If you’ve read or heard anything about cruising in the Bahamas, you’ve probably heard about Georgetown on Great Exuma Island. It’s the capital of the expat community during the winter, with a plethora of daily activities on offer, such as: water aerobics, yoga, volleyball, dominos, music lessons, and Texas Hold’em. Not to mentions infinite opportunities for hiking, snorkeling, and exploring. Of course, Georgetown also provides all the basic services that cruisers need, such as groceries, laundry, fuel, and trash. Georgetown earned the nickname of Chicken Harbor because so many cruisers with plans to continue south get caught in the gravitational pull of Georgetown fun, and eventually discover that the entire season has passed by, driving the decision to chicken out and head back to Florida this summer, and try again for the southern Caribbean next year.
It was an easy couple of hours sail from Emerald Bay to Elizabeth harbor, once the northerly winds and swells had finally calmed. Sanitas rejoined her buddy boats at an anchorage just off Sand Dollar Beach, and we quickly got dragged ashore to the Chat ‘n’ Chill on Stocking Island for our introduction to the festivities.
Chat ‘n’ Chill, aka Volleyball Beach is the social hub of the area; a beach bar that also doubles as the church, book exchange, volleyball league, and domino club. We spent A LOT of time here over the next few days, meeting other cruisers, and getting my kitty cat fix by hanging out with the very laid back ginger tabbys.
On our first night in the harbor, we attended a bonfire on Sand Dollar beach where we met the crew of SAVA, who are home-schooling their two children aboard, and watched the captain of Maitre ‘d twirl Polynesian fire balls. The evening was marred a bit when Z-Raye’s dinghy went for a walkabout without her captain well after dark. We put out an APB on the VHF to get everyone in the harbor on the lookout. And somehow, Stan and Chris of Disorder were able to find her, drifting in the middle of Elizabeth harbor, in a 2 knot current, making a break for Miami. I have no idea how they were lucky enough to spot her, tie her up, and tow her in using only flashlights! Note to self…. apply reflective tape to our dinghy, Bug.
After celebrating Sharon’s birthday with burgers at Splash Beach Bar, we climbed to the top on Monument Hill and surveyed the view of the harbor and of all the boat names memorialized in stone on the beach. We accepted the challenge and made our own stone tribute to Dock 4, the home base in St Petersburg of our whole group.
In Georgetown, I got my hair cut for the first time since Miami. I walked into Trainee’s hair salon (and fish market) and got a pretty darn good cut for $20. Unfortunately, Trainee was sold out of fresh fish for the day, lol.
I spent one fun afternoon on my Isle inflatable standup paddle board. It took a while to build up my courage to go farther and farther from the boat. I tend to get lulled into a false sense of security, when the water and wind are still, and I am moving at a brisk pace in a comfortable direction. Then the breeze picks up or a wake comes through the anchorage (Or I simply realize I need to turn around to get back to where I started) and it all falls apart. Today, I made it all the way around Sand Dollar anchorage, getting up close and personal with several green sea turtles, and then as I approached Sanitas, I realized I had no idea how to stop. Lacking any other plan, I pretty much ran right into her. When the paddle board stopped so suddenly, I fell off and had to collect my hat, sunglasses, water bottle, and paddle before trying to board the boat with some level of dignity intact.
Capt. Mike’s sport of choice is volleyball. Back in Colorado, he used to play on several different leagues, at various levels of competitiveness. As 2:00 approached each afternoon, I could sense him getting more antsy and ready to head over to volleyball beach. If I wasn’t ready, I’d have to follow later on the SUP, or catch a ride with another boat. He had a blast burning up the court every afternoon …. and still has the raw marks on his knees healing slowly to show for all those dives into the sand, sacrificing his body for the ball.
On our last night if Elizabeth Harbor, we dinghied over to Georgetown to attend the rake ‘n scrape at the Peace and Plenty hotel. A Rake ‘n scrape is traditional Bahamian live music, usually played with a base, accordion, and saw – maybe even a washboard. This one was a bit more polished than most, with electric guitars provide most of the melody, and one lonely quiet saw soloist way in the back. It was a great evening though, dancing to the band at the lovely outdoor patio, and hanging out with locals and other cruisers on Archipelago, Mariposa, and Wavelength. Mike noticed that the bartender was getting overwhelmed with customers early in the evening, so he offered to carry in a few cases of beer and to reload the beer fridge. She allowed him to help out until a second bartender arrived, earning a few free beers for his efforts!
Did I mention how large Elizabeth Harbor is? In my imagination, I had always envisioned a small, manageable harbor, ringed by pristine white sand beaches, where every business and amenity is right within reach. In reality, Elizabeth Harbor is huge, and there are many available anchorages to choose from depending on the weather and winds, and if you’d rather be close to Stocking Island socializing, or close to errands and shopping in town. So when we committed to dinner, drinks, and dancing at Peace and Plenty, we knew we were in for a long dark dinghy ride home across the harbor in Bug. We made it, and somehow Capt Mike was able to pick out the exact anchor light belonging to Sanitas from the constellation of artificial stars ringing the bay, and aimed us straight at her. Our first stay in a Georgetown for the season had come to a close, and any lingering crustiness we would feel the next morning on our sail east was worth it for the fun of dancing outdoors on a beautiful evening.