Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Georgetown Regatta Week

Each day of Georgetown Regatta week had planned events and competitions organized by cruising volunteers. Our contribution to the event was a 4 CD compilation of “newer” music that we created for Rockin’ Ron. The events we missed included: a pet parade, coconut harvest challenge, bocce ball, volleyball, softball, ocean beach golf. Participating in Kids’ day, the rowing events, the scavenger hunt, sand castle building, and two days of sailboat regatta racing was plenty. The events were run on a tight schedule with pre-registration required. We found this out the hard way as the kids were not allowed to enter their hermit crabs at the last minute. Tears flowed.
The children showed Oma their tree climbing, rope swinging and fort building abilities. Alvina enjoyed the adult “summer camp” scene with most of the people being her age. We entered the dingy scavenger hunt with DC while the kids had their own team. One problem was discovered from the start, the kids had the same list as the adults (which included getting a cold beer)! We had to negotiate sharing items…like pirate CDs, flares. In Georgetown, wearing a U of M t-shirt got me an unsolicited ride back to the dock from a recent alumnus. After a judge’s conference about our water bucket, we got a respectable 3rd place, missing 1st place by one entry! The kids settled for second with an adult/kid team winning. More life lessons as there was no second place prize.
Barefootin’ it to “Beach Church” Sunday morning gave us a chance to pray for strength for the rowing regatta immediately following. The events did not start well with all of the men’s rowing competitors lined up to start as we pulled up 5 minutes late. I start strong… too strong and pull the rows right out of the holes. No prize in this race for Johnson 1. Parker, by far the youngest of the group, started great until Malcolm rowed into him… he finished at the end of the pack. Again, more life lessons. Angie got third in the women’s rowing, out of 4 competitors, getting beat by a 75 year old woman. This is much harder than it looks. Blind this could be our adult rows while a kid directs. Turn right..whose right, yours or mine! Parker and I got a second place..even after going way off-course. Sabrina rowed with Nicole (DC). Angie watched and yelled from shore as the blind teenagers smacked both girls in the head with their oar. They got a special ribbon for getting injured. More tears…don’t forget this is supposed to be fun!
Sabrina, our go-getter, entered the kayak race as the only girl and 4 years younger than everyone else. She paddled the entire women’s course without giving up and finished last. Angie started out strong in the women’s kayak event but ran out of gas nearing the finish….a respectable 4th. The “13 feet of fun”, Dave (DC) and I paddled for our life. The kayak was plowing through the water with all of the weight. The teenager girls won and the photo finish for 3rd did not go our way. (Our photo clearly shows us taking third… oh well).
For kids day they did GPS treasure hunts, hole digging, crafts, obstacle courses, long jump, and all the kids favorite, the homemade sailboat races. The kids’ came home with lots of ribbons. Parker’s rig used an old foam cooler as the hull and was called “litter box”. Sabrina using a Styrofoam catamaran with Mylar sails won her first heat handily but was unable to get her boat to sail straight in the finals. In the afternoon, 70 local Bahamian children played team games with the cruising kids for a great cultural experience. The adults had a great time dancing to Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape that night.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Emerald Bay, Great Exuma Island

Emerald Bay, Great Exuma Island

With Angie’s Mom, Alvina, (Oma to the kids) flying in for the week, we moved the boat 10 miles north to the Four Seasons/Emerald Bay marina. The brand new, 200-slip marina charged a special rate of $.75/foot including all the laundry you could do. (we managed 8 loads) They even laid out “the Emerald Bay red carpet” in front of our boat. We loved the free shuttle to the market and the sister resorts’ pool and hot tub. The “high season” occupancy rate of the condos and marina was less than 10% while they were still building more units and more amenities! What they really needed to do was complete the breakwall to the marina entrance to stop the waves breaking into the marina. Of course, her luggage and all our “supplies” from the states did not make it! If you can believe it, the taxi driver said he could get the luggage with no claim check or ID. We waited and waited for the luggage to come in the next day and finally called the airport.. no plane for awhile. The kids really wanted to do the Georgetown pet parade with their decorated hermit crabs. Thanks to Exodus, another Manta, for agreeing to deliver the luggage to Georgetown. So we cast off back to Georgetown, sorry to leave the marina life. Oma loved it so much she wanted to go back.

Monday, February 26, 2007

We claim the island

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An Island of our Own

We “buddy boated” with Dream Catcher to the untouched Jumentos. Everyone got along so well together and it was much more fun to have another boat around in these remote island. The boats were rigged and ready for a sunrise departure and “fishing tournament”. Chaos occurred as we sailed onto shallow water (40’) and immediately had 5 barracuda on the lines. Lines crisscrossed, lures were destroyed or lost and a feeding frenzy of mass proportion ensued. We released 2 barracuda, lost 4 rigs, and brought in a half of a barracuda (i.e. “header”). It seems that 4’ barracudas are bite sized morsels for larger predators of the deep! $50.00 in lures, gone! Dream Catcher landed their first Mahi Mahi, the winning fish. They shared their good fortune and fed us all.

Jamaica Cay was our day’s landfall. On its shore was what was to be a vacation "resort" in paradise. What we found was abandoned semi-trailers and an abandoned building that has been jury rigged by cruisers to catch rain water. On the kids' beach walk, they spotted a crude boat, probably Haitian with food out and everything… but where were the people? There are lots of Haitians in the Bahamas trying to make a life for themselves and not get caught.
Lisa spotted a large bull shark behind their boat so we picked the snorkeling spots carefully with Lisa staying in the boat as a look out.

Johnson Cay:

Our family thought this was one of the most beautiful places on earth. A powder sand crescent shaped beach harbor big enough for only 2 boats. To one side of the bay was a beautiful reef to the other was a rocky hill. . Snorkeling, beach fires, exploring and lounging were the scheduled events of the couple of days we spent there. Before leaving, the children painted and signed a piece of driftwood “Welcome to Johnson Cay” for their art lesson. We later learned that this piece of paradise sold for only $145,000 just a few years ago. If only we had known, we could have had our own island (ha).

Racoon Cay:
We motored an hour north to Raccoon Cay for the northerly protection. That evening we saw a Bahamian walking with a rifle and camo on the shore, which was a surprise. He appeared to be hunting the wild goats and pigs of this uninhabited island. We realized that we were closer to Cuba than Georgetown, Bahamas. Further north we stopped over in search of a blue hole. After bushwhacking a bit we found the overgrown path leading to the blue hole. This one had a soft bottom mushrooming up in the middle with caves extending out the sides. All 8 of us jumped in and had a great swim. We also saw several stacked stone walls of the Loyalists’ past. There are ruins of their houses and field walls throughout the islands.

Buena Vista Cay
Buena Vista Cay to the south had a fabulous cluster of cays and a great shallow reef with a 5 lobster dinner waiting for us next to our boats. On this leg of shallow water we dragged some beat up lures and were able to get a jack and mackerel among all the 4 barracuda we released.
We again met up with another kid boat Aries. Parker and Sabrina practiced trying to spear fish on the south end of the island. As often happens, sharks cruised by for a look and it was out of the water for the families. Flamingo Cay had a large grotto cave we drove our dinghies into, balanced conch shells on rocks for fun and swam around in. Despite the pricks and scrapes we bushwhacked to a hilltop where the ruins of an old house, well, field and cave was located. Numerous times we have seen evidence of Mother Nature winning out over mans attempt to settle this harsh environment.
Seashore shopping has become a fashionable pastime for us. I have a pink shirt from a dive at Lee Stocking Island, a shirt and shorts ensemble from Johnson Cay. Angie picked up a nice white skirt on the shores of Flamingo Cay and the kids build the wildest forts and seashore art from all the stuff the ocean brings in. With all the clothing and shoes (never a pair) we find washed up on shore there must be a lot of em-bare-assed people making there way home from the beaches of the world. “Huh? Well I’ll just walk home naked.”

Parker and Sabrina go diving:

Before leaving we motored out a couple of miles and re-anchored at one of the ocean’s blue holes. We had a fabulous dive as a family using our Hooka system. We all swam from the boat to the rising ring and then descended down the coral laden mouth. We made our way around the interior, swimming under ledges, around coral heads through schools of fish, and did summersaults for fun. Before leaving we arranged some dead conch shells to say HI.