24 April, 2013

Momentous Day

Location: Stocking Island, George Town, Bahamas
Position: N 23 31.647 W075 45.946  
It is an exciting time in George Town. This week is the annual Family Island Regatta , boat race for the local Bahamian sloops. Participants, boats and spectators have been arriving for the last few days. The big mailboats that arrive usually with supplies for the island have been passing Rachel packed to the gills with racing sloops built with care and precision in the traditional fashion on other islands. The town is a hive of activity and anticipation. The men all boasting about their boats, the women dressed to the nines in tight clothes and glamorous hairdos. On the water the Bahamian sloops are setting up and fine tuning their rigs, practicing to make sure everything is working correctly and making sure the crews are familiar with the harbor.
We attended this regatta 4 years ago and are excited to be here for it again.

Today was the first day of races and Mark was invited to view them, along with a crowd of folks on one of the cruising boats. The plan was to sail around the harbour following the race and getting the best views possible while drinking beer and having fun. Mark had lots of fun as you can see from the pictures. They managed to really get close to the boats making it an exciting afternoon. 


While this was going on Julie was enjoying a relaxing afternoon on Rachel, reading and popping out in the dinghy to watch an occasional race round the mark that was set up, conveniently about a half mile from Rachel. During one of the times of relaxing on the boat a friend, Gail, comes zooming over in her dinghy. She says “Get your bathing suit on and your snorkel. The dolphin's here!” It was not necessary to say more. We'd been waiting for 2 weeks for this to happen. 30 seconds later Julie jumps into the dinghy and off they go. We had seen a dolphin and baby in the harbour and had heard that they would let you swim close to them, but since then we hadn't seen them. Every day we were on the lookout but to no avail. So you see why this was an exciting event. We spent about an hour, cavorting with the mother, we didn't see the baby. We swam so close that we could almost touch her. If we turned and started to swim in a different direction she would turn and follow and then swim up underneath us. Sometimes we would get out of the water onto the boat to get a good view of her from above. But mainly we just took turns being up close and personal. 


20 April, 2013


Location: Monument Beach anchorage, Stocking Island, George Town, Bahamas
Position: N 23 31.647 W075 45.946 

Yes, we are still in George Town. After waiting more than a month for parts to fix different equipment we were ready to leave but the wind has just not been cooperating. So here we sit. There are certainly much worse places to 'be stuck', however, and after all “we in de Bahamas, mon!”

One of our favorite pastimes here in George Town is walking the paths on Stocking Island. There are many trails to follow, some easy, some rather more difficult. Over the time we've been here, we've settled into a daily routine we call “The Rachel Walk”. We'd like to invite you to come along with us this morning if you like...

We leave Rachel after breakfast and make the 2 minute dinghy trip in to Queens Dock just south of the old Peace & Plenty beach bar. We head inland, past the picnic tables, and bear right to follow the path up to the monument. It's a bit of a climb, so we get our blood pumping first thing – quite invigorating!


Once at the top we sit on a bench and look out across the anchorage and Elizabeth Harbour. You probably hear us saying things like “Look, there's Rachel – isn't she pretty?” “Hey! There's <boat name>! When did those guys come in?” “That one that just came in looks pretty close – I hope they don't bump into us.” “The wind seems to be a bit more south than they were calling for, doesn't it?”

After we catch our breath, we continue east along the monument path toward the beach, but a short way down bear right onto the “Intrepid Path”, a somewhat more vertical down-up-down path for the more intrepid walker. Along the way we climb the second of three hills on our walk and pass a big termite nest hanging in the trees.

The Intrepid Path ends where it joins Marie's Path. We take a left onto Marie's Path and head to the beach. Most of the steep part of the walk is over. There are a couple more “challenging spots” to cover, but except for them you can pretty much relax from here on out.

We continue our walk by meandering north along the beach to where the Monument Path exits on the beach. Following the monument path a short way up the hill (the last of the steep parts of the walk), we bear right and south onto the Cliff Path where we climb the third and last hill of the day. 

This path follows the crest of the dunes for quite a good way, presenting us with gorgeous views of the ocean side of the island. These views are also usually accompanied by a nice cooling breeze, being exposed as they are, to the prevailing easterly trade winds. Good for cooling down after the “climby bits”. There's a nice bench along the way at the juncture with “Nev's Path” where we usually sit for a bit watching the waves surge in and out along the shore.

One feature here is a large crack through the rocks we call “The Surge”. When the waves run up through the crack the resulting pressure pushes a “mushroom cap” of water boiling up over the rest of the wave. Sometimes, when the tide and wind are just right, it also acts like a blow hole, spewing frothy mist high into the air.

Okay, that's enough rest - time to get moving again...

The Cliff Path finally peters out at the beach near where it joins the “Peace & Plenty Path” and “The Nature Trail” near the “Butt Tree”. Don't ask – just take a look at the photo on the blog and you'll see (with only a bit of imagination) how aptly it's named.

We continue north along the beach, looking for treasures along the way, to “The Baths” and the “Julicuzzi”. The Baths is a beautiful basin with a crescent shaped sandy beach on the inside and rocks on the outside. At low tide it's like a giant bathtub. The waves break on the rocks outside but there's hardly a ripple inside the basin.

The Julicuzzi is a fantastic little spot in the south corner of The Baths where one can sit in the water in a small tub-sized sandy basin. At the right tide level the waves break along the shore and a small cut channels water up and over the rocks forming a frothy white waterfall that tumbles down into the basin. It earned it's name because it's Julie's favorite spot along the walk to take a cooling break. 

From the Julicuzzi we make one of three choices. Most often we continue north to the Shoe Tree Trail. Sometimes we backtrack a bit to the unnamed (and unmapped) path we discovered a few weeks ago, and sometimes, if we want one more bit of workout, we continue north along the iron shore to the “North West Path”. Whichever choice we make, we cross the island again and end up back on the Elizabeth Harbour side. We often stop for a rest in the shade at the “The Flip Flop Shop”, a small picnic area complete w/ tiki bar created and maintained by cruisers. 

Regardless of where we come out, we then follow the paths and beaches south along the shore back to the Queen's Dock.

According to our handheld GPS The Rachel Walk is just under 3 statute miles and takes us a little over an hour. Adding in the vertical parts (what Julie calls “the uppy-downy bits”) makes the Rachel Walk a pretty good daily workout for us.

We hope we haven't worn you out. Remember, if you have any energy left we can always go play in the water after lunch!

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel

11 April, 2013


Location: Monument Beach anchorage, Stocking Island, George Town, Exuma
Position: N 23 31.640 W075 45.952 

We've often heard cruising defined as “working on your boat in exotic places”. As much as we'd like to deny it, there's altogether too much truth in that statement. Take the last several months for example...

November, Isle of Palms, SC: install new below deck autopilot. Remove stuff from basement, stow on deck under tarp, crawl around in the aft pointy end of the boat (big thanks to Jim & Betsy for the use of their shop and to Randy & Pat for the use of their truck. You guys rock!).

One month later: Remove tarp, put stuff back in basement, and head south using new autopilot.

One day later: Autopilot quits working.

December, Vero Beach, FL: replace faulty parts on the new autopilot. Remove stuff from basement, place on deck under tarp, crawl around the aft pointy end of the boat. Finally finish new autopilot installation. Remove tarp and put stuff back in basement.

January, Black Point, Exumas: wind generator centrifugal brake breaks – can't use in more than 20 knots of wind until fixed. Contact friends in Vero Beach, Florida who are Bahamas-bound to bring along a piece of stainless steel (among many other things – thanks, Roger & Jane!) so we can have a new part fabricated.

February, Thompson Bay, Long Island: friends w/ stainless delayed, so we go to Thompson Bay to have the wind generator part welded. While we're at it, we also have extra bracing added to autopilot bracket to reduce flexing under load. Do the stuff out of basement, crawl around in the aft pointy end of the boat, stuff back in basement routine again.

February, Red Shanks, George Town, Exuma: anchor windlass quits while anchoring. Turns out the brushes in the motor are shot. Order new parts to be shipped in via air freight.

March, Red Shanks, George Town, Exuma: after spending way too much money on shipping, customs, a customs broker, and local delivery, and spending two frustrating days chasing around after customs, paperwork, customs broker, etc., our windlass brushes arrive. After spending several more frustrating days taking windlass apart, installing new parts, and reassembling, windlass works fine – we can finally haul anchor and move! On our way to Stocking Island we discover new autopilot doesn't work again – now it's blowing fuses. For crying out loud – enough with the autopilot, already!

March, Stocking Island, George Town, Exuma: troubleshoot autopilot w/ manufacturer – he says it's a cable. Same old drill - stuff out of basement, stuff back in basement. Cruising friends have visitors scheduled to come, so we make arrangements to have them bring a new cable to replace the suspected faulty one (Thanks “Jezebell” and “Steve”). New Cable isn't problem. Other cruising friends have visitors coming the following week who bring replacement circuit board (Thanks “Aeolus” and “Hootie Hoo”). That fixes it. Take a test run back out to Long Island for a mini-regatta for which no racing boats show – many of us who were there have taken to calling it the “Long Island Mini Non-Regatta”. Chased back to Georgetown by weather. Scrub exterior teak and apply teak sealer in our spare time.

April, Stocking Island, George Town, Exuma: Sun damaged thread on homemade “stack pack” sail cover begins failing. Remove stack pack, restitch all seams, and reinstall. Luckily, nothing needs to come out of the basement for this job!

Toss in a bunch of other, smaller jobs and you get the picture – we're not just sitting around on a sandy beach contemplating our navels and watching the sun set while sipping wine. However, we ARE in the Bahamas, there ARE sandy beaches and crystal clear water, there ARE happy hours and friends around, there ARE beautiful trails all over the island that we love to walk, and there definitely ARE worse places to be stuck doing boat jobs!

Cruisin' along,

Mark & Julie 

(And thanks to Barefootin' for the photos!)