Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Long Island and Conception Island April 2008
Pictures: Beautiful beaches on Conception

One island we had missed on our previous times in Georgetown was Conception Island. Rated highly in the cruising guides and among our boating buddies, we did want to get there. However, due to its unprotected location and only having a lee anchorage, visits are not recommended if west quadrant winds are expected (common when cold fronts pass over area), or if northern swells are present (common if cold fronts pass to the north).
Following Brenda and Dan’s departure, we decided to move down to Red Shanks anchorage to sit through the next cold front, while we waited. This was another anchorage we hadn’t visited, so wanted to check it out. We were surprised how pretty the anchorage is. We knew it was well protected and collected an assortment of cruisers who enjoyed its serenity and lack of facilities, a total opposite of Volleyball Beach. While here we checked out the blue holes, snorkeled and kayaked plus were treated to a meet and great at the legendary Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club.
The weather still would not allow a trip to Conception, so we moved out of Red Shanks (saw 6’6" at low tide) and started doing the typical Georgetown shuffle, staying a couple nights at Monument and then back to town to shop, fuel and water up.
Desperate for a change of scenery, we decided to check out Long Island. Thompson Bay now has two new marina operations, Parrots of the Carribbean (2 cottages and restaurant/bar/laundry) and Long Island Breeze Resort. The latter is planned to be a major development, complete with $900,000 condos, hotel complex, and docks. At present a model condo is up, and the main lodge with restaurant, swimming pool, laundry and internet, is open. In fact while we were there, we attended the grand opening complete with free pizza and nearly everyone including us won a free Tshirt. Everything is first class, but it is tough to imagine that clientele rushing to vacation in Long Island.
We hung around Long Island for over a week, still hoping we would get the weather window to go to Conception. The well at Thompson Bay is still there, so we took advantage of the fresh water to do laundry, hanging our clothes lines around the "sailors bar". We had a campfire on the beach, walked the ocean side shelling, beach combing and collecting palm fronds.
We had almost given up on our trip to Conception, when finally a short weather window opened up on Saturday. Not perfect, since we would have to motor there, in NE winds, and run from westerly winds Wednesday. But we decided this short trip was better than no visit. And we were right!! The westerly beach off the anchorage definitely rates near the top of the most beautiful we have seen. An incredible long crescent of fine white sand and beautiful crystal blue water. The mangrove area is an interesting dinghy run, although we didn’t see any wildlife. Snorkeling the reefs: excellent visibility, good coral recovering, large reef fish, but not in large numbers. Despite our short stay, we were very happy we were able to see the Island.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Family Island Regatta, Georgetown April 2008
Threatening west winds chased us back to Georgetown, arriving back in town for the Family Island Regatta. This regatta is totally for the local Bahamians, a full week of partying and they know how to party!! At least six of the local commercial (mailboats) boats had brought boats and participants from all over the Bahamas.
There were three classes of Bahamian sailboats racing each day, one small dinghy, and two larger sloop racers. Each wooden boat is manned with enough crew to sit on planks on the high side, to help "flatten" the boat, and keep them from capsizing. Quite often, during the race, there was crew in the water that had to be retrieved. The boats start the race with their sails and anchor down. When the gun goes off, the anchors are raised, and the sails unfurled, and race begins. The first couple days were quite windy, and there were a couple of broken masts, and blown out sails. We were able to watch the races from the comfort of RAFT anchored in Kid Cove.
The GT commercial dock had been transformed into a parade route flanked by about 50 plywood temporary stalls selling all kinds of foods and beverages. Every evening, after the races, everyone dressed up in their finest, to meet, eat, dance and party. The locals were really having a great time, and it was fun to speculate.
With all the extra people on the island, and the nightly BBQ’s, it isn’t surprising that Exuma market and Shoprite were running out of food. Not that it mattered too much, because the stores were closed most of the time to allow their staff to attend the celebrations. Even after the Regatta closed, there still was no food in GT, since all the commercial boats had to return their charges to their respective islands, before heading back to Nassau to get stuff to bring back to GT. There were a few complaints, but hey, this is the Bahamas!!