Drifting through Paradise

Part 3 – George Town


Jan 8, 2000

George Town, Great Exuma


We are in George Town!  Yesterday’s sail was nice.  We actually got to sail.  Not the whole way though because we were very close hauled.  The cut into George Town, Conch Cut, was one of the easiest to transverse.  Of course having computer charting helped immensely along the fact that there were 8 boats ahead of us.   There are just over 200 boats at anchor in the area.


After we dropped anchor we went to town.  The area we are in has a large island on either side.  Great Exuma is on the west and the smaller Stocking Island is on the east.  George Town is on Great Exuma while Stocking Island is beaches.  From north to south they (the cruisers) have named the beaches.  Hamburger Beach has a monument on it.  Volleyball Beach has a bar on it and they play volleyball every day at 3:30.  Finally Sand Dollar Beach doesn’t really offer anything but a nice quiet beach.  Sand Dollar is Dorothy’s (Blue Star) favorite.


In George Town there is a lake.  The lake is relatively small at 1 or 2 acres – and it’s shallow.  You dinghy under a little bridge to get into the lake where you dock your dinghy.  Exuma Markets, the grocery store, has a free dinghy dock.  After having gotten used to stores smaller than a garage with as much selection as a ¼ convenience store, Exuma Markets was amazing.  They have a large selection and are comparable with a small grocery in the States.  With the exception of the prices, that is.  The prices are about the same as Nassau.  Something that costs $1.50 in the States will cost $3.00 in Nassau and $3.50 to $4.00 in the smaller islands we visited.  I’m told the Dominican Republic is the closest place with States prices.  After grocery and email, we went to Two Turtles to have a cocktail with “The Village”.  The rum punch I had sure did make me tipsy.  After that, we went home and celebrated our arrival with BLTs.


Our plans from here are non-existent.  We’ve talked a lot about other places we want to visit, we’ve just not decided between them.  September Song picked up an alternator regulator for us.  The new regulator is supposed to charge our batteries more efficiently.  They are in Venice (Florida) now headed for Charlotte Harbor and then on to the Dry Tortugas.  My bet is, we won’t see them until February.  Brad wrote to us and told us he’s able to come at the end of January.  That might be fun!


Today we’re going to top off the water tanks and clean the boat.  I also heard of a laundry that charges $1.00 for washing and $1.00 for drying.  Hopefully we can do some laundry.


January 13, 2000

George Town, Great Exuma


Ah, just another day in paradise….  Each day we listen to the weather and radio nets.  There’s the Cruiseheimer’s Net at 8:30am.  This net is on the single side band radio.  We’re able to talk to everyone we know from here to Florida.  It’s been really nice talking with Chez Nous and September Song.


September Song lost their depth sounder in the ICW between Charlotte Harbor and Ft. Myers Beach.  So they are having the boat hauled today to put in a new one.  Mitch ordered a regulator from West – our current regulator is not charging efficiently.  Jerry on Chez Nous picked it up in St. Petersburg and September Song will UPS it today.  We’ve heard so many stories about how expensive or difficult it is to get shipments that we’re a little apprehensive.  After talking with UPS in George Town, to doesn’t sound too bad.  We will see.


At 8:00am there’s a VHF net for George Town.  The local services talk about their services or specials.  Exuma Markets lists the faxes and packages they have received for boats and then boats can announce any activities they may have or request help from the other boaters.  Some people request help with their batteries or refrigeration, etc.


After the net we may clean the boat and run the engine and watermaker.  Then we can get together with other boaters or go for a walk or shopping.


Some nights there are get togethers or sundowners.  Other nights we are yawning by 8:30 and ready for bed.  It’s a nice life.


Today, however, Mitch has pulled a muscle in his back so he’s not very comfortable.  The refrigeration is acting up again too.  I think it knows we have a new bottle of 134A refrigerant and it wants some.


Amphora is leaving for the Turks & Caicos today.  We will miss them.  Claire make these beautiful beaded bags.  I’m hoping to learn how to make them.


January 15, 2000

George Town


It’s a “snow day”.  We’re in the midst of a very strong cold front.  The front arrived yesterday at about 5:00pm.  We knew it was coming and we knew it would be strong.  So yesterday afternoon we tied everything down and made sure we had enough snacks and stuff to last us through the weekend.  It’s been blowing a steady 25 to 30 knots with gusts to 40.


We had a radio schedule with Amphora but they never came up.  There was a lot of noise on the frequency and with such strong winds, we reckon they might be too busy to talk to us.  Seas in their area were forecasted to be 12 to 18 feet and I have no doubt they were.  This morning we though we would certainly hear from them either at 7:00am on “Carolyn’s Weather Net” or at 8:30 during the Cruiseheimer’s Net.  We got no response to our calls.  Sea Treat had a 6:00am schedule with them and heard no word.  It’s not like Roger to miss a scheduled radio call.  It’s doubly not like him to miss the weather.  So we’re all a bit concerned.  Mitch and Steve took a dinghy ride into George Town today – with whitecaps in the harbor!  Steve thought to call some folks in Houston that have other radio schedules set up with Amphora.  Unfortunately those people were in Tahiti so that didn’t produce anything.  Mitch called BASRA (Bahamas Air Sea Rescue) and notified them that although they were not yet overdue, they had missed three radio schedules and we were concerned – especially because the weather was so bad.  Tonight we will try again.  We keep our fingers crossed and say prayers to God for their safety.


So whitecaps begin to appear yesterday evening and the wind begins to howl so much we have to shut down the wind generator.  At 30 knots, the blades feather and make an incredible noise!  At some point we look at the anemometer and realize it’s not working anymore.  We lost a cup so it won’t read the wind speed.  The highest recorded was 37 knots.


We decide to sleep in the salon just in case we need to be up in a hurry.  My nearest recollection is that we hear a voice on the VHF saying “Heads up everyone!  Lady Ann is dragging!”.  We leap into the cockpit and look around.  It’s not Lady Ann, it’s Jibit, a trawler and they seem to have hit our neighbor, Desdamona just 50 feet away!


Meanwhile it’s 1:00am and the radio is alive with voices.  The night sky is filled with spotlights.  Everyone is out checking their anchors and checking their neighbors position.


Jibit is stuck – they can’t get their anchor up.  And from the look of it, the reason might be that their anchor is caught on our secondary anchor.  So if they do get it up, we migh go with them unless we cut our anchor rode away.  Now Desdamona is calling for help on the radio.  Mitch gets inot our dinghy (which in high winds and whitecaps is no small feat) and goes over there.  Sauvignon also heard the call for help and has come to assist.  Funny thing, Sauvignon, the day we arrived was sailing through the harbor very closed to all of the anchored boats.  When not sailing dangerously close to other boats, we’ve been told the main entertainment was having loud parties and generally making everyone in the harbor want him dead.  And here he was, aside from Mitch, the only one coming to help.


Now it’s almost 3am and it’s decided that Jibit should just let a bit more rode out and fall back from Desdamona.  This will allow for a small bit of rest until daylight.


Mitch checks our anchor – it’s being watched over by a gar.  This gar is 12” long and when you shine a flashlight on him he glows green.  Mitch and the gar have been “meeting” at the bow of Hetty since we first anchored.  He’s watching our anchor chain.  Last night he wondered why we were so long in checking on him and on our anchor.  But he assured us he has been on watch and our anchor is just fine.


Jibit is now motoring into the wind to avoid hitting us or Desdamona.  The two boats in front of us are moving so fast I worry they will drag with the very next gust.  In fact one of the boats is heard on the radio talking of dragging at 11pm and again just now.  They have their running lights on and we think they are motoring to stay in place as well.


Mitch got the first shift of our anchor watch.  What we do is while one person sleeps, the other sits in the cockpit watching to ensure that no boats drag down on us.  From the sounds of folks this morning, no one slept much last night.


The weatherfax says the winds will continue through Monday – but I think that everyone will stay put tonight.


If we can’t pick up Amphora tonight, Mitch and Steve will dinghy into George Town tomorrow and call the Turks & Caicos Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Better safe than sorry.


January 19, 2000

George Town


Amphora left Thursday for the Turks & Caicos.  Mitch talked with Roger Friday morning.  They were motoring – no wind and had gotten 67 miles – they were just southeast of Rum Cay.  The forecast was for 30 knot winds.  Friday night at 8:30 Amphora did not make radio contact.  We knew they would get a beating, we just didn’t know how bad it would be.  Saturday morning we got on the radio and called Amphora.  No answer.  Saturday night we call – no answer.  Three missed scheduled calls!  What could be happening?  Why haven’t they called?  So many times we reviewed their situation in the high winds and waves.  We were getting scared.  Sunday morning came – still no answer.  Mitch and Steve went into GT again.  This time to notify BASRA that they’ve missed more than five scheduled radio calls.  BASRA even notified Turks & Caicos Rescue.  Sunday night we felt sure we would hear from them but alas, no contact.  Mitch went over the chart many times trying to figure out what happened, where they may be.  Our last supposition was that maybe the Antilles Current and weather slowed them so much they hadn’t made it to the Turks & Caicos yet.  Surely we would hear from them on Monday.  If not, Mitch and Steve would go back into GT and call the U.S. Coast Guard.  So Monday morning we turn on the radio early and sit in the cockpit to wake up a bit.  “Sea Treat, Sea Treat, this is Amphora” comes through the SSB.


That’s a moment in time I will never forget.  I wished to hear those words morning and night for 3 days and now we were really hearing them come over the radio!  Thank God!  They were safe!  They were 8 miles from Provo.  The were beat up and had spent a day and a half hove to.  They were exhausted but otherwise safe.  We set a schedule to talk again that night.  Everyone within 50 miles of Provo was contacting Amphora to tell them they were missing.  That night we had popcorn and a toast on the beach in Amphora’s honor.  Then we all went over to Sea Treat for dinner and to talk with Amphora.  8:30 rolls around and wouldn’t you know… they didn’t call!  But based on hearing them this morning, we weren’t worried.  Tuesday morning we did hear from them again.  They didn’t get in until 2pm.  They had to round West Caicos because the Sandbore Channel into Provo was impassable.  A long day after a bunch of long days.


Yesterday I went for a walk with Dorothy on Stocking Island.  The vegetation is lush and there are lizards and geckos everywhere.  Big ones!  Then after a mile we saw Exuma Sound.  Boy, it’s beautiful!  On the beach there are snails a bit smaller than my fist and sea urchins.  Afterwards, Mitch and I had cheeseburgers at the Chat and Chill and then I played a game of volleyball.  Then another relaxing walk before retiring to Hetty.  I made fudge last night, it turned out pretty good.


Today we’re off to George Town to do laundry.  Boy, our lives are busy!


January 25, 2000

George Town


Our lives have settled into a luxurious, easy style.  Cleaning, normal chores, making water are the norm.  Then walking or dinghying or hanging out playing volleyball.  On foul weather days, reading, snacking, and napping.  Oh, it is paradise!


The weather, we’re told, is worse this year than in years past.  Colder, stronger winds, more “snow days”. 


Sea Trek and September Song left Marathon on Saturday and arrived at Chubb on Monday.  We talked with Sea Trek just a few miles from the Northwest Channel Light, it was morning.  The forecast called for a front to pass through later on Monday carrying strong winds.  Sea Trek said it was a bit squally and rainy but not too bad.  So we’re very happy to think that Tom, Cindy, and Dylan had a nice smooth crossing.  We figured they were just 15 miles from Chubb so they were home free….


Ha!  Those last 15 miles!  Tom says they got beat up bad.  And Susan on Sea Trek said they have never been so scared.  Susan is not new to cruising.  She’s made this trip before, in fact.  Sea Trek had 8” of water in the cockpit.  September Song got 3 large holes in their dinghy and lost the floorboard from it.  Then the gooseneck on the staysail boom gave way and punched holes in the teak deck.  No serious damage to it, though.  Tom also found transmission fluid that had leaked and freshwater that had leaked.  They saw 18 foot waves through the Tongue of the Ocean.


Boy, now that’s a sea story!  I can’t imagine that it was much fun for anyone out there that day.  Later we heard a lot of reports from boats that experienced much the same conditions.


The good news is, they are safe and sound and plan to continue.  Hope is still in Miami waiting for the next window to cross the Gulf Stream.  I hope their trip is an uneventful one.


We’ve been quite social lately.  Last night we were invited over to Cambia, a 40 foot catamaran.  This boat has two heads, 1 shower, 1 tub, and 2 king size beds.  There is also a queen size bed.  The boat is beautiful.  Janice and Dick are very nice people.


Then tonight we were invited over to I Wanda, a 40 foot Camper & Nicholson.  Mary and Christian were our hosts and George and Betty from Katherine B. were also there.  It was a very comfortable evening.  They mentioned sponsoring us for Commodore status in the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  We have been Associates for years.  Being a Commodore would be a hoot!


Mary served Dove chocolates too.  Mitch’s chocolate wrapper read:  “you can’t make footprints in the sand if you’re sitting on the beach.”


February 1, 2000

George Town


The weather has been cold and windy.  Not much fun.  We are still in George Town.  The lifestyle is easy and casual.


I tried to go fishing yesterday.  I landed the dinghy at the northern most cut.  When I through out my hook, I felt nibbles right away.  Unfortunately, the tide was rising so if I didn’t want to get stuck there, I had to wade back to the beach.  I tried fishing by the beach but had no luck.  I will try again on the south end of Stocking Island.  I just have to find more conch guts…


Today we’re going to walk 3 miles to the hardware store.  It should be a nice walk.  The wind has tapered and the temp is warm.


February 6, 2000

George Town


Yesterday there was a terrible car accident in George Town.  Two cars collided and 5 women, girls, were hurt.  One died, the rest are in serious condition at a hospital in Nassau.  The U.S. Coast Guard air lifted them from George Town yesterday.


The Peace and Plenty hotel made a radio call on the VHF for all medical professionals in the harbor to go to the George Town clinic to help.  Then the Taxi Driver, Les, got on the radio begging everyone to hurry as 2 of his daughters were among the injured.  One of his daughters died and my heart hurts.  I hear his call and his tears in my head.  The girls were 17 to 19 years old.  Les and his family are probably experiencing a lot of pain and I am sad.


We also heard later that one of the attending doctors didn’t believe that she would’ve died in his hospital back in the U.S.


There were more than a dozen cruisers:  doctors, EMTs, RNs, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and surgeons that responded to the call for help.  They decided to get together again today to see if they couldn’t help the clinic with their emergency procedures.  It’s heartening to know that in addition to money and garbage, the cruisers can give something else back to the residents of George Town.


On the lighter side, I volunteered to be net control for the Cruiseheimer’s Net.  It was a real hoot!  I’ll bet our friends listening thought so too!


February 13, 2000

George Town


It feels like Christmas!  The excitement and delight!  Hope, September Song, and Sea Trek came in yesterday.  Also, Little Gidding and Rising Sun are here now too!  Eileen Quinn on Little Gidding put on a concert on Volleyball Beach last night.  Boy, she is very talented!  She writes and plays guitar and sings her own songs.  She sings about all the aspects of cruising.  The horrible nights at sea, life during haul outs, SSB nets, the incredible beauty of it all.  Incredible!


It was Lynn’s (Hope) birthday yesterday too.  Hope’s goal was to be in George Town for Lynn’s 28th birthday and they made it!  After Eileen’s concert we went to Hamburger Beach for cake and ice cream around a bon fire.  It was wonderful to catch up with everyone and swap sea stories.


Today, Ken and Dorothy’s daughter Angela, is flying into GT.  We’re going to Two Turtles for the celebration.  It’s very nice to see everyone in their new “cruising life”.  We talked at the dock so long about what cruising would be like and here we all are!


I got to do the Cruiseheimer’s Net again today.  It was a lot of fun.  Mitch picks up a lot of the names, it’s pretty neat how in tune he is with it.  He’s also playing his guitar in the evenings.  It’s so relaxing and delightful.


Mitchell spent all morning a couple of days ago scrubbing our hull.  He was tired but I don’t think his ears hurt from diving, which is good.


So now our hull is clean and we’re tanked up with diesel.  Mitch made an outboard bracket for the additional outboard – we’re ready to sail south!


February 23, 2000

George Town


We’re on day two of a nasty cold front.  Monday, however, was perfect.  Cindy, Dylan, and I went to the beach in the morning while Tom and Mitch went to town.  I didn’t wear my swimsuit so I stripped down and went swimming anyway.  There was no one around and it was delightful.  Later we saw a reef shark swim by the beach right where we were swimming!  He was 4 to 6 feet ling, quite a sight.  Then as we dinghied through the harbor we saw another shark.  This one was smaller but still very impressive.


Then in the afternoon, Tom and I went snorkeling while Cindy and Dylan napped and Mitch cleaned Hetty.  Do you get the impression that Mitch got the worst part of the deal?  Tom and I saw a lot of cool fish including a barracuda.  We went to the south end of Stocking Island.  It was wonderful to snorkel around and look at all of the beautiful coral and sea life.


That night I Wanda, Mary and Christian, came over for sundowners.  Then they invited us over for lobster dinner.  Mary and Christian are the nicest people!


A few weeks ago, George offered to sponsor us as Commodores in the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  You need two sponsors so we asked Mary and Christian to the other sponsors and they said they would be delighted!  So we got our two sponsors and now we want to get one thousand miles from home to fulfill the mileage requirements.


We talked of going to Jamaica, the Cayman’s, and Mexico to Florida but decided against it because if we have further problems with our engine mounts, services would be harder to find for much of that route.  So we’re going to continue south and east.  If we run into trouble it will be easier to sail with the prevailing winds back north.


We’ve been in George Town for almost six weeks.  We are more than ready to go.  There are 460 boats here and a lot of them feel the need to enforce their personal rules.  Like talking on VHF channel 16.  If the Bahamians felt strongly about any of this, I would respect that because after all, this is their country and we are merely guests.  But it’s not the natives – it’s the boaters.  It’s almost as if they want to impose any and all rules from home.  Maybe so they will feel more comfortable.  What ever the reason, it’s disgusting.  We’ve heard people on channel 16 (which is hailing and distress only) talking about a boat that is dragging or a dinghy that’s gotten loose and the “radio police” (other boaters) will yell “WORKING CHANNEL, WORKING CHANNEL”) and then click their mike so the people trying to help can’t communicate.  Once Allegria got on the morning net and wanted to discuss where to clean fish.  He was very nice and most appropriate.  But someone didn’t like what he had to say so they blocked him out.  Everyone thought it was terrible.


It’s really nice having September Song, Hope, and Sea Trek here.  We all went over to Hope last night for sweets.  It seems that everyone bakes when the weather is bad.


Kilifi (our friends back at the marina) is discouraged.  Baby Connor doesn’t like to sail and Kay and Grant aren’t sure what to do.  Tom and Cindy say that sailing with a little one is just like single handing.  Someone takes care of the baby and the other sails.  Tom and Cindy don’t think they’ll be doing many long passages for a while because it would be tiresome.  I hope Kilifi is able to come to a satisfactory decision.


February 26, 2000


The winds continue to blow.  It’s been 20 knots all week with the exception of Thursday.  Thursday was balmy and pleasant.  Bruce Van Sant, author of Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South, spoke Thursday about sailing to points south.  It was interesting.  Today he’s doing another seminar on Land Effects.  How land masses affect the weather and weather forecasts.


Mitch wrote and HTML program called Cruise Info.  It’s really neat.  It contains Katherine B.’s weather info, Lorelei’s first aid pamphlet, and I Wanda’s SSB frequencies.  Thursday Mary talked to the Women Aboard group about weather.  She also passed out Mitch’s program.  Everyone loved it.  It’s a very nice program.


Exuma Markets was completely stripped yesterday.  Right before the mailboat arrived they were out of lamb, flour, lettuce, butter, milk, and cigarettes – just to name a few items.  So the mailboat came in and no sooner were the items on the shelf then they were off again.  Seems everyone was awaiting the mailboat.  Mitchell got us provisioned and even score some Diet Pepsi! 


Also, Sea Trek turned September Song on to sourdough bread.  September Song turned us onto sourdough bread.  It’s the best bread we’ve made so far.  Definitely a boat staple now!


We’re ship shape and ready to point south.