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  • Katharine Hesmer

Bahamas | Take 2 | March 29, 2023

George Town, Great Exuma Cay, Exuma, Bahamas


KORKZcrew is the blue dot on the map


Well, it's been quite a dry spell, and the thought of writing again after such a prolonged drought is pretty daunting, but I guess I've got to start somewhere. So here goes.


I started this blog as a way to chronicle our first, now second crack at the live-aboard life. While it's important to me to document the experience as best I can for reference as well as remembrance, I'm keenly aware that even with a small audience of subscribers, it could easily read as something resembling a diary, which is probably second only to really bad home movies. I guess I'm saying that I'm self conscious about this content, and care about making it something that's worth reading, and not just some awful self-celebratory exercise. Hopefully you'll find something of value here, whether you're curious about living in a tiny floating home or hoping to do so one day, interested in traveling to this area, or just a glutton for punishment 😜. Mercifully there's always the "unsubscribe" button, and I don't blame you for keeping that within easy reach.


This is the second spring we've spent living aboard KORKZcrew in the Exumas. KORKZcrew is a 2008 Great Harbour trawler, and at 37 feet, she's on the small side for this type of adventure, but seems to be just right for us. We've been in George Town, Great Exuma since mid-January, and while remaining in George Town was not our original "plan", it's certainly not a terrible place to spend two+ months of your life.


I've repeatedly referred to the entirety of the Exumas as the Exuma Cays, which is incorrect. The Exuma island chain is divided into three parts, and the Exuma Cays is one of them — the other two being Great Exuma and Little Exuma. As its name indicates, Great Exuma is the largest of the cays, and home to George Town, the capital of the Exumas.

 

This interactive Google Map of George Town and Stocking Island is a helpful resource for anyone planning to visit the area, by boat or by land.

 

To give you a sense of where we are in the world, here's a quick Google Maps lesson.

From left to right, I'm basically zooming in on the blue dot, which is KORKZcrew's current anchorage. The Exumas are comprised of over 365 cays (pronounced "keys") which begin southeast of Nassau and continue down the long section of Exuma Cays, reaching all the way down to Great Exuma and finally to Little Exuma at the bottom of the chain. Only 29 of the cays are inhabited, resulting in a wealth of unspoiled natural beauty as far as the eye can see.


Just across Elizabeth Harbour to the east of George Town lies a beautiful remote cay named Stocking Island where most cruisers tend to gravitate as it's a lovely place to explore with numerous protected anchorages and an incredibly supportive cruisers' community. That's where KORKZcrew is anchored as of this writing.


Stocking Island's proximity to George Town makes it the perfect stopover spot for boats headed north and south needing to provision, refill their fuel, do laundry, or access the airport. The easy 10+ minute dinghy trip across the harbour is best taken on a day when the sea state is relatively flat, which sounds obvious to say, but it can get rather choppy in Elizabeth Harbour depending on the wind, swells, and tide.


Here's a quick 360 overlooking Stocking Island, with KORKZcrew visible in the lower righthand corner of your screen. The video begins by looking north, then swings around to show the spectacular Exuma Sound to the east, and back around to Elizabeth Harbour on the west.

Speaking of 360, that's roughly the average number of boats that have been anchored here between January and March of 2023. Sometimes closer to 300, it's still a staggering number when you think about it, and yet it never really feels "crowded" here.


Stocking is about 4-miles long, has only a few year-round residences, a handful of small resorts, and a famous beach-front bar & restaurant called Chat N' Chill. It's known for its varied trails, stunning beach, and great snorkeling. There is even a blue hole here made famous by celebrated oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in the 1970s, where experienced scuba divers explore to this day.


"Blue holes are scientific curiosities: caves formed by water erosion when sea levels were lower and the area was on dry ground. In the 1970s, the marine biologist and tv personality Jacques Cousteau filmed a dive into the hole traveling inside for about 1,700 feet. In fact, he released red vegetable dye during an outgoing tide to look for an exit point. Apparently the cave drops down about 70 feet from the surface and then runs under Stocking Island and out to the ocean more than a mile away!"


We've tried numerous favorable anchorages around Stocking since our arrival in January, and our preference has been an area along the lower southwest side of the island called Sand Dollar Beach. It's nice and protected, and thanks to KORKZcrew's shallow draft we can really tuck up closely into the corner of this location. KORKZcrew is also anchored near an easy no-shoes-needed-trail that takes you right to the Exuma Sound side of Stocking, where a stunning 5-mile beach walk has become part of our exercise routine.


That trail is only one of numerous nature trails all over Stocking Island, providing endless exploring opportunities as well as some overwhelmingly beautiful vistas. I've marked our typical anchorage (the red star) and trail walk on the map below.



Here's a drone flyover from KORKZcrew following the trail we frequent to the beach.

When you emerge from the wooded trail, it's as if you've discovered paradise. Every single time. The beach is pristine, mostly devoid of other humans, and that WATER, that water. That. WATER. If I wasn't before, I'm officially obsessed now. But I'm pretty sure this isn't news to anyone accustomed to reading my water rants and looking at too many pictures and videos. You poor things; I have some really bad news. The obsession is officially here to stay.








So just when you were thinking the water discussion couldn't devolve any further, I'll now venture into dangerous territory about a topic I know next to nothing about. Hooray. But did you happen to notice those dark rocky formations near the shoreline in the previous images? These are part of a system of rare prehistoric rocks called Stromatolites.


All together now: 🥱.


But it's actually kind of cool, as Stocking is one of the few places on earth where they can still be found.

"Stromatolites played a valuable role in the development of the planet’s atmosphere and are still alive and visible along Exuma Sound and the five-mile barrier island that forms Elizabeth Harbour. 'Right along the beach on the north side of the island which is Exuma Sound are visible stromatolites and they are a very ancient form of life. They are single celled organisms called prokaryote cells,' said Robert Cronin, owner of Kevalli House on Stocking Island, Exuma.

'These cells are responsible for having to put the oxygen in the atmosphere about three and a half billion years ago, as the planet was being formed. Now, they are very rare and are only seen here behind this property, a little further up throughout the Exumas, particularly behind Lee Stocking Island and I think there might be some on the outside of Highbourne Cay and also Western Australia. They are still alive and are being measured for their growth by some people at the University of Miami.'


Stromatolites are calcareous layers of lime-secreting bacteria, trapped with sand and sediment. They are alive and growing like coral reefs, which are another more complex marine animal formation.

The Exumian Stromatolites are found in Precambrian rocks that extend from the origin of the Earth, at least 4,600 million years ago. They are the earliest known fossils still being formed today that lived for over eons of time."


How's THAT for a history lesson?! Jacques Cousteau AND stromatolites in ONE blog post. That's got to be worth the price of admission.


While the north end of this beach doesn't reach the northernmost part of Stocking, it's still a nice long walk with a beautiful vista if you climb the sand dune at the turn-around point. Steve enjoys the view as well.


Before Steve officially conks out for the night, he has to take the prerequisite de-sandification swim. Yes that's a scientific term. And not only does it guarantee a full-fledged conk, it also reduces the flying sand collection already aboard the 'crew to a more manageable mound.


Conk out complete. Night night, sweet Steve!


Follow our adventures on Instagram!







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Guest
Mar 30, 2023

Thanks for posting. Love the overhead drone shots of the surf. If I ever form a band I'll name it Steve and The Stromatolites in Steve's honor.😊

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