Monday, March 28, 2011

Georgetown to Clarencetown, Long Island, Exumas, Bahamas March 2011

Given all that and specific to our travel from Georgetown to Clarence Town, Long Island,  Van Sant says one should ‘go NORTH to go SOUTH’.  He strongly urges boaters to veer north to Conception Island from Georgetown and then head SE to Rum Cay, rather than turning east at Cape Santa Maria and cruising down along Long Island to Clarence Town.

The reason is that the Atlantic eastbound waves split north & south of Rum Cay, mixing with rebounding waves of the eastern tip of Long Island and create some horrific wave action - 12 footers closely spaced or worse.  We spoke with one trawler cruiser who did this trip a few years ago and he said the one thing he regretted on his trip was NOT following Van Sant’s advice just mentioned above.  This boater decided he would turn around the Cape Santa Maria tip in order to cruise along Long Island and if it looked bad, would turn back and go North to go South to Conception & then Rum Cay.  Unfortunately, once he rounded Cape Santa Maria, the waves were 12’ or more at times.  He was scared to turn around as he was afraid his boat would broach (go sideways and roll over due to wave action), so he had to stay in those waves for several hours until he could alter direction a bit and make his way to Rum Cay.

Given all that, our plan was obviously to go to Conception, Rum and then to Clarence Town on Long Island but realizing we had such a great weather window, with no winds to speak of for several days prior to our departure and after speaking w Frank aboard Fine Romance, who had gone along the coast of Long Island in good weather, we did change our plans.  What an uneventful 9 hour cruise along the coast of Long Island -- no waves at all.  Pretty flat, and currents that moved us along quickly at 9 knots toward Clarence Town.  Phew!  Great Relief!!

While underway, I threw out two fishing lines, only to lose one lure to some fish that was certainly heavy.  Both Andy & I battled to bring him on board, to no avail.  We never saw what it was.   I now intend to find some wire leader vs the plastic stuff I’m currently using so big fish teeth can’t bite through.  It took me forever to tie a new leader and new lure to the rod -- knot book in one hand.  All was not lost, however.  We came into Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town (16 slips at $1.40 a foot + electric + water) where the boats are all sport fisher types.  A kindly Captain gave us two meals of just filleted dolphin he’d caught that day!

 Here, again sweating began as we neared Clarence Town.  The guidebook says ‘as you approach, it is almost impossible to pick up your bearings’, ‘head for the center of the channel, using caution as there is breaking surf (reefs) on your starboard side’.  Bah, it was an easy entry, using our waypoints, visuals on the buoys marking the channel (many places SAY there are buoys, but they are long gone - one cannot count on any navigation aids in the Bahamas) and reading the water. 

Could these have been old slave homes?
We are at the Flying Fish Marina as there are no safe anchorages here...again the ominous guidebooks say things such “as set your anchor by diving; boats often drag in the grassy bottom;  anchorages are ill-defined, not safe & peppered with reefs & coral heads”.  The only safer option for anchorage has ‘anchor trapping submarine cables underwater’.   Money well spent on this marina! 

We’ll be here until we have final confirmation on our new insurance policy as we have no coverage once out of the Bahamas.  I keep checking email as the weather is perfect and we are ‘stuck’.  It was a last minute quote with good coverage and a much lesser cost with an A rated company that has created the delay.  We decided to go with this one instead of another and finalizing the paperwork with  sporadic wifi slowed us down.

Discussion Point:  Why is insurance important, even for a boat?

Saints Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church, Clarence Town

The two Father Jerome churches in Clarence Town.  Father Jerome(1876-1956) was English by birth; studied architecture & later theology.  He came to these islands, building 10 churches  and re-building damaged ones, as well as preaching. 

St. Paul's Anglican Church

Monday, March 28, 2011
The wifi is not reliable here either -- it is so frustrating to attempt to get things accomplished via the computer -  one gets ‘on’ for a couple minutes at a time, then BING it is gone and one starts all over.  I worked for 6 hours last night no avail.  I now have all the insurance paperwork I need and am unable to send it back so we are still not covered leaving the Bahamas till I get get it back to the insurer.   Bah.  

Andy - Note steering wheel on the RIGHT
We rented a car today, driving on the LEFT all day, with the steering wheel on the RIGHT side.  Remember, these islands were at one time British and this is another one of the residuals I guess.  All day I was saying, LEFT LEFT LEFT.  Andy did just fine.  We traveled the island a bit south from here in Clarence Town and then went northward as far as Simms before turning around on this 80 mile Long Island....that IS it’s name, after all.   There is one main road, Queens Highway, stretching from end to end with lots of tiny settlements, each named after a one-time plantation owning family.   It is pretty much just scrub brush, some hilly terrain on the Atlantic side and a just a few pretty vistas along the way, but lot of settlements every few miles.  Only 4,000 live on this island.

Andy checking out the salt ponds
Highlights of our day were the Long Island Museum ($3 pp) that gave us a flavor of the island and it’s history as were the strange looking ponds with only a minimum amount of water in them.

They were laid out with stones making long rows of  big squares out of it all.  Seems they are salt ponds.  The tides bring in a bit of water and as it dries, the salt remains and is scraped off, becoming the product we buy.  I can’t figure out how they get the mud off the salt before selling it, however.  Discussion:  Can you find out how salt is made & tell me?!

Magistrate's Court in Simms, Long Island, Exumas

Old Jail in Simms
The guidebooks stated that one must see the Administrative Complex in Simms - so we did. What the guidebooks did not say was that these pink buildings are very old, run down, and somewhat falling down.  The prison is/was here along with the Magistrate’s Court, the Post Office, and what looks to be old slave type housing...all together on a tiny plot of land.  From the description, we thought this was going to be some new modern complex....surprise!  But it was interesting.   Gotta love these guidebooks....geez.

Simms, however, marks the geographic line of the Tropic of Cancer - the 23 degrees 30 line of latitude that marks the northern limit of the sun’s summer migration in the Northern Hemisphere.  So, south of Simms we are in the real TROPICS, no longer in the subtropics.  Upon arrival at the marina, we wondered why our satellite TV no longer worked.  We were told that because we are right on the Tropic of Cancer line, the satellites are too low in the sky to be of much use....can’t pick it up.  I wonder if this is why our wifi is so poor here too?  We will be cutting off our USA Direct TV tomorrow and are wondering what we might pick up as we continue cruising southward.  

Our most favorite Things To Do turned out to be the food we ate at Max’s Conch Bar.  Slamming on the brakes along Queen’s Hwy in Deadman’s Cay, we turned into this little shack lined with flags along the road to mark the spot and hopped onto bar stools at this roadside stand  The food was absolutely over the top and not expensive by Bahamian standards.
Making our conch salad

Chopping, Chopping
We had conch salad - watching Gene prepare it with large knife flashing rapidly as he chopped away.  In fact, the food was so good, we came back for dinner at 5:00 -- not terribly hungry, but not willing to pass up an opportunity to get more of the same - which we did.  Andy did order the cracked conch and it was good, but the conch salad is over the top.  We brought an extra order home with us for lunch tomorrow!  The ambiance at this road side stand is also great - quaint, cute, fun. 

From there, we drove to the Blue Hole in Deans, winding our way along dirt and gravel roads till we got to the beach along the eastern side of the island.    This Hole is the deepest known sinkhole in the world at 663 feet, with its entrance below sea level.  To my diving friends reading this - you can dive it.  It’s an 11 minutes descent to the bottom.  You can stay at the bottom no more than TWO minutes.  Upon your return to the top, you will spend FIVE hours in a decompression chamber!  In other words, no such diving is happening down there!

Deans Blue Hole is the site of a world class free diving competitive each year with competitors diving down, plucking off a line some kind of marker that states the depth and then returning to the surface.  The area is pretty, a little cove, with a sandy beach going out about 6 feet. Then the water turns dark blue and that is the hole  There is a 4,000 foot cavern underneath the hole that have never been explored.

 Speaking of caves, we called Leonard in Hamilton (VHF 16 “Cave Man” or check guidebooks for his cell #) and arranged to see the largest cave in the Bahamas.   It has been carved out of the limestone by the Atlantic and is pretty impressive.
More of the cave
Flashlights in hand, we wandered about, learning all about the Arawak Indians who once inhabited this place.  Bat guano is mined here, using it for fertilizer.  Happily, we saw only a few groups of bats stuck up on the ceiling as they rest migrate to other caves in the Bahamas and come back later in the year.

This cave has been in Leonard’s family forever - the Bahamas have what is called generational land owning and property is passed down over and over. 

Things are not as expensive here as they were in the other islands.  Food, things in stores and restaurant meals are somewhat less.  However, the ancient rental car was $70 for the day and the gas to refill was $5.65 a gallon.  There was no insurance on the auto - ‘costs too much, Mon’ and ‘besides, it’s hard to wreck around here with only one road going north/south’.

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