Updated: Jan 22, 2019
The Long Island we are visiting bears little resemblance to the Long Island where I grew up, although both feature miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches. This island is four miles wide and 76 miles long. We are anchored in Thompson Bay, very close to the Tropic of Cancer, the most northerly latitude at which the sun is directly overhead on the summer solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun to its maximum extent. Living out on the ocean is conducive to contemplating the tilt of the planet, and earth's place in the universe, or more likely, universes. We watched in awe as the super moon rose, but the approaching cold front brought clouds that masked the lunar eclipse.
We are waiting out the same cold front (and its aftermath) that is wreaking havoc in the northeast, with snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures. Since we are at the southernmost end of the front, we had wind gusts of 30 knots, but were out of the path of the squalls that came through. When temperatures dropped up north, gusty winds out of the east began to blow, and will be with us for several days, so we will likely be in this harbor for a while. Sailing requires constant attention to the prevailing weather, which is why it's so hard to make any hard and fast plans.
We left Staniel Cay, otherwise known as "the bay of pigs" on January 8, and sailed south to Black Point, a charming Bahamian settlement, where we did our laundry at a laundromat with its own dock, which also offered conch fritters and haircuts. Island businesses tend to provide multiple services. Then we headed further south to Little Farmer's Cay, where we learned a lot about the island's history from Terry Bain, who prepared an amazing lobster dinner for us at the Ocean Cabin. The island was bought by freed slaves, who willed it to their descendants, with the proviso that it cannot be sold. It currently has 55 residents. We hope to get back there for the First Friday in February, when they hold their annual regatta, and offer a week of events and friendly competitions.
Our next stop was Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, where hundreds of boats anchor in Elizabeth Harbor, most near Stocking Island. The boaters comprise a unique community of cruisers who meet up during the season, year after year, for organized events including regulation volleyball, softball, an annual regatta, weekly poker games, and all kinds of classes. We had fun hanging out at the Chat n Chill, and met fellow boaters at a happy hour on the beach, cheekily-named "ARG" (alcohol research group). Our favorite event was the"rake and scrape" at Eddie's Grill, an incredibly fun live music event featuring locals playing hand- made instruments, including drums and saws, along with bass and guitar. Every song morphed into the pure rhythms of a drumming jam. It was a blast and we danced for hours.
After a few days in Georgetown we bid goodbye for now to our friends Bill and Julie on Jubilee, and had a great sail on a beam reach in northeast winds of 10 to 15 knots to Long Island.
Since the island is so long, and there is a lot to see on land, we rented a car and drove south to Max's Conch Bar for lunch, where we met up with fellow sailors from Montreal whom we have run into at several Exuma islands.
We all drove south to Dean's Blue Hole, the world's deepest salt water blue hole at 663 feet, and the site of free driving competitions. Snorkeling there was fascinating, but our friends from Montreal actually dove it!
On Saturday we drove north to Stella Maris, and hiked out to the ruins of Adderly's plantation. This island once had several cotton plantations, farmed by slaves. We decided not to visit the Columbus Monument, a tribute to the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.
We were fortunate to arrive here with introductions from our friends Eileen and Ed to some islanders who make Long Island their home for eight months of the year. Penny runs the daily Cruisers Net and invited us to meet her gang of friends, who enjoy gathering at local beaches and restaurants. Shari and James picked us up on Saturday afternoon and took us on a hike to a remote beach, in search of Taino artifacts. We didn't find any, but were astounded by the views of gorgeous turquoise waters from the rocky cliffs. We found plenty of plastic bottles, flip flops, fenders, rope, nets, and trash strewn along the tide lines. The mountains of waste are a sad testament to human indifference to the oceans.
Monday was Martin Luther King Day in America. We are keeping up with the news of the world, and appalled by what is happening to our country. We are constantly reminded of the legacy of slavery in the islands, where there is little to support the local economy aside from the underdeveloped tourist trade, challenged by hurricanes. Life is hard, and young locals who can afford to leave the islands, do. And the place they most want to go is America. Despite everything, it stands for opportunity.
Before the heavy winds arrived, we decided to take our folding bikes to shore and ride to the Shrimp Hole, a land-based blue hole teeming with orange shrimp. The trail to the Shrimp Hole is hidden in the woods, behind the old Spanish church in a settlement called The Bight. The island is very hilly, and the church was about 8 miles from the dinghy dock, so we got a decent workout. We arrived at noon, when the overhead sun streamed into the hole, illuminating the cave so that we could see the shrimp swimming all around us as we snorkeled.
To cap off this delightful day, Shari and Jim picked us up at the dinghy dock, and we joined them for delicious gourmet pizza at Chez Pierre.