February 2007

The “Big City”

After 10 days, we have left George Town. Not soon enough for Murray.

For those who haven’t seen it, Elizabeth Harbour is about 5 miles long and the mainland is protected by a series of barrier islands about a mile across from the main island. With prevailing easterly winds, most vessels anchor along the largest of the barrier islands, Stocking Island. These anchorages have been named ie Sand Dollar Beach, Hamburger Beach ( there is a hamburger stand ) or Volleyball Beach. But, when the wind blows from the northwest or southeast, it can get very bouncy. And, when the wind blows, boats drag. They are anchored so close together that they crash into each other’s anchor lines or even boats.

The town of George Town is accessed under a small bridge into an inland lake, Lake Victoria. Inside there is a dinghy dock and free reverse-osmosis ( a process where salt is taken out of salt water to make fresh ) water. At the head of the dock, is Exuma Market, the local grocery. They also provide garbage bins for the cruisers. In town, there are banks, hardware stores, laundries, a straw market and many restaurants.

On Stocking Island are walking trails and many beaches. Chat & Chill ( a bar/burger joint ) is on Volleyball Beach. Here there are many courts for the game the beach is named for. Also, basket weaving, bridge and domino games, painting classes etc etc take place daily. Picnic tables and card tables have been built to accommodate all of the activities. This is winter camp for adults.

Saturday, we went on a “rock walk” with a marine biologist. He told us about stromolites, which are found living only in the Exumas and Australia. They are bacterial mats that exude a sticky substance. This then gets coated with sand and hardens into rock. Sort of rock – if you press on the “rock”, it is soft. These stromolites are billions of years old, 3.5 billion actually. The ones found in the Bahamas are only about 3 thousand years old. Stromolites give off oxygen and are thought to have contributed to forming an atmosphere where humans could live. It was very interesting and we walked for several miles. Sure was glad that the knee worked!

Every morning, the cruisers net starts at 0800, with weather and announcements. After that, it is a feeding frenzy as people make plans for the day. In fact the radio is never quiet. If you use a channel reserved for business, someone is very quick to point it out. There are activities on the beaches almost every day – cocktail parties, music, etc.

Hoping to get further south, we stuck it out. But, there were too many people for us. With the weather report not favourable for the next week, unless we wanted to motor 35+ miles, we headed back north yesterday. We traveled a distance of 10 miles and are anchored alone, with a couple of boats in sight. Nice. As the wind died, we barbequed some chicken and had a lovely dinner in the cockpit. The wind is expected to blow from the north for the next while, so we may be here for a week. The freezer is full of food but we will run out of fresh things. No worries as we have lots of cans.

So, that is what is happening here. Hope all is well up north. Write when you have time.

Hugs, Heather & Murray

Dinghy Drift

No, I don’t mean “dinghy adrift!” which we have heard three times this winter. Those lucky cruisers all recovered their dinghys. Two traveled from Staniel Cay to Andros Island, a distance of approximately 30 miles, and one was found out on Exuma Sound. Murray wanted to institute an afternoon class of basic knots when we heard that the third one had escaped.

No, this dinghy drift is a good experience. First let me set the stage. We were anchored at Children’s Bay Cay, south of Lee Stocking Island. It had been a lovely few days of sun and fun in the water. But, Saturday was memorable, as it was F.A.C. or Flat Ass Calm.

In the morning, Murray & Doug, from High Stepper, went diving while Connie and I worked on our basket weaving. In the early afternoon, we took the dinghys to Barreterre, a nearby village. There we stretched our legs and investigated the local populace. The no-seeums chased us off after an hour and we returned to the dinghys. Speeding along on the gin-clear water gave us the illusion of flying above the surface.

I suggested a get-together that night for a dinghy drift. We stopped by each boat ( there were 9 in the anchorage ) to tender the invitation. At 4:30 dinghys started to gather and lash together, up-current. When most had arrived, we cast off our anchor and drifted with the current. Snacks and stories were passed around the group. Between the boats, you could get glimpses of the bottom, seeing soft corals waving and fish dart by. The night was topped off by a green flash as the sun set. What a glorious day!

Yesterday, we motored the final 15 miles to George Town, to replenish supplies of fresh foods and fuel. High Stepper was lucky once again and landed a mahi mahi. We were lucky also as they shared it with us at dinner that night.

Today, up early to gather weather info, we headed to town before 8 am. I was the first person at the laundry and got things going quickly. Murray investigated the grocery to see if a ship had been in to deliver fresh things. Most of the items on my list were found. Then, Doug came by as we were checking out. ” There is a huge barge of sand, with a tug attached, very close to your boat!”. Back to the dinghy, through the narrow cut under the bridge, into the rough waters of Elizabeth Harbour. Man, that barge looks close to our boat from here. Arriving back, we unloaded quickly and moved the boat ahead, out of his way.

Once we were re-anchored, I called the tug. I apologized if we were blocking his passage, but the computer charts showed that we were outside of the designated channel. He said that we were correct but there was more water outside of the channel! As he was aground most of the time, he was looking for the deepest water he could find.

Now that our hearts have settled down once again, we will finish our chores in town. Then find someplace calmer to anchor for a few days, while the winds blow. After that, we will see. Maybe south to Long Island or east to Conception. All written in Jello.

Stay warm and well. Hugs to you all. Heath & Murray

Rudder Cay

That is our current location, anchored off of the private island of Rudder Cay. The adjacent island of Musha Cay uses this island for a garbage dump and an airport. The island is big enough for an airstrip, unlike Musha Cay. Exactly why they deposit the garbage here, we do not know. But, it stinks! The cruisers are not allowed to step foot on the beaches, even though the Bahamas laws state that anyone can land on a beach up to the high water line plus one cart width. But, we don’t push it. If the island is marked “private”, we stay off.

Shortly after our last note, friends on High Stepper landed a 54 inch Wahoo. That is almost as long as I am tall. Murray helped clean the fish and they gifted us with several pieces. The story is that the name of that fish came because the flesh was so tasty, when one was caught everyone would cheer ” wahoo”! Certainly we have enjoyed the pieces we have eaten already.

Our Engles freezer never seems to get any emptier. As I use up the meat within, Murray re-fills it with fish. It is almost as full as when we left Florida.

Yesterday the winds blew up to 30+ knots overnight. Today it has calmed down somewhat but is still quite windy. I took advantage of the cooler weather to bake 2 loaves of bread and then an apple cake out of the dregs of the apples in the larder. The cabbage looked wilted yesterday, so I read through all of my books and found a recipe for Lazy Cabbage Roll Casserole. But, it needed to be bake for 1.5 hours. Too much propane usage. Back to the books and I decided to try it in the pressure cooker. Four minutes under pressure and the casserole came out beautifully. Leftovers for dinner tonight along with fresh bread.

When the wind dies off some, we will meander further south, eventually to George Town, Exuma for re-stocking of fresh things. No immediate plans, except for a movie this afternoon aboard High Stepper. Maybe they would like some apple cake?

Hugs to all, Heather & Murray

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