George Town was an interesting stop; more for the type and concentration of cruisers than for the actual town. It is the final destination for seasonal cruisers from North America and many boats were getting ready to head home after spending months at anchor. The second group, like us, were using it as a stepping off point to the Southern Caribbean. The concentration of boats was greater than we had anticipated and the anchor lights lit up the sky like a constellation of stars. There is a defined social schedule from volleyball to yoga to potlucks, all announced and coordinated on the VHF at 0800 in the morning.
The town is nondescript, like most of the towns we have visited. Tremendous opportunity and potential, constrained by indifference and apathy. Much like our experience in the North, the locals seem ambivalent to the economic potential of the temporary residents parked in their midst. All commerce seems to be conducted by women and there appears to be an abundance of inactive and under-engaged men. The exception to this were several local farmers who brought fresh produce, a rarity in the islands, to town every day to sell.
You two made fast friends with some Australian kids and went roaring off to play volleyball and pet the rays in shallow water. We hiked the island, with Alex protesting every painful step, and swam in the pristine waters of the Bahamas. Mommy and I did some provisioning, got fuel and water, and met several other boats heading south. We also reconnected with a wonderful couple, Steve and Jill, that have loosely accompanied us from Florida. In exchange for painting their outboard, they invited you for a movie night when we were in Bimini, which was little more than an excuse to eat huge amounts of candy. Alex now insists that we coordinate so that we are in the same anchorage for Halloween!
We left George Town with the intention of getting to Rum Cay but turned the corner at Cape Santa Maria into 25kts on the nose and building seas, so we turned left and continued to Conception Island.
This pristine, uninhabited island is part of the Exumas park chain, and boasts some of the best reef snorkeling in the Bahamas as well as those classic blue waters lapping up to sand beaches the consistency of powdered sugar. After a brief stop, we continued on to Rum Cay in the morning and waited here for a break in the South Westerlies to make the 140nm jump to Managuan. Rum Cay, just off the beaten track, also seems to have just narrowly missed the economic boat. The marina is half finished and is seemingly abandoned with exposed shore-power chords rusting on the collapsing docks. All channel markers have long since been carried off by the last hurricane and never replaced, guaranteeing that passing sailors will anchor off the beach as opposed to entering this protected harbour. All guidebooks indicate that the marina is “under construction” and will have exceptional facilities when complete. The locals assured me that it will be complete “real soon mon, maybe next month.” This belied the door swinging from a broken hinge on the front of the abandoned building.
The locals that we have met on the different islands could best be described as indifferent. Not unpleasant nor rude, but just totally indifferent to visitors. The infrastructure is crumbling and commerce is rare, yet there seems little desire nor motivation to capitalize
on the economic potential of these spectacular islands. Most islands have built runways long enough to accommodate personal twin-engine aircraft, and each has its own millionaire row, but even these wealthy residents cannot sustain an economy. Perhaps the limitation is ours, and our concepts of success and wealth are alien to them. The children are all dressed in school uniforms and appear to be organized and motivated, hustling off to class in the morning and walking home in little groups late in the afternoon. It is possible that the bright ones leave the out islands, seeking opportunities in Nassau and elsewhere when they graduate, and the less ambitious remain at home. There is so much potential here, within an hour of the continental US, that the business model should be simple. I am reminded of the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams where the hero kept hearing these whisperings, “Build it and they will come”. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyone willing to build, maintain or run “it”.
We try to do some school every day although we are finding the long passages a challenge. Usually the weather is rough and you are a little queasy and not terribly motivated, coupled with exhausted teachers who are standing watch through the night and trying to be stimulating during the days.
A photo does not really depict the state of the seas but we have consistently been bashing into 20-25kts and 8-10 ft seas. This is neither comfortable nor enjoyable.
We can often cruise at 7.5kts under sail and can point 35-40 degrees off the wind. Not great for a mono but pretty good for a cat. We have also discovered that under motor, which has been often, that we can single up and cruise at 5.5kts on one engine thus saving 50% fuel while only costing a knot in speed. This is only possible when we are not bashing into a headwind or large waves.