We were in George Town from 1/18/13 to 3/6/13 and divided our time between Sand Dollar Beach, Monument Beach, Chat & Chill Beach (also known as Volleyball Beach), Kidd’s Cove and Red Shanks with a majority of our time spent at Red Shanks. We planned on spending at least a month there waiting for the worst of the winter cold fronts to pass before heading north as spring and weather patterns comes to the Bahamas. The cold fronts we have experienced are not generally cold in temperature, but they bring strong winds, especially from the north and west. We have never worn anything other than swim suits and shorts on this entire trip although one morning it was a little cool but not cool enough to bother digging out long pants from the recesses of the boat.
The ‘beaches’ that I mentioned are where a majority of the action is happening. That is, if you like a semi organized, year round camp type atmosphere. We enjoyed the activities but also enjoyed heading south to Red Shanks where there were usually only a handful of boats unless a blow was coming, then there would be around 6 in the channel going into Red Shanks, about 6 in the first hole and 3 in the next hole (usually cats since it is a shallow entrance). During bad blows there would also be around 10-20 in the open area before the channel leading in to the holes. The majority of boats would stay in Elizabeth Harbor and weather out the winds.
There was a morning net on VHF channel 72 at 8am by Herman on s/v White Wing. He does a phenomenal job of remaining diplomatic and friendly while doing the net. He would start the net out by asking if there was any priority or emergency traffic (missing boats, etc) then move on to the weather, tide, local businesses, current days activities, upcoming activities, boaters general (need parts, advice, etc.), housekeeping (garbage dumpster status, etc.), arrivals and departures, people who needed more time for a lengthy announcement, then foreign speaking announcements. The rest of the day everyone stands by on working channel 68 in Elizabeth Harbor. After the net there is a flurry of radio traffic with communication scattering to a number of different channels to have their conversations. It is like one big party line if any of you remember when telephones operated on the party line. Neighbors knew neighbors business because you could listen in to their phone conversations (not that I ever did this as a kid).
The boater’s general part of the net was extremely helpful to all boaters. We lost an oar on our dinghy during one of the blows and someone gave us another one. One morning we announced that we were looking for east coast charts and intercostal guides. One person had a new set he would sell us but we decided to wait and see if there was an older set for cheaper and someone gave us their complete set from Florida to Delaware. We borrowed a large rivet gun to put a missing rivet on the bottom of the boom. The most valued was advice from a variety of experienced boaters. We were able to repay some favors and borrow out or give to other cruisers oil, acetone, hoses, tools and our newly gained experience on boat repairs. One boater had hurt his knee and could not climb up his mast to do some work so Mark went up and did a couple of jobs at the top of the mast for him.
The 33rd Annual George Town Cruising Regatta took place from 2/25/13 to 3/8/13. At peak time during the regatta, there were 280 boats in the harbor. We thought that was a lot until we were told that there used to be 700-800 before the crash.
The majority of boats seem to be Canadians. Evidently they weathered the crash better than the Americans did. They fly their flags while the Americans generally do not so it is hard to tell the exact numbers. Everyone has to fly the Bahamian courtesy flag. We also fly our American flag and SISA (Southern Idaho Sailing Association) burgee. The rest of the foreigners are a mixture and seem to fly their flags.
The activities were a mixture of daily yoga, volleyball, art, and basket weaving. Every other day and weekly activities ranged from sushi making, sign language, book swap, DVD swap, battery seminar, cruising to Cuba seminar, cruising the Caribbean, etc., dances, no-talent talent shows, conch horn making, jam session night with bonfire, miscellaneous bonfires on a variety of beaches, softball, Bahamian history, tour buses of Great Exuma to water walk hosted by Jim helping us all to, as he put it, “Achieve those buns of steel”. There was so much to do, you could not possibly do it all. We escaped to Red Shanks during the blows where it was much more protected and enjoyed some ‘down time’ while we were too far away from George Town.
On the days when the weather was nice, we maximized our time snorkeling, exploring islands and beaches. The weather patterns were variable. Some days we would see light and variable, other times winds from the east at 10-12 knots for days, northeast at 22-28 for a couple days at a time, and southwest to west to northwest at 25-30. One night someone said the gusts were to 38. That is the worst we have experienced. Our mighty Rocna holds tight as long as we have enough scope out. Whenever the forecast was above 20, we went to Red Shanks.
We had days when we had time to work on boat projects like whipping all of the ends of our sheets. A looking bucket was on our list of wanted items, but they cost $53 at Georgetown so I was able to get a bucket for free at a restaurant and buy a piece of plexiglass for $6.00. Viola, Mark and the boys put together a great looking bucket. These are invaluable for checking the anchor when you don’t feel like diving on it and checking out reefs to see if they are worth anchoring and snorkeling on. Another boater makes jewelry out of seashells, seabeans, etc. and taught us how to do it one afternoon (thanks Robert!).
Time was divided to town days as well where we would explore the local stores, do laundry when it got out of hand to do on the boat, fill up on water, gas and fuel and groceries.
We have since worked our way back up the Exuma’s and are now in Eleuthera. We will update the blog when we have the opportunity.
Fair winds ~ Christine