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sailboat life and bicycles

Cruising Marsh Harbour – Grocery Stores and Bicycles

We must have looked like kids arriving at the fair for the first time as we sailed into Marsh Harbour.  We’ve heard this is the best town to stock up in the Northern Bahamas and I honestly don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to go to the grocery store.

However, our excitement stems more from curiosity than from the desire to replenish our fruit bowl.  We have this insane urge to walk through the grocery stores and price compare as if we were on a TV game show.  Which would no doubt be called, Is The Price Right?  Gone With The Wynns, come on down!

I guess it’s because so many cruisers have told us “prices in the Bahamas are insane”.  I figure if grocery prices are this intriguing to me, it must be a curiosity for others too…so you’re all coming shopping with us as we explore the town of Marsh Harbour.

Marsh Harbour seems to be broken up into two areas: The tourist section where people fly in and pick up their charter boats; and the locals section where, you guessed it, the locals live.  The tourist section is only a short few blocks but its unmistakable.  The dead giveaway is the decadent smell of fancy waterfront restaurants and loud bars filled with people drinking away a lazy afternoon.  Bliss, the little coffee shop we tried to visit is in this area.  It’s a cute part of town, and well kept, but one afternoon on the bikes was enough of that for us.

The locals side of town is where we found the small bakery we stopped into.  We didn’t give her a fair shot in the video because they were about to close for a long weekend so she was pretty tapped out.  If you plan a visit to Marsh Harbour, make sure you stop in or call in advance and ask for the coconut swirl bread.  We’ve heard rumors that it is divine, but you must order in advance.

We did notice a lot of people coming and going at the Union Jack Public Dock.  I think a good portion of the workforce in this town loads up on the ferry and boats over to neighboring islands such as Man-O-War and Hope Town.  One thing we didn’t get to do is hit up a good local bar or restaurant.  Based on the number of people that come and go on the ferry I bet the bars fill up in the evening with locals hashing out their days with friends over a cold one.

sailing marsh harbor bahamas 

Comparison Grocery Shopping in the Bahamas

At a glance, Maxwell’s is comparable to a Publix in Florida.  They have a nice variety of fruits, veggies and organic options (which was a surprise to see).  The store is clean, it’s well-lit and the overall shopping experience is nice.  If you shop smart the prices aren’t horrible.  For example, we purchased apples because grapes, berries and other more delicate fruits were insanely expensive.  If you’re ok with standard cheese it’s double the price of what you may pay in the USA, but if you want gourmet cheese it cost 3x more than Costco.  For some of the items imported from Costco you can see the original price underneath the Bahamas price and its jaw dropping.

Abaco Groceries resembles a small Costco.  Like Maxwell’s much of their store is filled with the same products you’d find in the Florida Costco locations.  This grocery store is no-frills but their prices are good, I’d even say the prices are great for Bahamas standards.  This store has some of everything but not as large of a selection as Maxwell’s.  We noticed they were selling local pumpkins, squash, a mixed green salad, and a few other items that are grown in the islands.  Unlike Costco you do not need a membership to shop here and you are not required to purchase in bulk.  For example, the flat of black beans could be purchased in bulk or individually for a small price increase.

If you’re running low on booze and beer this is the place as well.  There are two liquor stores just up the block from the public dock.  If you remember at the end of our previous video I mentioned I was on the hunt for a specific rum. It’s JAB EXO and the did have it in stock.

 

The Big Shopping Takeaway

If you’re in the Abacos and need to provision this is your best bet.  The prices and selection on this island are even better than Freeport, Grand Bahama.  I would recommend you to visit Abaco Groceries first, then fill in the gaps at Maxwell’s…but hey that’s just my two cents.

 

If These Wheels Could Talk

folding bicycles on sailboat

Our bicycles have been through a lot with us.  They’ve endured frost heaves in Alaska, dust storms at Burning Man and half century rides in Santa Cruz.  That said we’ve heard from other cruisers that carry bikes and never use them, or their bikes rust out too quickly or they couldn’t imagine life without them.  We told ourselves if we don’t use the bikes during this Bahamas trip, or if we find they are a pain in the butt to deal with, then we will let them go.  This being our first bike experience I must say, I’m on the fence.  It takes time to load and unload, they take up a lot of precious storage space in our transom locker, but we really enjoy riding them.  I guess the real determining factor will be if they can withstand the harsh saltwater environment for the rest of this trip.  So far, so good.

More on our bicycles here: gonewiththewynns.com/product/bicycles

 

A Dinghy Update

This provisioning experience let us know we 100% did the right thing by getting rid of that beast of a center console RIB that came with our boat.  Popping the benches off our dinghy is so easy and it gives us enough space to fit our bikes, loads of groceries and the two of us.

More on our dinghy here: gonewiththewynns.com/dinghy-swap-ab-highfield

 

Keep Your Cool

I’m not sure if you noticed but I was dripping with sweat after our ride to Maxwell’s on the first day.  It may be winter but the temperatures here can be hot and humid year-round.  After wintering in Florida a couple times over the years, we knew this would be an issue so we’re prepared.  Our insulated cooler bags are durable and help keep things cool (or warm).  Paired with our awesome cooler packs, we’re good to go for most of the day. It seems ridiculous but with the heat and humidity fruits and veggies can die in just a short hour of travel.

More on our provisioning gear here: gonewiththewynns.com/product/thermal-totes-cooler-packs

 

Sailing Report

To see our full map with interactive pins, click here: gonewiththewynns.com/map

sailing the bahamasNautical Miles Sailed: No Name to Marsh Harbour 20.8 NM
Dates: November 25-28, 2016
Anchorage: Marsh Harbour – The anchorage is buzzing with boats going in and out all hours of the night.  You’ll want to light up your boat at night.  A lot of power boats don’t often look up for the mast anchor light.  We use the rechargeable Mantus snap-on lights and they easily last through the night.  It’s loud till midnight with the surrounding bars playing distorted, not-so-awesome music.  To be honest, I wouldn’t plan on staying here any longer than it takes to provision.
Cell & WiFi: Our BTC signal was good and even better with our booster on.

 

Other Gear Used In This Video

 

Cameras Used to Capture This Video:

 

Famous for my "how-not-to" videos, and typically the man behind the camera, sometimes I’m forced to be here in the “spotlight”. When you see my face you’re probably reading something more technical than adventurous, but either way I do my best to tell it like it is and infuse my opinions into the commentary…after all this is a blog and not MSN.

Comments (33)

  • Is it possible to create a small potted or contained garden area on your boat since you are in a warm climate with fresh water rain? Not sure is salt water environment on wind/spray would prevent it. Would be nice to try and grow some shallow root veggies.

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  • Joe

    Wondering about your bikes in the Abaco’s. We purchased some and plan to head to the Abaco’s on April 1st. Did you have to get a permit for your bikes. I have read that a permit was needed.

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    • I never noticed anything about needing a permit for bikes and we certainly didn’t have one? Where did you hear that?

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  • Deborah Kerr

    I love a good bike ride! That was a nice little productive field trip. I love comparing prices too!! Jason is smart, knowing there’s always a great boss lady in every great relationship!! Thanks for the cookie recipe too!

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  • Renee

    Ok, ok, I will stop complaining about the prices I pay in the UK for food at my moderately-posh grocery store.

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  • Manhattan Dave

    Love all of your adventures, if I was 30 or 40 years younger I may have tried it.
    Thank you Jason & Nikki for sharing, I would rather buy you to a drink every once in awhile than to pay for fresh fruit or paper towels in the islands.
    Nikki, we can buy a load of ice cream for you and Jason if you come visit us in the great lakes (Cleveland Ohio ) area.
    Thanks but our pension would not buy all the groceries in the Bahamas if we followed your path in retirement.
    Best wishes and keep posting your adventures.

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  • Connie Woods

    No no no! Keep your Catamaran Curiosity and keep going, I just love all this excitement, ya’ll look so happy?❤….Big hugs!

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  • Tony

    Go back to RV life silly. You don’t look happy at all.

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    • Tony

      Agreed with Tony, you guys did look so much happier on you RV adventures. Less stress, more fun, met more people and made more videos for more of us out there. Despite of all this, I love your videos.

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  • For internet you guys may want to look into new google phone and google cell phone plan. I believe reasonable rates in Bahamas. Phone can be a hot spot.

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  • Prices are high in Bahamas. This because they have high import taxes and of course everything must be shipped in. They have no income tax! How nice is that?

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  • Owen Roberts

    Another great video guys – really helpful in planning our future trip!
    Just one question – why don’t you wear the safety cut off lanyard when driving the dinghy?

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    • We do wear it all the time, either it was attached somewhere you couldn’t see it (like a belt loop) or there was a split second it was off for some reason. We are pretty good about remembering.

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  • George Hofmann

    Loving the great videos. First class production.
    I’m wondering how the boat is holding up. Other videos on Patreon show a lot of repair work and broken gear. People are resourceful, just an observation. Thanks for biting the bullet and paying for the wifi.

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  • deb gibbs

    Those are crazy prices, but maybe we are a bit spoiled in the U.S. Just wanted to say I always enjoy the music by Andrew Applepie!

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  • Roger S

    Have you considered loading your videos to a thumb drive and then mailing it to someone in the states who then uploads it to the internet? Would take longer of course but less of a hassle.

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  • cindy

    Looks like we need to bring more cheese!!!

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  • Hunter

    Parker and I are still plotting our trip. This year has had some unexpected events (good) that prevented us from joining you.

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  • Wally Neal

    I enjoyed and was impressed by your motorhome excursions and published insights. I’ve owned three of those beasts and drove them LOTS of miles in Southern Cal & Baja, so I recognized the really good information in your published materials. I’ve done some blogging and other Internet stuff, so I also recognized the exceptional quality of your presentation, which has continued. Then I was totally blown away by the very intelligent, careful way you transitioned to full-time living on a sailboat … that was, and continues to be, impressive beyond words. I get seasick rather quickly with even a slight recurring roll, else I would be tempted to follow your path into a boat. To say the least … Congratulations! I would add that an “adventure” is defined in some places as “an exercise in bad planning”. That description definitely does NOT apply to what you two are doing.

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  • This might be a stupid question but why don’t you buy a small ice-cream or yoghourt maker if you’re eating a lot of it? It’s easy, cheaper, and more importantly, it tastes better!

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  • Nancy Fernandez

    Wow just noticed this is way back at the end of November. Hey Jason put your shirt on and take a shower hehe lol! 🙂 Those prices are absurd. Do the locals make a lot of money otherwise how can they afford it? Have fun!!!

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  • TOM

    When I was a youngster no one wore helmets when biking riding. Helmets came about sometime in the 60s. Up until then the only people wearing helmets were certain construction workers and football players. In the 60s some big shot got the idea that a lot of money could be made making helmets and so the fad began. Many of today’s situations, and jobs, do not require helmets but people are forced to wear them anyway just so some big shot can be a millionaire selling them.
    High prices on items sold in the Bahamas is no different than in Hawaii mainly because it is a tourist attraction.

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  • Loved this video! We are going on a 2 week sailing trip (our first one!) this year and we can’t wait 🙂

    I don’t know how I’ll not have reliable internet for that long though, haha! Girl needs to work.

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  • Carlin Comm

    Hey just a thought, there was some mention of bicycles rusting from exposure to the salt water, if you can give them a quick spray off with fresh water when you get back onboard, then wipe them down, maybe a little oil or spray lube on exposed surfaces (chains, cables, etc) you should have a good time. I was a helicopter mechanic on Navy ships, and we sprayed them down with fresh water after every flight, it can make a big difference. Thanks for bringing us along, the price shopping was interesting, it reminded me of my time on Guam, some things were about the same, but fresh milk was something like $12 a gallon, it was flown in daily from New Zealand, so for 3 years I learned to use powdered milk on my breakfast cereal, never did get to like it though 🙂

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  • Richard

    Would you like a lists of Costco prices? I found one that is a PDF. Not sure how to get it to you, however?

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  • Doreen

    Ahh internet…Us folks on the road (or sea) are forever seeking that. We are home now for a few months and I am loving having full internet, streaming, watching youtube exercises, etc. Going back out soon and not looking forward to having to watch how many gb we are using.
    Crazy prices for food, wonder how the locals can afford those prices. Be safe and keep having fun!

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  • Kris Wright

    Nikki,

    Love your fashion sense. Comfy and cute. However we never see you wearing the same thing twice! How about a tour of your closet for those of us dreaming of living on a boat and wondering where to store our threads?!?!

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  • Martin Sheehan

    Wow. Who can afford those prices ? We’re people actually buying $47 olive oil or $12 strawberries ? A Costco membership doesn’t have priveledges there !

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  • Fantastic series on sailing full time. I am thoroughly enjoying your adventures. (I’ve actually binge-watched all the episodes now. Twice.) I appreciate that you show the nuts-and-bolts of the experience, as well as the payoff.

    One thought on your unending search for Internet access to upload episodes. Buy a sack full of 2 or 4 GB USB Flash drives (10 pack of 2 GB flash drives is $29 on Amazon), load an episode on to a thumb drive, and mail it (or mail several) to a trusted person in the States to upload one per week to your site and YouTube Channel. As long as you hit an island with mail service once every two/three/four weeks you should be able to keep the episodes coming, and you’ll eliminate one stress point (finding decent connectivity). Then a couple times a year when you have access to incoming mail, have your confederate return the USB drives for re-use.

    Wishing you fair winds and a following sea.

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  • Thanks for the vid Guys. Wow that food’s expensive! (Gonna sound like your Dad here, but I worried about you with no helmets on the bikes, riding on the ‘wrong’ side an all). Old person concerns over: look forward to the next instalment. Have fun.

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