Hey Gang! The past two weeks have been small work and go play for the crew of Delancey. We’ve fallen into the rhythm of George Town. We dinghy to town to get groceries and fill jerry cans of water. We dinghy to the beach to grab a beer and maybe listen to a seminar. We occasionally shower. All the while, the VHF party-line crackles with the harbor conversation of 300 cruising boats.
Our big event these past weeks was hosting a visit by our special friends from home, Yvonne and Onat! Abuzz with anticipation, we prepped the boat for their arrival. I dinked into town to fill up on propane. Our stove/oven and grill both run on propane. Delancey has a commodious propane locker, large enough two hold two 20 lb. bottles. Living aboard for so long, we know that a single bottle lasts us nearly six months. We’d filled both when we left New Jersey back in October 2015. The first had just emptied and, even though we were probably good for another six months with the second, a good cruiser doesn’t turn down an opportunity to top up.
We dug out the reserve beer from under the aft berth.
Deb made all presentable below. During our first few weeks in the Exumas, we had yet to develop a system that would keep salt and sand from getting inside the boat and the interior quickly grew sticky and gritty. We have since adopted a no-shoes policy and keep a plastic basin of water and a dishtowel in the cockpit for foot-washing prior to going below. It’s a vast improvement, but the few grains that make it down the companionway are the bane of Deb’s existence.
After a long day’s travel in big plane to Fort Lauderdale and a much smaller plane to Great Exuma, our pals finally arrived. Following warm hugs and welcomes, Eve had a lie down in the V-berth to scrape off the airport film and immerse herself in the Bahamas vibe.
Onat took a more literal approach to immersion. Not five minutes after arriving, Fishboy Onat was in the water swimming circles around the boat and reporting on the state of our anchor.
In an example of perfect serendipity, Eve and Onat’s visit coincided with the 36th Annual George Town Cruiser’s Regatta: a week of boat races (including monohul, multihull, dinghy, and blindfold dinghy classes), tournaments (poker, volleyball, frisbee golf, softball, and something called a coconut harvest race), and events (scavenger hunt, pet parade). After a restorative first evening aboard, we bound into the dinghy and buzzed into George Town to attend the Cruiser’s Regatta Variety Show.
Of course, we weren’t the only ones with this plan and we arrived to find our first example of a true cruiser’s rush hour, with the dinks three deep at the dock.
The variety show was a mix of local and cruiser acts. We were lucky enough to catch the performance by local elementary school’s dance team (enthusiastic girls; boys a bit less so) and the cruiser’s conch blowing competition (both men’s and women’s classes).
Much of the show we enjoyed from the side of the stage, leaning against a wall at the roadside. This not only gave us a perfect perch to enjoy fantastic takeout jerk ribs (with corn and Bahamian mac n’ cheese), but also allowed us to see all the action behind the scenes. From our vantage we could watch the event organizer, the casually exasperated Jillian, her British accent rushing into a borrowed mobile phone, “Well tell them that if they don’t get here in five minutes, I’ve got nothing to go on stage!” This was followed by what appeared to be her quickly corralling a group of cruising and local kids to choreograph an impromptu song-and-dance number.
Certainly affected by the talent on stage, we closed the evening with a Delancey Dance Party.
As Onat is an enthusiast of all things aquatic, we knew we’d want to get out into the deep Exuma Sound and fish for the big stuff, Wahoo and Mahi Mahi. Not wanting to miss a chance, at the first opportunity we upped anchor for a sail around Stocking Island, the barrier island that protects Elizabeth Harbor from Exuma Sound. After a couple hours motoring out of the east end of the harbor, we turned to the deep water and found ourselves in 20-25 knot winds and six-foot beam seas. Although tossed around like a bath toy, we were making seven knots and had to put a reef in the jib (the only sail flying) to slow us down in order to not outrun the fish. Having taken quite a while to exit the harbor, nobody was interested in turning back and we continued our lumpy ride along the coast to the west harbor entrance, regularly tossed sideways, the cabin (and crew) in disarray. None of this damped Onat’s spirits, however, and, after being harnessed and tethered into the boat, he took up his position at the rail, ready for the slightest tug on the line.
Perhaps not enjoying the sea state any more than the crew, no fish were biting that day. We easily consoled ourselves with other activities.
Eve and Onat strolled Volleyball Beach and communed with the stingrays that gather in the shallow water near the conch shack, waiting for scraps.
Of course, all was not fun and games. I investigated a small problem with the windlass. Happily a quick fix.
Deb and Onat made the tri-weekly run for water.
But mostly it was fun and games.
We led our guests in a hike to the Monument.
We considered ways we might be able to package and monetize the soft-pretzel sized salt crystals that formed on every surface of the boat.
We even went fishing again. We took the same route as before, circumnavigating Stocking Island. This time in a dead calm. As usual, Lucy supervised, ready to spring into action at any time.
Alas, we again came up losers in the piscine contest and after a couple hours motoring in a zigzag between shallow (100 ft) and deep (+3,000 feet) water, we called it a day. We were disappointed for Onat, but with the Zen philosophy required of fishermen, he took it in stride. Today wasn’t the day.
Still, we had to eat, so we anchored, hopped in the dighy, and zipped across the calm harbor to the Fish Fry Village. We beached the dink adjacent to a couple derelict freighters and clambered up the shore.
Fish Fry Village is a collection of brightly-colored wooden buildings that line the shore about a mile north of George Town. Each is an independent restaurant/bar and on weekends the evening party scene can be heard from across the harbor. We chose Shirley’s, as it was well reviewed by fellow cruisers and because they advertise a two-for-one boater’s special on the morning VHF net.
We ordered barbecued chicken legs with classic Bahamian sides rice n’ peas and mac n’ cheese, as well as a platter of local seafood: shrimp, snapper, and lobster. As it happens, the boater’s special wasn’t a necessary inducement. The tender chicken fell off the bone in gloriously messy chunks. The mac n’ cheese, made with layered flat noodles and jalapenos, was the best we’d had in the Bahamas. Each of the seafood selections featured a different spice profile that added to their fresh textures. We shouldn't have been surprised, as Chef Shirley's former employment was at the Four Seasons Resort Exuma. It was easily the best meal we’d yet had in the Bahamas and we were very lucky to be able to share it with such good friends.
Too soon, it was time to catch a cab back to the airport. We sent our friends home with full bellies, salty laundry, and promises to connect somewhere else soon.
And now we find ourselves contemplating where that somewhere else might be. Shortly after seeing our friends off, we signed up with a group of about 40 boats sailing next week in a rally to Long Island, one island to the east, which got hit particularly hard last summer by Hurricane Joaquim. We’ll join the other cruisers touring the island with local speakers, meeting for dinners at local restaurants, and collecting flotsam washed ashore from a sunken freighter.
This will be our first trip to the “Far Out Islands” to the south and east of the Exumas. Most of the boats will return to George Town after the rally. Not us. We’re getting ready to move on. Georgetown’s perpetual spring break is a hoot, but we’re itching to get moving again. We’re still not enamored of big ocean passages, so we’re taking this one island at a time. No big plans, just carefully considered small ones.
Now that we’re committed to moving, this week has been all about preparation. We’ve filled up the essential fluids.
I changed all the engine filters.
Deb’s even sporting a kicky new look.
As I write this, on our last day in George Town, we are being visited by a small pod of four dolphins. They are swimming around the anchorage, seemingly from boat to boat. I could be convinced that they’re saying, “Come on Delancey, let’s go!”
I can’t believe I’m listening to a dolphin.