Previous Port: Norfolk thru Miami
Crossing the Gulf Stream was no fun but at least it wasn't horrible. We left the Miami anchorage at 6:30a.m. and made the Bahama Banks long before dark; so we did make good time. The weather was quite nice until about nine nautical miles out of Nassau. We could see the front moving in and the captain even increased engine speed (I didn't think he knew the throttle moved in that direction) to get ahead of it. That didn't work. The high winds caught us, giving us a very uncomfortable ride the rest of the way into Nassau.
Anchorage: N25004.761 W077019.190
Our favorite Nassau anchorage was not possible because of the huge rollers coming in the west entrance. So we headed on past the cruise ships to where most cruisers like to anchor. This was a brand new anchoring experience; never have we had anything like it. Our anemometer decided to stop working somewhere along the way but our guess was 35-40kts wind speed. The strong current and chop added to the problem. We would drop the anchor, feed out some rode, but before the anchor had a chance to catch we were pushed sideways to the wind and dragging fast. We tried another spot, then another, and then another; all with the same results. Out of desperation, we headed back to the west entrance at least twice hoping to have better luck. After 2-1/2 hours and untold attempts we finally got a good set.
We had a well-earned happy hour and a light dinner. I made it half-way through my shower when the Nassau police came by to tell us we had to move. By that point, we just didn't feel like we could take any more. I threw my nighty on and didn't even care. We began the anchoring routine again with the same drop-and-drag results. It was dark, the anchorage was crowded, we were very tired and quite frustrated. Just when I thought I couldn't take anymore, some jackass comes on deck yelling, "Don't anchor in front of me". I sure hope he got his sign; I shined my flashlight on it long enough to make sure. (From Bob: I'm not sure what kind of shadow figure you can make with just one finger but Fran was sure giving it her all.)
Another boater was yelling for us to get on channel 16 because he had information to help us. His suggestion was to go to the fuel dock and tie up until morning. With that kind of wind, we didn't think that would work. On the last anchoring attempt, just before jumping overboard, we finally felt the anchor grab. I fed out more rode and we settled in for the night. It didn't matter that we were only a few feet from a commercial mooring ball. Bob slept in the cockpit all night. It was not a comfortable night for either of us.
We gave up the idea of checking-in with customs in Nassau the next day. At 8:00 a.m. we headed for another anchorage - any anchorage - away from Nassau. We heard several radio call for folks wanting help to get out of marinas because of the strong winds.
Anchorage: N24031.934 W076047.877
This was a very rolly anchorage because of the swells from the same Northwest wind that blew us into Nassau. It made for an uncomfortable evening.
Anchorage: N24001.579 W076021.680
How good it was to have a nice, calm anchorage for a night. In addition, it was a beautiful one. There was a small, white beach nearby and the water was absolutely breathtaking. The vegetation, as expected, was a very dull green, but that is the arid Bahamas landscape. If you are looking for tropical islands, the Bahamas are not it.
A front with very high wind moved in during the first night, keeping us at Hattie's Landing for four days. We were only about 40 miles from George Town but just couldn't get there. Seas in the Exuma Sound were 8-12 feet and wind gusts up to 35-40 knots. So we stayed in our beautiful little anchorage that turned very rolly before we could leave. We didn't venture ashore partly because it would have been a rough ride but mostly because we had not cleared customs yet. That was something to dread all the way to George Town.
Anchorage: N23031.015 W075045.483
For almost two years, while in Kemah, we planned and dreamed with Bob & Jeannie Fisher on Island Dreamin' about cruising together. It was a real disappointment when they couldn't leave with us as planned. Many more disappointments and changed plans kept us from being in the same place at the same time. Then, after 10-1/2 months we finally dropped anchor just a few yards from them in George Town. What a great reunion that was! Although we had talked on the phone often, being together was what it was all about.
George Town, on the south side of Elizabeth Harbor, is a real cruiser's stop. In fact, I think the town is supported mostly by cruisers. Many boats come in the winter and never leave the anchorage until mid-to-late spring, when they make their way back home. Others use it as a home base and visit nearby islands, always returning to G.T. Others stop to re-provision, do laundry, and make plans for their trip south, some as far as Venezuela.
There are several choices of anchorages in the harbor: Hamburger Beach, Honeymoon Beach, Volleyball Beach, Sand Dollar Beach are all on Stocking Island, across the harbor from George Town. Kidd Cove anchorage is on the George Town side. Volleyball Beach is probably the most popular anchorage because most of the activity happens there. Common-interest meetings are held several times a week. Get-togethers for dominos, bridge, and of course volleyball are a daily occurrence, as are exercise classes. There's Beach Church on Sunday, heading south meeting on Tuesday, watercolors on Friday, and on and on. If none of that is of interest, you can most likely find someone to do whatever you enjoy. Plus you can always slip into Chat N Chill for a hamburger and beer.
One of the great things to do is to take one of the Stocking Island trails over to the Atlantic side of the island.
Bob makes the climb up Monument Hill
Path heading down to the beach.
We anchored at Volleyball Beach but it was a very poor choice this time. Other than two or three days we had major winter-fronts that kept the boats rocking and bouncing. Several of those days, the water was too rough to even get in the dinghy unless you had to. We did manage to check-in on one of the calm days. It was a piece of cake. They didn't care that we didn't have passports and my worry about no raised seal on my birth certificate was unnecessary. I think that all they really care about is collecting that $300.00.
It's about a mile dinghy ride from the Stocking Island anchorages to the George Town dinghy dock. It seems more like 10 miles though when the water is rough. George Town, while not great, is still one of the better towns in the Bahamas. Nothing much has changed from our visit in '01 except there is now free RO water and the much needed internet connection. If BATELCO (phone system) is up there will be folks sitting around under a big tree with their computers. Using a WI-FI connection, you can access the internet through the school across the street. Or, Peace and Plenty Hotel provides a connection for $5.00. Of course, BATELCO is down at least once a day for several hours, which eliminates these two options. Bal Sound, which is a short walk in the other direction, offers connection for $3.00/day. They must have a different type system because they had access every time we tried them. Unfortunately, they are almost always crowded.
Island Dreamin' had been in George Town six weeks by the time we arrived. So of course they had lots of folks for us to meet. I think everyone there (almost 200 boats) knew them or at least knew their boat. I would like to tell you that it is because the Fishers are so friendly, which they are. But it had more to do with Bob & Jeannie heading out to Junkanoo on Boxing Day and Island Dreamin' going ashore, alone, on Chat N Chill Beach. After they all got back together, they spent most of the day on a sandbar at a 30degree angle. With the help of a high tide and several dinghies pushing and pulling, they cleared the sandbar in the afternoon. There was great applause from the hoards of people on the beach. Just mention Island Dreamin' in George Town - she's well known.
An unexpected treat was that Ronda & Steve on V'ger anchored in George Town while we were there. They are also part of the Kemah crowd. It was good to see them again. Steve had one of the best stories I've heard in awhile. Seems, he was taking a true cruiser's shower in the dinghy. After soaping down, he jumped overboard to rinse off. In the process of climbing back aboard, a small fish jumped in his lap. It was squirming and carrying on because there was a giant fish that wanted him for dinner. The big fish was quite determined and started jumping for the little guy. All this time Steve is trying to get up the ladder into the dinghy. Ronda was doubled over in hysterics until she realized that the "family jewels" were in real jeopardy. Apparently, there was an audience for all this action. So we may get to see it on film somewhere down the way. Unless, of course, Steve pays the blackmail.
Next Port: Long Island to Cat Island