Since arriving in the Exumas we’ve made our way down the chain. We enjoyed a stretch of uncharacteristically calm weather, with winds in single digit territory. Those days are generally counted on one hand, and rarely extend beyond that, but they are the memorable ones, as visibility in the water improves dramatically with the reduction in surface chop. Moving across the water is a unique experience; typically as you move across the water, your eye uses the surface as a point of reference. When the winds lay and the water surface becomes smooth, as you move across the water, your eye moves from the surface to the bottom as its point of reference, particularly in the dinghy at speed and closer to the surface, creating the illusion that you’re suspended above the bottom on a sort of magic carpet ride. The experience is quite unique!

Shroud Cay is part of the Exuma Land & Sea Park, the anchorage is delightful, with numerous tidal salt creeks cris-crossing the Cay. One of the creeks can be followed to the ocean at high tide.  The creek that runs to the ocean exhibits quite a bit of current when the tide changes, the location is known as “the washing machine”, a location popular with charter guests.  We’ve noticed an increase in mega-yacht charters over previous visits, and with those charters come the inevitable water toys, the jet skis being the most annoying.  They find the tidal creeks particularly interesting to run at high speed.  There can be miles of ocean in all directions, they invariably dart in between the anchored boats. There is no enforcement in the Bahamas, save the occasional Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) patrol.

We moved from Shroud Cay to Staniel Cay and anchored just off the grotto for easy access to town.  Some changes since we were here in 2012, a new laundry close to the Yacht Club, new signs for the Pink Store as well as the Blue Store, the Yacht Club has an expanded restaurant, very nice, and some other ongoing renovations. There seems to be an increase in construction activity most everywhere, the economy doesn’t seem quite as depressed as it was in previous visits. We paid a visit to the laundry, even though we have a washer-dryer combo on board, it’s worth the trip to the laundromat and the extra cost to get it all done in one shot, particularly the larger loads of towels & sheets.

After a few days at Staniel, we headed south to Georgetown. We managed a catch on the way, a nice skipjack tuna, our first experience with a tuna of any size. It was quite different than other fish we’ve caught, we knew immediately that this was not the dolphin/mahi we were looking for. As soon as the hit came, the reel started singing as a few hundred feet of line zinged out, and straight down! I yo-yo’d between reeling in and watching the line head back out for several times before finally getting the fish close to the boat, and at about 30 ft where we could finally confirm it was a tuna, it dove again! Once gaffed and on board, we were able to identify the fish, and tried to get most of it into our small-ish cooler with the ice we had on hand. It turns out skipjack is not prized for eating quality, but we found it to be very good. We grilled some that evening, and grilled directly on the grill with some seasoning it was quite delicious!

Our Georgetown trip objective: to meet up with sister Lisa and brother in law Dave who were flying in for a two week stay. We planned to do some diving, contingent on the weather, of course! We picked them up at the Exuma Market from their cab ride from the airport. They were bringing some parts along, and those parts created a delay with customs, despite best efforts to have the paperwork all in order. Cruisers in the Bahamas with a current cruising permit may bring in repair parts duty-free, but still must pay the 7.5% VAT on the parts, and that includes the shipping of the parts from the source. In addition to the VAT, there is a customs fee, plus the broker’s fee to walk the paperwork through the system. In all, it cost around $120 in taxes and fees to get the parts from the airport to the broker’s office in Georgetown, and it only took two days. There simply is no Bahamian equivalent of “urgent”!

Despite the wind kicking up during their visit, our guests and us were able to get a couple of dives in. We did two dives with Dive Exuma, the local dive shop. The first was a blue hole a short way from the boat. The blue hole is about 90 ft. deep, it’s interesting with many caves extending from the main chamber. Local knowledge indicates that at some time, dye was released in the hole and evidence of the dye was observed some four miles off shore on the sound or ocean side. Stories also circulate about a diver who was retrieved from the caves after becoming lost and running out of air (and subsequently, life) so we stayed close to the group!  The one day that was fairly calm the dive operator was booked, so we rented gear and headed south to Pigeon Cay, about 7 miles (a little over an hour) away. We tucked Maerin in behind the reef, deployed our “flopper stopper”, and readied our gear for a dive. So, four adults with full dive gear in our 10 ft. 6 in. RIB, headed out to sea! It was without a doubt, an adventure! We only traveled a half mile or so from the big boat, and anchored the dinghy with our diver down flag, then headed down. There are three or four reefs within a few hundred yards, so we explored them one by one, navigating between them with a compass, since the visibility was somewhat limited. We had a great adventure, saw some great sights, and made it back to our anchorage in time for dinner! Our last dive was again with Dive Exuma, just north of Elizabeth Harbor through a cut to the sound side where we dove on two reefs. The dive boat is a cat boat, it has lots of deck space for gear, and shallow draft to enable it to negotiate the shallow waters around the reefs. Visibility in general in the Georgetown area seems to run about 60 feet, not as clear as the waters north in the area of the Exuma Land & Sea Park. There are few dive operations in the Exumas from what we’ve found, so our choices are limited, as guests must rent gear. We can dive with our own gear, but we’re limited by having only a pair of tanks that we must have filled, and there are limited facilities that can fill tanks, and those that do may not always advertise. Add to the mix the frequent winds, and the opportunity for great diving is not something that can be scheduled in advance. It’s more catch as catch can, and it’s all, as most activity here is, weather-driven! The best diving experiences are in out-island locations, and it requires having all your own gear on board and the capability to re-fill tanks, plus the willingness to hang out at those out-island locations long enough to be able to take advantage of favorable weather windows. That’s a tall order for a vessel of our size; having all that gear requires a bit more boat! Still, we had a great time, and thoroughly enjoyed sharing our experience with family!

One Response to “Georgetown”

  1. Lisa on 21 Apr 2015 at 11:49 PM #

    Thinking of you guys a lot today it was a beautiful sunny day here at the beach,like we had in Bahamas.
    Dave feel asleep reading Clive Cussler imagine? And burned his belly again!
    It hurts too much to apply aloe he says