Ch 15 - Winter in Paradise

Let's pick up in George Town, Bahamas...

December 29, 1997
"Got cleaned up (after diving for lobsters) and went into town so Cap could shoot pool and watch football. Came home in the dark and stayed up later than we had in ages. We laughed at my question back in Eugene, "Should I bring the black bag or the brown?"  What was I thinking?! It was nice to be with people more our age, since we seem to be the youngest ones around.
"Czar took a dive getting back on the boat:  front paws on the swim platform, back paws on the dinghy, dinghy started drifting but he never moved until splash! Cap had to drag him aboard, and Czar was quite put out for the rest of the evening."
Finally, I was beginning to relax and enjoy myself, even if Czar wasn't, and the longer we stayed in George Town, the better I felt.  I still avoided the cliques and remained on board much more than Cap, but we'd begun to meet other newbie-cruisers, and life on Ruff Life was becoming normal.  Cap kept working on new and recurring problems, but as long as we weren't moving I wasn't overly concerned.

January 5, 1998
"I wonder when it sank in that when the bedding feels damp that it's not a permanent thing.  A day of sunshine with a nice breeze and all is dry again, so it's not a hopeless cause; just a bit uncomfortable.  The same holds true for everything else, it seems."
Our biggest dilemma, after our lack of nautical charts, was power consumption, and the main culprit was the refrigerator/freezer.  It consumed a ridiculous amount of juice and was a constant drain on our already-tired batteries.  The generator was as old as the boat and it kept shutting down, causing Cap considerable time and frustration down in the engine compartment. I still suffered mood swings and Cap suffered me, but all in all we were glad we came. 
"We met a couple with a chocolate lab who needs babysitting for 5 days and we offered to watch her.  What's one more big dog?"
Our new friends, who I'll call Marcy and Bart, hailed from Connecticut, and for five years following his retirement Bart carefully planned and prepared for an prolonged cruise on their trawler.  Never wavering from his goal, Bart diligently worked on each year's extensive list of improvements he deemed crucial for such an undertaking, Marcy told me; but she hadn't taken him seriously until he asked if she'd put in for her sabbatical.  Their goal was the Virgin Islands, where stateside family members would be gathering for a tropical reunion; and after that, Venezuela, like us.

They made it as far as Mayaguana, about 200 miles south of George Town, but when they tried to cross to the Turks and Caicos Islands they had a horrific time; rough enough for them to turn back to George Town, then Connecticut.  They were marking time until they would fly down to their reunion, necessitating the dog-sitting.

Hearing their story was not unusual in itself, proof we weren't the only ones who had calamities; but it was sad to imagine their disappointment after all that time and preparation.  Bart certainly handled his with aplomb, while I  believe Marcy was secretly relieved.

Ch 14 - Pot Lucks and Volleyball

Ahhh, George Town.  After days of isolated, puddle-jump stops we were back in the midst of dozens of boats, with more arriving each day.  George Town was a popular destination because of its protected anchorages; and cruisers would while away the winter months up until the annual regatta in April; after which most skedaddled north or south to wait out hurricane season beginning June 1st.

We stubbornly refused to follow Tomboy into their suggested Hurricane Hole #2, electing instead to anchor, along with Glen Lyon, in an area just off the main canal; nice and breezy but with little protection, we learned that rocky night.  G.L. remained but we sheepishly moved Ruff Life alongside our friends the next morning, meaning put things away and tie everything down, again.

December 23rd, George Town, Bahamas
"After listening to the net, Tom radio'd and chop-chop - time to move!  NOW!  I keep having to pinch myself because we don’t have to leave for…it started as 2-3 weeks, now a month, or more?  Cap assures me I will have fun; like George Town; relax.  We’re planning on doing a lot of work on the boat, and Cap started by buying Tom’s spare battery for $10.  He switched ours all around, built a battery box and reconnected wires with the help of Tom and Dave, the electronics wizard from Sea Dancer.  Czar shares a beach with Jake, the Norwich Terrier on Welsh Rover." 
After days without any signs of civilization we were suffering from cabin-fever, and perked up at the idea of exploring town.
"There's a nice market which has pretty much all you need. Meat's expensive, especially beef; but you can send and receive faxes and mail, which is really nice.  There's a couple of dive shops, a marine store of sorts, gift and various other shops.  The best bakery operates out of a van, and an old school bus houses the local hot dog stand.  It's a short walk around the little bay, with a big blue and white church, ice cream parlor of sorts (strawberry and vanilla), and Cap found a sports bar with a pool table."
The 'net' in G.T. included advertisements for these establishments, and we particularly enjoyed the sing-song one for the cleaners, which promised,
"Clothes come out clean and smelling..." a very extended pause, "fresh."
We discovered as we traveled that when you drop off your laundry with one local woman, usually working out of her home, don't be surprised to find your clothes drying on chain-link fences up and down the block because it's farmed out.   Despite the cost we never minded, after my sudsy fiasco on board while trying to wash clothes by hand.

Christmas Day, 1997
"Started rowing Czar back and forth to the beach - it's slow going and he practically falls asleep along the way, but hey, at least he gets there."
My body was getting into the best shape of its life.  I still refused to learn to use the dinghy motor, so I had no one to blame but myself.

Ch 13 - George Town or Bust

Island-hopping wasn't the cake-walk I'd been led to believe:  coral reefs, shallow spots and fishing lines which could tangle in the prop were the greatest dangers, so we kept a keen watch from the vantage point of the fly-bridge.  The water might have been rough at times but at least the weather was cooperative; plus, islands were scattered everywhere, so at least if we wrecked we could swim to shore.

We'd been making our way to Marsh Harbor, the largest settlement in the Abacos Islands, for provisions and most importantly charts to continue south.  Everywhere we stopped we searched for groceries, parts and cigarettes in tiny shops with dusty shelves, and Czar always attracted attention.  He was the largest dog around.  

On Green Turtle Cay we stumbled upon a tiny hut at the top of a hill with two windows and a door, and experienced a Bahamian delicacy for the first time.  It was empty inside except for a single small table against a wall, with three rush-seat chairs.  After a few moments a stern looking woman came out from behind a plywood wall and explained that conch fritters was all she served, and sodas.  They were tender and delicious, and I dragged Cap back the next day for more.  Conch were everywhere - we'd never go hungry!  But although Mama warmed, she refused to give up her recipe when I asked sweetly.  She'd had many offers, she proudly declared, and after failing to ever find fritters as tender and delicious as those on top of the hill, I'm not surprised.

We planned on cruising part of the way to Marsh Harbor with Redhead, but when it was time to leave our batteries were dead, and so was the generator.  We instead waved goodbye to our friends and went in search of a jump.  We got out late-morning and arrived early afternoon following a nice, easy ride, for once.

Ch 12 - Cruising the Bahamas

I couldn't believe not a single egg was cracked when Cap and Don picked up the refrigerator.  I would have liked to fix a drink immediately but we had to deal with paperwork first.  From Entering/Exiting Policies of the Bahamas,

"Visiting boaters must clear Customs and Immigration at the nearest designated Port of Entry. As you enter each port, fly the yellow quarantine flag and notify Customs of your arrival. Only the captain is permitted to leave the boat until your vessel has been cleared."

Cap cleared customs without mentioning weapons while Don and I picked up the boat a bit, but before Czar could set one paw off the boat we'd have to take his shot records to the Ministry of Agriculture in Freeport.  We could have done that before we left Florida and saved the time and expense, but we didn't know.  Don stayed with Czar and Ruff Life while Cap and I took a cab to the Big City.

On Grand Bahama they drive on the left side of the road like the U.K.; only the cars have steering wheels on the left side, too, which was hard to watch from the back seat. The driver was chatting with Cap in the front and pointing things out, but we were too tired after the crossing and anxious to get back so the beast could get off the boat.

Czar's permit was $10 plus cab fare, but I can't find or recall the entry fee for the boat; certainly less than $50 or I'd have torn through my journal page while writing.  I'd heard the fees had gone up, and nowadays for boats under 35-feet it's $150 and those over it jumps to $300.  I guess they figure they can afford it.

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