Ah, the things we take for granted in today’s world. Such as internet access. Well, never again, let me tell you. I had just about given up ever posting another blog in the Bahamas until Al suggested that I type it on “Word” and then copy & paste it to the blogspot. So this is that attempt. Internet service (when it’s available) is usually as slow as Christmas in the Bahamas and you find that virtually all of your purchased wifi minutes get used up just trying to access emails, internet, etc. (SO…that’s my excuse THIS TIME for being so tardy in getting this posting to you.)
It’s been so long since I’ve updated our blog that I’ve forgotten at least half of the fun stuff that I should be posting. (And by now you probably think we’re dead anyway.) We had a really nice time at Warderick Wells, meeting what turned out to be good friends Hank & Trisha on Aventura (a 46 ft Island Packet) at the Saturday night beachside happy hour party. A few days later, we said good-bye to Emerald Seas and Orion and headed south to Staniel Cay with Aventura, where we stayed for two nights. Staniel Cay is a cool little cay that offers the Staniel Cay Yacht Club (which includes the outdoor restaurant and bar that made it to Jimmy Buffet’s “top 10” list of the world’s best places to have a drink), as well as three small stores from which to reprovision, these being the “pink store,” the “blue store” and Isles general store. (Ah, how wonderful is fresh produce!) The cay also includes the famous “Thunderball grotto” featured in two of the James Bond movies as well as “Splash.” Just north of Staniel Cay is Big Majors Cay, home of the cruiser-friendly pigs that greet you on the beach in hopes of handouts (carrots are a big hit). Some of the pigs will actually swim out to your dinghy as you come in. In any case, Aventura left Staniel Cay after one night, heading south to George Town while we opted to stay another day. After they left, it dawned on Al and me that we were totally on our own for the first time since we had arrived in the Bahamas. Exciting! In any case, after a great time at Staniel Cay, we sailed south toward George Town, anchoring overnight off the tiny island of Galliott Cay. The next morning, we sailed around the corner of the cay and out into Exuma Sound (the ocean side of the Exumas vs the inside, more protected and shallower Exuma banks) through Galliott Cut. (The Exuma banks are too shallow if you try to sail much further south than Galliott Cay, so a sail to George Town has to be done outside, on the Sound in deep water.) We had 25 knot winds “on the nose” and 4-6 ft seas for the approximately 7 hours we spent motor-sailing to George Town but we arrived safe and sound on a Saturday, the day before some really lousy weather was expected. George Town (a large town on a large island at the southern end of the Exumas) is a cruiser’s paradise, with a HUGE protected harbor. Most boats anchor or moor across the harbor from George Town at Stocking Island, which is what we did. Chat N Chill, a great little beach bar/restaurant sits at Gaviota Bay, where we were lucky to pick up the last available mooring on Sunday, just before the big “blow” was forecast to hit on Sunday night. We had close to a week of 30-40 knot winds and it was awfully nice being on a mooring instead of having to get up every couple of hours to check on the anchor.
The primary reason we had zoomed down to George Town rather than go at a slower pace down the Exumas was to see if we could get our refrigeration unit repaired. Buying ice on a daily basis gets old (and that’s if you can even find it; it’s unavailable at many of the smaller cays, some of which are totally uninhabited). In any case, to make a really long story short, as of two days ago…and after roughly 30 days without it…we now have refrigeration again. It involved having the part shipped from the manufacturer, which is always interesting in the Bahamas. Will it arrive or won’t it? It got held up in Nassau in Customs but we were finally able to have it released and, wahoo, ice cubes again! How wonderful life is!
While we were waiting for the refrigeration part, our battery charger decided to bite the dust. Having found that there is no such thing as a battery charger in George Town (other than smaller ones for cars), we have just finished ordering one to be shipped to us from West Marine in Ft. Lauderdale. Cross your fingers, folks.
Al has decided that our shakedown cruise thus far has alternated between sailing one day and repairing something the next day, which goes hand-in-hand with one of the definitions of sailing: Sailing: An opportunity to repair things in exotic places. We felt better after talking with the owner of a brand new 50 ft Beneteau and he’s going through the same thing, with something breaking almost every other day.
While here in George Town, we have run into old friends Chuck & Maryanne on Symphony (they have recently left us, heading north towards home but will be back in two years, when we hope to see them). Al will especially miss Maryanne’s homemade brownies. Thanks, Maryanne! We moored right next to Aventura upon arriving here and were delighted to be asked by Hank & Trisha to crew on Aventura along with another couple on an organized fun race around the island. Aventura took 2nd place in her class, so we felt pretty good about that. Hank & Trisha had to leave prior to the awards party, so we accepted on their behalf: a trophy, a pennant and a bottle of rum. We have let Aventura know that we will mail the trophy and pennant to them once they are home (in Durango, CO) and we’ll let them know how the rum tastes!
George Town is truly a mecca for sailors. Many boats find themselves spending months here. There is a large cruisers’ regatta (that we arrived just a little too late to see) with literally hundreds of boats participating. (Note to us: next year the festivities begin on February 25.) Late April is the Family Island Regatta, the largest regatta in the Bahamas, with Bahamians from all over the islands competing fiercely, many in boats they have built themselves. I understand it is quite something to see; unfortunately, we will probably be gone by then, working our way back up the islands and heading back to the U.S., being slated to arrive sometime in early June. In any case, we have loved George Town and Stocking Island.
Also while here, we ran into Rod & Eveline on Manatee. You might remember Manatee as having been one of the four boats in our little flotilla when we left Boot Key Harbor heading for Bimini. They left us, Emerald Seas and Orion while we were all in Nassau, due to their wanting to scoot down to Grenada as soon as possible. Boy, were we surprised to see them in George Town! We had thought they’d be halfway to Grenada by now. The reason they were here is simple: waiting on weather. It’s impossible to describe to a non-cruiser just how important the weather is when you are sailing. You just don’t want to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time with the winds and seas against you. I have heard it said that the most dangerous thing a sailor can have on board is a calendar and a planned date to be somewhere by a certain time.
In any case, one of the most fun events we have participated in was a sail from George Town to Long Island (roughly a 6-hr sail). Over 30 boats made the trip (one leg of which was a timed race, with the boats being divided into classes and having assigned handicaps). Manatee had left early that morning, heading out with three other “buddy” boats, planning to sail to the north end of Long Island (we, as well as the other 30+ boats were headed for Thompson Bay, approx. halfway down the island) and from there, out and around and then south to Mayaguana, the Turks & Caicos, and from then on, farther south, headed toward Grenada. Imagine our surprise when, as we approached the starting line of the race leg, we heard Manatee on the radio asking if they could participate in the race. It seems that the seas had grown, the winds had picked up, and they were taking more of a pounding that they were willing to put up with. Also, their foursome of “buddy boaters” had fallen apart: one developed a serious oil leak and had to return to George Town, one had decided on changing course to use an inside passage, and one (larger) boat had decided to tough it out on the original course. In any case, Manatee joined us in Thompson Bay and we spent most of our time with Rod & Eveline, having a ball. One day (I think we spent four days there) the four of us rented a car and drove down to Clarence Town at the southern tip of the island, stopping off at Dean’s Blue Hole along the way. At 663 ft, Dean’s is the deepest known “blue hole” in the world. (Lord knows what lurks down there at the bottom!) One minute you’re in ankle deep water and three steps later (well, there are no three steps later…you’re in extraordinarily deep water if you try to take three steps).
The highlight (for me, anyway) of the Long Island trip, was the awards night dinner & dance at Island Breeze Resort. (Incidentally, Wind Dancer took 4th place, out of 10 boats in her class, so wahoo!) Rockin’ Ron and his wife, Karen, cruising sailors on Sea Dancer, do an extraordinary job of organizing cruiser events at Stocking Island (every year!) throughout the weeks surrounding regatta week and they had organized the Long Island event as well. At Island Breeze on Thompson Bay, they also provided the dance music with Ron acting as D.J. Great music (Rod & Eveline are terrific jitterbuggers!), great fun. But the hoot of the evening was when Ron announced that he was going to play a “sing along” that some of us might not know but that we would be able to pick up on pretty quickly. He also added that he had received management’s permission to play it (which should have given us a clue). Have you ever heard the song “Alice?” Well, we hadn’t. It’s a young man singing about the fact that he couldn’t believe that he had spent 23 (I think) years living next door to Alice (and letting you know that he obviously hadn’t appreciated her until it was too late). The chorus (and Ron was right…it doesn’t take much to get on board with it) goes “Alice? Alice?!! Who the ?!*#! Is Alice?!” Al cautioned me against putting this on the blog, saying that you have to have been there to fully appreciate how funny a bunch of drunken sailors are when they’re singing about Alice. If you don’t know it, "You Tube" it. It’s hysterical. But only sing it if you’re drunk…or well on the way to being there.
The day we left Long Island, Manatee headed out again and, according to their reports, all is well on their journey south. (Next year, they plan on being in the BVI and we’re hoping to see them there.) Upon returning to George Town, we have run into both Emerald Seas and Orion (well not literally) and it has been great seeing Jim, Renate, Lyle & Julie again. Julie drew us a map of all the great snorkeling spots to hit on our way back up the Exumas. Thanks, Julie!
Sophie & Chelsea are demanding daily dinghy rides (they truly bug us until it happens) but recently we have had to institute a “two paws planted” rule in the dinghy, making them keep their two hind legs on the floor of the dinghy. Prior to that, Chelsea, and to a lesser degree, Sophie, spent a lot of their time balancing on the tubes of the dinghy and would occasionally lose their balance, resulting in a soaking wet dog having to be dragged back aboard and returned to the mother ship for a fresh water rinse. This began to get old, hence the “two paws planted” rule. They’re adjusting, but not happily.
Well, that’s about it for now. Oh, wait! I just remembered one of the fun things I was going to tell you. When flushing the head (toilet to you land lubbers), we have always used fresh water whenever in marinas or close to shore. But here, at Stocking Island, the water is so clean that we simply pump sea water into the head to flush with. One day, after pumping in the sea water, we noticed something in the head. It was a baby (and I do mean baby, as in tiny) octopus! Al fished him out (carefully) and we deposited him gently over the side into the water. It somehow warms the cockles (whatever cockles are) of your heart.
I would love to tell you what our plans are now, but we’ve almost stopped making plans. We will probably begin the trip north in about a week (IF we receive the battery charger and IF the weather cooperates…and IF nothing else breaks). In the meantime, we are thoroughly enjoying our time in George Town and can see why boaters have a tendency to camp out here. The temperature (80ish, requiring no heaters, no A/C), the almost constant breeze, the gorgeous water, the great boating community, all the new friends we've made…it’s awfully nice.
Once again, wish you were here.
Fair Winds from the Crew of Wind Dancer,
Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea