On Grand Bahama they drive on the left side of the road like the U.K.; except the cars also have steering wheels on the left side, which was hard to watch from the back seat. The driver was chatting and pointing things out to Cap in the front, but we were too tired after the crossing and anxious to get back so Czar could get off the boat.
Czar's permit was $10 plus cab fare, but I don't recall the entry fee for the boat; certainly less than $50 or I'd have torn through my journal page while writing. Fees have since gone up substantially: running $150 for boats under 35-feet and $300 for anything over.
Most of the cruisers we encountered had stock portfolios and/or retirement funds to keep them afloat, they freely shared; whereas our cruising kitty was dwindling daily without being replenished. We were under $10,000. After that first cab ride we hitchhiked more often than not whenever we stopped at an island for provisions, and never, ever had a problem.
We would stash the dinghy wherever we could (public docks or tied to a mangrove tree) and start walking inland, leaving Czar to guard the boat. Invariably someone would stop to offer a ride, and since English is the official language it was easy to explain what we needed. People often took us directly to a store and sometimes returned to give us a lift back to the dinghy; but if not we'd catch another ride, it never failed. The majority of people refused to accept any gratuity, for which we were most grateful. Bahamians are outgoing and were naturally curious about strangers appearing out of nowhere. We looked unassuming and were friendly in return, especially Cap, who once caught a ride on a moped while carrying a 5 gallon jug to get some gas for the dinghy.
When we returned from Freeport we joined Don and our neighbors, all of whom were drinking on the dock, minding Czar on board and comparing stories of their horrific crossings from Florida. Except for the recent wreck outside the entrance to the little bay, our tale took the cake. By this time my right thigh was entirely black and blue from the Norcold, and the clearly visible 3" dent running crosswise merely enhanced our entertaining story. Cap refused to take a photo because, "People will think I beat you."
From my journal, December 6th (I think):
"I'm black & blue all over, with a 6" gash on my back, an enormous bruise on my right thigh and an arrowhead bruise on my tailbone pointing down. Cap's sore like the dickens, and has a pinched nerve which makes steering very painful."
"It's lovely - we're the only 2 boats here and there's a beach with palm trees and shrubs, coral reefs, grass bottom water. I was hoping we could stay for a time, and when I heard we'd stay the whole day and leave tomorrow I was ecstatic. This afternoon we all went snorkeling and I was scared, but Cap took it easy and held my hand as we swam."
"Ran (pretty much) out of cigarettes. I traded a bag of popcorn to Redhead for a pack and Cap started rolling the Top tobacco. I'm trying one now. Tastes OK. Czar's been having a great time running on the beach with Drake. We look like liveaboards - stuff hanging everywhere, but drying out things is quick. I learned to wash and rinse dishes with saltwater - very nice - don't have to worry about wasting water on that!"
December 10, Green Turtle Cay:
"Are we having fun? Our batteries went dead at Moraine Cay and Cap had to work on the charger (clean terminals, whatever). We were stuck on the bottom but got off easily (I think). Had a nice day drive down to Green Turtle Cay. The waypoints I entered into the GPS were fine and we made our way in to White Sound, anchored and took the dinghy to look for parts. Not much here. Rum was cheaper, cigarettes $36 a carton and milk $3 for 1/2 gallon. Premixed OJ was $10 a gallon. Wow! Have to quit smoking and start drinking shots with Cuban cigars."At least Cap was able to find parts to solve the moving fridge: two large eye-bolts screwed into the wall, with one of those red ratchet straps to hold it in place.
"This AM we planned on going to Marsh Harbor, but we didn't get out early enough and we grounded. Cap tried to get us off, but we lodged on something worse. The tide was going out and the boat tilted, A LOT. I thought it would flip over but it stayed put on the port side, barely. Good thing - the fridge would have been straining for hours. I had to go to Redhead for a couple hours and when I came back Cap had shaved his beard off out of boredom. I wanted to stay in our dinghy, so we played Yahtzee while the tide came in."Here's what happened: when we dropped our anchor in the late afternoon the previous day, we entirely missed the red warning flag indicating a mound so don't anchor nearby. We wondered why no one anchored there, and were happy not to worry about accidentally swinging into somebody. Of course we swung during the night, so when the tide went out in the morning we were firmly stuck on the mound.. While waiting for the tide to come back in, Cap decided to cook us breakfast on the stove inside.
I never got the photo from Redhead, but they took a picture of Ruff Life, hull exposed, Cap scrubbing the bottom while standing on the mound. The boat stayed still for awhile but I was afraid to go on board, so that's when we sat playing Yahtzee in the dinghy. Czar stayed on board. A boatload of Asian tourists motored by at a snail's pace, cameras snapping at our spectacle. We waved.
"The tide was coming in and Cap started tugging on the anchor we'd set on the starboard side, as per the how to un-ground instructions we'd botched back in Florida. His precious Ray Ban sunglasses fell into the water so he grabbed his snorkeling gear and dove in, which is precisely when Ruff Life decided to slip off the mound. I panicked as the boat started drifting with no Captain in sight, but luckily she hit another mound long enough for Cap to climb back on. It was almost noon by then and too late to set out so we re-anchored; but this time Cap added chain to the rode to help us hold.
George Town or Bust
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To read from Chapter 1: A Rough Start