Bahamas: Clarence Town, Long Island to Georgetown Exumas via Rum Cay
We reached Clarence Town, Long Island, the evening of Memorial
Day, and anchored close in, in grassy sand. For the next three days,
we sat back and enjoyed this lovely little town. It has two beautiful
stone churches, both designed by Father Jerome, who's famous for his
Cat Island church. The first of the Clarence Town churches was built
when he was the local Anglican priest; the second, after he converted
to Catholicism. We tried to imagine his pitch on the second church.
"Remember what I told you last time, when I got all of you to hand-build
that big stone church way up there on the top of that hill? Well,
I was wrong. So this time, you're going to have to build another church,
on top of this other, even bigger hill. No, no. This time, I'm right.
I just know, that's how." Naturally, we had to visit both churches,
and they really are beautiful. Interestingly, the Anglican one is
more ornate, although still quite simple. They're both well maintained,
but both front doors need fixing.
Rob had to do some rules committee business, and dinghied into town
to the Batelco office to buy a phone card. On the way back, he met
an American who was bicycling through the main square (well, the only
square), and they ended up stopping in at Skieta's bar for a beer.
Skieta is blind, so the way the bar works is that you go inside and
help yourself to whatever you want to drink. Then you come back outside
and drink it, while chatting with Skieta. When you want to leave,
you tell him how much you've had to drink and he tells you how much
you owe. You give him the money, and if you need change he gives it
to you. We're not sure how he manages the last part -- something about
different denominations in different pockets, we decided.
The American has kept a cottage on Long Island for 17 years, spending
from three weeks to a couple of months at a time there to enjoy snorkeling
and spearfishing. When we saw him, he was with his daughter, and the
next day they showed up at our boat with a freshly-speared grouper,
as a gift. They came over that night for drinks, and were very enjoyable
company. The grouper was great, too.
The next day, we hitchhiked up to Dead Man's Cay, which turns out
to be a section of the island, not an island in itself. It's the center
of commercial activity for Long Island, with its 2 banks, the high
school, and the Batelco office. We would have rented a car, but there
were none to rent, so we stuck out our thumbs (which is how the locals
also get around). In each direction, the first car (well, pickup truck)
to appear gave us a ride to our destination.
The people are incredibly friendly. While driving, everybody waves
hello to every car coming the other way, and we had no trouble talking
to anybody about anything. Wherever we ate, the proprietor came out
and introduced himself. By the way, the Harbour View restaurant in
Clarence Town is justly renowned for its guava duff, a rich dessert
featuring pound cake topped with a creamy guava sauce. Yum!
The main conversational topic was the upcoming Regatta, easily the
biggest thing to happen on the island each year. They sail deep-V,
full-keel boats that look to be about 20 feet long, with masts about
50 feet high and booms a third longer than the boat. These are balanced
by lots of guys who shinny out on planks on the windward side of the
boats. Almost everybody we met was planning to attend the Regatta.
Booths with local food and drink will be erected at the regatta sites,
and the parties go long into the night. The town dock in Clarence
Town was quite busy when the weekly supply boat came in, loaded with
Regatta provisions in addition to the usual merchandise.
There are, it turns out, 64 registered voters in Clarence Town (some
must attend both churches), and by Thursday we felt as if we knew
nearly all of them, so we decided to visit tiny Rum Cay. This island
features a long, shallow lagoon with good anchoring but some roll.
They say it's possibly the "real" San Salvador, where Columbus first
made landfall. There's a marina there where we bought fuel and some
non-potable water. The marina and restaurant cater to sport fishermen,
but welcome sailors, too. The restaurant is excellent.
As we came into the Rum Cay harbor, we were hailed on the VHF by our
friends on Tigre. They had just arrived with "Sacanut (?)", some folks
they had towed in from about 300 miles east of Barbados when the other
boat's rig came down in a squall. When Sacanut arrived at Rum Cay,
they were sinking -- the packing box on their prop shaft had come
apart, and only an emergency dive with some plastic bags kept them
afloat. Tigre had told us that these folks brought bad luck, and we
began to believe it when, first, our seawater pump ran dry and we
were unable to reassemble it without it leaking like mad, and second,
a fire broke out on our breaker panel! One of the breakers apparently
didn't break but instead started to smolder. Fortunately, Andi smelled
the burning plastic and shut everything down before the whole boat
Undaunted, we sailed the next day back to Long Island, but this time
to the northern tip, behind Cape Santa Maria. It's another place that
lays claim to being Columbus's first landing site. There, we discovered
the most delightful resort we've seen in our travels. Cape Santa Maria
Beach Resort consists of a main building and ten duplex cottages,
scattered along a classic picture postcard sand beach looking out
onto the bay. The bottom drops off fast, making for great swimming,
and the cottages feature big screeened-in porches that looked perfect
for just sitting and reading. ... Or perfect to observe the Overtons
replacing their refrigerator wiring. It was this wiring which had
overheated and nearly caused the fire. This was pretty hot work, so
we cooled off periodically by jumping into the bay. By nightfall we
had new refrigeration wiring, and treated ourselves to dinner at the
resort, snug behind hurrican shutters with thunder and lightning outside.
The dining room is huge, and the service good. To our minds, the Cape
Santa Maria Beach Resort would be the perfect honeymoon retreat.
The next day we motored to Elizabeth Harbor on Great Exuma in light
and variable winds. Rob got some work done and Andi caught some rays.
We anchored at Fowl Cay south of Georgetown for a snorkel, and found
an underwater desert! Not a single fish to be seen for the first ten
minutes or so, and then only one or two. There were a couple of conch,
but they were immature so we left them.
We weighed anchor and proceeded toward Georgetown through the marked
channel, with Andi at the bow looking for coral heads and Rob referring
to the cruising guide for headings and landmarks. Despite these precautions,
we read one of the buoys wrong (close up, it really has a red stripe,
but it looked black and white to us) and ran hard aground on the reef
it marks. We had to wait until high tide, around midnight, to kedge
ourselves off. No damage to the boat, but a sharp lesson in why you
can't relax in this part of the world!
We're now lying off Georgetown, where we've restocked our larder,
filled our water tanks with barely potable water, and met some cruising
folks (Read: drank lots of rum and learned how to make great conch
salads). We also took the opportunity to remove the raw-water pump,
check the impeller, and put in a new gasket, as well as to replace
the wire from the alternater to the main battery switch. We think
this last task may mark the final step in reversing the mischief done
by Dwight, when he supposedly upgraded our electrical system four
Soon, we're on our way again, to the northern Exumas, then the Abacos.