Can you imagine flying into a foreign country and spending six days there before you show Customs & Immigration your passport and get it stamped? It just baffles me that when you arrive in the Bahamas by sailboat, you can sail around for days on end before you clear in. Of course, you aren't supposed to step onto land until you've forked over some money in exchange for a cruising permit. But you can go snorkeling, watch the sunset from your boat and have happy hour with your pals on their boat. Land might be a bit overrated.
Eventually, there does come a time in every cruiser's life when you need groceries and rum punch. Not necessarily in that order. We had to find ourselves an island that had three things: (1) a Customs & Immigration office (without a surcharge like Spanish Cay); (2) a grocery store and (3) plenty of Goombay Smash. We found it all at Green Turtle Cay.
In the Bahamas, only the Captain can go onshore to clear the boat and crew in. Scott is our Captain, so he drew the short straw and had to deal with all the paperwork and bureaucracy. Two things he really loves.
First stop, the dinghy dock at New Plymouth.
Next stop, the Customs & Immigration office in this cute pink building, which also houses the post office and public toilets. Always important to note the locations of public toilets when you're middle-aged. You never know when you're going to need one.
Scott filled out some forms, gave the nice lady $150 and she gave him a 90-day cruising permit. It pays to have a relatively tiny boat (34.5') . If ours had been a few inches bigger, it would have cost us $300. After forking over the money, Scott headed back to the boat. The whole process from lowering the dingy, doing the paperwork and zipping back to the boat took less than an hour. I've waited in passport control lines far longer than that at certain airports. Much nicer in the Bahamas - the sun is shining, the officials are smiling, there aren't any police officers with guns and dogs scrutinizing everyone and, best of all, the place that sells Goombay Smash rum punch is just around the corner.
Scott, being a dutiful husband, came back to the boat to collect me before he had a Goombay Smash. He could have gotten away with it so easily. "Sorry, I've been gone so long. You just wouldn't believe the lines at the Customs & Immigration office. It was horrendous! And all the paperwork I had to fill out. And then, I had to go through a full body scanner, followed by some more paperwork. And then they sent me to another office to pay the fees. It was hell." I wouldn't have known any different being back on the boat. Of course, while Scott was clearing in, I may have had a beer. Don't tell him.
We poked around New Plymouth for a while before our Goombay Smashes. I love all the brightly colored houses, flowers and the narrow streets.
Then it was off to find a grocery store. Founded in the 18th century, New Plymouth is the main settlement on the island. You can find pretty much everything you need there including groceries. We went into one grocery store and asked if they had coconut bread. Their response, "Coconut bread is just white bread with coconut in it." We moved on to the next store down the road - Sid's Food Store. They will gladly sell you a loaf of coconut bread. They understand that coconut bread is more than just white bread with coconut in it. It's happiness wrapped up in a brown paper bag, just waiting to be devoured for breakfast in the form of French toast.
Finally, we made it to the Blue Bee bar, the home of Miss Emily's famous Goombay Smash. Although Miss Emily is no longer with us, fortunately her daughter Violet knows the secret recipe and blend of coconut, pineapple and rum. People leave autographed t-shirts, boat cards and business cards on the walls to memorialize their time at the Blue Bee. And some of them write things on the wall that they probably wish they hadn't after one too many Goombay Smashes. You know, because they got themselves all smashed on Goombay Smash.
After cutting ourselves off (while we still could), we walked around to check if our boat was still anchored safely. Good news - the boat was still there and the crew from S/V Wild Blue had arrived. Guess what that meant? After they cleared in, we went back to the Blue Bee for more Goombay Smashes. Any excuse will do.
The next day, we went for a dinghy tour of Black Sound and White Sound. Many boats choose to dock or pick up a mooring ball at one of the marinas in these sheltered sounds, like the Green Turtle Club where we tied up our dinghy. The Green Turtle Club is a pretty posh place, but the folks there are friendly and we snagged a little bit of their free WiFi while sipping on Kalik beer (thanks Charlie!).
We also got five gallons of drinking water at the marina. Earlier in the day, we ran into some folks we had met at Indiantown. We were comparing stories of our water woes. Turns out that while we had been getting by with a gallon per person a day or less (and that includes bathing, cooking, drinking etc), they were going through 20 something gallons per person a day. Imagine the showers you could have with that much water! No wonder they smelled better than us.
Green Turtle Cay was a smash hit with us. The Goombay Smash at Blue Bee probably had something to do with it, but so did the friendly people, the picturesque buildings and the laid back way of life.
LOGBOOK NOTES | Monday 18 May - Tuesday 19 May 2015
Total Nautical Miles - 4
Anchor Up - Manjack Cay (Coconut Tree Beach)
Anchor Down - Green Turtle Cay (off of New Plymouth)
Goombay Smashes - 5
Days Flying the Q Flag - 6
Gallons of Drinking Water Bought - 5
Next up on the blog...disappointing pigs and wearing a toaster on my head.
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