June 2000: 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 went up.
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 years ago.
Soon, we're on our way again, to the northern Exumas, then the Abacos. .