Archive for the ‘Exumas and Ragged Islands’ Category

Our leg from BarraTerre to George Town would require a bit of planning. We were up and moving before 0800 to navigate the shallows and find our way through Square Rock Cut at dead on high slack tide (once again, the Captain planned well to avoid some nasty current and scary rocks/coral). With winds light and variable, Exuma Sound was settled, which made for a comfortable run, though not much wind for sailing. We arrived in Elizabeth Harbour shortly after noon on Thursday with plenty of time to spare before Duncan’s flight out on Saturday.

George Town, Exuma, a wildly popular spot for cruisers, would for us at be only a short stop, at least for this season.  Some folks make it a destination.  They come early, snag a “prime spot”, set their anchor, and settle in for the season.  There is a daily Cruisers Net on VHF that is a great source of information on local resources, local events and happenings and such, as well as the schedule of cruisers’ activities, volleyball on the beach, bridge games and the like.  Some liken Elizabeth Harbour during the cruising season to a cruise ship.  I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but there’s a lot going on. I’ve read that the permanent population of George Town is about 1,000.  I’ve also been told that it’s not unusual at the high point of the season to find 400 or more boat in Elizabeth Harbour at any given time.  There were nowhere close to that many at our arrival, but we were also told that it had been much  more crowded a bit earlier in the season.

Others use George Town as a  pausing point, to re-provision, refuel, etc. as they come and go from other further flung places in the islands.  As this would be our plan, we opted to drop the hook in Kidd’s Cove, not far from Lake Victoria, rather than across the harbor off the beaches of Stocking Island.  For a longer stay, the latter might be preferable, certainly more scenic,  but with our pokey dinghy, and anticipating a number of trips to town, we opted for closer.

Lake Victoria is a tiny bit of water, almost completely surrounded by the town of George Town, accessed by dinghy by passing under a very small low bridge through a a bit of water so narrow that it’s essentially a one way pass; incoming dinghies have right-of-way.  The dinghy dock, complete with free r/o water, is provided by Exuma Markets, a sizable market by Bahamas standards and crazy expensive.  During our short stay, we did a bit of provisioning, fresh things mostly, topped off water tanks, re-fueled, got a propane tank refilled and did a bit of exploring.

Exuma Yacht Club was a nice spot, with good food, a great view and free wifi.

view from Exuma Yacht Club

view from Exuma Yacht Club

Eddie's Edgewater Restaurant, George Town

Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant, George Town

Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant was a bit more gritty, and became a favorite of ours, both for their great food as well as free wifi.  For Duncan’s last night in town, we went to Eddie’s for BBQ night, shared a table with some other cruisers and had some great food.  On our last night in town, Mike and I  headed back for dinner again, and a bit of the local music scene.  Monday is Rake & Scrape night.  When it first made our radar, we thought “rake and scrape” was some kind of food reference… kind of like Friday night BBQ, Monday night Rake and Scrape.  Turns out it’s a musical reference.  Rake and Scrape is a traditional Bahamian music, in which the primary instrument is a common handsaw… really, you kind of have to see/hear it to believe it.  At Eddie’s, accommodations were made, as along with Bahamian tunes, we also heard covers of “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Mustang Sally” among others, but it was impressive none the less, and Bahamians and cruisers alike crowded the dance floor.  Again, we shared a table with some other cruisers, which was great fun.

I’m sure there is more to see/do in the George Town area, but it will have to wait for another season.  Next stop: Long Island… and no, not in New York.

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BarraTerre is a small island, these days connected by a bridge to Great Exuma Island to the south. The anchorage there is a “skinny water” anchorage, no problem for our shallow draft Cheshire. We were one of only three boats in the harbour during our brief stay. In a pinch, one can catch a taxi from here to Georgetown, but our timing was such that that would not be necessary.

Circle T

Circle T, BarraTerre

We went ashore to do a bit of exploring. Literally at the end of the dock was Circe T Bar, which looked closed, but in a split second a guy, who turned out to be the proprietor, came out of the house next door to ask if he could help us. He gladly unlocked the place, we ordered Kaliks and he sat down on a stool near our table, but initially not saying much. As if there was some kind of BarraTerre custom that visitors must not be left unattended. A bit awkward. Eventually we were able to engage him in some conversation… learned that he’d grown up on the island, had lived in Tampa, FL for a while and returned when his parents got older. Now he owns some property, the Circle T and an SUV that he was very proud of, having recently brought it from Florida. We learned that BarraTerre was once a more bustling place, but many of the young people “went off the Nassau” to find jobs. A bit later we found Ray Ann’s Variety Store… seemingly well stocked for nonperishables, but not much for anything fresh. We bought a couple of cans of coconut juice and a few green bananas. Lastly we scouted McKenzie’s Same Ole Place, a restaurant that had been recommended to us by a tour guide we’d met in Nassau, confirmed they’d be open for dinner and headed back to Cheshire to wait out the heat of the day.

Same Old Place, BarraTerre

Same Old Place, BarraTerre

A few hours later, we headed back in for dinner, which turned out to be a bit of a strange experience. Once again, we were the only customers in the place. We were greeted, invited to have a seat, then an older woman sat down nearby. After a bit of an awkward pause, we asked about maybe getting something to drink. The older woman disappeared and a somewhat younger woman returned. We ordered drinks and they were promptly brought to the table. The older woman continued to sit. Again, we were eventually able to engage her in conversation… she’d moved to BarraTerre when she married her husband who had died 4 months earlier. She’d had 10 children, 6 of whom lived to adulthood, scattered about the Bahamas and Florida, including her son who now owned the restaurant, etc., etc., etc. No mention of Mrs. McKenzie. A while later we asked about whether we might be able to order some food. “Oh, you want something to eat?”… off she went. The younger woman who we learned was the daughter-in-law appeared again, no menus, but rattling off the things that were not options because she’d been “out on the boat all day” and they required more preparation. We asked what was available, and settled on Cracked Conch, Cracked Chicken and Grouper.

Shortly after our food order was placed, a middle-aged guy named Calvin joined the conversation. Calvin was drinking a beer, in fact Calvin had several while we talked, and appeared to have gotten a much earlier start than we had. Unlike the older woman, Calvin required no coaxing to talk… about how he’d grown up on these waters, made a living now as a tour guide, etc., etc., etc. He was quite animated. At one point he took Mike and Duncan down the road a bit to show them a small boatyard, a sandlot/garage really where they were building the 16-foot class C Family Regatta racing boats. Mike described it as a bit like a backyard auto repair shop. Sorry, no photos, as I’d stayed behind chatting with the older woman.

By now it’s starting to get dark, and the no-see-ums are out in force… first bugs we’d seen since arriving in the Bahamas. They were ferocious. We tried to be polite while slapping ourselves silly. Bug repellant came out and was sprayed all around. A short time later the son/proprietor made an appearance, decided we needed a bit more light and climbed around the outdoor dining room to screw in a couple of extra light bulbs. Which was nice for light, but almost immediately attracted the most monster moths I’ve ever seen in my life; truly, they were as big as bats. We ended up being at this place for more than a couple of hours and never saw another customer, unless of course you count Calvin. Finally, our food came.

All in all, it was an odd dining experience, but the food was absolutely delicious.

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During our time at Dinner Key recently, we got a tip from fellow cruiser Julie aboard s/v Coup d’Amour about the pink iguanas on Leaf Cay near Lee Stocking Island in the Exumas, not to be confused with another Leaf Cay further north, the latter within day trip distance of Nassau. Given my new fascination with lizards, I persuaded the boys to stop for an afternoon so that we might check them out. Sure enough, there are pink iguanas on Leaf Cay. Taking a tip from some folks we met feeding the pigs on Big Majors Spot a few days ago, we took our not-too-far-gone food scrap garbage ashore… apple cores, misc onion bits, and a couple of fresh stalks of celery in case they weren’t interested in the garbage. Turns out the garbage was a bigger hit, but the celery didn’t go to waste. And given the size of some of these creatures, I’d say they aren’t picky eaters. I estimated that there were about two dozen of these prehistoric-looking creatures of varying size and many more further off the beach that were apparently less interested in a snack. I read something recently, written by someone who is studying the various Bahamian iguanas. Apparently they are making a bit of a comeback due to tourism (increased food availability), but this is apparently also changing some of their behavior patterns… no surprise there.

Having satisfied my curiosity, we opted to move the mothership over to an anchorage off Lee Stocking Island to position for an early morning hike the following morning up to Perry’s Peak, said to be the highest point in the Exumas. We beached the dinghy on a small bit of sand beneath a palm tree and had a lovely morning climb, reaching the soaring peak at 123 ft. Or at least that’s what the sign said.

We were back aboard Cheshire and underway by 1100.

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view from Rockside Laundromat, Black Point Settlement

view from Rockside Laundromat, Black Point Settlement

Black Point Settlement on Great Guana Cay is described in our Explorer ChartBook as “an excellent example of a real out-island “not touristy” settlement, which is exactly what we found. As with most of the places we’ve paused, we left thinking that we could spend some time here and will no doubt return at some point. As it was, I spent a morning doing laundry at Rockside Laundromat, complete with excellent view, free wifi (got the blog updated), and conch fritters. Meanwhile the boys had a walkabout, did a wee bit of provisioning, though they learned that “the boat”, meaning the weekly mail/supply boat, visits the island on Tuesdays. Since our visit was on a Monday, there was not much to be had. They were able to pick up a pile of ribs, a pineapple, a loaf of wheat bread and best of all, a loaf of coconut bread. I should mention that the coconut bread made for a most delicious french toast breakfast a few days later, along with a few slices of fresh pineapple.

In the late afternoon, chores completed, we went back in to town and wandered a bit more, including not only around the small settlement, but out to some bluffs to the northeast as well. The seas on the Exuma Sound were much quieter this evening, but the views just as incredible.

Back in town we checked out Scorpion Restaurant and Bar for some delicious Caribbean chicken wings and local beers, then walked down the road a bit to DeShamon’s Restaurant for dinner where we had some very good conch, grouper, peas and rice (a Bahamian staple), more local beers. Dessert was birthday cake, generously shared with our table as our waiter’s sister was having a birthday party, seemingly attended by half the island’s population, at least half of the children on the island. Great fun, great food.

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With a forecast for a bit lighter winds, though still from the wrong direction to sail, we motored into more wind/waves to push a bit further south. This stop we dropped the hook off Big Majors Spot, aka “Pig Beach”, along with about 45 other boats… apparently a popular spot. In fact I’ve read that some simply spend the winter here. We’re told that those who dinghy towards the beach in the morning hours are witness to pigs swimming, yes, swimming, out to meet those dinghies who are surely bringing nibbles. We’ve heard from other cruising friends that they (the pigs) can be a bit aggressive. Cheshire’s crew opted to visit later in the day when appetites have apparently been satiated. As we approached the beach, about a half dozen pigs of varying sizes and colors weren’t much motivated enough to make the swim, but meandered down to the water to see what we might offer. The Red Delicious apples that Cheshire’s crew found not so tasty were quite a hit with the pigs.

The following day we loaded the dinghy with our snorkel gear and headed around to Thunderball Grotto.  Captain Mike had timed our adventure perfectly to arrive at the grotto at low slack tide.  We were the second dinghy to arrive, and many followed.  We had a great snorkel and saw more fish than I could begin to identify.  I’m no longer trusting my i-phone Lifeproof case, as my second one inside of 3 years is now disintegrating… I will be having a word with them when we get back stateside.  Duncan has been taking lots of GoPro video though, so hopefully I can share some stills a bit later.

(insert photos here)

On our way back to Cheshire, we took another pass past “pig beach” and learned that indeed, in the morning time, the pigs are a little more motivated and in fact will swim out to your dinghy to see what might be offered.  Again, Duncan may have some photos to share later.

We moved around to anchor off Staniel Cay Yacht Club for the afternoon where we topped  off water and did a bit of provisioning and had our first meal ashore since leaving Nassau.  We can vouch for the fish sandwich and the conch po’boy, both washed down with the local Kalik.

LS_20150315_134938 Staniel Cay  Yacht Club

The adventure continues…

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