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Posts Tagged ‘Abacos’

Abaco

Blue seas and water waves

erased by symmetry

affirmed by none.

Smooth and deliberate.

A powerful bird glides by

proud of the direction it has taken.

Abaco nowhere, everywhere

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Winter Wonderland – The Abacos

We stay for the winter months in the Abacos, one of the northernmost islands of the Bahamas.  It is a place often nicknamed Paradise by those who visit and by those who live here, when describing its natural beauty. The extent of its unending changing beauty is hard to describe.  Much of it is the subtle colors, the shifting of the light, the way the breeze runs across the beach.

Recently, I have tried to depict my feelings about this place using watercolors.

The more I paint, the more I see the wonder of this place.  The more I see, the more I paint the wonder of this place.  It is becoming quite an obsession.

The first painting is of early morning, what we see when we look toward the ocean.  It is followed by paintings at various times of day.

Early morning.
Late afternoon
Mid-day 
Before a Rain

These paintings were from our front yard. The stillness and motion of the ocean is what makes for much of the beauty.

The natural island settings of the low trees and bushes along the beach edge, facing the backyard are also very beautiful, however quite different from our front yard.

More to follow, next time.

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Our neighbor, Steve Knowles is a wood turner who makes beautiful wooden bowls and other wood products that are all hand crafted in his workshop at his home in the Abacos at Bahama Palm Shores.  He has taken on woodturning as a hobby.  Every year his work becomes more popular and he now shows his pieces at art fairs around the country.

He currently works at Abaco Hardware where he services home appliances.  He is also the Assistant Fire Chief for the High Banks Volunteer Fire Services.  He and his wife Anita live in a natural and woodsy part of the Abacos called Bahama Palm Shores, an area surrounded by beautiful trees and bushes, with many different kinds birds settled in the greenery.

Bahama Palm Shores is well-known for its parrots and for its natural beauty, and is also well known for being a vibrant, active little ocean-side community.  It is a great place for Steve to find wood for his many craft projects.  Neighbors call him to tell him that a tree or branch has fallen in a storm and he comes over and retrieves some of the wood.

Poison wood tree
Picking up wood from a neighbor.
Wood piled up ready to take to his wood shop.
Cutting wood into blocks.
Palm tree downed by neighbor.
Steve stacks the wood that he has collected and prepares it for woodturning through a process of cutting and seasoning.
He works with a variety of different kinds of wood, highlighting their grains in his designs.
Bowls emerge along with candleholders, bread boards, hot plates, billy clubs and spinning toys.
Candleholder, prepared years ago.
Ready to go to an art show.
Fish hot plate and bowls.
While he works, he thinks and dreams up new ideas for future projects, sketching them out as he goes along.
Interested people stop by his wood shop to see what he is working on or to ask him to make them something out of wood. When tourists and  birdwatchers visit the neighborhood, many stop in to see his work, some purchasing items to take home with them.
Neighbors drop by to purchase gifts for weddings, birthdays and other occasions and often bring their guests to see Steve’s work.  Steve has also taught some people how to wood turn. 
Early shaping of a bowl.
Initial wood cuttings
Sawdust on the floor.
Turning the wood.
Bowl, ready to go.

Selected finished pieces of Steve’s work were recently displayed at The Bahamas National Trust, Art for the Parks held at Abaco Beach Resort in Marsh Harbor.

Steve will soon be retiring, and when he does, he is going to be very busy just keeping up with all the demand for his beautiful bowls and other wooden items.

Steve Knowles’ wood turning  is a good example of how one might ease out of the work force while adding a very interesting project to ones life.
Here is a short video showing his recent work.

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We live in the wintertime in one of the most beautiful places in the world and often refer to it as Paradise.

Like any place, it has its pluses and its minuses. I don’t want you all to be too envious and think we never have problems.  No place is perfect.  But this place is oceanic beautiful.

And the people are wonderful, too.

Here, it is beautiful throughout the day.

What is not as well known is that next to the ocean, we have natural botanical gardens.  Here is an example:

Often the first instinct of some when they decide to build on this land is to remove all the native brush, resulting in this look:

Below, is the kind of greenery that gets plowed over and removed.
Or this:

The ripped up roots and all the valuable top soil from the land often ends up in a landfill at a nearby dump.

Sometimes after razing the land, one does not get around to building or landscaping and the land sits barren. This reduces the food supply for our native birds and butterflies.  Invasive plants take over. The abandoned land tries to return to normal, but is overwhelmed with invasive plants like Casuarinas and Hawaiian Grape that quickly grow, leaving little space for the return of native plants.

Entomologists teach us that insects and birds cannot survive on invasive plants.  Invasive plants do not carry appropriate insects and seeds to feed our local birds and butterflies.  Their leaves and seeds are not eaten by native birds. Also, fewer insects live on these plants, thus reducing the food supply for birds and butterflies.  This is why invasive plants reproduce so quickly.  All their seeds survive for further growth because local birds and butterflies are not eating them.

The more the invasive plants grow, the less diversity of plant life is found.

Many are now realizing the values of the original native plants on our properties and are trying to be more selective about what is removed.  More often, walking pathways are cut, perhaps with a machete, and carefully selected areas are opened for driving or building. The end result is very striking.

Homes are then surrounded by beautiful, mature, native plants.  The air stays cool from the shade of native trees, birds readily find their berries and bugs to eat and butterflies abound as they dip and fly through the bush.

By staying with native plants, tens of thousands of dollars may be saved in burdensome costs for purchasing of replacement top soil, high-priced charges for replanting the land with expensive and often imported plants and costs for purchasing of numerous bags of chemical fertilizer.

In addition, keeping native plants and original top soil eliminates years of frustration that comes with paying others for landscaping ideas on how to revive land that was injured by removing all its topsoil on already nutrient-starved beach property.

A number of us are wondering if there is something that might be done to encourage those who live on land in beautiful natural areas to know their options before they raze the land and have to spend years regretting what was done.

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Quiet Island Life

It is so pretty this time of year on South Abaco island. The greenery is lush, the weather is mild, the water is warm, the silence is enormous.  Our ears feel as though they might implode from the peace and quiet.

The front yard is green, lush and relaxed. Stillness prevails.

The beach has no one on it.

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We visited Rolling Harbor yesterday.   Part of the fun was finding it. 

Last time we were there, about two years ago, we hiked down using an old established logger road.  But now, someone has built a home there and the old road is blocked off.  We stopped and asked a local how to get there. 

Good news.  The Delphi Club and  others  worked together to develop a “Go Around” so that people can still park and walk down.  I photographed it so that others may have an easier time finding it.

How to get to Rolling Harbor

White Rock on Right Side of Road, Going South

Drive down the main road away from Bahama Palm Shores and head toward the Delphi Club and  Schooner Bay.  About 5 miles after Bahama Palm Shores, there is a big white rock on the right side of the road.  When you see the rock, turn left. This white rock is the marker for the Delphi Club and is also the marker for the trail to Rolling Harbor..

Follow the sign that says “Service Road” to the Delphi Club.  After a mile or so, see the  sign for the Delphi Club then stop the car and pull off to the left and park.   Look for a gap between two large trees on the left side of the road and discover the walking path to Rolling Harbor.

Service Road to the Delphi Club

 From there, hike down to the bay.  It is really worth the little trek that is required.   Along the way, there are some beautiful trees, lovely coppice and when we went, we saw a very friendly (and large) grasshopper.

Walking path to Rolling Harbor

The trail becomes thinner and thinner until it is just a footpath, then it hits the beach.

Pretty Copice
Friendly hello from a local grasshopper.
Toward the end of the hike, one sees the ocean ahead.

This is when the walk becomes so striking.  We step through some invasive Hawaiian Sea Grapes and  Casaurina Pines and suddenly we emerge to see a lovely, relatively small, harbor with the waves rolling in with great force.  In front of the Delphi Club, the invasive species have been removed and the view of the cliffs is very striking.  The scene is powerful and pretty.  The beach has the whitest, smoothest sand.

We walked from one end of the harbor to the other, delighting in the rolling waves, the beautiful site of the Delphi Club up above on the cliffs, and the magnificent coral rocks circling out and protecting the harbor from the big ocean waves, but not too much.

I am constantly taken aback by the beauty of the small harbors tucked in along the Abaco shores. Rolling Harbor is one trip that I think we will become a tradition for our family to visit.  It is a very special place, so nearby and reasonably accessible.  We need to encourage others to continue to use the footpath down so that it doesn’t grow over and become inaccessible.   

Rolling Harbor curvature
Stepping off the path and onto the beach
Delphi Club up on cliffs in the center of photo

This is a perfect short hike and great place for a  walk-down beach picnic.  Let’s remember to carry our bottles and papers out with us when we go. 

Another great way to visit Rolling Harbor is to call ahead to the Delphi Club and make a reservation for dinner at The Delphi Club Lodge.   Come a bit before dinner and take a walk down their lovely steps to the beach.  Then return to the Lodge and have a drink while sitting on their great porch.  Watch the sun set over Rolling Harbor.  Then step inside The Lodge for a really nice dinner, in a really great setting, with good friends. 

We are lucky to have the choice to visit Rolling Harbor through a private bone fishing club and to also be able to visit it using public access ways.  It is  important that there are options so that all of us might continue to visit and share such a beautiful place.

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Yesterday we went up with some friends to Treasure Cay and spent some time locating the Blue Hole near there.  At first we couldn’t find it, but after asking some very helpful locals for assistance, we finally figured it out.  As we drove up the road toward it, we could see a forest fire raging in the background in the  general area where the wild horses live.  But since we were on a wide and safe road, we forged ahead.

This Blue Hole we were looking for is 3.6 miles north of the Treasure Cay road and to the left for 2.5 miles. 

The blaze was apparent in some places.  The smell of smoke was everywhere. 

We parked on a two-lane dirt track that we thought was the road to the Blue Hole and the guys walked ahead to see if they could find it.  We followed after they shouted for us to come.  We  walked down the road past the burning grasses along the side. 

An old truck drove up and a woman stepped out. She is Milanne Rehor, a person who has dedicated her life to protecting the wild horses on the island.  She is worried that the horses will be badly affected by all this fire as they are losing their grazing areas.  We chatted with her for awhile, then she got back into her truck and left.

We stood there, listening to the crackling of small fires, amazed with the strangeness and beauty of the setting.

Milanne Rehor

It is fun to read about Blue Holes in the Abacos and there is a lot to learn about them.

They tell us that the top of the water in a blue hole is fresh water and deeper down is oceanic saltwater.  There is a  layer in-between that really doesn’t support much life.  The story of the blue holes is fascinating.

But when you really get to a Blue Hole,  it feels eerie to peer down into one. It is deep and possibly treacherous.  It feels as though if I were to fall in that I might sink and  never be seen again.

There are people who swim at this site and find it a wonderful experience.  Next time I will wear my swim suit and give it a try, but think that I will do it with a life jacket on just to appease my instincts.  If you look closely at this photo you can see the rope tied to the tree where people swing to jump into the water hole.  They tell me that the water is refreshing.

We did not exactly jump in, but one of us did check out the temperature of the water.

 

I took photos of the hole from different angles. It is an amazing site.

See how deep it is?

If you ever have the chance to go find a Blue Hole, please do.  It is well worth the effort.

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