Sunday, March 23, 2008

Compass Cay to George Town, Great Exuma

Hi Everyone:

In our last posting, we covered Brian’s finger injury at Compass Cay and our stay in Compass Cay Marina while the “finger” recovered. We’re happy to report that the finger is healing well and we’re on the move again. This “chapter” covers our travels down the Exuma Cays to George Town and our stay in this huge cruiser’s hangout.

So … what was it like to return to the cruising life after nearly a month tied up in a marina? And what is George Town really like – Cruising nirvana or “daycare for adults”!

Brian and Sue Adapt to Marina Life (Tues – Tues, Feb 12-19)

Our R&R stay at Compass Cay continued to be a much superior alternative to winter in New England. Brian became more adept at doing things with his left hand and was now using his right hand for tasks that only required 4 fingers. Long delayed “projects” around the boat finally got some attention (e.g., whipping the ends of various docking and rigging lines to keep them from unraveling). Arranging a replacement for our failed handheld depth finder -- used in the dinghy -- was also easy, but shipping it from Orlando, FL to the Exumas was not easy. We also enjoyed touring neighboring islands in our inflatable dinghy and getting to know our marina neighbors better.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day by dinghying over for lunch at nearby Sampson Cay Club with Gadabaut (Gail and Dennis) and Karin (marina office). Dennis arranged a post luncheon beach party at a tiny “Tiki Bar” on the beach at Thomas Cay, complete with Dark and Stormy’s.

Of course we continued to make new friends as boaters came through the marina: Wanderlust (Bill and Judy) and Smidge (Bonnie and Maury). We also saw the crew from Sunshine Baby, who we had met at Jekyll Island in Georgia, way back in November.


Escape from Compass Cay (Wed, Feb 20)

We got a warm send off from our Compass Cay hosts (owner Tucker Rolle, and Karin) and a huge lobster tail (frozen) from Gadabaut’s (Dennis, Gail) bottomless food locker. We delayed a bit to let a nearby squall pass by, but by 10:00 we were leaving the dock. Dennis used his dinghy to help pull us out between a 70 ft trawler behind us, and the large sport fisherman on the next dock. As we motored out (with Brian using his new 9-finger grip on the wheel), we felt like we were finally cruising again. We enjoyed Compass Cay and recommend it highly for a great place to decompress. However, the grass growing just below Sogno’s waterline reminded us that we really had to get going again. Thank you Tucker, Karin, Dennis, Gail, Dennis, Marino, Mum, and Manos for a great stay!!

Of course as we carefully worked our way out to deeper water, we were hit by a brief squall within 10 minutes. The Buds were “at sea” again!

Our first voyage, was only 11 miles to Staniel Cay. We anchored without incident off Big Majors Spot and dinghied into the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We were there to buy gasoline for the dinghy and Honda generator, pickup a handheld depth finder replacement (which had been flown in from Ft. Lauderdale), and check out the bar. Smidge (Bonnie and Maury) were already working the Wi-Fi internet connection so we had a good chat with cruisers Chris and Anita and ran into Flutterbye (Stephen and Genvieve) whom we had rafted with in Vero Beach, way back in December.

Sue found a working telephone and called her Dad. We took some time to walk about and do some small provisioning in the “Blue Store.” (The other stores are Pink and Yellow). By the time we returned to the SCYC, Bonnie and Maury were finished with the internet and invited us over for cocktails aboard Smidge. We had a fun time hearing about their small boat racing days and learned they had been to Marblehead for a national championship series. Lots of talk about cruising and books we have been reading and other things retired folks do!

Oreos, Pigs and Free Water (Thur, Feb 21)

Since our next stop was only a few miles down the island chain, we took time to visit Pig Beach and meet the residents. Knowing they were always hungry, we came with a handful of stale Oreos, and as expected a large male, and smaller sow came out to see what we had. These weren’t wild pigs just “- free range” domestic pigs. Sue had the Oreos, so she got closest to the action, and had to sometimes direct the apparently near-sighted pigs to their cookie treats. (You had to be there!)

We had a nice motor down to Black Point on Great Guana Island – a real Bahamian settlement. We came in to a relatively crowded anchorage at the same time as Onward (a single hander) was arriving under sail. We followed Joe in awe as he sailed among the anchored boats, until he dropped the hook in the middle of the fleet. Quite a performance! We took the more conservative path and quietly motored to the back of the crowd, dropped anchor, and headed for the town dock. We checked out the local businesses, including the Scorpion Inn (actually a bar), Talking with bartender Zhivago, we learned that grade school students had to go to Nassau (usually living with relatives) to go to high school). Our errands including filling two 6.5 gallon Jerry Jugs with free town water to put in our water tanks. (Sue could only carry a jug – weighing 45 pounds – a few feet – looks like we need smaller jugs!)

Calling all Cruisers on Channel 16 (Fri, Feb 22)

We began the day in elegant style with Sue preparing a great omelet breakfast. (Some things never change.) We then headed in to the settlement and by 11:00, we were at the laundromat. At $3.50 per washer or dryer this was a “bargain”. The woman who ran the place also did haircuts so this was an opportunity not to be missed. Brian hadn’t had a haircut since Charleston in mid-November! The price was right ($10), the facilities were simple (a chair set outside the back door), and the view was priceless (the blue green waters of the anchorage). Brian continued with his busy schedule by going next door to Lorraine’s Café for some free Internet. After Sue finished laundry, she joined Brian for a late lunch at Lorraine’s (red snapper, cheeseburger).

Black Point is larger than most previous stops so we had more fun checking out the town. To keep our telephone communication option available – mostly emergencies -- we purchased a Phone card and also, minutes for our Bahamian cell phone. All our errands were accomplished in time for the 3 to 5 Happy Hour at the Scorpion Bar – Inn, This being the Bahamas, the announcement of the Rum Punch special and finger food had been made earlier on VHF channel 16 (which is normally reserved for distress calls and calling other boaters). I guess it all depends on what your definition of “distress”.

Happy Hour started slowly (all the boaters were busy using their computers via the free Wi-Fi connection), but soon the rum punch, pop corn, chips/salsa and Kahlik beers began to do their work. PCs were put away and the place was really buzzing by 5:00. It was time to socialize. We got a table with Smidge (Maury and Bonnie) and later, were joined by Pendragon (hadn’t seen Carolyn and Andrew since Vero Beach in December), and Onward (Joe). Everyone’s distress had been clearly relieved by the time we all headed back to our boats at sunset.

Emerald Bay Marina (Sat, Feb 23)

The weather looked better than we felt the next morning, but we managed to get underway and exit through Dotham Cut to Exuma Sound at around 8:20. We were heading for Emerald Bay Marina, which was just north of George Town. The winds were against us, so we had to motor the entire way into 4 foot seas. The motor seemed to be making some strange sounds, so we stopped the engine briefly to investigate it, adjusted the alternator belt tension, and it seemed to get better when we resumed motoring. Brian said we should have some one listen and/or look at it, but we never quite got around it. (Stay tuned until March 12 “for the rest of the story”!)

Emerald Bay is a brand new development, complete with a nearby Four Seasons Resort, condos, a first class marina, and a problem with their business plan. The marina is in receivership, the restaurant is closed and a lot of condos half built. However, it is a good deal for cruisers now, and you can stay for as low as $1.25 per foot. We sorted through three different charts (2 electronic and 1 paper) before deciding to rely on the paper Explorer Charts to make our approach to the marina entrance without incident.

We had a very easy tie up on the outside face of a long dock (we like simple docking) and were enthusiastically welcomed at the dock, complete with a very large welcome mat – 4 by 6 feet! – laid in front of Sogno. After getting settled in, we jumped aboard the shuttle van for a provisioning stop, and then a short walk to the Four Seasons Resort for cocktails at the Tiki Bar overlooking Crescent Beach. The resort was definitely not in receivership! We had a wonderful (expensive but worth every penny) meal at the Twenty-three Degrees restaurant, before shuttling back to the marina

George Town: We Get Cozy with 300 other Cruising Boats (Sun, Feb 24)

This morning we decided to clean up our act, prior to departing for George Town. First we wash down -- both Sogno and ourselves. Of course Sogno got the royal treatment, being hosed down with $0.15 per gallon water (actually a bargain compared to $0.50 at Compass Cay). Our own showers were “free” with the dockage, so we certainly didn’t skimp on the water. We continued the extravagance by filling our water tanks and main fuel tank, and a dockside waste pumpout. Without going into the unpleasant details, let’s just say the pumpout shook things up sufficiently so that going forward we could resume handling this chore with the onboard macerator pump.

By noon we were on our way, motoring in light winds to George Town. As we approached Conch Cut to enter Elizabeth Harbor, it was obvious that this was a BIG anchorage, with a forest of masts. As we worked our way down the channel, past the various coves along Stocking Island, we saw many familiar boats in the anchorages. We decided to go all the way to Sand Dollar Beach. We finished anchoring around 3:00. It was not too far a across to George Town (1.5 miles) and there was plenty of room to anchor among perhaps 30 boats. We anchored on the first try (always a good sign) and decided to stay aboard our first night.

We had traveled over 1500 miles in the 5 months since we had left Marblehead to get here. There were over 300 boats of all shapes and sizes here, and we had made it, despite our unexpected delay in Compass Cay. Was it all worth it? We had heard all kinds of stories from “George Town is daycare for adults”, “it’s too organized”, or “you’ll love it – there so much to do and see.” I guess for now we were just happy to have enjoyed the adventure of getting here. “It’s not the destination, but the journey” seemed to sum it up pretty neatly for us that evening before we settled down for the night.

Getting to Know George Town (Mon – Tues, Feb 25 – Mar 4)

George Town is something to be experienced. A relatively small town is invaded by nearly a 1000 cruisers, some of whom are content to stay most of the winter, while others are checking in for a week or two, prior to heading out for the “out islands” (those with little or no facilities) and beyond to the Caribbean. There’s a daily cruiser’s net on VHF channel 72 where you can learn about various activities, ask advice, and look for spare parts and or get rid of unused equipment.

Some highlights of what you really do most of the time:

Socializing with Other Cruisers -- Smidge, Gorma, Gypsy Soul, Cassiopeia, Pendragon, Keltic Kat (thank you Pat and Tutti for dinner at St. Francis!)

Checking Out Local Restaurants and Bars -- Eddie’s Edgewater, Peace and Plenty, Chat ‘n Chill, St. Francis Resort.

Weather Seminar – We couldn’t pass up Chris Parker’s weather seminar (240 attendees). Chris broadcasts weather forecasts from Florida on short wave Monday to Saturday mornings which are quite good in covering specific Bahamas regions as well as Florida and Gulf Stream and other areas in Eastern Caribbean. VHF radio weather broadcasts are few and far between (and only voluntarily done by various organizations), so a good shortwave radio receiver is mandatory to keep up with the weather unless you have regular/dependable access to the internet. A Single Side Band receiver/transmitter (which we don’t have) is even better, so you can talk to weather forecasters like Chris, if you are a paid subscriber.

Provisioning – Exuma Market is the most popular and you’re bound to spot someone you know there. The market serves the cruisers in many ways: providing the dinghy dock and a free water faucet, bulletin board, receiving and holding mail and packages, and sponsoring various activities. Shop Rite grocery also has a good selection.

Getting Wet in the Dinghy – George Town is over a mile from most anchorages, and depending on wind and chop you can get pretty wet. Some cruisers motor standing up, some scrunch down, and others wear foul weather gear. All eventually end up with lots of salt water (and sand) on them, their dinghy and in their boat!

Charging the Boat’s Battery – Almost everyone is anchored (FREE), and there are only a few marina slips. Bigger boats have onboard generator sets and others recharge their batteries with a combination of solar, wind, and running their engine. This is usually a daily chore. We elected to bring a portable Honda generator which we successfully used. You of course have to run it on deck and be careful about handling gasoline and proper ventilation of the exhaust. We installed a Carbon Monoxide detector in the cabin to be extra safe and it HAS worked out very well.

Internet Access – Getting connected can be via WiFi on the boat (service is spotty) or in town (J&K Computers provided good service from a very simple wooden shack.). Internet access was important to us every few weeks, so we could pay some bills and stay in touch via email.

Waiting Out Cold Fronts - When the cold fronts come by about every 4 days, the winds pick up and you can choose to stay aboard (and stay dry) or go ashore for the various activities the cruisers are always organizing (and get wet – see above). This is when we would catch up on maintenance, reading or our blog.

Eating – Sue is the master of keeping our menus varied and interesting. One highlight was eating the lobster we received as a going away present from Gadabaut at Compass Cay. It was fabulous. Thanks Dennis and Gail and thank you Sue!

Going forward

In our next chapter, we will report on our adventures as we start heading north for the return to the States. It’s been over 6 months since we left Marblehead, and we are currently in the Abacos area. We will let you know how we got there, and how we are becoming expert at ordering spare parts from the US.

Don’t forget to send us your comments. When we get a chance to see them, they really make our day. Click on Comments below!

Brian and Sue
Buds at Sea

54 comments:

johnbed said...

Brian & Sue,

yes, life is good! Glad to hear about your ongoing adventures. Don't rush back, the calendar says spring is here, but as usual it hasn't reached Marblehead yet.

Keep having fun.

regards,
John & Barbara

Anonymous said...

Hi Sye and Brian!
I was delighted to get your email and find the new blog. Can't wait to talk to you when you get back. Sounds like you're having a great trip even though Brian had a little set back with his injury.
All is well here - snow is FINALLY melting - hooray!
Have a safe trip home! I've really enjoyed the blogs and pictures!
Vicki

Anonymous said...

Sorry Sue - that's what I get for typing without my glasses!
Vicki

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