Hello from Elizabeth Harbour near George Town, Exuma! Ed and I have been anchored here for nearly three weeks which marks the longest stay we’ve had anywhere on the boat. The scenery and community are awesome, but we are itching to move along to something else as soon as the weather allows…hopefully next week.
Elizabeth Harbour is the busiest anchorage we have visited so far, although the numbers are quite tame this year because of COVID. Ordinarily, there are about 300-400 boats anchored in various locations in the harbor, but the official count as of today is 125. Having lots of boat neighbors has both its benefits and downsides. Ed and I have been enjoying getting to know the cruisers here and making new friends. We’ve had many a happy hour with fellow cruisers with a nice sundowner (or two) and sometimes playing cards. Everyday there is some activity to do if you like–beach volleyball probably being the most popular. Other cruisers host water aerobics, yoga, beach church on Sunday, and other various kinds of afternoon get-togethers. Getting into town is fairly convenient as well, if it isn’t too windy, and there are lots of stores to get necessaries, and lots of restaurants to get some good food and drinks! Some of the places are kind of touristy or resort-y, but it’s nice to take a break from prepping and cooking meals sometimes.
We’ve visited a number of restaurants in the area, but so far our favorite has been the Driftwood Café across from the Peace and Plenty Hotel. We have gone for breakfast and lunch and it’s kind of a European and Bahamian fusion sort of a place. They even have an espresso machine, so I got to treat myself to a fancy coffee! We’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how well stocked the local grocery store is, and it also has a really good variety of goods considering how far out in the boonies we are. Some items are quite expensive, such as snacks, cereal, and certain condiments, but I’ve found most of the fresh produce to be pretty reasonably priced considering the journey it has to take to get here.
Ed and I have also done a bit of hiking on the many trails around Stocking Island which is where we have been anchored next to. It’s a very short dinghy ride to shore (we only have a 4.5 ft. draught so we can pull in close), and sometimes it’s just bouncy enough that we need to take a break off the boat. The island has a good bit of elevation in some areas and the views are breath taking.
Stocking Island also has many geologically fascinating features. We encountered stromatolite fossils at low tide and fossilized mangrove roots. Open-ocean stromatolite fossils are quite rare today, but we were treated to Stocking Island’s many formations at low tide. Here, and a few places in Australia are the only two places on Earth that have open-ocean stromatolite fossils. Walking the beaches on the Exuma sound side of Stocking Island is actually quite the geological time-warp.
Stromatolites are the oldest fossils on earth–about 3.5 billion (yes, say it with a Carl Sagan voice) years old. They are fossilized reef formations of Earth’s early, single-celled life forms. Stromatolite is derived from Greek meaning “layered rock.” They do look sort of sandstone-esque. Pictures to come next time we head out there. At low tide the stromatolite formations make really cool tide pools. We also found a lot of areas that looked like fossilized mangrove roots. It was quite the challenge to walk about them because of the uneven terrain, but it’s not everyday that one gets to see petrified wood. At first I wasn’t sure why the rocks appeared as they did, but once I had a chance to look at them closely you could tell they were fossilized mangrove. Interestingly, they were higher up in elevation, so plenty of evidence in plain view that sea levels were higher in a previous epoch (mangrove always grows at the water level).
Ed and I have also taken some time to go snorkeling around the anchorage, and also on some of the reefs out on the sound when the wind is calm. It’s a lot of fun to view all the little sea creatures in their habitat. We even see the occasional sea turtle, ray, and dolphin.
I also had my first scuba lesson a couple of days ago. I was a little nervous about it…I have a thing about relying on equipment to survive underwater…I can’t even do the submarine ride at Disneyland. It was a lot of fun though, and my good swimming ability made it fairly easy for me to learn how to manage myself underwater with a lot of stuff attached to you. We are headed out on Friday morning to go scuba dive on some reef nearby before the weather turns south. I don’t think I’ll ever do deep water type scuba stuff (again, with my hang-up), but it’ll be nice to be able to check out a lot of underwater habitats close to the surface without having to come up for air all the time.
Ed and I have about a month left on our cruising permit, so we will start working our way north toward the Abacos and hopefully get to make a lot of interesting stops along the way! We will keep you posted with our travels!