Category Archives: Exumas

Back to Cambridge Cay and on to Big Majors Spot

3/29/17
Big Majors Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 24 11.143N, 076 27.549W
Posted by Bill

Since we only stayed at Cambridge Cay one day and lucked out getting a mooring in Warderick Wells for the bad winds, we decided to go back to Cambridge for some snorkeling. One note about the weather we waited out. It turned out that it was a serious low that was being watched for tropical storm/hurricane possibilities. It was nasty winds over 35 knots for several days. Glad we were in a protected area.

There were 4 areas around Cambridge that we wanted to go see: a snorkeling spot called the Sea Aquarium, a plane wreck to dive, underwater caves at the Rocky Dundas, and a swimming hole called the Bubble Bath. We picked up the same mooring that we had the last time we were here, arriving on 3/27. The next day we hit the Sea Aquarium. It was appropriately named as it was like snorkeling in a large aquarium. More pictures courtesy Sofia Jeanne:
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It was great snorkeling, until the hordes of tour boats arrived, dumping boat loads of adults and kids who did not know how to snorkel. They were splashing all around scaring the fish (who would come right up to you if you just floated there), and standing on the coral (which kills it). We ended up leaving a bit sooner than we wanted and went over to the plane wreck:
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We tried to go to the caves, but the water was too rough to get close to them, so we settled for some wallowing at a deserted beach.

We left the next day and stopped at the Bubble Baths on Compass Cay. We almost missed it because we could not get the anchor to set properly. After the 3rd try we had it good enough for a couple of hours. The Bubble Bath is a tidal pool that is fed by the ocean at mid to high tide. The water splashes over the rocks and creates a frothy surface on the water. It was very cool:
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Tricia and I enjoying the bath:
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From there we headed over to Big Majors Spot. We needed to get some fuel and dispose of trash before the next leg of our trip. Big Majors is a dinghy ride to Staniel Cay. Sofia Jeanne stopped at Staniel and topped up on fuel and water and then we anchored at Big Majors. Big Majors is the home of Pig Beach and although we didn’t stop at the beach this time, Shirley got some pics:
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Staniel is a hot spot for big yachts. Many anchor at Big Majors. Most people want to eat at Staniel Cay Yacht Club, so the place is usually full of tourists and big yacht people. It creates a vibe that is not consistent with the Exumas, unfortunately, many are arrogant and full of themselves. We didn’t come to the Bahamas to hang with those folks, so this is not one of our favorite places. They also launch their wave runners and power boats and buzz through the anchorage at full speed, rocking and rolling everyone…not cool. They do clean fish right outside the yacht club and there are always a lot of sharks. People were swimming with them…idiots!!!
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I usually refer to this type of behavior as “the thinning of the herd”.

Snorkeling Warderick Wells and a trip to Boo Boo Hill

3/26/17
Warderick Wells Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

In spite of the weather, on our stay here, we have been able to do some snorkeling and some hiking . There are several snorkeling spots around Warderick Wells that are pretty good…tons of fish and coral. Matt and Shirley have an underwater camera and captured some good shots. Courtesy of them:
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If you read the blog last year, you may remember the legend of Boo Boo Hill. The short version is that some people hear the ghosts of nearby shipwrecks at night and if you throw a piece of driftwood with your boat name on top of the hill, you can have safe passage beyond Boo Boo Hill. We hiked up to the top, updated last year’s piece with a 2017 added, and Matt and Shirley put theirs up too. Ours was next to another buddy boat from last year, our friends Bob and Cat on Sea Lyon. The view is great from up there!
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Along the hiking trail we ran in to this little curly tail lizard on a rock pile:
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Once again waiting out weather

3/24/17
Warderick Wells Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 24 23.796N, 076 37.937W
Posted by Bill

We had about three days of really nice weather ahead of us, followed by four days of nasty, kick your ass winds, out of the north east and east. We decided to leave Blackpoint a day early and go to Cambridge Cay, and try to grab a mooring. Cambridge is in the south extreme of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, a protected marine sanctuary. As stated in previous blogs, it is a “no take zone from both land and sea”. Their motto is “take only photographs and leave only footprints”, and is the most beautiful place by the sea we have ever been (including all of our Caribbean travels). We had never made it to Cambridge, and really wanted to go this year as it is situated by the best snorkeling in the Bahamas, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the Exumas. We arrived on 3/21 and grabbed a park mooring ball at position: 24 18.103N, 076 32.351W. We had really good east protection and not bad north east protection for the coming blow. We radioed Warderick Wells Exuma Park HQ on the way there and got on the waiting list for a mooring in the North Field at Warderick Wells Cay, which we had tried to get before the last major weather event, but failed, but if we couldn’t get in the North Field in time for the blow, we knew we would be good at Cambridge. We arrived in mid afternoon and took the dinghies around and identified the best snorkeling spots, which we would snorkel the next day. We figured that we wouldn’t be able to get into Warderick Wells as the wait list gets long when weather is approaching, but were confident we could get in after the blow. As luck would have it, Exuma Park HQ called on the radio the next morning and told us we and Sofia Jeanne both had moorings in the North Field! The North Field was a 3.5 hour trip from Cambridge so we were going to hit one snorkel site at Cambridge before we left. At the last minute, I had a hunch we better get to Warderick before the park office closed at 4:00 just in case there was a mishap with our reservation, and we took off around noon. Sure enough, when we arrive at Warderick Wells, only one of our mooring balls is free. Calling the park office on the radio, they informed us that they moved us to different moorings and didn’t tell us. We got better spots and I was glad we decided to get there early to get it all cleared up. We took mooring number 9, and had enough time to mix Painkillers and do some happy hour wallowing at a nearby deserted beach:
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One thing we like about the Exumas is that there are secluded beaches all through the cays and islands. You can find your own personal wallowing spot.

Yesterday, we took the dinghies around to the south side of Warderick Wells Cay to Pirate’s Lair. It is absolutely beautiful there. On the way back we hit a few snorkeling sites seeing some really pretty fish and coral, and of course hit several wallowing beaches.
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The north mooring field, where we are tied up:
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The winds started to pick up around sunset, as forecasted, and it has been blowing 25 to 35 knots since. We pretty much just stayed on the boat today and we are glad we are in such a protected area from the winds! It should die down to 20 to 25 knots tomorrow and then under 20 on Monday, so we will do some land based exploring and hiking.

Some more pics from the last week

3/21/17
Great Guana Cay, Blackpoint Settlement, Exumas Bahamas
Posted by Bill

I looks like my battery and internet access will hold out long enough to post some more pictures and tell a quick story. First the story. Yesterday, we were getting ready to go ashore and explore a blow hole and some beaches. I glanced at the depth sounder and it showed .1 feet below our keel (bottom of the boat). We had 8-10 feet of water where we anchored, and I checked the area that we would swing as the wind changed, never seeing anything under that, and not seeing anything but sand. I looked over the side of the boat and there was a large mass of black and brown, which is usually rock or coral. There was enough wind on the water that I couldn’t make out what it was. I first suspected some large sharks or sting rays, as they are prevalent in the anchorage, and the mass seemed to move. I grabbed Matt and Shirley’s look bucket, and it turned out to be a bait ball…hundreds, maybe thousands of little 2 inch fish, hovering in the shade of our boat. The ball was about 40 by 10 feet and so thick that you could not see through it. They moved with the boat. A number of small ballyhoo swam outside the ball, picking off a meal. They stayed all day…amazing. I have never seen anything like that before.

More pics.
A sample of the many large yachts we see traveling the Exumas. These have 25 to 30 foot center console “dinghies”, several jet skis, and lots of other toys for the guests. This one had a slide:
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While anchored at Sampson Cay, we explored Over Yonder Cay next to us. It is a private resort, complete with golf course. Here is a view as we approached:
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One of the beaches at Sampson Cay. Our dinghies pulled up on shore:
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A sunken plane at Normans Island. Too bad the current was too strong to snorkle:
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Sunset at Sampson Cay:
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Chillin’ in Blackpoint

3/21/17
Great Guana Cay, Blackpoint Settlement, Exumas, Bahamas
Position:24 06.177N, 076 24.082W
Posted by Bill

Well, I finally got a decent internet connection, but it is a short window. We left Sampson Cay on the 19th and sailed down to Great Guana Cay, anchoring in the bight at Blackpoint Settlement. We tucked up close to the northeast shore, expecting winds out of the north and then northeast. The winds backed to the northwest and the anchorage is very exposed to any kind of west component. We were positioned so the direct waves did not hit us, which was good, but there was a wrap around swell that hit us on the beam (side), and we rolled badly all night. Needless to say we did not sleep well at all…again! Overnight the wind shifted north and the rest of the time here, we had great conditions.

Blackpoint is a favorite stop for people cruising the Exumas. There are a couple of good restaurants…we ate at both…and a couple of bars…which we hit…a couple of stores, one of the best laundry facilities in the Bahamas…which we used, free trash collection, and free R/O water. The people are very friendly and the beaches are cool. We are leaving today and going back north to the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and Warderick Wells, some of the most scenic views in the Bahamas. We are expecting 30 knot winds for several days out of the east, so we will try to get mooring balls with east protection.

I can post a couple of pics today, but will do a “catch up” blog with more pictures as internet access allows.

Here is what it looked like coming across the Little Bahama Bank. We were in 16 to 20 feet of water believe it or not:
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A cool picture of our wake on the crossing:
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Here was us moored at Hawksbill Cay:
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Our secluded anchorage at Sampson Cay. See the anchor chain ahead of the boat in 12 feet of water:
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More pictures to come!

Cruising in the Exumas…and waiting out weather of course

3/14/17
Sampson Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 24 12.586N, 076 28.479W
Posted by Bill

Sorry it has been awhile since the last post, but we have not had decent internet access since we left Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands. Here is what we have been up to:

We finally got a decent weather window and left Great Harbour Cay marina on March 9th. We went around the north side of the Berrys and then down the east side to Little Harbour Cay/Frozen Cay and anchored off Frozen Cay at position: 25 32.667N, 077 43.297W. The wind had laid down but the ocean was still pretty nasty, and we took yet another beating in beam seas…ugh. The back side of Frozen Cay was really beautiful, and once we got the anchor down, and after trying to make water, we did some exploring by dinghy and beach walking. Notice I said “trying to make water”. The watermaker was producing water at just over 300 ppm water quality, and had a little bit of a salty taste to it. It usually produces water in the 150-180 ppm range that tastes great. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so after an hour or so, I just flushed it out and shut it down. The beach was great as well as the sunset.

At dawn on the 10th, we headed out towards Nassau on New Providence Island. The sea state was very rough for the first half of the trip. Several times I thought something was going to break! Once in the lee influence of Eluethera, the seas flattened out and gave us a nice ride into Nassau Harbor. There were several gigantic cruise ships in the harbor and unlike the US, where you cannot get anywhere near them, we went very close as we went through the harbor. The one we pass most closely had just come into a mooring and had its side thrusters on. When you went by, the thrusters would push the boat clear across the channel, and if you weren’t prepared for it, they could easily push you aground! The harbor was crazy busy and we were glad to get through the other side and head down to Palm Cay Marina. It is on the southeast corner of New Providence Island, and we took a slip there for the night at position: 25 01.260N, 077 16.485W. It was a nice marina but our slip was the tightest place I have ever docked the boat. Thank god there was no wind. We had dinner at the outdoor bar there and listened to a good band. Great people watching.

On the 11th, we fueled up and made our way across the Little Bahama Bank to Normans Cay in the Exuma chain of islands. There was no wind, and the water was absolutely beautiful. We had 15-20 feet of water and could see everything on the bottom, just like it was under glass.
We anchored at position: 24 36.145N, 076 9.252W, and did some beach wallowing and an unsuccessful search for lobsters. The next day we explored the eastern side of Normans which was absolutely beautiful!
Later in the afternoon, we moved down to Hawksbill Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea park. The park is a nature preserve, and you cannot take any fish or even shells off the beach. It includes some of the prettiest cays you can find and has great snorkeling and diving. We went to a couple of beaches and swam and wallowed (hanging in the water with drinks). A typical winter front was approaching in 2 days, so we tried to get moorings at Warderick Wells Cay, which has good protection from all compass points (a rarity in the Exumas). The next morning, we couldn’t get in to the mooring field, so we packed up and headed south to Sampson Cay. These fronts typically start with winds from the south and move west and north then east. The strongest winds are usually from the north through east, and they can last more than a week. Everyone in the islands is on the hunt for shelter when they come. The forecast showed sizable winds from the south then southwest, a lull on the west wind, and really strong winds from the north and northeast. We picked Sampson Cay because it is pretty well protected from all directions but the west, which for this forecast was only going to be at 10 knots and not last too long. We did some dinghy exploring and hit a beach for some shelling. We were sitting pretty comfortably until the winds came southwest, and then the seas picked up. It is supposed to work its way around the north around sunset today, and then blow for the better part of a week from the north and east. Needless to say, we are getting our asses kicked from the sea state until it moves north. We will stay here until it blows through, making this a home base of sorts. We can dinghy to many places from here, in protection from north and east winds.

The internet connection is so bad that I can’t post any pictures. I will update the blog with some of the great pictures we have been able to get, as soon as I get a better connection.

Good-bye Exumas….hello Eleuthera

3/26/16
Glass Window Anchorage, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Position: 25 25.160N, 076 35.559W
Posted by Bill

Well, we weathered the frontal system that kicked our ass for 5 days in Big Majors Spot, and we only got off the boat to go to a Full Moon Happy Hour on Cruisers Beach the day before we left. The 5 days included a lot of rocking and rolling, and not the music kind, and it was damned uncomfortable for the most part, but no one had their anchor drag in the our anchorage, so we deemed it a successful weathering of the winds. Our good friends Hayden and Radeen on Island Spirit rolled in for the Full Moon event, so we got to spend some time with them as well. It was interesting listening to everyone on the marine radio, trying to make last minute arrangements for a mooring ball or a slip in a marina. There aren’t many to be had in the Exumas, and there are very few places to hide from winds that clock through all four directions in a few days time. We stayed tucked up in the NE corner of the anchorage at Big Majors as it was only exposed to the SW and a little to the W, and the worst winds were going to be from the NW, then move N, then move E. It worked well. The following week was supposed to have 10 – 25 knot winds from the E or SE, so we decided to pick up and leave.

On 3/24 we upped anchor and sailed up to Hawksbill Cay, and spent an afternoon on another totally deserted, beautiful beach. We anchored at position 24 28.915N, 076 46.691W. The next day we sailed up to Ship Channel Cay, which has the northern most anchorage in the Exuma, anchoring at position 24 48.645N, 076 49.763W. We basically just lounged around and read. The views were beautiful. Both of those anchorages had a nasty swell that rocked us all night. In fact, we have found very few places in the Exumas where we had a comfortable anchorage, due mostly to the winds, and swells that come from a different direction than the wind. In spite of that, the Exumas were absolutely beautiful and mostly remote. When we emerged from the boat the day we left Hawksbill, we saw that mega-yacht Firefall had anchored next to us in the night.
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We also saw dozens…not kidding…dozens of mega-yachts gathering at the cays around Highborne Cay, just north of Hawksbill. We were figuring maybe a spring break thing? We wanted to dinghy up and knock on the hull of one…”Pardon me, but do you have any Gray Poupon?”
Today we left at dawn and sailed to Eluethera. The first half of the 45 mile trip was with winds and seas behind us on our quarter, which was good. Then we had to turn and deal with them on our beam (side)…not good. Waves were 3-4 feet with a 2 second period and we were getting rolled around AGAIN! I had to hand steer the entire trip to minimize the unpleasant motion of the boat. Good thing was…we had strong winds and made great time, arriving in just under 5 hours. We were expecting 7 or 8 hours.
Eleuthera so far is beautiful! We expect to cruise around here for a week or so, and then head north to the Abacos for April. Our anchorage:
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Tricia makes it to Pig Beach

3/21/16
Big Majors Spot, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 24 11.302N, 076 27.492W
Posted by Bill

Our window of really nice weather was coming to a close, so we left Georgetown on the 18th, early in the morning. We wanted to make the ocean leg of the trip in settled weather, and get somewhere by Sunday that would protect us from an impending front. This one is looking nasty again, another week of high winds, this time with winds from all directions over a 3-4 day period. There are not many places that you can hide in the Exumas from north or west winds, so we tried to pick the best spot based on the forecast. As we made our way up Elizabeth Harbor, approaching the cut to the ocean, we started to see huge swells pounding on the reefs just south of the cut. This action created 7-8 foot waves in the harbor at the entrance to the cut, something that we did not expect. We had a really rough time for about 20 minutes until we made it through the cut, where we found large ocean swells with a long wave period. We took the swells on the beam (side), which made a very uncomfortable passage, until further north the wind kicked in and we could get a sail up. Sails smooth the motion, but it was a long day of rolling back and forth. We came back into the Exuma Banks through Galliot Cut, and the current was ripping through the cut, fortunately in the direction we were traveling. We made almost 10 knots of speed through the cut, and as soon as we turned the corner inside, Mark announced on the radio that he blew the water pump on his engine. Fortunately, there was a known anchoring spot right next to us, and he had a spare, so we anchored. He replaced the pump in record time and we were on our way. Thank goodness he didn’t lose that pump in the cut!!!
The wind was very light on the banks and once again you could see everything on the bottom. This water was 15-20 feet deep:
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We pulled into Big Majors Spot around 6 PM. Big Majors is the home of Pig Beach and the swimming pigs. Those of you who know Tricia, know that she loves pigs, and has been wanting to come here since we decided to take off and go cruising. The pigs roam the beach and adjacent area and everyone feeds them. They will even swim out to your dinghy sometimes as you come in to the beach. The other major attraction here is Thunderball Groto, the place where they filmed the underwater scenes for the James Bond movie Thunderball. You can snorkel the caves. There is a great bar on the adjacent Staniel Cay, called the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. There is fuel here, and lots of big mega-yachts come here and anchor to check out the attractions. There is also an airport where the mega-yachts fly their guests in and out.

The day after we arrived we went to Staniel Cay, had lunch and rum drinks at the yacht club, and walked around town.
Dinghy landing on Staniel Cay:
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Staniel Cay Yacht Club:
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Couple of grocery stores:
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Beach of conch shells:
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Then yesterday we started with a trip to Pig Beach. If you read the blog, you may remember us visiting a cay in the Abacos in the Bahamas called No Name Cay. They had pigs on a beach there, but it was not a pleasant experience as the pigs were nasty and bite, so we were a bit on guard as we approached this one. The pigs at Pig Beach were very tame. Tricia fed them table scraps and pieces of carrot. There were little baby pigs too. It was fun, and Tricia got to finally go to Pig Beach and feed the pigs!
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Afterwards, we mixed some rum drinks and headed for Cruisers Beach to wallow. Cruisers beach is a small beach where cruisers over the years have built and/or left things to make the beach more like “home”. There are picnic tables, beach chairs, a fire pit, umbrellas, corn hole…you get the idea. We met some other couples that were partying there as well and a friend that we made at Shroud Cay, Rob on S/V Celebrian.
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Then it was back to the boat for dinner. Last night the winds shifted and caused the boat to roll badly again. It made for a sleepless night.
Today, Mark ran his water maker, so I jugged water back and forth to our boat and prepped for the big winds that were forecasted to hit us early afternoon. The many weather models conflicted, some forecasting 40 knot winds and others winds in the low to mid 20s. It hit around 2:30 and made it rough to dinghy water, so we just hunkered down on the boat. So far we have good wave protection and the anchor is holding well. Tricia is making homemade gnocchi…yum! If the forecast pans out, we will likely be here until at least Thursday.
Our anchorage:
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One of the mega-yachts. Check out the water slide:
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A few days in Georgetown

3/17/16
Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas
Position: 23 31.095N, 075 45.550W
Posted by Bill

We departed Black Point on 3/14/16, just before dawn, sailed the Exuma Sound (ocean passage), and arrived at Elizabeth Harbor between Stocking Island and Great Exuma Island at around 4:30. The passage was a bit rolly with easterly swells on the beam, but the winds were light and it was a nice day. We anchored off of what is known as Volleyball Beach. It is on the Stocking Island side of the sound, and there is a well known bar there called the Chat and Chill. This Georgetown area is a cruisers haven. There are over 100 boats anchored somewhere around the sound within a mile of Georgetown, on Great Exuma. Some people stay here all winter, some from November to May, so there is a bit of organized event planning for all of the cruisers that need something to do. There is yoga every day in the morning, volleyball every day at 2 PM, and all kinds of get-togethers like poker, etc… This is way too much of a schedule for us, and we really only wanted to come here to check it out, and to get some provisions and fuel. After we arrived, we hit the Chat and Chill. Classic dump dive bar on a beach with good, but overpriced, rum drinks. The next day, we made a run across the harbor to Georgetown, about a mile or a little more from our anchorage. The water was pretty calm, and we cranked up the engine to get us on plane. About half the way there, I noticed that the dinghy was leaking pretty badly. We pulled into the harbor area at Georgetown and told our friends Mark and Jan that we needed to go back immediately, and figure out how to patch it up. We headed out, bailing out water as we went, made it back to the boat, grabbed repair supplies and tools, and headed for Volleyball Beach at the Chat and Chill. We beached the dinghy, devised a repair strategy, and went to work. Applying a strategic patch, we headed to the bar while the glue dried. Mark and Jan caught up with us and we enjoyed a few Goombay Smashes. We tested the patch, which was successful, only a minor drip of a leak again, and because the service was so bad at Chat and Chill, headed across the way to another bar to have dinner and more drinks.

Coming into the Georgetown area:
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Volleyball beach and Chat and Chill:
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Buddy boat, Island Bound, during sunset:
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Our anchorage:
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Chat and Chill:
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The next day we headed back to Georgetown, buying groceries and liquor, and checking out the BTC store (cell service company). We got some basic questions answered about our phones, one of which is how to keep the prepaid phone number active after we get back home. The customer service rep gave us bad information, but we found out that if we create an online account while we are here in the Bahamas, we can top up our accounts every 90 days via their web site and keep our phone numbers active. In the past we used Mr Simcard to top up and we paid a hefty premium for the service. Now we can pay direct. Georgetown has good provisioning, a decent hardware and marine supply store, some restaurants and bars, and basic needs like laundry and hair cuts. It is larger than most Bahamian towns we come across, but, like all Bahamian towns, still suffers from lack of maintenance and reliable basic infrastructure. The people are very nice and also, for the most part, poor. We babied the dinghy, and she survived the trip. When we got back from shopping, we took Island Bound back over to Georgetown to fuel up.
Typical Bahamian store:
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Georgetown waterfront:
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Today was awesome. We started with a hike to the ocean side of Stocking Island…beautiful…and then up Monument Hill for some fantastic views.
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Afterwards, we took the dinghys a couple of miles south in Elizabeth Harbor and did some really great snorkeling on some shallow reefs, followed by some wallowing at a really pretty ocean cut…totally secluded. Wallowing with the kickboards our former neighbors gave us as a parting gift:
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We showered up and headed back to Georgetown to have dinner at a Rake-and-scrape, which is basically a Bahamian barbecue. We had ribs, rice and peas (beans), cole slaw, and mac-and-cheese. It was pretty good! We have enjoyed a week of fantastic weather for a change, but time is running out and the next front is approaching in a few days. We will leave Georgetown tomorrow and head back north to weather the front.

Last day at Black Point

3/13/16
Black Point Settlement, Exuma, Bahamas
Posted by Bill

Today we went into town for a walk, walking out of town to a spot called the Garden of Eden. We expected a nice garden of some sorts, and it turned out to be a bunch of driftwood and shells.
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Oh well…it was really hot so we decided to wallow along the wide beach area.
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Then we went to dinner at Loraine’s Café. They didn’t really have a menu, but just told you what was available. You didn’t know the price until it was time to check out. The food was really good and Loraine is a really nice person.
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Police Station:
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Tomorrow we transit the ocean to Georgetown.