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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Trails Stocking Island “Georgetown”

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One of the few areas the Stocking Island trails were too rough;
we turned back.  What a ruggedly beautiful view though!
Georgetown is a great stop for provisioning, doing laundry, catching up on internet, cruiser get-togethers, meeting guests, and resource sharing with loads of safe places in the area to anchor.   Three hundred plus boats anchoring in Georgetown’s Elizabeth Harbour is not unusual.  Still, our Bahamas Lonely Planet Bahamas guide dismissively notes, “Georgetown is charming, though there’s not much to keep you from moving on quickly [to other more interesting places in the Exuma chain of islands].”

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Palm fronds form nifty natural
arch, artfully framing this
Stocking Isle trail
We’re not that keen on long stays in heavily populated anchorages, yet there are far worse places to be “stuck,” and we were.

First it was waiting for guests, Wayne’s Dad Phil and his wife Gunnel.  Then we were too concerned to push quickly on when our diesel engine made a disconcerting new noise (which did not repeat itself, and anchorage neighbor and longtime Pearson 365 owner Ross of Sundance assured us given the circumstances it was not likely to, and we were a.o.k.  --  so far, so good.).   Weather report squall warnings gave us too short a time period to head elsewhere quickly and confidently enough to hole up for the predicted blow and make it back in time for Phil and Gunnel to catch their flight back. 

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Gunnel sets up for one of many photos
at Stocking Island’s Monument viewpoint.
Thus, we remained anchored mostly off Stocking Island, across the harbor from Georgetown’s Great Exuma Island for a few weeks.

If you like laid back hiking, the Georgetown area’s worth a stop for that alone.

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View down the backside of Monument Trail,
where crushed white limestone, lush
green foliage and Exuma Sound’s waters
shimmer in a vivid palette of blues.
Stocking Island’s chock full of trails, both on the placid Elizabeth Harbour side, and traversing over to the more rugged Atlantic Ocean’s Exuma Sound.  For a relatively tiny place, there’s a decent variety of interesting terrain, and despite all those boats anchored in the harbor, it’s not unusual to be alone on a vast stretch of beach.  Most of the trails are well marked (discarded shoes -- usually flip-flops or crocs -- are favorite cruiser trail markers), and well maintained.

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If there was any doubt we were following
a shoreline trail…
We hiked for hours every couple of days.  Only on the Northern tip on the Exuma Sound side of Stocking Island did the trails become too much of a bushwhack.  That time, we just doubled back and before long caught a good cross island trail to our favorite out-of-the-way spot on Stocking Island, quirky FlipFlop Beach.

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This is one big trail marker!  Wayne,
all 5’10” of him provide scale….
We’re not sure who created or maintains Stocking Island’s trails.  Cruisers?  Locals?  Cooperative efforts?  Grant-based NGOs like Bahamas Trust?  If anyone knows, please chime in!

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Wayne scaling a steeper section
of Stocking Island’s Monument
trail. Strategically placed rope
 made it an easy up and down.
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Wayne’s expression says it all.  There are bugs
in paradise and on that calm day, we needed the
insect repellant, badly for noseeums and mosquitos.
Sunscreen, drinking water and insect repellent
are the holy trinity in my daypack.
Whoever you are – thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Alas, even in the sandy sun-filled garden of modern-day Eden, there are a few ants -- well, mosquitos and noseeums -- to spoil paradise.  They remind us when it's too windless to hike, or approaching suppertime -- theirs precedes ours as they arrive around between 4 and 5 pm.

Outside these tiny winged vampires, there are sand burrs.  These herbaceous pests deploy wickedly barbed velcro-like seed pods.  They rely on their freewheeling nature for excellent dispersal and appear their strategy is proving quite successful throughout the islands.

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This is the sand burr plant and its
evil but exceedingly effective seed.
The beauty of these islands makes these potential inconveniences well worth the hikes.


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This is what happens to croc wearers
hapless enough for cross paths with
sand burrs.  Yes, you can feel them
through the shoe and they really hurt!
Location Location
April 2014 BAHAMAS.  Retrospective --Stocking Island (N23.31.126 W75.45.544) is part of Elizabeth Harbour, which encompasses Georgetown.  All are part of the Bahamas Exuma chain of islands, a popular cruising destination.  We anchored in the Stocking Island area at various times through February and March 2014 to provision, explore, meet guests and find shelter from various storm fronts.  We're in  in Long Island's Clarencetown Harbor at this post's writing, crossing our fingers the Southwesterly forecast  holds long enough for a good passage to Rum Cay.  It's about 32 nm, and the 2nd leg of our deliberately slow journey back to the States.

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Usually, there is no warning sign
for sand burrs.  We usually find
sand burrs the hard way, so
we appreciated the heads up.

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Not hard to guess how this trail it got its
name, Shoe Tree Trail.  Shoes, often found
washed ashore Bahama beaches, are
commonly used to mark trails in
cruiser-populated areas.
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Rainbow over the onshore reefs on Stocking Island’s
Exuma Sound side.
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Even without the rainbow, the island colors were luminous.