|One of the famous "swimming pigs" near Staniel Cay.|
I know we have already left Staniel Cay, but there is one observation I need to make. When we first started our Bahamian adventures; there were some wild pigs on Staniel Cay and there had been for quite a while. Over time, people had learned that if they took some food to the beach that the pigs would actually swim out to them to get the food. I guess that was kind of fun and interesting. Since then, however, the Bahamian government has taken control of the pigs, and tourists in Nassau and George Town have started coming to Staniel to see the pigs. The pigs now have their own hut and their own water trough (which they really need and I would not begrudge them). Moreover, since there are not many costs of entry into the swimming pig market, there is at least one other island (in the Abacos) that has introduced its own swimming pigs. It just seems that when people try to improve the cool and kitschy they take all the coolness and kitschy-ness out of it, and make it kind of institutional. Oh well, enough bellyaching.
After Staniel, we went south about ten miles to Black Point. When we moved the wind had subsided somewhat and we thought it would be a relatively calm few days before we headed even further south. Well, the weather gods didn’t agree with our assessment. Although Black Point is known as a fairly well-protected anchorage, it certainly was not for us! The first night we stayed was the worst with the wind changing directions slightly and giving us a washboard night. The second night wasn’t as bad, but “good” it was not!
So why, you may be asking, did we go to Black Point in the first place. Good question. Black Point is hardly a tourist Mecca, but it is a “must” for cruisers. It is kind of like the “Chicago of the Exumas,” the
small settlement of big medium-sized shoulders that provides the
necessary industrial support to cruiser-dom. Ida’s Laundry, for example, is
certainly the best known and most widely used in the Exumas and perhaps the out
islands of the Bahamas. Mama’s bread (made and sold in her house, just behind
Lorraine’s Café) is some the best around – and her coconut bread? Magnifico! In
Black Point they also weave the straw into bands that eventually become the baskets
and straw hats that are sold in the straw markets around the country. And, of
course, there are some cafes and bars-and-grills in Black Point – but these
aren’t the fancy schmancy restaurants that have French sauces and Italian
herbs, -- they serve regular old fashioned blue-collared food like pizza,
hamburgers and cracked conch.
As I thought about Black Point I realized that I had to do something – like write a poem. Some of you may recall that, in high school, you had to memorize – or at least read – the poem “Chicago” by Carl Sandburg. Now Sandburg won three Pulitzers and I have yet to win my first … though I am sure it is only an oversight by the Committee. Still, I have taken a few liberties and written what should be an award winning poem called, “Black Point” which I kind of patterned after Sandburg’s masterpiece. I am only going to show you the fist stanza of each because otherwise this blog would be too long. I have posted the stanzas below. I will let you decide who deserves the Pulitzer. (P.S. I promise chocolates with every vote for mine.)
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:
Blah, Blah, Blah …
Brown’s Black Point
Straw Weaver for the Bahamas,
Launderer, Folder of Clothes,
Sailor of boats and the Island’s Bread Maker;
Windy, skinny, dusty,
City of the Medium-sized shoulders.
And there is more to this brilliant poem.
After Black Point we decided to go south to George Town. We knew that the first half of the trip would be a little bumpy as the winds were predicted to start fairly high on Thursday and to diminish over the course of the day – and they were generally coming from the southeast, smack-dab into our direction of travel. To try to miss some of the nastiness, we left a little later than normal and we traveled inside on the “Bank” for the first part of the trip. (The Exuma Bank is no more than 20-25 feet deep and is generally protected from waves, if not winds, by the chain of islands. The Exuma Sound, on the other hand, is on the other side of the islands and basically part of the Atlantic. It can get very, very deep out there and much, much wavier and choppier.) After staying inside for about an hour, we exited into the Sound via Farmers Cut out and found that the weather people were very correct – it was not particularly calm on the Sound side. Again, we have been through worse, but it was kind of rough. Over time the seas calmed down as the forecasters said they would and I eventually dropped a line off the transom – to no avail, I might add – but by the time we reached George Town the seas had pretty well reasonably smooth.
George Town is quite a place. For some cruisers it is Mecca; they come here at the beginning of winter and stay for the entire season. There is a regatta which lasts for about two weeks that includes dinghy racing, volleyball, sailboat races, softball and many, many other events. In the past there have been as many as 300 or more boats in the harbor, though this year I think the number is nearer 280. It is difficult to tell how many boats are here at any one time because, in addition to the stalwarts who spend the whole season, there are a lot of people like us who pop in for a few days then pop out again.
Anchoring at George Town
With 280 boats you can imagine that it might be difficult to find a good spot to anchor. True, Elizabeth Harbor is pretty big, but everyone wants to anchor in places with the same general characteristics: they want a place where the holding is good (generally meaning a sandy bottom), that is close to the various attractions in the area, that will have some kind of protection from the wind as it shifts from E-W-N-S, and that is deep enough (6-ish feet) without being too deep (15-ish feet). As a result, about 2/3 of the boats anchor near one of the beaches: Honeymoon, Monument, Chat and Chill or Sand Dollar. Once the captain and crew have decided the beach at which they want to anchor, though, the fun really begins. Since everyone is looking for the same kind of spot, the captain has to make sure he has enough swing room. Basically, he has to make sure the precise spot at which he drops his anchor allow the boat to swing 360 degrees at the end of whatever length of rode (chain/rope line) he has chosen to deploy and his neighbors have chosen without bumping in to anyone else. Because every boat swings differently and because every boat has differing amounts of rode out, it can get tricky.
Traveling Soul at anchor on Valentines Day in George Town, Bahamas. This
photo was taken by our friends Chris and Erin.
The way Ann and I handle this is to observe the anchorage as we are approaching. Then we try to identify a “hole” in the layout where we think we would fit. Because we are a big boat, we usually try to locate “our” hole near the perimeter of the anchored boats. Now here comes the tricky part. Let’s say we have identified the hole that we want to fill and the location where we want our boat to rest. Now, based both on the existing wind and current AND on the wind and current we expect over the next several days, we have to identify the exact spot where we want to drop the anchor so the boat will settle in to our chosen location. That, my friends, is much more difficult than it sounds. But we are still not finished.
Let’s say we have done all the above, dropped our hook, looked around after we have settled to make sure we are not violating anyone else’s space, and grabbed a cold one to celebrate another successful anchoring. Now we have to defend our territory. Whenever someone comes anywhere near Traveling Soul with the intent to anchor, I continue what I am doing – reading, writing, eating, drinking, etc. – but I keep an eye on them. If they anchor a goodly distance away, all is good. If they start coming a little close for comfort, however, I will often go out front on the foredeck, sit down and just observe them. This is basically sending a signal, “Don’t you think you might be getting a bit close?” If they continuing anchoring, I will get my camera, take a picture and use my laser rangefinder to check the distance. If they get really close, that is the time for the “bitch-wing” stare. I stand on the boat, hands on hips, staring at the intruder. Very few boaters can withstand the bitch-wing stare. By the way, this isn’t a Brown invention. There have been one or two occasions where, after dropping the anchor, our boat has drifted too close to another boat – and we have been the subject of the same process.
In George Town we generally anchor at Sand Dollar Beach. It is far enough way from the hubbub of the Chat and Chill Bar, with fewer boats than the other anchorages and usually with more of the larger power boats (like us). From there we often take our dinghy ashore and walk some of the trails that lead to the other side of Stocking Island.
Enjoying George Town
One of the beaches on the Exuma Sound side of Stocking
Island. we walk here almost every day. You are right. There
are no footprints but ours.
Generally, I think it fair to say that George Town is not our favorite place. Everybody is trying to organize everything, especially during the regatta). This year, though, we have had a good time primarily because of our friends Russ and Lori aboard Twin Sisters. Russ and Lori are among the folks who spend a lot of time in George Town. As a result, they know just about everything there is to know about the place and everyone worth knowing. Lori, for example, showed Ann the location of the trails that lead from the beaches on one side of Stocking Island to beaches on the other. Russ and Lori have also guided us to some of the better local eating establishments (they are kind of semi-foodies like we are). They came over for dinner for Valentine’s Day and went to the Cruiser’s Variety Show with them. All in all they have been very good friends.
We also met Chris and Erin aboard Barefeet, a Selene trawler. Before buying their current boat they owned a 44’ sailing catamaran, also called Barefeet, on which they accomplished a circumnavigation. We had them over for drinks once and will try to have dinner with them another night before we go. We want to hear the stories!!
|Hundreds upon hundreds of cans of sardines. Nirvana!!|
One thing people do when they stop at George Town is re-provision. They have free water (very unusual in the Exumas) for those without a watermaker and a pretty good grocery store. Now, very few of you know the peculiar direction my lunchtime culinary preferences have taken recently, but several months ago Ann asked me if I liked sardines. I don’t think I have had them for three or four decades, but as I recall I used to like them. So we bought a can. OMG I fell in love. Okay, I would rather have lobster, conch, salmon, grouper, trout, snapper, shrimp, crab, or many other types of seafood, but for an inexpensive lunchtime seafood-in-a-can, it is pretty darn good. Moreover, you have several choices; there are sardines in mineral water, olive oil, soya, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, Louisiana Hot Sauce, and in sriracha. There are sardines with green peppers, jalapeno peppers and red peppers. And there are many, many others. When I find one that I haven’t tried, I automatically buy it just so I can taste it. We have found that Giant Supermarkets in the States has a pretty good selection, as does Safeway and surprisingly, Piggly Wiggly. Equally as surprising, Publix, Florida’s main supermarket, does not. As you can see, I have turned into kind of a sardine gourmand. I say all this so you can understand how astounded I was when I looked for sardines in George Town. Good Lord, it was a sardine lover’s dream. There were hundreds of cans on display of all different kinds. I was expecting to hear music in the background. And while one normally does not take photographs in the grocery store I couldn’t contain myself.
Ann’s Notes: So…I will only add a few more things…
A lot has been happening on the home front while we have been away and the most recent one is about our sweet little feline Spot.
As you all know Dave and Joan are taking care of her while we are in the Bahamas, damn Bahamian government for denying her entry permit. It may have been a blessing in disguise.
For some reason Spot has a history of getting UTI’s. If you recall we had to make a beeline to Belhaven NC to get her to a vet for antibiotics. I now carry antibiotics with me on board, just in case.
Last Monday I got a facebook message from Joan saying that they are taking Spot to the Vet because she had a UTI. Before we left Spot, in that night mare of a trip in one day from FL to VA, in a snow storm, I found a Vet in Woodbridge, close to Dave and Joan’s house. They made an appointment a few days later just to meet the Vet and the Vet to examine Spot just in case his services were needed. I am glad that I can be over organized at times,
|Spot assisting Dave in wrapping presents|
So back to the Spot story, Dave and Joan took her in, the Vet was concerned, she had a pretty bad UTI and kept her over night. They gave her an IV, an injection of antibiotics, and sedated her to do some X-rays of her kidneys to make sure she did not have any kidney stones. While being x-rayed the vet did a chest x-ray. Now at this point D and J are beside themselves, just leaving her over night was hard on them.
They picked her up the following day as soon as the office was open and then got more bad news. The chest X-ray shows a tumor near her heart. It must have been so very hard to make that phone call to us, they explained and repeated what the Vet said and let us decide what to do next.
Needless to say it was a shock…some tears on my part and lots of conversation between Michael and I.
Spot in is no immediate danger, she is acting like her sweet feline self, jumping up to high places, chirping at birds and squirrels, eating, drinking, using the litter box and demanding that her staff pay attention to her. She is in no pain or discomfort.
The plan is once we get back to MD, we will have a specialist read the X-rays, get a second opinion, get another set of X-rays to see if the tumor is growing, what kind of tumor it is and what the course of action should be to reduce the tumor or remove it is necessary.
D and J are more than friends, they are more like family. Joan sends at least one picture a day of Spot doing something, like helping Dave wrap a package for mailing. They are a blessing.
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