We had a great time in Farmers – reunited with some sailing friends from Maryland after crossing paths at various places along the winter cruising route – as well as other new friends we have made along the way. The weather wasn’t as co-operative this year with rain on the first day of racing. However, we got some great shots of the boats …
Whitty K, the overall winner, rounding the mark. They are a crack team, been sailing together for years apparently, and romp away with the trophies every year. That doesn’t stop the hopeful competition – which includes H20 from Black Point – who we support because it has the same name as our previous Harbor 20, and because the skipper in his yellow slicker appeared ancient when we watched two years ago – and he’s still at it!!!
The first mark is right amongst the anchored cruising boats, and with the dinghies which follow the race down the course it becomes quite chaotic when everyone starts arriving.
We anchored at Oven Rock and went looking for the nearby cave – amazing stalagmite/tite formations. To the right you could go down to a pool of fresh water – we were told that if you stood in the water the shrimp-y things would come and nibble the dead skin off your feet!! Not this girl, not to even go into the cave, let alone the water! The rock colors are very beautiful.
From Farmers we headed down to Georgetown which was abuzz with boats and people arriving for “regatta” – a two week period of fun and games, volleyball, softball, poker run, variety show – you name it, something on every day. There was even a sailing race – duh – “regatta”! Garth had hoped to sail but it was only on the 24th and we would have left already. Very disappointed.
We anchored at Monument Beach which was a little bit away from the regatta craziness at Chat and Chill. As always, the sunsets are just amazing.
And when you wake up to a wind-less morning, it is just as beautiful. An Australian powercat was anchored near us and we enjoyed their sense of humor. A blow up kangaroo on the bow, together with two blowup dolls that had new outfits every day and were re-positioned around the boat – sometimes on the bow, sometimes waving from the stern – always a double take!
It was our 39th anniversary on February 16th, so we treated ourselves to a night out at a wonderful restaurant at one of the resorts – no matter how up-market, the dress is always casual. It was that same still calm day, and the ride home was so beautiful with all the boats’ anchor lights reflecting in the water.
The dinghy dock in Georgetown is always crowded – there were 293 boats anchored across the water when we were there and everyone comes into town to get groceries, water and to drop off garbage. When you leave you have to negotiate this tiny little gap under the bridge – when the tide is going out and the wind is blowing in, you are guaranteed a soaking as the one meets the other!
It is about a mile dinghy ride from Georgetown itself to Monument Beach, so our friends John and Denise McLinn were very kind to come in and help us with luggage when Jonathan and Anne arrived.
We left Georgetown the next morning to explore the Exumas with Jonathan and Anne. We were lucky that their trip coincided with their friends Pete and Louise still being in the area, and we met up with them and shared a fabulous meal on their boat at Children’s Bay Cay, and all going on to Lee Stocking Island the next morning. (Naming all of these places is to help me remember them later – there are more than 700 islands in the Bahamas, many of those in the Exumas uninhabited and just exquisitely beautiful).
From there to Black Point where we enjoyed a Bahamian Buffet at the famous Lorraine’s Restaurant which ended with her giving us two red roses (left over from Valentines I think) which lasted more than a week. A lovely extravagance on a sailboat! Even though the vase was a beer bottle wrapped in a microfiber cloth.
To try and explain the geography, the Exumas are a long thin chain of islands which have the deep waters of the Exuma Sound on the eastern side, and the Bahama Bank on their western side. The winds blow predominantly from the east, and with the deep water and strong winds you get big waves developing on the “outside”. But if you can get through a cut between the islands (some are more navigable than others), the waters on the Bahama Bank are protected from the wind by the islands and are much calmer. As well as being shallow and crystal clear – the white sand and shallow water are what make the water down here so turquoise blue. However, in many places it is really shallow and our boat has a 6’ draft so we are often limited as to where we can go and where we can anchor. And when the wind changes direction and blows from the west there is very little protection so you have to be constantly aware of weather predictions and where you find yourself when the westerlies blow. There are places you can tuck in where you are protected from east or west, but they are sometimes too shallow for us. And when the weather is due to turn, all of the cruising boats head for the safest spots so you had better get there early!! All of this to explain that it is not always “smooth sailing” and that you can’t always go where you would like unless the winds are in your favor. Because of very shallow areas on the Bahama Bank lower down, the legs from Georgetown to Lee Stocking Island, and from there to Black Point had to be done “outside” – I was grateful in the big seas for Jon and Anne’s sailing expertise, which left me free to huddle in the corner and contemplate seasickness, which fortunately didn’t become an issue!!!
Up on the “inside” to Cambridge Cay where you couldn’t ask for more – red wine, roses, delicious seafood pasta, evidence of the day’s snorkeling expedition drying in the background, balmy and warm enough for sleeveless clothing all night and then the full moon rising just for us!!
The next morning we walked over the island to the beach on the ocean side and Garth and Anne climbed the hill next to Bell Rock. Jon and I were content to walk on the beach and try and pick up as much plastic as we could. It is a never ending battle to deal with the synthetic flotsam and jetsam that washes up on these beaches, especially as most of the islands are uninhabited and even if you do pick it up, there is no way of getting it disposed of. Cambridge is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park where the entire environment is protected and you can take nothing and leave nothing. From what I hear the lobster and grouper that you see when you go diving have this smug little smirk on their faces, knowing that you can’t touch them! But it is a wonderful Trust and the laws are strictly enforced, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and confiscation of your boat if you are caught fishing there.
While we were walking this beautiful power boat, the Allesandra, came in and picked up a mooring ball next to us. We watched in awe as the crew hustled to get all of the toys unloaded and ready for use. It made our special dinner the night before seem somewhat tawdry – but hey, the sunset and moonrise looked just the same from our cockpit as from theirs!
From there up to our favorite spot, Waderick Wells, which is the headquarters of the Land and Sea Park. We were greeted by this large guy, who seemed to enjoy the shade that our boat provided. You can believe that we thought twice about jumping in for a swim!
While combing the beach at Cambridge, we had found a piece of driftwood and thought we would try again putting our boat name at the top of Boo Boo Hill. This time Garth etched the boat name into the wood with his heat gun, so we hope that when we return one day we will be able to find and identify it.
Walking back to the boat you go over sand flats where the tides ebb and flow. Loved the image that these mangrove roots made when the tide went out, and the twisted roots keeping this hardy little tree alive.
We were enjoying Waderick so much that we decided to stay put for another aimless day rather than pressing on to a new anchorage. Jon and Anne had completely unwound by this time and it was hard to contemplate that they had to get on a flight in Nassau and head home to cold Virginia. But press on we did after our two days in Waderick and we did the long day crossing to Nassau in a perfect flat sea. It was so strange to be tied up in a resort marina with electricity and golf carts and rental cars.
We dropped the Hutchings off for their flight the next day after having a wonderful time with them – so many laughs! – and then drove into Nassau itself to look around. Horrors!! There were four huge cruise ships in port and all of the passengers had been disgorged into the streets. You could hardly move. Solicitors standing outside jewelry stores and restaurants trying to entice you into their establishment – why is it that people who go on cruise ships feel a need to buy expensive jewels at exotic places??? We couldn’t get out of there fast enough and headed back to the boat as soon as we could. I would have loved to have been there at a quieter time as the colonial buildings are charming and I’m sure that there are so many interesting places to explore.
We spent a day or two doing laundry and reveling in the well stocked grocery store and then headed off ourselves towards Spanish Wells, Eleuthera once more to begin our slow journey home.