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20 February - 14 March 2008
George Town, Grand Exuma Island, Bahamas
(N 23° 31.1' W 075° 45.6')

It's been a month since my last blog entry. The entire time I've been sitting here in George Town just relaxing and enjoying myself. There has been only a few interesting events since Jane went back home from her visit and I'll try to cover those. But mostly I've been doing nothing but sitting around and soaking up the warm Bahama sunshine.

On the 20th of Feb Jane left for the airport at about 0600hrs. She had a long flight with about a five-hour layover in Nassau. So she wouldn't be home until about 2200. I spent the rest of the morning napping and then went over to the Peace and Plenty bar to have a couple of beers with Marty and Bev. Dave (m/v Ibiz) stopped by Galena and we sat around drinking and telling lies till just after dark. I called Jane to make sure she had gotten home OK and then called it a night.

The next day I moved Galena back across the harbor to Volleyball Beach. I found a nice spot a couple hundred yards off the beach. It's about time for the George Town Cruiser's Regatta and the number of cruising boats in this harbor is steadily rising.

The number of boats in George Town has not reached the 400 or so from a couple of years ago. In fact the number eventually maxed out this year at about 300 boats. Since the harbor is so long (7 miles or so) it's hard to take a picture that gives the right feel. But here's a picture of the Volleyball Beach area. The three other anchorages are just as crowded.

Volleyball Beach Anchorage (90° view from NE to SE)

And here's a shot from the deck at the St Francis Resort looking at the same anchorage.

Volleyball Beach Anchorage from St Francis deck looking SE

I checked Galena's fuel status and found she had: 8 gal stbd + 32 gal port + 16 gal on deck in jugs = 56 gal. Enough to motor over 400 miles. I should be OK until I get back to Florida. I'll put the 16 gals on deck into the stbd tank and then transfer fuel from port to stbd as needed after that.

On the evening of the 21st the wind came up to about 20-kts. Then a squall came through with winds of about 25-kts and heavy rain for 15 or 20 minutes. After that it was a quiet night. I watched movies till midnight and slept well until 0630hrs when I got up for the morning weather reports.

About 0930 hrs on the 22nd I was sitting in the cockpit having coffee and wondering what I might do the rest of the day when I noticed a sailboat named Susan II coming through the anchorage looking for a spot to call home. They were having some trouble setting the anchor. They had found a spot a couple of hundred yards from Galena and between Galena and the beach. They were also directly in front of s/v Magic Moment. Susan II tried to raise their anchor and move to a better spot but were having trouble getting the anchor up. That's what was catching my attention. A lot of movement on deck between the guys at the bow and the guy at the helm. Suddenly I noticed that Magic Moment was turning beam to the wind and drifting. It looked like Susan II had pulled up Magic Moment's anchor rode and pulled her anchor out. I called Magic Moment on the radio to let them know they were adrift. While my call didn't get them on deck it did get everyone around them on deck. Soon there were horns blowing and people shouting and a couple of dinghies heading toward Magic Moment. Finally the crew of Magic Moment came on deck and saw what was happening. About then their anchor reset and she came to a stop just feet from the boat anchored behind her. Susan II, now aware of what she had done turned around and came back to apologize. A few minutes later Magic Moment hauled up their rode and moved forward to re-anchor where they had been. Susan II motored out of the anchorage and went down to Sand Dollar Beach.

In light of the high winds last night I put out another few feet of chain. I'm now hanging on 110-ft of 3/8" chain in 16-ft of water with very good holding. I should be OK.

I went over to the St Francis Resort for the first time this year. I went with Tom and Joyce. I convinced them to play some darts with me. After I whipped them soundly we went back to Stella Polaris for dinner and dominoes. I got home to Galena about 2000 hrs and went to bed. It rained a bit at midnight and again I was up at 0630 to hear Chris Parker's weather report on 4045 MHz.

It's the 23rd of February and I've settled into the George Town Cruiser's Regatta relaxation mode. I sit around and drink coffee in the morning. Followed by lunch aboard. Then dinghy over to one of the beach bars for beers till evening. Followed by dinner and bed by nine at night. All of this in sunny, hot weather with beautiful turquoise water all around me. When I get too hot I just jump over the side and go for a swim. Life is pretty good. But eventually even this gets to be a bit... well... boring. But this day, on the 23rd of February, it was still a marvelous way to spend each day.

Stella Polaris called me over to look at the scorpion they had just killed. A small tan one about 2" long had been crawling on Tom's leg. When he swatted what he thought was a fly it stung him on the hand. Tom killed it. First time I've seen a scorpion here. They think it came aboard either in the groceries they had just bought or it had walked on during the two days they had been tied up at the docks. Anchoring out has it's advantages.

I told Tom I was unhappy with the new wireless mike I had bought for my new VHF radio. I have the Uniden UM525 with the optional wireless command mike/speaker. Very cool. Except that the batteries only last about 5-hrs in the mike. Since when I sail it's usually for much longer than 5-hrs, I end up putting it back into it's charger at the nav station and using a small handheld VHF until the wireless mike is recharged. Really inconvenient! I was looking for some place I might mount the charger in the cockpit. I checked the book and found the charger was "splash proof." So I would be OK in the cockpit unless I have a huge boarding wave hit me. But everywhere I taped the thing up, I found that it was in the way. My leg hit it, or I stepped on it as I came into the cockpit, or something. I was about to give up when Tom suggested this: Put a small, 4" high drop-board in the companionway. On the board mount the charger. When you're not underway, swing that board around and hang it from hooks at the nav station. What a great idea! And there would be room to also mount my GPS unit. I could drop that board into the companionway and run the wires in a bundle to the lower starboard side of the opening. When not underway I would take the board (with the mike charger and GPS on it) and swing it around inside of the boat. I would make some large wooden hooks to secure it to the starboard side, aft wall just above the electrical panel. It would there be visible and usable from the nav station. I'll post pictures when I get that made. Then I'll get some lexan and make a dropboard that would be just big enough to close off the companionway with the 4" board in place letting me close off the cabin for inclement weather. Tom's very good with cabinetry and finding solutions to problems like this.

On the evening of the 23rd I went over to s/v Avalon (a Shannon 43) for dinner with Tom and Joyce (Stella Polaris), Joan and Dennis (friends of Avalon) and Marty and Bev (s/v Avalon). This is one very big boat. 7 people sitting around the main table for dinner and it wasn't even crowded. There was room for a couple more people!

That night the wind died to nothing and we had a very quiet night; no motion at all. By the morning of the 24th it was about 3-kts out of the south. During the day I went to the beach and joined a bunch of folks having a jam session. Guitars, fiddles and a base guitar. I brought my bongos. I met Dave and Heather of s/v The Answer My Friend. Dave is a very good guitar player. Also, s/v Slow Mocean with Blake and Sunny arrived in the harbor. Great to see them again.

I'd decided to race Galen in both the around the island race and the in-harbor race. I know, racing a Westsail is like driving a pickup truck in the Indy 500, but it should be fun. Maybe I'll drag a dinghy just to make the point that I'm a cruiser, not a racer. The wind was very light on the 25th so the practice race was postponed until Saturday. I made a trash run today. You have to take your trash to the dumpsters near Kidd Cove; there's no other place to put it. I also ran Galena's engine to charge the batteries for about the first time since I installed the solar panels in Miami. Very cool. I might be just about energy neutral now.

Dinner was on Stella Polaris with Blake and Sunny (s/v Slow Mocean) and Bill and Sarah (s/v Moonlight Serenade). Again, seven for dinner. But on Stella Polaris we were all sitting around in the cockpit and inside and on deck. But Joyce make a fantastic pot roast that had us all going back for seconds. Sarah had just passed her Ham Radio Technician class test. She and Bill were taking their General Class tests in a couple of days and were spending all their time studying the questions.

On the 26th of February I went into town to attend a weather seminar by Chris Parker. I listen to his weather broadcasts every morning. I had met him here a few years ago, but had never really talked with him about his forecasts. Currently his boat, s/v Bel Ami, is on the hard in back of his house in Florida. So he's been broadcasting from there. Anyway, the presentation was very interesting. And it was very well attended. Here's a picture of Chris as he's making a point about gradient wind.

Chris Parker during a weather seminar at George Town, Grand Exuma Island, Bahamas

And here's a shot of one half of the hall full of cruisers who came to hear him. I couldn't get the whole room in one picture.

The starboard half of the room full of cruisers listing to Chris Parker's weather seminar

Chris's presentation was very good. He explained how he puts together is forecasts and how to create a personal forecast from the information available to the average cruiser. He also spent a lot of time pushing the services that he sells. But that's to be expected; the man has to make a living. He also talked a lot about communication at sea. He was focusing on how to get the information you need to make weather-related decisions. He did talk bad about Global Star, though. That particular satellite service was having a hard time keeping satellites operational. He said that currently you can get about 1 minute of continuous communication during any 10 minutes of the day. Not a very good recommendation. He said things might improve in three years when they get new systems fielded. Provided they are still in business then.

One rule of thumb that Chris presented I had not heard before. The first part of what he said I had heard and seen: He said that as a cold front approaches, the winds usually go from NE, to E, to SE, to S. As it clocks around it will go light. By the time it goes to SW and W it will be less than 5-kts. Then as the wind continues to clock through the NW and N it will build to 15-20 kts depending on the strength of the high pressure area behind the cold front. But then he said something new to me. He said, "If the wind veers from light S or SW back to the SE and builds then it's going to build big-time! And then it will clock around again but will not go light but rather continue to build as it goes through the SW and W. Interesting.

I brought the racing applications from s/v Siggy's Dancer (race committee chairman, Dave) to Stella Polaris so Tom and I could fill ours out. While sitting in the cockpit I noticed that my dinghy was missing; it had gone on walk-about! I had let Tom tie it off as I climbed aboard Stella Polaris and had not checked the knot. At just that time I saw someone towing a dinghy and could tell by the painter and the engine that it was mine. I yelled and waved and he came over. His name is Rod and he's been here in George Town with his parents for about a year. I promised to buy him a beer next time I see him ashore.

After that I never let Tom tie me up again. And he notices it.

On the 27th of February I attended a 60's dance at the Chat 'n Chill on Volleyball Beach. Everyone was there. But I wasn't feeling up to speed and went home about 2000hrs. I tried to call Jane but got no answer. I did get hold of her the next morning, though.

On the 28th I woke up with a bad cough. For the next few days I would have a pretty bad cold. It was a bug that would sweep through the anchorage for the next week or so.

Stella Polaris was moving to a mooring in Hole #2 in the morning. He's concerned about the next cold front. Actually, Tom just doesn't like the motion of the boat when there's a serious chop in the harbor, which there is when the wind goes from SE to S at anything over 10 kts.

Everyone was talking about the coming cold front. Forecasts called for up to 50kts winds in squalls. I debated with myself for a while and finally put out a second bow anchor at about 1500 hrs. It turned out that I didn't need it. And picking it up was chore after the wind clocked and the rodes twisted into a Spanish Windless.

That night we watched as fantastic lightning storms passed just north of us. We didn't get more than about 25-kts of wind as it clocked to NW and very little rain. But the light show was great.

The 29th was overcast, cool (76°), and windy (20-kts). Nothing was happening on the beaches because everyone stayed aboard their boats. A dinghy ride would result in an instant drenching as you bounced along in the 2-ft chop running through the harbor. I talked with Moonlight Serenade; I'm invited to dinner tomorrow night along with Stella Polaris. Moonlight is anchored down at Hamburger Beach, about a mile NW of Volleyball beach. So After the practice race tomorrow, I'll anchor down there near them.

On 1st of March we had a practice race around the harbor. I hadn't been sailing since the 14th of February so this would be a good shakedown. As I started to raise the sails I realized that it really had been a long time since I'd sailed Galena. I made a few mistakes while tacking and gybing around waiting for the start. The wind was too strong for the head sail so I went around with just the main and the staysail. That made Galena very slow on the downwind leg but very manageable on the windward legs. I also discovered that while I can certainly sail Galena single handed, racing single handed is a very different thing. There's no time to do things. And there's no sea-room. Too close quarters and too little time to do things. I may need crew for this race.

After the practice race (I came in last by a bunch) I anchored at Hamburger Beach near Moonlight Serenade. Sarah watched me anchor and commented on how I made it look easy. Believe me, after trying to race single handed, anchoring is a piece of cake!

We had a wonderful dinner on Moonlight. Sarah is a good cook. And their boat is also huge. We even had ice cream for desert!

My cold was getting worse and I went to bed at 2000 hrs feeling terrible. All night long I was either freezing or sweating. By dawn I was a mess. I spent all day the 2nd of March on the boat lying about.

The 3rd of March found me much the same as the second. I was feeling a little better by the afternoon, but not much. I went over to Stella Polaris to meet Holly and Jocelyn. Holly is Tom's daughter and Jos is her friend. They were visiting for a couple of weeks. That made four people on that little schooner. A little crowded but they managed. Holly and Jos spent a lot of time trying to get a tan. Mostly they just got burned. But they had a good time sitting on the beach, making new friends, oh, and drinking rum drinks.

Tom's daughter, Holly

Holly and her friend, Jocelyn catching some rays

I introduced them to a couple of the local guys that I had met and that opened up some party doors for them. Holly and Jos were great fun to hang out with. I think they had a pretty good time in spite of some of the crappy weather we had while they were visiting.

On the 4th I was feeling much better. But I still had a bad cough. Stella Polaris and I went to St Francis for drinks and I found Rod (the guy who rescued my dinghy). I bought him a few beers and introduced him to Holly and Jos. They are all about the same age so that was a good move. Over the next few days the three of them went fishing and partying and... whatever. They even got together for the coconut harvest. That's a competition where the regatta committee puts a few hundred coconuts in Hole #1 behind Volleyball Beach and then teams in dinghies (no motors, everyone uses a diving fin in their hand for propulsion) race around trying to collect the most coconuts.

Jos, Rod, Charlie, and Holly with their non-winning pile of coconuts from the roundup

Sometime on the 5th, one of the boats put out a frantic call on the radio. Rosenante was taking on water and needed people to bring spare pumps and help bail. Within 4 minutes this was the scene on her starboard side.

Cruisers responding to a call for help.

There were just as many people on the other side of the boat. He was settling into the water fairly quickly. He was also in 15-ft of water. We said we would push him to the beach with our dinghies but by the time that was coordinated he was making progress against the incoming water. Bill, the captain, found the problem. The hose clamp securing the flexible hose between the cutlass bearing and the stuffing box had come loose. Water was poring in around the prop shaft at the bearing. once the water was down far enough to work in the shaft area, he replaced the hose clamp and everything was OK.

Just nice to have all that help around if something goes wrong.

7th March I was at St Francis playing Texas Hold'em. Most fun I'd had for $5 in a long time. I didn't win, but I lasted to about the middle of the pack. And I had a great time.

It has been windy the past couple of days. Since people are reluctant to ride around in their dinghies the Cruiser's Regatta's opening ceremonies have been postponed to the 8th.

On the 8th, I attended the opening ceremonies. Maybe I'm just getting old. But I found the cute little sketches to be lacking in humor and way to long. Some of the events were contrived and just childish. People were told to make masks and then they walked out on the catwalk and danced around while the judges evaluated their masks. Lame, really.

On the 9th I played in the Texas Hold'em tournament. Great fun. Again the most fun I've had for $5 in a long time. I lasted to about the middle of the pack. We had 60 players and I bowed out as about number 20. I stayed to watch the end. Very exciting stuff.

On the 10th I raced around Stocking Island. We had 27 boats racing in 4 divisions. In my division there were 5 boats. One of them was Stella Polaris. Tom and Joyce had talked Rod into crewing for them. I was single handing. The race was clockwise around Stocking Island. The length of the race was about 19 nm. We had a downwind start and then went to windward on the Exuma Sound side of the island.

The course is shown here in red while my track is in yellow.

The race around Stocking Island, George Town, Grand Exuma Island, Bahamas

The start of the race had the slower boats leaving first. This was a timed race with each boat crossing the start line and getting a separate start time. But to keep it interesting the divisions started about ten minutes apart and you had nine minutes to cross the line. So I started at about 1103hrs. Most of the boats passed me by about 1200 hrs as I exited the harbor and turned to windward. Stella Polaris took a couple of pictures of Galena as we were running downwind wing-and-wing.

Galena running wing-and-wing during the Round The Island Race

Galena trying to catch Stella Polaris with Rod at the helm

This was the easiest part of the course. I had dropped the staysail to give the Genoa clear air and was making about 5-kts in 8-kts of wind.

As s/v Smidge zoomed past me they took this picture. They went on to win the race.

As we turned at the downwind mark, most of us continued out into the sound. I chose to keep my tacks to within a mile or so of shore. Others made fewer but longer tacks. Some went out as far as three miles. They didn't report any better air out there, just fewer tacks.

As I passed the downwind mark, Stella Polaris was ahead and chasing the pack.
(Actually all the boats ahead of us were in the next division and had just passed us both)

As the day wore on and I drifted into last place the wind died to almost nothing. At the end of the windward leg I was making 1.5 to 2 kts. The race committee decided to call the race at 1830 hrs. There were still four or five boats on the course. I said I would just sail in and record my own time. The GPS showed an ETA of 2000 hrs. My only concern was to get through the reef markings in the middle of the harbor before dark. The marks are not lit. Dave the race committee chairman said he would come back out and record my official time for me.

After I turned downwind at the southern entrance to the harbor I had another wonderful downwind sail. The wind had backed a bit to the east and I could run all sails up on a starboard tack. The sun set and it started to get dark just as I went through the cut in the reef in the middle of the harbor. I passed the race committee boat in the dark at 1945hrs. Dave and Jan were there to cheer me on. Lots of people on the radio cheered as I crossed the line. I had my lights on and my music playing and was having a great time. I dropped the headsail and sailed over to Kidd Cove and sailed to the hook in the dark. That was the first time I'd done that. There were a lot of boats in that anchorage so I stayed out about a quarter mile from the shore. I was exhausted after all that tacking and sunshine and excitement. I slept well.

I went into town to do some chores. Going into town requires that you take your dinghy to Victoria Lake and tie up at the dinghy dock. To get to the lake you have to go under a small bridge. It's only wide enough to one boat at a time so incoming boats the right of way. And the current can be very strong. Here a couple of guys are leaving the lake. The are doing the Bahama-Stand as they motor out of the lake. People stand up to keep dry on the long runs across the harbor. It's not the safest thing to do, but about half the people do it.

Exiting the lake and heading back to the boats

We had a day off from racing on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the 12th, we raced around the marks inside the harbor. This was twice around a 4-nm course. The wind was just about 15kts from the southeast and we were going counter-clockwise around the course. We had a reach at the start, then a broad reach along the anchorages and through some of the anchored boats, then a beat to windward and across the line.

The course is shown here in red while my track for the first loop is in blue and the second time around is in yellow.

The race inside Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, Grand Exuma Island, Bahamas

I had a good start. I arrived at the line from the west on a starboard tack and turned north along the line about 40-seconds before the start. Siggy's Dancer came in from around the committee boat and was to my starboard and windward as we ran up the line accelerating. As the gun sounded we both turned slightly to starboard and I just cleared the pin at full speed. I stayed fairly close to the first three boats during the first two legs. But when we turned to windward I fell behind. I ended up about 5 minutes behind Stella Polaris and, again, in last place. But it was a good day of sailing.

Again I sailed over to the Kidd Cove anchorage. On the 13th I went ashore and made a couple of water runs, a trash run, a gasoline run (dinghy is using a lot of fuel), and, on the 14th, a grocery run. I called Jane in the morning on the 14th and then sailed over to Volleyball Beach. The Race Award ceremony was at 1800 on the 14th. Being last I didn't think I would get anything, but I did. I won the 'Turtle Award' for being last in both races. I got a hat and a small Weems & Plath oil lamp. Dave the committee chairman said later he didn't really want to give out the Turtle Award. No one wants to last, right? But Dave is a racer. And a racer might feel that way. But I'm a cruiser. I explained to Dave that I had a great two days of sailing. And getting recognized for the effort was an unexpected bonus. Anyway, Dave presented the award and went to great lengths to say how Galena came across the finish fully epitomizing the cruising style of sailing. He said the music was playing, Bill was dancing in the cockpit, the sails were full. Dave and Jan said that it was too dark for a picture, but they both thanked me for the memory.

My Turtle Award hat and prize

OK, that's about it. For the last few days I've just sat around and relaxed. I'm set to leave this place on Saturday, 15 March. But there's a cold front coming with 25-kts of wind. So I may wait until things calm down. That puts me out of here on Wednesday, 19 March. I figure 10 days up the Exuma chain and across the NW channel to the Abacos. Then another 10-15 days cruising through the Abacos and over to Florida. Follow that by a few hops up the coast and I'll be home.

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