Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Break Away from Georgetown

The wind blew quite a bit for two days so Mershons called another Happy Hour on the nearby Sand Dollar beach like we did a few weeks back to get everyone off their boats.  We had another enjoyable time meeting some new cruisers who had arrived.

On Wednesday when the wind quieted everyone seemed to be in town doing all sorts of chores such as getting water, fuel and groceries.  We ate lunch in town with the Mershons and Don and Sue Engler whom we don’t see quite as much since they enjoy anchoring of Volleyball Beach.  Later Mershons came over to discuss leaving for Long Island.

Early Morning
We left the next day around 7am with a beautiful still morning.
Looking back from our boat.
There was absolutely no wind so it was a motor trip.  The waters were like glass and could see the bottom with a few starfish here and there.  It was like a parade of boats leaving Georgetown and heading to Long Island.  I guess many others had the same idea we did to get out of town for awhile!  I got some interesting photos today with the water and clouds.

 Once in Thompson Bay on the east side of Long Island where we anchored with at least twenty other boats, I got on the VHF radio asking if anyone would be interested in sharing a rental car for the next day to tour the island.  A couple, Pete and Phyllis on Aquilegia, who we met before leaving Georgetown came back and said they were interested.  I called the car rental by the radio also and found out they only had a van left for six people.  We booked it and the other couple found a third couple before we returned from a walk on the beach.  We were set for the next day.

Dean's Blue Hole
We took our dinghies to a dock and walked about a block to pick up the car.  We set off about 8:45am south to Dean’s Blue Hole.  It is suppose to be the deepest blue hole at 660 ft. deep.  It was absolutely stunning!  It sits by the Atlantic’s edge, well protected by high cliffs and bordered by a gorgeous beach and bay.  The colors just mesmerize you.  We did not bring our snorkeling gear or swimsuits but must be put on our to-do list! 

St. Peter's Church
We went to Clarence Town to view two interesting churches built by Father Jerome who is famous for building the Hermitage on Cat Island, where we have yet to visit.   

Columbus Monument
Then heading back north we enjoyed the small Long Island Museum, lunch at Long Island Breeze restaurant and the Columbus Monument.  This point at the north end of Long Island is claimed to be the third stop of Columbus entering the New World.  

 On the return trip we stopped at Stella Maris Resort Club and saw the large cave that is home to cave parties with open fires, food and drink, and rake and scrape live music.  It looked like it would have been a lot of fun to experience.  Unfortunately, we had to get the car rental back.
Road Trip Friends at the Cave with friendly Bahamian

We spent another day at Long Island just “chillin” and ended the day with 10 fellow cruisers getting together on Blue Heaven for sharing some experiences and sampling some good recipes.

We headed back to Georgetown with a great easy sail since the wind wasn’t cooperating on letting us go further northeast to the island of Conception.  We hope to go back to Long Island and visit again when the active life of Georgetown gets to be too much!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Busy Week

Dave with two large lobsters!
We finally had some calm warm weather so we went snorkeling with Toni and Dave.  Dave speared two lobsters. They were two nice sized ones.   Al could not even see them under the shelves of coral!  Dave said his first year down he never got a lobster.  I wonder if he just said that to make Al feel better.  They showed us how to clean them and have them ready for cooking.  Now all Al has to do is be able to spot one and dive down to get it!  Going out on the sound side of Stocking Island which is much deeper, we got to see an interesting wall of different types of coral with fans, sponges and lots of fish.  The elk horn coral was most interesting.

The next day was chore day.  Al had to get water and rid of garbage.  We have to cross the harbor to do this, a fifteen minute ride in the dinghy.  There is free water in Georgetown which makes it very nice.  Many places charge 50 cents a gallon in the Bahamas. They also permit cruisers to rid of garbage in the town dumpster as well. These two amenities make it appealing to cruisers to stay here all winter.   We had laundry to do and I had to go the internet café and grocery store.  With all the chores done later that day we had an enjoyable Happy Hour on a boat called Reflections with Floyd and Elaine from Tennessee, Sue and Don from Jubilee and Dave and Toni on Sequence.

Flip Flop Spot
Many afternoons we go hiking or take the dinghy and explore a new area.  We usually go with Toni and Dave.  We found this area called “The Flip Flop Spot” that cruisers developed on one of the beaches for parties. It had a pavilion, bar and many decorative touches.

Hiking Stocking Island

Monument at top of Monument Beach
Many times on the trails we take, we end up at the top of a large hill for some great views!  This one is at the Monument which is a large cement pillar used as a navigational aid.  Some people say that in the past they had lit a fire at the base of the monument if there was salt available so that ships would stop to get it otherwise they moved onto the next island.  There are other monuments on some of the other islands too.

On Friday we attended two social functions! The Exuma Tourist Office and the Ministry of Tourism invited visitors to the island to a tea at a local restaurant.  Most of the people there were cruisers.  When someone offers you free food, cruisers come out in strong force.  It was a very nice affair with delightful Bahamian treats.  These included conch fritters, conch salad, Bahamian pastries, bush tea, ginger tea and something called “sky juice.”  I believe it was made with coconut milk and rum.  (Probably makes you feel like you are flying high in the sky if you drink too much!)
Junkanoo Band
  The entertainment included young Bahamian girl dancers and a “Junkanoo” band (Their special music and dance to a strong beat.)
Both were very colorful and fun to watch.  Afterward we zoomed across to a beach party to once again share food, drinks and fellowship with other cruisers.

Bahamian Boat
Youth Band
Our busy week of social activities included a bus trip to the far north end of Great Exuma Island to a settlement called Barraterre.  About 60 cruisers had an hour school bus ride to the fundraiser for the Family Island Regatta held in April.  They had a Bahamian boat race, a youth band playing, Bahamian music and food.  It was a good way to see some of the island since when you are on a boat you only get as far as your legs will take you. (The roads are quite narrow for riding bikes.)

We ended the week with playing Trivial Pursuit with about sixty people at a local resort called St. Francis. The resort is on Stocking Island not far from Volleyball Beach.  The owners are very generous with their facilities for the cruisers.  We were lucky enough to catch the end of the Green Bay Packers and Bears game and the first half of the Steelers and Jets game while there.  Being from Pittsburgh originally I guess you know for whom I was rooting!  Now all we have to do is figure out a way to see the Super Bowl.
St. Francis where we watched the Steelers

This week activities have slowed down so we are hoping for a weather window to perhaps move on to Long Island and maybe the island of Conception for a visit for a few days.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Georgetown, the Social Hub of the Exumas

Ladies Cruiser Luncheon at St. Francis Resort
Stocking Island is where most of the cruisers anchor when there is an east wind.  There are several beaches along the island where cruisers make their home, Monument Beach, Volleyball Beach and Sand Dollar Beach being the main ones.  I attended a luncheon for women who are cruising held at St. Francis Resort not far from Volleyball Beach. All the beaches were represented with 45 ladies total so you can imagine the volume of chatter coming from the room.  It was a very nice affair set up so the new people to Georgetown  like me were set between “seasoned” cruisers so that you could learn more about what is available.  They also had volunteers give hints that they have found helpful living this life style.  The resort donated some door prizes as well but of course I was not a lucky winner.

Happy Hour on the Beach
Dave, Toni, Al and I were talking that there had not been any beach parties.  So we decided to plan one for Friday late afternoon.  There is a net on the marine radio every morning at 8am for business to make announcements, community announcements about happenings around the harbor and on the island, boater’s general for boaters to offer or ask for help with problems or questions, and new arrivals and departures of vessels.  So it is quite easy to send out an invitation. You just announce it on the radio which I did.  “Happy Hour on the beach at 4:30pm. Bring your own beverage and an appetizer or snack to share.”  Now it had been blowing 18-20 knots for two days and was still blowing for when the beach party was scheduled.  I said to Al, probably not that many will come because of the wind and chill in the air.  Well, I was wrong.  About fifty people showed and many said they just had to get off the boat because they had been stuck on it for two days due to the weather.  It was the easiest party I ever planned and we got to know many more people that way!

The next few days were a lot of the same;  Al still trying to figure out the head (the toilet for you non-boaters) problem, me working on my basket and rug hooking, as you can see my progress on both.

My rug progress.
Termite mound

Shells, sand dollar and bean pods found.
We both went for walks on the beach and hiking different trails on Stocking Island looking for sea treasures. We both got lucky each finding a sea pod that probably came from Africa.  Heading back along one of the paths we came across this huge termite mound. Glad I don’t have a house on the island!

Rockin’ Ron and Cool Karen on Sea Dancer are cruisers who are deejays and lead dances.  And what a dance they led on Monday night.  Cruisers came from all over the anchorage to the Chat n’ Chill restaurant on Volleyball beach, to dance the night away.  And dance the night away we did!  Well sort of, until 9pm, but it did start at 5:30pm! We had guest appearances of some of the stars from the past such as Sonny and Cher, Leslie Gore, Paul and Paula, and the Supremes.  It was a blast and as usual a good time was had by all as you can see by our friend Sue on Jubilee!
Sonny and Cher - a blast from the past!

Sunset from the deck of Chat 'n Chill
We were planning to leave for a few days, but have gotten involved with a few more social activities at the end of the week, so we decided to delay leaving until next week..

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting into the Groove

Toni leading the way on one of our hikes.

Dave and Al getting into shelling.
We have been in Georgetown for a week and we are getting into the groove.  When winds are light, we do more playing and getting around to different places.  When the fronts come in, we stay on board doing various projects that need to be done and cleaning the boat.  The past few days have been play days where we have snorkeled and did a lot of hiking the island and their beaches.  Even the men have gotten into the beach treasure hunting, as you can see in the picture.

Arleen trying basket weaving.
In the afternoon cruisers congregate on Volleyball Beach for playing volleyball, crafts, games or just plain socializing. Toni and I have already started to learn basket weaving  with the supplies being palms from the local islands and not found many other islands.  (Don't worry my colleague rug hookers, I have not given up my rug hooking.  I do that in the evening!)  I have not gotten too far but am pleased with my progress.  Hopefully, on the next blog addition you will see a basket shape.

Al used his snorkeling gear to help clean the bottom of the boat.  I am surprised at how cold the water is.  You think it is the Bahamas, the water should be warm.  Wrong!  I am glad we bought shirts to go under our farmer john wetsuits.  We also snorkeled with the Mershon's hoping to find lobster, but we failed on that  account, but did get to see some coral reefs.  We saw some interesting fish and fans and were definitely tired by the end of our experience.
Al snorkeling around Blue Heaven for cleaning the bottom.
We came into Georgetown today from our anchorage at Sand Dollar Beach because the winds are light, but that is to change later today and sounds like we will have 20k or more winds until Sunday.  We came to fill up on free water, gasoline for the dinghy, fresh produce and internet.  Unfortunately at Sand Dollar we cannot get
internet so our access is limited to once or twice a week when we can get to town or a resort.

Entrance into Lake Victoria where we get free water.

Sunset from Sand Dollar Beach

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Slower Pace, Indeed!

Monday at the Laundry

I said I wanted a little slower pace, and I got it!  The laundry opened at 8am and I was third in line at 7:45am.  There were a lot more behind me.  I got my three loads washed and into the dryers for about 5 minutes when the electric went out.  We waited, and waited and finally were told that they were putting in a new generator for the island.  No one was informed about it previously and they said it would take about 45 minutes.  Well, they were Bahamian minutes and so almost 2 hours later the electric came back on and I got to finish the job.  However, in the meantime almost everyone from the anchorage seemed to be at the laundry.  People were exchanging a lot of information about various topics.  I learned that I could text for 10 cents a text from the phone I bought which is a lot cheaper than the 81 cents a minute for a phone call. 
Not only was Ida the attendant for the laundry but she also was the local hairdresser and she cut a girl’s hair while we were there.  It certainly was a different type of experience and the sharing among cruisers is wonderful.  We of course don’t go to a laundry at home so we have no idea what it cost there, but in the Exumas the average cost is $7 a load for a wash and dry, and they are not always dry but that is why you have lifelines on the boat!  After laundry we went to Lorraine’s Café for lunch and internet use.  Lunch was good and the internet was good into mid afternoon when it went really slow.  I could not do much at all so gave up and went back to the boat.  I left at 7:40am and got back to the boat at 2:55pm.  And my friends wonder what we do all day!

We had a great sail the next day to Leaf Cay.  Shortly after Sequence, Jubilee and Blue Heaven arrived, Dave and Toni from Sequence were off in their dinghy to hunt for lobster.  They said they stopped, Dave got in the water and there was one right below him.  He came back showing us his great catch.  We got our snorkeling gear on but never did get in the water.  Dave and Toni showed us how to look for coral heads but it was getting late and decided it wasn’t worth getting all salty.  
 We did go to a beautiful little beach that had iguanas on it.  Three were there ready to greet us but we held our distance. This was a gorgeous area and we debated about staying, but our fresh item stores were getting low so we decided to move on before the front was to come on Thursday night.

We arrived in the beautiful Elizabeth Harbour where the famous Georgetown, the Mecca for cruisers and largest city in the Exumas, is located.  Since the front was going to be out of the west, northwest we anchored in Kidd”s Cove not far from where you enter Georgetown.  Dave and Toni gave us the quick tour showing us where different things were so that we could find what we want.  We had a celebratory happy hour on Blue Heaven, toasting to arriving in Georgetown, also known a Adult Day Camp!. 
Mama and Baby Dolphin
The next day dolphins swam around our boat two times and you can see how clear the water is.  There were three of them.  One was smaller so we figured it was a baby. And just think, we see all of this from our home, Blue Heaven.!

                      Here is the famous "Volleyball Beach" where a  lot of the cruiser happenings are. 


Monday, January 3, 2011

Lots of Activities New Years Week at Staniel Cay

We returned to the same spot that we had been earlier at Big Spot Major near Staniel Cay and what a difference when the wind comes out of a different direction, now east and southeast.  It was much quieter and more pleasant.  We took our dinghy over to Staniel Cay and got voice mail added to our phones from Batelco (Bahma Telephone Company).  We got rid of trash at their dump and got connected to the internet although it was very slow at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. 
The next day some of the festivities started for the New Years Eve celebration.  They had Happy Hour at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, rum punches were two for one, and free appetizers. 
On Thursday, the mail boat brought in supplies so one of the first accomplishments of the day was to get to the store for needed fresh food such as vegetables, fruits, bread and milk.  We had two small bags and our bill was $38.  You just have to grab what you want and forget about the costs, because they don’t put a price on anything anyway and you need it!
Later in the day we went over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for the auction of items donated by the cruisers to help support next year’s regatta.  They provided free drink and dinner of conch chowder, lobster salad, conch salad, macaroni and cheese and grilled fish.  It was all very good!

Hiking out on Bahamian Boat
Friday, New Year’s Eve day, was the day of the big Bahamian Race called “The Mixed Doubles.”  This race consisted of two Bahamian boats where cruisers and Bahamians can sign-up to be on one of the boats to race.  These boats are very similar to log canoe races we see on the Chester River.  They hike out on the boards to counterbalance the heel of the boat.  I guess AL did not feel agile enough to sign-up, but they are certainly fun to watch even not knowing the people on them.
We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve dinner on a boat called Bad Boy.  Doug and Sherry are from North East, MD.  We were there with the Mershons and Englers.  We each brought a dish to share and we had a wonderful Italian meal.  We made it to “Cruiser’s Midnight” which was ten o’clock which was the latest most of us had been up in a long time.
New Years day was the Cruiser’s Regatta.  People could enter their boats and get crew and race a simple course.  It was blowing a good 15 knots so it was a challenge to sit in our dinghy and get pictures while we bobbed around in the wind and waves.  Later we took time to explore the beaches on the other side of the island but did not find much in the way of beach treasures (sea glass, shells and bean pods that come across the ocean from distant lands.)
With the New Year’s Regatta over we decided to move down to Black Point where there is a laundry.  We have not done laundry for two weeks so right now it is a high priority for us and many other cruisers who have been at Staniel Cay for the past week.  We arrived to discover it is closed on Sunday so we will be staying over another day.  The past week was a busy week and I am looking forward to a little slower pace!