A Propitious Meeting
01 February 2011
After four days in Red Shanks with some blustery weather, we have a good forecast for a few days and plan on heading to Long Island. Rog and Jacquie and their guests Spencer and Suzie have already been to Long Island and they want to explore the Jumentos. We take Sea Sharp over to Kidd Cove, which is right off the town of Georgetown so we can do laundry, provision, take on water and do various other boaty things in preparation for our departure. We go to the local internet café to do a last check on email and do web things. Not long after we set up, a cruising couple enters and in an instant we recognize them as Jim and Irene on Escapaid.
A bit of history here..... In 1999 when we joined our great friends and sailing mentors Ann and Harold on Rumpot, we met a couple and their young son whom Ann and Harold befriended and became boat buddies with on the way down and back; Jim and Irene and their son Peter. We met them in our short but memorable visit to Rumpot. I recall their son Peter probably 12 or 13 at the time and at an awkward age; not really wanting to spend a year on a 37 foot boat with his parents. Well, Harold took him under his wing and took him fishing, snorkelling and various other "Harold" adventures. Jim and Irene and Harold and Ann became very good friends and we met them various times over the past twelve years.
So suffice it to say that it was delightful to reunite with them here in Georgetown twelve years later!
We chat with them and we determine that it is on both our agendas to go to Long Island for a few days to get away from the entropic lifestyle which can creep up on you in Georgetown. There are so many islands in the Bahamas and we've only been to a few. Long Island as the name implies is a long, sliver of an Island to the south east of the Exumas. We've been told it is beautiful and interesting but don't quite know what to expect. So on the agreed upon day, we get ready early and in the company of Escapaid, head out the serpentine south channel from Great Exuma bound for Long Island. Many other Georgetown cruisers have the same idea and there is a veritable parade of sailboats, some in front, others behind us bound for the same destination on Long Island; Thompson Bay/Salt Pond.
Long Island is not called "long" because it is short (what is it Stuart Maclean of Vinyl Café proclaims?, "we may not be big but we're small")it's about 60 miles long but very skinny. The harbour we're heading to is the most protected and popular among boaters about half way along the western side. The weather is superb with warm clear skies. However, there is virtually no wind so there's no use even putting up the sails. The passage over is a bit complicated as we have to navigate various banks, coral heads, cays and other obstructions but it's a very easy day. It's so clear and clement that we can look into the waters as we motor and make out every detail of the bottom. We see many large star fish and other interesting features. It's a completely relaxing 40 mile passage to Thompson Bay and we are pleasantly surprised by this large, scenic harbour. We understand that before the exodus of today there were only a couple of cruisers here; our flotilla is about 15 boats and over the next day or two this swells to 30 or more boats.
We anchor and Escapaid with their friends Bill an Judy anchor close to us. We recognize various other boats in the harbour from our travels and it's great to be in the company of so many other cruisers. We head over to the beach for Chopin and us to explore and then we decide to go to dinner at a place which was recommended to us called Long Island Breezes. This is class act, run by a hospitable guy named Michael. They have cabins, restaurant, showers, laundry, dinghy dock and just about anything cruisers need and Michael obviously understands "customer service. We have a reasonably priced but top quality meal of conch, snapper, grouper and lobster. We love the company of Irene, Jim, Bill and Judy and the long, bumpy dinghy ride back to our boats in the black of the night is not a chore.
Our plan, and that of the various other cruisers here judging from the VHF traffic, is to rent a car from mid day to mid day; visit the south part on the first afternoon and the north part the next morning. We reserve a van 'cause we have six and pick it up around noon. I'm the DD and rise to the challenge of navigating this Chrysler mini van on the "wrong side of the road". We head south and are very impressed by the prosperity and pride of ownership on this somewhat remote island. We are told there are something like 4000 persons here and I bet there are 40 churches; all very proper and attractive. There are probably as many bars; not quite as proper..... We stop at various stores and shops and chat it up with the locals. It is apparent that these folks have it together. Absent here is the usual detritus and litter along the roads. The houses are proper and well maintained. The vehicles are late model and shiny. Did I mention the impressive churches?
We head to "Dean's Blue Hole", the deepest " blue hole" in the world and the site for free diving competitions. Look it up on the web. It's an impressive phenomenon! Judy tentatively swims to it but at the last minute screams and jumps into Jim's arms; scared of the monsters which inhabits this eerie 600 foot deep abyss. Finally she settles down and swims into the hole and is awestruck by its awesome beauty.
We go to a straw shop on the way back and buy various hand made items from a proud and entrepreneurial lady named Eva. Later we stop at a roadside bar for a cold one before heading back to Thompson Bay and return to our boats/homes.