New Photos Posted

We were able to process and post some new photos from the last couple of weeks today.  Enjoy!

February 16-20, 2010... George Town, Great Exuma Island

Over the past few days we've gotten comfortable in George Town as the weather finally subsided a bit. We had a few hairy crossings to and from town as the winds whipped up the harbor and we surfed through the waves in the dinghy. Now though, as we are between fronts, we have a few settled days to enjoy. Provisioning here is a breeze with two supermarkets to satisfy our needs. We found terrific internet and phone service with Julius and Kristal, and spent a few hours as on-line shoppers getting charts and cruising guides for the next phase of our adventure -- the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Virgins (Spanish, US and British.) We caught up with Patti's Mom by phone and decided that Patti would return to Delray for a week, leaving John alone, but in a good situation. We've had guests on the boat several times, including a fellow cruiser we met in New York last summer, who found us and anchored next to us here.
Touring George Town on foot between chores has been fun as well; the 200-year old Anglican church is in a beautiful setting with luxurious purple bougainvillea setting off the blue and white building, and the colorful straw market downtown is a nice stop. We've kayaked and dinghyed several times into Lake Victoria and were pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the water - on our first trip in we even saw a tricolor heron - kind of a surprise for a relative urban setting (traffic, noise). We've kayaked up and down Stocking Island, taking some time on the beaches, and we climbed the ridge on the island, from which we could look out to the Exuma Sound and back across the harbor. Again, it is startling to see how many boats are here - last report was over 250. Today we snorkeled with a couple of friends -- early morning wave action churned things up a bit, but we made do and saw some coral, sponges, and fish. To be sure, we aren't getting tired of the colors of the water, and just sitting and staring is an acceptable pass time.
Last night we participated in one of the many 'cruiser' activities here in Camp George Town. It was the Valentine's Dance (postponed from last weekend due to weather) and we joined the crowd at the Chat 'n' Chill deck. We started the evening with conch burgers (ok - another experiment we don't have to repeat) and danced all night long as Rockin' Ron from Sea Dancer spun records from the 50s, 60s, and 70s -- with a more contemporary song thrown in once in a while. You can tell by the music that the average age of the cruiser here is above 50. It was a great party and we were happy to have the chance to dance.

February 14-15, 2010... Southbound

Sunday morning we raised the anchor to leave our atoll and home of the last week. It was high tide, so we got out without too much of a white knuckle experience. And no wind, so we happily puttered south without any wave action. About halfway on our course we exited the Exuma Bank through Galliot Cay to the deeper waters of the Exuma Sound. Still no wind. So we motored on to our destination of the evening, Lee Stocking Island where we had a very peaceful Valentine's Day evening.
Monday we completed our transit to George Town, capital of the Exumas -- the big city. Were we in for a shock. We hadn't seen so many boats anchored anywhere since we left Annapolis. We didn't count, but there were upwards of a couple of hundred boats anchored in Elizabeth Harbor. What we have come to understand is that in March there is a big cruisers' regatta here and boats are already coming in for the festivities. After being welcomed to the harbor by the first dolphins we have seen in weeks, we found a good place to anchor off Sand Dollar Beach on Stocking Island (across the harbor just over a mile from town). We aren't far from 'volleyball beach' where many of the cruiser activities take place -- Camp George Town. Apparently some boaters come here for the whole winter season, staying put till the spring migration north. We are interested to observe (and participate in (?)) this little subculture. The most important thing is that we have officially reached the tropics! The Tropic of Cancer is under a mile from our anchorage beckoning us still further south!!

Lee Stocking Island: +23° 46' 14.76", -76° 6' 46.98"
Stocking Island, George Town: +23° 30' 50.76", -75° 45' 1.98"

February 10-13, 2010... Pipe Cay Adventure Continued

In the wee hours of Wednesday, we awoke to a mooring ball (near which we had anchored) hitting our hull. Fixed that. Then the dinghy painter got wrapped around the rudder. John dove under the boat to fix that. Then back to bed at 3am. No sooner were we dry and in bed when the front which had come through dumping lots on rain on us had dragged us. Up again, in the stinging rainstorm, we tried anchoring in the dark. Not sure we did a good enough job, we weighed anchor and drove over to the mooring, picked it up and decided to use it. We had found out earlier in the day that a liveaboard couple had put this 3000-lb mooring in a few years back. They couldn't vouch for the safety of using it as they hadn't done so, or inspected it, in a couple of years. We decided that at 3:30am it was better than nothing. Then we also put the anchor down.
Next morning, it was like magic. The mooring and the anchor were taking turns holding the boat in a V formation -- like we knew what we were doing (of course we didn't... but we were lucky.) We breathed more easily seeing that we were maintaining our position while turning with the current and wind (in not so orderly a fashion). We were smack in the middle of what we started to call 'the atoll' - an area in the basin surrounded by sand hills that almost broke the surface at low tide. This atoll managed to keep the steeper waters at bay when the wind blew and left us in a more comfortable position. We decided to stay here to wait out the NEXT front due on Friday night. Thankfully, our well-set position held through the front and we had a fairly comfortable ride through the storm.
We did another kayak expedition on Thursday where we investigated the north end of Pipe Cay; saw a beautiful little yellow warbler on the beach and several baby conch marching along the sand bars. We were at low tide on the way back and had to lead the kayak along as we marched across the sand bar -- good thing we were dressed warmly -- it was pretty cold. As a last opportunity to get out before the front, our boat and land neighbors invited us to go 'downtown' on Friday afternoon. Downtown refers to Staniel Cay - the settlement about 5 miles south of here. We provisioned some and took in the town. It was a great boat ride to and from -- though as the winds were up on the way back, wet as well! Thanks to Tom, Nancy, Britta, and Mike for the great outing. Back at the boat we prepped for the front, taking down parts of the enclosure and moving fly-away items below. Then we hunkered. As predicted, the storm came through with upwards of 30 mph winds and we were thanking our lucky stars that we had settled into this spot. The wind blew through the night and into Saturday; not really allowing us to get off the boat. We'd hoped for one more kayak trip, but it is pretty rough for a plastic bath toy out there. So, here we sit, planning our escape south tomorrow.

February 7-9, 2010... Pipe Cay

Sunday we left Sampson Cay after another rolly night thinking there had to be joy somewhere. Off we went, slogging west and north into 20 knot winds for the 4-mile run to Pipe Cay -- it seemed to take forever. Finally arrived, put the anchor down between Pipe and Little Pipe Cays and decided to reward our efforts with a kayak exploration. Well. We hadn't had much sleep, we were anxious, and John got a little ahead of the kayak in dismounting from Anhinga. Over the kayak goes and fills with water. (John was OK.) The next 45 minutes were spent as a rescue operation for our beloved yellow kayak. We finally got it up and bailed enough water out so that it was floating again. Not to be put off, we still went kayaking and circumnavigated the basin. Over by Pipe Cay we found mangroves and perched on one was a beautiful white bird that we later identified as the white morph of the Reddish Egret -- apparently an uncommon find! Circling Hattie Cay we found ourselves aground on a large sand flat and had to walk across pulling the kayak, but, we found our first live conch in the wild.
Monday we went out exploring again in the kayak; this time looking for the perfect spot for waiting out the NEXT cold front. We met an old hand who gave us some ideas, and also told us about the beautiful scenery on Thomas Cay. We decided to give it a look, and found the 'Pipe Creek Yacht Club' (a hut of found materials memorialized by many conch shells) and walked through the brush to the ocean side for some spectacular views. Back to the boat, we decided to move 1000 feet further north up the basin to ride out the next front. We were anchored well, only to find that the current had pushed us up on a sand ridge and we were aground. It was easy coming off, and we pulled ourselves off 2 more times. Finally we moved the boat in the middle of the night so that we were again afloat.
Tuesday, we corrected our anchoring location and spent more time swimming over the anchor and checking our position. We think we have it now. The front arrives tomorrow morning and we think we are in a good spot and will hold. Stay tuned. Photos to follow when we get access to internet.

between Little Pipe and Pipe Cays: +24° 14' 5.04", -76° 30' 12.06"
Pipe Cay basin off Smidgeon Cay: +24° 14' 12.48", -76° 30' 16.62"

February 5-6, 2010... Riding Out the Front

Friday morning we woke to a dilemma -- do we head to Little Farmers Cay for the 5F or do we hightail it outta town to find someplace to ride out the next front. This front was supposed to be stronger and longer than the previous ones, so we were giving some serious thought to this decision. Well, as much as we wanted to enjoy the festival -- practicality won out. We got in the dinghy to see what it would be like to get to and from Farmers in the 'return flow' winds that were preceding the front. Not pretty. We were drenched in minutes. Oh well.
We did have a wonderful day at the beach at Bay Rush Bay on Thursday, so we counted ourselves lucky with that and settled in for frontal passage planning. We thought we'd go north (as the winds were out of the south...) and find some southwest-west shelter. Unfortunately, our first pick from the charts was totally insufficient - no elevation on the cays to form a lee and lots of rocks to swing into. Ugh. So we ended up between Dennis and Sampson Cays. It even calmed down enough to allow us an exploratory kayak trip around South Sampson where we saw sharks at the fuel dock! Boy, were we ever fooled by this calm before the storm. NO SLEEP LAST NIGHT. The winds picked up and the rolls set in. Continued this morning with winds up to 28 mph. So bad, that we even called the Sampson Cay Marina to ask if they had a berth for us (they didn't.) (Remember, this is the crew of the Anhinga -- the 'we like to anchor' people - so you know it was bad!) The front finally went through about mid-day, and we breathed again. But we had swung a little too close for comfort to Dennis Cay. So about 2pm we weighed anchor and made for the basin outside the Marina. Much better in here. We'll be able to sleep tonight. (We keep asking, "Isn't this supposed to be fun?")

Sampson Cay (anchorage 1): +24° 12' 21.06", -76° 28' 35.28"
Sampson Cay (anchorage 2): +24° 12' 32.28", -76° 28' 29.82"

February 3, 2010... Little Farmers Cay

After a few more days at Black Point, we decided it was time to move on south to Little Farmers Cay. It was hard to leave Black Point -- it really is a great little town. We did our laundry at Ida's, bought some more bread, kayaked some more (including doing sprints up and down the bay), and had a marvelous dinner at DeShaMon Restaurant (where we met Jeanne who lives in the castle - but that's another story). But we wanted to get a place to anchor in advance of the 5Fs (first Friday in February) festival and thought as the week went on, our choices would diminish. So off this morning we went. No wind to speak of, so we motorsailed the 10+ miles down Great Guana Cay. We tried to anchor 4 times on the west side of Little Farmers... no dice. The bottom was scoured and most of the sand on the rocks was gone. Even the Rocna got nowhere. So, we backtracked around to the southern end of Great Guana Cay and anchored on a beautiful white sand beach, a little over a mile from the dock at Little Farmers. There is noone else here, so we have privacy; everyone else is herded down by Little Farmers.
We dinghyed to town, and explored the island on foot. We were done in an hour -- it is really a tiny place -- only 60 residents. Some were cleaning their fish catch at the dock, so we were able to buy a couple of yellowtail snapper for dinner. Now the fun part. We had to clean the fish. Neither one of us had ever done this before -- so out comes the book which makes it all seem so easy. Well it wasn't. Trying to produce four filets from the two fish, we now understand why the locals call these pan fish and fry them up whole. We made a mess of it, and ended up with fish pieces too small to grill. So, John whipped up a terrific snapper saute, with onions, green peppers, garlic, and spices, served over rice. Like we knew what we were doing all along! Well, we'll keep trying. And we might try to find someone to teach us how to clean fish.

Great Guana Cay: +23° 59' 15.24", -76° 20' 5.10"

New Photos Posted

Had a chance to visit an internet cafe and post pictures from the last month.  Please check out the art in previous posts!  Enjoy!