First, the Family Islands are the Out Islands of the Bahamas and exclude the more populated islands of Grand Bahamas (Freeport) and New Providence (Nassau). Fifty-nine years ago a "friendly" competition was established to bring together the best sailors from the islands to compete for title of the National Champion Sailors.
As the Governor General was recently quoted saying, "the event is an expression of the resilience and optimism of our people..." and "it is precisely because of the wonderful spirit of camaraderie and friendly competition engendered by the event that it thrives not only in good times but also when the winds may not be so favorable." While all that is true, he obviously wasn't focused on the large amount of betting going on or the rampnt partying.
Over the years the Regatta has evolved into a blow-out party, as only Bahamians can pull off. The four day event brings many people to the Georgetown, Exuma area and is a definite boost to the economy. A lot of preparation goes into it and the Bahamian equivalent of an Olympic Village seemingly springs up overnight. The plywood shacks provide Sky Juice (gin and coconut water...the national drink) 24 hours a day and souse and sheepshead soup for breakfast, guava duff, jerk chicken, ribs and other delectable tidbits. Music so loud you swear your ears will bleed plays late into each night and the people watching is absolutely world class and not to miss.
And then there are the races. There are essentially 3 classes of Bahamian Sloops racing: Class A (the largest boats), Class B and the Dinghy Class (which include classes C, D and E). The islands that can afford it work all year on handcrafting one or two boats and send their island's winning sloop to the National Family Island Regatta. The races are pretty close to one-design and each boat is laid up by hand in the classic traditional style Bahamian Sloop. The boats are quite beautiful and are easily identified by their huge mainsail, hiking boards and shall we say, unique names. Several boat names caught our eyes like: Ruff Justice, Tida Wave, Lady Muriel, Aant Farm, Lady Sonia, Barbarian, Queen Drucilla and Lonesome Dove. All are current or past winners too.
The Regatta is over now and many cruising boats are preparing to pull out and go south, north or west. One downside to our life style is having to say goodby to old and new friends. Hopefully, we will get to seem many of them again in some other harbor.
A deep lo pressure system has been sitting over us most of the week bringing us much needed rain and not so much needed wind and waves. So we will probably hang out until the weather improves.
To see more photos just click on Photo Gallery. We are so glad we got the opportunity to see the Regatta for the second time.
Some pretty nasty weather was on its way and we puzzled over where to take cover. The lo and associated cold front wreaked havoc in the middle and eastern US and was strong enough to penetrate to the Tropic of Cancer, where we are located. Elizabeth Harbor is beautiful and spacious but has few places to hide if the wind is from the west or northwest.
A fellow cruiser mentioned Red Shanks anchorage, a well-known remote anchorage with 360 degree protection. According to the charts it appeared the depths were too shallow for our six foot draft. But the couple had recently been in there and assured us there was plenty of water. So, on high tide and with Maryann on the bow spotting coral heads and reefs we wove our way into to Red Shanks without any problems.
Red Shanks consists of several small uninhabited islands that create protection 360 degrees. So while the wind howled at 30 - 40 knots we were in relatively calm water with good holding in 10 feet of sand for 4 days. We explored by dinghy when weather permitted, Don fished off the dinghy on the edge of a blue hole and caught 2 small fish (he was so excited....the curse has been broken!) and we watched several green turtles poking along the surface. There were a total of 10 boats hiding with us. That was the only sign of civilization.
After the weather passed we headed back to Elizabeth Harbor to socialize and buy groceries! We will be back, Red Shanks!
For Maryann's birthday we rented a car and toured the long island of Great Exuma. Once we got the hang of driving on the wrong side of the road and not clenching the wheel at the speed the Bahamians blasted by us, we had a great day.
We started out early in the morning and headed west, taking the Queen's Highway (most of the Bahamian island's main thoroughfares are named that) going all the way to the tip of the island. Most of the route provided spectacular views of harbors, beaches and the ocean. The colors of the water never ceased to amaze us. They say the high salinity of the water makes it that unforgettable "Bahamas blue". Sprinkled along the way were tiny settlements, few of them were very prosperous looking.
We were intrigued to see the famous Bahamian Class A sloop builder in Barretere who was quite busy getting ready for next week's Family Island Regatta. We saw the produce farms around Steventon that grow most of this and other nearby island's fresh food. We saw several modest hotels and cottage rentals that had obvious hurricane damage and no occupants.
We stopped at Emerald Bay to look at the marina we stayed in exactly 5 years ago on Maryann's Birthday. It is one of the few marinas in the Exumas period and was and is a great bargain at a $1/foot with no services. Not a lot had changed at the marina--same floating docks, same free laundry, same very courteous staff, same surge coming in from the ocean.
However, the Grand Resort, adjacent to the marina, was finished since we last came through here. The resort included very upscale villas, a spa and restaurant overlooking beautiful Thompson Bay. So, we stopped for a nice lunch and Maryann was able to get a massage at the Spa! Wow what a day! And they had screaming fast wi-fi to boot! (The photo is from the infinity pool overlooking the bay.)
Then it was off to the east where we were able to drive, without incident, almost to the eastern end of the island. We crossed a one lane bridge that had been built next to an abandoned ferry dock that connected to a settlement called 'The Ferry', what else? Last stop was back to Georgetown to buy some groceries. Rather than take the rental car back to the people's house who rented it to us, they told us to just park it in front of the market and they would be by the next day to pick it up. No paperwork! We ended the day back on the boat with a glass of wine and a spectacular sunset.
Pretty excellent adventure, right? Happy Birthday Maryann.
We aren't the only ones that are stuck in Georgetown due to the strong winds. We are accustomed to seeing a wide variety of types of vessels in our travels but the Haitian boat in the photo was unique. It is a non-profit boat from Haiti whose mission is to frequent the Bahamas to accept donations of food, water and clothing, which it then takes back to Haiti. Usually the boat goes to Nassau and Marsh Harbor, both of which have large Haitian contingents, and heads back south directly to Haiti. The boat wound up in Georgetown because the winds were too strong to continue.
Some cruisers suggested we all donate t shirts and canned goods, if possible. Straight from the Heart put together several bags and brought it directly to the boat. The three crew aboard, one of which spoke a little English, were very grateful, giving us many "God Bless You's". If you look closely at the boat it is plywood with paint over it. In some places, wooden doors were part of the hull. The many yellow jugs tied to the top are filled with water, a common site in the Caribbean.
We were glad to help and wish them well in their travels.
Caution: this blogsite describes a terrible disease and includes graphic references. Reader beware.
Two days after we anchored at Sand Dollar beach the weather started to blow and blow and blow from the east-southeast through south-southeast. Nearly all of the 3 days anchored there the wind was above 30 knots with gusts above that. The swells coming in from the ocean created a washing machine effect and the crew contracted the dreaded Anchor Flu.
Signs and Symptoms:
1. Queasiness and nausea making it impossible to do fine work or have your head below your waist;
2. Sleep deprivation due to violent boat motion--side to side and bucking up and down, all at the same time;
3. General malaise due to lack of sleep;
4. Full body achiness as if a gremlin had been pummeling the body with a rubber mallet;
5. Mood swings, especially in the "cranky" and "bitchy" direction;
6. Overwhelming urge to scream due to inability to get off the boat;
7. Eye strain from staring at the GPS to see if the boat is dragging or not;
8. Longing for a flat surface (board, floor, bed) to get some much needed sleep.
1. Make the weather change to something a little more benign;
2. Move to a more protected anchorage.
We were cured by moving the boat about a mile north near Monument beach! Yippee. Sleep, cooking meals and being able to get off the boat. Life is good again.
No picture for this entry for obvious reasons: it was too ugly to share.
We had a wonderful sail south from Cambridge Cay to Black Point Settlement, one of Maryann's favorite spots. In fact, we even got to fly the Code Zero sail and were pleased with its performance. That is until our pride got in the way...Another boat that left Cambridge the same time we did called us on the radio, admiring our sail and asked to see the setup after we both anchored at Black Point. The wind piped up so we had to strike (close) the Code Zero sail and rather than putting it away in its bag, we clipped it to the toerail so we could show the setup to the other boat later. As Don made his way back from the bow toward the stern his size 12 sandal caught the edge of the Code Zero's jam cleat and pulled the furling line out. And out went this VERY large sail! It couldn't be furled up because it wasn't tensioned on its mount so we struggled a lot to pull it down and wrestle it to the deck, then tie it securely. (Note to self: tell future admirers we will send a picture of the setup.)
The day ended nicely anchored in gin clear water in front of the tiny settlement of Black Point. Maryann and Don got to visit Lorraine (of Lorraine's Café fame) and meet the new addition to the family, 3 year old son Joshua! Joshua was a surprise as Lorraine's other kids are grown. Lorraine and Maryann go way back 10 years and catching up is always a pleasure and the affection between those 2 is obvious. Lorraine even wanted to have us get married on her beach. She offered to make all the arrangements, including getting a preacher. But, alas, it was not to be. But she did make them a nice Bahamian meal that evening.
After a quick stay that included doing massive amounts of laundry, we took the weather window and headed out into the Sound (ocean) toward Georgetown. Now that was a day to remember on the water! Perfect weather and great sailing. And Velcro did not even get sick! We arrived at Stocking Island and anchored at Sand Dollar Beach. We remarked how few boats were here; about 100. There should be more the closer we get to the Family Island Regatta.