Swing Set

Jul 11, 201308:48 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

A Sigh Of Relief In Stella Maris

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We have free WiFi! So, I'm backing up for a week and showing you this picture of the beach at Chat 'N' Chill on Stocking Island across from Georgetown, Exuma.

The Chat 'N' Chill is such a fun place to go to, we found it hard to leave Georgetown because of it. We've been told that, "in season," the place is hopping with customers, and 300 or 400 boats line the shores of Elizabeth Harbour. We cannot wait to visit in the winter months. We think this place would be a great place to visit on vacation.

Meanwhile, any reservations about our decision to travel to Long Island, with our initial disappointment in Salt Pond, plus the threat of Chantal hanging over our heads, has disappeared like Baptists at a raid on a strip club.

Yesterday morning we left our anchorage in Thompson Bay in Salt Pond. The morning was sunny and calm, but we were in good moods because the threat of tropical storm Chantal was diminishing. The storm was taking a track that I'd initially hoped it would and was staying south of Cuba, weakening. Wind was still going to be an issue, but not too much. I'd rather be lucky than good. This time, we were lucky.

On our approach to Stella Maris Marina, I still wasn't sure if I wanted to go the additional miles to get into the harbor. The marina is located on the very inside corner of a large bay, off of our route somewhat, and the path isn't a very deep one. It was early, we had the time, and we both figured we ought to see if the guidebooks and reviews we'd been reading were anything close to reality. We could always change our minds and travel the extra few miles up the coast to Joe Sound if we didn't like what we encountered at Stella Maris.

On our approach on the largely unmarked channel, we saw a dive boat coming out from the marina entrance. This was good news, the first boat we'd actually seen underway in days. There might be life at Stella Maris!

We entered the small marina basin through a narrow but adequate cut and quickly saw the fuel dock. It was a neat affair, and there was plenty of room to maneuver Swing Set alongside. I called the marina on the VHF and didn't get a response. It was Independence Day in the Bahamas, a holiday, and perhaps they weren't open. But instead of leaving, I went in search of somebody. I was wandering around the boatyard and a fella came out. "I guess you're looking for me," he said, and I replied that if he could sell me some fuel, that he was indeed the guy I was looking for.

Ian, with a proper British accent, introduced himself as the manager of the Stella Maris Marina, having just taken over the job after purchasing the dive operation here recently and eventually making an arrangement with the owners to operate the marina and restaurant. He and his wife are from the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain and have been trying to purchase the dive operation at Stella Maris for a couple of years. After spending about 20 months waiting around and dealing with the unbelievably slow bureaucracy of the Bahamian government, they gave up hope and went back to Europe, only to get a call from their lawyer a few months later saying the deal was done. Back to Long Island they came.

After getting our fuel and asking a few questions that Ian had the right answers to I asked about getting a slip for a night our two. The price is fair, and we were able to secure an alongside pier instead of the usual med-style dock that prevails in the marina. The slip we took was that of the large marina dive boat that was currently moored in the adjacent canal, a  true "hurricane hole." The boat would be there until the end of hurricane season, so we'd be able to stay as long as we would want to. I began thinking of a three-day arrangement.

We got Swing Set tucked in and plugged in our shore power. We hadn't used our air conditioning since Nassau, but within the close confines of the protected marina, we were happy to have it chugging away.

Rosie and I went exploring a little. We wanted to see the hurricane hole, so we hiked over to see it. There were several boats lined up in the deep basin. Lines running from the sides of each vessel were tied securely to bollards that line the bank on each side. I'd feel safe keeping Swing Set here if we need to.

The marina is part of the larger Stella Maris Inn and Resort, on the other side of the island. The complex is owned by an older German family, and interest in running the marina has declined over the years, and so has the marina. But a resurgence is obvious, and Ian is working hard to improve the property. This isn't a resort; you go over to the Stella Maris Inn and Resort for that, but there's a dive training tank, accessible from the second floor deck just off from the entrance to the Driftwood Cafe. The tank is big enough for lounging around, and Rosie and I decided to do just that if the promised rain would hold off.

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