Monday, August 1, 2016

Driving the islands: Williams Town to Barreterre

Great and Little Exuma are a smattering of settlements, tiki bars, and secluded beaches stretching for over 35 miles, and unless you have a very shallow draft, the best way to see them all is by car.
The rental place in George Town was both cheap and easy to work with.  They even came to me, at our favorite little bar, to drop off the car with the instructions to leave it at the bar and give the bar tender the keys when we were done.
George Town is more or less in the middle of our inland adventure, so we headed east-southeast first, in search of food. We found a tiki bar on the coast that was serving fresh catches. Sarah had fried whole snapper again and I had cracked lobster.  And as always in the Exumas, the view was spectacular.

After lunch we went in search of the Tropic of Cancer Beach.

Actually due to the earth's wobbling axis, the tropic is moving south at about 15 meters per year, and is currently another few hundred yards south of the beach, but we all know when it comes to location tagging, physical markers trump reality.

Williams Town is the farthest eastern settlement on Little Exuma, and the location of the oldest structure in the Bahamas: The Hermitage Estate house, a small derelict estate home from the late 18th century founded by Dennis Rolle and his son Lord John Rolle, Loyalists fleeing the Carolinas during the American revolution.
When the property was inherited by the son, he divided up the 1000 acre plantation among the slaves. They adopted his surname, and the area came to be known as Rolle Town. Today, the family name Rolle accounts for 60 percent of the native population of the Exuma Islands. There are few last names in the Bahamas, and they can almost always tell you the island that Bahamian claims as home.
Bahamians retain strong ties to their home island, even after educating and working in Nassau, Freeport, or elsewhere. They might be second generation Nassau-born and raised, but will still claim a grandparent's island tracing the surname.  Knowing which names go with which home islands can make you fast friends in the Bahamas.

After touching the southeastern tip of Little Exuma, we drove northwest back up the coast again through George Town, across Great Exuma, and across the bridges to Madame Dau's Cay and Barataria, to the far northwest end of the road, the sleepy town of Barraterre. sleepy that was the only picture we took of it...

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Life on the Hook in George Town

After everyone went home from the regatta, George Town fell quiet and became a sleepy little town once again. With a population of only 1400, it was still the second largest place we visited after Nassau. We had rushed through the Exumas to get to the regatta on time, barely stopping to dip our toes in the sand. When the regatta ended most of the boats in the anchorages dispersed and we were left nearly alone in a perfect clear harbor with a floor of white pillowy sand. We spent the next few weeks doing nothing but watch the ever-morphing shades of blue and green dance over the surface patterns of the water. 
The endless summer sun arrived mid-May and very quickly the cockpit became too hot to touch. We created a make-shift cockpit tent with garden shade fabric in an attempt to beat the heat.
Landry day! It's best to do laundry on a day rain is predicted, that way the rain can do the rinsing, saving you a lot of wringing and trips to shore lugging back jerry cans of water. 
Watching the rain clouds roll in.
Sun setting on an evening swim.
After not moving for a couple weeks the boat bottom starts growing it's own eco-system.  Luckily, there are no waters more pleasant to scrape the bottom in than these!
George Town inner harbor:
Dinghy-ing through the inner harbor:
Everything you need in George Town is accessible within walking distance from the dinghy dock, which is on a small lake you enter from the harbor.
Views across the lake:
When you exit the dinghy dock there is an outdoor bar/restaurant immediately to your right,(and a place to throw away trash for $3 a bag on the other side of it). The yacht club restaurant is directly across the street and to the left is Exuma Market grocery store. Just down from the Grocery store there are a few shops and a couple hotels with outdoor restaurant/bars. All of the bar/restaurants had free Wifi. BTC 4G cell reception is also excellent across the island and harbor.
The food options were pretty consistent across the remote settlements of the Bahamas. There is always fried chicken and pork chops, usually fried fish and fried conch, and sometimes a burger. Sides are mac&cheese and peas&rice (peas are beans in the Bahamas). Fish was only available if someone had gone fishing that day.  When fish is on the menu, don't shy away from whole pan fried snapper, it's amazing. 

George Town harbor island side:
It's easy for time to stop in George Town. It has everything you need and nothing you don't. There are uninhabited islands with secluded beaches and snorkeling spots throughout miles of sparkling harbor. And in town you have groceries, hardware, beer, Wifi, and friendly locals who will give you a ride, or take you to their best fishing spots.  Why would anyone want to leave?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

63rd National Family Island Regatta Georgetown, Exuma

Every year Bahamians come from all reaches of the islands to enjoy five days of food, drink, music and traditional Bahamian wooden sloop racing. The National Family Island Regatta is the largest regatta in the country.  There are five classes of Bahamian sloops, A class – E class. "A" class being the largest boats, and E class the smallest. There are three races each day of the festival. C, D, and E classes race against each other in the morning, B class races around noon, then A class in the late afternoon.

There are many vantage points from which to view the races. The best views are no doubt had by those following the action up close in a dinghy or motor boat.

Raceboats fill the anchorages of Georgetown, where you can see the teams prepare their boats and head to the start line.

Starting line for a B class race.

E and D class

Downtown Georgetown Straw Market.

Along the waterfront temporary plywood shacks serve food and drink all day and keep the party going into the night. Cracked conch, cracked lobster, conch fritters, steamed mutton, fish stew, souse, pan fried snapper, grouper, BBQ ribs, and fried chicken are among menu items filling the streets with hunger-inducing aromas.

The winner for best drink stand name goes to:

On the last day of the regatta crowds of people lined the street to see the snazzy Police Marching Band play jazzy tunes.

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