The combination of weather and the Georgetown Cruiser’s Regatta saw us spending a month in Georgetown.
The days up to the start of the Regatta had a bit of a routine. Moray played volleyball in the afternoons, while I relaxed on board, sat on the beach, or swam. One such day, we were sitting on board, when we spotted some dolphins. They appeared to be waiting around rather than just passing through, so Moray got into the water with the GoPro, while I recorded the encounter from the deck. It was so cool!
Another morning, I went to a bread-making class given by Dana, on board s/v Corsair. She has been perfecting her bread recipe for many years and was kind enough to share it with us. I have since made the bread several times and it hasn’t failed yet!
The Regatta started on March 1st, with the traditional opening event of the Poker Run. Having learned our lesson last year, Al & Sue (along with Al’s daughter Tara) took their own dinghy and we took ours. That way, we managed to arrive at each of the bars relatively dry! We didn’t win the Poker Run, that was won with a hand of 4 twos, but had a great time!
The next day started as usual, listening to the Cruisers’ Net, to see who had arrived, who was departing and who needed help. The cruising community is a great one for helping fellow cruisers in need, and we like to participate in that. Most of the time, I have to be honest, it is Moray’s skills that are required – such as hoisting our friend Ron up the mast of Compromise to fix a stuck sail, or helping someone with a broken outboard. Once the net was over, we headed to shore for the next event of the Regatta – the Coconut Challenge. Along with Al & Sue, we won this challenge in 2017, so felt the need to try to defend our title. It wasn’t to be, but we had a lot of fun! The weather was lovely, so Al & Moray set out to go spearfishing, closely followed by Mike from Intrepid and Mennow from Eyra in Mike’s dinghy. About 4pm, Mike returned, happy to have caught a grouper. There was no sign of Al & Moray, so I started calling them on the VHF radio. I got no response, but at that point I thought that maybe they were out of range. When it got to 5pm, I was starting to worry, and started calling people to see if they had seen them. At 5:30pm, with only 45 minutes to go until sunset, I picked up the radio to put out a general call to the harbour that we had two missing boaters, when I heard shouting. A catamaran, called Bikini, had pulled up next to Sol Purpose and, towing our dinghy. Moray and Al came aboard and the catamaran took off. The dinghy was full of bloody water, which came from all the cuts and scrapes over Al and Moray’s arms, legs and feet. I called Sue to come over, and started trying to clean up their cuts. Here is Moray’s account of what had happened:
“Went out spear fishing a few days ago and had a bad return trip home in the dinghy. Myself and Al were returning from an unsuccessful trip when I misjudged both the route back on the North side of Fowl Cay and the wave action. We were caught on top of a large swell which lifted the outboard out of the water. The dinghy turned side on
to the waves and the next swell broke over us and flipped the dinghy over.
We were ejected onto a shallow reef that was just below the surface. Al was carried away from the dinghy and managed to grab hold of the fuel tank. I was caught under the dinghy and hit by either the outboard motor or dinghy transom which knocked my chin onto the coral and I bit through the edge of my tongue.
Luckily for me I had scuba boots on and was able to stand up on the coral to right the dinghy while Al was washed across the coral with only a shorty wetsuit to protect him.
Everything in the dinghy fell out when it overturned. The exception was the oars which were strapped to the inside. Luckily, when the anchor fell out, it dug in and held the dinghy off the shore. I had to pull myself forwards on the anchor rode to get to the anchor to unset it. Timing was everything as the waves were constantly breaking. I reset the anchor about 10 feet further towards a deeper section of water repeatedly until the dinghy was off the coral. Al met me there with the fuel tank.
The engine had been under water for about a minute and was therefore full of sea water so we had to break out the oars and paddled for 45 minutes until we were able to hail a passing catamaran. Nancy and John on Bikini towed our dinghy while they tended to our cuts and scrapes. I will be forever in their debt as we still had 3 miles to cover before we would have got back to our boat.”
Once Sue had taken Al back to Stout Wench, we took stock of what had been lost from the dinghy – an IPad, the VHF radio (which is why I couldn’t raise them), two pairs of fins, two pole spears, two lifejackets, two masks, and one broken dinghy outboard engine. Those things could all be replaced. The fact that the two men were alive, if a bit battered and bruised, was the best thing. It’s a stark reminder of how quickly the sea can turn on you, if you aren’t completely vigilant.
Anyway, remember that wonderful cruising community I mentioned? When Moray put out a very subdued message the next morning, thanking Bikini for rescuing them, and asking if anyone had spare fishing gear, fins etc. that we could buy, we had a constant stream of calls and visitors, checking that everyone was really OK. Bill from Spiraserpula, Holt from Agandau, Mike from Intrepid and Mennow from Eyra spent the morning working on the outboard engine. Various people had spare equipment we could buy at very reasonable prices – Fred and RuthAnn from Shooting Star provided a VHF radio while John from Sam the Skull and Mennow from Eyra had fishing and snorkeling gear. Everyone came together to help and we are very grateful.
Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts, the outboard motor finally gave up the ghost five days later, so we resigned ourselves to buying a replacement. While we were searching for one, that great community gave us rides so that we could continue to join in all the fun of the Regatta, rather than just sit on Sol Purpose and watch from afar. We particularly enjoyed the two days of racing on Spiraserpula, both the In-Harbour and Round the Island races. Thanks to Gayle and Bill, and Bruce and Kaye, for a great couple of days!
Once we determined that no one had an outboard motor for sale that would fit our needs, we went over to Georgetown to see about buying a new one. Moray borrowed a small outboard from Darryl and Yulia on 3 Pearls. It was just enough to get him from the Georgetown anchorage into town, so he went in and visited a couple of stores that he thought might have what we were looking for. Unfortunately, they did not, but one mentioned that they had a customer that morning who had bought a motor as an upgrade and that he might be looking to sell his previous one. We got in touch with Wright on Raven, and long story short, bought a basically brand new engine from him. It wasn’t exactly what we were looking for, but given the circumstances, it was perfect! We were now mobile again!
By now the Regatta was over, and a weather window was approaching when we would be able to continue our trip through the Bahamas. Moray braved his memories and went back to the scene of his near demise, to see if he could find anything. Unbelievably, he came back with one of the life jackets and his pole spear! He found the weight belt too, but was unable to retrieve it due to the strong surge.
It was time to move on, so early on Thursday morning, we set out with Bill on Providence and Al & Sue on Stout Wench for Long Island. The conditions looked perfect, but when we went through the cut at the south end of Elizabeth Harbour, the waves were brutal, so all three boats decided to head back and stay for a few more days. So back to more volleyball, swimming, relaxing until Sunday, when Stout Wench and Sol Purpose set off again for Long Island. This time, the conditions were perfect, and we had a pleasant crossing, arriving in good time at Thompson Bay.
On Monday morning, we all four went ashore, and rented a car for the day. First of all, we headed north to visit the Columbus Monument. Various islands lay claim to being the first place that Columbus landed in the Bahamas, and this point on Long Island is one of them.
Next we took a drive to Stella Maris, to take a look at the cave. When we were here previously, the nearby Stella Maris resort used the cave as a restaurant experience with a weekly cave dinner. Inside the cave were stone seats and tables, a bar, a buffet, a bonfire and a live band. It was, therefore, quite sad, and even a little creepy to walk around this now abandoned venue. The remains of the bonfire was even still there.
From there, we continued south and stopped off at Max’s Conch Bar and Grill for lunch. As recommended by various posters on Trip Adviser, we tried the fresh conch salad. Max himself makes it to order right there at the bar. We were not disappointed with that, nor with the coconut shrimp!
Next stop was Dean’s Blue Hole for a swim. The hole drops down to over 600 feet, and as well as being the deepest blue hole in the world, is the home of one of the world free-diving championships. Moray had brought along a dive computer and swam as far down as he was able – to about 53 feet. It shows just how impressive the professional free divers are, that they can get to the bottom! The record for the type of dive Moray attempted is 406ft. The record for no limit free diving (with a sled and balloon) is 702ft!!!!
After dropping off the car, we had one quick drink at the Souside Bar, before heading back to our boats, to get ready for the next part of our journey. Sue and Al were going to be heading up to Cat Island, while we wanted to take a quick detour to Rum Cay. We went there last year, but only to the north end of the island, so we wanted to see what the south end was like. We sailed to Calabash Bay at the north end of Long Island that day and the next day, left early, and had a great day of sailing, arriving at Rum Cay around 4pm.
There were a few other boats there, all preparing to ride out a northerly blow. The next morning, Moray went out to see if there was any fishing and came back with an big lobster! Great job!
In the afternoon, we went ashore to explore a little. The island has been very badly hit by hurricanes over the past few years, and the population has dropped from 200+ to around 40. The marina has been destroyed, with one sunken boat still there as a sad reminder of the storms.
We walked back along the road towards the government dock, which is currently being rebuilt and looks as though it will be a very sturdy structure – I have never seen so much rebar! We stopped off at Kaye’s Sand Bar for a beer. This is another bar that has managed to survive despite the storms, and now houses a small restaurant and grocery store. We had read that in the past people had enjoyed the goat curry served there, and we were looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately it was not on the menu, but Moray told the owner that he had heard how good it was, so she agreed to make it the next night! We rounded up a couple of other boaters – Tom and Linda from Toucan – to join us!
The next morning, Tom and Moray went out to find more lobster, but this time were unsuccessful. We relaxed for the rest of the day, before heading over to try the goat curry. A few other people had arrived in the harbour too, so luckily there was enough for eight! The curry was delicious, and went very well with the $3 beers and $5 jack and cokes!
A recurring theme this season has been the cold fronts passing through the Bahamas, bringing unfavorable winds and sea conditions, and another one was approaching. While Port Nelson was a great place, we wanted to move on before the next front came through, so we started out just before sunrise towards Cat Island. We were hoping to get to New Bight by sunset. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. We dropped the hydro-generator in the water and that, along with the solar panels, enabled us to run the watermaker so that the water tank was full when we arrived. All this while under sail alone! At times at 8.5 knots! Fantastic! To preserve as much power as possible, we manually steered until we reached Hawkes Nest Point, at the southwestern tip of Cat Island. At that point we were no longer able to sail, so we turned on the motor and headed towards New Bight. As we approached, we were hailed by Bob and Clare on Sofira! Finally we had caught up with each other for the first time since leaving New Bern! As we anchored, we had a welcoming committee of Bob and Clare in their dinghy, and Stout Wench on the radio! We had thought that they might have already left, but now it seemed there would be a party! As soon as we were settled, we all headed over to the Fish Fry, where we were made a beeline for AnnieBo’s bar. We were amazed, and delighted, when Annie obviously remembered us from last year (actually, is that a good thing or not???). We had a few drinks there, as well as some delicious crab soup from a shack across the street. It turned out that there was a birthday party in the sailing club that night, and we were invited! We had a blast, and eventually headed home just after midnight. I understand that the party went on until after 2am, when the police ordered the music turned off!
Stout Wench left very early the next morning, heading for Eleuthera before the next cold front could hit. Just before lunchtime, we joined Bob and Clare for a walk, before they too had to head north. We decided to spend one more night, as we hoped to get some groceries the next day before moving just 6 miles north to Fernandez Bay, where we hoped to find a little more shelter from the coming winds. So on Monday morning, we took a stroll up to the grocery store and managed to get pretty much everything we needed. The only disappointment was that the bakery was closed. We had bought delicious hot cross buns there the year before, but this time it wasn’t to be. We motored the short distance to Fernandez Bay and tucked into the Bay as close to the shore as we dared. Shortly after our arrival, the winds started to pick up, so we took advantage of the wind generator to watch a couple of episodes of Lewis, one of my favourite British detective shows. Now that we have watched all the episodes we had, we decided to try a new British TV Series, called Black Mirror. It’s very interesting and thought-provoking, but also a very disturbing look at what technology is doing to us as human beings.
Ah well, it didn’t stop either of us getting a great night’s sleep, and Moray woke up raring to go fishing! He had a good time, but didn’t find any lobster, unfortunately. I spent the time working on a sweater hat I am sure I will need in New Bern this winter! We also enjoyed a Happy Hour on Bright Ayes, a 47′ Caliber. Wayne & Betty were great hosts and it was interesting to see the larger version of our boat.
We next moved up the coast to Orange Creek, as they have a grocery store and laundromat. The anchorage was very rolly and uncomfortable, so we stayed long enough to get the groceries and do the laundry, before heading back down the coast to Bennetts Harbour. It was much more settled there, so we dropped the dinghy in the water and Moray sped to shore to get to the bakery before it closed. He managed to place an order for Hot Cross Buns for the following morning. My hero! After a pleasant night’s sleep, we went ashore to take a walk around the settlement. We wanted to check out the few restaurants and see if one would be serving dinner that night, given that it was Good Friday. Our first choice would have been Yardie’s, where Odette serves up wonderful conch salad, we were told. Unfortunately, she had gone home for the Easter Holiday, so Yardie’s was closed. Next we tried Sammy T’s, but weren’t sure about it. Finally, we took a look at the restaurant in Pompey Rocks resort. It looked nice, and had a reasonable menu, but no one was about. So we took a card and decided to call later. When we were leaving the restaurant, we met Tony and Penny. They have been visiting the island for short trips over the past 8 years, but this year decided to rent a cottage in the resort and stay for a year. They seem to have really become part of the community, helping out with various festivals and businesses, as required. What a great way to spend a year! This nomadic life we are leading is amazing, but there is much to be said for becoming part of the community in these wonderful islands, too.
We headed back to Sol Purpose, stopping off at Andrew’s bakery (aka, the kitchen in Andrew’s house!) to pick up the Hot Cross Buns. They were absolutely delicious, and I wish Andrew all the best with the future venture – the Bed & Breakfast right next to the government dock. If the buns were anything to go by, the breakfasts are going to be delicious.
Moray placed a call to Chef AJ at Pompey Rocks, and made a reservation for dinner, before heading out to spearfish. He stopped off at Jennabird and told them that the restaurant would be open, if they would like to join us. So we all headed over to shore just before sunset to have sundowners before dinner. We had a great evening with Harry and Alicia, eating conch fritters, lobster fettuccine and fried grouper. Great food at good prices – I would recommend it!
First thing the next morning, we set off for Eleuthera. We decided to bypass Little San Salvador this time and make straight for the Blue Hole near Rock Sound. As we were approaching, we heard that there was a festival going on – the Rock Sound Homecoming, with three days of live music, food and drink vendors and fun. We changed course and dropped anchor in Rock Sound. Immediately, we could hear the music! After settling in, we went to shore to join in the festivities. Almost immediately, we ran into Kevin and Caroline, on Redtail. We hadn’t seen them since the day we arrived in St. Augustine, so it was great to hear their adventures. Unfortunately, this included Kevin rupturing his Achilles tendon, playing Pickleball, so their activities have been a little curtailed. They still seem to be having a wonderful time, which is what matters. We also met with the crews of Zingaro and Freya, and all had a great time, eating, listening to the very loud music and dancing. The festival was amazing – in particular, the biker club who had come in from Nassau on the supply boat. I’m not sure I can adequately describe the sight of a biker club, all in full leathers, line dancing in the street….. so I will let the video speak for itself!
We didn’t stay until the bitter end, but I can assure you the music kept going until 3am….
After a lazy day, and loud night with the music again going until the wee hours, we decided to pick up anchor and head over to the Blue Hole, so that Moray could snorkel and fish. We were the only boat there, and although the fishing wasn’t good, it was nice and peaceful after the fun atmosphere, but noisiness of the past couple of days.
Our next stop was to be Governors Harbour, and the forecast was for a good sailing day. We decided that we needed to start practicing sailing off the anchor, and being the only boat in a wide open area, this seemed like a good place to try it for the first time. We set the mainsail, and, using the windlass, pulled up the anchor. I turned toward our heading and away we went – it was an amazing sense of achievement! Next, we have to do it in a crowded anchorage, but baby steps! We had a glorious morning of sailing and arrived at Governors Harbour. The holding there is not the best, and even with our fabulous Mantus, it took three attempts to set the anchor, but eventually we were safely anchored and could relax. We watched two other boats come in and struggle to get set, but all was well. We will be here for a few days, while the next weather front comes through, before heading towards Spanish Wells and the Devils Backbone.