Monday, March 18, 2024

George Town

We are under way northbound in the Exuma Sound, after a week anchored in Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Great Exuma, the southernmost point of this year's cruise. George Town is just a hair north of the Tropic of Cancer. We had a nice stay, and I could have used a couple more days, but today is the weather window for the northwest run through the Sound and back to the protected waters of the bank.

After-dinner drinks on our aft deck with Chris and Erin. Erin, who has a better eye than I, suggested this sunset shot of Elizabeth Harbour. With 275 boats, it's a sea of anchor lights at night.

Shortly after my last post we arrived to the bight of Cat Island, where we found Barefeet anchored in an area known as Joe's Sound and a short distance from Rollezz Resort on the beach. That looked good to us, and they were able to relay the report on any coral heads we had to dodge, so we worked our way in and dropped the hook a short distance away (map).

Sunset over Cat Island Bight.

As we were en route, Erin invited us to dinner aboard Barefeet for Saturday night. But with a 5pm arrival on Friday, what would have been reunion cocktails also morphed into a nacho dinner aboard their boat. We always have a good time with them, and it was great to compare notes on our cruises thus far.

Rollezz Resort from the beach. Next time we'll have dinner.

Saturday turned out to be our only day at Cat Island, by dint of the weather, and it was mostly a quiet day aboard, albeit floating in some of the prettiest water thus far. I did take the tender over to the beach at Rollezz just to check it out, and if we had more time here we would have come for dinner. In the evening we tendered back over to Barefeet for a delicious pork tenderloin dinner and more great company.

There's even a road, for the landlubbers.

I suppose you could say it was also an impromptu Captains' Meeting, as we collectively concluded that Sunday was The Day for crossing to the Exumas. It was that, or stay at Cat for another week, without the benefit of the all-around protection afforded by Elizabeth Harbour. We all opted to leave first thing Sunday morning, and thus we were up with the sun and weighing anchor just as soon as we could see the corals.

A somewhat forboding sunset from the deck of Barefeet after dinner.

An hour and a half later we left the protection of Cat Island, and as we entered the deep water of the Sound things got a little bouncy. Fortunately, the closer we got to the Exumas the calmer things were, and we had a decent crossing. Barefeet left us in the dust before we even got off the bank. Our Starlink was offline for most of the crossing, so I caught up on email and other preloaded pages.

A view of Vector we seldom get. Looking east at the last reflections of sunset on the clouds.

Since our last visit to George Town, several key anchorages in the harbor have been given over to new mooring balls at $40 per night, and anchoring in the National Park has been prohibited. I had spent a couple of hours Saturday researching where we could still anchor, not knowing what was really off-limits or not. It turned out not to be a problem; there are fewer than 100 moorings and yet there were over 400 boats in the harbor the previous week for the Cruisers' Regatta.

Sunrise behind us as we depart Cat Island.

We had no trouble finding a spot in our normal location off Sand Dollar Beach (map). Just one of our previous anchor circles is now within one of the mooring fields. There were around 275 boats in the harbor when we arrived (the count is given on the morning radio net) and about the same when we left this morning. We passed Barefeet on our way in, anchored off Monument Beach. We had a quiet dinner aboard after setting the hook.

And bracketing the day, sunset over George Town. That's Amnesia in the foreground.

Monday morning we splashed the tender and I headed ashore in George Town to scope things out. I found the town mostly as we left it some six years ago, although the closer of two banks has closed up shop, and the general store was closed due to a death in the family. I checked out the produce at the grocery store before heading back to the dinghy dock.

They are building a breakwall around the Exuma Yacht Club and Kidd's Cove at the inner harbor. This is some of the material. I had to dodge some of it just below the surface, unmarked and uncharted.

There is a spigot on the dinghy dock for potable water, free for the taking. We've never needed it in the past, but with our watermaker water not tasting great, I filled up the collapsible 5-gallon jug we've been carrying for emergencies and carted it back to Vector, where we used it to fill all our drinking water pitchers. After years being stowed away, folded, the jug has a slight leak at one of the corners, and we ended up stowing it, still half full, in the wet bar sink.

The produce aisle at Exuma Market. If you look closely you will see a lot of empty bins -- not mailboat day.

Monday evening is Rake & Scrape music night at Eddy's Edgewater, and we remembered having a good time there last time around. We also remembered there were only a couple of places to sit, and so this time we figured to have dinner there first and snag one of only three tables in the whole room. We knew service was slow, so we arrived at 5:30 for a 7pm start. Our food order went in at 5:45 and our food came out at 7:15 -- island time, mon. The music scheduled for 7 did not start until 8, in keeping with the theme, so we were all finished eating.

The dinghy dock at one of the less busy times. Water spigot is next to the first dinghy on the right, about to fill his cans.

The rake & scrape band was decent and we enjoyed dancing, but the highlight of the evening was when a troupe of young Junkanoo drummers marched in playing their drums, cowbells, and whistle. I tried to capture a bit of it on video. What you can't tell in the clip is that the large drum is literally a 55-gallon oil drum with a head stretched across it, its weight resting entirely on the drummer's shoulder by means of a thick strap. Bashing a mile back through the harbor in two foot chop in the dark was the downside to our late night out.

Dancing at the rake & scrape. The band is seated in the corner, just below the crowd.

Tuesday I made my way to the new (since our last visit) Peace and Plenty Beach Club for the semi-weekly cruiser Texas Hold-em tournament. The beach club is the Stocking Island companion property to the Peace and Plenty Resort on the George Town side of the harbor; the resort shuttles its guests over to the beach club, open only in the afternoon, by boat. They graciously allow the cruisers use of an empty room for poker, but of course they sell a few drinks that way, too. I remarkably placed fourth and walked away with $20 from my $10 buy-in, which I promptly gave back in Thursday's game.

Junkanoo tum-tum drumline at the rake & scrape. In the back you will see one of the guests dancing in a Junkanoo costume that someone put on them.

While Chris and I were at poker, Erin visited with Louise aboard Vector. When poker was done our dinghy was high and dry on the beach and it took three of us to push it back into the water for the ride home. Still it was a fun afternoon. We had a quiet dinner at home, a theme which would repeat on Wednesday when neither one of us even left the boat. The harbor was choppy and we were not up for bashing anyplace.

Yet another gratuitous harbor sunset.

We made up for that on Thursday by heading ashore in the morning to the local farmers' market, by way of the grocery store. At the market Louise found a nice fresh tomato, and we also bought a small coconut-lemon-orange bread that was more like a light cake. In the afternoon we went to the Peace and Plenty Beach Club, tying up on the back side at the dock to avoid another beach push. Chris and I played poker while Erin and Louise tested out the beach bar. I joined them in due time after being eliminated before the final hands. I gave in to temptation and had a Miami Vice for the first time in many moons.

Drinks at the Peace and Plenty Beach Club. My Miami Vice started melting immediately after this shot. Photo: Erin Miller

The Bahamian Music and Heritage Festival took over part of the government landing for a few days, and Friday I decided to check it out early in the afternoon, when admission was free. It reminded me of the Rake and Scrape festival we attended on Cat Island, with one stage, a handful of craft and food vendors, no place to sit, and not a lick of shade. I judged it not worthwhile to pay to see the evening bands, but I did buy myself a new hat.

Stage and two stand-up bars at the music festival. No band playing while I was there, just recorded music.

No visit to George Town is complete, it seems, without a burger and beer at the Chat 'n' Chill at Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island, and we made that dinner on Friday. CnC is packed at lunch time and is the social hub of the harbor, but it's quiet in the evening and we had no wait for our burgers. The place was the same as always, your basic beach tiki bar, albeit with a fresh crop of donated t-shirts and hats hanging from the rafters. It was a wet ride home.

This photo encompasses the entire festival grounds. A few food and craft stands, the two full bars, and the stage.

Friday evening SpaceX finally launched a Falcon-9 with a Starlink payload that had been scrubbed two nights running. We got to watch the second stage whizz by overhead with an impressive display behind it, but too faint to capture with my wimpy camera. We had seen a daytime launch earlier in the week, but that was even harder to see. Sadly, my night closed out with my laptop screen going haywire. It's a hardware issue I have no way to fix in the Bahamas, so for now I am living with the wonky screen and I have prepared a backup computer in case it blanks out altogether.

Just a few feet beyond the festival is the government dock. Here one of the mailboats is offloading; goods are delivered on truck trailers rolled onto the boats in Nassau and off at the out islands. The trailer at left of frame was just pulled off the boat by a spotting tractor.

Saturday some folks whom I had only met on the Internet, having been introduced by a mutual friend over an electrical issue, reached out to ask if we wanted to go to the lazy river. I'd been toying with the idea of going anyway, with a large group that was planning to leave at noon. Knowing it was too much midday sun for Louise, I jumped at the chance to get a ride and not have to go solo in our own dinghy.

The lazy river after the main group arrived. If you float, the current carries you around the corner to the left in almost a full u-turn, and you walk across the point to do it again.

James and Wendye from Chasing Sunsets came by at 11 in their swoopy big tender, complete with Bimini top, to pick me up, and we ran the 6+ miles down to the lazy river area in the company of two other tenders, beating the large convoy by an hour. I really enjoyed meeting them and a handful of other cruisers, and the beach and water were quite nice. By complete accident we no longer have any floaties or even pool noodles aboard, having cleaned them all out when we entered the boat yard ("we'll just get some new ones when we get to Florida") and so I had to content myself with swimming instead of floating.

I know it looks like a pool, but this is all natural. Find it here.

It was a long afternoon, and I had to turn down a cocktail stop on the way back because we were expecting Erin and Chris for dinner aboard Vector. I was home just in time to clean up, change, and do my part of the dinner setup before they arrived at 5pm. We once again had a wonderful evening, and were glad to be able to return the favor of fixing dinner. I hope we will cross paths with Changing Sunsets later on so we can have a proper cocktail meetup, Louise included.

LMK when you get tired of these.

Yesterday morning we headed ashore for final provisions, and lo and behold the grocery finally had some packages of romaine, missing on my two previous visits. Third time is the charm, I guess, and you need to show up not long after the mailboat offloads. Louise also found some cocktail tomatoes that she likes in her salad. We skipped filling the water carrier this time, as the aging plastic is imparting a taste to the water that is even less appealing that our own RO water.

Pool and bar at the main Peace and Plenty resort in George Town. One of our dinner options but we did not make it on this visit.

I spent the afternoon troubleshooting my laptop screen to no real end, and last night we tendered over to the Snappy Turtle at the St. Francis Resort on Stocking Island for a final dinner out before departing. The resort has changed hands since our last visit, and the food is now less casual and more expensive, not a change for the better. We split a single meal, a shrimp and lobster combination plate that was at least decent, if a bit small and overcooked. Still, it was nice to get off the boat one last time, and we walked to the beach on the Sound side after dinner.

The islands themselves cause these cloud formations like the one on the right, which occasionally give us a sprinkle.

We decked the tender as soon as we got home, and I squared the boat away for this morning's departure. We wanted to arrive at the cut at the northern end of the trip within an hour or so of slack tide, and so we lingered in the harbor until around 8:30, most of the way through the morning cruisers' net on the radio, before making our way out in a conga line of a half dozen boats. We angled offshore to the 3nm line to empty our tanks, and so were soon by ourselves.

The view from our deck at the Galliot Cay anchorage, with our very own beach.

Update: We are anchored just SW of Big Galliot Cay (map), at the first pair of cuts that leads to the inside route up the bank. Barefeet is also here, having arrived a couple of hours ahead of us, and once again we are anchored just a few boat lengths away. We are in gorgeous teal water and have our own private beach just a couple hundred yards off our stern, but I did not feel like swimming through the chop in 80° water to stake a claim. We had excellent conditions for our passage.

Tonight's sunset at Galliot Cay.

We had a quiet dinner on the aft deck, and the winds and seas have since laid down. We expect the wind to clock around to the north overnight, and so tomorrow we will continue up the inside to an anchorage with the appropriate protection. I suspect we will again be with Barefeet, as our very similar trawlers both need the same sorts of depths and protection from wind and swell, and our travel speeds are not all that different.

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