Saturday, January 6, 2018

Home for the Holidays

When we first arrived at Georgetown it seemed utterly devoid of cruising boats compared to last spring, but they started filtering in soon after, and now a few of the anchorages are even starting to look a little crowded. Our new friends on Makana, Adventure Bound II, Rondo, Pura Vida and others caught up to us, as just recently did good friends Dave and Leslie on Texas Two Step. With the Georgetown social scene picking up I was a little bummed to leave for Christmas, but ended up being really glad we did. Windbird did just fine in Hole 2 - thanks Makana for checking on her on the 26th! - and Piper and Suky on S/V Shambala got on famously during their week together. Meanwhile I got a medical appointment taken care of at Emory University in Atlanta before Dawn joined me to fly back to the frozen tundra of Minnesota. It was a balmy 15 degrees F when we landed on the 22nd, but the mercury dropped steadily to -13F when I flew out on the 26th. In the meantime we spent several wonderful days with Dawn's family and mine. It'll likely be our only chance to see many of them until late spring or early summer, and the nieces and nephews are growing up so fast. I also got to watch the Vikings game (on TV) with my brother-in-law's wife Holly, a fellow diehard fan / lifelong sufferer, and we thoroughly enjoyed their historic 16-0 shutout against the Packers in brutally cold conditions at Lambeau Field.

I commuted down to Atlanta early on the 26th and signed in for my three day trip. Imagine my surprise to find that the original captain had been bought off and now I was flying with one of the most senior management pilots at my airline, the one in charge of all check airman and many of the flight standards programs! He flies a trip roughly once a month, and I hadn't flown in six weeks. We both paid close attention and did just fine, and I really enjoyed flying with him (though I generally try to stay "under the radar" with management!). The 33-hour layover at an all-inclusive resort in Liberia, Costa Rica didn't suck either! I logged three landings (and a Cat III approach), making me current for another 90 days.

And then it was back to our other home - the one that really feels like home after a year aboard full-time. We found Windbird perfectly snug in protected, airless Hole 2 and immediately took her over to a breezier spot off Monument Beach (with our draft, we can only get out of Hole 2 near high tide). Within an hour Suky anchored near us, and Piper was delirious with joy as soon as I whistled over to him (he subsequently seemed to miss Suky, though, as the next day he jumped into her dinghy when she came alongside and licked her in the face!). We were anchored near Makana and Adventure Bound II, as well as Pura Vida (a family we'd met in Georgetown SC in May, where we shared the dock for two weeks, but hadn't seen since), so we spent the first few days catching up with friends along with boat chores. It turned out we had missed on one major happening in Georgetown, a really major tragedy for this small, tightknit, seafaring community. In the midst of preparations for the annual New Years Day BulReg Regatta, which attracts Bahamian sloops from all around the islands, the 16-year old skipper of one of the local entries, Lady Sonia, was killed in an accident. Cameron Williams was (rather inexplicably) sitting in the boat as it was being launched from Government Dock by a truck-mounted crane when the crane boom snapped, sending him and the boat plunging into the water and then pinning him below the water's surface. He drowned before the other crewmembers could free him; another man sustained injuries and was airlifted to Nassau, but will be ok. The regatta was cancelled; we and many other cruisers had been looking forward to seeing it, but of course nobody, local or cruiser, was in the mood for it after such a needless loss of a promising young sailor.

On December 31st it was nice and calm, so Dawn and I went hunting outside Elizabeth Island cut, and I speared a really nice hogfish! I'd been futilely stalking three large and wily black groupers when the hapless hoggy appeared out of nowhere and I quickly took advantage of the target of opportunity. We enjoyed grilled hogfish that night, Hogfish Parmesan the next night, and still have a fair amount in the freezer along with some leftover yellow jack and mahi. Eating seafood fresh out of the ocean is definitely one of our favorite parts of this life. Fishing last season was mostly an exercise in frustration but between upgrading our gear and gaining more knowledge & experience, we've done much better this year. With the exception of my first spearfishing expedition with Jon & Steve (when I missed a large lobster staring me in the face THREE times!), we've landed something every time we've hunted or trolled since leaving South Carolina.

On New Years Eve we attended a cruiser party on Hamburger Beach, which turned into a chilled out beach bonfire shortly after sundown. Most of the other cruisers went home shortly thereafter - and were doubtless asleep by cruiser's midnight, dreaming sailor dreams when the clock struck 2018 - leaving us, our friends Ken & Tracy on Makana and Larry and Cindie on Adventure Bound II as well as the crew of S/V Dragonfly and S/V Enjoy. After a while we let the fire die and dinghied to Adventure Bound for a (UTC-2!) countdown and New Year's toast, and after ferrying Dawn back to Windbird I toughed it out to real midnight & beyond on Makana with Ken & Tracy. I can't remember the last time I've stayed up past 1am, though I was a hardcore night owl in land life.

After Jan 1st we had several lovely, still days and then several active weather days. On the 2nd we anchored off Kidd's Cove, near "downtown" Georgetown, to get some town chores completed and to get positioned for the SW winds that kicked up midday on the 3rd. That morning Texas Two Step appeared in the anchorage mere days after crossing from Ft. Pierce - Dave and Leslie know how to scoot! Dawn and I hung out with them for dinner on Wednesday night; Leslie made a scrumptious Brazilian fish stew and Dawn baked a Rum Cake for Dave's belated birthday celebration. The cold front rolled in a bit earlier than forecast with gusts over 30 but Windbird's anchor was well buried and we didn't have any concerns about her holding, just about dinghying back to the boat without getting soaked! Unfortunately, that night at low tide we were bumping the sand bottom from around 2am to 3:30am, which definitely interrupted our sleep though it wasn't particularly violent. This, plus the fact that we weren't very well sheltered by Regatta Point, prompted us to move a mile northwest Thursday morning to join the fleet anchored in the lee of Goat Cay. Makana was there and we joined them for pizza and drinks at Splash, a cool beach bar at the very chill Exuma Hideaway Resort. We'd never anchored near Goat Cay, and between the local Fish Fry shacks and the several resorts it's a really nice spot (if you're not being beat up by prevailing eastierlies!).

Yesterday as the wind went north we joined the Georgetown Shuffle over to Sand Dollar Beach, which is a rather crowded anchorage right now. I haven't counted the masts but I'd guess we have about 50 boats over here, including friends on Texas Two-Step, Rondo, Pura Vida, Dragonfly, and a few others. It's really blowing stink from the NE tonight with leaden skies and rainy squalls, will continue tomorrow, and finally slack off Monday. Tuesday we're hoping to make our escape to Conception Island.

Now here's the bad news: we have to come back to Georgetown on Jan 19th. The visiting veterinarian at the Bahamas Humane Society missed his last visit due to the holiday, so we can't get Piper's International Health Certificate for the Turks & Caicos (or DR, if we get a weather window to bypass the TCI) until then. We'd been hoping to be in the DR for Dawn's birthday on Feb 4th but now are hoping we can just get to the Turks & Caicos by then. The Super Bowl is that day in Minneapolis, and it's our fervent hope the Vikings will be playing it in their home stadium! We're going to try to do an early visit to Conception Island because it's one you really don't want to miss - just in case later we have the weather window that allows us to bypass it and make tracks further SE. There's a chance friends will join us in Provo TCI, and other friends in the DR, but it's all fairly fluid and up in the air right now. As ever in sailing, the weather has the final say.

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