FEBRUARY--In the Exumas.....Exuma Land and Sea Park South to Georgetown

The Exuma Cays are southeast of Nassau....stretching about 90 miles. They are known for their beauty and the amazing colors of the sea around them. The banks on the west side of the cays are shallow while the Exuma Sound to the east is deep blue water. There are cuts that can be used to cross back and forth. Boats are advised to exercise caution when the current and wind are in opposite directions (a rage is formed).

We arrived at the Exuma Land and Sea Park on January 31.....thought we were in one of the most beautiful places on the planet Earth. Had a reef to snorkel on a few yards from the boat and miles of trails to hike. Hiked up to Boo Boo Hill late one morning to leave our memento. There is a story behind Boo Boo---a schooner wrecked off the island with all souls lost. No remains were recovered for a Christian Burial so at night....ghosts walk and call out (boo boo boo). Cruisers leave "things or mementos" made a natural material (no glass or plastic) with the names of their boats and the year with optional messages. Some of the mementos are very elaborate....conch shells, metal welding plates, etc. We left a wood board with DISCOVERY 2006 one one side, Pentwater, MI on the other side and a message of "Peace and Good Health" on the side of the board. Up close to Boo Boo Hill were a couple blow holes.....the waves crash into a cave below where the air is compressed and rushes out through small holes on the roof of the cave. The air coming through the blow holes would blow our shirt up over the head and the hair straight in the air. Doug and Marianne on CLOUDSPLITTER were with us on Boo Boo Hill and at the blow holes. The four of us were totally entertained by the blow holes.....haven't laughed so hard in years.

The first picture is a view of the Exuma Sound near Boo Boo Hill . The second picture is of Carl, Marianne and I enjoying the blow hole.


At the Park, we did 3 days of volunteer work. We had been told that the work was very easy but ours was more like hard times I thought I was on a chain gang! We helped build rock walkways for two days. The other day, Carl did some carpentry work while I hit the walking trail for cutting back the vegetation encroaching on the trail. . We have met a neat group of people at the Park here including Keith, a vet, who had to stitch up a guy that ripped his leg on a broken swim ladder. The guy was lucky that Keith just happened to be coming in to the park to stay. Keith has a stock of medical supplies....I guess it is better to have an animal doctor than no doctor at all. The cuts were very deep and there is concern of infection.

Yes, we experienced another cold front at the Park. This was a strong cold front.....north of the Abacos, the winds were forecasted to reach gale force strength. At the park, we were secure on a mooring ball. The only ill effects we experienced was the cold north wind.....another Sunday wearing those sweatpants. Before leaving the park, we purchased a membership. Carl and I are members of an association with other people like Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Adolphus Busch and Bill Parfet (of Kalamazoo fame)!

From the Park we motored to Staniel Cay (one of the James Bond movies, "THUNDERBALL" was filed here). While entering Staniel Cay's channel Doug and Marianne, on CLOUDSPLITTER, hit a reef. Cruisers at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club came out immediately in dinghies to help get CLOUDSPLITTER off the reff because the tide was going down. A brief time on the reef soured Doug on Staniel Cay so they turned around to anchor a little north of Staniel Cay behind Big Major Spot Cay at the Pig Beach (here the pigs swim out to the cruisers begging for food). Meanwhile, we continued into Staniel Cay hoping to find room to anchor near the Thunderball Grotto. It was too crowded so we snaked up way between two islands (Big Major Spot and Little Major Spot). Yes, we snaked our way between big rocks to find the unmarked path to an anchorage. I found this to be a little challenging and "nerve racking" but we made it without incident. When we were anchored, we rode in the dinghy around Big Major Spot to find CLOUDSPLITTER on the opposite ride of the island. Doug and Marianne used their snorkel equipment to check out their boat's keel ...they did not have serious damage...a few scrapes.

The following morning, Carl and I snaked our way back out of our each other "high fives" to celebrate getting out of the anchorage without any problems. . Found a spot in front of the Thunderball Grotto which is a cave you can snorkel in at low tide and slack current....a scene from the James Bond movie was filmed here. The best snorkel experience ever....more reef fish than I have seen before! I had a ziplock bag of cooked rice to feed the fish. When I let a few pieces out of the bag, hundreds of fish swarmed toward me to eat. When we were back in the dinghy to return to the boat, Carl spotted two small sharks! Showered and went to shore to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. A very nice bar with free internet service.

From Staniel Cay we motored down to Black Point Settlement arriving late in the afternoon so we did not go into town right away. A small cold front came through during the night kicking up the anchorage (no protection from the west). Woke up to some drastic rock and rolling. The winds moved more to the north giving us some protection so we went into Black Point. Not much there....approached by a dog that was not one bit friendly (growled at us and showed his teeth) and a guy who said he was the official guide who said he would interpret the clouds for us (we thought he was on drugs or something). Decided there was nothing for us to stay for in Black Point so we used the Dotham Cut to cross over to the Exuma Sound to sail south to Galliot Cut where we anchored between two islands with CLOUDSPLITTER. From our anchorage we could see lots of construction going on at Cave Cay and Musha Cay. According to other cruisers, people with money (movie stars in particular) are buying the cays south of Staniel and trying to restrict anchoring. The rumor is that Johnny Depp bought a cay somewhere in the Exumas.

Motored through Galliot Cut in one of those rages I described above. The current pushed us through the cut and the waves were then driven from the wind opposing the current. We buried the bow many times. I was at the wheel while Carl was using the computer down below with electronic charts to help us avoid any rocks in the cut.

Sailed to Georgetown (Elizabeth Harbor) arriving on February 9. We thought we anchored in a great spot the harbor that is UNTIL the ferry from Nassau arrived complaining about all the boats anchored in the channel (it isn't marked). The ferry drove right between DISCOVERY and another boat to make a point. The point was received by us.....we moved further in to a better spot. Met up with CAMELOT who we had not seen since Nassau. Keiith and Rose called us on the radio to tell us about the "Alcohol Appreciation Night" cocktail party on shore (bring your own drink and an appetizer). It was fun, a couple guys brought their guitars and sang.

Someone told us that Georgetown was "Winter Camp for Adult Cruisers". The mornings start here with an organized net on VHF Radio Channel 72. First is the weather report, next messages from Georgetown businesses then messages from cruisers by specific categories (Regatta, Community, and Boaters General). Day time activities include yoga, volleyball, bridge, basket weaving and watercolor painting. Night activities are the twice weekly Alcohol Appreciation, Dances on the Deck at the Chat & Chill, etc.

Below is a picture of the Chat & Chill on Volleyball Beach. The food here is not the greatest and the drinks are over priced but it is where the crowds meet for dancing, Regatta and other activities.

Carl helped organize a seminar on fishing.....make an announcement on the net to determine interest. The seminar was conducted by Mick, on ESCARGOT (another Michiganer) with over 100 people attending. I helped organize a Potluck Breakfast for Cruisers from Michigan (23 boats signed the register). Both of us are planning to race in the Regatta but on different boats (the race is in March). Currently there are 405 boats in Elizabeth Harbor (last week's count was 335). The area is divided into 3 primary beaches....Volleyball Beach where most of the action is; Hamburger Beach where we are anchored; and Sand Dollar Beach which is the farthest and quietest area.

Pictured below is the picnic tables where the fishing seminar was held. This picture was taken early before the crowd arrived.

The first picture shows the dinghies lined up on Volleyball Beach for some event. The second picture is of a sunset taken from Volleyball Beach.

The following two pictures are at one of Eileen Quinn's Concerts. She is a singer from Canada who writes songs for the "Nautically Aflicted". She gives free concerts about once a week and then sells CDs of her music. Eileen will get the crowd laughing with her lyrics but then she can sing a song about home that will bring tears to your eyes.

The following two pictures are from Beach Church. One is a general picture of the group during worship and the other is of the "Tree Angels". Kids climb the trees and sit there during service.

Below is a picture of Carl and I onboard DISCOVERY celebrating our 29th wedding anniversary.

The following two pictures were taken during a squall that rolled into Elizabeth Harbor along with a strong cold front. Hee Haw!

It is easy to understand why some cruisers spend the entire winter in Georgetown. It is easy to get involved in things. We are looking forward to moving on after Regatta. We are 3374 nautical miles from Pentwater and can not believe we have been out since July 13. The time passes by so fast.

Marilyn Thoreson
February 28, 2006