At dawn on Wednesday, March 4th, we pulled the anchor on Sunshine, our 36’ catamaran, and headed north out of Elizabeth Harbor. With us were three British monohulls: “Rasi,” “Ten Years After” and “La Danza.”
The Elizabeth Harbor anchorage, better known as “George Town,” had been our home for several weeks. It wasn’t intentional. When we arrived in January, we had planned to stay in George Town only a few days. Inertia prevailed.
George Town is a large Bahamian community that caters to cruisers. The winter season brings hundreds of boats into the harbor, sometimes as many as 400. This year, even with the bad economic conditions, there were at least 300 boats.
George Town boasts one of the larger grocery stores in the Bahamas, along with two liquor stores, several restaurants, two laundries, a source for propane refills, free water, a dinghy dock and friendly locals.
We loved reconnecting with old friends and making new friends in George Town. It was especially difficult to leave Harold and Val on La Buena Vida, Clay and Rita-Kay on Carleigh, Doug and Marlene on Solar Eclipse, Roger and Darlene on RollsDoc, Mickey and Lillian on Carpe Diem Philadelphia, Barbara and Ken on m/v Barbara, Ed and Sandi on Genesis, and Laurence and Joan on Better Than Working, plus many others.
The cruiser community in George Town is highly organized, which we found interesting at first and overwhelming after a while. Each year, the cruisers host a regatta early in March. This regatta isn’t a Bahamian celebration. It’s strictly a cruiser function. The organizing for regatta begins early in the year and by late February, regatta planning is at fever pitch. Multiple committee chairmen recruit dozens of volunteers, whose reason for living becomes the regatta.
Regatta activities include a pet parade, a sailboat “pass in review,” a dinghy coconut retrieval race, a talent show, a no-talent show, a bocci-ball tournament, volleyball tournament, a sailboat race, an opening show, a closing show, a dance, and many more activities too numerous to mention.
Many folks come to George Town to enjoy the cruisers’ regatta, and we wish we were among them. The regatta drumbeat became so strong that we felt compelled to make our escape from George Town before the festival began. Evidently, some others felt the same way. We had lots of company on our trek north.
The weather report for our retreat from George Town called for 10-15 knot winds and 2-4 foot seas. The reality was 20-25 knot winds, gusting to 30 knots, with 5-8 foot seas. The bad news was that we were tossed about, with waves constantly breaking over the bow. The good news was that we made good time. Motor-sailing with full sails, we averaged seven knots, sometimes reaching 8.5 knots.
We went “inside,” after about six hours, at Galliott Cut, our first good opportunity to escape the big seas. Once inside, we continued north, protected from the full force of the east winds by the Exuma Islands. We still made very good time motor-sailing and reached our destination by mid-afternoon.
We are now anchored at Staniel Cay, where we can receive a satellite internet signal and re-stock our pantry before heading north. The weather continues windy, but with protection from the wind, the sun is bright and feels warm. The islands are beautiful and the sea is aquamarine. If the wind subsided, we would be complaining about the heat.
Our plan is to leave here in the next day or two and head north to Norman’s Cay. From Norman’s, we will wait for good weather to make the crossing to Eleuthera. Up the west side of Eleuthera, we will then cross over to the Abacos. From the northern tip of the Abacos, we will head north and await our chance to cross the Gulf Stream to Florida.