After two weeks island hopping in the Raggeds, we started to head north back towards Georgetown. One of my best friends had taken a spur of the moment decision to bring herself and her teenage daughter down to see us, and they were arriving into Georgetown airport on 4th April.
We had two bruising days battering into strong easterly winds on the inside of the Raggeds, stopping overnight at Water Cay. All anchorages in the Raggeds tend to have a bit of a roll, but with our double flopper stoppers out we can usually mitigate most of this. It wasn’t bad when we anchored at Water Cay, but overnight the wind changed and the roll was miserable when we pulled in the flopper stoppers and headed out to creep through Comer Channel at mid tide.
When we pulled into Water Cay we were closely followed by another boat coming from the north. There was already a small sailboat anchored there, and we were both hailed by him, a single guy cruising around the Bahamas. I am surprised at how many single guys do this and the occasional single girl too. We exchanged information as the other two boats were arriving in the Raggeds and we were leaving so could let them know the extent of hurricane damage and lack of services we had encountered.
Although the first couple of hours the next day were lumpy, the seas and wind diminished as we got closer to Little Exuma Island and crossing through the shallow channel was actually pretty nice. We then turned north- west towards Georgetown and had a comfortable few hours back to the harbour.
Unfortunately it was Easter weekend and we were unable to re-provision before we headed further north to Emerald Bay Marina for a couple of days. We had several reasons to do this – firstly the boat was overdue a good long soapy freshwater wash; secondly I had thought it would be nice to pick up Elizabeth and Elise and take them to the marina for their first night on board. The third reason was a real fluke – our good friend Tyler, who is first mate on a superyacht based in Ft Lauderdale, was also due to be at Emerald Bay the same day, to drop off their charter guests.
The trip to Emerald Bay from Georgetown is only a couple of hours, and although we fished, we had no success. We spent that afternoon scrubbing Southern Star from top to bottom, making her sparkle and shine for our first guests of 2018. The next morning we had a rental car delivered and drove the 15 minutes to the airport where the American Eagle flight had just landed. I was so excited to see Elizabeth and her daughter, Elise emerge from the airport building, having come from the UK via Chicago and Miami.
The short drive back from the airport to the marina passes a beautiful beach and we stopped for Elise to dip her toes in the water. Back to the boat and we quickly donned swimsuits and walked over to the beach to cool off. When we returned to the boat, Ted was on the VHF trying to reach the dockmaster as Tyler had been unable to hail them and the superyacht was only a few minutes away, and needed directions to their slip. Ted managed to find someone and went down to the dock to help with lines, and we followed to watch. I saw Tyler on the stern and went over to grab the stern line of the 145ft yacht. Once secured, we left them to it and went back to Southern Star, where Ted grilled a chicken on the bbq for an early dinner – the girls were both tired and after a quick tour of the boat they disappeared into the guest cabin.
The next morning after his guests had left, Tyler joined us for coffee and it was great to catch up with him again. We had first met him on N68 Argo where he crewed for Randy and Rebecca, and it was Tyler who was instrumental in gaining Ted the third slot on the Argo delivery to Fiji back in 2014. He was catching the American Eagle flight back to Miami and onward to Alabama to see his family for a few days. It was fascinating for all of us to hear about life aboard one of those superyachts.
After saying goodbye to Tyler we settled up with the marina and headed out for the trip back down to Georgetown. I had been worried about how the girls would handle this trip but we could not have dialed up better conditions. There was almost no wind or swell, and we again took the time to troll behind the boat in hope of being able to deliver up fish tacos for lunch-gain no success.
It is always interesting taking visitors to a place that you know so well, and seeing it for the first time through their eyes. The northern entry into Stocking Harbour then Elizabeth Harbour is actually pretty spectacular, especially on a gorgeous day. We passed the boats anchored at the various white sandy beaches along Stocking Island and continued on to our usual spot at Sand Dollar Beach, anchoring a respectful distance from our friends on N68 Kya who waved a welcome as we went by.
We launched the tender and went to the beach where we walked through one of the tracks to the ocean beach while Ted sat under a tree reading. It was really fun to walk ahead with Elizabeth and then turn and watch Elise’s face as she came out of the trees and saw the ocean beach which is really very beautiful. That evening we served up “surf and turf” with the lobsters that Ted had caught two weeks earlier in the Raggeds.
The next day we went into Georgetown and did some shopping finally, and the girls did some souvenir shopping at the straw market. We popped into Peace and Plenty, the hotel which I had scoped out in case the girls really couldn’t cope with a week on the boat, but happily we didn’t need to leave them there. At the grocery store we met up with Michael from Kya, who invited us over for drinks that evening. We had a lovely evening up on their flybridge which had a nice breeze. Katie even produced some NZ lamb chops which was a big surprise, and we ended up staying far later than we’d intended.
The next few days were spent swimming, kayaking, and lots of eating, drinking and chatting. Elizabeth wanted to take us out for a meal so we went to the Sunday Pig Roast lunch at Chat and Chill, a beach bar on Stocking Island. Michael and Katie joined us and there was more eating, drinking and chatting. There were stingrays swimming at the beach where they were cleaning conch and Elise was able to stand in the shallow water with the stingrays swimming around her legs. Ted dropped us off at another beach and we did another walk, this time the trail meandered from beach to beach including an amazing sandspit stretching out into the harbour.
We had been waiting for another really calm day to go snorkeling but unfortunately the wind wasn’t going away, so we decided to go for it and hauled out the gear. Ted gave the girls a briefing to help prepare Elise who had never snorkeled before. We had contacted some other cruisers who are marine biologists and they suggested where we should go, given the conditions. Elise was nervous getting into the water, but once she got comfortable she was floating around very happily, and when she climbed back onto the tender the smile on her face was wonderful. So we went to a second reef which was much better in terms of coral and fish, but the conditions were getting tough, so we headed back to the boat. Ted had taken his underwater camera and got some great photos for them. Elise later said this was the highlight of her holiday.
Their last full day with us was still windy, but we took the tender around to Monument beach and climbed up to the Monument, which has fantastic views over the ocean, and over the entire Elizabeth Harbour. We stopped off at Chat and Chill for a beer, and a dolphin cruised by the beach which was absolutely magical. Back at the boat Elizabeth and I managed to have Skype calls with our other good friends – Catherine in Dublin, and later with Jill in San Francisco. Ted cooked enchiladas for their final dinner on board.
The next morning it was even windier and after a quick ride in the tender to the other side of the harbour, we decided to move Southern Star closer to the village so the girls didn’t get too wet going into town to get their taxi to the airport. It was much calmer and an easy ride to the dinghy dock and up to where Roland was waiting with the black Suburban taxi to take the girls back to the airport.
In some ways it seemed like they had been with us much more than a week, but in a good way. Ted and I had really wanted to give them both the holiday of a lifetime, and at the same time we had been looking forward to sharing this amazing lifestyle that we have, recognizing that it would all be very new, very different and possibly a bit scary for them. But they were very easy guests to have on board, they quickly embraced boat life, were very undemanding and seemed to genuinely enjoy their time on Southern Star. We hope we get the chance to welcome them back on board somewhere down the line.
Capt. Ted, “It is always so much fun to be able to share this amazing lifestyle with friends and family. I find it very frustrating that we don’t have more visitors while here in ‘paradise.’ I guess that makes it even more special to have such appreciative quests on board, like Elizabeth and Elise. It is very special to see truly delighted smiles in response to the natural beauty of this place.”