Sunday March 24, 2013
One of the first things I did once we got into the Bahamas last week was to send a message to our friends Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip and let them know that we had finally arrived. There had always been plans for us to meet up in the Bahamas at some point and do a little traveling together, but after our accident we expected them to be long gone by the time we ever entered the country. We knew they were sending his brother off from Staniel Cay around St. Patrick’s Day, and after that was just waiting for a weather window to then make the crossing to the Dominican Republic. Luckily for them and us, their plans change as much as ours do and they were willing to hang around George Town Exumas to wait for us if we could make it there within a week from when we got to Nassau. Still keeping a Panama Canal crossing in the back of our minds for this season, we were already rushing and figured that meeting back up with them, even if for only a day or two, would be icing on the cake. The plan was to make it from Staniel to George Town as quickly as possible, but this also meant finding a place to get from the West side of the island chain on the Bahama Bank side to the much deeper and mostly clear of coral Exuma Sound side. Along the Exuma chain of islands are a few cuts which allow you to transit between the two sides, but some can be tricky and even downright dangerous. We opted to try the Dotham Cut, but still being green to the Bahamas, wanted to go at high slack tide so we didn’t get caught in a rage where the wind and current are opposing and not only create steep waves, but can also leave you moving at a measly two knots while trying to force your way through them.
The Dotham Cut is located between Bitter Guana Cay and Great Guana Cay, right next to Black Point Settlement, a ‘not to miss place’ in the Exumas, so we hear. Mainly we’ve heard it has the best laundry facilities in the Exumas, but I was also interested in the rum punches that everyone seems to get from the neighboring bar while their clothes tumbled and dried. Checking the tide charts for that day, high tide was at 7 am and 6:30 pm. Winds were forecast at 15-20 from the S-SE, exactly the direction we would need to head, of course. We’d also heard that getting into the harbor at George Town can be quite tricky due to lots of coral blocking both entrances, and there was no way we’d want to chance getting there in the dark. The run itself is around 50 miles from Staniel to GT, so it was looking like the 7 am departure was out. That left us with 6:30 pm, which was fine by me because then we could do an overnight sail, tacking across the sound and getting there hopefully just a few hours after the sun had risen. To position ourselves though, we’d want to make the 8 mile run from Staniel to Black Point first, and then we’d be able to run into town, do laundry, cook supper, and be ready to go at high tide that night.
Upping anchor in the late morning, we made our way out into the banks and past the few mega yachts that were anchored far out in isolation, and started to turn south. The dinghy was up on davits as usual, but unlike usual, we had our 9.9 hp engine on the dink instead of our 3.3. I don’t know if it was the extra 30 lbs or so hanging off the starboard side of the davits, although it really shouldn’t have made a difference, but just like the last time we had the 9.9 up, something went wrong. Matt fortunately noticed it right away, but the stainless steel bracket that holds the davits to our stern split down the middle. If we were sitting at anchor where there was little to no extra pressure on the davits, a little jerry rigging would have been fine until we could find a proper solution, but with the wind and waves we were bouncing into, the dinghy had to be brought down immediately. Throwing the boat into neutral we lowered the dinghy into the water, and Matt jumped in and wrapped it around the stern cleat. It looks like we’ll now have to add finding a welder to our list of things to do. Continuing on to Black Point under engine, we bashed into the wind and waves that were right on our nose at a measly 2.5 knots. The 8 mile trip ended up taking us 3.5 hours, and we finally dropped hook at 1:00 in the afternoon.
Gathering up our laundry we took the dinghy to the government dock and made our way up the road to Rockside Laundry. Not only were these some of the best facilities in the Exumas I’m sure, but they also looked to be some of the best laundry facilities we’ve ever seen. The room was white and airy, lined with rows of washers and dryers, and the entire area was spotless. But the best part of all were the amazing views just outside the door. A bright white picnic table sat overlooking the bay filled with Kool-aid blue waters and dotted with boats. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful spot to do laundry in the entire world, I can see why it’s so popular among all the cruisers. It was too bad I didn’t bring a book with me to be able to sit out at the picnic table to enjoy the scenery, and since we had missed happy hour (they only offer it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays), I also wasn’t about to pay the regular $8 price for a rum punch while I waited for my clothes. So we sat in the plastic chairs inside and I pounded out some writing, on an office doc without wifi, until our clothes were done.
When everything was clean and folded and stuffed back into our bag we were making our way back to the docks to get everything ready to leave in a few hours when we ran into a guy that had been anchored next to us a few nights before in Sampson Cay. We told him of our plans to leave that evening to be to George Town by the following morning. Asking why we’d want to put ourselves through that rough weather to get there, he mentioned an East wind coming through on Monday that would be a perfect beam reach for us to ride and mentioned that he was going to be using that window to get from Black Point to GT. Getting back to the boat and checking a few grib files, we did begin to wonder why we would be beating ourselves up just to get there the following day. If it had taken us over three hours just to make it eight miles, we could only imagine what 42 miles would be like. Talking it over a little more, we knew Rode Trip wasn’t expecting us until Tuesday and we did have a little time to wait for a more preferable window. Throwing in the towel for an overnight trip, we got ourselves out of preparation mode, and knowing that we had another full day ahead of us before leaving, let ourselves really relax for the first time since getting to the Bahamas.
Today we took one more trip into Black Point, planning on visiting the Garden of Eden which from what we’ve heard is an interesting and worthy stop on the island. One of the local residents has turned his yard into a sculpture garden, full of rocks and driftwood placed into shapes that resembled all kind of things from people to animals. Being a Sunday, we had wondered if the island basically shut down while everyone was at mass, and didn’t know if we’d even get the chance to see it anyway. During our two hour excursion to the island, we never did find it because we were intercepted by a few other cruisers that kept us in a very long conversation, and by the time we parted ways we only had 30 or so minutes to get back to Serendipity since the water maker was running in our absence and we needed to get back to shut it off. I’m sure the island had a lot more to offer that we ended up missing, which was sad, but even an afternoon spent lounging in the cockpit here is perfection, so I’ll take what I can get.
Back on the boat we turned the water maker off and started the process of lifting the dinghy on deck since we didn’t want it trailing behind us for the run down to George Town. Attaching a halyard to the front, I took the job of winching the dinghy up while Matt stood guiding it over the lifelines and onto the deck. The first few rotation of the winch were very easy, but after the dink was fully hanging out of the water they became a lot more difficult. I began to throw all my weight behind my turns just to get one clockwise rotation out of the winch. Little did I know, Matt was trying to lift up the dink as best he could to give the line a little slack and make the winching easier on me. Still getting ready to heave with all the force I could, the new extra slack sent my body flying forward and me face-planting into a little hook we have stationed on the mast that we attach our spinnaker pole to. I’m a pretty pain tolerant person so the blow itself didn’t bother me too much, but I could tell it was going to leave me with a nasty black eye the next day, just when we’d probably be scheduled to meet a lot of new people. A few minutes later we had the dink up on deck and secured down to the cleats, and I spent the rest of my afternoon trying to think of ways to how best explain what was obvious to look like a beating, and that, no, I was not just waiting to be told twice.*
*No, I do not find physical (or any kind of) abuse funny, but since in this case my black eye was related to my own stupidity, (and the kindness of my husband) I felt it was ok to make a joke. I hope no one has taken offense by it.