Friday, March 12, 2010

We are finally in George Town, anchored in Elizabeth Harbour, just off the settlement.  My heavens, so many cruisers!  There must be three to four hundred boats here scattered between three large anchorages on Stocking Island, across Elizabeth Bay from George Town, the Red Shanks anchorage a bit south of the settlement, and the anchorage we are in.  Many more boats than we want around us, but we’ll probably stay in the area for three or four days.  We have to plan our next move before venturing off, and then we’ll hope the weather is right.

Our trip here was a fast in the sense that we skipped several Exuma Cays which we would have loved to spend some time at so that we could join our friends Ruth and Neil at Emerald Bay.  We left Stanley Cay on Friday, March 5th, to position ourselves to go out Galliot Cut the next morning.  Our sail was about twenty nautical miles, and we had a fine time sailing with the spinnaker for almost the entire day.  Later at Emerald Cay another cruiser came up and said he’d seen us sailing that day; it seems that sailing with a spinnaker is unusual among cruisers in the Bahamas, which is odd, since there’s a lot of downwind sailing.

After a night at anchor in a little bay on the west side of Big Galliot Cay … a truly idyllic spot … we watched a lovely sunrise and sailed off with a single reef in the main.  We had a brisk sail on a broad reach  in a northeast wind of 17-20 knots and had to hand steer because the autopilot couldn’t adjust quickly enough to hold the course with a 6-8 foot swell coming at an angle with the wind.  After a time, Penelope decided she wanted to try the helm, something she’s been reluctant to do in general, and she had a great time once she got the feel of it.  She steered a more consistent course than the captain, so she may find herself assigned helm duty more often.

Making good speed (six to seven knots), we entered the Marina at Emerald Bay two hours by sail north of George Town on Great Exuma Island and got tied up in a slip by noon.  At 1400, Ruth and Neil came down to the boat and we began five days of shore leave.

They had rented a very nice villa at the Grand Isle Resort, which was just a ten-minute walk from the boat, and they threw it open to us for showers, laundry, lounging about, and cooking.  We spent one day on a gorgeous walk around the Sandals Resort Golf Course, which actually goes around the Grand Isle villas as it meanders around the point that juts out into the ocean.  We spent a day on the beach at the resort, sunning ourselves and snorkeling.  And, another day we rented a car, shopped in George Town, and drove to Williams Town on the southern end of Little Exuma Island, which is attached to Great Exuma Island by a small one-lane bridge.   On the way back, we stopped for an hour or so at Tropic of Cancer beach, one of the prettiest beaches any of us had ever seen, and Ruth and Pen gathered natural sponges and other treasures.  That night we treated ourselves to a dinner out at Big D’s Conch Place, a bit north of the resort.  We agreed that the meals that Pen and I cooked in the villa were generally better, and indeed we cooked all but the one dinner out.

Alas, too many good things end.  We bid farewell to each other after breakfast at the resort on Thursday morning, March 11th, Pen and I packed off the left over food, and we set sail for George Town at 1130, while Neil and Ruth packed there things to catch an early afternoon flight back to New York.  We had the wind on our nose for the two hour trip to Conch Cut, the entrance to Elizabeth Bay, and we didn’t get anchored until 1430.  Expecting mail forwarded via UPS, we went in on the dinghy to see the agent in George Town.  The package was delayed in Nassau because customs thought there were import items in it, but one hopes it clears and arrives in a day or so.  We celebrated our arrival at the Peace and Plenty Hotel pool bar, and great little sheltered spot overlooking the bay, then while Pen shopped in a boutique, I went back out to the boat, picked up our empty propane tank (we have two), and took it back in to the UPS agent, who also handles propane.

Today we washed salt off Alizee, Pen made apple sauce and fresh salsa and cleaned the interior.  I went in a signed us up for internet and picked up the propane.  Still no UPS delivery, so I'll check again tomorrow.

More photos

Alizee’s geotrack

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bimini to Staniel Cay ...

We are two days out of Georgetown, resting at anchor at Staniel Cay in the Exumas.  We've had three days of almost pure sailing since we reached Alice Town in Bimini, and we've spent a lot of time at anchor in winds of 25-30+ knots waiting out weather fronts.  Frankly, we're getting tired of that part of it, and we're waiting for it to warm up.  We can't believe that we are further south than Key West, Florida, and the temperatures are barely reaching into the low seventies.  It is crisp, indeed!

In Alice Town we met Jerry and Richard, who were berthed next to us at Blue Water Marina, and we enjoyed their company very much.  Our last night we had them join us for dinner on Alizee, and told sailing stories and other lies.  Sadly, they were waiting out weather to go back to Florida ... we wish we could have continued on with them to the Exumas.  Anyhow, we also connected with three other cruisers heading toward Chub Cay and on to Nassau, shared a dockside happy hour with them and then ended up crossing the Great Bahama Bank with them in sight most of the time.  We all anchored out on the bank for the night (it's shallow all the way across) rather than go on to Chub Cay or Nassau at night. 

The crossing on the bank was gentle.  Winds were light and we flew the spinnaker for the first time.  It was incredibly peaceful and pulled us along at 5 knots or more in under 10 knots of wind.  I'm looking forward to such sails again!  But we ended up motor-sailing to the spot we all anchored the first night.  Then, next morning, the winds picked up and we headed out early to make Nassau by nightfall.  This was a ride across the "Tongue of the Ocean" which separates the Great Bahama Bank from New Providence, and we had an "exhilarating" sail in 20-25 knot winds.  We did put in a single reef in the main and the genoa, and we arrived well before sunset in Salt Bay.

We spent a night at anchor in Salt Bay and had winds reaching 30+ knots.  It was an uncomfortable night, so the next day we went in and treated ourselves to a marina and got fuel.  Problem was that all the cheap (well, reasonable) marinas were full up, so we ended up in Hurricane Hole Marina, a "yacht" marina and paid a lot of money for very little.  I suppose it was worth it to get some fresh produce at the market (had to take a bus and then a taxi back) and to do our laundry. 

The next morning we departed for Allen's Cay, famous for the iguanas that live on that and a couple of adjacent cays.  We had to motor the entire way with a light wind on our nose, but it was comfortable enough.   Once there, for the first time, we felt we were in the Bahamas.  The afternoon was warm, the water crystal clear, the winds light.  We went ashore to see the iguanas, dinghied about in the sheltered waters, and enjoyed a nice dinner on Alizee.  Then the weather front started passing through, and we spent the next two days at anchor waiting it out and watching the people on the other boats ... the long-haired biker dude (he should have been on a Harley) and his partner on a really nice cruising boat (a Pacific Seacraft, I think), a catamaran with eight (count them ... eight) people aboard, "the boys" (we fantasized they were a gay couple) who had troubles with their dinghy engine and had to re-anchor during the night, and "Semper Fi" and his wife, an older couple on a little 27+ foot sloop with hank-on sails and only a two-person kayak who spent most of their time down below with the hatch boards in.   We cruisers are an interesting lot.

We left Allen's Cay after a couple of lovely sunsets and after the front passed, but the waters were still mixed up.  Going out the channel and on to the Bahama banks to head south, we both wondered if we were making an error ... it was rough, but once we turned south, the wind of 20 knots was good enough to push us along on a broad reach at 6-7 knots and we arrived 40+ nautical miles later at Staniel Cay by 1545 in the afternoon.  Here we anchored, enjoyed a cocktail and appetizers in the cockpit, and then settled down for dinner, a nice lamb and spring vegetable stir-fry (the last of our fresh vegetables).  Alas, the tidal currents acting against the wind started pushing boats around in odd directions and we shortened up our anchor chain in concert with another boat next to us.  Mid-way through the night, we realized we were slowly dragging into the boat channel, so we were up re-anchoring ourselves.  I think this is the first time we've ever dragged, and I'm sure we wouldn't have if we hadn't shortened chain earlier.

Anyway, here we are.  Today we'll push about 18 miles further south to an anchorage near Case Cut, and tomorrow we head out to Emerald Bay Marina, north of Georgetown, where we are meeting Ruth and Neil Cowan, who decided to take their spring break in the Exumas.  This will be great fun!

Alizee's geotrack
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