Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Final days in Georgetown
Posted by Sean
We had not expected to stay this long, but Sunday marked three full weeks that Vector has been anchored in this same spot in Georgetown Harbor. We've had a great time here, but we are ready to move on, and are now waiting only on weather for the trip outside into Exuma Sound.
Louise came back more or less on schedule, although there was a hiccup in Immigration at the airport. Visitors to the Bahamas generally must present a return air ticket, departing within 90 days, in order to be admitted to the country. We knew about this ahead of time, and made a copy of our six-month cruising permit to present to Immigration instead, so they would know Louise had alternative transportation out of the country.
When she told them she was staying on a boat, the first thing Customs wanted to see was any boat parts in her luggage. Fortunately, the small handful of items totaled less than $100 and so was admitted duty-free. (Legitimate boat repair parts above that amount are also granted an exemption from some or all duty, but the process is more complex and requires a broker.)
When she showed them the cruising permit, however, they told her it was expired. It turns out that the very nice lady who checked us in back in Grand Cay in February had written 2014 instead of 2015 for the date on the permit. We dug out all the paperwork, and found she made the mistake in about half the blanks. We had correct dates on our fishing license, and on the stamps in our passports and, as it turns out, the stamp on the cruising permit as well.
They eventually let her in, but said we'd need to get the permit "fixed" ASAP. When she got home we checked with Martin and Steph and the same error appeared on their paperwork as well. So Wednesday morning we all trundled first to Immigration, which turned out to be the wrong office, and then across town to Customs, to get it fixed. After nearly an hour they came back and said they could not change it, because it had been entered at Grand Cay. But they pointed out that the official stamp on the same form was correct, and allowed that the stamp evidence should be sufficient for any further checks, such as BDF boardings.
Pizza on the deck at the St. Francis.
Things soon returned to normal aboard Vector, and we settled into something of a routine, listening each morning to the 8am cruisers' net, running back and forth to town for errands and supplies, and dining out every other day or so with Steph and Martin. Occasionally some event or other gets announced that we try to attend, such as a cocktail hour on the beach, and we've met several nice folks this way. We've traded cocktail hours with several boats in the anchorage and I'm sure we'll see some of these folks elsewhere in our travels.
In the daytime we've been snorkeling and swimming a few times; there are mooring buoys at some of the more popular spots to which a dinghy can be tied. We spent a little time hovering over a blue hole and snorkeling near an underwater cave that leads all the way to the ocean, but we spent more time at the shallow reefs closer to the boat.
The water here looks a lot like a swimming pool. We're in seven feet here, on our tour of the harbor's inner cays.
One day we took the dinghy on a grand tour of the harbor, including circling Crab Cay, home of the marina that never was. There is a dredged basin where the docks should be, which instead is now a nice anchorage for a small number of boats, although it was empty when we visited. And on the other side of the cay, where it comes closest to Great Exuma, the nicest bridge in all the Bahamas connects the non-existent marina to the town.
The bridge to nowhere, complete with navigation lights and fancy street lights.
In between social events and outdoor activities, Louise has been making progress on several quilts, and I've gotten a few things done around the boat. With the items she brought back from the states I made a new painter for the dinghy, and replaced the broken zinc anode on the outboard. The replacement promptly broke in exactly the same way within a week, so I'll need to look into that further.
I also added bright white LED strip lights in the engine room and in the vestibule that serves as my workshop, as well as under the helm area, and more subdued LED strip lights in some of the cabinets, operated by door switches. I put some bright lights in the center bilge, also operated by a microswitch when the hatch is lifted, which will let us quickly check tank levels and look for any signs of trouble.
One of many beautiful sunsets from our deck. I snapped today's cover photo from Blossom shortly after my last post.
Last week, the outdoor WiFi antenna/router system started to fail, with error rates skyrocketing and throughput dropping to painful levels, and I spent three days this week between trying to get it working properly and then working around it with the cell phone. Sprint has locked the phone's WiFi hotspot to support only a single station, so I had to rewire our network and implement connection sharing on the helm computer to get all our other devices on-line. No way to get a new WiFi router while we're here, so this will have to do until we return to the US. I put more money on our BTC account today so we'll have enough data to get us through the next couple of weeks.
We've been to the market several times, and today we stocked up on a few things in anticipation of departure. We clearly underestimated on a few of our packaged items, like balsamic vinegar, cookies, and even oregano, and we paid essentially double for those items here. We'll sharpen our provisioning list a bit for the next time.
Rake-and-scrape band, before the dance floor heated up. Note the guy in red, who is playing a saw -- the kind you'd find at Home Depot.
This week we also finally made it to a real rake-and-scrape, which happens every Monday night at Eddie's Edgewater. Monday was a holiday (pretty much all of the Bahamas is closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Monday, a national holiday here), so we were a bit surprised that they were open, but it was announced on the morning net. We had a great time; the music was surprisingly good and there was lots of dancing.
Louise busts a move with a young Bahamian gentleman who spent the whole evening dancing. If there had been a limbo contest, he'd win hands-down.
Easter moonrise over the anchorage, on our way back to the boats.
Tonight we went to the less eclectic DJ-supplied music at the Chat & Chill, which happens every Wednesday. He played everything from Neil Diamond through Kid Rock, and we had a great time dancing after a nice barbecue dinner and drinks on the beach.
We've really enjoyed being here, but it's time to move on. Among many reasons, our waste tanks are nearly full, and the pumpout boat here in the harbor, while a great and necessary service, costs from $0.50 to $2.00 per gallon, depending on amount pumped. And we're overdue to do laundry, which requires more water than we've made here in the harbor.
If the weather cooperates tomorrow or Friday, we'll weigh anchor and head to Emerald Bay, a marina further north on Great Exuma Island, outside of the harbor. As I mentioned on the way south, they have an attractive rate on a dock with no services and a three-day minimum, and they have a free self-service laundry, which is a huge benefit considering what water costs in the islands.
Vector has not seen a dock, power pedestal, or water spigot in a month and a half. And while this dock provides neither power nor water, we'll need a lot less of both if we use their laundry facility, and that alone is nearly worth the $80 or so it will cost us for the three nights. We'll make water on our way there, and make use of their pumpout facilities when we arrive.
Blossom will likely join us there in a few days, as they need to stop in for fuel, and we'll head north from there together, or nearly so. After that, we don't have much of a concrete plan, at least until mid-May, when we need to be on the west side of the bank.
Attentive readers may have caught me make mention of Cuba in these pages a couple of months ago. We had been on a list of boats that was being submitted to all the proper US agencies to get permission to cruise to Cuba in late May, coinciding with the Hemingway International Billfish Tournament held there each year. April 1 was the deadline for a go/no-go decision from the departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce, and while some boats on the list might still go, we withdrew our application last week when we learned our movements, if approved, would be strictly limited to the fishing tournament itself.
While we are disappointed that we will not be going to Cuba this year, we always knew this was a long shot, and were not in any way counting on it. We had invited our friends Mark and Mary to join us aboard if it happened; they too are disappointed, but since they already took the time off and have tickets to Miami, we will instead meet them either in Bimini or in Florida and cruise that area instead for a couple of weeks. That's still six weeks away, so we have plenty of time to cruise the Exumas and make our way slowly in that direction.
With any luck we'll have good enough weather tomorrow to get under way, but it will be a short day and we'll remain here in the harbor for the morning net and some last minute preparations. The next time you hear from me will likely be in Emerald Bay.