Believe it or not, the 90 days we’d been given on our cruising permit would expire March 10. AND believe it or not, George Town is the only location in the entire Exumas where cruisers can clear in or try to extend their stay. You can walk a short distance to the Immigration office or take a pricey taxi ride up to the airport. We have never needed to extend because we’d always received 120 or 150 days. Other cruisers mostly said that we’d have no trouble getting an extension, but we did hear horror stories from people who spend most of their time in the Bahamas, or try to. The generally accepted practice was to present yourselves at the office a couple of days ahead, but under no circumstances let your permit expire.
Last year another cruiser had gone to extend at the George Town office and reported on the Net the preferred hours and that you could request your extension one week ahead. With that in mind we went in two days before strong winds would keep us aboard, on March 2- OMG 8 days early! We had to hit the library, market, Russ hair cut (that I had to repair) and Immigration after dropping off laundry at Lee’s Corner Laundromat.
Official and intimidating. Small waiting room with a dozen decent seats. A full wall with a door into the office area and the window you walk up to keeps “us” separated from “them”. The man at the window was dressed in what we’d describe as military fatigues, complete with a visible sidearm. Ok then.
Russ is called up in turn, states his business, presents our paperwork and passports and after Mr Serious looks it all over, hands it all back with an extension form for each of us to complete. Most was pretty straightforward but then they want to know, “Your source of income”. Uh? Bear in mind when you are visiting another country they don’t want foreigners taking jobs away, so you better have your own darn money. For us, the answer was, “retired”, happily. We asked for 60 days, figuring we only needed 45 but could manage with 30. Russ returned all paperwork to the window and Mr Serious went into the deep dark official offices in back and we waited. Others, not as clean cut and boring as we, got some flack and not the amount of time they wanted, but at least they weren’t kicked out asap!
Nervous and confident, we continued to wait. Then, Russ got motioned up. I hope he said “thank you sir.” Whew. 60 days and no hassle even though we’d come in 8 days ahead! So relieved to have that done. Now we could enjoy the remainder of our days in George Town and go on to roaming aimlessly about the Bahamas (Exumas and hopefully the Berry Islands).
With strong E-ish winds forecast from Saturday through at least Tuesday, we hunkered down in the perfect protection of Red Shanks. This time we got naked, or Twin Sisters did :-). Not only did we close up the bimini top, we removed the T-top. Less noise, less wear and tear and a chance to lube the zippers with ease.
This was one of those wind events that arrived pretty much on schedule you could see the dark wall and then the wind kicked into gear and the rain poured down. Besides offering awesome protection, Red Shanks is further south in the harbor and those up by Monument, Chat ‘n Chill and Sand Dollar get slammed first, and you get a warning. Warning of wind, rain, boats dragging. I got nervous just listening, but it was noon time not the dark of night and when we felt the winds I was happy to get on with the event and know we were just fine.
Word that our friends on Traveling Soul would arrive after the wind event, on Saturday got me smiling. Plans for our harbor departure on Monday or Tuesday, brought mixed feelings. Weather conditions had been so bad that the supply ships arrived days late and instead of fresh produce and dairy early in the week, it didn’t happen until late in the week. Let’s not forget we need to stock up on wine too before departing.
Cort came through on his promise to re-schedule our postponed lunch up at Grand Isle, near the Sandals Resort at Emerald Bay, so Friday March 10 we met him at the market dock. Once again I offer proof that the dock and the market are meeting places: we tie up and look back to see Melanie & Paul zooming in (they don’t come in very often, mostly just for fresh foodstuffs). Paul notes that Russ is wearing a (different) Cuttyhunk polo shirt and that gets a good laugh. Cort arrives and we stand around chatting because he hasn’t seen M&P in a while. Ok. We go to leave and Cort’s good friend, who was also his boat partner when they co-owned Celise/Spirit, comes down the dock. Another delay. He and his wife are here on their new power cat. See, power cats are getting popular!
Service, food and libations at Grand Isle were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed our waiter, chatting with Cort on a wide range of topics (including his wilder younger days) and the pretty pool-side view. Cort needed a good pressure gauge, which we had and he’d get it and return it before we took off. Good, we don’t have to say farewell just yet.
Saturday we made a big coming out move to Sand Dollar beach, first row in. This particular anchorage area has room for at least 5 to 6 rows of boat out from the shore, unlike up at Monument which is constrained by the ship channel to apprx 4 rows. Can you believe we had to go into town one more time for food? This time we got most of the important food items and said good-bye to Fred who was leaving Sunday and stocking up too. Stopped to chat with m/v Barefeet also in the anchorage, and departing the day after us.
Traveling Soul snuck in at lunch time and we spent time catching up with them. Ann & I did a low tide beach walk, collecting small shells and more sunrise tellins for me. Ann prepared lasagna for dinner –if you want to know her amazing repertoire check the link I have to Traveling Soul’s blog and a recent post will make your mouth water. During those windy hide-out days, Ann prepared gourmet meals while I made jewelry. Yes, I cooked dinner too but nothing worth noting.
Our departure day bounced between Monday and Tuesday- darn forecast wouldn’t settle in. Too much SE required we leave Sand Dollar and this time we tucked in behind Rolle Cay where Little Sister usually is but Steve had taken the boat back to Florida shortly after we’d last seen them in town so we moved in until our time to go.
But not before a lovely lunch with “the other TS” at St. Francis.
Jimmy Buffett sings, “come Monday it’ll be alright”, but he’s not the one leaving friends behind, in a rush job to tie up loose ends because Monday’s weather is better for us than the expected Tuesday. We had things to exchange with Traveling Soul- like jewelry, Hudson River charts and food items. And Cort still had that gauge. Accomplishing all that took way more discussion than you even care to know!
Some of you may recall “the egg toss story”. In this 2017 version, Cort wanted to return our gauge and we wanted to give him two issues of Cruising Outpost which is essentially Latitudes and Attitudes magazine reincarnated by Bob Bitchin’. Cort has lived on the west coast for many years, sailed there and down to Mexico, yet didn’t know of Lats & Atts. We’d been hauling these two issues so why not provide new reading material to someone!
We were actually going to nose up to the end of the Queen’s Dock to make the exchange at high tide, but Cort came out in his boat while we were crossing the harbor. Anyone watching must have wondered what the heck.
After 50-plus days here in George Town, more re-anchorings and variety than ever, more time with new and old friends than usual, great sandbar and beach explorations… we are lucky to have this. Winter was notably benign, although March promises plenty o’wind for the salty sailors.
See you up the chain- the Exuma chain that is.