George Town, Exuma

Hello everyone,

Well, we have arrived at the destination of most cruisers for the winter months – George Town.

The town is very small, with most services available ( for a cost ). There are grocery stores with everything from hearts of palm to NY strip steaks. The ship comes weekly with fresh vegetables. Between times, the ladies at the straw market sell home-grown peppers and onions, along with hats, t-shirts, baskets etc. There is a small marine store with parts for some projects. The UPS store will arrange for ordering of parts form West Marine. Several bars and restaurants offer their services, even a school bus serving burgers & hot dogs. Mom’s bakery van is parked on the road side and she sells bread, rolls, donuts, and cakes. All of which are served up with a hug and a “God Bless You “!

The harbour or anchorage area is huge – approximately 7 miles long and a mile wide. Boats anchor off of several beaches – Hamburger ( so called because of hamburger stand ), Volleyball , and Sand Dollar. Some boats never move from their spot. We have moved every few days to get more protection or shore-side services, or even to get away from the crowds to an anchorage off by ourselves. On the shore, the cruisers have organized exercises, volleyball games, evening cocktail parties, baseball games, beach walks, and yoga. Sometimes it becomes a little too organized for some people.

Each morning the ‘net gives us the latest news and weather and then ads from local businesses. Then the cruisers news of upcoming events. And then cruisers with problems looking for solutions come on the radio. We all help each other with parts and knowledge.

The trip down here from Staniel was lovely. We anchored off of Little Galliot Cay for one night. Very early in the morning, we heard the anchor noises from boats around us. Everyone was moving – we were anchor-up by 0645 and were the last ones! We headed out of Galliot Cut with the favourable current. The fishing line went in as soon as we entered the cut. A little later, while Murray was on the radio, we had our first bite. The line on the rod goes zzzzing!! And a fish is on. But, by the time he came up on deck, it was gone. It had shook off the hook. But, within a half hour, the rod goes zzing again and Murray fights to reel this one in. It’s a dolphin fish or dorado or mahi-mahi and are they beautiful! He got it to the stern and then tried to gaff it to land it. And it got off the hook!! Boy, was he sad that time. We called another boat that had landed a 48″ one for helpful hints and while he was on the radio, the rod sings out again. This one we landed! It was 36″ long and weighed 8 lbs. They have a blunt head, a small mouth and are bright green on top, yellow below with a yellow tail. Just before the cut into George Town, we caught another dolphin fish, also 36”. Murray was very excited and thrilled to catch two of the wonderful eating fish. He filleted them and I cooked them “blackened” ( fried with cajun spices ). Mmmmmm! We gave away half of one of the fish, as we couldn’t keep all of it in the small freezer.

We had questions about how we catch conch. That is extremely easy, once you spot them. The biggest job is to find the conch. We snorkel and dive and look sometimes for hours before finding one. As they move so slowly, it is simply a matter of picking them up. Then comes the difficult part – getting the meat out of the shell. Murray counts two rows of horns and then punches a hole. He inserts a small tool and severs the muscle that holds the critter in the shell. It should then fall out into his hand. The cleaning is a messy, time-consuming job. And when all is done, you have a piece of meat about palm-sized that is about the consistency of a rubber tire. In order to eat it, you must pound the meat with a hammer until it is tender. It is served in various ways, raw in a salad, fried, or mixed with flour and spices and fried as a fritter. I usually serve it in a creole style – stewed with rice and tomatoes.The nicest shells, we clean and make into conch horns. Murray is very good at making these and has several out on loan to other boats.

Last week, we sailed around the island on one day while Jeff Helsdingen was visiting. During that passage we caught another dolphin fish! So, if the larder gets too low, we will just go for a day sail.

Now, we snorkel, walk, shell, visit other boaters, bake bread, do boat work, blow our conch horns and put in many hours quite happily. When the wind blows and the generator makes power, we watch videos ( ours or borrowed ones ). If the wind doesn’t blow, we read. Most nights we are in bed before nine pm. We wake with the sun usually, but spend the early hours on the various radio nets. Re the question on time – the time here is the same as most of you, EST. But the temperature is wonderful – low 70’s at least. My sweatshirt has yet to be worn this winter. Bathing suits or shorts are the uniform of the day.

We plan to stay in the George Town area for a few months. The area code has changed here and the fax number to contact us should be 242-336-2645. Address the fax to Windswept IV, c/o Exuma Market. They announce the arrival of faxes daily, so we quickly would get an important message.

I hope everyone up north is well and weathering the winter . We hear that an early spring may be expected as the ground hog died ( before or after seeing his shadow?). Stay away from any flu bugs and keep warm.

Love to all Heather
Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV
Ham Radio VE3 ZUA

Central Exumas

Hi everyone,

Life aboard Windswept IV continues at a slow and easy pace.

We sailed into Staniel Cay on Jan 21st, and I do mean sailed. Murray had us tacking into the anchorage! There was one other boat also tacking in – another Canadian vessel, of course. It was Shivaree, with John and Kirsten aboard. We had crossed to Florida with them last spring. In Staniel, we visited the grocery stores. There are 3 stores – the pink store, the blue store, the general store. None of them are very large and none have much stock. We visited all of them to obtain the supplies that we needed. Murray also bought a spear and sling launcher. He thinks that he will attempt to spear fish and lobster. Time will tell.

The larder re-stocked and the e-mail sent and the moms telephoned, it’s time to move again. So, when the tide was right and the light was right, we picked our way into Pipe Creek. It is a area oval in shape with numerous cays protecting it. The larger ones are Pipe, Rat, Thomas and Overyonder Cays. It has many reefs and shallows and is extremely tricky to enter. We made it in with never less than 6 whole inches under the keel! The wind and current gave us lots of trouble, but we managed to get both anchors securely positioned. Now, its time to play again and all of the Port Stanley fleet is here ( except Vertigo ). We spend several days swimming, snorkeling, diving for conch and exploring these lovely islands. We harvested many conch which are in the freezer and saved the shells to make horns. Murray fished off of the boat and caught several small ones.

But, one morning the wind switched directions. Now, the rocks behind us are uncomfortably close. And the wind is supposed to build. Time to move again, and the high tide is also at a good time of day. So, we pull the anchors carefully. When the last one is up, I try to turn to starboard and head out. She won’t come into that strong wind and there is not a lot of room before the next boat and no depth to go around!! So, my heart in my mouth, I revved her up and backed away from the rocks. As soon as I got some space and speed, I quickly cranked her around. Murray hadn’t even noticed that there was any problem, and I guess there wasn’t one as I handled it OK. But, my heart got a work-out that day. We re-traced our path but plowed sand for 200 meters. Luckily, no rocks or coral heads.

Back to Staniel Cay and anchor down at Big Major. And only one anchor needed! So much better than two. The holding here is wonderful. The bottom has been referred to as ” velcro mud “. Now, it is time to dive the grotto at Thunderball Cave. It is called that as it was used in the movie ” Thunderball”. We took a can of squeeze cheese with us to feed the fish. What a laugh!! They would come right to the nozzle as though they were babies after a nipple. I was mobbed by sergeant majors, a small yelow and black stripped fish.! But it is dangerous to laugh while snorkeling – the water runs into your mask. Once we got past the feeding frenzy, we entered the cave. The timing was a little off and the current was running already. So, we didn’t stay too long, but it was lovely.

Since then, we have been in the water most days exploring one reef or another. We have been in the water with a nurse shark nearby, snorkeled on deep reefs and in current. We are getting much braver and better at this. Murray has carried his spear but not shot at anything other than practice shots. I hate to see the fish run from us as they do when you are hunting them. I like to just hang there and watch as they go about there usual lives. But, we may need the skills of the spear sometime. And I would love to find a lobster.

The wind is blowing strongly again and will for a few days.Tundra is close by and so is Vertigo I. More reunions to come! Then we plan to head to Black Point Settlement, Little Farmer’s Cay, Lee Stocking Island and on to George Town. It is now Feb and we need to be moving on. Company’s coming – maybe.

Anyone who wants to contact us quicker, can send a fax to us c/o Exuma Market at 809-336-2645.

Distances between cays are short now. The total from Wardwick Wells to Staniel is only 16 miles! When we went to Pipe Creek it was only 7 miles. To get to Black Point from Staniel is only 5 miles and to Little Farmers only 15 miles. From Little Farmers to George Town is only 40 miles. So, we never have too far to go before we anchor again.

Our best to all up north and hope you are weathering this winter well. When the snow blows hard and the temperature drops below freezing, think of us. If I feel shivers now and then, I will know it’s from one of you up north.

Love to all,

Heather & Murray Rand
aboard Windswept IV
Ham Radio VE3 ZUA