Its a wrap! We crossed our outbound path to Panama from 2012 when we reached Georgetown, Bahamas a few days ago. When all is said & done, Georgetown & the Bahamas is one of the best cruising destinations in the world if you love the water and a great island feel. The Bahama water just drives us nuts. Over the past several days we've just been snorkeling, drift diving, Jon speared a nice Nassau grouper & a couple of lobster, we've gotten some conch, we've been walking beaches picking shells and just reliving memories from past visits. I'm ready to spend a whole season here again someday, now that it is in my backyard again.
A couple of evenings ago, I was rinsing off the deck and 3 dolphin came up to the boat and started hanging out. Here we go again! I got my mask and slipped in the water and they came rushing over to say hi. There was a mom, a baby and another adult and they seemed to really like that I was there by coming right up to me and twirling around. The baby was so funny the way it was flopping around, deliberately making splashes, charging up to the surface to stick its head out and look around, playing with anything it could find on the bottom and just cavorting like a kid. They found an empty beer bottle and were pushing it around with their noses, trying to pick it up, all three of them twirling around it. One adult kept coming to me and looking at me with his/her head tilted just like a dog would who wants you to throw a stick. So I picked up the bottle and held it to toss and the dolphin got even more excited. Once Jon got out of the shower he gave me the camera so I could snap a few pics in the fading light.
I got to observe again what dolphins are doing under the water (when they're not hanging out at the bow when we're sailing!) They are constantly rubbing their noses on the bottom, like a dog does. If they find an object like a bottle or a shell, they twirl around it with their noses on it. You can even see that their noses are chafed from I can only assume is all this rubbing! At one point they rubbed along the length of our anchor chain, they are constantly rubbing up against each other and I felt pretty sure the adult that was sticking so close to me wanted me to touch it but I didn't. I don't understand how to relate to them or what they are thinking even though I feel like I can read some things by their expression & behavior. They seem so happy and social and they move so beautifully in the water. They also lie on the bottom in the sand, together. Since I was in the water for quite a while, I could see them every now and then taking a breather and just resting together for a few seconds and I would be willing to bet they do this often. The water was only about 8 feet deep where we were, all sand. What a great experience and funny that this has happened twice recently but never before in all these years. We are wondering if the fact that our bottom paint is black now instead of green has anything to do with it. It seems like a long shot but you never know. Its the only thing that is different.
Anyway, we moved to Farmers Cay yesterday, a little farther up in the Exuma chain. This is where we met a lifetime friend Frank, back in '98, our first cruise. He taught Jon to spearfish and we cruised together for 5 months. I used to swim around while they spearfished telling all the lobsters to go back into their holes so the hunters wouldn't find them! Jon & I have been doing some reminiscing. This is a great place, with a lot of great memories tied up in it. A lot of beauty both above & below the water. And some good eating too.
Our fire truck is in Germany now, waiting the next ship to take it across. So we will keep making our way northward to meet up with it at the end of April.
Here is what I wrote on the trip to the Bahamas, a wrap-up of the Turks & Caicos experience. In hindsight we should have come directly here.
Written last week!
We are underway once again as I write this, this time to Georgetown, Bahamas. It is a 2 1/2 day trip with light winds. We did some wonderful sailing yesterday and most of the night with good speed and a great motion but then the wind died as forecast and we're motoring in calm now. On the way from Puerto Rico, the mast track finally unzipped in a spot from the lower part of the mast and snapped in half above the reef point so Jon had to lower the whole track down several feet. This requires a permanent reef in the main which isn't a huge deal but now the track is unzipping from the very top as well so we really can't put any pressure on the thing. The first response from Dutchman (the company who makes the track) was that the track is made of an excellent plastic material that is resistant to UV and even if the outer part shows its wear, the inside will retain its moisture and strength for 10 years. When I sent pics of what is happening and questioned the longevity & strength as claimed, I heard nothing back. They want us to do a write-up in support of their products since we've gone a long way with them. Given the circumstances, I don't think I could at this point. Here we go with more boat presents! So with that, light air is good for Evergreen at this stage.
After a lot of anticipation for the Turks & Caicos this time we were admittedly disappointed. The day after we arrived on Grand Turk, the wind picked up as forecast and our lee anchorage became very exposed for the following 2 days. There is no other option for anchoring there and we knew that ahead of time but really wanted to dive on the wall. Its supposed to be world class. There were 4 other cruising boats there and we were all bucking and broncing in the waves. We put our trust in our anchor and still went ashore on Grand Turk a few times to explore as well as get a break from all the motion. We also checked out the diving. We found the island to be run down, void of anything pretty except for the views out to the water and it would appear it is going to disappear under their own trash & beer bottles at some point. Hit by the hurricanes for sure, there is more to it than that. A cruise ship arrived while we were there and we were trying to figure out what they could possibly be doing on shore. We did a scuba dive on the drop-off as they have dive moorings lined up all along the western coast which is great. But the vis was disturbed by all the waves and the reef wasn't as nice as we'd hoped. We dinghied back to the boat with our masks on in order to see with all the waves of water that were coming over the tubes. It was as Jon says about some of the things we do "nutty"! We got some so-so Dominican food for lunch one day (there seems to be a community living there) and walked out to the northern tip of the island where the lighthouse stands. There we were able to see numerous donkeys eating large amounts of cardboard that was strewn about for some reason. The lighthouse was closed up, only open when a cruise ship is in port. The best part of the walk was being accompanied by this dog.
As soon as the wind lightened, we moved 22 miles west to South Caicos which has the best anchorage in the island group and wow, was it beautiful and flat calm. We enjoyed every minute of the time we were at the boat anchored in this crazy clear pool of water with conch walking around under the boat and rays jumping way out of the water (with their accompanying fish even) and at one point, even a squid caught some air which we've never seen before. The anchorage is framed by Long Cay to the east, with bright white cliffs and the massive sand bank to the west with colors that drive you nuts. While S Caicos offers some good diving, it isn't set up for it, there is no dive shop on the island and the diving is challenging because the drop-off is deep- it starts at 65 feet where we were diving. We did 2 dives using a research mooring, straddling the no-deco limit and enjoyed them but became increasingly nervous that doing these dives by ourselves wasn't the smartest thing. The water was nice and clear and there was more in it than we'd seen previously, including these horse eye jack which I love to photograph. They all come rushing over to check you out and then swirl beautifully all around you. Snorkeling was fun too with a couple of nice stands of elkhorn coral and warm water sand flats full of helmets, octopus, conch and triton. We met another sailor, Kevin from S. Africa and had a great evening sharing stories together and he is the one who took the sunset pics of our stern.
South Caicos has prettier features than Grand Turk with colorful rocks, small hills and a salt pond with birds. Less trash too. The islanders harvest a lot of fish & conch here and the harbor is busy with cleaning the catch. Elsewhere on the island, it seems like everything you look at is falling apart but the dominoes are slapping down on the table and the pace is slow. When we walked by the airport, with the fence caving in that might ordinarily stop a donkey from crossing the runway, the staff was gathered round the card table for a game. Cars were parked inside the half built welcome center to keep them cool and out of the sun.... There is something to be learned from all this- like what is important and what isn't. But it can be hard to find something pretty to look at!
So in order to be in this paradise on a boat, it cost us $80 to check in and you pay another $65 to check out which gives you 7 days total. On day 8, you owe another $300 if you are still there. And you can't fish or take a thing from the sea. So we made sure we got to customs & immigration on day 5 in order to clear during normal working hours and leave the next morning, a Saturday. You are allowed to clear out 24hrs before leaving. Even though we were there in the office on Friday, the immigration lady charged us overtime because we were going to be sailing out of the harbor on Saturday. Huh? Then we go over to the customs office and start getting ridiculous questioning about why we are leaving before the 7 days we said we were planning to stay and also was there any chance in the world that we had somehow arrived earlier or would be staying later so they could assess the extra $300. There was no way she could do it because we had clearly not overstayed anything and finally she said she would "let us leave early". Huh?! Well that's a new one. We definitely didn't feel the love in the Turks & Caicos. So we sailed off for the Bahamas. That is the great thing about cruising. If you don't like what you see, you can put to sea!