It has been too long since our last post and this has provided plenty of time to reflect on our third winter (well really only 2.5) on High ZZ’s. This past season was the best, and we hope to keep on improving. What were the highlights? For starters, we notched three more island groups into our Bahamas cruising gun stock: Eleuthera, New Providence, and Exumas. In doubling our cruising ground experience, we found something closer to what we imagined cruising in the Caribbean would be like. Eleuthera, especially, seemed like a true gem. Yes it had a “city” (Spanish Wells, in our eyes), but it was colorful, tidy, and clearly more dependent on the sea that surrounds it, rather than a burgeoning tourist industry buoyed up by US and Canadian dollars. Its residents a wonderful mix of colonials and African descendants. Other Eleutheran towns we visited (Hatchet Bay, Governor’s Harbor, Rock Sound) were cozy little hamlets that served as centers of commerce. Sure, cottage/house vacation rentals were everywhere, but these places did not really have the boating services that make them more cruising tourist stops, as we would define them. If you want boat fuel, you have to haul it from a service station on land in Jerry cans, schlep it into the dinghy, and then try not to spill it on the deck as you pour it in. There are no marinas or fuel docks in such places. There may, or may not be, a water tap near the shore somewhere to fill your cans/tanks. We were actually quite pleasantly surprised at the lack of services in places like Governor’s Harbor, the center of the Eleutherian government and the past capitol of the Bahamas. This lack of services keeps the “Ugly Rich Boater” quotient low, and the “friendly poor cruiser” numbers high. To call them “poor” is really not correct, but by contrast, they would not pay $2-$4/night/foot of boat length to stay at a marina. They will be anchoring out, most every place that they can.
The Exumas, because of their beauty, history, and remoteness, seemingly attract the biggest crowd of cruisers. And, it was in the Exumas that we encountered the largest concentration of mega-yachts (with 4-story high water slides, back deck “garages” full of jet-skis and speed boats as long as High ZZ’s, helicopter pads on the upper decks….). Special places like the Land and Sea Park in Warderick Wells, Thunderball Grotto in Staniel Cay, and Allen’s Cay (Iguanas) always attract a crowd. And, as you heard in an earlier post, Georgetown shenanigans are legendary! There are so, so many beautiful anchorages in the Exumas, it will take another year or three of cruising to get anywhere close to seeing just half of them. But we will probably always stop in Black Point. With laundries, grocery stores, Wi-Fi hotspots, and…get this….FREE RO Water!
New Providence (Nassau) we could give a miss. As the Bahamas most populated island (read: worst crime rate, largest cruise ship terminal, Atlantis Tourist Resort, polluted water, necessity to call Nassau Harbor Control before entry…) it is not my cup of tea. The saving grace was Palm Cay Marina on the south side of the island, with reasonable rates and very nice facilities (pool, beach, and restaurant, bar, free courtesy car.
Real Highlight: Sharing our cruising with friends! Visits from Rob and Sandra (Georgetown) and Martin and Patsy (Abacos) gave us great joy. Some compromises and a little stress was involved in meeting non-cruising friends while away from the US. The biggest concern is trying to connect the where with the when. The weather does not always cooperate (pinning us in Georgetown more than desired), the ferry schedule may not be ideal (needing to retrace our steps), but the benefits (fun/good times) far out-weigh the costs.
New twists in old places: the great conch fritter challenge. With friends visiting, it is easy to discover new fun in familiar surrounds. As you may know, Bahamian restaurants/bars pride themselves on their conch fritters. With globe-trotting connoisseurs of fine cuisine, Martin and Patsy, we sampled many of the best fritters that the Abaco Islands had to offer. Snappers (Marsh Harbor) took the best CF award this year!
This past season we faced new adversities (busted autopilot) and worse weather, but again, the rewards were far, far greater…can’t wait for next season!