It's Friday night and we've been in Georgetown for two weeks now. The wind over the past couple of weeks has remained strong from the east so we have been busying ourselves with the everyday things all the cruisers seem to do. Reading, hiking, socializing with other cruisers, boat chores, etc., fill our days. I have also been busy completing our water maker installation. This isn't any particular brand model but a collection of all the required components installed where space allows. It's about a day or so from throwing the switch and testing it out. Donna refers to it as a 'Frankenstein' model. If all goes well it should produce 45gal/hr and we're all looking forward to a deck washing party once we get it going.
Georgetown has been an interesting stop, it is a full time winter spot for many sailboats that come here and stay from December to April bringing lots of purchasing to this little town, which the locals appreciate. There are many different nationalities as well, Italian, French ( France and Quebec), German, American and many many Canadian boats. New American friends ask us if there is anyone left in Canada.
The Exuma Market, the liquor store, hardware store, laundry mat, Eddie's Edgewater Cafe, St. Francis Resort and the Chat and Chill are places we have been spending our time and money.
To do our running around in Georgetown I take taxis, Jack has been hitch hiking...too funny. His way is much cheaper but not as comfortable, he rode in a back of a pick up one day.
There are stingrays that hang out at the Conch Shack on the beach, they leave conch meat out so you can feed them, that was an experience. They are very tame and come right up to your hand and take the food, they feel very soft like velvet. We have snorkeled as well there are lots of coral reefs around. Jack bought a spear for lobster, no success yet but he has only been out one time, we have two lobster tails in the freezer we bought as back up. They sell lobster tails at the hair salon... Ya that's the way it works in Bahamas.
There are about 250 boats anchored with and there is a community feeling about it. everyone uses channel 68 on their VHF radio which is the way everyone communicates to one another, like a cell phone but free.
We hope to be leaving in the next day or two and have a meeting at the Chat in Chill in about an hour with a few other boaters heading the same direction, east & south.
I was reminded of something that all sailors should keep in mind but in this day and age can easily become forgotten, or worse ignored.
One of the reference books I am reading is a book by Bruce Van Sant. It outlines the do's & don'ts of navigating eastward through the Bahamas, against the easterly trade winds and onward to the Caribbean chain of islands. I decided I would check out a location just a few miles east of Georgetown that Bruce suggested would be a good staging location to anchor just the day before leaving Georgetown. We wanted to up anchor anyway since we had been in this certain spot for some time and wanted to get closer to some friends on the north side. We'd also would get a short sail in as a bonus.
As we approached the suggested anchorage we found a rather large catamaran hung up on rocks in a narrow cut just north of the island we considered anchoring at. There was a dingy leaving the yacht which we assumed where people abandoning the boat. There was also a person on the deck working with a second dingy trying to run anchor lines out the front in an attempt to kedge off (pull off) the catamaran from the rocks. Not knowing if we had just stumbled on a recent grounding we hung by in case we could be of some help by anchoring in a safe area and riding our dingy over. It turned out that the grounding had happened the day before and the people on the boat were from the salvage company...our help was not needed so we lifted sail and went on our way.
I wondered how the captain had thought he could run through that narrow cut that, according to our Explorer paper charts, is full of rocks and only approx 3.9' an LW. It was only when I then compared the paper charts with our Navionics electronic chart, which we run on our chart plotter, did I realize the problem. The Navionics chart plotter showed a magenta line (recommended route) running straight through where the cat was grounded. Apparently the yacht, which had an experienced crew, had sailed from France and was attempting to navigate the cut from the outside.
Apparently Navionics chart chips, I have been told, do not use the information from the Explorer charts which are considered to be the most reliable source for the Bahamas area. There are other electronic charts such as Garmin that do use the Explorer charts as their base information and therefore, for the Bahamas area, are considered by most as more reliable than Navionics.
A long story I know but in the end I realized that relying on the single source of an electronic chart plotter could be disastrous. Needless to say we have now downloaded the Garmin electronic charts as a backup to our Navionics chart plotter which we will use to cross reference in any close situations.
It's been a great week weather wise even-though the trade winds remained strong. This prevented us going the outside and more exposed route toward Georgetown so we decided just to sail south along the leeward side of the Exuma islands chain. Every day we would do about 5-10nm to another island. This would take only about 1-2hrs which left us lots of time to anchor and explore our new surroundings. These islands are very remote with only few that have small communities on them.
From Black Pt. the first day we hopped over to White Pt. Nothing there except beautiful long beach which we walked. The next day another, 10nm further, we stopped at Little Farmers Cay which has a small community. We travelled with three other boats and we all went exploring together. We had lunch at Brenda's Kitchen. We were the only patrons she had at the time (and possibly all day) and she quickly set up a table with white table cloth, etc. on the patio overlooking the most gorgeous emerald green cove. Later, the search for internet brought us to an 'all grades' school on the island. The kids were just let out for the day and were a real treat to talk to...so polite and interested. They were all decked out in their school uniforms and were so happy when we asked if we could get a picture of them. They all assembled, boys in back, girls in front like they had rehearsed it a hundred times.
The following day the winds were up again so we just continued along our leeward plan to Rudder Cut Cay, past Musha Cay with it's beautiful resort. These are mostly private islands and the signs on land made you well aware of it. There were some big caves along the shore and also a stainless steel sculpture of a grand piano with an empty bench and a mermaid looking on to where the player should be seated. It was in about 15' of water and snorkeling over it was great. Hopefully I can post the video or take a still from it and post that in the photo album.
We got a slight break in the weather on thursday which allowed us to take the outside route for about 10nm further to Lee Stocking Island and Williams Cay. As we explored the shoreline and the beaches we passed star fish at least 12-15" across the tips and manta rays 4-5' across. The beaches and the paths up to the other side of the island were really interesting. The wind has finally calmed down and we are all looking forward to sailing outside to Georgetown on Friday. With the wind calm the water is so clear that you can see perfectly to the bottom at 30'. It's like the boat is floating on air.
Friday morning we took off to Georgetown and we saw at least 35 boats all going the same way. We stopped off at a nice marina along the way which is owned by Sandals Resorts for a quick fuel/water fill up. etc. and got into Georgetown about 1400hrs. LOTS of boats here. The atmosphere here is one of a bustling cruisers community with organized cruisers activities announced everyday on the VHF at 0830. These are anything from who needs help, volleyball on the beach, pig roast at the Chat n' Chill Bar, etc. The next day we had a list of things we wanted to pick up along with some re-provisioning and so on so we were focused on getting these things done so we can lay back on Sunday, maybe take in the pig roast or NFL finals and decide our next plans. Initially we thought of heading out on Monday and catch a weather window to get further east. Doug has his brother coming in next week so they need to stay put for a while and Graeme and Laura aren't planning on going any further since this is typically the point they slowly make their way back to Virginia and back home for the summer. In the end we've decided to stay put for a while. I suppose weather windows are like busses...if you miss one you just chill out for a while and an other one will come by.