Friday, 3 April 2015

North from Georgetown

I was going to write about my 2 mile walk to try the fishing at Crab Cay by Georgetown, only to find the way barricaded with barbed wire and gates, and a big warning sign about what happens to trespassers. I hate the presumption that land ownership precludes right of way. I habitually trespass, always have. But I remembered I hadn't found a post office yet, and so I hadn't yet paid for my cruising permit, so officially... it might be best not to take risks with officialdom, for the time being at least.

Tie in the zillions of plastic bags in use here and caught in trees and bushes and in the harbours, and the use of vehicles so gigantic that you'd be inclined to think maximum fuel consumption was somehow mandatory - these islands are very small, and very flat - and I could get a good rant in about capitalism and consumerism gone mad.

Oh, and the food waste at Exuma Market, Georgetown. We've got by in the last weeks with few vegetables, because they are so very expensive - and on top of that, often such poor quality that by the time you get them back to the boat, they have perceptively deteriorated. So when I noticed a shop worker throwing what looked like perfectly good vegetables into boxes to be discarded, I had to have a chat. He acknowledged the waste, and abhorred it himself. He'd have been as happy to eat it as I would. It gets dumped - occasionally he has managed to give a box to a passing boater, but he risks his job doing that. He wanted it to be given to the poor - and with food prices so high in the Bahamas, there are plenty who don't get enough good food. I checked the area where the 'waste' food gets loaded onto a truck, but was shown a security camera by one of the workers.

Yeah, I was going to go off on one about all that, but then we went sailing. You wouldn't want the rant anyway. We have to get to Nassau by the 9th, for the crew to catch a flight. The wind was F4-5, and it was a close reach all the way up chain of islands, on the Atlantic side. We were looking for a cut to get through to the sheltered side, where all the shallow flat water is.

After an hour or two, we were doodling along at 5 knots with reduced sail. The water was a bit lumpy, and we weren't planning on going far to go today, so it seemed best to let the boat idle through the waves. Then I saw a sail behind us, far off, but I could make out the square top of the mainsail, and I saw how fast the boat was gaining on us, and I reckoned that it could only be one boat out of the hundred or so in the anchorage. A Dick Newick design - a fantastically shaped boat, and though the design is old, still fantastically fast. To reduce embarrassment at being over-hauled at the threatened rate, I raised all sail, and we started clobbering our way through the waves at 7 knots. That's as fast as we could go.

'Scrumpy, Scrumpy, this is Triad.'

Yep, that's the boat. I'd seen the name when we sailed into Georgetown. I'd waved to the man with all the curves, and he waved back, looking at Scrumpy's own curves. We 'knew' each other already. So he's calling me now.

'Hello Triad.'

'Hey Scrumpy. Nice boat you've got there. What's the design?'

I'll translate. Hey Scrumpy, we're about to go screaming past you, which you'll probably find embarrassing, so I'm being polite with a heads-up.

'Hi Triad. Thanks - it's a Richard Woods Sagitta. I reckon yours is a Newick, and that we'll get a closer look soon?'

(Glad I sneaked more sail up before he gets close enough to see!)

'Well, maybe, but we're just moseying along, with just the mainsail up.'

I'm sorry, but this is going to really embarrass you, as we cruise past you half-rigged.

'Oh that's a shame Triad, I was hoping to get some nice pictures as you went by.'

Oh come on! At least look like you're making some effort!.

'You're going to get your camera out? In that case, we'd better get the foresail up too.'

Ah, he's going to let us off with some dignity, overtaking us with full working sail. Phew! Here he comes, with two sails up



Hey, Triad, there's always someone faster...

Right after that, the rod bent, and I turned the boat into the wind to slow us down. A dorado, at last!

What colours!

It was a big one, so I called Triad and invited them to dinner. They were headed to Leaf Cay, which sounded nice as desert islands go, so we said we'd meet them there.

Different colours.

A visitor! What could it be?

Looks like a shark alright, attracted by the fish guts.

Not shy then.

I figured hanging the stripped carcass of the dorado from the tiller bar might be fun. I threaded a rope through the fish, tied one end to the bar, and held the other end in my hand. I wanted to be able to release the rope, rather than have the shark bend my tiller bar.

It's a Bull shark, one of the more dangerous kinds..

Tom and Judy from Triad joined us for dinner. They brought a salad, with lots of stuff in it. Not just our usual cabbage and onion, but all kinds of vegetables, and cranberries and cashews and, well, you'd have to live on rice and beans for a good while to appreciate it. A long list of ingredients isn't going to do anything for you. Oh, and they brought rum too, and we all ate as much as we could of the fish, and we all had it for lunch the next day too. They've owned that boat for 23 years, and sail between New England and the Caribbean like it was nothing, but they typically hit 18 knots close reaching, and the boat is so slim and curved, the ride has got to be good, so maybe it is nothing. I pointedly didn't ask what sort of speed they get downwind. Fast enough is all. I got a tour of the boat next day, carbon fibre rotating mast, carbon in the daggerboard, foils in the outriggers to increase lift (good for another 2-3 knots, Tom says), and light, light, light. The tools would fit in my pocket. Even spares are minimal. The kitchen, the whole kitchen, would almost fit in my sink, and I don't have a big sink.

Next morning, at the beach, we are not alone!

So far, this is the most crowded beach we've been on in the Bahamas.

Tom's brought them some chopped apple.

Later, Tom offered me a fish spearing lesson. Excellent!

Look, no sharks.

It's all in the sneaking up on the fish, apparently. We scored zero, but had more close encounters than previously anyway. Thanks Tom!

There may be more of Tom and Judy later. Judy flies out of Nassau on the 9th too.


  1. Great blog. By the way,, that's a nurse shark. The don't have any teeth.

  2. Thanks Bill. I don't know one from another. It was Tom that told me it was a bull shark. Tom?

  3. Definitely a nurse shark, they're the only species of shark that have barbels on their nose. Very docile. Glad to see you're getting some spearing practice. You'll be ready for those Lion Fish the next time you see them!