Wow! Who knew a week could pass so quickly? We had the pleasure of having two couples from our Sail to the Sun Rally come and stay with us on LIB for a week. And several other boats from the Rally made the effort to come and join us in various anchorages. The result was a week of fun, laughter and adventures with a pretty large number of people.
Waiting for guests in Staniel Cay.
We sailed LIB to Staniel Cay, where Brad and Terrie of s/v Reflection and Steve and Janine of s/v Second Wind flew into the Exumas. We had rented a golf cart, so on arrival day the six of us tooled around in a golf cart to explore the island and introduced the newcomers to “island shopping” at the local groceries. We had already provisioned for the week, but part of the experience of the boat life is poking about in local markets.
The wind was pretty strong so we decided to explore near Staniel for a day or two, but the wind could not intimidate our intrepid Rally friends. Tom and Louise of Blue Lady, Tina and Bill of Our Log and Laurie and Ken of Mauna Kea fought the wind and arrived in Staniel to reunite with our guests.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club was our restaurant of choice for our first reunion night. We figured we should go to the Yacht Club since this would probably be one of the only places during the week that had a bar or restaurant. The food was good and the company was even better.
Our days were filled with snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and general poking around the islands, followed by dinner aboard LIB most nights for whichever Rally boats were nearby. As is usual with boaters, every boat contributed to the dinners so we were not at all burdened with feeding everyone.
Instead of itemizing our itinerary, here are a bunch of pictures from our week. A special thank you to Tom and Steve and Brad for contributing photographs. I wasn’t very good about photo documenting so I really appreciate the use of their shots!
Frank swimming out of the James Bond famed Thunder Ball Cave.
Thunder Ball Cave was our first snorkel site right by Staniel. We enjoyed poking about in the cave, though it was pretty crowded when we first arrived. Several of the guys were dropped off on one side of the cave and they drift snorkeled through the cave allowing the current to propel them along.
Light from the hole in the cave ceiling pierces the water.
Susan and Kevin, plus Sue’s brother, Brian, of s/v Radiance, made a fast trek north from George Town to meet the group at Compass Cay. Susan and I were adamant that our guests had to experience the Bubbly Bath since we had had such a great time on our previous visit.
We dinghied to a beach on Compass Cay and walked about half a mile to the Bubbly Bath. As you can see, the scenery and the path were not too strenuous and even if they had been, the effort was worth it to reach the pool.
Thanks for this areal view, Steve.
Steve climbed up the hillside for a look from above and took this picture. On the left you can see where the water breaches the rocks and feeds the Bubbly Bath. At the back of the picture, behind where we are standing, is the shallow inlet that we walked across to get to this spot.
Although the weather was not warm, the clarity and color of the water begs for swimming and we obliged often. We moved LIB over toward O’Brian’s Cay where the Aquarium awaited.
Frank and Brad diving at the Aquarium.
Rather than simply snorkel the Aquarium, Tom, Steve, Brad and Frank pulled out diving gear and dove the site. I think this was the first time Tom was able to use his new gear and it was the first time in quite a few years that Steve had been for a dive. It was an excellent place to explore without much current to fight.
Here fishy, fishy…
The ladies snorkeled the Aquarium and Tom was able to get some great photos from the bottom while he was diving. As you can see, the fish are very friendly!
The picture isn’t great, but the gathering was fun!
While traveling the ICW with our Rally group, I was surprised to learn how many of the ladies did not know how to drive a dinghy or at least were not comfortable starting one. So one afternoon Terrie, Janine, Louise and I went out in Day Tripper for a driving lesson. These ladies were excellent drivers and only needed a little confidence boost. Within an hour all of them were able to start the dinghy, move forward or backwards, get the dinghy on a plain, rescue a fallen object and dock the dinghy….. We all learned some things and now they can confidently get themselves from boat to shore and back again. This might prove to be a retail boost for local economies!
We had the chance to fly the big red asymetric spinnaker which proved very relaxing.
Terrie and Brad found some quiet space on the trampoline but Captain wanted in on it.
We had to visit the crescent anchorage at Warderick Wells!
The full moon brought a certain magic to the scene.
Blue Lady waving goodbye after our drift snorkel through Conch Cut.
Steve gives knot tying lessons as we travel.
Spending the week with four guests who are sailors was a first for me. Because they are all familiar with the limitations and compromises of living on a boat, they were exceptionally easy to have on board. Additionally, although they own monohulls rather than catamarans, they have more sailing experience than I do and they jumped right into the line work, helming and anchoring. As a result, I had a pretty leisurely week!
A special thank you to s/v Blue Lady, s/v Mauna Kea, s/v Our Log and s/v Radiance for making the time in your schedules to make the “reunion” happen. I know Brad, Terrie, Steve and Janine had a much richer experience because you joined us!
We left Cambridge Cay with the intention of going to Farmers Cay before continuing to George Town on Great Exuma. However, once we exited Conch Cut and were on the eastern side of the islands, we had a perfect day for sailing and we just could not get ourselves to stop at Farmers. We had a beam reach and the islands to our west reduced the waves so we clipped along at 8 knots and traveled over 70 miles under main and jib.
George Town is cruisers central in the Bahamas and our first look was startling because of the number of sailboats and cruising boats anchored in the harbors. This was by far the largest gathering of cruisers we have ever encountered!
Typical number of dinghies anytime near Chat n Chill on Stocking Island
We arrived in Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma late in the afternoon and chose to find a protected spot because a few windy days were predicted.
We settled in an area toward the southwest part of Elizabeth Harbor called Red Shanks. It was a nice quiet area to ride out the wind, but we knew we wanted to move closer to where all the activity would happen.
Elizabeth Harbor is very large with several areas for anchoring. George Town is where the facilities are like grocery stores, fuel, restaurants, etc. However, this visit was all about the 37th Annual George Town Cruisers Regatta and Festival and many of the daily activities would be across the harbor from George Town on Stocking Island.
When the wind calmed a bit, we moved Let It Be across the harbor to a spot right off of Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island. This was the perfect spot for us because we were a short dinghy ride from many daily activities.
The GT Cruisers Regatta has far too many activities to list them all, so if you are interested in seeing more detail, look them up on FB: George Town Cruising Regatta 2017
Frank and I tend to be more about ‘doing’ than ‘watching’ so we signed up for many activities. In fact, we were so busy I hardly had time to take pictures.
Yoga was a fabulous way to start our morning on Volleyball Beach.
Nearly every afternoon there were pick up volleyball games that we joined often. Sometime there were 9 people per side and other times we only had four. It just depended on who wanted to play. The games were super fun with a variety of skill levels. We found volleyball to be one of the best ways to meet new people and get a little exercise in the process.
Frank seemed to think that the more sand he got on himself during volleyball, the better and I think he brought home a fair amount of the beach each afternoon. I wish I had a picture of that!
Tina and Bill of s/v Our Log joined us for the Poker Run. The weather was a little rough with some wind and squalls, but we managed to have a great time in spite of it.
The wide, open harbor was rough in windy conditions.
We traveled by dinghy across Elizabeth Harbor to six restaurants and at each location we chose a playing card. The final stop was back on Stocking Island at Lumina Point where we picked up our final card.
Bill, Tina and Frank look pretty serious about choosing a card.
A measly two pair, but we’re still smiling!
Our luck at pulling good cards didn’t exist and we ended up with only two pair. But we enjoyed seeing all of the restaurant/bars and sampling their food and drinks, and we couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Bill and Tina. We also met some great people, especially Jane and Kevin of s/v Libeccio.
Our next big event was the Coconut Challenge which we did with s/v Tatiana. YEP! James and Kristen were back with us again and we had more laughs than should be allowed doing this crazy event. The Coconut Challenge had three parts:
Part 1. Four people in life jackets in a dinghy without a motor. Each person has a swim fin to use to propel the dinghy. 1,000 coconuts were released and each dinghy tried to collect as many coconuts as possible without leaving the dinghy.
Many teams competed in the challenge.
James and Frank catch while Kristen tosses coconuts.
Part 2. One person stands with his back to two other team mates who are holding a garage bag. The thrower tosses coconuts over her head and the catchers catch the coconuts in the bag.
Who gets the most style points?
Part 3. Each teammate has one coconut and the team has 5 seconds to toss the coconuts over a net and into scoring circles in the sand.
Overall we earned 2nd place in the Coconut Challenge!!
Our next event was a dinghy race in which you had to create a sail and race straight downwind. Frank had the great idea of flying one of his kite board kites as our sail. After some convincing, the judge did allow us to enter the race but we had to start a little distance from the other racers as a safety precaution.
We started off great and it looked like we would easily WIN the race. But we quickly outran the kite which subsequently lost all power and fell from the sky! Sadly we were unable to recover and lost the race. Happily, no one was injured by the crazy kite and the kite lines didn’t get entangled in anything.
Next up on our schedule was the SUP race. Frank took first place in the men’s division and I paddled my way into second for the ladies.
There was a big variety show put on at a local park that included acts by cruisers and locals. Most of the performances were singers with musicians. Several dances were performed by children and there was even a poetry reading. Quite a variety of talent.
Frank prepares for the costume party.
Frank pulled out his shark costume from Halloween and entered the costume contest which had a theme of Gilligan’s Island or a Favorite Castaway. Although he was very energetic and into his character, he didn’t win any prizes.
Pretty creative costumes.
The most exciting events for us were the sailboat races! We decided to enter LIB in the In Harbor Race as well as the Around the Island Race. Of course we invited friends to join us as crew! And since most of us were graduates of the Sail to the Sun Rally 2016, we wore our t-shirts!
The In Harbor Race was my favorite because it was fairly short and pretty exciting. Our crew included Ken and Laurie from Mauna Kea, Kevin and Susan from Radiance, Tina and Bill from Our Log and James and Kristen from Tatiana.
The morning of the race dawn revealed a perfect day for sailing. Frank and I scurried about making sure LIB was ready and things were in order. James and Kristen arrived and we fired up the engines, except our starboard engine would not start! It didn’t even turn over. After a bit of diagnosing (and perhaps a swear word or two) we contact Bill, Mr. Mechanic Extraordinaire! He zipped over to LIB and bypassed the ECU to get our engine started. Phew, we were ok and off to the races!!
James directs and we hop to!
James was our tactician for the day and Frank had prepared a job list so everyone could participate in the race. Every one of the crew had only sailed on monohulls so we had to do some practicing before the race began.
I will admit, our tacks were a little rough at first! But we persevered and by race time, we were ready! This is the first time I have ever raced a sailboat and it was an adrenalin rush. I was at the helm and Frank oversaw all line work while James gave instructions.
Our imitation of wild action shots!
LIB from a competitors view.
We gave it our all and managed to earn third place. Ok, there were only four boats in our class, but still we earned a flag!!
Tina and Bill ready to add a preventer when we flew wing on wing.
The around the island race included the same crew with the addition of Brian from Radiance. Once again James was the tactician, I was at the helm and Frank was overseeing lines. Ken, from s/v Mauna Kea, put it best in a FB post:
We must be flying – look at our windswept hair!
“Let It Be placed another 3rd! It was a great race, after the first mark we were second. Shortly after that we were in first and then it all slipped away. We had victory in our hands and then someone offered drinks and snacks.”
Sharing snacks and laughs post race.
Haha, I’m not sure that was the reason we lost, but it makes a good story. Our monohull sailors got to see LIB in her worst sailing position – upwind. But since we were all comfortable while slogging into it and some one (ahem, Brian) even managed to nap ~ it wasn’t a bad day at all.
At the end of the first day, s/v Tatiana and LIB sported the same winning flags.
After many afternoons of practice, Frank and I chose to enter the Fun Volleyball event. We even had to get “rated” by the organizer. Unfortunately, the weather turned and we had to depart George Town earlier than anticipated, so we had to cancel our spots.
We left George Town on Friday so we could make it to the western side of the Exumas before the next weather front arrived. So today we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay in relative comfort even though the winds are kicking up close to 30 knots. These winds are expected to stay with us for a few more days, but we will make our way toward Staniel Cay tomorrow as some friends arrive on Tuesday.
Some folks have asked me to give them my thoughts on George Town because it is well known as a cruisers hang out. I have to admit we had a blast there but I don’t know if that is because the Regatta/Festival was in full swing. Frank and I plan on stopping back in George Town when we move south again toward Long Island. It will be interesting to see what George Town is like when it has it’s “usual” number of boats.
Thanks for stopping by and reading this very long post!