Christmas Winds & New Years in Georgetown Bahamas

Picture: Stop to admire the view and a wind surfer on our walk around Lake Victoria in Georgetown.

On Christmas Eve we baked white and sweet potatoes and mixed up the innards to make twice baked for the Christmas day potluck. Tom is a master at the white and Anita used a simple recipe for the sweet, just add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and butter, dash of salt & pepper and then garnish with a pecan half and bacon bits. Both were a big hit and delicious!

Anita also made a pull apart party bread that came out a bit too dense, but was still tasty.

Christmas Day was the beginning of a five day stretch of strong east winds; over 20 Knots and often gusting above 30. The first couple of days were also rather wet with scattered rain showers. The organizer of the potluck decided to cancel the beach part of the potluck due to the probability of rain. Plan B was to have the small groups meet on host boats. Our group met on Boatel I a 65 foot trawler that is a top-rated bed and breakfast in Toronto Canada in the summertime. Note the picture of the trawler was not taken on Christmas Day, although the picture of us was.

We are not like most other boaters in Georgetown, though there are some like us who move their homes or mothership to the locations where events will happen and plan on short dinghy rides. Most have large tenders/dinghies with big outboards. The change of venue was made after the wind had picked up. Our group had a brief radio discussion about meeting time and location (more than a mile away) for our potluck and we mentioned a concern about our dinghy range into the strong winds. Bill on Charisma offered to pick us up in his dinghy on his way by. This turned out to be a rather wet and very bouncy adventure! Cruisers here have a habit of steering their tenders while standing up and holding the tiller in one hand and the bow rope (called a painter) in the other. Passengers either stand, kneel or hide in the bottom of the boat. We did the latter trying unsuccessfully to keep the hot potatoes and insulated bag on the bow seat. We dried quickly and at least the water is warm! The return trip back was downwind and much drier though still a bit of spray.

Sorry to say I did not take pictures of the wonderful array of food we had. Everything was absolutely delicious: grilled turkey, cold baked ham, green bean casserole, orzo salad, cabbage salad, two kinds of stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce plus the twice baked potatoes and dinner rolls! Topped off by dessert bars and Christmas cookies and candy canes.

The next day is also a holiday here, Boxing Day. So all businesses are still closed. However, we decided to move over to the town anchorage as we had hoped it would be more sheltered. We soon learned it was not at all sheltered. We stayed aboard all day Wednesday and Thursday as it was too rough to attempt getting in the dinghy. Nights were restless due to bouncing and the heat with hatches closed due to rain showers. By Friday we were anxious to get our feet on terra firma, yup we are gonna get wet coming back to the boat, prepare!

We were on a mission! We spent three hours at the BTC mobile office. We first purchased a SIM chip for the iPAD and later a data plan. We will use this as a hotspot when we need faster service than we get with T-Mobile. Then we found a corner to plug in 2 devices at a time and began doing updates on systems and apps on phones, watch and iPAD.

Then we took a walk around lake Victoria to stretch our legs and see the Far side of town. We checked out a few other places for lunch, but decided to go back to a favorite for charcoal grilled jerk ribs, so tasty and served with a small piece of corn on the cob and baked macaroni and cheese.

One more stop at the Exuma Market for groceries then a wet dinghy ride back to the boat. This was one time I should have used plastic grocery bags; my cloth bags were soaked in salt water. Here’s a 10 second video of Tom’s new and improved water transfer system which he did right after returning to the boat. You can see how bouncy it was!

Thanks Dan on Cutting Class for the picture and idea to make this task easier! Tom still plans a few more modifications to prevent the hose from kinking.

Tom started the next boat project: installing an electric anchor windlass. The hole is cut in the deck, foam core routed out, and reinforced with epoxy and filler. He still needs one more finish coat of epoxy and to design, cut and install an interior backing plate. Then the windlass and foot switches can be installed! The electric wires are already in.

We made one more quick trip to town on Saturday morning to use the WiFi in front of the closed BTC office to update computer software, buy those sweet little bananas, and fill the water cans one more time.

Then we raised two anchors; we had dropped a spare when the winds were over 30! And motored back over to Stocking Island. This time we found a really nice anchorage next to the moorings in the channel toward the three holes. The music from the Chat and Chill was not as loud here and we were around the corner in more protected waters.

After beach church on Sunday we moved Lone Star a couple miles down island to Sand Dollar beach. We joined about 60 other cruisers for an early New Years sunset celebration, blowing into conch shells and a bonfire on the beach with lots of appetizers.

We plan to sail to Long Island, Conception, and perhaps Rum Cay as soon as we finish installing the windlass.

Christmas in Georgetown Bahamas

We’ve enjoyed photographing the Georgetown Christmas decorations and joining in the weekly musical jam sessions singing carols and other folk tunes.

What a fun and talented group of musicians! Tom has started playing a recorder we have on board, and he is covetous of the plastic trumpet Ian on Local Lola has.

Music is also a big part of beach church on Sundays at 10 AM. Yesterday, we attended the cruisers Christmas luncheon at St. Francis Resort. Seven ukelele musicians led the great sounding sing-along.

My favorite was this altered version of White Christmas:

After a yummy grilled chicken or tilapia salad lunch we enjoyed a gift swap with about 35 people in attendance. Tom got the honor of having his gift stolen the most times, six that we recall! Someone had made homemade cinnamon buns and paired it with a can of nuts and a bag of pumpkin spiced M&Ms. There were 2 identical gifts like this and Tom swapped for each of them, but they were stolen 3 times each then frozen; meaning the third person gets to keep the gift. He also opened a hammock, had it stolen, later stole it back, and had it stolen again!! Then he opened a Popeye Captains’ hat, corncob pipe, and a small can of leaf spinach. That was stolen too! We ended up with some very nice gifts: Tom received a bottle of Freakshow red wine, a wine skin, and drink floats. Anita has a dark chocolate rum cake that smells heavenly!! We also won a door prize of a table decoration of a piece of driftwood that says Seas Greetings. We now have one Christmas decoration on board!

Tom has really enjoyed his morning routine on the SSB/HAM radio. He has a good strong signal and is repeatedly asked to relay for the net controller on the morning SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) Security SSB net on 8104 frequency at 7:15AM EST. At 7:30AM he switches to Chris Parker’s SSB net on 8137 for weather updates. At 7:45AM he listens in on the HAM Waterway net on 7268; Bahama’s weather is often read first. At 8:00AM, it’s time for the local VHF net on Channel 72 here in Georgetown.

Today we moved Lone Star from her beach side anchorage near Chat ‘n Chill on Stocking Island:

to a beautiful, secure and shallow anchorage around Goat Cay on Great Exuma that we currently share with 3 catamarans:

We are sheltering from a cold front that is bringing 20-30 knot southerly winds ahead of the front. We also want to explore ashore here this afternoon and visit the NAPA store and pharmacy nearby.

We have been working on some boat projects this past week:

Tom cut backing plates for the soft-shackle dinghy davit lift points out of a cutting board:

We raised the storm jib, replaced a shackle and outfitted it with sheets (ropes to trim the sail):

Tom’s current project is installing an electric anchor windless. We both look forward to that improvment!

Anita’s been working on washing and storing winter wear, hand washing the shower curtain and harnesses, and baking banana bread. Thank you to her sister Jane in VT we now have many more bread recipes to try!

We have plans to join fellow cruisers on Christmas Day for a beach potluck. Each table plans their own potluck. We are planning to bring a cheddar monkey bread and twice baked potatoes both white and sweet. Our table will have 13 people so far. We hope you are all enjoying your Christmas or other Holiday preparations and spreading the joy of this Holiday Season.

Fun in Georgetown

We’ve been here for almost a week. Yes, we still think this is heaven on earth!

Both our passage problems have been repaired. Tom put out a request on the morning harbor net for the size and type of bolt we needed to repair our helmsman chair. A nearby boat, Angela D, gave us the bolt that used to hold up their mast! They have converted their former motor-sailor to a power boat. Cruisers often help each other out like this. Harold would not take anything for it. Today we took a lot of stuff out of the aft cabin so Tom could work on re-centering and pinning the rudder. It seems to be working much better now!

We brought Lone Star over to Georgetown on Monday, December 10 to checkin with Customs and Immigration. The boat can stay for 12 months. We will need to renew our immigration visas after 90 days.

We also did a walk-through of the local Exuma Market. It is small, but packed with a lot of foods. Prices for staples like fresh vegetables, frozen meats or vegetables, and rice or flour seem to be comparable to the states. As expected, luxury items like Marie’s salad dressing, chips, cookies and chocolate bars are twice the price. Bananas at a roadside stand were $3 for about 14 six inch bananas. These are the sweetest bananas we’ve ever had! I’ll be making banana bread soon. We had one for the passage that was excellent.

Although there is a laundry mat in town, time to be a real cruiser and do it by hand! Ouch, I forgot how much it hurts the hands to wring out clothes. The Mr. Wringer didn’t do a very good job, still needed to squeeze more water out!

Line dried clothes are so crisp!

Another cruiser chore for us; self filling the tank by dinghy water barge. The Exuma Market recently added a Reverse Osmosis-RO water spigot to the cruisers dinghy dock behind their business. Tom threw the first set of jugs on board, then rigged a block and tackle to hoist them aboard. Much easier, although another cruiser said he uses a pump to offload the water right from the dinghy. We’ll have to look into that improvement!

Finally, we attended a musical jam session on shore yesterday. There are some very talented musicians here! Really fun to meet folks and sing along.

We plan to stay here through Christmas.

Ocracoke and Oriental, NC

Picture:  Fishing vessels in Oriental, where stories of Blackbeard abound

Disclaimer for our non-sailing readers: sorry for the technical jargon in this one. Some of our sailing friends will appreciate the details of the challenges we’ve experienced and how we overcome them.

The fifty-mile excursion from Wanchese, NC (on Roanoke Island) to Ocracoke, NC was uncomfortable yet necessary.   The latter because there are few choices of protected anchorages in the broad and shallow Pamlico Sound. We left at first light with a little help from the dock master. The west wind had us pinned to the dock.  Our normal backing down with an aft tie spring wasn’t working. Tom asked the dock master to move our one remaining dock line on the starboard stern cleat to the last cleat on the dock and we were able to back into the open space beside the dock and finally head out on our own.

After motoring about 10 miles down the eastern channel of Roanoke, we were able to set full sail and head southwest.  We have a small camber spar jib that is self-tacking; so, there is little need for us to be out in the weather tending it. We chose to leave with a windy forecast (West 15-20MPH diminishing to 10MPH as the day progresses) as we didn’t think we could make the 50-mile passage under motor alone in daylight hours.  Well, forecasts are not always right, it stayed windy!  Furthermore, as it had been windy for some time the waves although not big (1-3 feet) were confused.  This made for a very bouncy, corkscrew kind of ride.  Like riding a bronco, I imagine.  Picture things falling in the cabin and a lot of rocking and rolling in all directions.  The windshield was soon covered in salt and difficult to see through.  Solution: steer by instruments: chart plotter, compass, speed and depth readings.  The sea finally calmed for the last hour as we meandered through the approach channels to Ocracoke.  The trip took nine hours and we certainly didn’t eat very well: gingerbread muffins, peanut butter bread and snacks.  Too rough to make a sandwich or heat soup!

Ocracoke has a small secure harbor with an active ferry at the curvy entrance. Yes, we met the ferry right at the entrance and waited outside the channel in 5 feet of water for them to pass. Then we motored to the far end of the harbor and anchored near a couple other sail boats.  It took a few hours for our brains to realize the boat was no longer rocking.  Is that muscle memory?  It is a strange and somewhat unsettling sensation.

We checked the distance (36 miles) and forecast (favorable winds and sunny) to our next destination: Oriental, NC; and decided to forego exploring the local wild horses and vicinity in favor of returning to the ICW and our trek south.  Temperatures have moderated recently and we are seeing highs in the mid 60’s and lows in the low 50’s. Yet, New England is experiencing snow and freezing temperatures already.

Saturday, November 17th we motor sailed in light winds across the remainder of Pamlico Sound and into the Neuse River.  Meal preparation and cleanup not a problem. Much better day!

Oriental is a very small harbor with limited anchoring.  So glad we found a spot to anchor inside the breakwater!  The two free slips at the public dock were occupied.  The marina docks are mostly empty at this time of year, but we had just spent four days at a dock in Wanchese.

The next morning Pegu Club motored into the harbor and began setting their anchor right next to us when I noticed a spot had opened on the public dock.  They quickly hoisted the anchor and moved to the free dock.  We always enjoy spending time with Jeff and Kimberly on Pegu Club.  They also started their cruise from Shennecossett Yacht Club. We chatted animatedly as we walked together to the local Marine consignment and Piggly Wiggly grocery store. Later they came over for dinner, games and popcorn. This is the cruising lifestyle we truly enjoy! The below picture was taken by us as we returned to Lone Star at sunset.