We are working our way up the Exuma chain having reached Georgetown last week where we turned around. It feels good to be taking miles off the return trip now. We've had a fair amount of unsettled weather. Last year when we passed through here it was a little earlier and things had already settled down and we'd hoped to nail that again arriving even later. I'm kind of tired of weather! Some people say cruising is about working on your boat in exotic places. I say it is sometimes about waiting on your boat in exotic places.
On the way to Georgetown, we stopped at Staniel Cay to wait out a blow. That place has changed so much over the years, now a megayacht & expat destination, and it always cracks us up how some domesticated pigs set up on a beach can draw so much attention. They're even pinned on Googlemaps! People from all over come to this place with their produce scraps (or in some cases top notch produce) to hand feed these pigs while wading in pretty blue water. They arrive on tours by speedboat from Nassau, short jaunts from adjacent resort islands, megayachts, normal sized private sailboats or sea plane. Yes, a sea plane maneuvers right up to the beach. Jon & I joke about what the pigs must be saying to each other late in the day when their bellies are full of strawberries & avocados. "It's your turn, I'm stuffed! No, you go, I haven't slept all day! I need a vacation from this!" Gone are the days of the sleepy little Staniel Cay yacht club that serves a slice of Pepperidge Farm pound cake for dessert when you make your dinner reservation and they tell you what else you'll be having that night. We did some drift diving at Staniel and it was nice to be in the water again. Plus, pig beach is a great anchorage in a blow.
Georgetown is always nice to pull in to because you can get things done like check in, get your phone working and fuel up. But this time it was made very nice by being there to greet Jan & Rich on Slip Away as they completed their last & biggest leg of their circumnavigation. We first met them in Mexico, then Maine, New Zealand, Australia, cruised through SE Asia together, then now. We'd planned to meet up in San Salvador for some scuba diving but the wind was too strong for us to get there or for any of us to stay there in the roadstead anchorage so we had to bag it. We got choked up watching them pull in and anchor beside us like old times. It was both the start of a few weeks of cruising together and most likely the last time for all of us too. We had a great first evening catching up and have had several more since now we're cruising together. Yay!
The four of us made a day out of checking in, doing some chores and getting some lunch in town. Jon & I walked all around on Stocking island, for us the best beach in the Bahamas, while they caught up on 2 months of having had no internet. The Georgetown Regatta started while we were there and it was nice to watch the boats sailing through the anchorage with their extra large sails and balancing crew. We saw the tramp steamer arrive with all the boats on deck a couple of days before. Its cute. In a country that seems hard to see a distinct culture compared to other more remote places we've been, the regatta is something that is their own thing, not related to tourism or cruising sailors and we like that part about it. I really like the Bahamian flag as well. It is turquoise, black and yellow. For the blue ocean, the strength of the people and the yellow sand. Jon appreciated spectating this time and not having to be rail meat like he did eight years ago when we passed through the Bahamas on our way to Panama.
After a couple of days, we headed up to Rudder Cay. It was such a great sailing day that it was hard to douse the sails when we got there. The anchorage view at Rudder gave us a subtle reminder of French Poly, minus the basalt spires. Jon & I went snorkeling that first afternoon in and around the pass on an incoming tide. We were looking for a school of jack like we remembered from our first trip here 22 years ago. We found the jack, but also an annoying reef shark that wouldn't leave us alone. We like seeing sharks; they are part of the reef ecology here but every once in a while we get one that makes us uneasy and this one kept hanging around, surging toward us and getting bolder and bolder as he kept coming closer & closer. Finally he came charging up from the bottom to within 10 feet of us and we had to get out. But the next day we went back with Jan & Rich and it wasn't there, but neither were the jack and all the other schooling fish.
We've been at Black Point the past couple of days and have stayed longer than we wanted because there's another batch of 25kt winds and lots of squalls. It's disappointing because we wanted J&R to see the best of the Bahamas which is under water. But its still been fun. And the water still glows despite the squalls.
We've been enjoying S. African wines and dinners together. We got lunch ashore yesterday and I was so looking forward to some Bahamian food. But it seems like nowadays here it is mainly the fryolator. It is a slow pace in the islands and there are all manner of houses in various stages of unfinished. So many abandoned resort starts and housing lots. Jon & I end up walking all over the islands using the roads made for these developments in search of exercise and time ashore.
So we hope to move into the Exumas park islands either tomorrow or the next day and we're hoping for some great snorkeling. We saw several mature conch today but we've made a moratorium on any conch harvesting because there seem to be so few and we'd rather see them alive. According to park literature, the ban on any fishing inside the boundaries has helped rejuvenate the reefs and re-populate the conch & fish extending way outside the park lines. So we're hoping to see much better reef life there. In the next couple of weeks we'll both be looking for weather windows to head our separate ways. I wonder where the next meet-up will be??