  seats  to a paying customer. The lady without a seat was put in 
a  jump  seat  in the cockpit. She was not happy and did not have very 
nice  things  to  say  about  those  pilots.  It seems that a customer 
service  mind  set  has  not  permeated the ranks of the pilot crew at 
least.  I  can't  imagine  this  happening  in  the States. Anyway our 
flight  was  short  and sweet. In Cancun there was no Apple rep around 
so  we  just played follow the leader and found the Funjet counter. We 
checked  in and got our seat assignments. I still had a bout 110 pesos 
so  Deb  went  off  in search of a place to spend them. She managed to 
find  some  vanilla  and a ring for our daughter that we couldn't live 
without.  Our  pesos  all  spent I was forced to pay for our chocolate 
purchase  in  the  duty  free  shop  with green backs. The flight from 
Cancun  back  to  Milwaukee was again on an L1011. It left on time and 
arrived  about  15  minutes  early.  Arriving  into  Milwaukee  on  an 
international  flight  is  not  a  happy time. You are funneled down a 
switchback  ramp  that  was  hot and did not allow you to see what was 
going  on.  I  would not want to be going through customs here if more 
then  one  plane had arrived at the same time. Clearing customs took a 
good  hour. It was handled better in Mexico and I have seen it handled 
better  even  in Jamaica. We managed to get aboard a shuttle to remote 
parking  quickly  even  though  it  was  very unorganized outside. Our 
parking tab was $32. 

We  would  definitely  return  to  Cozumel.  I  would  be torn between 
wanting  to  be  closer  to  the  reefs in the southern hotel zone and 
still  staying  close  to  town for the restaurants. We spent less the 
$700  making  this  trip  a  great  value  costing less then $2000 for 
everything!!

What we learned: 

1.) A boarding pass does not mean you have a seat on AeroCozumel

2.)  When  flying  into  Milwaukee on an international flight as for a 
seat  as  far forward as possible. this will shorten you wait to clear 
customs.

3.)  If  you  rent  a scooter the people you need to watch out for are 
the other tourists. They drive like idiots.

4.) Be sure to eat at least once at La Prima.

5.)  Don't  ride  a  bike  around  the island unless you love pain and 
suffering.

6.)  If you want to snorkel or scuba dive a lot stay in a hotel in the 
Southern hotel zone it is closer to the reefs.

7.)  When  I  visit  Cozumel again I would like to stay at the Allegro 
(it's  the  closest  resort  to  the reefs) and get certified to scuba 
dive before going. 

| CTR Home | << Back | ToC | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Next >> | Search |