We had decided to get down to Georgetown before Eleanor’s birthday so we could hopefully find some kids for the girls to meet up with. With the last real contact with kids being their cousins who left at Xmas, other than one girl we met briefly at Warderick Wellsand the kids from Taia one morning at Big Majors, they were in need to find some their own age.
We left Little Farmers Cay and pushed out on the turn of the tide through the rip that is similar to all the Cuts out into the deep ocean. There were standing waves, a fair amount of bounce and it all got exciting for a moment or two but then we were out with the wind just behind our beam and we were screaming down towards the S.
We hit 11.5 knots at one point, certainly the quickest we have been so far, proving that the boat can pick up her skirts if the wind and waves allow her. Great fun. We then had success number two for the day when, finally, just as we got ready to turn into Elizabeth Harbour, we hooked and caught a Mahi Mahi, locally known as Dolphin. Weight wise it was about 10lbs. After we got ourselves through into the protection of the harbour mouth, it was gutted and filleted. Good eating guaranteed for the next couple of days!
To give you an understanding of the importance of Georgetown, it is the largest and best collection of anchorages anywhere in the Exumas, certainly in the whole of the Bahamas and probably for 1000 miles. It has both hurricane holes (rarer than you would think) and anchorages giving shelter from all points of the compass. It is the largest town (pop about 1000) and is the capital of the Exuma district. It is the last safe port in South Bahamas before you leave South, either for Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic or Cuba and for us South West to the BVI.
Its other name is Chicken Harbour because of the number of people who reach there with the intent to travel on but just don’t quite escape its charms!
Most of the yachtie visitors are from the US and many are return visitors (one visitor we met arrived in 1986 and has been back every year), enjoying the winter season in the sun before running back into the US at the start of hurricane season. However, we met lots of Canadians, Aussies, New Zealanders, Brits, Germans, French, S African, Danish, Argentinian……. the population truly is an international one.
More importantly for us, it is the yachtie community in the Bahamas with numbers annually of up to 400-500 yachts anchoring.
We knew that there were a sizable number of yachts in the harbour and we had fun trying to count them as we sailed up towards our chosen anchoring spot at Sand Dollar Beach. We got to just over 200 (by the time we left some two and a half weeks later the number was over 300). We chose a spot a little off the beach and out of the crowd in 15ft of water. An easy drop and with good holding, we had arrived.
There are four main anchorages and several other smaller less used ones. The main sites
The Holes at Stocking Island. Home to those more permanently stationed boats and these days, pretty much all moorings. Good hurricane holes.
Volleyball Beach and the Chat n Chill bar. Crowded to the point of madness and the party place. In the short time we were in Elizabeth harbour there were three major incidents of people hitting other yachts because of either too much or too little rode and frankly, plain stupidity. Yachts at times were less than a boat length apart. Saying that, you didn’t need to travel far to the happening beach where most of the yachtie activities were organised.
Sand Dollar about half a mile to the S of Volleyball. Less crowded, excellent holding in the main and where folk gave each other a bit more room.
And lastly Monument to the N of Volleyball. Another popular spot which becomes crowded quickly.
I could go on but I could also say that pretty much anywhere inside Elizabeth Harbour could be used for anchoring. It is rarely more than 20ft deep, more often like 10-15, with good holding. We spent most of our time at Sand Dollar less a couple of nights off Georgetown (shopping and doing the “Georgetown shuffle”, moving to a better anchorage for a change in the wind direction) and one day, our last, off Volleyball.
The folk of Georgetown yachting community are an interesting crowd. We met young families with real smalls on board, the youngest just about to have his first birthday when we left and families with similar aspirations to us. There were the single handers looking nervous in company and the majority, the old and bold who, in their retirement, were simply living the life and having fun in the sun. I’d say the average age of the folk on the beach would be 60+ with one of the keenest volleyball players in his late 70’s. A great crowd who gossiped quietly, knew everyone else’s problems (and tried to sort them out) and is one of the happiest collection of people I have had the pleasure to meet. They get on, endlessly boat hop for chats and meals and they all look out for each other. Certainly for the older members of the population, I can think of far worse places to live. Frankly, any town on land….
The day started every day at 0800 with Sue from Wind Dancer, our compere on the community net kicking things off, going through weather, the calls from local businesses, those needing help, community announcements, the buy, sell or giveaway and then the meet and greet for the newcomers. There were plenty of those in our two and a half week stay. It generally took about 40 minutes.
I will say that a lot of our time in Georgetown was a bit “groundhoggish”. Up, radio net, chat to a few friends or someone who was offering something I needed, school and then onto Volleyball Beach to meet up with a crowd of kids for them to run each other ragged, some volleyball for me and a sit and chat for Lou. We might for a change go to the beach on the E side of the island where the big seas are for some body boarding. We didn’t join the daily yoga…..
Not so bad a life.
There were also lots of weekly events. We decided we had to at least go once to Church on the Beach one Sunday. A good crowd and the baking provided for snacks afterwards was great.
There was the weekly stampede to the market (not quite a supermarket but nearly!) when the boat came in with the weekly dose of fresh fruit and veg, generally on a Tuesday. Not too bad a selection but expensive.
Chat n Chill had just started a weekly dance night and BBQ – great fun even if it did look as if there was an extraordinary amount of daddy dancing going on!
The rake and scrape on a Monday at Eddies. Proper Bahamian music. Pretty wild.
Although we managed it only once, there was Brownies for the girls on a Wednesday at the school in Georgetown. The local girls all wear the proper Brownie uniform I remember my sisters wearing!
We didn’t have the nerve to join in with the very competitive poker nights arranged at the St Francis resort…..
I could go on for some time about the great people we have met here. For the kids, the main three boats were Taia, Paisley and Lost Horizons. Whilst Paisley and Lost Horizons have headed back N towards the US, we hope that we will see Taia again in the BVIs. Also a mention for Kingsley from About Time who looked after everyones wee ones wonderfully.
For the grown ups (and kids), Myron and Dena from Hold Fast. A lovely couple who we first met at Thunderball Grotto and who I’d love to met up with again. IGOR and his mobile chandlery, otherwise known as S/V Von Dutch! Can’t get away from the man.
And some new friends. The wonderful Jillian, a long time Brit visitor to Georgetown who knew everyone and gave us some very good introductions.
JD and his daughter Tiffany on Seahorse who are just getting in to sailing but who both have huge heart and had made it to Georgetown in their first season of sailing. They are good people. Tiffany is off back to college in the autumn but JD will sail on.
Whilst we could see why people could get stuck in Georgetown, we had the motivation of our restricted timetable to move on. Having managed to equip ourselves with some guidebooks for the rest of the Caribbean from some folk going N, we decided to that we had to get on. Couldn’t be late for the Mother in Law (note capitals, Joyce, I know your importance!) arrival in BVI, now could we??
We will step out to San Salvador to allow us to cut the distance we need to go E by about 90 miles and wait for the right window for us to get going. We still need about 600 miles before we head S! All up about 900 miles. We will plan for about a week; hopefully it will take us less.
I thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Georgetown and the friendliness of the people, both locals and the yachties. Perhaps in a few years we will be more of a mind to enjoy a season here. Maybe after we retire properly and the kids have flown……..
I always felt I was quite good at Volleyball but I may need some more practice. Incentive enough to return I feel.
PS More photos to follow once we get one of the damn cameras to accept download instructions.