02/04/2008/2:03 pm, George Town, Great Exuma
It truly is the strangest weather these days. The sky is brilliant blue with cloudy patches, the sun beats down, the wind indicator reads 12 knots and the waves move gently past us. Then all of sudden, a dark cloud rolls over, the wind whips up to 29 knots, the skies open and it just pours while the waves froth up and add salt spray to the mix. Two minutes later it is all over and we go back to sunshine for a couple of hours before repeating the process again. When we are aboard, we rush around and close all the hatches, flinging them open again moments later to let the breeze blow through. We saw a few flashes of lightning last night and are hearing our first claps of thunder as I write this.
Jim and I joined Donna and Rick (Lorbas) on Jabiru for sundowners on Monday evening, and last night Donna and Rick (Lorbas), Gail and Peter) Jabiru and Fred (Casa Mare) joined us. It's been fun to look at our similar boats. Jabiru is a Cabo Rico - about the same length as Madcap and built in the early 80's. Both have an abundance of wood inside and out and Gail and I had a good time chatting about galleys and salon seating arrangements. I've been feeling the need for more space lately, but Rick and Donna had some good comments on that. They sail a Corbin - again roughly the same size and said that after their first year they felt crowded, but when they got into the routine of being down here 6 months each year, they found that the space was just right for them and they valued being on a boat they had gotten to know really well. It has now been 9 months since we left Ontario and it has just gotten to feel cramped in the last month, so we may well find that we have the same experience. We want to check out their wind generator over the next few days as we fine tune our plans to boost our power.
Regarding our power - we are being miserly with it. We rely mostly on ice blocks in the fridge now - turning it on only when Jim has the trickle charger and generator hooked up or when we are motoring. The latest thing that has happened is that our charger is toast. When we checked to see if a fuse had blown, we noticed amber "stuff' melted over the insides. That cannot be a good thing! So now, we use the engine to charge batteries as we travel, and it does seem to charge them, and the trickle charger to try to keep them topped up as much as possible while we sit here. We'll limp along this way till we get back to the US and then see about replacing the charger and getting a wind generator at the same time.
We took a run over to town this morning (Wednesday) and the going over went just fine. I exchanged a bagful of books at the Library ($3. to join which confers the right to borrow from their extensive collection and trade one-for-one from the (also extensive) trading shelves. It's open 10 - 12 M-F and is staffed by cruisers. A water main had burst so we didn't get water, and I never did find Mom's famous bread van. Jim found the computer fix-it shop though and his computer is there being checked over. With any luck, the USB ports in it can be repaired and he can use his Winlink program again for position reports and e-mail. We got just absolutely soaked on the way back - waves crashing right over us. I couldn't even see with the salt water running into my eyes, and our jackets did not one bit of good in keeping the salt water from soaking us to the skin. Oh well - that Bayfield bathtub comes in very handy for rinsing our clothes and the life rails do double duty as clotheslines. I try to be a bit discreet about hanging underwear; a part of me would like to hang out a row of scandalous attire, but Jim and I will have to acquire some first!
We'll be off to the beach again - this time with camera so I can get some surf pictures. Although the wind is supposed to drop over the next couple of days, it will take another day or so for the swells on the Sound to drop so we expect to be here until the weekend.
31/03/2008/2:14 pm, George Town, Great Exuma
When I responded to the call for newcomers on the Georgetown, Pam replied, "Welcome to the Centre of the Universe!" Well... I'm not quite sure about that but we'll see how it goes.
We got here Saturday after a pleasant trip across from Long Island (wind right behind us though so no sailing). It is always fascinating to see the depth sounder go from around 2 feet through the tens, hundreds and then to last known depth 350 ft, knowing that there are really well over 1200 ft of water below us. The water colour changes too from warm turquoise to dark, cool blue.
The eastern entrance into Georgetown through North Channel Rocks was stunningly beautiful with an artist's palette of every shade of green and blue again, whitecapped waves curling off the rocks and those hazel-brown reefs to steer around. As we cruised past the various anchorages, deciding where to position ourselves, we spotted several familiar boats. The wind is supposed to come up over the next few days bringing some showers and thunderstorms, and our dinghy doesn't move very quickly so we decided to anchor off Volleyball beach. The protection is reasonable and it's not far to Stocking Island for interludes ashore.
Our first order of business was Georgetown itself for fuel, water and a check around for the computer fix-it store so we dropped the dinghy and headed across the harbour. There is a tiny little 8ft wide pass through from Elizabeth Harbour into Lake Victoria - the little pond that sits in the middle of the town. Once through that pass under the road (8 ft high too) we tied up at the long dinghy dock behind Exuma Market - the main grocery store. It was an experience going through there for the first time. Because it is so narrow, one has to line up to see that no one is coming, then rev up the engine and go. The waves were whipping us through on the way in and we wondered what would happen on our way back out! I'm happy to report that the return part went well too.
Jim walked around to the Shell station to fill the jerry cans while I filled our water cans from the tap conveniently placed right on the dinghy dock (free water - yeah). Then we walked around to the Web centre on the back side of the lake. That was a truly weird place - certainly not a web café - a door that buzzed to let us in, a few computers lined up along a wall and a countertop to ceiling black glass wall straight ahead with three little holes for shoving money through. I thought no one was there and as I bent over double to see if I could look through the little hole, a voice said "May I help you?" startling me back upright again in a hurry. Apparently that black glass wall was a window but there were no see through spots so we never got a look at who was behind it - just a disembodied voice. As Jim checked e-mail, many folks got buzzed in, handed money over and I kept hearing things like Miami, New York, and I couldn't imagine what was going on till Jim finally explained to me that they were placing bets on sports games. So it was a betting office that had some computers too. No wifi and the cost was $10. per half hour. We discovered a better system later. Both Harbour wifi (from Georgetown) and Gaviot Bay wifi (from St Francis resort on Stocking Island) have better rates. ($2. per hour or $15. per week)
Back at the market, we picked up a few items and remarked again how much better the stores in Long Island are - in terms of quality, price and friendliness. In fact, our whole Georgetown experience on this first afternoon paled in comparison with Long Island. It was like walking into a big impersonal city. Cruisers didn't great each other on the dock. I waited for the couple approaching the dinghy next to ours to make eye contact before saying hello, but they got right into the dinghy without ever doing that. Others looked startled when I greeted them. Don't people do that here? Even New York City was friendlier! Locals were a bit warmer, but not in the same open way as we have found at our other stops.
Sunday was a brand new day though, and while the general atmosphere still seemed a bit more reserved, we had ourselves a perfectly wonderful afternoon. Our friends Gail and Peter (Jabiru) and Fred (Casa Mare) were here, and they introduced us to Rick and Donna (Lorbas). We seven sat in the colourful lawn chairs under the casurina trees on Volleyball Beach. Burgers and beers from Chat & Chill went down very nicely. We caught up on all the news, traded DVD's at the swap table and watched all the happy people. As the afternoon came to a close, we dinghied back, fastened everything down and got ready for the wind.
There are about 170 boats scattered among the anchorages that are spread out through this huge harbour. We have lots of swing room and a good view of the comings and goings at the beach. The wind came up to a consistent 20-25 knots throughout the night but the anchor held well and we didn't move all that much. Despite ominous clouds, the rainfall was just a short heavy shower - enough for a quick rinse of the salt on the decks and then it was over.
Monday morning brought a bit of excitement as we watched a freighter come in through the channel, threading its way through some boats anchored in its way. We watched a couple of them pull up and move. As the announcement was made on VHF 68 about staying out of the channel, we wondered why it is not marked with at least a few buoys. Sure, our charts all indicate where it is, but a buoy makes it really clear.
The wind stayed at anywhere from 12 - 20 ENE and the swells weren't all that large on the Stocking Island side of the harbour, so we headed down (up?) to Hamburger Beach (Monument Beach) to join Jabiru and Lorbas for a walk. I even tried the Georgetown Dinghy Posture - standing up while hanging onto a line for balance while roaring across the water. It does keep a person drier, and must be good for developing body balance. We'll know we are truly part of the crowd when Jim tries it; so far his reaction is "Hmmph - ridiculous!" The hike up to the monument was short, steep and beautiful, and we could see clear from one end of the island to the other. A friendly cat stretched his way out from under a clump of seagrapes and followed us back down the hill - we thought we had a new friend but he deserted us when he met what looked to be a littermate down at the hamburger hut.
We trekked off to the beach, gathering up pretty bits of shell and giving our legs a good stretch. The beach was gorgeous and the sound of waves crashing in was just wonderful. The nature walk established by the Peace & Plenty folks was informative and pretty. It was much calmer over in the Hamburger anchorage, but we decided to stay put according to the theory that "if the anchor holds don't mess with it" - something like "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.) The wind is supposed to shift a bit more South but we hope it won't get too rough. We have lots of company here including another couple of Bayfields!
30/03/2008/3:01 pm, Hog Cay, Long Island
We first learned this expression in the book, Out Island Doctor, where the words "De Doctah done reach" meant the doctor had arrived. For us, it means Madcap has reached its southernmost destination for this trip.
With regret, but also with anticipation of a few more new places to visit, we went ashore one last time and then hauled anchor. One indication of our regret is this little wine story. Our friend, Juan Luis, gave us a fine bottle of Chilean wine to drink "when we got where we were going". Since we have never been quite sure of that, we had decided it would be appropriate to drink it at this point in the journey. Once it was turn around time however, it seemed entirely too final to do that, so we've decided to keep it a few days longer. We'll drink it on our last "new" destination before we truly head north again. With favourble weather, that will be Cat Island - unless of course we do some other madcap thing and postpone the occasion once more!
On our morning list of chores was electronic filing of income tax returns. Most of the American folks we've met have requested extensions. Since that is not an option for Canadians, and since we didn't have all the information we needed on paper, Jim has been on the phone and e-mail for many hours lately. Finally, he had it all together and we asked the folks at Sunset Realty if we could tap into their wifi. A very obliging gentleman said, "Sure thing" and ushered us to a lovely air-conditioned office that wasn't being used. Our Canadian Income tax returns have thus been filed in our most exotic location ever, and we anticipate a reasonable refund that will help us get home again!
We filled water jugs at Island Breeze and ate very good sandwiches on their deck, made one last stop at Hillside Groceries where the extensive shelves and fridges were jam packed with everything one could possible need, and waved goodbye as we left the anchorage about 3pm.
Because of another weather system containing strong easterly winds, we opted to head for Georgetown instead of Conception Cay, and our goal was Hog Cay for a one-night stop on the way. We had a new navigation experience here. It was about 7 pm when we neared the turn from the Glenton Sound waypoint, and the light was not conducive to coral spotting. The Explorer chart showed many rocks to be avoided but it appeared that if we went due east along the 23° 35.990'W line of latitude we'd be in the clear. It was the first time I ever steered quite that way, but with Jim on bow watch, it worked just fine. We dropped anchor just in time to watch the sun drop over the horizon, hung the anchor light and enjoyed a cool glass of white wine along with chicken and spicy rice.