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The First Mate's Journal
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Great Lakes to The Bahamas
Who: Wayne & Pat
Port: Jackson
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A true little Bahamas village/town
03/31/2009, Little Farmer’s Cay 23*57.250 W76*19.013

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let him sleep in."

After coffee and peanut butter and jelly and pears (yah, yah - I know - some breakfast...) we put the dinghy down and went over to the government dock on Little Farmers to find out whom we pay for the mooring and to explore the island. We tied up and chatted with two men on the dock who told us to check out the grocery store and stop by later at the bar for a free drink for the "sailor". From there we went to the Ocean Club and chatted with Terry Bain (owner of the establishment) and determined that we had his mooring (it was either his or little Jeffs). He's a well-traveled guy and speaks several different languages (even some Chinese). When you walk into the place the first thing you notice is all the flags hanging from the ceiling. Various countries and club pendants hang from the rafters. I should have gotten a picture but didn't think of it. We made ordered conch for dinner at 6pm and then went walking the island. It runs a little over 1-¾ miles one way and ¾ of a mile across so we decided to walk around it and explore.

We found JR's house - a wood carver - and stopped to chat with him and play with his puppy. I bought a little Peal Owl (the live in holes in the ground) carved out of tamarind wood. He's been doing his wood carving for 44 years, bless his soul. So anyone wanting to put in a special order can call him or hail him on Channel 16 and he'll do a special order that you can stop back by on your way back to pick up. He was working on a bonefish when we stopped by to chat.

Further up the road we found the All Grade School and stopped and chatted with the two teachers and the kids. There's a primary teacher and a secondary teacher and they have about 20 kids (8 secondary with 2 seniors). We got to tour the school and I was amazed by how focused the students were. It was impressive. All the students are expected to go to college after graduating. Because they're out islanders, the government pays for their tuition but they must have a C average (A or B is better). I was thinking how sad it is though because after they go off to college, most don't come back. There's no job market here. If you look around, it's older people, kids and fishermen. This island has a population of 55 people and they're descendents of 3 - 5 families. It's sad to think that there's nothing for them here but other than fishing, the main livelihood on this island are the people that come to visit - the cruisers and tourists.

After talking about life on the island here and the students we followed the road around to the airstrip at the other side of the island and stopped at the marina (it has 4 slips for boats) for a cold drink. It's a pretty little marina on the inside - nice bar and restaurant area and from there continued on our loop over a small foot bridge back to a road that led us back to our starting spot at the dock.

We returned to the boat and got some soap/shampoo then went swimming and cleaned up for dinner, then read some and napped. I drifted off to the sound of birds singing. I've missed the sound of birds. They have wild parakeets and parrots here.

"How Sweet It Is to do Nothing All Day Long And After Having Done So, To Rest."

After our rest we dinghied back to the Ocean Club for our beers, conch dinner, and ice cream and to settle up our bill for our moorings. The Ocean Club is a nice establishment and Terry Bain, et al wonderful people to chat with.

It's a wonderful little island that has the 2nd smallest isolated community in the Bahamas and has an unspoiled Bahamian flavor. Enchanting. Once again - like Oriental, N.C. "we like it for what it's not"...

Goodbyes and new horizons
SW winds 5-10 knots, seas 1-3 ft, 80*F.
03/30/2009, Georgetown, Great Exuma/Elizabeth Harbor N23o31.656 W75o45.934 to Little Farmer’s Cay 23*57.250 W76*19.013

Monday, March 30, 2009

The radio chatter started earlier than usual. A lot of those that didn't leave yesterday, are leaving today - going north, south and where ever they are ultimately headed for... Ports called home; New Ports; Old ones. A lot are staying but the harbor is emptying out faster with each good weather window that presents itself. The goodbyes on the radio and watching everyone waving to each other from boat to boat and yelling their farewells into the wind are heartrending. I could hear the tears and the voices choking up and it made me realize how much of a community this really does become. While we came very late into the season, I got a taste of the camaraderie that builds up with time here. It's comforting that a group of wandering souls can find each other and build itself into a far-reaching family where ever they wander. Everyone seems ready to help everyone else out. Broken generator? Hey I know how to fix that, or I have the part you need... Dinghy escaped? Duchess to the rescue! Yoga lessons? Duchess again - 8 am Monday through Friday on Honeymoon Beach. On and on...

It was a beautiful travel day and we joined in the parade of boats leaving the harbor (second shift) after the announcements and weather. I watched the first shift leave at daybreak when everything is between darkness and light. No color, only gray tones but sailing ships going down the channel their moods probably as colorless as the images becoming visible in dawns twilight. We followed the zig zag through the coral heads and sandbars and Wayne put out a fishing line hoping to catch something as we left the cut or entered the one going into Little Farmers Cay. No luck in either one.

I'd like to return to George Town. It's a unique community. It's definitely a unique community. I'd like to be here during the regatta when it's at full capacity just to see what it's like.

It was a pretty uneventful sailing day. We had all the sails up to catch as much wind as possible and motored to maintain 6 knots to get into Little Farmers before the light got to low and we couldn't see the rocks and sandbars. The last time we were here anchoring on the west side of the island we bump, bump, bumped all the way in and the same thing leaving. It wasn't to bad because it was the sand bars, but coming in this time we had to see in order to avoid the many coral heads on the east side of the island. We came through the cut around 4 pm and I took the bow - rock watch while Wayne took the helm. I'd ask every so often what his depth was as the color of the water changed beneath me and we had no problem finding our way to the south east corner of the island where it said you could anchor. We got there and were greeted with mooring balls and decided to pick one up since the winds were light (hey not much stress on the line so we should stay put). It looked like it was attached to a large cement block on the bottom.

I made sloppy joes for dinner and we're enjoying some gin and tonics with ICE! We're now making ice as the freezer is emptying and I'd forgotten how nice gin and tonics are... Ahhh another sundowner... never miss a sundowner. I do miss hearing the conch horns usher in sunset though...

A hike up the monument
03/29/2009, Georgetown Anchorage

Sunday, March 29, 2009

After announcements and weather this morning on channel 72 we headed for Georgetown in the dinghy. The only thing open today in town is the grocery store and it's only open until 11:00am. So we wanted to make sure we had eggs, bread, cereal and fresh vegis before we took off (as well as dropping our garbage at the dump). Bumpy ride over and into Victoria Lake but we got to the grocery store with no problems. Most people took their big boats over yesterday to go shopping and to the Steak Out so most of the fruits and vegis were quite picked over. I got a few green tomatoes and they actually had some avocado this time that I couldn't pass up. Then we headed back over to our anchorage at Stocking Island and deposited the groceries and went for a beach walk.

We hiked over to the other side and it was amazing how calm the water is on the Sound today. Not like the raging waves of last time. It was a nice quiet walk and Wayne wanted to hike up to the monument, so after watching the waves for a while we hiked up to the monument and I now have shots of the monument from the boat, and shots of the boat from the monument. What an awesome view from the monument. I know it will probably look flat in the pictures, but it was quite spectacular and you could see so many islands in a chain that disappeared into the haze in the distance. Breath taking scenery.

After our hike up to monument we came back to the boat and vacillated whether to go to St Francis for cheeseburgers or put the dink up and prepare for a departure tomorrow. We read some and then vacillated some more, read some - then what the heck they have very good burgers and fries - we decided to dinghy over for the burgers and a beer. Don't know when we'll get another one... Starting at 5pm they have burgers, then Trivial Pursuit after that. I know Wayne's not into games but hey - a burger and a beer? They still have awesome burgers and we watched North Carolina & Oklahoma basketball while eating. Love this Hi-Def T.V. What a difference! We ran into Camilla and Pete from Nele (the West Point Couple) while finishing up our burgers and stayed to play Trivial Pursuit with them. There were about ten other teams and we missed 17 out of 40 but had a great time. The winning team only missed 9 questions and we were right in the middle of the bell curve as far as the numbers missed. This is another couple I love to keep running into and I'm glad we stayed to play with them (everyone knows I love to play all kinds of games). If we'd have brought a flashlight for the dinghy ride back, we'd have stayed longer to chat, but sunset was approaching, and I didn't want to be caught after dark out in the dink and couldn't remember if the anchor light was on or not (it was).

It was a very nice last day here in Elizabeth Harbor. It's sad watching everyone say goodbye. They form a close-knit community here over the winter months and as everyone starts to depart it's like the entire community breaks apart, like a gypsy caravan that separates. It must be joyful to reunite the following fall/winter season.

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