Calumet Dreams
Chapter 19

April 5 - April 21
Rudder Parts Arrive * Hug from Mom * Cruising Cuba * Land Crabs * City of Jerusalem * Swimming with Sharks * Jacks Feeding Frenzy * Bahamian Life * Screechers and Stupils * Easter Sunrise Service * Williamstown * Plantation Ruins * Pirate Traps * Thimble Invasion Back to Home Page

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Day 258 - Thursday, April 5
Exuma Docking, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today was the day to pull up our anchor in Hole 1 and cross the harbor to Georgetown.

Our first stop was at the working dock to fill our tanks with water. Dan had made arrangements with Caribbean Clear Water to meet us at the dock at 10:00. They sell filtered RO water for sixty cents a gallon. They bring it to the dock in a big round tank sitting on the back of a small truck. The shape of the tank reminds me of the white plastic calf hutches we see back in Wisconsin.

We pulled up to the working dock right next to a small freighter that was being unloaded. We were up against a rusty seawall and there was only one cleat for us. We had to tie our stern rope around a faraway rock in the ground. We were happy to see that the water man was there waiting for us even though we were half an hour early. We learned that he had scheduled to fill up three boats this morning.

While we let the hose fill our tanks, we got a chance to talk with him some. We learned that the green things in the water around our boat that looked like large chopped chives were actually little jelly fish. He said that they don't sting, but they can give you a nasty rash.

There wasn't any meter on his water tank. He estimated how many gallons we took by measuring the water line with a ruler. One inch in his tank was nine gallons. We were pleased to learn that we had only used 60 gallons of good water over the last 3 weeks. Good water is what we use for drinking, cooking and a little hand washing and dish rinsing. We use brackish water in our shower tank, and we use salt water from the sea for washing dishes and for filling the toilet. After we wash and rinse our dishes in saltwater, we give them another rinse in fresh water from a spray bottle.

After filling up we headed over to the marina, Exuma Docking. We pulled right into our old space, but it was a tricky maneuver because a brisk wind had kicked up from the southeast, the marina's most exposed direction. The wind was blowing us away from the dock, hard. Luckily there were some other boaters on the dock to help. They caught our lines and pulled us in.

Once we were secure, we knew we were in for a bumpy night. The waves were hitting us broadside and we were bouncing up and down pretty good. We got off of the boat and went into town as soon as we could. We bought some fresh doughnuts from Mom for breakfast. Mom bakes bread and other things at home, then sells them from the back of her white van in the heart of Georgetown. They have a little ad on the radio net every morning. This is their slogan: Anywhere you go in the world, you know that it's good if Mom made it. Her other trademark is the hug that you get along with "God bless you, honey" whenever you buy a loaf of bread.

The library was the next stop because they close at noon. We picked up some books filled with great pictures of the strange things we see under the sea when we go snorkeling. The most complete reference is "Reef Coral Identification -Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas" by Paul Humann, published by New World Publications. Also good is "Beneath the Seas of the West Indies" by Hannau and Mock.

Our biggest thrill of the day was being able to pick-up the package that had arrived for us at Exuma Dive Shop. Three weeks after ordering them from West Marine in Fort Lauderdale, the new parts for our rudder had arrived. Soon our boat will be able to handle the high seas once again.

Afternoon was laundry time. The kids tried to find friends in town to hang out with, but their luck wasn't good so they ended up reading at the laundromat. By the end of the day Tricia had just about finished reading "Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul" which she had checked out in the morning.

When we were back on the dock in the evening, we met the couple on the neighboring boat, Matilda. We learned that they were from Bonduel and he worked at an iron foundry there that competed with Brillion Iron Works.

The docks had been pretty empty all day, but now that evening was approaching they filled up fast. We watched one giant yacht pull in. It was "Chevy Toy" from Jamaica. It had a crew cleaning the outside of the boat. You could see that the middle deck of the boat was a giant ballroom with panelled wood walls and crystal chandeliers. The woman from Bonduel said she had seen it a few nights ago at the dock. She could see the chef cooking and sweating in the kitchen in a t-shirt, then the chef would throw on the chef's shirt and hat and go into the dining room to chat with the diners. The meal was many courses and lasted over two hours.

Tricia on Georgetown Bridge in Evening
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We ate our dinner on the dock since the boat was so bouncy. Those big boats have so much weight that they don't bounce, but we float like a bobber. We feasted for dinner and had burritos made with fresh ground beef that we had picked up at the grocery store. We even had milk to drink. It came from Florida and it cost $4.17 for half a gallon. After dinner we crawled into our beds and went to sleep.

Day 259 - Friday, April 6
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The plan was to do some early shopping and then leave the dock by 10:00, but the weather changed our plans. Much-needed rain came and stayed for most of the morning. About 11:00 it was finally dry enough to venture to the straw market for some fresh fruit and vegetables.

The interesting fruit that we found this week was a soursop. It looked like a giant prickly pear, the size of a cantalope. The women said it was good for making punch. Luckily, I had picked up a book at the library on Bahamian native plants. It also included a few recipes, and one was for soursop punch. I had to peel the fruit and mash the insides. The pulp was pure white and the many dark brown seeds were encased in rubbery sheaths that wouldn't come off. The pulp was so soft and squishy and can't imagine eating it. After mashing the pulp I had to pour in some hot water and then squeeze the whole mess through a towel to get the juice out. Then I added a little sugar and vanilla. I was supposed to put in some evaporated milk, too, and serve it over cracked ice, but since we don't have a refrigerator or ice I decided to leave the milk out. Well, all the work was worth it. It had a delicious tropical flavor that I can't describe. Everyone who tried it, liked it. I'll definitely buy another soursop if I ever see one again.

We arrived back at our spot in Hole 1 in the afternoon. Tricia was very excited because it was Friday and her friend, Kendra, was still anchored nearby. Her family had been hoping to leave earlier in the week, but the weather didn't cooperate with their plans. We suspect it was because the girls did such a good job of praying. Neither of them were allowed to have a sleepover on a school night. Friday was their first opportunity and it was finally here. Tricia went over to their boat where she had her first chance to hear a Weird Al CD. She loved it. When she came back the next day she already knew the words to her favorite songs.

Zion enjoyed being an only child for the evening. He and Dad played some Chinese checkers, the men's way, with intentional blocking and other nasty tricks. (Tricia and I prefer a more genteel version.)

Day 260 - Saturday, April 7
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The morning started with some good prank calls on the net radio. One was from the local Hare Krishna cult. They were having ritual head shaving on the beach at 10:00 for anyone who wanted to join them. The other was from the Amish Boaters Association. One of their paddles had floated away during the night and they needed help finding it.

Zion and his friend, Matt, rented a Sunfish sailboat for the morning. They had hoped to race some of the other kids, but most of those kids left town over the last few days. No one else showed up for racing, so they took the boat out in Elizabeth Harbor for a different kind of adventure. The wind and waves were still brisk, so the weather put their skills to the test. Zion preferred the sure and safe sailing techniques, while Matt liked to try sailing on the edge. They had a good time together.

Dan and I attended a talk on the beach about sailing to Cuba. Two couples who had just been there shared stories of their travels. Very few Americans go to Cuba because of the embargo we have with them, but Cuba is a favorite vacation destination for Europeans and people from other parts of the world. The Cuban government is promoting tourism and welcoming visitors to bring money into their country.

They said that all of the Cubans are very friendly. They love to talk with foreigners to get news from the rest of the world. They only have one source of news and entertainment in their country. It all comes from the government and it's not well-balanced coverage.

Sadly, they said that all of the Cubans are very small and thin. That is because they don't get enough to eat. Each family gets a certain amount of food rations every month, like one bag of rice, cooking oil, a few pounds of pork, one chicken. It's not very much. They told of an incident where a Cuban food inspector came aboard their boat. She needed to inspect the chicken and eggs that they were bringing into the country to protect Cuba's poultry industry from disease. She looked into their freezer, and when she saw how much chicken they had there, tears came into her eyes. She couldn't believe that two people could eat that much chicken in a few weeks. It was more than most Cuban families got in a year.

They also stopped at a fishing camp. When they arrived, a few fishermen came up in a dinghy and threw some lobster and a big snapper on their deck, saying "Welcome to Cuba". The fishermen were in a remote area and rarely saw foreigners. They were more than willing to give away their catch because it was not theirs anyway. It all belonged to Castro. Castro owned their boats and paid them their wages and they were not allowed to eat any of the fish or lobster that they caught. It was all sent out for export. They received the same food rations that everyone in the country received.

The fishermen did have a TV and VCR at their camp, but not many movies. They were very happy when the visiting sailors made them popcorn and let them watch "High Noon" and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".

The most difficult part of sailing in Cuba is being inspected at every port. It takes hours. There are many forms requiring lots of information. And sometimes they have to be done in duplicate or triplicate. This just means that the customs official has to do a lot of writing longhand. The sailors recommended taking along some carbon paper to help them speed up the process.

The other difficult part of sailing in Cuba is that Americans are not allowed to spend any money there. You either have to pack lots of provisions on board before you leave, or bring along a friend from another country and let them spend all of the money.

This afternoon there was another Kids' Club with more new faces. We have Kids' Club every Wednesday and Saturday, and you always lose a few old friends and make a few new ones at every one. Today Tricia was happy to see a new 13- year-old girl, Jane. Jane is from Virginia and her family is finishing a trans-Atlantic voyage. They started from Georgetown two years ago, went to Europe, and now they are on their way back home.

In the evening we walked along the ocean up to Hamburger Beach for the Saturday night campfire. This was the first time that we were able to bring along hot dogs to roast since we had just been to town. On our walk we stopped to pick-up Zion's friend, Greg, from his beach house. I got to meet his parents. They are in the middle of renovating the beach house they just moved into a few weeks ago. They came here on a catamaran from South Africa. They are planning to build a small marina here and set up a sales office for St. Francis catamarans that are built in South Africa. They said that they've been so busy working they haven't even had time to go down to the beach yet. They have a lot of work ahead of them and I wish them well in their endeavor.

There were only three families at the campfire tonight, Pomegranate, Moonraker and us. All of the other families left during the week. That means we had to make the fire and we put Zion in charge. It was a big one. The wind wasn't steady and kept shooting sparks around in every direction. You had to be ready to jump fast.

Tricia went home with Kendra from Pomegranate for another sleepover. That left Zion, Greg and myself to walk back in the dark. We had our lantern ready but we didn't even need it. There was a full moon tonight that lit our path. Along with the full moon was an extremely high tide. Water was running into pools along the back of the beach which made Greg very excited. He wants to be a hydrological engineer someday. He had us stop and time how fast the tide was rising across the shallow beach. His fondest wish was to stay and play in this special mix of sand and running water but it was too late for that.

As we walked on the narrow path through the jungle across the island we had a few more surprises. We saw another land crab, only this time he didn't scuttle away. He stayed sitting right in our path, and when we tried to chase him away, he just raised his claw at us. Eventually we realized he was afraid to move, so we carefully walked past him. Not too much later, another crab sat in our path but we didn't let him slow us down. Then suddenly Greg started screaming. I was sure his toe was being pinched by a crab's claw, but actually they had come face-to-face with a large, hairy spider. They had walked into a giant spiderweb that had been spun across the path, and the large spider was still sitting in the middle of it. Zion recovered first and carefully detached the web from one side of the path so we could pass through. It was quite an exciting little walk tonight.

On the ocean side we were treated to a view of the full moon over the crashing waves. There were a few rapidly moving clouds in the sky. When one passed in front of the moon, it was just like someone had shut off the light switch. The bright night dropped into gloom. And then suddenly the light would come back on again. We all reached our homes tired, safe and sound.

Day 261 - Sunday, April 8 - PALM SUNDAY
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

On the net this morning was a special message from the sailing vessel "Breaking Wind". They reported having problems with a noxious methane smell on board and were asking for help from anyone who knew how to get rid of it. Second, they had several hundred pounds of dry beans on board that they were willing to give away. They had brought more than they needed.

At beach church this morning there was a large group of children for Sunday school. Zion was the oldest and the youngest were about six. Our project was to re-enact the events of Passion Week. It's wonderful when you have a beach as your classroom. Half of the kids worked on building a replica of Jerusalem in the wet sand. The walled city had the great Temple, the Roman garrison, Herod's palace and the home used for the Last Supper. Outside the wall was the Garden of Gethsamane and Mount Calvary. The other half of the kids made figures from the sticks, bean pods and palm leaves that they found. They were the story-tellers. They made their figures walk through the city of Jerusalem to tell the stories of Jesus' last days.

In the afternoon there was an extremely low tide so it seemed like a good time to go looking for shells. I went with Kenni and Tricia and we walked along the edge of our cove. Tricia found a beautiful brown eight-inch snail shell, but the snail was still alive so we had to put him back. It was easy to see sea stars and sea urchins and jellyfish in the calm, shallow waters. Then we crossed over to the ocean side. Since the tide was so low there were many exposed rock ledges that are usually under water. This left tidal pools and little waterfalls in the rocks as the waves came crashing over. Tricia and Kenni even found some little "whirlpools", places where you could sit on an underwater rock ledge while waterfalls poured down your back. It felt great! Kenni found the biggest collectible shell by the ocean, a four-inch pink cone shell. It was hiding in a crevice in the rocks.

In the evening the kids went to Daystar to see a movie. Daystar is the boat used by the missionary couple that helps Beach Church. They built it themselves and it is a sailing vessel in the style of a Chinese junk. After the movie Greg gave them a ride home in his dinghy. The tide was high then and they found that Jerusalem had become an underwater city. The stick figures were floating out to sea, so they rescued "Jesus" and brought him to our boat.

Day 262 - Monday, April 9
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

On the net this morning was a message from the sailing vessel "Hillary's Mistake". It was captained by someone with a slight southern drawl who had recently retired from government service. He was looking for any young women who might like to work as interns, er . . ., crew for him. He was on his way to Cuba to buy some more cigars.

Today was a busy day of school in the morning, choir practice at 1:00, and a Sundae party at 2:00. One of the women from Beach Church invited all of the kids to her boat for ice cream sundaes. That's about the best treat you can get out here. She even had nuts, hot fudge and whipped cream in a can. But cherries were impossible to find so she substituted jelly beans instead.

Cinda's Curly hair
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Trish, Kendra and Austin
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Tricia spent a last afternoon playing with Kenni, knowing that Kenni's family would probably be leaving and heading south in the morning. Zion spent the afternoon with some friends bogieboarding on the ocean waves. They didn't stay too long, though, because a shark came to visit. He was about eight feet long and easy to see in the shallow water. Zion didn't worry much about him the first time he came by, but he kept coming back so the kids decided to get out of the water.

Dan spent the day fiberglassing and repairing our broken rudder.

In the evening after dark when Dan was up on top of the boat, he saw some large phosphorescent fish in the water. They had long electric green sparks shooting through them. We're not sure what they were, but they were a great show. Our boat is sitting over a wreck of a small boat. The small boat is laying on it's side with large parts of its hull missing. The small fish love to hang around this little reef, especially now that it is in the shade under our boat. We've seen schools of grunts, needle fish and silversides. Sometimes one of the kids or I will snorkel under the boat and scare the fish out so Dan can catch them with the cast net. They make great shark bait.

Day 263 - Tuesday, April 10
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

It was a sad morning today as Tricia said a last good-bye to Kenni on the VHF radio. They were several miles away and Kenni's voice was already getting hard to hear. Tricia said "See you in two years" since Kenni's grandmother lives near us in Green Bay and Kenni will be going back there for a visit sometime. Kenni complained "That's so far away" and Trish responded "It's not so bad. When our other friends leave we know we'll never see them again." After that exchange they needed a little "upper", so they played an Aaron Carter song over the airwaves for everyone to hear and dance to.

While we were doing schoolwork later in the morning, we heard a big splashing commotion in the water near our boat. Dan was working in the cockpit, so he saw it first. A large school of jack mackerals had come swimming by in a feeding frenzy and they were jumping out of the shallows as they were trying to catch the little fish under our boat. Zion quickly threw out his cast net. On the first two throws it came up empty. On the third throw, he pulled up five nice fish. The two smallest ones were perfect for bait and the biggest one was just right for our lunch. We threw the two medium-sized fish back in the water and watched them gasp their way to life and swim off. They were silver fish with a pretty blue stripe across the top of their back. Their skin was leathery and didn't have any scales.

In the afternoon Zion went with his friend Greg to explore more of the caves on the island. Tricia went to the beach and found that life wasn't quite as bad as she had thought. Another twelve-year-old girl, Morgan, had arrived over the weekend and now Jane and Morgan were on the beach waiting to hang-out with her. Morgan has been to Georgetown before. Her family used to own a sailboat, but they sold it last year. Now they are here renting a houseboat for a week and visiting old cruising friends. Tricia was invited out to Morgan's boat to use the waterslide.

In the evening Dan set his shark line with his fresh bait. It didn't take long for the line to go spinning out at great speed. But suddenly the line stopped. It wasn't going out, and it couldn't be reeled in either. It was too dark to figure out what had happened. We all went to bed and waited for morning.

Day 264 - Wednesday, April 11
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Dan went snorkeling first thing in the morning to find out what had happened to his shark line. He found that the line had been wrapped around the reef under our boat several times. That's why we couldn't pull it in. Whatever had taken the bait must have gone swimming in circles. They made off with the bait, but at least our hook and leader were intact so we could try again another night.

Today we had school in the morning, Kids' Club in the afternoon. We were amazed when two new families, each with four kids, showed up. And the oldest child in each of the two families is a twelve-year-old girl! So now Tricia is in a group of five twelve-year-old girls. They all spent the afternoon happily chatting. Tricia said it was difficult to talk though. You always had to wait at least five minutes to get a chance to say something, and by then the subject had changed. Having all of these girls so close in age is truly a miracle. The only other cruising girls on the island are a pair of four-year- olds. They also are having a great time enjoying each other's company.

There are a whole mess of boys from age nine and up. Zion is the oldest one left.

While the kids were having fun playing volleyball or swinging on ropes, we mothers enjoyed meeting each other. One family is from Canada. They are on the boat "Cool Breezes". Like us, they are on a one-year trip with their family. They started in Washington, D.C., went down the east coast to Florida, crossed the Okeechobee to the west, then headed to Cuba. Since they are Canadians it is much easier for them to visit Cuba. They plan to spend the next few months here in the Bahamas until it's time to take the boat back to Florida and go home. They said they were considering spending another year on the boat, but the biggest obstacle to that plan was their twelve-year-old daughter.

The other new family was heading back to their home in Freeport on one of the northern Bahama islands. They have lived in Freeport for several years, so we asked them the question we've all been wondering about: How can the local Bahamians afford to live here? Prices are so high for everything, and wages are low by American standards. For example, a job posting for a police officer with a Masters' Degree offered a salary of only $22,000. She told us that the native Bahamians are often just scraping by. They take care of each other in large extended families. They chip-in together to send someone to the States with a long shopping list. They fly back with bags and bags of goods, then they hope the customs officer is a relative so they don't have to pay much duty.

The saddest fact she relayed, however, is that many families eat very little. She said that often they only have one meal a day, two at most. Many children go to school without breakfast, eat school lunch, and have no dinner when they get home. And school lunch costs $6 a day! That would make a lot of American parents squawk! Most food is imported because the soil is not good on the islands. What grows well in solid rock? Even flour and fresh fruit and vegetables are expensive. But they can get as much fish as they want. Everyone has a relative who catches fish. And all of the schools, both public and private, require uniforms. The uniforms are inexpensive and can be passed down from one child to another.

Many Bahamians value a good education and try to send their children to private schools. If the child gets good grades, they can stay. If their grades are not good, the parents send them back to public school. So children in the same family often attend different schools. The public schools are good at the elementary level, but not so good at the high school level. Many young men in high school leave at age 15 or 16 because they can make good money catching lobster during the lobster season, and they only have to work half of the year. We've also heard that many young men are attracted to the lucrative drug-running trade.

As mothers on boats we all enjoyed the opportunity to commiserate with each other on the trials and tribulations of home-schooling. Apparently, even the best-behaved, most well-mannered children all rebel frequently against mom/teacher and homework of any kind. It has given us all a tremendous amount of appreciation and respect, and even awe, for people who teach large groups of children in the classroom. One woman (whose family rates very high on the good humor meter), told us that on some days her kids call her screecher instead of teacher. So she responds by calling them stupils instead of pupils. So now you know how life really is on these gorgeous tropical islands.

Day 265 - Thursday, April 12
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Dan got a dinghy ride into Georgetown this morning. He needed to get our visa extended. When we arrived in Bimini back in February we received a 60-day visa. Our time is almost up. Getting an extension is quick and easy IF you can track down the customs official. The office is usually locked. Some people have reported making five trips into town to find him. Luck was with us today and he was there. We can now stay in the Bahamas for another ninety days. That sounds lovely, but we do need to head back soon if we want to get home by August and avoid the hurricane season down here. We will try to leave Georgetown next Wednesday, after Easter, and start heading north.

All twelve-year-old girls were invited to Morgan's houseboat, Guava, for an afternoon swimming party. Zion went to Greg's house and was invited to a hot dog roast on Honeymoon Beach. I collected some shells along the ocean, and Dan worked on the boat.

Day 266 - Friday, April 13 - GOOD FRIDAY
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

School in the morning, choir practice on the beach in the afternoon. The choir is going to sing at sunrise service on Easter. Tricia will play her recorder along with two songs, "Morning Has Broken" and "Here I Am, Lord". She even gets to do a little solo for the first one. She is nervous, but excited, too.

Dan finished repairing the rudders today.

All of the businesses in town are closed for the day. Some of the restaurants are opening at six o'clock this evening.

Day 267 - Saturday, April 14 - HOLY SATURDAY
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Climbing Puff's Mast
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Climbing Puff's Mast
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

In the morning we lifted our anchors and took the boat out into the harbor for a spin to test our rudders. They worked great. Then we went back to our little hole.

Dan noticed that our top speed was only 4 knots because of all the algae and stuff growing on the bottom of the boat. We even have litle sea fans growing down there. He spent the afternoon devising the best way to scrape it off. He attached a rubber scraper to the end of a stick and that seems to work best. But he has to be careful. There is something about the job that makes him, and others, get real dizzy if they work at it too long.

In the afternoon was the final Kids' Club. We had a blast. We played lots of water games, like Tug of War, Dragon's Tail, Man on Mars, and swim races. Next came fresh-baked brownies, Tang and a lesson. Then the big event - coloring Easter eggs. It was easy doing it on a picnic table at the beach. If anything dripped onto the floor, you could just kick sand on it and it would magically disappear.

Afterwards, the kids played Capture the Flag together while the parents sat on the beach. Someone had rented big, cushy beach chairs for the day and then passed them on to us to use when they left at two, so we lived in style for a while.

In the evening Tricia and I cut up old egg cartons and managed to make little balls that looked something like eggs. They were held together with LOTS of masking tape, and each one had a chocolate kiss inside. We made 69 of them for an egg hunt the next day. We all went to bed early because 1) we were tired and 2) we knew we had to get up at five o'clock in the morning.

Day 268 - Sunday, April 15 - EASTER
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

At 5:00 the alarm clock rang. By 5:30 we were all out of bed. By 6:00 we were in our dinghy, all dressed up (but barefoot), and headed to the ocean beach. Other people were arriving, too. People were carrying flashlights and lanterns, but they really weren't needed because the sky was light enough so you could see pretty well.

There was a hush on the ocean. The sea was very calm with only an occasional gentle wave breaking on the shore. Someone had put a large cross in the sand so you could see the sunrise behind it. Tricia and I joined the choir while Dan and Zion sat on a blanket on the beach. Tricia performed a beautiful solo version of "Morning Has Broken" and then sighed a great sigh of relief.

When the sun first rose you couldn't see it because of the haze over the ocean. But when it broke through that, it filled the sky with red and orange, right behind the silhouette of the cross.

When the choir finished singing, Doug, the pastor, stepped out wearing a simple robe with a sash. He introduced himself as Lazarus, and told the story of his time in the grave and of what happened to his friend Jesus during Passover. He even showed us a small grave dug in the side of the rock cliff nearby. It was a very powerful story.

There were about seventy people gathered together on the beach. The service ended by everyone joining hands and singing "The Lord's Prayer".

At 8:00 we went back to our boat and found our Easter baskets. Yes, the Easter Bunny did find our boat. He left us some chocolate Cadbury eggs and a few jelly beans. The young children on the other boats had informed us that the Easter Bunny couldn't deliver as much as they normally get back home because he couldn't carry as much in the Bahamas. He has to get to the boat kids on his jet ski, which they figure must be about 10,000 hp so it's fast enough. Several of these children reported hearing the Big Guy up on top of their boats during the night.

At 11:00 we went to the Easter Brunch pot luck dinner up on Hamburger Beach. Zion hitched a ride with his friends. Since the water was so calm Dan felt he could row Tricia and I in the dinghy all of the way up there. He was doing fine, but since there were so many other dinghies headed in the same direction we ended up getting a tow from our neighbors on Joy Bells, Ed and Bea.

There were plastic eggs hidden everywhere when we arrived. After eating, the kids went swimming off of the dock with their friends. Then we had another egg hunt for the big kids.

When it was all over, Dan rowed the leftover food back home in the dinghy, stopping to talk to lots of anchored boats along the way. Tricia and I took a last walk up to the monument on Stocking Island. We were planning to leave on Tuesday, so we knew this would probably be our last chance to get the grand view of the island from up there. It was gorgeous, as usual. The waters were so many different colors of aqua blue.

As we walked back home along the ocean, we came across the kids from Moonraker, Scott, Tyler and Megan, playing in the gentle waves with their Dad. It was the perfect afternoon for the beach, so we went home and got our swimsuits then spent the rest of the afternoon bogie-boarding. It was a lovely way to spend an Easter afternoon.

Tricia pulled out some of the old family photos that she had brought along. One of them showed her on Easter morning when she was eight, with missing teeth, a basket full of candy and a big, white bunny to hug. We could see snow through the window of the house. That was a shocker. It's been a long time since we've seen a blanket of snow. Here, our biggest outdoor problem today was keeping all of the chocolates from melting inside of the hidden eggs at the egg hunt.

Day 269 - Monday, April 16
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Easter Monday is a big holiday here. All of the businesses are closed for the day. Mom, the woman who bakes bread and sells it out of the back of her van in downtown Georgetown, is from a nearby town called Williamstown. Knowing that lots of cruisers might be looking for food today since all of the restaurants are closed, Mom and her friends sponser a dinner at their church in Williamstown every year on Easter Monday. Buses pick people up in Georgetown and take them eighteen miles to Williamstown.

This sounded like a great way to see some of the sights on land and get a good Bahamian meal at the same time. All of the families with kids went, along with most of the other cruisers that we know here. There were so many people waiting for the bus, the first one (the air-conditioned one with plush seats) filled up fast. Of course it was filled with kids who were anxious to go before they realized that there wouldn't be room for their parents to come along. A few parents snuck on board as chaperones, but most of us waited for whatever bus would come next.

Waiting for the bus to Williamstown
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Erin, Trish, Morgan and Jane
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About ten minutes later, another vehicle came by, but it wasn't a bus. It was a water truck without it's water tank, so basically it was a large white pick- up truck with low sides. About fifteen grown-ups climbed on board this one. It offered a 360 degree view of the countryside and lots of cool breezes.

The road was narrow and winding. Most of the time you could only see the dense jungle shrub along the road, but every once in a while a view of the bright turquoise ocean would show through. We saw some hotels and some nice little beach homes here and there along the beaches. There were also shallow inland water holes on the other side of us. Here the water was brown. We haven't seen brown water since we left the rivers. These shallow water holes are used to make salt.

To get to Williamstown we had to pass from Great Exuma Island to Little Exuma Island. That means we had to go over a bridge. It was long and narrow and we held on tight until we got across. Williamstown was a pretty little village just on the other side of the bridge. It had several neat, brightly colored homes, and an immaculate little white Anglican church with a steeple and bright blue trim. Across the street from the church was the community center where the church dinner was being held. The community center was one large room with three long tables down the middle and a small kitchen at the end.

They were just starting to serve when we arrived, so the lines were short. Each plate lunch was $7 and you got to choose from BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, steamed conch, steamed mutton or fry fish. Along with the entree, you got peas'n'rice, baked macaroni and cheese, potato salad and cole slaw. Dan and Zion and I all went for the steamed conch. In the Bahamas, if they say a meat is steamed they mean that it is cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce. The conch was excellent- tender and delicious. Zion liked it, except for the pieces that still had the spotted skin on. Tricia, who doesn't like to eat anything that looks like a recognizable animal part, was having a tough time deciding what to order. We convinced her to try the fried fish, until she saw one. The fish are gutted, but fried whole. They still have their head and tail on. She decided to go for the vegetarian platter.

After lunch several families walked down to the nearby ruins of an old plantation. There were goats tied up in several yards along the way. The ground was sand covered with small shrubs. We saw some century plants stretching twenty feet into the sky. They looked like giant asparagus plants, but the tops were blooming like a Dr. Seuss tree. The clusters of yellow blooms were swarming with bees and a few hummingbirds.

Flowering Century Plant
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The first ruins was the great house at the top of the hill. The walls were still standing because they were made of two-foot thick concrete. Windows faced the sea, still offering great views and cool breezes. Two little girls found an old clawfoot bathtub in one of the rooms and tried it out. The house had about six small rooms. One room at the back still had colorful tiles in the floor, a cooking hearth in the wall, and a few cupboards built into the cement.

Meara in old Plantation Home
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Megan and Meara on old Plantation Porch
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Down the hill was the remains of the slave quarters. This building was built of thick stone walls instead of concrete. Two large rooms were joined by back-to-back fireplaces in the center. It looked like it might have been a duplex for two families.

After the Revolutionary War, many Loyalists who were looking for a new home moved to the Bahamas. (The Bahamas were another British colony until the 1960's.) The refugee Loyalists came here with their families and their slaves expecting to grow cotton and tobacco, just like back home. I can't imagine how disappointed they must have been after they arrived here and saw that the land is just sand and rocks. They cleared the land by burning the shrubs and had good crops for two or three years. Then the soil was depleted and nothing grew well anymore. Most of them left after five or ten years of rough living here. They were so poor that they couldn't afford to take their slaves with them, so they left their slaves to fend for themselves on the island. Most of the blacks here are descended from these freed slaves.

Seeing the ruins of these old slave quarters on this glorious bit of beach and sun is very sad and chilling. What a way to ruin paradise.

Unknown plant
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We were on the last bus back to Georgetown. This time it was a regular yellow school bus. Our kids staked their claim to the back seats along with the Moonraker kids. We had only gone a mile or two when the bus stopped and the bus driver got out. We could see a building where local fishermen were outside at a table cleaning their daily catch. They had tubs of fish of all sizes that they must have caught with a net. I've never seen anyone gut and scale fish so quickly. Piles of fish guts were growing on the tables and the flies were buzzing around like mad. The bus driver went inside and came back out carrying a large plastic bag filled with at least twenty pounds of fresh fish. The kids were thrilled when he opened up the back of the bus and stowed his fish under the seat they were sitting on. Alison and I couldn't stop laughing at their shocked expressions.

Moonraker has a supersize rubber dinghy and they were kind enough to be our taxi for the day. On the trip back across Elizabeth Harbor, we decided to travel in true Bahama-style. Here in the Bahamas people rarely sit in their dinghies. The normal method is to stand upright, holding onto your painter (the line on the front of the dinghy) just like a single-handed waterskier. The person in the back stands up and holds onto the tiller. There are two reasons for this. One, it's easier to see the many sand shoals and coral reefs under the water, and two, you don't get as wet from all of the water splashing up on you. I think most of them really do it, though, because it makes them feel like a cowboy. Well, just to show that we know how to travel in style, all nine of us in the dinghy stood up. We got a good laugh out of everyone who saw us (and it was pretty fun, too).

After getting home at four o'clock we still had a few good hours to spend at the beach. I took our sun tent to sit under because I had had enough sun for the day. The sea was so calm today that the kids couldn't bogieboard, but it was just right for regular old swimming and building sand castles.

Tomorrow the businesses will be open again, so we are planning to head into town bright and early. We need propane, gas, groceries and a chance to do laundry and mail and phone calls and return library books. Then we should be ready to leave Georgetown on Wednesday. Tricia would really like to stay longer because of all the twelve-year-old girls that are here right now. But we still have places we want to see in the Bahamas and we want to spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. so we had better leave soon so we get back to Wisconsin by August 15.

Day 270 - Tuesday, April 17
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

We woke up this morning to heavy showers. Tricia was wearing the biggest smile that I've seen in a long time because she knew we wouldn't be going anywhere today in this weather. That gives her one more day to say good-bye to all of her friends.

The rain lasted all morning. We set some bowls in the cockpit and collected over two inches of rain. The funny thing is that the morning weatherman hadn't predicted any rain. It started about five minutes after his broadcast and lasted for four hours. Apparently, it was very localized here on Stocking Island. Over in Georgetown they didn't get much rain at all.

After school the kids organized a game of Capture the Flag on the beach. The kids have their own hailing station, number 79, here in Georgetown. The grown-ups call each other on 16. You can tell that all of the kids have school in the morning. As each one finishes school you can hear them get on the radio and call their friends. It's like the old-fashioned party lines, but even better. You can hear who is hailing who, then if you want to listen in on their conversation you can follow them to their working channel. You can listen in silence so they don't even know you are there, or you can join in and make it a three-way conversation. Here's a typical conversation that we hear:

Calumet Dreams, Calumet Dreams, this is Guava.
This is Calument Dreams.
Let's go to channel 8-0.
Going to channel 8-0.

(They both switch to channel 80.)

Hey, what's up.
Not much. I'm really bored. Do you want to do something?
Yeah, I'm really bored, too. Do you want to go to the beach?
Sure. We could just hang-out or something.
Sounds good. How about 2:00?
That's a roger. Going back to 7-9.
Going to 7-9.

We have all become very proficient at using the marine radio.

In the evening Dan caught a little grunt fish and used it for shark bait again. A nurse shark came around. Dan pointed his flashlight into the water and I could see the nurse shark very clearly. It was about six feet long, very sleek and graceful. And it wasn't fooled by the fish on the hook. It wouldn't take a bite. Tricia came out to see the shark, too, but by the time she got there the shark had left. No more excitement this evening.

Day 271 - Wednesday, April 18
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today a front came in. Winds are now howling from the north and the west at 20 knots. Tricia is happy because it means we will stay longer. No one is leaving today. In fact, lots of boats are now coming to anchor near us in Hole 1 where the water is protected and calm. All of Tricia's friends are now swimming distance from our boat.

The family from Canada, Cool Breezes, has a soccer ball and they brought it to the beach this afternoon. This is a real treat because most boats, ours included, travel without sports equipment. We should have brought along some basic balls, but there just didn't seem to be room for them when we were packing. There were eighteen kids on the beach for the big soccer game. It lasted about an hour, then the kids broke up into smaller groups and did other things.

After dinner the wind really started howling. The wind came strong straight out of the east and was hitting us broadside. To our surprise, our back anchor started dragging and the back of our boat got pushed up into the sand. We weren't in serious trouble because we weren't going to run into any other boats, but it's not good to be pushed into the sand. It acts like a giant piece of sandpaper and rubs off our bottom paint. Zion went out in the dinghy to reset our anchors, Dan worked on the top of the boat with the ropes, and Tricia and I went into the water to push the boat off of the sand. Our neighbor, George, on the boat Puff, came over in his power dinghy to help. He let us borrow his extra anchor. We now have four anchors down and we should be set for the night. Ropes are running out from our boat in every direction. We call them our pirate traps. No one can pull up to our boat without being very careful.

Day 272 - Thursday, April 19
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The big event this afternoon is a Titanic party. One of Tricia's friends is a Titanic fanatic, and since April 15 is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic the girls are going to get together and watch the movie. Meanwhile, the boys are meeting at one of the beach houses to watch satellite TV. It's a great day for the kids to be indoors because the weather is still cloudy and blustery. No one is going anywhere in their big boats today.

I snuck out to take a walk along the ocean. I wanted to see how big the waves are in this wind. They are huge! And they are all rolling on top of each other. The beach is also covered with those little green jellyfish. They call them thimbles. In some places, the water is dark with them. When they wash up onto the beach they flatten out like little flowers. Their gel makes them sparkle in the sun like diamonds. There must be millions of them out here now. There weren't any here a week ago. I hope they all get washed away soon.

Tonight was family movie night on Daystar. Our kids went with the kids from Cool Breezes to watch "The Jungle Book".

Day 273 - Friday, April 20
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The wind is still howling today. The girls are still happy. This is the last day before one of them, Morgan on Guava, has to leave. Her family is renting a houseboat and their time will be up tomorrow.

Our Anchor Spot in Hole 1
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I had a chance to talk to Jane's parents from Abientot. They are the family that left Georgetown two years ago to go to Europe and they have just returned. When they reached Spain in the Mediterranean, they left their boat there and rented a VW motorhome to tour France and Greece for the next six months. They need to get home to Norfolk, Virginia by June 15, so we may be seeing more of them as we head north.

I made some pasta shells last night with spaghetti sauce and canned mackeral (you can tell our grocery supplies are getting low). It wasn't a big hit with the kids so there were plenty of leftovers today. Dan took some of the shells filled with mackeral and put them on his fishing hook about 6:00. Withing ten minutes he had caught four fish. They must love my pasta.

Captain Graybeard with a Grunt - Shark Bait
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He put one of the fish out for shark bait. A shark came along during the night and bit through the 1/4 inch steel leader and the D-ring that connected it. Dan has decided to stop fishing for shark. Anything that big would be a lot of trouble if he actually got hooked.

Day 274 - Saturday, April 21
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The wind is still howling today. These fronts last a long time out here in the ocean. There's no land to slow them down. The joke around here is that someone saw a whitecap (big wave) in Hole 2. Impossible! The water in Hole 2 is shallow and protected from everything.

In the morning we took our three little fish over to one of the beach houses, Palm Beach. They have nurse sharks that hang around their docks and you can feed them right out of your hand if you have a tasty fish to give them. Tricia still hasn't seen a shark so we wanted to give her this opportunity to get up close and personal with one. (Nurse sharks are very gentle and friendly and they don't have big teeth.)

Well, we did our best to make the little fishies dead and bloody to attract the sharks, but the sharks must have been napping today because they never showed up. Tricia is still waiting to see one. The kids got rides back to Volleyball Beach with their friends while Dan and I walked back along the ocean side. The ocean was still covered with whitecaps and thimbles.

Good thing we had our camera along, because on the way back we found a sea slug on the rocks. It was low tide so there wasn't much water. I tried to move him, but when I touched him he shot out some dark red ink. We tried to get a picture of his smoke screen. We also got a picture of a sea anemone and the pretty tube worm (?) that looks like a yellow flower. When you get close to him he disappears into his tube in the rock.

Closeup of sea anemone
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Closeup of yellow sea worm
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Sea Slug squirting out red ink for cover
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We found some fantastic books at the Georgetown library that identify all of the amazing creatures we see when we are snorkeling. They are called "Reef Fishes", "Reef Creatures" and "Reef Coral" Identification for Florida, Caribbean and Bahamas, by Paul Humann, published by New World Publications.

The wind seemed to calm a bit in the afternoon, so Dan finally got a chance to turn our boat around. Now we are pointed into the east wind and it isn't hitting us broadside anymore. The boat is still as calm as it has been, but there is a lot less stress on our anchor lines now.

Our laundry is piling up to monstrous proportions and our fresh fruits and vegetables are all gone, except for one grapefruit and a few onions. We are hoping the wind will let up soon. But now we are so close to the start of the Georgetown Family Islands Regatta that we might just stay to see it. It starts in a few days.

There are about 10-15 cruising kids in Georgetown now. This afternoon they found some old pallets on the beach in our little cove, Hole 1, and they built a fort out of them. The fort is sturdy, well-supported and even has a roof. They wove palm branches through the pallets in traditional island style. Their biggest challenge was protecting it from high tide. It was a real cooperative project and it turned out very well.

Kid's Fort at Sunset and High Tide
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After a quick dinner, Tricia and Zion were off to Moonraker to see a movie. When the movie was done they had a fun time playing Pictionary. Moonraker brought the kids home on their dinghy and asked if Zion could go back with them to spend the night. So Zion grabbed his sleeping bag and toothbrush and went back with them.

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