Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant and Bar is a fixture in George Town.  The weather was horrible for taking a dinghy into town, so “Other Goose” (a Canadian sailboat) arranged a water taxi for the first 28 people.  We were among the first to sign up.  That is me facing you on the porch.  The Monday night Rake ‘n Scrape party is in full swing inside.

This spliced picture shows the band between sets.  The crowd is at the bar behind me, so I can get the band's picture.  Left to right that is a drum (with a burning Sterno can inside), an old saw and a stick, another drum, two guitars, and… well something else… my memory fails me due to alcohol induced dementia.  Anyway, they made music and people danced.

This is a sad picture.  George Town had a straw market under a large tree that shaded the market and the roads outside.  Several years ago the tree was badly hurt in a hurricane.  Then the night before this picture was taken, the straw market burned down and the tree was finished off.  The ladies who sell their crafts inside lost everything.  It was just a few days before The Family Island Regatta (think Super Bowl or World Series for racing native Bahamian sailboats) which brings huge crowds to town.  The ladies were wiped out.

Looking down the ocean side of Water Cay in the Jumentos you can see the sort of “beach” you don’t want your life raft to wash up on (and this is on a dead calm day at low tide).  Pretty isn’t it?

We found tons of shells on Water Cay.  Most we left behind, but I kept this Triton’s Trumpet shell.  It is about a foot long.

There are conch on the grass covered sea bottom in the Bahamas, and there have been conch here for a long time.  These are conch fossils in the sandstone rock at Flamingo Cay.

There is a small airplane wrecked in the shallow water off the beach at the north end of Flamingo Cay.  Someone dragged the remains of the nose up on the beach.  It must have been a bad day for the pilot.

We took our dinghy into this seawater filled cave and motored around inside.  The bright sunlight streaming through holes in the rock made it hard to take pictures, but there is a shell covered beach inside the huge cave.

With all their thorns these cactus flowers are pretty safe from being picked.

Bill cleaned six conch using the rusty remains of a washed up old refrigerator as a work table.  You can see the tools of the trade; a hammer and a screwdriver to put a hole in the beast, a knife to slip into the hole to first separate him from his shell and then to cut off the disgusting parts (as if the whole thing was not disgusting enough), and catfish pliers to remove his skin.  The white bit of meat with the fingernail like thing attached in the middle of the cutting board is the part to keep.  It is about the size of a chicken breast.

This osprey watched the conch cleaning with great interest.  If he had chosen to fight for the conch, he probably would have won.

I don’t know what this pink thing is.  It is the size and shape of a small Nerf football and is growing on a branch of a 4 ft tall underwater tree.  There is a slit opening in one side which is black inside and closes when the thing is touched.  I can’t find it in any of my books.  We saw several.

It is pretty down there.

A juvenile French angel fish was swimming around this coral reef near Crab Cay in Elizabeth Harbour maybe 150 ft from our boat.  He was only one of a lot of spectacular fish there including one overly curious barracuda that caused us to cut our visit short.

It was my bath time and this dolphin was circling the boat.  As you can see I can’t quite get up my nerve to join a 300 lb wild animal in the water.  But, after a while I did.

This is what he looked like underwater.  And, I lived to tell the tale.

Hello from rainy George Town, Exuma.  It has been raining for the last three days and at times the wind has howled.  We had a cold front come down here from the north, pass south, come back as a warm front, morph into a trough, and shift back to the north.  It may yet become the first tropical storm of the year.  The short story is… it has rained.  While living on Irish Eyes we are very dependent on the weather.  The weather helps (?) us make all our travel decisions, and it helps plan all our activities.  It is sunny today, but we could still have one last rain storm before the day is over.

We had just arrived in George Town when I last wrote.  We spent our time here enjoying the beaches and the amenities offered by a relatively large (pop. 1,000) town.  Several times Bill made the mile and a half dinghy trip from our anchorage at Sand Dollar Beach into town for fuel, groceries, and water.  The wind was fairly strong, so he always came back a little wet.  One day I went along to do the laundry.  Big mistake.  I came back from the trip soaking, absolutely soaking wet.  I stood up and the water drained by the gallon from my clothes.  Thankfully the laundry was still dry.  It was sealed in a dry bag which was itself inside a tightly tied plastic trash bag.  If the clean and dry laundry had gotten wet, I would have cried for a week.

The impromptu social life in George Town was lots of fun.  We took part in several happy hours, ate a few restaurant meals, went with a group of 25 or so to a Rake ‘n Scrape night at Eddie’s Edgewater Restaurant, and walked the nearby beaches with our anchorage neighbors.  We were having fun, and the Family Island Regatta was set to begin, but the weather was right, and we wanted to go farther south to the Jumentos Cays.
We had never been to the Jumentos Cays which curve south from George Town toward Cuba.  In previous years either weather or time kept us from going.  This year the weather forecast was favorable, and we had the time.  We pulled up our anchor early in the morning on Saturday, April 18 and set off on our journey south.  There were two ways for us to go to the Jumentos.  The short way was through Hog Cay Cut, but the low tide depth was 0.9m, and when we passed by it was just before low tide.   With our 1.5m draft we could not go that way.  An unlucky sailboat had tried.  Looking south into the cut we could see him aground in the middle of the cut listing hard over to one side.  We figured he would be floating again in 5 or 6 hours.  The other, and longer, way was to continue sailing east to Long Island and return west through the Comer Channel.  We continued on.

We dropped our anchor in Thompson Bay, Long Island in the late afternoon and spent the night.  Early the next morning we were underway again.  We had good wind and sailed all the way to Water Cay. Along the way looking north through the Hog Cay Cut, we could see that the sailboat had left.
The Jumentos north of Ragged Island are undeveloped; no hotels, no houses.  The cays are just bits of rock and sand in the middle of beautiful clear blue water.  When we got to Water Cay, four sailboats and three commercial fishing boats were anchored off the western side of the island.  That was quite a difference from the 175 boats anchored in George Town.  In the morning three of the sailboats left.  Nice.

Over the next few days Bill and I explored the west side Water Cay by dinghy and walked on the west side beaches.  We found lots of shells; more in two hours than in the previous two months.  Bill found a metal fishing float that he kept along with lots of plastic junk that he left behind.  One afternoon we hiked to the top of the southernmost of the three Water Cay hills and looked down at the rocky eastern shore.   The water was clear, we could see the coral reefs along the shore, and the waves pounded hard against the shore sending fountains of spray into the air.  On our side of the cay the water was calm, clear and warm, so we did our swimming there.

After three nights at Water Cay and after walking all the beaches, we headed south to Flamingo Cay.  The wind was very light, so we first motored, then tried to sail, and finally motorsailed to anchor off what the chart called “Two Palm Beach”.  It is actually a one palm beach with only the stump of the second palm tree remaining.  We were the only boat there.

It was hot with very little wind, and we put up our full sun awnings.  We took the dinghy to all the beautiful beaches picking up shells and marveling at all the harvested conch shells.  The fishermen clean their conch on the beaches and leave the shells behind.  There were piles and piles of the empty shells on every beach.  The conch had obviously been here long before the fishermen.  The rocks at the north end of the beach were filled with conch fossils.

Bill found a trail that went from our Two Palm Beach to the long beach on the north end of the cay where there was a wrecked airplane.  The trail had sharp pointy rocks (not my favorite to walk on) as well as Prickly Pear cacti.  There were several salt water ponds in depressions in the limestone rock that were full of bright red crayfish.  It was an interesting walk, but it was hot in the blazing sun.

On one of our dinghy outings we found five keeper size conch, and Bill later found another one while wading off the beach.  Bill took them ashore and cleaned them all there.  At the time we had a three foot Remora attached to the bottom of the boat and two barracuda hanging around.  If he had cleaned the conch on Irish Eyes, he would probably have attracted even more unwelcome fish to interfere with my swimming.  I fixed conch chowder, cracked conch, and conch salad.  We had three suppers from our six conch.  Bill said he “caught” the conch.  I beg to differ.  How can you “catch” a conch?  They don’t run away, bite, scratch, or anything like that.  He just picked them up.  It’s not very dramatic to watch.  The worst they can do is drip slime.  They are just big snails.

We spent eight days at Water and Flamingo Cays before we got a forecast of a late season cold front coming our way.  That would bring strong winds from the west and thunderstorms.  With no nearby anchorages with all around protection, we needed to get back to George Town for the expected bad weather.  We went north to Water Cay, spent the night there, and headed to George Town.
We made the trip from Water Cay to George Town in one day -- one long 12 hour day.  Once again we took the longer Comer Channel route to avoid low tide in Hog Cay Cut.  When we entered Elizabeth Harbour at George Town the sun was setting, the wind was coming from the west, and 40 kt squalls and thunderstorms were in the forecast.  Crab Cay on the southwestern side of the harbor in Georgetown, looked like a place with good protection from the west wind.  And even better, it would save us the long trip up the harbor.  The east side of Crab Cay is not one of the popular anchorages in Georgetown.  It does not even have an anchor symbol on the chart.  We were all alone.  When the thunderstorms did come through with lots of wind and rain, we did not have to worry about any other boats hitting us.  It actually worked out very well.

We stayed at Crab Cay for a couple of days until the wind changed to the northeast and then moved over to Sand Dollar Beach where the windy and rainy weather continued until today.

Our plan is to leave here in the morning and head north.  It will take us a few weeks to meander up the islands to the Abacos.  We will then wait for good weather to cross over to the USA.

Fair winds to you all.

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