Setting sail for George Town means you have to leave the protective leeward shadow of the Exuma island chain, and head out on the big ocean. The Exumas certainly spoil all the hordes of sailors that flock there by offering endless protected anchorages along their western side, all with plenty of beautiful sights to see and explore. You could spend months just playing around this cruiser’s paradise, and, deep down, I wish we could have lingered longer. Luckily, they are a hop, skip, and a jump from the U.S., so we can always return.
Plus it was time to head to George Town to pick up my baby brother, Casey, our first visitor aboard Tayrona since leaving Florida. I was stoked! Mostly, we’ve been hopping from one project to the next since we bought the boat, and having Casey aboard meant we could finally take a break and truly enjoy our boat and our surroundings for a while. But even more than that, I couldn’t wait to spend time with my brother and feel that whole and grounded feel that only comes from being around family.
Choosing when and where to jump out into the east side of the Exumas is nothing to scoff at, so we waited until we had the most favorable wind conditions, and headed out of Rudder Cut at slack tide. This also happened to be the exact same day that Casey was flying in. Nothing like cutting it close. So, while he was navigating airports and flying down, we were navigating the 40-mile jump down to Georgetown. The winds were light, but our timing was perfect. Just as we jumped out of the dingy at our meeting spot, his cab was pulling up. If the rest of his trip turned out this serendipitously, we were in for a good time.
We got back to the boat and promptly had a celebratory Busch Light and then put Casey to work. Just a quick job- help me winch Pete up the mast so that we can measure our sail area for our new main. It was easy, and then it was back to relaxing.
The following day we set out to explore a few different anchorages, especially those closer to some coral heads that would offer us a spot to take Casey snorkeling and spearfishing. We sailed, snorkeled, had sundown drinks, played games and then hit repeat the following day- with a little beach-time thrown in for good measure.
On our tour of George Town anchorages, our last stop was at Red Shanks, which is a wonderfully protected little hole affectionately called the “litter box” because only the “cats” can get in due to their shallow draft. I think we shaved off a few years of my life on the way in (the depth finder hit 0.8 meters, and we ground at 0.7), but the calm waters and great beaches made it worth the mild aortic stress I suffered. Our buddies threw a bonfire on a stretch beach that Brian referred to as the “country club” attempting to trick us into believing there were tennis courts, spas, and floofy drinks with umbrellas in them. We had a blast despite his tomfoolery, and Casey fit in well with our retired but hip cruising buddies.
We headed back to the popular anchorage outside the Chat and Chill, where we found plenty of time to play in the daily volleyball game, swim, and even hit up our first rake and scrape- the typical Bahamian ho-down where live music is generated from a wide assortment of what you might loosely call musical instruments that do plenty of, you guessed it, “raking” and “scraping” using saws, screwdrivers, and cheese graters.
And then it was time to get off the boat for a day, so we found escape in the form of scooters! We rented two scooters from the owner of the local electronics store (yup- that’s how they roll here in the Bahamas), and tooled around the island, making it all the way from the northern-most tip to the southern. We soon realized that much of the island looks pretty much the same as the next, but it’s quite impossible to not have a good time zooming around curvy island roads with the power 150 CCs between your legs. A good time was definitely had by all despite the spats of mild panic due to driving on the wrong side of the road. Thank you British colonialism! So remember- stay left!
We stopped at an adorable place for lunch, where we all sampled cracked conch. Which was quite tasty, despite its venereal disease sounding name. “Cracked” simply means breaded and deep-fried, and conch (the meat from the pink conch shells) has a slightly escargot flavor, which makes sense given that it’s basically a big, ocean-going snail.
Back on the boat, we spent a few days on a quest to reel in some big, deep-water fish. I was dying to send Casey home with a picture of him posing with some beautiful mahi mahi or wahoo that he fought to bring in from the depths of the sea. The boys bought some fancy new lures in town, set up the trolling rods, and we were off.
First we tried things out from the dinghy.
And, we caught two barracuda. Casey nabbed the first…
…and Pete reeled in the second.
They look like they’d give many meals of tasty meat, but unfortunately that same meat could be laced with ciguatera poisoning, which accumulates in their bodies after years of eating small reef fish who, previously fed on the poisonous reef. So, no eating barracuda in the Bahamas, and, therefore, these two ugly mugs were thrown back. Well. Pete stayed on the boat. You know what I mean.
The fact that we caught barracuda, a shallow reef predator, meant that we weren’t out far enough in the deep to get the mahis or wahoo that we were after. It also meant that fishing in the dinghy wasn’t going to cut it. So, we tried again the following day, taking out the big boat instead.
The only thing we all caught was a bout of seasickness, and poor Casey was subjugated to lentil burgers for dinner instead of fresh fish. After a few a glasses of rum punch each, we all felt much better and no one minded that our protein came from a plant instead of the sea.
Casey’s last few days included a hike to explore Lee Stocking island, drinks with our Canadian buddies, a few more nights out on the town (you can never have just one rake and scrape), and a very fruitful day spearfishing with an Oregonian friend who showed Pete and Casey his favorite spots in the area.
How lucky am I to have family members who so generously share their vacation time with me, on my boat, in the Caribbean, with my wonderful husband, and are such fun while they are here that I’d wish they’d stay for months instead of weeks. I’m so grateful that I could share a piece of this little adventure with my adorable brother. A big sister is allowed to be gushy sometimes, so, Casey, you gotta know it meant the world to me to show you around our boat, around the town, and around this crazy, new life called sailing.