Calumet Dreams
Chapter 20

April 22 - May 10
Fort of Sailing Kids * Spinnaker Jumping * Family Island Regatta * Bahamian Sloops * Hellos and Good-byes * Original Courageous * Mr. D's Conch Salad * Junkanoo Parade * The Waiting Game * Evening Trivia * High Tides and Tiki Torches * Leaving George Town Back to Home Page

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Day 275 - Sunday, April 22
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

We had a very windy beach church this morning. The pastor had to stand upwind of everyone so they could hear him. When it was time for Sunday School, I took the kids to the other side of the beach. The best shelter there was the fort they had built, so we all went inside for our discussion. I was amazed at how well the fort insulated us from the howling wind. We talked about heaven and what we are expected to do if we want to go to heaven. Then we went out onto the beach and everyone constructed their corner of heaven in a square of sand.

At noon a little rain started to fall and everyone headed back to their boats in a hurry. All of those hatches needed to be shut fast. The girls were anxious because they had organized a kid's book swap on the beach for three o'clock. By two o'clock the rain had stopped, but the skies were still gray. After a few radio conferences the girls decided to go ahead and risk it. The book swap was a go! We took along a tarp to cover up the book table quickly if it started to rain.

Lots of people showed up for the book swap. I think everyone was looking for a good excuse to get off of their boats. Plus, books are very valuable to boaters who live without TV. Since space on boats is limited, trading books is very popular. Unfortunately, there usually aren't any kid's books at the regular book swaps. Since there were so many cruising kids here at the moment, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to swap kid's books. Even with the strong wind, it was a big success.

The kids spent the rest of the day together on the beach. The fort was the central point for all of their activity. Some of them worked on fortifying it, some of them constructed a system of dams and moats to protect it from the tides, and some of them worked on building a consensus for what to name it.

The kids all got along wonderfully well. They had such a good time just being together. I guess that's what happens when you isolate them from their peers for months at a time! Here's a list of the boats and kids:
Cool Breezes from Alberta, Canada (Erin-12, Ben-11, Liam-10, Mira-4)
Casarina from Freeport, Bahamas (Michelle-12, Randy-12, Leeann-10, Mark-9)
Abientot from Norfolk, Virginia (Jane-13)
Moonraker from Annapolis, Maryland (Scott-12, Tyler-11, Megan-4)
Guava(rented houseboat) from Cincinatti, Ohio (Morgan-12)
Stocking Island kids - Greg-13 from St. Francis, Mandy-12 and Chris-10 from Palm Beach
Calumet Dreams from Brillion, Wisconsin (Zion-14, Tricia-12)

Day 276 - Monday, April 23
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

We had a special lesson for school today. Erin came over from Cool Breezes and taught us about the history of Canada. We hadn't realized that Canada has only been a country since the 1860's. And their beautiful maple leaf flag wasn't adopted until the 1960's! It was the result of a national design-our- flag contest.

The wind was still blowing strong today. After school Zion decided conditions were perfect to try some spinnaker jumping. The spinnaker is a large, colorful balloon-like sail that you only fly when the wind is right behind you. Our spinnaker is light blue with yellow and orange stripes. Spinnaker jumping is something fun that you can do when you are anchored in a strong wind. You pull the top of the spinnaker up to the top of your mast, then you tie a bosun's chair between the bottom two corners of the sail. The bosun's chair looks like a wooden swing. You use it to haul the bosun up the mast when something needs to be fixed up there. When the chair is tied to the bottom of the spinnaker, you can climb into the chair in the water and then let the wind blow you and the spinnaker up into the air. It's like flying on the tail of a giant kite, but if you come down you land in the water. It's sounds very fun and exciting.

After digging the spinnaker out of the anchor locker and hooking it up to the rigging, Dan started hoisting it into the air. Zion was guiding it up. Suddenly, the wind grabbed it and billowed it up into the air. Some ropes got tangled around Zion's legs and pulled his feet out from under him. He fell backwards fast and hard, hitting the back of his head on the deck of the boat. His legs were being pulled up into the air and I was afraid that in another moment he was going to be hanging upside down in the air like a caught fish. Luckily, the ropes untangled at the last second and he was left lying on our front net. We rushed up to give first aid and I was praying that his legs weren't broken. He had a nasty lump on the back of his head, and there were multiple rope burns across the back of his legs. The ropes had rubbed off all of his skin so that he had wide white streaks across his dark tan legs. Some of them were bleeding a bit and they were all very sore and tender. We quickly had him resting in bed, covered his wounds and bought some ice for his lump. After an hour, the lump had gone down and he seemed fine so we were very grateful things hadn't turned out any worse.

After a few hours of rest he was begging to go out with his friends, so we wrapped his burns in gauze and made him wear long pants for a few days so he wouldn't get any sand or saltwater on his legs. He was the only person on the island wearing pants, but it worked. The burns healed clean. A week later he was able to go swimming again.

Needless to say, spinnaker jumping had lost its allure. We put the spinnaker away and none of us had the fortitude to bring it out again even though there was often enough wind for it. We learned later from someone with experience that the best way to raise the spinnaker is to lay it out in the water before pulling it up into the wind.

Later in the afternoon Mike from Moonraker asked if we needed a dinghy ride over to Georgetown. He needed to get some gas and things. This was an opportunity too good to pass up, so I went along to get some groceries. It had been so windy lately that it was difficult to pull up our anchors and take our big boat across the harbor. I was excited because this would be my first ride across Elizabeth Harbor in a dinghy. I wanted to look like all of the other dinghy riders, so I put on Zion's raincoat. The ride to town was uneventful and I got the bread and vegetables we needed. The ride back was the fun part. We were against the waves this time so we got splashed a lot. Protected in my rain coat I was having a grand time. Mike's shirt was soaked and he didn't seem to be having nearly as much fun as I. He said that getting soaked to the skin every day loses its charm after awhile. He's probably right.

The kids spent the afternoon making a flag to fly over their fort. The flag said C.O.S.K on the front for Club of Sailing Kids. They all signed the back and flew it from part of an old mast they had found lying in the bushes. Tricia had voted for a different acronym - S.O.C.K. - for Society of Cruising Kids. She thought it would be fun for them all to fly old socks under the flag. Apparently, the others didn't agree.


Fort COSK Builders
Leanna, Erin, Zion, Gregg, Michelle, Meara, Tricia, Jane, Morgan and Mark
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Flag Flying High at Fort COSK
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Flag Flying High at Fort COSK
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Tricia's Friends
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Day 277 - Tuesday, April 24
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

This morning was special because when we awoke there was no longer any wind howling in our ears. It's been days since it has been so quiet. The seas are still worked up today, but one day of nice travelling weather is predicted for tomorrow. This is sad news for Tricia, because many of her friends are in a hurry to head north and they will probably be leaving if the weather is good. We need at least another day in town to stock up on food, gas and water before we will be ready to leave. Also, the Family Island Regatta starts today and we might want to stay to see some of it as long as we're still here anyway.

There was a very funny Thought for the Day on the net this morning. It is a quote from Samuel Johnson. "Who would want to live in a boat? It's like living in a jail cell with the added risk of possibly drowning."

For school this morning Tricia charted the route we should take to Nassau when we leave Georgetown, then she put it into the GPS for easy navigating.

At 1:00 we climbed to the top of a nearby hill on Stocking Island to watch the first race of Family Island Regatta week. This one was the Junior race for captains and crew under the age of eighteen. We saw the boats line up on the far side of Elizabeth Harbor. When they started the race they looked like a graceful flock of white birds sailing across the water. When one turned, the others would soon follow in a graceful formation. One of the local boys from the island, Chris, was on one of the boats but we were too far away to tell who was who.

The kids spent the rest of the afternoon at their fort again. Jane had spent the night sewing a truly beautiful new flag called F.O.S.K. for Fort of Sailing Kids. Her mom had a sewing machine and flag material on board for making the courtesy flags they had needed on their trans-Atlantic trip.

The parents of the sailing kids spent a fun afternoon socializing on the beach, too. In the evening all of the kids went to Cool Breezes to watch a movie and say their final "good-byes". Tricia and Zion were brought home late, near midnight, since many of the parents had been enjoying the half- price rum drinks being offered at Chat'n'Chill that evening in honor of the Regatta. Would these people really be ready to get up bright and early the next morning and head out to sea? Tricia, and most of the other kids, were hopeful that they might decide to sleep late and stay put in the morning.

Day 278 - Wednesday, April 25
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

While we were sitting and eating breakfast we saw Cool Breezes and Casarina leave Hole 1 and head out to sea. Tricia was very disappointed to see her friends leave. Her only remaining sailing friend, Jane, would be leaving soon, too. Since they were all heading north, Tricia was finally ready for us to leave Georgetown, too. Before we could leave, though, we needed to go to town and stock up on gas, water, groceries and clean laundry. That would be an all day job and today was the first day nice enough for us to cross the harbor and do it. We went to Exuma Docking in Georgetown and spent the day doing our chores and preparing for the next leg of our voyage.

On our way to the docks we saw a few Bahamian sloops out on practice runs in Elizabeth Harbor. The sloops are all identical in design and must be made from wood. They are the same style as the fishing smacks that used to be used here in the days before engines. In fact, the local regattas started as a way to continue the Islands' boat building traditions once the smacks were no longer used for commercial fishing.

Because the smacks were real fishing boats, their deep keels were completely empty. The fishermen would load them with rocks for ballast at the beginning of their trip and then throw out the rocks and put fish into the hold as they travelled. Those old fishermen were tough. There is nothing on the deck of a smack but a door down into the hold.

Although the regatta rules are strict about the size and shape of the hull of the racing smacks, there are no rules about the sails. Over the years the masts have gotten higher and higher. While the traditional smack was 28 feet long and 10 feet wide with a 32 foot mast and a crew of three, the racing sloop today is 28 feet long and 10 feet wide with a 62 foot mast and a crew of fifteen. The higher mast provides more power to make the sloop go faster and win races, but it also makes the boat more top-heavy. That's why they need the extra crew. When the wind is blowing good and the boat is heeling nicely, the crew sits out on a plank that hangs over the water to keep the boat from tipping.

This use of a human-laden plank to keep the boat up makes for very exciting racing. As a boat rounds a mark, the plank has to be slid from one side of the boat to the other. All of the crew members have to scamper off and scamper back on in single file as fast as they can. On days when the waves are high in the harbor, the crew on the plank often find themselves bobbing in and out of the water.

Today was the day for the Regatta parade through the streets of town at 4:00. We figured we should catch at least one more Regatta activity before leaving the island, so we joined the crowds along the street waiting for the parade. About 4:30 a pick-up drove by with balloons tied to the antennae and music blaring from a sound system in the back. We figured that was a good sign and the parade must be coming soon. Fifteen minutes later, the truck drove by again. We finally figured out that the truck was the parade. If we wanted to stick around for another fifteen minutes, we could see it drive by again. It kept making a loop around Lake Victoria. We decided we had seen enough and took our boat back to our anchorage in Hole 1.

While we were crossing Elizabeth Harbor we saw one of the big island freighters bringing in a load of sailing sloops for the race. Four of them were on the front deck with their masts up, and four more were stowed in the back with their masts down. We had heard that the bad weather had made it difficult for the racers to bring their boats down to Georgetown. Now that there was a break in the bad weather, the sloops were coming to town and the excitement was starting to build.

Day 279 - Thursday, April 26
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today some brisk winds came back again so we decided to stay put. Jane and her family on Abientot left, so Tricia is stuck with all of the boys now.

Dan and I spent the afternoon watching more sloop races. We sat on the sand spit at the end of Volleyball Beach and watched the boats line up for the start of the race. They seemed to be waiting forever at the starting line. Dan says that back in the States, regattas start at the scheduled starting time whether you're ready or not. We've learned that here in the Bahamas the races usually start about an hour or two after the scheduled time.

We didn't know what was going on, but later we got the scoop from Alison on Moonraker. The starting line was right next to where their boat was anchored so they could see and hear everything that was going on. One boat after another would ask the officials to wait because something broke or they weren't ready. Meanwhile, the officials went from boat to boat to count the number of crew aboard and to check that everything was legit. They kept yelling out "No pull on the anchor! No pull on the anchor!" and "You leave with eight men and an anchor, you come back with eight men and an anchor!"

There are very few rules in the Island Regattas. Once the race starts you simply try to beat everyone else any way you can. There aren't any guidelines for who has right-of-way, like in the rest of the sailing world. It's whoever gets there first. In the old days, if the winds got light the captain would tell crew members to jump overboard. They might throw the anchor overboard, too. They could always pick them up later. Losing the extra weight would help them win the race. Eventually it was determined it wasn't very safe to dump crew overboard during a race, so they added the rule about bringing all of your crew members back over the finish line.

Eventually the race started and it was thrilling to watch them sail by. But we were too far away to hear the chatter on the boats, and the spectator stands were on the other side of the Harbor, in Georgetown, so we couldn't hear the crowds cheering, either. It was a beautiful, graceful, silent spectacle gliding past our eyes.

Day 280 - Friday, April 27
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

While there were 450 boats in Elizabeth Harbor during the Cruiser's Regatta, there are only about 250 boats here now for the Family Island Regatta. Some of the boats are giant luxury yachts. We heard that one is owned by a hockey team and they all take vacations on it.

Now that there are fewer boats in the harbor, the morning net doesn't last as long. They've added time for departing boats to say "good-bye" and for new boats to say "hi". And guess what? A new boat, Loblolly, has just arrived with a 15-year-old son, Ches, and a 13-year-old daughter, Val on board. It didn't take long for our kids to call them on the radio and invite them over. And they showed up almost immediately. Tricia didn't want to leave Georgetown anymore.


Bahamian Sloop practicing for Family Island Regatta
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Bahamian Sloop practicing for Family Island Regatta
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Bahamian Sloop practicing for Family Island Regatta
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Today there were more regatta races and plans for a Junkanoo parade in town. Moonraker kindly invited us to go with them in their dinghy over to Georgetown for the festivities. When we got there we made our way to the bleachers to watch the afternoon race with the other cheering spectators. Soon, the family from Loblolly showed up and we all watched the race together.

We learned that there was a lot of whooping and hollering, and a lot of betting, in the stands during the race. There was a 20 knot wind and 2-foot waves in the Harbor today, so the race was very fast and exciting. All kinds of dinghies and small power boats follow the sloops around the course, like buzzing little flies circling big, white birds.


Starting Line for Family Island Regatta
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One of the buoy markers was right in front of the bleachers, so we could watch all of the crew scramble from one side of the boat to the other as they made the turn. Even more frightening was the fact that all of the boats approached the marker at full speed without giving way until the last minute. At one particularly heart-stopping moment, two boats were approaching at the same time. Suddenly, one boat started pulling down their sails and they looked adrift right next to the marker where five more boats were coming in at full speed to make the turn. Somehow, they all got through without any accidents. Soon the boat that was adrift hoisted her sails again and continued on her way.

Later we met a cruiser from Australia who had been a crew member on that drifting boat and he told us what happened. Two boats were headed for the marker at the same time, playing a perilous game of chicken. They were on the inside and felt they had right-of-way, but the outside boat squeezed them out and wouldn't let them pass. At the last moment, the captain decided to save his boat and the bones of his crew and he gave the tiller a great pull to swerve out of the way of the oncoming boat. The tiller was under so much tension that it snapped off. Now the boat truly was adrift in the middle of the race course with full sails pushing them forward and no way to steer. So that's when they had to quickly drop their sails and hope that none of the boats coming up behind them at full speed would hit them. The captain pulled out his machete and chopped at the end of the tiller until he could wedge it back in its fitting, then they hoisted their sails and were on their way again.

This boat, the Original Courageous, had been a contender before the accident. A sloop wins the Regatta by accumulating the most points over the series of races that occur during the week. Now the Original Courageous is out of the running to win the prize, so they spend the rest of their time in this race and the next trying to do everything they can to slow down the other boats that might challenge their "sister" boat, the New Courageous. This includes stealing their wind, blocking their path, and any other annoyance they can execute. Did I mention that there weren't any boating collisions all week? That is the most amazing part of the Regatta.

When the race was over, we walked along the shacks that had been hastily constructed along the wharf to sell beverages and food and t-shirts and jewelry. It looked like a county fair, except these shacks all had palm leaves stapled on for decoration and the wood was painted with bright colors like yellow and pink and orange and blue. Alison and I decided it was time to try Conch Salad. We took our place in line at Mr. D's Conch Spot and waited. It was fun watching the men chop it all up before our eyes. They would chop-chop-chop tomatoes, onions and green peppers, and a few little yellow goat peppers. Then they would slice up some conch and mix that in their pile, too. After putting it all into dishes, they would squeeze fresh lemons and oranges on top and sell it for six dollars a bowl. The line was long, but their pile of chopped veggies was huge, so we figured everyone would get served at once. Apparently it was a large take-out order, because half an hour later we were still waiting with another large group of people. Alison and I were ready to go get Conch Salad at another shack, but a friendly Bahamian woman who was also patiently waiting in line assured us that Mr. D's was the best and worth the wait.

So, we sent the husbands and kids to the park and we kept our vigil. The woman put in our order for us in Bahamian (a kind of English we can't always understand) and we felt there was hope. The amount of chopping going on was still amazing, as was their skill with the knives. We were especially impressed when they were chopping tomatoes rapid-fire at their fingertips while looking behind them and taking orders. Then they ran low on conch and sent someone out to get more. That meant going down to the dock behind the shack and getting on the boat and pulling it out about 30 feet, then diving down into the water and pulling up bunches of fresh, live conch that were all tied together with twine. The conch were brought to the boat, and then the dock and then carried to the cleaning table behind the shacks where they would be pulled out of the shell and prepared for eating. I would have liked to see that part of the process, too, but didn't have time because our food was ready.

The conch salad was very good and definitely worth the wait. We carried some back to our families in the park, but only the adults were interested. There's something about eating raw seafood that Trish and Zion just don't go for. They would rather enjoy their conch in fritters. Fritters are balls of dough seasoned with thyme and small pieces of conch and fried in oil like little doughnut balls. They are served with a tomato-mayo sauce and they are one of the cheapest foods around at six for $1.50. The kids enjoyed those.

As we were eating in the park, a real Junkanoo parade materialized. We could hear the drums and the cowbells and the whistles in the distance, coming closer and closer. Suddenly we saw a big colorful sign at the head of the parade, showing the Father of the Nation, Sir Lyndon Pindling. He is the man who negotiated idependence for the Bahamas from Great Britain in the 1970's. Following the sign were a dozen whirling, twirling costumed dancers moving to the infectious beat of the drums. The most outstanding costume was the King of Hearts. A large black man with a bushy gray beard was wearing a golden crown and a large red velvet cape and leading the festivities with his staff. The junkanoo band followed behind in a mass of jumping, thumping, pumping rhythms. They took the parade all through the wharf, around the park and past all of the Regatta shacks. When they passed the shack that made our fritters, the grandma ran outside and joined the head of the parade, doing dance moves that I only wish I could imitate.


Beginning of Junkanoo Parade
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Costumes for Junkanoo
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Costumes for Junkanoo
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Junkanoo Band
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After the parade, the dancers and musicians went to the stage in the park. It was the same stage that the cruisers had used for their talent show weeks before. Now there was a panel of judges, judging the best costume, the best drum player, the best whistle blower and the best cow-bell ringers. I never knew there were so many different ways that you could blow rhythms on a whistle. The winners would be Georgetown's representatives at the big granddaddy Junkanoo Parade in Nassau on the day after Christmas.


Junkanoo Contest
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Shake it Up! Shake it Up!
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Sign on Waste Bin
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The kids had fun roaming around the wharf together. Zion bought some souvenirs for his friends back home, and Tricia spent her money on a necklace that was hand-carved from a pink piece of conch shell.


The Bahamas' Beer
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Soon it was time to go home. We were all feeling good, so we did our Bahama- style dinghy riding in Lake Victoria and got someone to take our picture. Then we had to cross the harbor. By now, the wind was rougher and some of the waves were at least three feet high. We all ended up soaked and there was about six inches of water in the bottom of the dinghy by the time we got back to Stocking Island. We took an 'after' picture, too, just to show what wet rats look like.


Klos's and Andersons Dingy-Riding Bahama-style in Lake Victoria
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Klos's and Andersons Soaking Wet back at Stocking Island
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Day 281 - Saturday, April 28
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today Loblolly invited us to watch the races from their boat. They were anchored near one of the buoy marks. This was very exciting because you were close enough to hear the chatter on the boats from the captains and the crew. I could never quite understand how they moved so quickly on and off the planks. Now I know that when the first one moves, the rest follow real fast.


Sloops rounding the mark
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Sloops rounding the mark
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Sloops rounding the mark
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Sloops rounding the mark
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Sloops rounding the mark
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Teri Ann, the Champion Sloop, at anchor
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Teri Ann, the Champion Sloop, at anchor
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In the evening we walked down to Hamburger Beach for another hot dog campfire with Moonraker, Trident, Loblolly and ourselves. We left early with eight kids in tow. Zion had worked hard all day making the necessary arrangements to have all of the remaining teen kids come to our boat for a sleepover. We made them walk back through the jungle paths and we saw the giant land crabs again. Now we know exactly where to expect them on the path. They show up every time.

Tricia and Val were relegated to the cabin. Zion didn't want his little sister mixing with his friends at the party he had organized. They were the only two who got real beds to sleep in for the night. The other kids - Ches, Matt, Scott, Greg, Mandy and Zion - slept up on the deck. Luckily the breeze was strong enough so there weren't any bugs.


Sleepover Val, Trish, Matt, Scott, Zion, Tyler, Mandy, Gregg, Ches
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Sleepover Val, Trish, Matt, Scott, Zion, Tyler, Mandy, Gregg, Ches
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Day 282 - Sunday, April 29
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

We thought that today might be the day we could leave and head north again. The kids were up early, played Capture the Flag on the beach, had breakfast and went home by 8:30. We listened to the weather forecast and learned that the winds would be stiff, about 15 knots (which was manageable), but they would be out of the north. We didn't want to be heading into the wind all day. It makes for a slow, bumpy ride. We decided to stay another day. But Moonraker decided to leave since they were heading east to Long Island. Good- bye, Moonraker! Thanks for all the fun times and dinghy rides! Safe sailing to you.

At Beach Church today Trish played "Amazing Grace" on her recorder. It was perfect. She has played that song many times, and it's nice and slow.

In the afternoon the boys went swimming. They would swing off of the boom on Loblolly and jump into the water. We can't do that on our boat because our catamaran is so wide. The boom can't reach past the side of the boat.

Trish and Val spent the day weaving friendship bracelets in boy colors. They were hoping to sell them to the woman on Trident whom they had met at the campfire the night before, but they never found her again.

Dan and I had a chance to talk with with Mark and Karen from Loblolly. We learned that they were from Michigan and they were just finishing a three year voyage to the Mediterranean. They had crossed the Atlantic as part of the ARC, a cruising regatta where a large group of ships cross at the same time and have a light-hearted race to see who can do it the fastest. It took them seventeen days to cross. After that they cruised through many of the Caribbean islands.

They came to the Bahamas from the south, and now they were on their way home just like us. They hoped to be back in Michigan by August 1 which fits pretty closely to our schedule to be back in Wisconsin by August 15. They want to tour the northern Bahama islands, then do a several-day ocean crossing to New York. After the Hudson River and the Erie Canal, they will go through Lakes Ontario and Erie to their home on the shores of Lake Huron.

We are anxious to get back to the States. We want e-mail and cheap food again! Plus, Tricia isn't anxious to make any more long ocean crossings. We will go back to Florida quickly, then up the East Coast so we can see Georgia, the Carolinas, and the Chesapeake Bay. We hope to go up the Potomac and spend a week in Washington, D.C., too. But we might be able to meet Loblolly in New York and do the Hudson and Erie Canal with them. We will keep in touch through e-mail. Who knows? Maybe we can spend the Fourth of July together anchored under the Statue of Liberty!

Once we reach Lake Ontario, we will cut across it to the north. This will take us to the Trent-Severn Waterway, a series of locks and canals across Canada that will let us avoid most of the Great Lakes. It will take us to Georgian Bay, then we just have to go down the southern shore of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and we'll be home.

Day 283 - Monday, April 30
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today might be the day we leave. We listen to the weather forecast on the net and learn that the whole day is supposed to be cloudy, windy and rainy. Matt leaves with his family on Good Time Habit, but they have years of sailing experience and a racing boat built to take heavy seas so we know they will be fine. We are not so hardy so we decide to stay another day. Plus, Tricia is begging to spend more time here with Val.

Since it was a rainy day, the kids had to play inside all day. That hasn't happened for a long time. Tricia and Val stayed on our boat playing board games, and Zion spent the afternoon on Loblolly with Ches. When the rain subsided, Greg came over in his dinghy and took the girls out for a ride.


Val from Loblolly
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Gregg from St. Francis
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I learned how to make bread in my pressure cooker. It turned out fine.

Day 284 - Tuesday, May 1
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today the skies are still gray and cloudy so we decide to stay for another day. In the morning Loblolly invited us along on a trip to town. They have an automatic windlass, so it's easy for them to raise and lower their anchor. They just flip some switches, watch closely, and let the big motor do the work. And they only put down one anchor, like most of the other cruising boats anchored here, so when it's time to cross the harbor they take their boat instead of their dinghy.

On our boat, either Zion or Dad hauls up the anchor(s) using muscle power. Plus, we always drop at least two anchors. Our high-freeboard catamaran doesn't swing cleanly on a single line, plus we have a lot more windage. It takes us quite a while to haul up all our anchors. Zion has to go out in the dinghy to pick-up one, then they have to haul the dinghy back on top of the boat (more muscle power), then Zion or Tricia has to swim to shore and untie us from the tree and swim back to the boat as fast as they can so they don't miss their ride. Then we pull up our last anchor and we're off.

By 10:00 the skies cleared up and the sun came out. It turned out to be a beautiful day. I guess we could have left, but the kids are happy here. They decided to go swimming in the ocean one last time with their boogie boards. The waves were big rollers coming in from the sea, leftovers from yesterday's storms. There were some strong rip currents, so the kids had to be careful.

Tricia and Val decided to celebrate May Day by making some May baskets and delivering them to our neighbor boats.

Day 285 - Wednesday, May 2
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today was another nice, sunny day. The winds were only 10-15 knots, but they were coming directly out of the north again so we decided to stay put for another day.

In the afternoon the kids went over to Palm Beach to play. Tricia got to see a nurse shark for the first time, and Zion swam with it in the water.

The girls spent the afternoon on Loblolly and invented their own card game named "Spook". Then they looked through books to make up trivia questions.

In the evening Dan got on the radio and read the questions for the entertainment of the local boats. Lots of people joined in the game and we had great fun. Apparently, everyone else was getting a little bored hanging around waiting for good weather just like us. Dan promised to do it again tomorrow if we were still here.

Day 286 - Thursday, May 3
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today the wind is blowing at 20 knots, but it's coming from the east instead of the north. The boats most anxious to leave are heading out. The radio is busy with weather reports coming in from the outgoing boats. Some say it isn't so bad out there, and others say they are going to turn around and come back. The tricky part is going through Conch Cut, from Elizabeth Harbor out into the ocean. The waves get funnelled through it and they can get very large, choppy and rough.

My favorite report was from the captain who relayed that the sailing was great and the worst waves were no more than four feet high. Then he said "Wait a minute. My crew is laughing at me." After a minute of silence, he came back on and said "Maybe the waves are five feet, but I don't believe they're any bigger than that." I guess we're not the only boat where the observations of the captain and the crew are not always in perfect harmony.

The kids went into town with Loblolly and spent the afternoon with their friends. We even had time to prepare more questions for another trivia contest in the evening.

Day 287 - Friday, May 4
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today is another rainy day, which is good for the locals because they need the rain. But the cruisers are all stuck at anchor one more day and they're starting to get anxious to leave. Our feeling is that if we have to get stuck somewhere, this is the perfect place to be. Our anchorage is very calm and safe no matter how much the winds blow and the seas rage. The kids are happy because they have friends their age nearby to play with. We can take long walks along the ocean beach every day for fun and exercise. Basically, it's a wonderful place to be stuck. No one on our boat is complaining.

Faced with another day of rain and not wanting to be stuck on the boat all afternoon again, Tricia invited Val to come over after lunch and play with her on the beach. "In the rain?" Val asked. "Yeah, that's what makes it fun." Trish replied. So they put on their rain coats and splashed around in the puddles up on the beach.

Since it was Friday night the kids could finally have their long-awaited sleepovers. Zion spent the night with Ches while Val came to our boat.

Day 288 - Saturday, May 5 - OUR 22ND ANNIVERSARY
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

When I woke up in the morning and passed by our table with half-closed eyes, I was startled to see two beautiful place settings on two new Bahama placemats. There was a note from Trish that said she would make us breakfast. How wonderful! Val and Trish had gotten up in the middle of the night to set the table. They used our good boat china (the plastic fish plates with the matching plastic goblets). Trish had secretly bought the placemats on her trip to town during the week.

Val had to go home early because her family wanted to leave Georgetown today. We were anxious to leave with them, but when we listened to the weather report we heard it was going to be a north wind again and we knew our wide boat couldn't make much headway in that. Tricia was pretty glum to be losing her friend again, but brightened up quickly an hour later when we learned that Loblolly had decided to stay.

After Val left and Zion came home Trish made us our delicious breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs. Not to be outdone, Zion gave us some anniversary gifts, too - flavored coffee and a hot chocolate malt drink from Cadbury. Flavored coffee is one of our favorite things and definitely not cheap here in the islands.

Loblolly did decide to go to town, however, and I went along to get groceries again. The kids had all gone off to play since it was a Saturday and they had the whole day free. When we got back to their anchor spot, Mark was ready to dinghy me back to my boat. We were ready to go, but the dinghy engine wasn't. I stayed and had a nice long talk with Karen while Mark fixed the engine with some spare engine parts he had had the foresight to bring along.

The talk turned out to be very interesting when we found out that we had both coached Odyssey of the Mind teams for several years. We had even coached kids on the same problem, so we had a lot in common. Karen was disappointed because she had heard about the demise of Odyssey of the Mind during their trip. I was happy to be able to tell her about Destination Imagination coming along to take its place. She's going to check into it when she gets back home. We both agreed that coaching those teams was one of the activities back home that we missed the most.

Later in the afternoon, we took a walk along the ocean and tried to judge if the waves were getting bigger or smaller, and what our chances would be for leaving Georgetown the next morning.

Day 289 - Sunday, May 6
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

When we got up this morning there were 20 knot winds coming out of the north, so we didn't even need to wait for the weather forecast to decide to stay put for another day.

We attended a windy Beach Church. Tricia played "Joyful, Joyful" on her recorder and it was more of a challenge because you have to move your fingers very fast for that one. She also had to be careful about standing in the right direction so the strong wind wouldn't play notes for her. During the service the pastor even said a special prayer for peace in the harbor during the tension of waiting. There were over fifty people at Beach Church today, and usually by this time of the year there are only a handful of cruisers left. When the weather turns good, there will be a mass exodus of boats from the harbor. They expect that the number of boats will go down from 150 to 50 practically overnight.

At Beach Church there were some cruisers who announced that they were going to neighboring Long Island where a missionary family was starting an orphanage. They were willing to take supplies over if anyone had anything to donate. We packed up the clothes that our kids outgrew and sent along a comforter that we didn't need anymore.

After church the kids all ran off to Palm Beach for a rocket launch. Chris had made several rockets and Zion helped his Dad launch them off. They shot the rockets out over Hole 0, and the kids raced in their dinghies to retrieve them.

Dan and I spent a lot of time visiting with other people after church. It seemed that no one had much else to do. They were all ready to leave and waiting, just like us. The problem is, while you are waiting you use up your food and your water and make more dirty laundry and pretty soon you're not ready to leave anymore. Then you have to do your "getting ready" things all over again.

The locals all say that they've never seen such a long string of bad weather here before. Now even though it's been very windy and occasionally rainy, this still doesn't seem like bad weather to us. Every day is still warm, and you can jump into the clear 80 degree water anytime and swim. Pretty good weather for the beginning of May in our opinion.

It was full moon again, and that meant the tides were exceptionally high. This was our chance to walk down to Hamburger Beach and see the tide run into the small lake behind the "moon rock". The lakes only get filled during high tide. So we gathered up some hot dogs and the local kids and Loblolly and walked down to Hamburger Beach.

We timed it just right. At 4:00 the water started creeping across the broad expanse of sand that led back to the lake. We started building dams to try and contain it, but they didn't last long. Then we tried to build raised patches of sand surrounded by walls to keep the water out, but they didn't last long either. About an hour later the water had covered the beach and reached the lakes. What we hadn't realized is that the high water also covered all of the normally-dry paths to our campfire spot.

The more adventurous kids decided to make one last scramble up the side of Monument Hill, on the steep side that doesn't have a path. We learned that Ches had gotten lessons in mountain-climbing from another cruiser during their stay in Spain.

The winds were still very strong at 20 knots, but we managed to get a fire going anyway. Because the water was so high, the long, normally-high pier was practically submerged. In fact, the surface of the pier was about one inch above the level of the water. When the waves came in, they would slap against each board one-by-one, creating a xylophone-effect of sound. We walked along the pier just to hear the strange music.

The kids discovered the secret of island tiki torches. In old island movies (and maybe on "Survivor"?) you see people carrying around torches that are narrow on the bottom and a flaming bulb of fire on the top. How do they do that? What they are using are the trunks from small palm trees. The kids found a few lying around, and discovered that the bulbous bottom end is full of stringy fibers that all burn independently. The combined heat keeps enough of them burning to keep the fire from going out, even in 20 knot winds. The kids lit two six-foot tiki torches in the campfire, and when they got tired of holding them they planted them in the sand at the edge of the water. It was amazing to see them continue to burn through the strong wind.

On our way back home we found the land crabs along the jungle path once again. It makes the long trek on foot worthwhile.

Day 290 - Monday, May 7
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

This morning we awoke to 25 knot winds. Guess what? We're staying another day. We enjoyed the Thought for the Day on the net this morning - "If you give someone twenty dollars and then you never see them again, it was probably worth it".

Because of all this waiting we are able to have a full session of school just about every morning. We're getting near the end of our school books and I'm not sure who's happier, the kids or me.

The boys took a long walk in the afternoon all of the way to the north end of Stocking Island. The waves were really big on the ocean today.

We had to dig way back in the bilges to find some new things to do. I uncovered a microscope kit I had brought along, so Val and Tricia spent the afternoon being Junior scientists, looking at things like ant legs and carpet fibers.

The ant legs were easy to get, because I discovered a hidden colony of ants in the bottom of one of our food bilges. Luckily, all of the food had been wrapped in plastic and was safe. It was just an extra chore to empty the bilge and clean them all out. These are the same ants we picked up in Mobile. We keep thinking we get rid of them all until we find a new nook or cranny where their colony is still thriving.

This evening was the perfect time for another radio trivia game. Dan reads the questions on the air, then faceless people on different boats respond with their answers. Many of the answers are very creative and funny, even if they aren't right. It gives everyone a chance to be a comedian in total anonymity. Tonight one crew broke into a rousing rendition of the theme song from "Gilligan's Island".

Day 291 - Tuesday, May 8
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

25 knot winds were still blowing this morning. So we did our normal waiting things - school in the morning, kids playing together in the afternoon, baking more bread in the pressure cooker and a walk along the ocean beach for me. All in all, a very pleasant day.

At 4:00 there was another book swap on the beach. Dan had gone on the net in the morning and asked the other cruisers for help developing more trivia questions. Everyone is eager to keep playing - entertainment is getting hard to come by in this land of no TV. (Why do you think we need another book swap?)

The other cruisers loaded us with lists of questions throughout the afternoon. Some were about their travels. Q: What part of a bull gets cut off and thrown into the audience after a bull fight? A: An ear. Lots of questions are about geography, animals or astronomy. One couple gave us a guestion guaranteed to be a stumper. Where did the word "Yankee" come from?

They said they used to run team training exercises for executive-types who prided themselves on their broad knowledge, but the Yankee question is one that no one ever got. The answer? Before the British came to New York, the city was named New Amsterdam and the area was controlled by the Dutch. A common Dutch name was Jan, pronounced "yahn". The Dutch were famous for the cheese they made, pronounced "kees". So the area became known as the yahns who ate kees, or Yankees for short.

Dan and I had a surprise this afternoon when Zion told us that he would like to just keep cruising instead of heading back home. I guess this trip isn't so bad after all.

Day 292 - Wednesday, May 9
Hole 1, Volleyball Beach, Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

The 25 knot winds continued today so we were able to finish our school work. The kids had to get at least 95% on a final comprehensive math test, and they both did it. To celebrate the end of our school year we went and ate lunch at Chat'n'Chill. Most of the family had regular hamburgers and fries. I tried a conchburger, which was good but spicy. I think that I have now eaten conch every way that they serve it in the restaurants here.

In the afternoon the kids went off to play while Dan and I took a walk along the ocean with Mark and Karen. They showed us the path to Sand Dollar Beach which is south of us. I've wanted to go to Sand Dollar for a long time and look for sand dollars there, but I didn't know that I could walk there. I can't believe that I've been here so long and never knew about the path. I usually go north on my walks.

After the four of us got back, I took another walk back to Sand Dollar on my own to do some serious shelling, but the creatures eluded me. Actually, I didn't want to collect them because we already have some beautiful sand dollar shells from Cayo Costa. I just really want to see what the creatures look like when they are alive. They are hard to imagine.


View of Chat N Chill from our anchor spot
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Tied to 'our' tree on the beach
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

When we arrived in March there was a 25-foot sailboat laying on its side on the ocean beach. It had been abandoned there in December when it ran aground. The captain had gone back home to Texas and the hulk had just been lying there ever since. It made a great shady spot for relaxing under when the sun got to be too much. It had the prophetic name of "Wayward Wind".


Lady M, the Bahamian Sloop
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


"Suicidal Gregg", Nina and his dinghy, Bumblebee
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Lady M, the Bahamian SloopGregg's home on the hill
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Well, the high tides and strong winds that we've had over the last few days reached up to the boat and it actually started moving. Today we could see that it was starting to bust up. There was a big hole in the hull and the wooden frame was beginning to crack. It was surprising how quickly it started deteriorating once the water got ahold of it.

Dan did some trivia one more time in the evening.

Day 293 - Thursday, May 10
Big Bay at Little Farmers Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 23' 31.6" W 75' 47.2"

Today the winds have dropped to 15-20 knots and they are out of the east - good enough weather for most people to leave. Loblolly left at 8:00 and we followed at 9:30. Greg came over in his dinghy with his dog, Nina, to say "good-bye" to us.

On the net this morning they gave a warning that Wayward Wind was now completely broken up and the pieces were floating out at sea. You need to keep your eyes open so you don't hit one of them. They also had another cute Thought for the Day - "A man is incomplete without a woman. Then he gets married and he is finished."

We had an exciting ride through Conch Cut. The waves were 6-8 feet high for a while. But once we got through it and out to sea we did well. The waves were smaller and farther apart, and the brisk wind helped us to motor-sail at 8 knots for most of the day.

We arrived at Little Farmer's Harbor at 4:00. After we anchored Zion took a swim in the water and found a big barracuda guarding its nest. He called to me to come and pick him up in the dinghy because the barracuda wouldn't let him get back to the boat.

We hailed Loblolly on the radio and found out that they had made it all of the way to Black Point, the next cut north of Little Farmer's. They had almost caught an 80-lb. tuna while they were trolling, but their line broke.

Making the decision to leave in the morning was a bit unsettling because we were getting so used to our comfortable little spot on the island. We haven't been in the travelling mode for quite a while now. Our whole lifestyle will change now that we have to start putting some miles behind us every day. But we have new sights to look forward to, and that's what makes the adventure fun. Plus, we're anxious to see home and family and friends again.

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