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Old 03-07-2011
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Georgetown Glory and Giggles

I apologize for the delayed posting on this - we've been at sea, and so have not had access to the web. Those on my log list (the yahoogroup in the signature block) got this and the others coming on a timely basis by virtue of my son posting it to there after I'd sent it off to him via Ham radio - if you'd like to subscribe, click that link...

Georgetown Glory and Giggles

No, we didn't really fall off the face of the earth. Just having WAY too
much fun since we last talked, so to speak :**)) As I write this, we're
currently in the Ragged Islands, a group of very small, nearly all
uninhabited, very remote, islands south of Great Exuma, having had no
internet connectivity since leaving George Town. Indeed, this is coming to
you courtesy of my son who's forwarding it from our HAM radio email link...

We left you, other than a short note about Christmas in the Bahamas, without
telling you anything about our travels to George Town and beyond. As
there's so much which has happened, I'm going to have to give you the
Reader's Digest version (which, I'm sure, in my usual way, will turn into
the book version!)...

Those of you who follow our SPOT locator tracking service
(tinyurl.com/flyingpigspot) know that we had a lovely, if rollicking, sail
down from the bottom of Eleuthera to George Town on December 2nd. The wind
was relatively light in our direction of travel, and, as is our wont, we
sailed at night so that we could arrive with a guarantee of light as we came
in the entrance to George Town.

After our somewhat convoluted exit from Rock Sound, avoiding the shoals
there, and immediately outside, ditto, we could have sailed it on a rhumb
line (straight from one point to the next) but that would have meant seas
directly behind us, and with the light winds, difficulty keeping our sails
full as we wallowed in the following seas. Accordingly, as we had plenty of
time, we instead jibed ourselves, heading first slightly upwind, to keep
more pressure on the sails, on a 135-150* apparent wind starboard tack.

We made good time across Exuma Sound from our late-afternoon departure, and
jibed for a direct course to Conch Cut, the northern entrance to Elizabeth
Sound bounded by Stocking Island on the west, and Great Exuma on the east,
at 9:30PM. That kept the wind about 135-150* apparent on our now-port tack.
With our brilliant sky above treating us to the Milky Way and the BILLIONS
and BILLIONS (as Carl Sagan used to say) of stars, we saw daylight well
before we entered the cut. By 10:45, we had the anchor down, exactly 18
hours after we'd pulled it up, on December 3rd.

We'd been listening for the morning net as we'd approached, but heard
nothing. We thought we might have been too far out to hear it, but, once
inside the harbor, a query on 68, the hailing channel for the George Town
area, revealed that the "official" net would not begin until the 11th of
December. The over-all net controller had volunteers lined up the weeks
immediately following the 11th, but since it wouldn't happen otherwise, I
took it upon myself to start up the net at the Marsh Harbour time, 8:30AM,
following the format I'd used there when I was the net anchor.

Heh. Folks in George Town like their "stuff" in a certain way, and mine
wasn't it. I had sidehand (or secondhand, never determined for sure which
it was) complaints that it was too long, the weather was too detailed - and
worse, there was a recap at the end, too late (people couldn't get about
their business and hear the net, both), not the format which they were used
to, and other dissatisfactions. Given that there was not going to be a net
until at least a week later, I chuckled to myself that if they didn't like
how it was, they could just not turn on the radio to 72, the channel on
which the net was broadcast there, and they'd have not only not missed
anything, they'd not have the grumbles about it :**))

Toward the end I started referring to it as Pirate Radio Net, soon to
reliquish the helm to the apparatchik. As it seemed mostly to be the Frech
Canadians fussing, I believe that went over their heads. In any event, I
had fun doiing it, and noted that my version, shortened as it was compared
to the later nets which had "Regatta" announcements in profusion, and a much
higher "Community" section, along with, sometimes, prolonged "Boaters'
General" (my equivalent of Open Mike) sessions, my nets ended very close to
what would be the case in only a few weeks. In due course, I passed the
baton on to the first volunteer.

Much more than our usual winter visits to George Town, but a bit like our
last time there, which was after the Family Island Regatta (a VERY highly
attended event where boats from all over the Bahamas competed in several
classes for various prizes), we bounced around the Elizabeth sound from
place to place.

As usual, we spent some time at Volleyball Beach, so named because it was
there one found three volleyball courts established and maintained by the
cruising community. Games ranged from very highly skilled players in teams
of 4 to "Regulation" with teams of 6, to "Fun Volleyball" with teams of 9.
I mostly played, during my time there, "Fun Volleyball" - so named because
that was exactly what it was. Different rules prevailed, the most notable
of which was that so long as it didn't hit you twice in succession, any
number of hits before the ball touched the ground was acceptable to return
to the other side. Nobody was very aggressive, if for no other reason than
to avoid injuring someone by running or diving into them, and chatter/gossip
was constant during the points separations.

It's for that reason that another rule was that any time the ball was being
sent to the other side on a service or point change, it was to be thrown
under the net. That's because, in general, nobody was paying attention, and
would likely take it in the head, otherwise. Balls sometimes were played
off the net repetitively, as returns failed, usually with the result of
continually lower digs to get the ball back up and into play. The poles
were "in play" - which meant that, if you returned a ball which hit one of
the poles, and you or another player could get to it, you could continue
your side's return efforts. That was a rarity, but happened often enough to
make it even more fun.

I played volleyball as my exercise, and because, particularly in the early
days there, few players showed up, there were many times where we were in
teams of 4-7 players. In those cases, another unique rule of Fun Volleyball
was waived; a single hit serve return was allowed with 6 or fewer players.
In "standard" rules, a minimum of two hits on the serve return was required.

The other unique rule was that there was no spiking. A return could be
forceful, but not driven down even in the unlikely event of the returning
player being able to jump high enough to make it do that (the typical player
was a minimum of 40 years old; having the occasional hardbody on a team made
for even more fun, as they could usually not only reach, but properly direct
a ball once they got to it!) - but my height and ape-arms made it possible
for me to have to think about the rule, occasionally :**))

The other event at Volleyball Beach was Beach Church. Because this didn't
actually start up until just before the Christmas week, I took myself off to
the local Anglican Episcopal Church in town, joining their award-winning
choir and gospel group (there are national competitions in both categories,
and this group had won both this year) for the Christmas performance and
subsequent Sunday morning services.

However, when Beach Church started, I returned to Stocking Island (home of
all the beaches) and their Sunday services. My son and his wife, both very
talented singers, visited us in late January. As Lydia's parents were both
vocal professionals, she had a better-than-typical grasp of vocal music
despite her claiming to be not much of a singer; I've been a Barbershopper
in my shore life, and have been in church choirs since before I was a
teenager.

We decided on John Stainer's "God So Loved The World" - an a cappella piece
from his "Crucifixion" - and found it on the same web site as I'd used to
pull down my two solos I did at my Dad's retirement center during our shore
trip last summer. We printed out our 4 copies to rehearse from, and
performed it on the only Sunday they were here. At the risk of braggadocio,
it was VERY good - and we very much enjoyed our nightly rehearsals aboard
Flying Pig, to boot. We were pleased to have cruisers telling us, more than
a week later, that they couldn't stop humming it to themselves :**))

Our time together had us, on one day, doing a circumnavigation of Stocking
Island. Unfortunately, the wind wasn't ideal, so we did one huge tack,
taking us well out into the Atlantic, followed by one short tack when our
return leg wasn't quite enough to get us to the southern entrance to the
harbor. However, the day was great for sailing, and we had a great time out
in the sun and wind. Unfortunately, despite our having the lines in the
water the entire time, there were no interested fish in the area we
traversed, so we again struck out in our attempts to procure dinner under
way. However, that day's fun satisfied our guests' desire for an ocean
voyage and deep sea fishing!

We also spent a fair amount of time snorkeling, visiting Fowl Cay and a
couple of other locations. Nothing worth shooting at, so the spear has yet
to be christened, but good sightseeing and picture-taking. My wetsuit,
long-time readers may recall, took flight in Marsh Harbour, so I'd ordered a
replacement which Michael and Fish were kind enough to bring to us (along
with about $250 worth of foodstuffs!) as part of the stuff a friend,
expected much earlier, was to have flown down in his own plane during a
visit with us.

At my suggestion, since they wanted wetsuits as well, they ordered from the
same place we did. However, I had a critical error in my order. I'd
presumed that my prior wetsuit was a 3mm, but when I saw their 3mm wetsuits,
I knew I was in trouble. The vendor had, for only $5 more, a 7mm suit, so
I'd ordered that. I gather from feeling their suits that I must have had a
1.5 to 2mm maximum thickness suit before, because this one would be suited
to VERY cold waters.

Worse, it added so much floatation that I couldn't put enough weight into
the 5-pocket weight belt I'd also bought to even get me to neutral bouyancy.
So, in addition to making it nearly impossible for me to stay down without
working very hard at it, it was so bulky that it notably impeded my progress
through the water. It will go on Craig's List when we get ashore and I'll
order a 3mm, unless I can find a 2mm - which is plenty in these waters,
rarely under 70, and usually warmer than 75*! However, the size-14 boots,
used to make my feet more comfortable in my flippers, and the lycra cap,
were very welcome additions to my gear bag.

When we weren't doing snorkeling or volleyball (Michael and Fish were very
talented players), we bounced around between Kidd Cove (the location closest
to town, and with the best internet connectivity) and the beaches.
Hamburger Beach was the site of many musical open mike sessions, as well as
an attempted repair of my Porta-Bote, which had sprung a leak in the stern.
Alas, it was not successful, and likely will be replaced under warranty.
Sand Dollar Beach is the home of the hippies and the recluses, being the
quietest, so we spent some time there to get away from the noise level
present on Volleyball Beach. It also has a lovely sharply rising sand
bar...

We took advantage of the sand bar to run ourselves aground on a falling
tide, the better to scrub the bottom without having to chase it around. The
ground rose so sharply that Michael and I did the bow section without the
hookah rig, which we'd use when we got to deeper water, starting at the
keel. However, about 1-1.5 hours into our cleaning, up pulls the Water
Taxi, whose driver sternly informed us that if we wanted to clean our bottom
we'd have to haul the boat. No bottom cleaning in Elizabeth Harbour!!!
Quit what you're doing and pull up your anchor and get out of here! Of
course, being very hard aground, that was impossible, but, with stern
admonishment to cease and desist, we did, in fact leave.

That EVERYONE cleans their boats in the water here wasn't a deterrent to our
self-appointed policeman :**)) (Ostensibly, this could have been a product of
the recently enacted "no-discharge zone" implemented in Elizabeth Harbour,
also widely ignored, though several boats did avail themselves of the new
pump-out boat service started late last season.) And, we'd heard just
enough stories about folks having been run out of George Town for variously
politically incorrect acts, whether deserved or not (never, in the minds of
all the cruisers familiar with the given cases), we chose not to push the
envelope. However, that meant that we still had 2/3 of a hull full of shag
rug equivalent to slow us down, something we'd regret later.

Our time with Michael and Fish ended with us doing a water run. We
ordinarily are water nazis but, with the free reverse-osmosis water provided
by Exuma Markets at their dinghy dock meaning only the labor and fuel for
the many trips as the cost, Michael filled about 60 5-gallon collapsible
camping jugs in the course of our refilling the forward tank and topping off
the aft tank, hoisting each the 4+ feet to the deck from the dinghy - a
great deal of exercise! He allowed that it was very well worth it for them
to have taken showers every night they were with us :**))

Of course, it's typical to pay anywhere from 20 (rarely) to 50 cents per
gallon (usually) of water in the Bahamas, IF you can get it. When we go to
the Jumentos, there simply isn't any available other than if you have a
watermaker aboard (we don't; it takes up way too much room as well as is
very expensive to buy and run/maintain, easily exceeding $.50/gallon until
you've had it for 20 years or so), or catch rain. So, the benefit provided
by Exuma Markets is huge, and on settled days, the line at the water fill
can have you waiting for as much as an hour. Early in the season, and not a
calm day (though we were anchored close enough to have that be of little
concern), there was rarely a single boat in line when Michael arrived at the
dock.

As a side effect of having received some special patching material (which
failed to stop the water ingress, due to the severity of the injury to the
Porta-Bote) in the rescue package brought by Michael, however, I was able to
patch each of the camping jugs which had pinhole or other leaks, so, in the
future, when we accidentally slash one as we heave all 40 pounds of it up
on the deck, I'll have the means to fix it instead of toss it, as we've done
with several in the past.

Each of our little excursions back and forth across Elizabeth Harbour was
occasion to break out the genoa, as the trip was short enough to not bother
with the mainsail. However, the prevailing winds at the time usually made
for an easy sail and, with our windlass, getting the (usually at least) 125'
and pounds of chain back aboard or deployed, along with the 55 pound Delta
Anchor was a trivial task. Unfortunately, the chain we bought in St.
Petersburg seems not to have been hot-dipped galvanized, and is staining
badly as it rusts. Having it redone, along with the anchor, which is
showing signs of wear at the point, will be one of our chores during our
time ashore this spring.

Anchoring in George Town, and in most of the Bahamas, is excellent,
and we've been very well hooked everywhere we go - but I still put out a
minimum of 7:1 scope (the length of chain relative to the depth and height
to the bow roller); I like to sleep soundly, instead of worrying that we
might drag in the middle of the night, the time when most storms seem to
hit!

Our next travels are to the Ragged Islands; our timing is cruicial for the
Valentine's Day party thrown by the local grocer/supply person. We'd
planned on going a day earlier than we actually left, but the wind was so
light that we took advantage of an unusually good internet connection to
stay on line the entire day, phoning all of the relatives and making
last-minute arrangements for our coming time ashore.

One of the highlights of the connectivity was my ability to make the flight
arrangements for Lydia's mother to make the trip to the wedding in
Charleston, and onward, visit my sister in Spokane. Whether she chooses to
join us in Abaco after that will have to wait until she sees how her
workouts go. At 85, while she had a great time with us for the 6 months she
stayed aboard a couple of years ago, she and her family are concerned that
she'll have the strength and flexibility to cope with getting in and out of
the dinghy, and coming aboard from the side ladder during her frequent
swims. However, she's been going to the gym three times a week for a couple
of months now, and may well feel fit enough by the summer. Certainly, she
wants to come... We'll see :**))

As usual, this is plenty long enough, so we'll leave you here. We'll see
you next in the Ragged Islands!

Stay Tuned :**))

L8R

Skip



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