Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stocking Island, Georgetown, Exuma

Volleyball Beach Georgetown, Exuma
     For hordes of cruisers, Georgetown, Exuma is their quintessential winter outpost. In early winter, Georgetown becomes saturated with the arrival of boaters from the States and Canada who descend on the anchorage around Christmastime. Many spend months anchored in the harbor until after the Family Islands Regatta in mid-April when most depart for northern destinations back in the States.

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Contrasting textures and shades on an east facing beach

      Georgetown's amenities abound with adequate anchorages, free water availability, provisioning, laundry, internet service, pristine beaches and a multitude of activities. Each day after morning announcements on the VHF cruiser's net activities begin on Volleyball Beach which is the site of most cruiser gatherings in the harbor. Yoga is the first daily beach activity beginning at 8:45. I'm usually perfecting my yawning technique and downing my second cup of coffee at that time so, I haven't made it to yoga. Beach volleyball begins around 10:00 AM. I'm always afraid some knucklehead will elbow me in the teeth while attempting to impress some young thing on the beach with a diving save. So, I haven't been to volleyball yet either. Spontaneous beach parties such as ARC (Alcohol Research Committee) get together monthly at one of the beaches to actively evaluate and compare favorite adult beverages. Now that's an activity I can handle! On a more serious note several cruisers meet to play bridge, attend ladies Bible study, learn crafts and attend Beach Church on Sunday mornings. There's usually at least one beach seminar offered each week. Joe attended an excellent free diving talk offered by two world class free diving champions. Their web site is

Michele hiking on Stocking Island's east facing beach
     I prefer the less structured free spirited activities of beach combing, hiking, and swimming with friends on the gorgeous east facing beaches. Since we've begun cruising full time, aggravating schedules tend to crimp my style. I don't own a watch and prefer living life without time awareness. Days and dates have begun to rate even lower than time.
Michele enjoying a natural bubble bath experience


Underwater sand dollars on Sand Dollar Beach
     A favorable weather window arrived about a week ago. It was an opportunity to head south toward Thompson Bay, Long Island. This island is considered one of the Far Bahamas group of islands. After hanging out in Georgetown for nearly a month feelings of wanderlust had returned. On the morning of our departure several cruisers upped anchor along with us. Most headed north in the Exuma chain closing the gap toward final destinations in the States. Along with the Simple Life a few cruisers sailed south of east to Long Island and the Jumentos Cays delaying their northern migration for a few more precious weeks in the idyllic peace of the Bahama Islands. That is until our weather router Chris Parker forecasts the arrival of the next major weather front.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ten Years After, Return to George Town, Exuma

   Navigating the submerged, reef strew entrance into George Town's expansive harbor a few weeks ago led to a few anxious moments much as it had during our previous visit in back in 2004. A prudent approach at the cut is a must and at times a skipper's overconfidence can be as perilous as the underlying reefs. Each year at least one vessel has made navigational errors in this area that have not ended well. The excitement of our arrival back in Georgetown did little to temper our nerves after learning that a large catamaran had grounded on the reef last year and another recent grounded this season resulted in a devastating salvage for another sailing vessel. There were no navigational marks back in 2004 and there are no navigational aids marking this dangerous reef now. Sailors rely on paper charts, GPS coordinates, landmarks on shore and most importantly eyeball navigation. The Conch Cay Cut entrance is fairly wide and its treacherous reef hazards have at times been underestimated.
Sand Dollar Beach Anchorage on Stocking Island
      Across the harbor from the Georgetown settlement in Elizabeth Harbor lies Stocking Island. Its shoreline was lined with more than  300 masts along the popular strip of anchorages on the Island's beaches. While motoring past in search of a suitable anchoring spot I scanned hundreds of boat sterns hoping to spot familiar names. Surprisingly, there were a few that I'd recognized. The most popular anchorages along Monument Beach and Volleyball Beach were crowded. Our best alternative was at Kidd Cove near the Georgetown settlement which also had excellent access to Exuma Market for provisioning and water collection.
The propane line at Eddie's Edgewater Bar
Propane is filled on Wednesdays when the truck is in working
order. Sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn't.

Joe carrying laundry back to Simple Life 
     It had been ten years since our last visit to Georgetown and I'd hoped that the settlement hadn't changed. Even though my hopes seemed unrealistic and somewhat selfish I clung hard and fast to my wish. While peering toward the nearby shoreline through binoculars I feared the worst. As soon as we'd arrived at Great Exuma Island I'd begun to spot numerous areas of new construction along the length of the Island with large homes speckled throughout the landscape. I imagined South Florida had begun to run out of space and begun the encroachment across the Gulf Stream. Hopefully, when we arrived I would still recognize the Georgetown settlement.

Exuma Markets, Georgetown




Joe filling jerry cans with potable water from
Exuma Markets dinghy dock
         Exuma Market was still in its previous location and it had a fresh paint job. The market owners provide a dinghy dock and free potable water from a spigot on the dock behind the market. Ten years ago the water came from a brackish well and was not considered safe for drinking but, it was fine for dishwashing and showering. Recently, an RO (reverse osmosis) system was constructed and has been a welcome upgrade from well water. The market was well stocked with fresh vegetables and a wide assortment of spices. Meats are primarily frozen. Some items in the market sell quickly. It seems they are always out of milk. On the whole there are more products for sale and now they're easier to come by.
View of Exuma Markets at the end of the dinghy dock


The computer store which also sells beer in the event you've
worked up a thirst while solving your IT issues.

     The settlement looked much the same. A bit well worn and tattered around the edges but, an authentic example of a Bahamian settlement. I'm beginning to realize that economic progress in this part of the world is slow. Perhaps progress has been hindered by frequent hurricanes or maybe it's just how things have always been. At any rate, I was pleased to find the Georgetown that I remembered. A few positive changes have taken place and for the most part it hasn't lost its quirky charm.