C of the U?
31 March 2008 | 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!