Thursday, February 24, 2011


This post is mostly about Georgetown, but first things first… we caught our first mahi! We were sailing along at about 7 knots on the sound side on our way north out of Georgetown heading back to Farmers Cay. We put out our lines before we got into deep water so as not to miss a nanosecond’s opportunity to catch something. Okay, so it was five hours into our six hour sail when we hooked this one… but still, it was pretty exciting. Skip pulled him in on the handline and I doused him with vodka from a squeeze bottle we’d had at the ready since Charleston. (Vodka subdues the fish…. much the way it might subdue anyone drinking it straight from the bottle.) Unfortunately, after I gave him a few shots I dropped the bottle into the water (yes… I am now responsible for some of that plastic washing up on the beaches) so I gave him some of our rum. He put up a good fight, but it wasn’t really a fair fight since we were the ones with the 2 foot gaff with the bad ass sharp hook on the end. 

We (and by ‘we’ I mean Skip) filleted him on the side deck and he’s now bagged up in our fridge (the fish, not Skip). Skip put the line back out and saw another mahi take a shot at the lure but we didn’t hook any more. Not long after the big catch we went through the now familiar cut at Farmers Cay and had our very own welcoming committee at the round blue house on the point of Big Farmers. We brought some mahi with us and said hellos to the newest visitors at Steve and Cindy’s…. neighbors from home… the Stiess family. Ed, Janet and their son Will are down for the week and we spent the evening as we’ve done so often lately – eating, drinking, talking and laughing at Steve and Cindy’s.

So, Georgetown. It was a little jarring at first to be in an anchorage with so many boats and so much activity. After a few days we got into the rhythm of the place and even started listening in on ‘the net’. ‘Net control’ this week was done by a guy named Bruce on a catamaran with the best name I’ve heard yet for a catamaran; Hairball. That, and Doublewide are my two favorites. No run-of-the-mill catamaran names like Double Trouble and Twice as Nice for these guys. A few other cool cat (lame pun intended) names in the anchorage are, Sam the Skull (a Scotsman), The Great Catsby and Felix (the Cat).

Crowded anchorage at Georgetown....
.... means lots of dinghies on the beach.
We met new people and reconnected with people we’d met along the way. The New Hampshire kids, Tyler and Michelle on Alida were here as well as Josh and Jen on Sheliak who we hadn’t met yet. Josh and Jen got married on the beach here a few days before we arrived and we went to a celebratory beach bonfire to wish them well.

Louie, from Lumar, prepping pumpkin to roast on the fire

If you followed the explanation of who’s who back a few posts you’ll recall that Josh was Eliza’s academic advisor at UNH….. here he is in a rather non-academic endeavor... 

Skip asked him who we might contact at UNH about a partial refund.

One hub around here is the Chat-n-Chill, a beach bar with your basic beach bar menu. There’s a nearby conch salad hut that got my attention. Our budget keeps us from eating ashore… but this was SO good we couldn’t resist. Skip got his fill of burgers from the Chat-n-Chill and I got my fill of conch salad (well, not really) at this little hut. 

The part you don't eat...
We hiked the hills and walked the beaches, did some provisioning and some boat chores and at the end of a week decided it was time to head to Farmers where we had some packages to collect. We’ll likely stop back here on our way south again, to fill our water tanks and provision once more, so there are more burgers and conch salad in our near future. 

Collecting sand dollars on Sand Dollar beach at Georgetown
And just because it was very cool.... here's Skip with that mahi again!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Farmers Cay to Georgetown

Saralane still anchored in front of Steve & Cindy's

Since we’ve been spending a lot of time at Farmer’s Cay we tacked on a few provision orders to Cindy and Steve’s orders and gotten some deliveries from the mailboat that arrives once or twice a week. Sometimes it comes on Tuesday…. or maybe Wednesday… or perhaps Thursday or Friday. We were there when it arrived this time and we went out with them to pick up the orders.

Everyone's meets up at the mail boat!

It’s a bit of a social event, and in addition to delivering goods from Nassau around the islands, the mailboat has bunks for people to travel throughout the islands too. We met locals and visitors traveling on the boat and even this little baby goat got a ride from Ragged Island to the vet in Nassau. He was treated for an injured leg and after his visit to the vet he was on his way home to Ragged.

Skip hitched a ride up to Nassau with Steve when he flew up to pick up new guests… and took this shot when they flew over Saralane. Taken at 100’ and 100 miles an hour…. (or as Skip says “50’ at 500 miles an hour!”) you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s Saralane with me standing on deck waving!

We made our way to Georgetown, Great Exuma ahead of a cold front, leaving behind blustery winds that have made for very wet dinghy rides. 

Evening sky in Georgetown - hours after we dropped the anchor.
We trolled the whole way from Farmer’s Cay, about 40 miles, and only managed to catch a baby barracuda that we let go. The fishing has been a complete bust so far – and we’d imagined ourselves with a freezer full of mahi by now. The only fish on this boat is packed in a can marked ‘tuna’. 

No fish yet... but we did manage to wrangle this coconut.
Georgetown has become a magnet for people traveling by boat in the Exumas and there’s a weird day-camp-for-grown-ups vibe about it, starting with the ‘Cruisers Net’ daily at 8 AM – where the person in charge of ‘Net Control’ organizes announcements over the VHF. There are more than 300 boats here (according to the count done yesterday and announced this morning on the ‘Net’) and some come back year after year to spend the winter. There’s everything here from regulation volleyball tournaments to talent shows to poker games to AA meetings. To counter the AA meetings, there’s also a group called something like AAG, which stands for the Alcohol Appreciation Group or some variation thereof. Skip and I happened upon one of their meetings the other day. We’d tied up the dinghy at an empty dock and had gone for a hike; when we returned around 5:00, there were dinghies buzzing in from all directions and swarming the dock. People were jumping out with coolers and drinks in hand. The topic of that day’s meeting was double malt scotch. We’re not really into volleyball or poker… soooooo… I guess we’ll hang out with this group. 

Note: Kitty update... I got an email from the kitties foster mom (See 'Bahama Bound' post in January); they've gone to the local Miami shelter. I wish we'd taken them. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Farmers Cay.... we're back

Trying to exhibit some sense of discipline, we put off our snorkeling and stopped first at Black Point to do some laundry and get some work done online. We’ve done laundry in some less-than-clean places since we started out… so we were pretty happy to come across Rockside Laundry here. It’s by far the cleanest and most efficient we’ve seen yet. They have a dinghy dock right outside their back door so we didn’t have to lug everything a mile from the dinghy. And… we even got free extra drying time when their dryers didn’t dry everything the first time around. Yep… it’s the little things that count.

That's Saralane anchored out there
Work finished and discipline ebbing, we headed north to the southern end of Exuma Land and Sea Park to snorkel in a spot called the Sea Aquarium, which is best done at slack low tide. Thinking of the swimmer we picked up out of the strong current…. we waited out the tide on a pretty nearby beach where curly tailed lizards came right up to us and nipped at our feet to see if we might be edible. We weren’t.

From there we went south again and anchored at Big Majors Spot, just around the corner from Staniel Cay. There’s a grotto just off the tip of Staniel Cay called Thunderball Grotto where lots of movies have shot scenes. (hint…. “Bond, James Bond.”) We got there just past slack low tide and could already feel the tide against us as we swam into the grotto. It was a shallower snorkel than the aquarium and full of bright fish and coral. It wasn’t long before the current was too strong to swim against to get inside the grotto but we stayed and snorkeled around the outside rocks and watched the fish swishing back and forth in the current.

We hopped back in the dinghy and headed for the beach nearest the anchorage for a walk. Steve and Cindy had told us about the swimming pigs at Staniel Cay but we’d completely forgotten about them until we were close enough to the beach to see this… 

Big bold pigs! They weren’t aggressive but their size and the speed with which they approached us made them seem intimidating at first. They’re clearly accustomed to having people around and once they realized we didn’t have any treats for them, they lost interest in us.

We heard a little squeaky noise farther down the beach and stopped and waited until this little one came out for a quick peek at us. Cute!

Our aim was to be back in Farmers Cay for the annual regatta – traditional Bahamian sloops compete in two days of races and locals and visitors come from all over to watch. We arrived in time for the second day of racing; the weather was perfect and there was some spirited sailing and equally spirited drinking. We watched one race from the deck of Saralane and followed a second race in our dinghy. The sloops sailed several legs; downwind right through the fleet of sailboats anchored off the beach, round the mark and back upwind. They’re small, elegant, brightly painted boats and the crews climb up narrow planks of wood that they move from side to side to hold the windward side of the boat down. Here are a few of my favorite shots...

Steve was on the race committee, as he has been for several years, and he was given an award for his years of enthusiastic work on behalf of the regatta. 

Back at Steve and Cindy’s house we opened a bottle of “Fire in de Hole” ('Erotic Rum of the Bahamas' if we're to believe the label) to celebrate and watch the sun go down.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farmers Cays (Big & Little)

Skip & Eliza on the way to Farmer's Cay

After overdosing on the beautiful views at Warderick Wells we sailed south toward Farmer's Cay. We made a stop at Black Point on Great Guana Cay on the way down where we ran into the New Hampshire kids, Michelle and Tyler on Alida. Eliza got to meet them and she and Michelle compared notes about their time at UNH – Michelle graduated a few years before Eliza. When we first met Alida in Bimini we discovered we had a few crazy links to each other. They began their trip in NH sailing in tandem with their friends on Sheliak (who’s sign you can see on the driftwood pile of boat names in a photo in the last blog) – the parents of one of the crew on Sheliak are great friends with friends of Cindy and Dan, Skip’s sister and brother-in-law. (Still with me?) Before we left on our trip we visited Cindy and Dan, who had said friends, Dean and Kathy, over to share stories of their experiences of sailing in the Bahamas. We didn’t put it all together until we saw a cruising guide on Alida, with Dean and Kathy’s last name on it.  Not only that, but it turns out that the second member of Sheliak’s crew was Eliza’s advisor at UNH. Yikes. Small world.

If I haven’t lost you after that… here’s what else we’ve been doing. We spent some time in Black Point catching up online at Lorraines Restaurant, then walked on to a spot called the Garden of Eden. It’s the front yard of a local couple… and the driftwood sculptures they’ve been creating for more than 30 years. We met the wife of the couple that lives there and she gave me a plant by plant tour of the garden in back of the house. She had an incredible variety of plants growing up out of rocky surface and she told me the names of everything and how they’re all used.

Clockwise from top L: Papaya tree, kitty in tamarind tree, pigeon peas, tamarind pods
From Black Point we had a great sail down to Farmers Cay where Steve and Cindy spotted us from their deck as we came around the corner. We finally got to see the house in person instead of just on Google Earth… it’s very cool. They’re completely off the grid – getting their power from the sun and collecting all their water from the roof. They have the capacity to store 10,000 gallons of rainwater and they were kind enough to fill up Saralane’s empty tanks with some of their catch.

Saralane anchored in Steve & Cindy's 'front yard'
Eliza had to head home to Boston at the end of the weekend and Steve and Cindy gave her a lift to Nassau where they were picking up some friends arriving the same day for a visit.

Our ride to the airport... Steve and Skip...
.... and Eliza

Cindy says "Eliza.. you can sit here!"

A little trouble getting the plane started

Steve says "No problem... we'll get her going!"

...and he does. Bye Eliza!

Eliza got some great shots from her flight.... that's not us anchored in front of the house though, it's the NH kids! We'd moved for one night to get out of the strong surge that made the anchorage rocky one night. The kids toughed it out. 

Saralane gets a flyover on their way back from Nassau bringing new guests.

We met their friends Amy and Tessa who came from various snowy places to visit and soak up the sun. We had great dinners and plenty of rum and beer. One day we zipped out in their boat to a beach on Prime Cay for a picnic lunch…

A picnic guest on a nearby coconut palm

...and then over to nearby sand bar for a walk. The sand bar goes on beyond your view as you walk and isn’t connected (above water) to land on either end… just a beach in the middle of miles of clear blue water.

Before Tessa and Amy left we went for a sail on Saralane. Malcolm, another pilot friend, had flown down for a few days and came along too. It took us a little longer to get organized than we’d planned, which turned out to be a good thing. A really good thing. As we headed out the narrow cut to open water Steve heard someone yelling. When we spotted the swimmer in distress we pulled down the mainsail and turned the boat around to pick her up. She’d been snorkeling and spear fishing with friends and got caught in the strong current running out the cut. If we’d left earlier she might not have realized she was in trouble yet and she would likely have been pulled too far out to sea to be seen or heard by anyone inside.  We got her aboard and returned her to her oblivious diving companions. (There’s a reason there’s a buddy system when you’re diving!) Regardless… it was a good ending rather than a potentially bad one.

 L to R: Steve (at the wheel), Amy, Skip and Cindy

L to R: Malcolm, Tessa and Steve (still enjoying the helm) 
Apparently our dinghy can hold 6 people! 

Everyone headed back to the house after sailing
A fundraiser was planned on Saturday for Willa Mae, a local woman who’s undergoing cancer treatments in Nassau. She needs continuing chemo and has run out of funds. All of Little Farmer’s Cay pulled together for a cookout with music supplied by Diane and Fenton, neighbors of Steve and Cindy’s on Big Farmer’s Cay. We had the pleasure of spending an evening with them at their house a few nights before, as they ran through their numbers before the big event  - Fenton on the guitar and Diane on the bass, with the rest of us supplying rhythm on various percussion instruments picked out of a big grab bag. An interesting evening.  At the event, the kids took over the rhythm section – with a little help from Skip and Steve. 

Fenton & Skip admire each others hats

I helped too… with a little guidance from the kids and Willa Mae’s partner Denzel. Everyone had fun and raised some money to help out too.

A kumbaya moment with Cindy, Steve and their sisters... Bev and Barb who just arrived for a visit!
We're leaving Farmer's Cay to do some errands, laundry, skyping and some snorkeling... but we'll be back next weekend for the big annual festival. So Steve and Cindy, if you miss us... don't worry, we're coming back!!