After spending two wonderful weeks cruising in the Exumas, we brought Liberty into the shallow harbor at Barreterre on the north end of Great Exuma Island on Thursday, March 19th where we could pick up Christopher's friend Erik Loewen, who was visiting us from Pearland, Texas during his spring break. Barreterre is about a 30 minute ride from the Exuma airport, just 10 minutes farther than George Town, and from Barreterre we were able to sail back north to the Exumas rather than be stuck (by weather) in George Town harbor. Unfortunately for Erik's visit, the winds were forecast to pick up Friday afternoon and continue to blow hard for most of the week he was to be with us. Erik had been scheduled to arrive at 2:30 pm, in time for us to leave Barreterre on a falling but still high tide and move to an anchorage at Williams Cay. Unfortunately, Erik's flight was delayed several hours, so we were not able to raise anchor and leave Barreterre until the next morning's high tide.
But first, the "cab" ride. Upon our arrival in Barreterre on Wednesday afternoon, we went ashore and eventually found our way to Norman's place, the site of the former Fisher's Bay Inn. Our guidebook advised that Norman, who ran this place, could both cook up a fine meal and also arrange a taxi ride to the airport. Well, the Inn burned down a few months ago, so Norman was running a grill with a pot of hot oil on a burner in a shack, with a couple of picnic tables overlooking the harbor. Norman did agree to take Dave and Chris to the airport the next day to pick up Erik, and arrangements were made for a 1:30 pm departure, in time for Erik's 2:30 pm arrival. The next day, Dave learned that
Once back at the dock with Erik and his bags, Nancy picked up everyone in the dingy and headed back to Liberty (through the choppy waves, as the wind was already picking up pretty fierce). We had speared our biggest lobster ever the day before and had saved it to share with Erik, but since it was so late we decided to wait until the next day. Over dinner, Erik shared with us, every 20 seconds or so, the funny (at first) announcements made by the gate agents, that he had to listen to in Fort Lauderdale for hours and hours on end. His flight originally had a 3 hour layover, and on top of that the airline added 4 hours of delay, so he had quite a while to practice mimicking the announcements. "Becker, party of two, please report to Gate 5 for immediate departure", all in Erik's best Caribbean accent.
After a rolly night at anchor with building winds and waves, we got underway the next morning on a high tide and motored/sailed a couple of hours to Leaf Cay, where we explored the beautiful beach and its tide pools and hung out with our friends the iguanas. Erik really enjoyed the new experiences, and after a few hours of hanging out we brought Liberty a couple of miles back to the comfortable anchorage at Lee Stocking Island to enjoy our huge lobster tail dinner. This was a first for Erik - lobster - and it must take some getting used to, because he really didn't prefer it. The rest of us did, of course, and one tail fed the entire family (the tail alone on this beast was probably close to three pounds).
For the next four days the winds continued to blow hard, but we did our best to show Erik the best of cruising. We knew of some great coral reefs to snorkel on a couple of miles from our anchorage, over near Norman's Pond Cay where there is also an abandoned salt pond great for dinghy exploration. In calm weather we could have dinghied from the Lee Stocking anchorage to Norman's Pond Cay (this is what we did with Dave's parents during their visit), but the seas rolling through were too rough, so we raised Liberty's anchor and motored over, dropping the hook in deep sand where she bucked at anchor in the 2 to 3 foot swells. From here we could launch the dinghy to explore the salt works, and also dinghy over to snorkel the reefs. The strong current combined with the waves made snorkeling difficult, but the fish and coral were still spectacular and Erik really enjoyed it. Tired and soaking wet, we piled back into Liberty to motor back to the Lee Stocking anchorage for another calm night tucked behind the island out of the strongest winds.
Later in the week we hiked extensively on Lee Stocking Island, watching the huge waves crash on the rocks from Exuma Sound, picnicking while the boys built a huge foxhole/fort on the beach, then exploring our way back to the beach. We moved Liberty a couple of miles (still in the protection of the island) to the anchorage at Williams Cay, where huge cliffs provided an opportunity for the boys to climb and play in a more dangerous setting. From Williams Cay we (Dave and the boys, Nancy was waaaay too smart to join this expedition) took a not too bad (with the wind and seas) mile and a half dinghy ride out to Tug and Barge Rocks to fish and explore. Tug and Barge Rocks are so named because, well, from a distance they look like a tug pulling a barge. We did hook a few small groupers (including the same hungry one more than once), but nothing of eating size, and then we pointed the bow of the dinghy into the wind and seas for the sopping wet ride back to Liberty. On board, the boys fished some more, catching a large mutton snapper, which we all enjoyed for dinner. Chris and Erik enjoyed sailing Independence to explore a beach and collect firewood, and then they capsized! At least the water was shallow - and warm. Later that evening, we met another family boat (Alexander Glyn) for a beach bonfire and marshmallow roast.
Erik's visit drew to a close too quickly, and on Wednesday we headed back to Barreterre where we could anchor to drop Erik off at the airport. Alexander Glynn traveled with us, as they needed to get provisions, but didn't want to go out into the pounding seas for the 20 mile passage to Elizabeth Harbour at George Town. We had told them about our experience with Norman, and his promise to let us use his car to get Erik back to the airport and provision at George Town, but when we went looking for Norman, he (and his car) was not around and no one knew where he was. Barreterre has fewer than a hundred residents, but it turns out that there is a car rental service in town that we didn't know about, and Eric from Alexander Glyn made arrangements to rent a big van for 24 hours. We split the cost between 3 boats, with Liberty and Alexander Glynn going on Thursday to the airport and George Town and the other couple using it Friday morning early for a provisioning run as well.
At the airport Continental informed Dave that since Erik was traveling as an unaccompanied minor, Dave had to wait at the airport until the plane actually left the runway, and, of course, the flight was delayed. So as not to delay Alexander Glyn as well, the guys waited at the airport and sent Alison and Eric to George Town to do their errands. They eventually shuffled Erik through security and Dave and Chris hung out while Erik was waiting on the other side of the glass. Once Erik's plane finally left, Chris and Dave hitched a ride to George Town to meet up with Alexander Glyn at the market for provisioning before the van ride back to Barreterre.
Erik made it back to Texas safely, with many new cruising experiences to share with his friends after spring break, and Chris got to enjoy spending a few days with his best friend from back home in Texas. It was a good spring break for all.
Erik's flight was delayed, so he contacted Norman to delay our departure to the airport until 6 pm - just enough time for Norman to have a beer or two or five. When the appointed hour came, Dave and Chris and Norman made the drive to the airport, Erik was just arriving (although Norman found his way to a bar anyway, for another beer - which was the first time Dave really suspected there was a problem), and after a quick trip through Customs and Immigration, we were headed back to Norman's taxi. "Taxi" is used charitably here - really we went back to a very old, very worn out, dented up Nissan Sunny - think small Sentra, with quite worn shocks, a trunk that didn't close properly, and right-hand drive to boot (in the Bahamas, like England, they drive on the "wrong" side of the road). The drive to the airport had been fine, headed east from Barreterre on the west end of Great Exuma Island. Headed back west to Barreterre and Liberty, the sun was shining in the eyes of our driver, Norman, and this was not good. Norman took up more than his share of the road - not as scary as it sounds, given the dearth of vehicles moving about on Great Exuma's roadways, but still scary, given the many curves and hills on Great Exuma's roadways. About half way back to Barreterre, the sound of sirens and flashing lights - from our stern - caused Norman to pull over, muttering and cursing. Policewoman - "Norman, are you drunk again?" Norman - "awe, no, the sun's in my eyes, I can't see, I gotta get my guests back to town." Policewoman - "Norman, you be careful out there, and stay on your side of the road!" Norman - "OK", followed by a steady string of expletives, the likes of which Chris & Erik certainly never heard back at Rogers Middle School in Pearland (yeah, right). The police car followed us for a long while, Norman muttering and cursing the entire way, until finally he pulled off in a parking lot to see if they would pass. They did, and he continued back on his way. Unfortunately, Norman still couldn't keep to his side of the road, especially on hills that rose into the setting sun. Finally Dave said "Norman, pull over, I'll drive", and he did. Norman complained about cataracts causing him to be unable to see into the sun, and it certainly seemed like this was the case, although the several beers he'd had to soften up his cataracts didn't seem to help much. Dave got them all back to Barreterre, safe and sound, and made arrangements for the next week - this time to borrow the car, just the car, without Norman, to take Erik back to the airport.
Liberty anchored in the
shallow waters off Barreterre
Josh & Erik explore the tide pools
Greeted by a native iguana
Erik discovers upside-
down jelly fish
Chris, Josh & Erik dare the waves
View of the Exumas from our hike
The cliffs at Williams Cay
Chris, Josh & Erik
with a cushion star
Fishing off Liberty, they caught
a large mutton snapper
Chris & Erik sail Independence
Bonfire & Marshmallow roast
on the beach with friends
Friends enjoying Spring Break