Monday, May 2, 2011

Meet the Parents: Georgetown and Long Island, Exumas, Bahamas

Monday, April 11 – Thursday, April 21, 2011

The parents are here! Stacy’s parents, Terri and Ken, arrived in Georgetown on the 13th. Their flight arrived an hour before Susan’s (Genesis), so we shared a taxi with a very excited LA (“the admiral’s comin’ home!”) to meet everyone at the airport. We’d managed to load them down with a ton of requested gear – replacement walkie-talkies for the ones that fell overboard, Caribbean charts, foodie bits, a depth sounder, boat repair items, shoes, shorts, five months of mail, a waterproof backpack, and even an external hard drive – and were amazed when they met us outside of customs with only a suitcase, our backpack, and a couple of small shoulder bags. These guys know how to pack! We retreated to the airport lounge for a cold Kalik while we waited for Susan’s flight, and were soon back in the welcome air conditioning of Vensel’s taxi #23.

Upon our return to Georgetown, we had anchored behind Genesis in Red Shanks to share some happy hours and dinners with LA. We decided, however, that it would be much easier to get Mom and Ken aboard Pipe via a water taxi rather than four of us plus luggage in a slow, wet dinghy ride. We moved the boat to Sand Dollar Beach Tuesday afternoon, and moved it right back to Red Shanks 24 hours later with Mom and Ken on deck. After all, we had Mexican night planned with Genesis that evening! Susan and LA brought the blender, Stacy made the chicken enchiladas, and LA mixed some mean margaritas. We had a fantastic time and thought it was a great way to welcome Mom and Ken to the cruising life.

Thursday morning we took advantage of a calm weather window and motored back down to Salt Pond, Long Island. Storyville must’ve seen us coming around the point, because we soon heard Troy’s voice calling us on the VHF. We’re baaa-aack!! Everyone gathered in our cockpit for happy hour, introductions were made for Storyville and the parents, and we ended the evening with Mom’s yummy chicken corn chowder. We all agreed to get another car to tour the island for two days, and Rene arranged a mini-van with the local rental place.

The next morning, the boys walked the three blocks to Fox’s car rental while we ladies hung back at the dinghy dock with the bags. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, then thirty, and we knew something was up. We finally saw a van coming down the road, and Rene told us that there’d been some mis-communication and our van had been rented out. Oops! Fortunately, Mr. Fox knew someone else who was willing to rent us a van, and we were back in business. First stop, meat patties!

After a detour at the old Spanish church, we stopped back in Deadman’s cay for eight beef patties. The poor girl behind the counter got pretty wide-eyed before going into a storage room to get the microwave oven (she usually uses a small toaster oven to SLOWLY warm the patties). Tummies again filled with junk food, we then headed south to Hamilton's Cave. Hamilton's Cave is one of the largest caves in the Bahamas, and was once used by the Lucayan Indians. The cave is actually on private property, but for $10 a head, the owner, Leonard Cartwright, will give you a fantastic tour. Leonard's family first purchased the 90 acres on which the cave sits in 1892 for 27 pounds. The cave is filled with incredible stalactites and stalagmites, as well as five different species of fruit bats. There were gorgeous spots where light filtered in through holes in the ceiling, giving the appearance of electric lighting. The tour was well worth the fee, and Leonard was a gracious and informative host. We'd highly recommend his tour to anyone visiting Long Island!

Our next stop on our road trip was 663-foot-deep Dean’s Blue Hole. We’d heard that this was a rest day for the participants of the free-diving competition, and figured we’d have a better opportunity to swim in the hole. We were surprised to find a small group on the diving platform, and got to meet one of the judges and two of the safety divers (both of whom were capable of diving to 100 meters or more). The group told us that the competition started again the next morning around 10am, and that there would be one world-record and multiple national-record attempts made. We were sold!

We continued south to Clarence Town, where Susan made her way to the top of the Catholic church tower and we smartened up enough to find lunch at Rowdy Boys restaurant near the marina. After a huge lunch of fresh wahoo sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and conch fritters, we lounged pool-side before getting back in the van. Susan had heard that Ford’s Beach was another must-see, and a Rowdy Boy said we should go to the southernmost point on the island. “Just keep going. You can’t miss it.” Imagine our surprise when the road abruptly dead-ended a mile and a half short. Hmmm… A quick glance at the chart showed that, yes, the road was really supposed to do that. There was no drive-able way to get to the point, and we were all feeling too sleepy from lunch for a major hike across jagged limestone. Lazy bones, we know. :-)

After a quiet night aboard our respective boats, we were back in the van bright and early…or not…to go see the free-diving championships at Dean’s Blue Hole. If you’re not familiar with the sport, free-divers take a single breath, descend to a target level, and must then make it back to the surface unassisted. That means no scuba tanks, no supplemental air, and no one can assist you until you spend 30 seconds proving that A) you have the official tab showing that you reached your target depth; B) that you can give hand and voice “okay” signals to show that your brain is working again, and C) that you’re not going to black out. (More on “C” later…)

We made a quick stop at the patty place (where we were informed we’d cleaned off all but the last two beef patties the day before), and arrived in time to watch a Russian free-diver make a new (women’s) world record. Natalia Molchanova had attempted the 100-meter dive twice before, but had blacked out as she surfaced both times. Apparently this isn’t all that uncommon; as one diver puts it, “when the diver is resurfacing between 10 and 5 meters, the oxygen in the blood drops quickly. It is like standing up too fast.” As a precaution, safety divers meet the competitors at 30 meters and return with them to the surface, surrounding them in case anything goes wrong. Still, if you have to be supported or even touched in the first 30 seconds after the dive, you’re disqualified. We all listened as the officiator counted off the depths as the Russian descended….50 meters…60 meters…70 meters…and we screamed for joy with the rest of the divers when the call came that Natalia had reached her target. The safety divers soon went under to meet her, and everyone held their breath as she surfaced. Screams of “breathe, breathe” and “mask, mask” were followed by, “Okay? Okay?”, as she removed her goggles and gave an okay sign. Thirty seconds later, a very happy judge held up the white card (showing a completed dive) to an even happier diver. It was official: Natalia Molchanova successfully made a new world record of 100 meters for the "deepest female" title.

The rest of the day offered a couple of let-downs, when one diver had to turn back early during a 119-meter attempt and another cut short a 122-meter attempt. Both divers were trying to break a New Zealand national record, and both made it below 100 meters before returning. Incredibly, the world record is 124 meters – again, using only a single breath of air with NO supplemental oxygen. Crazy!

We dropped Storyville and Genesis back in Salt Pond and continued up to the Columbus monument. Mom and Ken oohed and awed at the views just like we had, even though the ride seemed (at least to this writer) even worse than before. (Maybe because I knew what to expect?!) We followed that up with a visit to Adderley’s Plantation Ruins, where you can still see the remains of various buildings that were destroyed by a 1927 hurricane. We made it back to Pipe in time for sundowners with Storyville, an easy dinner, and a few games of Yahtzee. After two full days of touring, we were definitely ready for an early bedtime.

We spent our last couple of days in Long Island enjoying some quiet time on the boat and an internet/pool day at Long Island Breeze (sadly, no lunch – they were unexpectedly closed on Sunday). Deana and Troy loaded us their new Explorer charts – complete with NEW Turks & Caicos coverage – for some heavy-duty planning sessions, and we decided we didn’t really need two full weeks for the T&C. That’s awesome news, since it means we can stay in Georgetown for at least part of the Family Island Regatta!

We really enjoyed our final night in Long Island, thanks to Triphena and her Bahamian buffet at Club Thompson Bay. Triphena is a major personality in Salt Pond, and we’ve heard other cruisers talk about her wonderful dinners ever since we arrived. We decided to delay our return to Georgtown by a day so we could attend the Monday night buffet. LA and Susan joined us, and we dinghied to the north end of Thompson Bay for the short walk to the restaurant. There were about 30 people in attendance, and our mouths started to water as Triphena brought out plates full of BBQ ribs, fried chicken and fish, crab coleslaw, Bahamian mac n cheese, curry chicken and rice, peas and rice. We met Gigi’s Island and Pretty Penny, and got some fantastic information from them about the upcoming regatta. We also got a little surprise at the end of the night when we reached the dinghy beach; Pipe’s dinghy was still relatively close to shore, but thanks to the incoming tide, Genesis’s dinghy was 150 feet off the beach in 4-6 feet of water. LA began wading out towards it and soaked the bottom of his shorts before he’d gone 10 feet. Rene, Mom, and Ken managed to push the other dinghy in closer to shore, and we all waded out in thigh-high water.

We motor-sailed back to GT on Tuesday and found a spot to drop the hook near Monument Beach. The following seas made for some rolling towards the end of the trip, but Mom and Ken (not to mention Tux) were absolute troupers. We spent Wednesday ashore wandering around town, touring the local souvenir shop and straw market, and enjoyed lunch at Two Turtles. We couldn't believe Mom and Ken's trip was coming to an end, but knew they'd had a great time while they were here.

Thursday brought some teary goodbyes as Mom and Ken hopped aboard the water taxi for their ride back to town and the airport. We hated to see them leave, but we hope to make it back to the US sometime this summer or fall for a family visit. Fingers crossed! For now, we'll head back to Red Shanks to meet up with Genesis and Storyville, and to enjoy the 58th Annual Family Island Regatta. It should be quite the party!

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