George Town is the largest town in The Exumas. It is also the only town that has an international airport with direct service to the USA. We’ll be here for a few weeks as various family members and friends use that airport to come pay us a visit. It’s a sweet little town centered around a beautiful church high up on a hill.
Many sailors see George Town as their final destination for the season and stay all winter. The cruising boats in the harbor are counted weekly. When we arrived in early December there were 60 boats here. In February, peak season, that number will grow too over 300. The water is gorgeous, the weather is near perfect, shelter from wind and waves is good, idyllic beaches are plentiful, and most necessities can be found here. There are two grocery stores, a farmer’s market, free drinkable water (uncommon in The Bahamas), gas/diesel/propane, two laundromats, a hardware store, several liquor stores and a few restaurants.
There are also a few odd combo-stores here: The Napa store is more of a cross between an auto parts store and a Bed, Bath and Beyond. While shopping for spark plugs, you can also pick up a bedspread–sexy! And there is a fish market where you can get your hair cut while your grouper grows warm in your lap–less sexy.
Most cruising boats anchor in the lee of nearby Stocking Island and make the 1.1NM dinghy trip to town when they need something.
All the action on Stocking Island is centered around a beach bar called Chat ‘n Chill. It’s a private establishment, but the grounds are sprawling and it functions like a public park.
A Day in The life – George Town:
00:00 – 04:00: Wake with mild panic every hour or so to make sure the anchor isn’t dragging. We have multiple anchor alarms set and have had zero anchor problems in the nine years we’ve owned the boat, but we still can’t escape some mild anchoring anxiety. Free anchoring has its cost.
Mooring anxiety is worse. Who knows if that white ball is attached well to anything of substance? And tying up at the dock can be the pits. You never get any breeze thru the boat there. No privacy either, and there can be a great deal of clanking and jerking of the dock lines. Hanging on our own anchor remains our preferred way to spend a night. Fortunately for us here in Georgetown, the anchorages are excellent.
05:00 : The alarm goes off and Chris starts the coffee and works on some writing projects.
07:00-ish: Alex wakes and puts together some breakfast foods to compliment the coffee.
07:58: A second alarm goes off reminding us to turn on the VHF so we can listen to The Net.
08:00: The Cruisers Net begins on VHF 72. During our time here, Michelle on Rascal has been the volunteer net coordinator. Journalism at its finest. Its a 7-day-a week job that puts her in a very public spotlight. She’s gracefully managed many sensitive things including a death in our community. After an intro, the agenda runs something like this:
- Emergency: “Anyone with emergency or urgent traffic please come now,” usually followed by a long pause and then “Nothing heard.”
- Weather: Michelle gives us a briefing on weather and tides and sunrise/sunset times. (As an aside, for today, Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, the length of day in Georgetown is 10:41 hours. In Boston, length of day today is 9:04 hours.)
- Departures: Jill and Jody on Steadfast are off to Long Island. They tell us they will miss us all, and they promise to provide a sea state report once they clear the harbor.
- Local business: Fran from Entropy chimes in to let us know that the farmer’s market had excellent cucumbers yesterday.
- Community Announcements: Scott on Venture is organizing the Christmas potluck. 14:00 on the beach at Chat n’ Chill on 12/25. We’re all encouraged to contact him after The Net on VHF68 to discuss what dish we’re planning to bring. Mike on Harp announces that the boat count has been tallied, and as of last Sunday, there were 91 boats in the harbor.
- Boaters General – Boaters Helping Boaters: Emma on Sea Buck is looking to borrow a multi-meter with an amp clamp. Contact her on 68 after The Net if you have one that you’re willing to loan her. Gill on Che Sporate’(?) is looking for a sourdough starter. Sinclair on Mosha is in need of a notary public.
- Taxi Share: Terry on Golden Hour is headed to the airport and is looking to share a taxi. (It’s unclear if his flight is at noon, or if he wants to load into the taxi at noon.)
- Trade or Giveaway: Sam on Moonshot has an older life raft overdue for inspection that he is willing to give to a good home. Kiki on L’Zequanoo(?) is looking for a high quality 2KW radar in good working condition. In trade, she is willing to part with six expired handheld flares. (That deal might not come together.) Martin on Calabash is organizing the next “Treasures from the Bilge” yard sale. It’ll be held at 13:00 on Tuesday at Chat n’ Chill, shine or shine. (Arid climate. Sun is always out.) All are welcome.
- Kids Corner: Young Cal is building an addition to the treehouse (unsafe) and is looking for helpers. Kim(17) is looking to hang out with other kids on Monument Beach at 14:00 (The exact hour when all the parents will be far away at volleyball.)
- New Arrivals: “Tell us who’s onboard, where you hail from, and a little bit about yourself” Lily on Nova responds: She’s sailing with her husband, Frank, and daughters Zoey(12) and Claire(15). They hail from Montreal and this is their 4th season in Georgetown. Ted on Moonraker then announces that it’s just him and his cat and they’re in from Galveston.
- Final business: Someone with a heavy accent wants to know where something is in town. No one is really sure what he’s after and ultimately his question goes unanswered.
- Thought of the day: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” – Frank on Local Knowledge
08:20: We drag Bill out of bed (That dog loves to sleep) and row to the beach where all three of us enjoy a walk and a swim.
09:00: On Monday/Wednesday/Friday there is beach yoga at Chat n’ Chill. Alex is a regular and has quickly been promoted to “Teacher’s Assistant” thanks to her proficiency and grace. All that time spent standing on her head is finally paying some dividends.
Bill would be inclined to nibble on the yoga people, and is also likely to get sideways with the local cat, so Chris keeps him on a tight leash and away from the action.
On Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday water aerobics takes the place of yoga on the other side of the tide line. We haven’t been to that. On Sunday, Beach Church fills this time slot. We haven’t been to that either, tho Alex did attend the 4th Sunday in Advent service at St. Andrew’s Parish, which was delightful and led by a lively, young Bahamian woman who preached AND celebrated.
10:00 Time for the main activity of the day. We may go to town to get groceries, or do laundry, or dump trash. Sometimes I even row over there to get a case of beer. If we’re in town around lunch time, we like the meat patties at the Shell station.
This time slot may alternatively be spent varnishing, polishing, or fixing something aboard the boat. Projects that are often fortified by tuna sandwiches.
Or, we may pull up anchor and sail off to a new nearby cove or island for a picnic lunch there. Many places are empty and waiting to be explored within an easy one hour sail of the Stocking Island anchorages.
12:00: A crucial juncture in the day looms. Time to asses our power situation and plan for cocktail hour. If solar output has been good and batteries are at 100%, AND we don’t need to run the water maker because we have plenty of water, AND the tools and vacuum batteries don’t need charging, we’ll plug in our ice maker in preparation of a proper cocktail in the evening. If we need to prioritize our power toward water making and/or tool charging instead, the ice maker stays stowed and it’ll be beer and wine from our fridge at cocktail hour for us.
14:00: Beach Volleyball. There are two courts at Chat n’ Chill and people are playing almost all the time, but at 14:00 it gets a little bit more organized. Before this month, Chris had never played volleyball, beach or otherwise. Here in Georgetown he decided to give it a try and concluded that it’s harder than it looks. He also notes that you aren’t much of an asset to your team when you go 0-12 on your serves and violate a handful of rules that you didn’t even know existed. Without adequate instruction, you can even become a danger to the nearby trees and to the people sitting underneath them. Later with a sore muscle in his foot and another one in his ass, he concluded that volleyballs are better used for knocking coconuts out of palm trees than for securing victory between the lines.
As an alternative to team sports, we have taken to walking the beach in the afternoon. There’s a lush path to a perfect bench atop a hill not all that far from the cursed volleyball court.
There are in fact many such paths all over Stocking Island and long stretches of idyllic and empty beaches on both sides. This is oftentimes where we walk Bill and ourselves. Bill is like a camel. Two walks a day are plenty for him. Only rarely has he had an accident aboard the boat and he never seems to be too eager to get up from his favorite spot in the cockpit and go ashore. Once on the beach tho, he springs to life and runs and jumps and swims and will chases shadows, rocks and coconuts for hours. He’s living his best life down here.
16:00: Dinner time. If the wind is light, there may be bugs to contend with after sunset, best to enjoy the evening meal before they arrive. The beer is cold and the food is delicious at Chat n’ Chill. A notable favorite is the conch salad expertly prepared by Ronaldo–that man has mad knife skills!
But more often than not, we eat back aboard the boat. The beer is cold here too, and Alex routinely serves up a 5-star meal. At some point, she’ll go into detail in this space on the culinary side of our life afloat. In short: We eat well.
17:22: Sunset is marked by a tinkling of cocktail glasses and a chorus of conch shell horns from all over the harbor. All crew on Sundance, especially Bill, prefer this to the startling blast of a yacht club cannon so common at sunset in New England.
17:30: There is probably a bonfire that we could row over to if we are feeling social. Everyone is extremely welcoming. Politics is strictly don’t ask, don’t tell. Logic tells me that the extreme ends of the political spectrum are better represented here than is the middle. Living on a boat is an inherently radical thing to choose to do. You can see how a radical libertarian would appreciate the self-sufficiency required by, and the autonomy provided by, a life out here free from the long reach of government. At the same time, you can also see how an extreme liberal might appreciate the opportunity to steer away from the greedy underbelly of capitalism and enjoy an eco-friendly, low impact life out here. Given the distance between these two positions in our two-party system in the US, I think it’s noteworthy that we all live as harmoniously in this anchorage as we do. It’s a testament to the value this community places on supportive relationships. And I must say, it’s very refreshing to talk about something other than politics.
18:00: Chat N’ Chill shuts off the music and closes down for the evening. We had initially feared that they might crank up the volume and blast music ’til late into the evening, but they don’t. Chat n’ Chill is a daytime only beach bar.
20:00: Bed time. 20:00 is also known as “Cruiser’s Midnight.” It’s pitch black out here and things get real quiet, real quick.
For logistical reasons, that I won’t bore you with, there are no charter boats down here in Georgetown. That simple fact makes a big difference. The “Credit Card Captains” that rent those things for week can be a menace. They are not familiar with the boat they’re sailing, and they tend to be less experienced and less cautious. They also tend to be the ones maximizing every hour of vacation (understandably) and partying ’til all hours. Without them, life is simpler and quieter. (You know you’re getting old when you put together a paragraph like this one.)
There is no fuel dock in George Town. Instead we lug diesel in jerry cans from the gas station via dinghy for our miserly fuel needs. Its a strange fact given that this is the largest town in the area, but it’s true. This reality gives the powerboat crowd great pause and they tend to stay away. Their fuel needs aren’t in the slightest bit miserly and the prospect of lugging 700 gallons of diesel in jerry cans lacks appeal. We find we don’t really miss their all-night generators powering their all-night air conditioning and their all-night TV News. It’s noticeable how much quieter a harbor can get without them.
No power boats, no charter boats, a sailor could get used to this…
21:00: We may break the bed time rule and stay up to read for an hour or so. Our phone data is limited down here, and that keeps our projector dark and our screens off.
21:01 – 00:00: Wake with mild panic every hour or so to check the anchor.
I see why people stay. It’s beautiful here and life is easy. It’s a utopia. But I think we’ll move on in a few weeks. We still have wanderlust and plan to keep sailing for the horizon.