Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Georgetown, Bahamas March 2005

Georgetown, is THE DESTINATION of most cruisers on their adventure. We knew from Radio reports, and from other cruisers we had been talking to, that there were about 300 hundred boats already in Georgetown, but when you make the corner at Conch Cay, and all you can see is masts, it is quite a shock. Elizabeth Harbour, is about 3 miles long and about 1.5 miles wide, and in this area there are usually over 500 boats during Regatta, which starts in about a week. (We timed that right!!)

They say, you either love Georgetown or hate it. Having just arrived yesterday afternoon, we have to give it time. As we entered the harbour -- it really isn't a true harbour, Elizabeth Harbour, is just the protected area between Stocking Island and Great Exuma Island, open to the Exuma Sound at both ends -- we travelled past the first couple of beaches, and anchorages, there the boats were anchored about 6 deep. Since Sand Dollar Beach had been recommended to us, we wondered why everyone was at Volleyball and Hamburger Beach. I am sure we will discover that that is where the activities are, and rather than go by dinghy, most people move their boat...It is called the Georgetown shuffle.

So we continued on to Sand Dollar Beach, the anchorages are long, sandy, and despite all the boats, there is still ample room for some more. (about 50 boats had sailed south from Little Farmers in the past 2 days that we knew about) Once we had chosen our "hole" Bev yelled over to the next sailboat to find out how much rode he had out. His response "can't hear you, I don't have my hearing aid in." Then we had to compete with a 40" remote controlled sailboat tacking about, for the spot. Who has the right of way? After anchoring...we could hear what Bev thought our next door neighbour was running a generator. No it is an air supply system for underwater diving, they were testing it out, snorkeling around their boat tethered with yellow hoses. Welcome to Georgetown.
It was good to see Larry, on Inukshuk, he had come down a couple days early, to drop off visitors, and RagtimeII came over (yes they moved their boat) for happy hour. We had travelled down the ICW with Gail and Ted and separated after Charleston and it was good to see them again. They had spent Dec & most of Jan. in Florida and had been in Georgetown for a couple of weeks and Gail was stiff from Friday's yoga class.

Today, we will scope out the area and find out the routine. It is like a Florida playpark... you can go to Yoga, Volleyball, Dancing, learn to blow a conch, organized walks and they have a Bridge club...did someone say Bridge...Bev hasn't had a game since last April and is dying to play a few hands. Regatta, a big festival time, is to start in the next week, so we have to find out what that is all about. But every morning on the VHF they fill you in on what is happening.

We also have to find the bank cash machine. Apparently there is only one for all these boaters. We have not been able to get Cash since Spanish Wells, and that was a long time ago. Plus most of the small businesses (restaurants and stores) we have been at in the Exumas only will take cash. Again, the info we have, is that the only ATM in Georgetown runs out of money on a regular basis, so we will have to be patient. (did we mention, that this is the first ATM since Nassau, for those who came that way) There is supposed to be good shopping here also, and we do need a few items, although we are not that short supplied, but some fresh fruit and vegs would be a nice change and the mail boat comes in on Tuesday, so Wed. is the best day to shop.

There are quite a few anchorages in the Georgetown area. We had been anchored for the first 2 nights at Sand Dollar Beach, just off Stocking Island (SE end). Yesterday morning we dinghied over to town (Great Exuma Island) and even with the yellow rain coats, we were soaked by the time we got to town. It was lovely and warm, we were not cold, and dried quickly but we are salty. We walked the town,(about the size of New Plymouth on Green Turtle) did our shopping,(2 small grocery stores, 3 liquor stores, one fruit stand, and the bread lady (MOM, sells out of the back of her minivan) filled our water jugs, bought gas for the New motor which likes to drink fuel, met a bunch of people in town, found the laundrimat and generally had a good time. The ride home was wet (of course).

Steelaway and La Voile au Vent are going to heading back to Florida by the end of the week. We are not sure what Larry will do, so we need new boat buddies. Among the boating community and in Georgetown, this is not a difficult task. There is supposed to be a group learning how to basket weave (this is for real) at Volleyball beach, and then bridge happens later (same place -- every afternoon) and Bev plans to jump right in. She went to get palm fronds – hopefully the right kind -- after the water fitness class. She had to miss aquafit today, because we are at town -- but you can't do everything!! Tomorrow night, it is Pizza night on the beach, then Thursday there is a Women's lunch, plus there is a HAM radio lunch one day this week which Ross is going to. They just announced on the radio that yoga is cancelled for this morning since the Hamburger beach is wet. Last Sunday, they had a music jam session, and there were about 20 musicians playing soft rock and folk songs, it was quite nice, and all 4 volleyball courts were full. Georgetown has been described as summer camp for adults, and it will be fun for awhile and then we will get tired of it.

music jam sessionbocchi on the beach

March 5, 2005 We are still in Georgetown, and developing a daily routine. Every morning, Bev listens to the SSB radio between 630 and 730 to hear primarily 2 weather reports, one from Chris Parker, who is a sailor in this area, who studies and tells us what to expect. If you subscribe to his service, he will respond to your personal plans and give you an individual weather report. As of yet, we haven't needed to do that, but if you proceed further along the island chain, it probably would be necessary. Then after his report, the BASRA (Bahamas Sea & Rescue) give us the Florida reports and the Bahamian Metrological office report. In Georgetown, we must watch the weather. Unlike the Abacos, there really is not one preferred anchorage, and everyone moves around based on the forecast -- its called the Georgetown shuffle.

Today, we experienced quite a rain squall, winds hit 35+ and the rain came down like sheets. It started in the anchorage to the north, and was announced on the radio. We had been expecting the front, and were well anchored, lots of chain out, but we are quite close to the next couple of boats, but everyone's anchor held. Others had difficulties, and Larry's dinghy flipped over, motor and all. The front and squalls went through in less than 1/2 hour, but we still have 25+ knot wind tonight. At least we are making lots of power.

Not wanting to leave RAFT in this wind, Bev defrosted the fridge, cleaned the oven, and Ross made a hammock -- using some fish netting and wood we picked up off the beach at Exuma Park. It was too windy to set it up and try it out...another day. We also had Pete & Kathy, Ron Marshall and Larry over for dinner, because STeelaway and Ron are planning to start the return trip to Florida tomorrow (if the ocean is not too rough -- that will depend if the winds die down after midnight as they are predicted to do). It will be sad to see them go...Larry is sticking around for a while longer, and will return to Florida later in April. As for us, we will stay in Georgetown, for awhile. Brenda (our middle daughter) has asked Ross to go home for her kipling ceremony, when she gets her iron ring. Only another engineer can kiple the new engineers and she wants her Dad there. Ross will fly home for a week the end of March, for her day. Bev will stay here, until Ross returns. She is a little concerned, but will be okay. She is working hard to make a lot of new boat friends here, so that there will have lots of help if it is needed. With over 300 boats here there will be lots of company for her.

Starting March 10th - 20th is the Georgetown Regatta. There are all sorts of contests: conch blowing, mask making, swimming, bridge, dinghy races, tennis, softball, volleyball, boccia and sailboat racing. We are not racers, but we have been asked to crew on a Hunter 42. We told Judy and Bob we have no racing experience, and they don't care. These guys have raced their boat, Autumn Adventure, in Cape Cod races, even against Senator Ted Kennedy. But they are really fun people, and its all for fun. The races are March 15th and 17th, and we have to practise on their boat before then. Bev will also play in the bridge tournament as long as it doesn't conflict with the sailboat race.

Georgetown has been described as Summer camp for Adults. Every day (except bad weather days) there are so many things to do, you can't do them all. Every morning (0730) the women at our anchorage do water exercises, while the men sit at the picnic table and have coffee. Bridge, volleyball and dominos is every afternoon at 230pm. Bev is still looking for the tai chi class.

Racing on Autumn Voyageur was a lot of fun. The first race was the Elizabeth Harbour race. We had to complete the circuit of the harbour twice, dodging shallow areas, anchored boats, other racers and well wishers. The day was lovely, but the winds were light. Bob & Judy are excellent sailors and know exactly how to get the most out of their boat. We really didn’t feel we contributed a great deal to the racing, but we did learn a lot. The boats were also being judged for the Myrth and Merriment Award, the winner deemed to be having the most fun during the race. For our contribution, we had a wedding, honeymoon and birth, as we “zoomed” around the harbour. Bev was dressed in a long white skirt and veil, carrying a palm frond bouquet, Ross in a dark shirt with “help me” written on the back. Autumn Voyageur won their race, and 2nd for our merriment efforts.

Bob & Judy from Autumn Voyageur,  race winners
The second race was around Stocking Island. The wind was a little stronger, but still a wonderful day. The extra for this racing was the fishing prize. Ross went and purchased prehooked ballyhoo, and we hung 2 lines off the stern once we had cleared Conch cut. Within 10 minutes we had hooked 2 large Barracuda, which we wired to the stern rail and we completed the race. Autumn Voyageur was again victorious plus we won the fishing prize. It was an exhilerating experience, but don’t think we have been converted to racers.