02/19/2006, Georgetown, Central Bahamas
Georgetown is a major destination for cruising boats throughout the Bahamas. For a variety of reasons, cruisers migrate to this little Island community of 200 or more. It has been a destination for people who want to take advantage of the comfortable winter weather, affectionately known as “snowbird cruisers”. Some cruisers have been coming here for 25 years. It is a hangout for sailors who don’t want to cruise further south, but just enjoy the fishing, snorkeling and shell collecting. It is a jumping off point for cruisers like us, heading south, and it’s a convenient place to have family and friends fly in for a visit. For us, we had friends from Toronto joining us for a week and we are able to provision and refuel to carry on south.
We had a gorgeous 36 nm sail from Little Farmer’s the morning after all the weekend festivities of the 5F’s (read David’s journal, February 5). The 15 knot wind was from the NE following a Cold Front that passed through the area on the weekend. So, with the seas settled and the wind behind us, it felt good to hoist the sails for an entire day. Looking behind us as we moved away from Little Farmer’s Cay, there was a parade of boats all doing the same as us – taking advantage of nice wind to head south.
As is customary now on Amanzi when we sail in deep water, David put out 2 fishing lines and had them trailing in the water behind the boat. We could hear from conversations on the VHF radio that many boaters were doing the same thing. People were catching fish such as Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Wahoo, Barricuda and even Shark. After talking with friends on a sailboat nearby, we found out they had hooked a large Dolphin fish, but something ate it before they could pull it in. Likely a shark. Just as I finished that conversation, I looked back on our line and said to David, I think I see our lure on top of the water. Excited, David started pulling in one line, but soon realized that both lines were completely tangled, yet, there was indeed something on the end of the mess. As David pulled the lines up to the back of the boat, I slowed the boat down and sure enough we had something – a head and quarter of a body of a fish! I guess we had a visit from a shark too.
By mid-afternoon, we approached Conch Cay Cut which is the opening channel leading to Georgetown, in time to comfortably navigate Elizabeth Harbour with enough light to see the large number of reefs and coral heads along the 6 nm channel. With our jib flying, we motor-sailed through the extensive anchorage that is home to more than 290 boats during the winter months. It was a bit of a shock in some ways, as we have been used to entering anchorages with only 6 or 7 other boats. We spotted a few boats we knew and saw names of boats we recognized from listening to the VHF radio. To our delight, we heard our friends on s.v. Delilah on the VHF radio talking with another boat. We contacted them and found out where they were, so we dropped our anchor nearby. Sailors really enjoy catching up with old friends and hearing their news but more importantly, sharing stories about their recent sail. We’re a funny lot, but it’s great fun.
Our big boat suddenly felt small The next day, as planned, our friends flew in from the chilly northern climate and happily embraced the warm wind and basked in the beauty of the aqua-coloured water. On seeing us, their first comment was Look at you, you’re so tanned. We hadn’t really noticed. But, we’ve been outside everyday since September, so I guess our colour has changed a little. Hearing the news from home and catching up on their stories, we suddenly realized we’d been away awhile. On the boat, we had to do a little run through on Amanzi for them, even though our friends are sailors. Things we took for granted had to be explained to our new crew. For example, with water such a premium, we showed them our little tricks for its careful conservation when doing the dishes and washing up. Our friends experienced using our solar shower on deck rather than being able to hop into a shower. And in the evenings to conserve power while having a meal, we used candles and very few lights. And true to Bahamian climate, our crew experienced two days of a Cold Front. In preparation for the front, we had to find a safe place to anchor as well. During the front, the winds got up to 30 knots, so the boat pitched and rolled with 4 adults and 2 cats. It felt very different and quite small. Our week together flew by as time always seems to do, when you’re having fun. And now with just the two of us and Billy-bob and Buddy, ironically, the boat somehow seems a little empty.
Our attention now turns southward. Provisioning the boat, finishing jobs and making sure all the equipment is in good working order is our priority as our next leg of the journey might be our toughest. 700 nautical miles upwind of us is the British Virgin Islands with a few islands in between. Looks like we might have a good weather window to go this week.