Social Butterflies

We were certainly sad to see Micki and Nathan go home to Colorado. But we consoled ourselves by leaping into the Georgetown social scene with both feet. Did I mention we were there during the Cruisers’ Regatta? This is basically two weeks of boat races, games, competitions, and socializing…all revolving around the hub of Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island. It’s been taking place for over 30 years, and several of the cruisers we met had attended every year. It seems to be a particularly big deal for Canadian cruisers – they sail south from their home marinas on the Great Lakes, arrive in Georgetown in time for the festivities at the end of February, and then start the long trek back home. Unfortunately, we missed registration day, so many of the games were already fully booked. But Capt. Mike managed to snag a spot on a bocce ball team.

And we had the opportunity to meet cruisers from all walks of life. One afternoon, the Women Who Sail Facebook group held a meetup at the Peace and Plenty beach club. It was great fun to share stories and experiences with such a varied group of women of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of experience.

On another afternoon, the captain of Bel Canto announced a get together for Colorado cruisers. Super fun! I think there were twelve boats from Colorado, and we enjoyed hearing how all of these landlocked folks discovered sailing and a passion for the water.

And then of course there was the ARG (Alcohol Research Group) happy hour on the beach. Seemed like the perfect time to break out the last of our coconuts and bring them as our “research material.” This event even boasted live music – a jazz band of fellow cruisers. Also had the biggest, best potluck spread of the season.

As I write this, even I’m amazed at how many social events were squeezed into one week. You can start to understand why Georgetown exerts such a gravitational pull on cruisers. There’s so much to do, so many people to meet, and if you’re there for even a short time you start to make plans and commitments: “Next week starts a new Texas Hold-em tournament.” “Saturday is a concert at the Peace and Plenty.” “There’s a fundraiser for a new roof for the library coming up. We’d better stick around for that.” Next thing you know – a month has passed by.

But I’m an introvert. And after a while, all that socializing gets to be a bit too much. So then I turn to my favorite thing about Stocking Island – climbing the hill to the pristine Ocean Beach, and hiking for hours at a time. I measured it using my Garmin GPS watch. It’s 1.75 miles from the rock cliff at the south end to the north end of the beach. If this gorgeous place were in Florida, it would be covered in Condo high rises and sunburned tourists. Here on Stocking Island, I never saw more than five or six people and a couple of dogs.

And there’s a climb up to Monument Hill at the north end – just to get the blood pumping.

A little solitude, a bit of exercise, and I’m ready to be social again! We were finally reunited with our buddy boats Elixir and Leef Nu. Better yet, it was Trish on Elixir’s 30th birthday! So we celebrated in the best way – another night of Rakin’ and Scrapin’ at Eddie’s. The kitchen was not at its best that night. Between the eight of us at our usual patio table, only three plates of food ever got delivered. But the band was rocking, and we all had a fabulous time. I don’t think Trish will ever forget this birthday!

Speaking of reunions with old friends, Drew and Sharon of SV Z-Raye arrived in Georgetown from Key West while we were there. So we had a fun time catching up and making plans to travel together to Conception Island and Long Island.

5 Farmers 5Festival 5First 5Friday 5February

5Finally !!!

One of our main goals for the 2019 cruising season, was to make it to Little Farmers Cay in the Exumas in time for the 5Fs festival. It’s the tiny island’s annual homecoming festival, and the regatta race for Class C Bahamian wooden sloops from all the neighboring islands. It’s kind of the little brother festival to the National Family Islands Regatta that we attended in Georgetown last year. So we considered ourselves lucky to find a small weather window to leave Warderick Wells on Thursday 31 January to head south.

Slightly chaotic leaving the Warderick Wells mooring field…. the current was absolutely ripping when I dropped our mooring lines, and Capt. Mike asked where was the floating mooring ball, to make sure that he didn’t run it over or tangle the thick lines in our prop. Well, I looked to port, looked to starboard, looked forward, and looked aft but couldn’t see it. So we kept drifting in neutral, almost to the point of running aground. Finally we gave up and motored off, trying to decide if we needed to anchor and dive the boat to determine whether we were dragging a 24 inch diameter ball under our keel. But Kevin on Leef Nu dinghied over to check out our spot, and radioed to tell us that all of the mooring hardware and lines were still there, except for that big white ball. It must have popped or broken in half during the night. So THAT was what woke Capt Mike up at 4 am! We radioed the info to Sherri at park headquarters and continued on our way.

By 2:30, we were anchors-‘down near Little Farmers Cay and I’d say there were at least 100 other boats already in the anchorage. One or two of them were definitely pushing the “no anchor zone” in front of the air strip, lol. You’re the one risking your mast – not me!

We hustled to get Bug in the water and get ourselves over to the Farmers Cay Yacht Club in time for Happy Hour and FREE FOOD. Perhaps I should restate that. Where cruisers are concerned, you have to be at the front of line when free food is advertised. Our attempt to wander in an hour late was not successful. By then, the lines were long, we made our donation to the Methodist church for the buffet, got to the front of the line, and learned that all the meat was gone. So our $15 dollar donation got us each a scoop of peas and rice. Oh well. It’s for a good cause, right? And we got a chance to meet and talk to lots of fun people.

The first race of the Regatta was on Friday, and we were so excited, we couldn’t contain ourselves. We had watched the race boats come in on the mail boat and have their masts restepped. Unfortunately, the boat in this picture, Legal Weapon, got dropped and was damaged too badly to actually race.

Even though the weather was nasty with wind and rain, we hopped into our trusty Bug and dinghied out to watch the race. And out…. And out …. Only later did we learn that this was the “Ocean Race” – one long sprint from the staring line a couple miles out to the finish just off shore. So by the time little Bug made it out to the starting line, we got a quick view of the start and then and long, wet, miserable ride back through rain and waves that almost swamped us. No fun at all! But watching the start of a race up close is still very exciting. The crews start at anchor. And when the horn blows, the biggest guy starts hauling up the anchor rode, while the next biggest hauls on the halyard to raise the sail. Then there’s a free-for-all of shouting and swearing and jostling for position and to claim the best position to the wind. Be still my beating heart!

After warming up and drying off and fortifying ourselves with caffeine, we headed ashore followed the sound of dance music to the party on the lawn of the Ocean Club. Capt. Mike got scolded for assuming that the folding table covered with bottles was an honor bar, and attempting to pour his own drink. Oops. But we also had the chance to meet the captain and crew of the Long Island boat, Whitey K, and Mike gushed about how much he admired their sailing prowess. Their captain said “And we’re handsome too!” And posed for a selfie.

We learned our lesson, and watched the rest of the races from the deck of Ty’s Sunset Bar, leaving the chasing to those with bigger, stronger dinghies. Still lots of fun to listen to the trash talk between Bahamians from different islands, and to watch the betting go down. In between races, there were games, drinking, and dancing, and a pop-up conch salad stand right on the beach.

We did dinghy out a little ways to cheer on the finish of the final race. Sometimes you just gotta get right out there in the middle of things. All the more exciting because our new besties from Long Island swept the Regatta and won every race.

Ok 5Fs Festival. Your weather could have been better, but otherwise, you didn’t disappoint!