Thursday, March 28, 2013

Georgetown, Great Exuma – And the Exciting Way We Arrived!

Galliot Cut Sunset
We decided to leave Staniel Cay and spend the night at Galliot Cay - staging ourselves for an early approach to Georgetown the next day. The trip to Galliot Cay was short and easy.  We left at 10am and were anchored and all set to have our “back porch “cocktail by 5pm. Amazingly, there were only 3 other boats there! It seemed absolutely desolate after living at “Hog City” at Big Major! One boat was a Hatteras (56’ LRC) and the other was a Monk (36’). These are both motor vessels for you non-boaters. The third one was a catamaran. You see a lot of these in the Bahamas, as the water can be very shallow and they don’t have much draft and are perfect for getting into tight anchorages.

Cap and I were so happy to be back on the water cruising. It’s funny….I like staying at an anchorage for a few days and doing things…. But I also like being at sea and just hearing the hum of the engine and the gentle motion of the waves. I like seeing the dolphin off the bow or the occasional ray jump out of the water. I like looking at the AIS and checking for other boats around. I like looking with the binoculars when other boats do go by us. Our Autopilot – we call “George” takes us wherever we plot the course and if it’s not too rough or there aren’t any other boats near us, we let George steer the boat while Cap and I sit on the foredeck in the sunshine and enjoy this life we have chosen.

So when a dinghy pulled up in this empty anchorage, we were pleased that our neighbor on the Monk called “Adirondack” stopped by for a friendly introduction and chat. Jeff and Sally from Minnesota. You see….. That’s the thing about cruising – everyone is so friendly and helpful. They often help out with local knowledge, or assist you with problems with your boat if you need help or just plain keep you company and enjoy a drink with you.  Boaters aren’t fussy people. They don’t have to get all dolled up to have a get together. There’s not a lot of competition on the clothing front. I’ve been wearing the same pair of shorts for 3 days now. As long as I don’t spill my lunch on them – they’re good for as long as possible! The women don’t wear any jewelry and many don’t even wear a wedding ring. And I rarely see painted toenails even. I wondered about that one – because you’re in sandals or bare feet a lot – seems like a natural to me – but it just doesn’t matter to most of these people. And get-togethers are pretty easy, because everybody brings their own drinks and they each pitch in a snack for cocktail hour –or if having a meal – each brings a dish to contribute. This way getting together is easy and not overwhelming in cost or labor!

Our Boat Card
Jeff gave us his “boat card”. This is a business card for boaters and everyone does it and each one is different. It helps us to remember who they are and their boat. Often it includes home phone numbers, addresses, email addresses and blog addresses. That way you can keep in touch and hopefully meet up again at a different port. It was my job to make the boat cards for “Partners”, because I’m into the art and graphics thing. But I kept having trouble downloading the template to print them up. I finally asked Cap – could he figure it out and “SNAP!” –just like that he had it all up for me. Since I had been playing around with the graphics on my computer for weeks, I just had to copy it all into the template and WHOOSH – all printed and ready to hand out! Hooray!

We slept well that night. The anchorage had a sandy bottom with good holding. In the morning we were planning to leave at first light to travel to Georgetown and Stocking Island. Our friends from S/V Moon River, who were now going in the opposite direction and thus we will not see again for a while, again gave us local knowledge that if it was another northerly, Redshanks was a good, protected harbor to anchor. We thanked them and then looked at the chart – but it looked mighty skinny for us – so we opted to plan to anchor at Stocking Island – just on the other side of Georgetown.  

Chris Parker – well known weather guru on the Single Sideband Radio (SSB) had said the seas were going to be swells of 5-7 feet – but gentle and spread apart. But it actually was 5-7 feet with 1-2 ft chop on top and …..Bumpy….but not bad – just hard to make tea and coffee or food – so it was back to the cheese and crackers for lunch! Richard kept reassuring me that this was okay – nothing too unusual and so I was pretty calm - until we got to the northwest cut. This is where there is a lot of reef and shallow water and strong current. On the Explorer Chart it says: “unsurveyed area” and “Caution: Good weather and sunlight conditions required for navigating this route” – which means we don’t guarantee anything here!

It's hard to take a picture of how rough it was!
I looked out the pilothouse window as we neared the northwest cut, and all I could see were huge BREAKING waves! I was really scared and started muttering to Cap: “How are we going to get through there?!! I don’t think this is right. Isn’t there another way to get through?!! Maybe we should turn around and wait till it calms down!” Poor Cap… He thought he was getting an Admiral and great boating partner, and here I was shaking in my boat shoes at the thought of riding these huge breaking waves into Elizabeth Harbor! Richard nicely -but firmly –told me to “get a grip and stop talking!” “This is just like the English Channel” – and true to his name – Captain MacGyver timed the waves and gunned it for the pass and made a hard turn to port -to keep Partners (and us) off the bar and reef and on the deeper course towards our expected anchoring spot – WITHOUT having the waves hit us on the side and broach the boat! It was exciting actually – but very, very scary. That’s all I can say. Once we got through that bar and all those huge waves, it was a calm harbor in comparison. But then Cap told me to watch the depth finder closely, because some of the areas on the route were just barely enough for our boat draft! Oh! No! …. I need to go to the bathroom!! Now!  But it was high tide and it never got lower than 6.4 ft – so all was good.

As I calmed down and started to breathe, I actually looked up from the instruments and at the view in the harbor, and there were hundreds of boats! (As an aside – this is what I do when I try to ski in Switzerland too. My sister Millie keeps telling me to “Look where you’re going – Not at your feet!”) They were mostly sailing boats – their tall masts rocking with the wind. Then I started to wonder if there was room for us to anchor in this mass of boats – would we be able to anchor and put out all that chain without coming dangerously close to another boat? Oh God – I’m exhausted with worry! I’ve got to stop this worrying about everything! It has nothing to do with Richard – I know in my heart he’s very capable – I just haven’t had enough experience myself to know, in my brain, that this is the way it all works.

Our Beautiful Anchorage
And Cap slowly motors in, looking at the area and inspecting the 2 anchorages – then deciding the one closest to the Eastern end looks best for the expected coming weather. It has more of a lee protection and he moves in. Now when he’s doing this – I’m supposed to be quiet. But inside I’m wondering – “why didn’t he pick THAT spot? Where’s he going? Aren’t we too close to that boat? But I’m learning to keep quiet and not to say all these non-productive things. So I do. And he finds a great spot with a lot of swinging room and we get into anchor mode (we have hand signals for this and it works perfectly. I man the helm and steer and rev forward or reverse and he lets down the chain and anchor. Then, after it’s set I go out and help with the snubbers (2 lines that hook onto the anchor chain that pull the weight and strain off the windlass -the motor that brings up the anchor). And so it goes…Another anchorage and a beautiful place to explore and get to know.  But I’ll save that for the next installment and I’ll tell you then what happened with our Batelco Phone! 

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