On Tuesday, March 19, we sailed on a close-hauled course to George Town, Great Exuma. The swells were three to four feet, just enough to remind us that we were in the ocean.
Richard, with his usual flair, led Morning Star straight from the outside corner of Channel Cay to the mark for the reef inside the harbour, a totally different way than the course on the chart, with reefs close-by on both sides. Jim had all of the correct waypoints in his chart plotter, but tossed them to the wind and followed Richard. Lynda and I went along for the ride. What else could we do? So far our faith in the leader of this little expedition has not been misplaced.
After we anchored in Kidd Cove, we headed straight for town, to dump the garbage, fill up with the free water on the dinghy dock, check our email and get fresh produce and meat. Ah, the joy of being in a town again! We ended up at the Peace and Plenty Resort’s bar – where Jim and Lynda bought us drinks for leading them in through the rocks and reefs – Kalik for Jim, Goombay Smashes for Lynda and me, and a Bahama Mama for Richard.
Later, back on the boats, the wind settled down and we slept well.
The next day I made space for Rebecca, who would arrive soon. We were regular listeners of the 8 a.m. net now, so when Sandy from Anania mentioned art on the beach in the activities section, I loaded up my paints and headed over to Volleyball Beach, across the harbour. She and her husband Tom had shared a car rental for the day with Richard and me, six years ago on Long Island. The third artist to turn up was Lee from One-Eyed Parrot. I knew her from the winter I lived in Boot Key Harbor, even longer ago. The cruising world is small. That night Richard and I partied at the Peace and Plenty BBQ and Rake ‘n’ Scrape with Lynda and Jim. Good food, good music, and we danced a lot. Richard showed us how to dance in the sexy laid-back Bahamian way.
Rebecca arrived on March 22. Lynda had prepared supper, which included grouper cooked, but not caught, by Jim. Her plane was late, and I had been waiting for her, so the supper, ready when we got back to the boat, was most welcome.
For the next week, Rebecca and I played Scrabble, shopped in the tourist shops, visited and did yoga. We went for long walks on the ocean-side beach. Richard, Jim and Lynda often joined us on the walks. I made bread. We shared more meals with Jim and Lynda. We had sun-heated showers on the dive platform after swimming around the boat.
We ate lots of conch salad, sometimes so fresh that the meat had been quivering seconds before. I felt guilty and sorry for the conch. But I still ate it. Delicious!
We moved around the harbour, depending on wind direction.
Elizabeth Harbour (Georgetown) is fifteen miles long and has many beautiful places to anchor. The holding is excellent in most places. Monument Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Sand Dollar Beach and Volleyball Beach are all on Stocking Island, the barrier island, and these anchorages are well-protected from north and east.
There are moorings in Holes 1, 2 and 3 (little bays on Stocking Island) and in a small lake that only boats with less than a 4-foot draft can get into. There are also moorings added all around Volleyball Beach and the Chat and Chill since we were last there 6 years ago. While I was painting on the beach, I watched a boat drift by, backwards, with one of these new moorings dragging off of the front of it. So, despite exhortations from Elvis, the Harbour Master and owner of a water taxi, we do not use these $20 a night moorings. We trust our ground tackle more.
We anchored in Kidd Cove whenever we needed to go to town, or in Red Shanks, a little harbour within the harbour, when we wanted to get away from it all and be really sheltered all the way around. There is a perfect beach near the Red Shanks anchorage. I often dinghied a short way to a nice new laundry from there. And there were some lovely little reefs nearby, where I could work on getting over my snorkelling phobia. I loved to snorkel, but one little drop of water in my mask or snorkel and I was afraid I couldn’t breathe. It isn’t logical, but phobias aren’t. and the reward of overcoming the phobia is great. There are so many interesting surprises under the water – the many different kinds of coral, the fishes hiding in it and lobster showing only their antennae. The more you just hang there and look, the more you see.
There is a new anchorage on Crab Cay, created by a company that dredged out a shallow little bay to make a marina and then went bankrupt and abandoned it. This island has some really nice Loyalist ruins on it, which are accessible to the public, despite the many no trespassing signs which would suggest otherwise, and the watchdog person that asks you to leave until you explain that you are going to the ruins.
Of course, boats anchor all over the harbour. You just have to stay out of the mailboat route. In February, there were 400 boats in the harbour, but by the time we arrived, all but about 150 had left. When we flew towards home in May, only about 40 inhabited boats remained.
Richard’s back kept bothering him. He had pulled a muscle trying to get me back into the dinghy in Ship Channel Cay. Then we met Judy from Hey Jude at a potluck. She practices reconnective healing, which she does with her hands moving over the body but not touching it. We were both skeptical, but she got rid of Richard’s back pain! He is a convert.
Alan on Sinbad arrived in early April from Tavernier. He has a nice big cockpit on his 42-foot Morgan. There were lots of happy hours and delicious suppers on our now 4 boats, including Beth (a good Scrabble player) and Wayne on Gypsy Moon. Lots of visiting, laughing and stories. Many potlucks on shore too. But near the end of our stay we gave up on the potlucks. Too many names to remember! And too much effort to transport our food to shore. Laziness was setting in. And I was gaining weight.
We all rented a van together one day and explored Great and Little Exuma. We learned about the real Raking and Scraping in the salt ponds. It was horrible work. The slaves who gathered up the salt with rakes became blind in the glare from the salt and died early, their bodies covered with ulcerated sores caused by the wet salt.
I got Internet that I could use on the boat, but it was very slow and often down. Batelco’s service is a bit spotty. Eventually I gave up and went back to taking my computer to Eddie’s Edgewater for free internet.
I stretched more canvas and painted more pictures, and Beth acquired the one of the monument. Some days, I went to Volleyball Beach with my books, paintings and paints, where I moved a few books, visited and painted. Back on the boat Richard made minor repairs and watched a lot of movies. We took turns cooking and ate and played cards in the cockpit until it got dark. We lived like retired old people. It was wonderful. (I turned 70 on May 11. Oops, now we really were retired old people.)
On Monday, April 22, Morning Star was hauled out in the boat yard in Masters Harbour. A couple of days later we motored back to Kidd Cove in Lucky. Lynda and Jim joined us when they finished putting Morning Star to bed on the hard, and we enjoyed the Family Island Regatta together.
That regatta was celebrating its 60th anniversary. Hundreds of Bahamians fly or come by boat from all of the other islands, ready to party and, if they are single, look for possible mates. The racing is a bit unruly, with spectator dinghies and power boats buzzing up and down along the course and bunching up at the marks to watch the elegant hand-made Bahamian sailboats tack, and the crew flip from one side to the other on the long prides (boards) sticking out abeam. The last race was unexpectedly dramatic, as the two front-running boats, both from Staniel Cay, collided due to a bad call on the tack, and the boat behind them won.
In the two months we were in George Town, we got to know many people with interesting stories. I’ll put them in the next book. This update is already too long.
Lynda and Jim flew home on Monday, April 29th, and we went over to Monument Beach to spend the night and have Alan on Sinbad and Beth and Wayne on Gypsy Moon for drinks and food. The next morning On April 30, Gypsy Moon left the harbour and headed back to the States. As they were going by Beth shouted over that she had started reading my first book and I never should have been a solo sailor. She could be right, but when I started out, how was I to know? Alan took us out for dinner at the Chat and Chill, and then he left on Sinbad.
On May first we headed for Red Shanks to get our boat ready to be hauled and chill. We took the sails off and folded them. I washed out the food lockers with bleach and sprinkled boric acid and bay leaves around.. We packed our bags. I dinghied to Baranki’s and did laundry. We met two other couples some distance away and chatted, but like us, they seemed to like the quiet.
We swam sans suits in 86◦F water. My distance increased to 5 times around the boat. We did some more snorkelling on the nearby reefs and I became more confident. I read to Richard and we watched movies. We went to town in the dinghy to get more groceries and exchange movies with other boaters again.
Lucky came out of the water on May 13th. Nochi and Dion were waiting to haul us out. It took quite a while to fit a hurricane cradle to our boat. The nuts and bolts were very rusty and the cradle had to be pieced together and moved. I hope our faith in this boat yard isn’t misplaced. By the next day at 11 a.m. we were finished and Dion gave us a ride to town and we checked into our room. I hitch-hiked back the 10 or 15 kilometres to the boatyard to turn off the water pressure, which Richard had forgotten to do.
We were counting on the gallantry of Bahamian men to get me out and back quickly. No one passed me by and I was back in less than an hour.
Two short plane rides to get to Miami, a shuttle bus to thr Tri-Rail and the Tri-Rail to Lake Worth. Richard Brooks was waiting for us there and took us to my car at Indiantown Mariina. At midnight three nights later, we turned into my driveway in Bothwell, where a large sign on the front yard said:
It’s nice to be home.