There is a lot to cover so I have broken the trip up into three parts:
1. Black Point to Georgetown
2. Georgetown to Eleuthera
3. Eleuthera to the Abacos back to Florida
We have spent the summer at Harbortown Marina in Ft Pierce doing some maintenance items and enjoying long hot showers and flushing toilets that we have not had for the last 3 1/2 months we spent at anchor in the Bahamas.
Here is where our travels have taken us since January 1, 2015
There are no words to describe the summer heat and humidity in Florida. The pace of life slows almost to a halt and forget about doing any work outside, especially if you originally come from a northern climate. Thankfully, this marina has a swimming pool that we made good use of the past few months. We have a small air conditioner that we mount in our companionway. It struggles to keep the temperature in the boat in the low 80's during the day. You would think it would cool down more at night but when your boat is sitting in water that is 88 degrees the heat still penetrates. We added a couple of sun awnings on the bow and stern to provide some additional shade and they lowered the temperature in the boat about 5 degrees.
We weren't idle due to the list of items on Pearl that needed attention since we were in the Bahamas as well as some unexpected repairs that popped up. These projects included a new UV strip on the jib, some repairs to the mainsail, a new Mack Pack sail catcher, a new water heater, new sink faucets and a new refrigeration system.
When you spend the summer in the hurricane zone you never quite fully relax. We are always checking our favorite weather sources to see if the next tropical wave is coming off of Africa and what the storm models predict it will do. For the most part, this has been a very quiet hurricane season to date. We did have one about a month ago that had its 5 day come pointed straight at us. The marina went into storm mode and they hauled about 1/3 of the boats out of the water from thier slips. The rest of us decided to ride it out if it hit. Most folks took the sails off their boats and many took the canvas bimini's off. We already had our sails off because we had them repaired and were waiting for the last minute to remove the cockpit enclosure. Luckily the storm turned west with two days to go and fell apart over Cuba.
Hurricane Joaquin formed out of nowhere and sat on some of the Bahama islands that we visited this pat winter lashing them with 140 mile per hour winds for more than 24 hours. The devastation we have seen on the news and videos is heartbreaking. Those very nice Bahamian people do not have much to begin with and many were left with just the clothes on their backs.
The last blog post ended at Black Point which is the island the farthest south in the Exuma chain that we made it to last year. There was much to explore as we continued south. Our goal was to make it to Georgetown in time for the Family Island Sailing Regatta. This is an annual sailboat race on the locally built Bahamian sailboats where each of the inhabited islands enter in up to three different classes to find out who will become the national champion for the year. We couldn't wait.
Our first stop was Great Guana Cay, just south of Black Point. We were still traveling along with the young family on Dabulamanzi that we had met in Bimini. The anchorage was pretty but our real mission was to find the secret caves located on the island. Armed with a few hints we picked up along the way we hiked up one of the trails that we thought would lead us to them. As luck would have it we found the caves after a little bit of guessing.
Pearl and Dabulamanzi at anchor
Exploring he secret caves that everyone knows about now thanks to GPS.
After spending the night at the anchorage, Dabulamazi left early to head straight to Georgetown so one of their crew could catch a flight back home. Pear decided to leisurely head south to anchor off a very nice and secluded deserted island called Big Galliot Cay. The small beach was beautiful and there were short hiking trails to explore as well as a very nice coral reef to snorkle on.
We spent two nights there just relaxing and enjoyng the scenery and then it was time to continue south. Next on the list of sights to see was Musha Cay. Musha Cay is a private island owned by the magician David Copperfield. Start saving now because this exclusive private resort that is the escape for the .1 percenters. A room goes for $40K to $60K a night!
Our next destination to anchor at was just south of Musha Cay and it is called Rudder Cut Cay. We were stopping not only to enjoy another picturesque anchorage but to also find the (not so) secret underwater piano sculpture that David Copperfield commissioned and had placed in the waters off Rudder Cut Cay. The anchorage didn't disappoint, except that the island is private and you cannot go ashore.
No longer scaredy cats, the feline crew immediately make themselves comfortable in the cockpit as soon as the anchor is set.
We even got to enjoy an early full moon.
Once we got safely anchored we took off in the dinghy to find the underwater piano sculpture. It turns out that it was just below the surface where we turned Peral around to enter the anchorage. Good thing we didn't hit it with our keel. From the surface it looked like a dark spot.
About 10 feet down we found her
I went down to tickle the keys a bit
The next morning we left early to catch the slack tide so we could get through the cut and out in the deeper waters of the Exuma sound to work our way south to Lee Stocking Island. Lee Stocking turns out to be one of our favorite locations in the Bahamas. It used to be a large oceanographic research center up until a few years ago when the founder died. They could no longer get funding and abandoned the entire operation. Of course I left my camera on board when we went ashore exploring so I can only describe how it felt like walking through a ghost town. There were many abandoned buildings still with lab equipment and computers and everything you could think of that would make a research center operate. All of this on one of the most beautiful island locations in the Bahamas. There were many hiking trails with vistas that overlooked the deep waters of the Exuma Sound as well as the shallow waters of the Bahama bank.
As we explored the abandoned buildings we met Eric and Joanie on Blu Moon who were anchored not far from us. When they found out it was Gayleen's birthday they invited us on board to celebrate with freshly made chocolate chip cookies.
We left Lee Stocking island and headed south to our next anchorage. We had one more planned stop at Rat Cay before heading back into the deep waters of the Exuma Sound to reach Georgetown. The stretch of water between Lee Stocking and Rat Cay had the most amazing variety of different hues of blue that we have even seen. Pictures don't do it justice but here goes anyway...
We anchored at Rat Cay and met up with our new friends on Blu Moon. Eric had already gone snorkeling and caught some conch. We were having conch fritters for dinner! The next morning we left early to again get through the cut at slack tide and headed sout in the Exuma Sound to Georgetown.
Georgetown is the cruiser's mecca of the Bahamas. Every winter a few hundred boats can be found anchored throughout Elizabeth Harbor in anchorages that each offer different experiences. Many cruisers head straight from the states to Georgetown and stay there all winter. There is a close and active community of cruisers that have formed volleyball leagues, domino tournaments, land and water aerobics...the list goes on and on. There is always some activity to join or you can just go exploring and swimming on your own. The harbor is protected on the east by Stocking Island and the west by Great Exuma Island. If the winds shift and you need more protection in an anchorage you just move to the other side. Another benefit of Georgetown is the town itself. It has two fairly larger and reasonably priced grocery stores, fuel, hardware and boat stores and several restaurants. There is also a large international airport so it is easy for visitors to join you. My brother Bob flew in for a long weekend while we were there.
Looking down Elizabeth Harbor at the many anchorages,
We got to Georgetown and immediately ran into our friends on Dabulamanzi that we split from a few weeks back. They convinced us to anchor near them at the center of cruiser activities called Chat and Chill beach. There is a nice beach, a small bar/restaurant, volleyball courts and picnic tables with many activities going on daily. It is a fun place to meet old and new friends and join in the fun.
The activities didn't stop at the end of the day. One night we joined the group that had the water taxi come pick us up and take us across the harbor to the town to go to one of the restaurant/bars for Rake and Scrape. Rake and Scrape is the local Bahamian music played on guitars, washboards, drums and other hand made instruments. It has a good beat and the crowd hit the dance floor all night.
Eric and Joanie from Blu Moon on the way over in the water taxi.
Once the music started the dance floor filled up.
Just when you thought the party was over and we were heading back across the harbor on the water taxi, the music got cranked up and a few folks started dancing on the roof of the boat!
Next came the main event that we originally headed to Georgetown to see...the Family Island Regatta. This is a serious competition that has boats shipped in from all over the Bahamas to compete. Hundreds of fans come in on the ferry boats to root for their island. On shore in Georgetown it is a non stop 4 day party and a chance to get to know the local Bahamians that are all to happy to explain what is happening. There are parades and concerts at night. They built a small temporary shack city with many many temporary bars and restaurants to keep the crowds happy. It was better than we had imagined.
The boats come in three classes (sizes) and are a Bahamian design. They have far too much sail on them and to make up for that they carry a large crew that hang off the side on long hiking boards.
Growing up racing sailboats I am used to having a bunch of boats sailing around and trying to time the crossing of the starting line right as the start gun goes off. They do it a little different in the Bahamas.
They line all the boats up along the starting line with the sails down and anchors out in from. When the gun goes off a couple of very big guys start hand pulling in the anchor making the boat gain forward momentum. At the same time, another team raises the sail and...off they go! It is quite a sight and you could say a pure form of racing from start to finish.
The fun part for us is that the spectators in their dinghies can closely follow the racing boats as they go around the course. Also, some of the racing boats do not want to give up the wind they have and often sail right through the anchored cruising boats. It is 4 days of fun on and off the water.
Due to some very strong storms that came through we spend more time in Georgetown than we had originally planned but it was worth it. We reconnected with old friends and met many new friends that we ended up traveling with later on. More to come in the next installment....