Don't You Want to Go Further South?

Ambler Isle
V and S
Mon 21 Feb 2011 17:54
"Why don't you go to the BVIs?" " Or Trinidad?" " Don't you want to see the Panama Canal?"  People often ask these questions.  People at home and those we meet along the way.  Today, the VHF radio was abuzz with folks looking for paper and electronic charts to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.  Other offer charts, books, even phones for points even further south.  While US citizens are not allowed to visit Cuba, everyone else is, and does go there.  It is not exactly the new, pristine boating site most Americans pine for. 
The answer to the first questions, for us, is no, no and no.  We have flown to many Caribbean destinations: Bonaire, Cayman Island, Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, Tobago, and even the Virgin Islands.  Each is breathtakingly lovely.  Each has its own unique flavor and appearance.  The scuba diving in Cayman Islands is spectacular.  But, for what we are seeking, the Bahamas is first on our list. 
 The incredible, remote beaches with their pink or white sugar sands go forever.  Many are too long to walk the entire length at one time.   Often there is no one else there.  We set up a sunshade for a week or two, and no one bothers it, except maybe to sit beneath its shelter occasionally.  The vistas are wonderful.  Sunsets over open water breathtaking.   The water is like none we have ever seen anywhere else.  The clear, turquoise seas are shallow.  This means we can snorkel the coral heads and reefs without scuba gear.  Catch lobster and fish.  The sea beds are sand.  Because the Bahama Islands have no rivers, no muddy, silty water floods out into the sea.  We observed this phenomenon in Tobago.  Remember Enya singing about the Orinoco Flow?  Well, when it overflows its banks, it sends a river of mud into the ocean 35 miles wide.  During this time the Caribbean Sea resembles the Mississipppi River. 
 The Bahamian people are very warm, friendly, and welcoming.  Sadly, this in not always the case in other Caribbean nations.   The cruisers are nice, and you can gather with them or not, as you wish.  We have been anchored alone, and now in Georgetown with 325 other boats. 
Another consideration is the distance.  The BVIs is nearly 1500 miles away, often across open water.  Three hundred mile passages are the norm for this trip.  Weather reporting is not always correct, and we have experienced bad seas on much shorted journeys.
A young couple was talking to Valt about their plans to go south.  He explained our position.  They scoffed,  what did we know?  Later another lady who'd overheard the exchange thanked him for helping her decision about continuing on or not.  Over the years, we have talked with many boaters about this subject.  One hoped to get to California.  Instead when they got to the BVIs, they  put the boat on a freighter, and had it shipped to Florida. They drove their car to California.   Another family with two kids came back from Trinidad after a two year trip, promptly sold the boat and headed back to Montana. 
Some people call Georgetown "Chicken Harbour".  Folks stop here planning to go to the Caribbean.  Often , just getting here  is very challenging, and they cancel their plans and just enjoy the fun here.  There are some very challenging places in the Bahamas for the adventurous:  Jumentos, Acklins, Mayaguana, Samana.  Very remote.  Very tricky routes.  Sometimes just getting home from Georgetown can be a lot of work. 
Just because the Bahamas is close to the US does not mean it is not the best place for a recreational boater to spend the winter.