Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Chicken Harbour", Exumas, Bahamas

Thursday, March 10 – Friday, April 1, 2011

Author’s note: I can’t start a blog on March 10th without wishing my darling hubby a very happy birthday!

Wow…has it really been three weeks since we’ve blogged? Time flies when you’re being lazy! We’ve spent the past three weeks in Georgetown, aka “Chicken Harbour”, aka “Velcro Bay”…so named for the number of boaters who arrive, intending only to pass through on their way to more exotic Caribbean destinations, yet find themselves coming up with every excuse in the book not to go any farther. Most cruisers have a love-hate relationship with Georgetown. If you’re really into group events, this is definitely your kind of town. Every morning, the cruiser “net” on VHF72 announces a litany of events…bridge clubs, fun volleyball, regulation volleyball, cooking classes, fishing seminars, beach walks, beach church, and our personal favorite, Saturday night ARG (“alcohol research group”, or “Aarggh”) meetings, where the goal is to drink like a pirate. For those of us who aren’t big fans of the “senior summer camp” mentality, the constant radio chatter gets a bit annoying. Not that we’re complaining in paradise, and GT does have a terrific grocery store! J

We made the trip from Galiott Cut to Georgetown on Rene’s birthday, and were blown away by the number of masts in the harbor. We’ve never seen so many boats in one place! Granted, we arrived at the tail end of the big cruiser’s regatta, but this place is pretty busy all season. We were able to find Storyville, Anchor Management, and Guiding Light clustered together near the Chat ‘N Chill on Volleyball Beach. We later learned that the rest of the Texas Navy had left that morning to anchor in a more secluded and protected area known as Red Shanks. Not to worry – Sea Yawl Later played ferry boat to bring the crew back to Volleyball Beach on Friday for the awards ceremony (and Deana’s birthday). Good thing, too…Sea Yawl Later won first place in the multi-hull category, with Guiding Light a close second. Deana also won first place in the underway bake-off contest with her “Golden Crème Brulee Cheesecake” recipe. Congrats to all!

The next two weeks were filled with happy hours, dinners, movie nights, and Mexican Train (dominoes) parties. We all moved our boats over to Red Shanks to spend some time with the rest of the group, and fell in love with the anchorage. As crazy as Georgetown can be, Red Shanks makes you feel like you’re still in a remote part of the Exumas (if you turn off the VHF radio, that is). Best of all, it’s still a short dinghy ride into town. The only tricky part, at least for us, was crossing a very shallow sand bar to anchor near our friends. Granted, we could’ve anchored closer to the entrance in plenty of water, but what fun would that have been??? We managed to cross the bar at high tide, and only hit bottom three, maybe four times. Stacy held her breath the whole time, but Rene did a fabulous job of getting us safely across. We found a spot in the protected cove along with Storyville, Kaleo, Morning Glory, and Guiding Light, and were happy to have the protection (and the great company!) when the winds started to blow 20-25kts later in the week.

We were thrilled to finally re-connect with LA and Susan on Genesis, who’d spent the past week at the Emerald Bay Marina after their boat guest’s departure. We’ve heard stories about what a gorgeous facility Emerald Bay is (it’s next door to the Sandals and Grand Isle resorts and is appropriately froo-froo for the neighborhood). Best of all, the marina is offering a dockage special of $1/foot. Being able to stay at such a luxurious spot for under $50/night is quite a coup for cruisers, and we’ve talked to many boaters who’ve taken advantage of it. LA and Susan anchored near Sand Dollar Beach and dinghied over to Red Shanks for happy hour aboard Pipe. The next day we moved the boat over to Sand Dollar to anchor near Genesis, and enjoyed a “welcome back” dinner together. Storyville joined us a day later, and Susan made her fantastic pork loin, citrus rice, and mango chutney for everyone. We’re so spoiled! We debated leaving Georgetown to explore Long Island, but weather guru Chris Parker changed our minds with stories of cold fronts coming later in the week. Instead, all three boats moved back to Red Shanks for a few days, where the front was – thankfully – a non-event. The other thing that kept us from leaving GT? No propane! For those of you who remember our “no diesel on Green Turtle Cay” debacle in the Abacos last year, this was along the same vein. There’s a propane truck that services Georgetown every Wednesday, and wouldn’t you know, we arrived on Thursday. No problem…we figured we still had about three weeks’ worth of propane, so we’d just get it the following week. One small problem: the following Wednesday, the cruiser net announced that the propane truck was broken, so there wouldn’t be a delivery. Could we take it to Forbes Enterprises for a fill? It would cost twice as much, but in times of desperation and all that… Nope, Forbes uses the same (broken) propane source. By the end of our third week, we still had no propane and knew we were on fumes. None of the nearby islands had propane themselves – they all sent their bottles to either Georgetown or Nassau on the mail boat once per week – so leaving GT wasn’t really an option. We actually ran out of propane in the middle of cooking Wednesday night’s dinner, almost three weeks to the day after arriving in Georgetown. Someone was apparently looking out for us, because the propane truck was finally fixed and made a special trip to fill up everyone’s tanks on Thursday morning. Talk about close calls!

It’s difficult to cover three weeks, especially when Georgetown lulls one into the complacency of more mundane tasks like grocery shopping, internet, and laundry. When you don’t have access to such simple pleasures in many parts of the Exumas, you tend to go a little nuts in Georgetown. Some of our “off the beaten path” highlights included: hiking up to the monument with Guiding Light; watching the cruiser regatta variety show (in a painful sort of way); having nine people aboard Pipe for homemade cannelloni; listening to Troy “jam” with other cruisers at the Sand Bar; a group dinner at Cheater’s to welcome Christy and Steve back from their stateside visits; movie night aboard GL; and a road trip with Genesis and Storyville up to Emerald Bay Marina and all the way back down to the south tip of the island.

Sadly, Georgetown has also meant some – hopefully temporary – goodbyes. Shane and his boat guest, Michael, left to explore the Jumentos, while Morning Glory, Kaleo, and Sea Yawl Later headed for Long Island and the Turks and Caicos. We all plan to return to Georgetown for the Family Island Regatta at the end of April, so hopefully we’ll get to see the Texas Navy for one more party before the real farewells begin. Steve, on the other hand, left a few days ago to make his way to Puerto Rico where he’ll leave the boat for hurricane season. It was hard for us to see him go, and even more so for Deana and Troy who’ve been his constant companions – friends, marina neighbors, and buddy boaters – for over two years now. We’ve made plans to meet up again in the BVIs for New Year’s…we WILL make that happen!

On a lighter note, we’re finally pulling the Velcro off the boat and are getting out of Georgetown for a few days! Storyville is joining us for a trip to Salt Pond on Long Island, which is about 30 miles south-east of Georgetown. Susan has headed home for two weeks to visit friends and celebrate her mother’s 80th birthday, and we haven’t been able to convince LA to skip the boat projects and join us as a single-hander. (LA, we expect those toe rails to sparkle when we get back!) Susan returns the same day that Stacy’s parents arrive, so we’ll all be ready to party by then. Till next time…cheers!

Enjoy additional pictures here