Thursday, February 23, 2006 - Lee Stocking Island
At the crack of 10:00 AM five boats left the anchorage off Black Point. Seaductress and Promise headed out Dotham Cut into Exuma Sound, while Norwester II, Great Escape, and Lauralee kept to the Banks. To our surprise those three boats cut us off at another pass and got ahead of us. Clever folks, they were, but friendly. I put out both trolling lines and was anticipating a nice fresh fish dinner (there's a first time for everything!) but all we got was a cute little fifteen inch Barracuda, one inch of which were teeth. We let him go back to the deep, hoping he wouldn't grow into a monster fish who would come back to bite us someday later like in that movie, Saving Private Ryan.

Our destination was Lee Stocking Island, a favorite anchorage just a short day's trip from the Mecca of George Town. We rejoined the three boats we'd left with in the morning to anchor near the island just off Leaf Cay, then went over to Promise for a popcorn party. Great googly moogly! Another day gone with no regrets.

Author's note: New article posted tonight--Gear Reviews, What's Working and What's Not.

Saturday, February 25, 2006 - George Town
A convoy of six boats left Leaf Cay at 9:00 AM Friday and proceeded south through Exuma Sound. "Take a look through your binoculars!" Janet advised over the radio as we approached Elizabeth Harbor. From our angle the forest of masts along Stocking Island was like a solid wall. Ahead lurked the most feared passage of water in all of the Exumas, Conch Cay Cut. As we started our approach about 1:30 PM, I had every cruising guide we own spread out over the cockpit, waypoints charted, all this information jumbling in my mind, Annie scouting ahead. Of course, I did have five other boats in front of me leading the way.

We anchored off Kidds Cove near town even though the location was a little exposed. All the favorite anchorages were jammed with boats, some of which had probably arrived many months ago to get those premium spots. I took the dinghy over to Red Shanks, which looked like a great anchorage, but it was as full of boats as all the others. Channel 68 is the hailing channel here, and the hailing is non-stop all day long. The last count we heard was over 340 boats here and many more have come in since, including us. Another thing that's coming is a fairly strong cold front that's due to arrive tomorrow evening. I have really come to value the forecasts I've been getting from ($29 buys you a year's worth of custom e-mailed forecasts for any locations you specify) and Chris Parker, the weather guru out of Florida on SSB each morning. Unfortunately, my buoyweather e-mails have stopped coming (possibly because I asked my Internet provider to crank up the spam filters). Tonight we plan to stay anchored here off Kidds Cove since the wind is supposed to clock around to the south, and then move over to one of the Stocking Island anchorages tomorrow in anticipation of the stronger Northeast winds after the front. I checked out Volleyball Beach, the anchoring "holes," and the Exuma Sound beach in the dinghy today. It was a very rough and wet ride through two foot swells and halfway through the trip I realized I was missing an oar from the dinghy. You hear about it all the time, you see the oars from other boats floating by, and somehow you think it will never happen to you.

At least I didn't lose the dinghy. As I was leaving Volleyball Beach today I had to wade the dinghy out so I could put the motor down. The wind was strong and I decided to start the motor while I stood next to the dinghy, then hop aboard as I've done so many times before. What could possibly go wrong? Yep, the dinghy tried to leave without me and I had to throw myself on board like a walrus beaching itself. A big tourist catamarine had pulled up so there was a good audience for my antics.

Annie says: We have reunited two oars with their respective owners on our travels so far. I am hoping that the karma from those acts will pay off and we will be reunited with ours. Rowing with one oar doesn't sound very promising and you can't be without a backup in case the dinghy outboard decides to be uncooperative.

It has been a rock and roll kind of day, with more to come. There is a big regatta week coming up at George Town with lots of fun activities surrounding the two races. Maybe we will find new friends and new talents.

Monday, February 27, 2006 - George Town
Looks like everyone (that's well over 400 boats) survived the cold front last night, although there were one or two dramas played out and a lot of people were up on anchor watch all night. Me, I was lazy or ignorant and just stayed up to see that we were still snug after the wind shifted, then checked our position a couple of times during the night. We'd moved over from Kidds Cove to the opposite side of the harbor yesterday morning, and thus been on a lee shore all day and half the night, knowing that the stronger winds after the front would be coming from this side. We went over to Volleyball Beach for a while yesterday afternoon and had a good time meeting a few folks and letting Laura play on the rope swings.

Today we did not do much to speak of, except going over to Misty Blue, who arrived yesterday morning, for Happy Hour this evening. Doug and Carl entertained us on the keyboard and guitar while Janet sang show tunes. Rhonda has plans for a winning sand sculpture in the contest this week, but so far no one has committed to race their boat in the regatta.

Photos:(1) Laura joins kids of all nationalities at Volleyball Beach. (2) Bluegrass followed Beach Church on Sunday. They said over 200 people attended Beach Church. We think there are more inhabitants in George Town on boats than living on land.

Thursday, March 2, 2006 - George Town
We're still anchored off Sand Dollar Beach in George Town, enjoying another nice period of settled weather. We're far enough south now that most of the cold fronts aren't strong enough to have a big effect here. Yesterday, after a couple of days of intensive study, I passed the Technician and General tests for a ham license, so I've regained the Technician license I had years ago and will have the highly-coveted General license whenever I pass a morse code test (or the FCC drops that requirement, which is possible). We ventured into town and sampled the playgrounds, getting some water and groceries while there. Along with free garbage disposal at Exuma Markets, George Town now provides free reverse osmosis water at the dinghy dock, which is nice given that runnning the watermaker in a harbor we share with 400 other boats is not a favored activity. Two days ago I took down the radome and checked all the connections to the radar. Although it seems to be working, everything up there was clean and dry so I can't be sure I've found the problem.

Looks like we'll be here for about a week for the regatta festivities, including the sand castle contest, a coconut-gathering event, and the children's activities next week--not to mention the Eileen Quinn concert tonight. I've been looking at the charts and books for the route further south but have come to no real conclusions. There is a lot of the nice, safe Bahamas left to explore.

Photos: (1) Exuma Sound beach at Stocking Island. (2) This pup followed us on a hike and stayed within a few steps of Laura at all times. (3) View from the Monument showing a few of the 400 boats anchored in Elizabeth Harbor. There are lots of very neat hiking trails leading up to the monument, to the beach, and all points between starting at Hamburger Beach.

Ship's Note: Added ten gallons of fuel from jerry jugs yesterday (now at 360 engine hours). Primary bilge pump switch and primary CD player are the latest minor gear failures to be reported. What, boats need maintenance? Who knew?

Sunday, March 5, 2006 - George Town
Opening night festivities on Thursday opened with the pet parade, which consisted mostly of small dogs although a group of hermit crabs and one cat did participate. There was the obligatory Jimmy Buffet lookalike contest, music by the Bilge Boys. We could still hear the music and dancing from the beach long into the night. The highlight, for me, was the Conch Concert at sundown when an orchestra of about thirty cruisers played Vivaldi's "Ode to a Sunset" on their conchs.

The Around-Stocking Island regatta, held yesterday, looked like one of the most fun races I'd ever witnessed. Live from the Committee Boat, Stuart from Union Jack provided hilarious commentary that mixed gushing descriptions of the boats and scenery with reports on what snacks were being served aboard the committee boat. Reports on the boats and positions came in from the observers stationed at the Monument and beaches, as well as from the boats themselves which were somewhat less reliable. Thirty-five boats of all sizes participated, and it wasn't long before I began to wish there had been thirty-six. What a bunch of wimps we were, sitting around the boat all day instead of gathering a crew, mixing some margaritas, and going racing! I followed the racers down the harbor in the dinghy, sailed the Marlin over to the finish line, but it just wasn't same.

Today we did some snorkeling in the harbor around the southern edge of Stocking Island and hiked over the hill to see a fantastic view of Exuma Sound, the waves crashing into the rocky cliffs with the waters every shade of blue and green. I apparently lost one of my Teva sandals later when I sailed the Walker Bay over to Volleyball beach and dumped out some water there, evidently dumping a Teva in the process.

Photos: (1) One of our favorite entries in the decorated flip-flop contest. (2) Typical entry in the pet parade. (3) The Maestro conducts the Conch Orchestra.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006
As if to showcase our own cowardice, Laura raced in the "Around the Harbor" regatta race yesterday while Annie and I sat in the dinghy, watching.

What happened was that the catamaran Ministry offered to take any kids under 14 with them during the race. There were 21 kids on board, and by the end of the first lap they were all painted and dressed as pirates. Tomorrow is "Kids Day" so Laura will again be making us look lazy, although apparently we are entered in the Coconut Harvest contest at 4:00 PM.

Photo: Some of the 21 pirates on Ministry (Laura is at far right, waving her sword).

Wednesday, March 8, 2006 - George Town
We arrived back at the boat after a celebratory beer at Chat'n Chill in recognition of the awards Team Seaductress had garnered during the day. First Laura's team had gotten second place in the Children's Day competitions, and then came the highly-contested Coconut Harvest in which Annie, Doug from Misty Blue, and Bob and Sally from Endaxi competed while Laura and I coached and managed the team from shore. With twenty teams of four competing to gather 800 coconuts set adrift in the harbor, followed by games of skill such as coconut bowling and basketball, it was quite an honor to be recognized as one of the award-winners--even if the award won was for coming in absolutely last. Despite the critics, it seemed that our team strategy of being courteous and polite to our competitors at all times had paid off, big time.

Annie says: For those of you who have never participated in a coconut harvest here is how it works. You have a team of four, a dinghy (empty and without motor), one bucket (to be used for bailing or flooding other dingies), and one swim fin for each team member. The objective is to gather as many coconuts as you can after launching your dinghy from the beach. The swim fins are your paddles. Having fun can sure be a lot of work. It was a lot of fun. We had no complex strategy, just find coconuts and gather them. Our auditor did say we looked like the most polite team as well as the one having the most fun. I'm glad we did it.

Photos: (1) Bob emphasizes the need for courtesy before the race to Sally, Annie, Doug, and Mike (our official race-appointed coconut auditor). (2) Tug of War in the kids competitions. (3) Teams rush towards over 800 coconuts awaiting capture. Team Seaductress (not shown) is politely paddling towards a much more modest collection of coconuts elsewhere.

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