05/04/2008/7:17 pm, George Town, Great Exuma
The beaches on Stocking Island are spectacular. Jim and I walked along the Ocean Beach on the opposite side from Hamburger (Monument) Beach and then back across much further up. The sand over there is all finely crushed shell and coral - easy to walk on - and the waves were crashing in. Jim and a cute little crab played chicken to see who got the right of way. The crab won after he stuck out his claws and stared him down with his googly eyes! We took a windy (as in curvy) little path back to the harbour side through what seemed to be a dry slough that must get a salt wash now and then, to encounter an entirely different kind of sand. This was velvety soft - like walking on suede below the high water line and icing sugar above that.
From Monument Hill above the beach, the view was glorious as always and we "sat a spell" to gaze out over Elizabeth Harbour. (There is a move afoot to rename the harbour in honour of Rollie Gray but that hasn't happened yet.) These monuments were placed high atop the islands to indicate to passing boats that salt and/or provisions were available there - something the same idea as the inukshuks placed in the Arctic by the Inuit - to indicate a cache of food and supplies. This may also be the reason for the name "Stocking Island". One of the benches near the monument is engraved with a series of hearts waiting for names to be carved in - of couples engaged or married there and the latest entry is March of this year - quite a stunning spot for momentous decision-making!
Many of the boats in our anchorage shifted over to Kidd Cove to reduce the wet dinghy distance to town, or to Hamburger Beach where it is not as bumpy, and a whole parade of them left on Saturday morning. We are still at Volleyball Beach. It's bouncy but not so bad that I've had to have a fit about Jim's "stay put" policy. Fortunately, it calms down nicely during the night, but I must say, I'll be happy to be tucked away out of the wind whenever that happens.
We dropped by Mya 1 on Thursday evening and met George and Catherine. It is always great fun to meet people from Nova Scotia, knowing that we may well see them up the coast this summer. We discovered that George hails from Purcell's Cove, also home of Vince and Diane (Finn McCool) whom we met last August (and caught sight of in Black Point a month ago), and of our friends Pam and Gary (Atlantic Star) who sailed with us in Cape Breton and kindly hosted us for part of our Halifax stop. At the Happy Hour on Hamburger Beach on Friday night, we caught up with Frank (Local Knowledge) last seen in Marsh Harbour. He flies a large Nova Scotia flag along with the Canadian and Bahamas ones, and hails from Digby.
On Friday morning we weathered the trip across to Georgetown to do laundry and see if the computer was fixed. Success on the first item - still waiting on the second. There were lots of machines - $3.per wash and $4. per dryer. I double bagged everything to bring it back because once more we took some waves directly over the side of the dinghy. The water was back on and boats were lined up along the dock to lower the hose and fill their cans. It sure helps to be able to fill them right in the dinghies.
Late on Friday afternoon, we headed back to the beach - it was time for Happy Hour at Hamburger Beach. We're keeping our fingers crossed for a Sunday trip over to Cat Island, and so we were really interested to chat with Carla and Bruce (Deuces Wild) who highly recommended that stop. They've cruised in this area many times and Carla had lots of suggestions for us. Most of the folks we talked with are headed up the Exuma chain or over toward Nassau and on from there to Florida.
I always like to scan the table for interesting nibblies. Some creative person had made delicious little wonton packages served with plum sauce, and I had more than one taste of a spicy black bean dip with tortilla chips - those precious things that are had to come by in many of the markets. The artichoke hearts/mayonnaise/parmesan cheese dip is always good and always seen; a jug filled with bright orange carrot sticks and leafy green celery stalks looked great and tasted crunchy, and I munched on a few celery sticks stuffed with a curry filling and topped with peanuts - something a little different and very tasty. I took a plate of quesadillas and they disappeared in short order.
Saturday is a day for walking again. Jim went to town to pick up one more load of water and his computer while I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and then we dinghied to Sand Dollar beach for a stroll. We met up with Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) who have been hanging out in that neighbourhood so we had a chance to catch up with them too, and then we spent the rest of the sunny afternoon watching volleyball games at Volleyball beach. Evening found us at St Francis for a light dinner - scrumptious grilled tuna wrap for me and so-so fish sandwich for Jim. I gave him a few bites of mine.
Communication-wise - the internet was down most of Friday but the cell phone is fine at the moment. It also comes and goes but we've had good connections on it lately. We bought a phone in the US (T-Mobile) and put a Bahamas chip in it when we were in Green Turtle Cay. Many of the payphones have card slots to insert a special BTC (Bahamas Telephone Company) card - but it can sometimes be hard to find a phone that works. Cards for both cell phone time and for the payphones are readily available at the grocery stores. Wifi is hit or miss. From here off Stocking Island, some folks use Harbour wifi and some, Gaviota Bay.
April 3rd was my Aunt Ursula's 93rd birthday and it sure was nice to be able to call her and have it sound like she was right next-door. If I have managed to inherit the good genes in women on both sides of my family, I hope I'll have another 20 - 25 years on the water! We are reminded time and time again that there are few age limits in this community. We've met young couples, young families, many 50 and 60-ish folks and a goodly number well into their 70's. Some are still sailing and some have shifted - or always had - motor vessels. It is also interesting to note that we've met quite a few single handers, mostly men; we have run across only two solo women - one in New Brunswick and one in North Carolina.
We never tire of meeting other cruisers and hearing their stories - some have always wanted to take this trip and have finally done it; some have come to both the idea and the journey later in life. An inspiring number figured out early on that they could take time away from "regular" life to cruise from time to time, and some imaginative folks discovered that they could combine the two, starting early and continuing for many years.
While Jim and I cannot imagine just coming straight to George Town to spend the winter at this "playschool for adults", it works for many and good for them! We've had an amusing time chatting with them and listening to them on the VHF radio, as well as meeting those whose traveling is more along the lines of our own.
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!