If crossing from Florida to the Bahamas is a cruiser’s Main Event, then for most cruisers in the Exumas, the Run to George Town is Part II. I think if you didn’t have to exit out a cut (into the Sound) and back in at Conch Cay Cut at the northern entrance to Elizabeth Harbor the trek wouldn’t be so worrisome. Helps to have a bit of North in the wind since you are headed SE and less than 18kts is preferred thank you very much. And so the waiting goes for a favorable window to jump down 30-50nm (depending which cut you use) to George Town. Can you say Pilgrimage?
We staged at the same spot we did last year; worked well then, why not this time? Russ read an ActiveCaptain review that further down off Rudder Cay, David Copperfield had placed a sizable piano and mermaid sculpture in 15ft of water just off the channel for our snorkeling delight. We considered going that far but nixed it in favor of beach walking, promising ourselves to stop on the way back. Only one other boat stopped at our spot and we were happy to see it was Matt and Tina on s/v Mattina-clever uh? Farley is the star of the show though and even I couldn’t resist giving him a big hug – allergies be damned. No barking, very patient – the perfect boat dog. Mattina’s plan was to stay on the protected banks side and enter the Sound through Rudder cut; would be closer to slack tide by then. Our plan was to jump out at Galliot cut about a mile away if the wind was down enough in the morning. Backup was to continue on to Cave Cay cut or Rudder if we didn’t like the looks of Galliot cut.
Come Thursday morning, the wind only 9kts, we upped anchor at 8:15 and even though the wind and the current were opposite (this creates nasty wave conditions) it didn’t turn the cut into a flume roller coaster, so out we went. But hey, what’s with the ESE stuff?? Remember we expected some North! So we dealt with 2-3ft swells and motored for a couple of hours, giving Mattina an update when they called to check on conditions. Gradually, the wind shifted, we raised the main, the swells calmed down, we put in two fishing lines, Mattina came out to play and soon we were sailing with main and jib; our ETA 3pm.
One typical cruiser topic is fishing; where, when, how, how many and who’s catching ‘em. Matt shared that the talk was no one was catching much yet this season; that hardly bode well for us, the ones who’ve caught three fish in two years. Can you say, “Starving souls?” Around 2pm, during the period of lovely sailing in 1 ft waves, we looked back and the line was down. Russ goes to the steps and begins to pull..then I hear, “Fish on!” I gather the tools: camera, alcohol, gaff and begin my job- so glad we are only sailing at 5kts-ish and the Sound is calm. At first, the fish seems to be small but then as we get it closer- uh oh. Not having the audible fish-on notification system in place this time has cost us a fine meal or two. If the tail section was the only piece missing we’d have kept it, but that extra bite ruined the meal.
Our perfect afternoon wind continued and we sailed all the way down Elizabeth Harbor, dropping the sails as we turned toward Sand Dollar Beach to anchor.
With only four other boats around we had our pick and we chose well. The anchor grabbed right off in the sandy bottom and within 20 mins we’d launched Bunting and were headed across the harbor to the market for produce and cheese. And who did we run into there? Stay tuned.