Shore Leave – George Town, Exumas

So we arrived in George Town over two weeks ago, and it was such a whirlwind I just couldn’t find the time to write much here. That, and the Wifi access was crap.

We have very mixed feelings about George Town…and I’m sure that we’ll incur the wrath of some cruisers because of that. You see, George Town is considered the “cruisers Mecca” in the Bahamas. Lots of folks rush down there from the US and Canada on their boats, drop the hook, and don’t move their boats for the entire season. They also call it “Adult Day Camp”, as on the morning ‘net (over the VHF radio, a 10 minute announcement session essentially) they’ll tell you about the various “cruiser” activities that are going on that day, and they are many.  For those of you who know us well, we’re not really that into group activities.  Beach Volleyball?  Pass.  Bahamian Basket Weaving?  Um….no.  Yoga?  Well I tried to go one day (more on that later).  But here’s a summary of what we liked and didn’t like about our time in “Cruiser Heaven”.

What we liked:

Our buddy Coop came to visit us!  Our first home friend came for a whirlwind 48 hour stay, and in honor of that, we actually MOVED THE BOAT to prove to the folks back home that we actually can!  Although on the day he arrived, we may have spent a bit too much time in town with Kaliks, with many more once back on board, so that in order to get him moving in the AM we had to fire up the engine underneath his bunk.  It was so nice to see him, even if it was too short.  Also, he brought us our favorite cigs from home and THIN MINTS!  We love you Brendan!

We finally saw our friends Drena and JR from Journey for the first time since Bimini.  They were incredibly welcoming when we showed up at their boat uninvited our first night in town, and came over the next night to celebrate my 40th birthday with cookies JR baked and the ice cream I’d found in the grocery store that day.  It was great to spend more time with them, and they’re definitely up there on the list of our cruising BFF’s.  And we did have the chance to meet up with some other younger cruisers, especially (if only briefly) the crew of Rode Trip, whose blog we’ve been following for a while now.

Speaking of ice cream…provisioning is a dream!  Exuma Markets, right next to the dinghy dock, had quite a few of the comforts of home.  Breyer’s ice cream.  All kinds of cookies and crackers (funny, the ones imported from the US were way more expensive than random ones we found that were of, what we assume, are of UK origin).  Diet Pepsi ($9.50 for a 12 pack but…whatever!).  FRESH VEGGIES.  FIVE AISLES AND GROCERY CARTS!  This may sound crazy to you non-cruisers, but all of this is a BIG DEAL, when we have found markets in the Bahamas they’ve been small with a very limited selection.  Granted, we still have about 20 lbs of frozen chicken and more soup than we’ve ever consumed in our lifetimes on board, so we didn’t need that much…other than bread, ice cream, cookies, crackers, and soda.

We did make friends with James Taylor’s brother Hugh at the Fish Fry Village, as well as the crew of a super mega yacht, so that was fun!  😉

What we didn’t like:

In a way, there were TOO MANY PEOPLE.  Weird to hear from a couple who spent 14 years in NYC, huh?  But I think it was that there were too many boats, too many cruisers…too many people who were all white and living on boats and who all seemed to stick together?  Too social, in a way?  Brian and I are normally totally chill with just spending time with each other, and gravitating to people we meet randomly who seem like us, but…it’s almost like you feel like you have to be friends with everyone?  Not that we really met anyone we didn’t like, but it just felt…busy!  And a little like we HAD to be social?  You’d listen to the 8 AM Cruiser’s ‘Net and the minute it was over boats would be calling each other incessantly, which we found strange.  It’s a bit hard to explain…and I’m not sure I’m doing it well here…maybe some of you who have been here will know what I mean.

Town was weird.  After about 5, you didn’t see any cruisers, and there were only about 1-2 places to hang out.  Which, on one hand,  is ok for us based on the above, but it was a little bit sad.  From what we could tell, George Town proper gets the cruisers during the day running their errands, then as soon as the sun sets they all run back to their boats.  Our friend Tasha from Turf to Surf mentioned before we got here that it’s because a lot of them are budget conscious and are eating/drinking at home (on the boat) to save money, and I totally understand that, but even during the day, you didn’t see many cruisers in the local spots in town…which Brian and I gravitate to – we want to know the locals and spend time in spots where we’ll meet Bahamians (harder to do that we’d anticipated in general in the Bahamas…stay tuned for a future post on this).

We were anchored kind of far from town to protect ourselves from weather, which was a first for us here in the Bahamas, and more of a pain than we’d realized.  Most of our clothes were caked with salt a good portion of the time!  As well, while the water was clean enough to swim off the boat, there wasn’t much to see wildlife-wise (except for the barracuda who decided to seek shade under us one day…eek!)

We still managed to burn through a lot of money despite what we’ve said about town…we did enjoy ourselves a lot in town and at Chat ‘n Chill, and spend waaay too much cash on eating out and drinking.

And…the biggest two things that might have clouded our judgment, that are not George Town’s fault – sh*t breaking, and trying to quit smoking.  We’ve already told you about our inverter/charger problem, which we can’t do much about until we get back to the US, and this issue worries us a lot – we are hyper concerned about not ruining our brand new batteries because we can’t keep them charged.  Then we realized our dinghy engine was not in good shape.  As in, spewing fuel and sputtering and keeping me from trying out yoga with Drena. as Brian wasn’t sure he’d get home after dropping me off at Chat ‘N Chill that morning.  Thankfully, after a weird trip to town to find someone to fix it (and getting a weird answer about replacing a part that we weren’t even sure existed in our engine), the Women Who Sail Facebook page came to the rescue and pointed Brian in the right direction on how to fix it.  I think seeing Coop also made Brian a little sad about the conveniences of living on land, not worrying about things failing on the boat, which weighs on him constantly.  At least in the US, we were reasonably certain if something went really wrong, we could call Sea Tow or be close enough to somewhere with a West Marine and/or a marine repair facility…in the Bahamas, not so much.

So on to quitting smoking…we did AWESOME in the few days after Brendan left.  Really great.  I chewed gum and Brian had his lozenges and we were feeling AWESOME.   Then…we went to town and had a few beers.  And bought a pack.  Ugh.  I shoulder a lot of the blame for that, as I’m a very bad quitter.  So we’re back off the wagon, but since we’re headed back to the Exuma Land and Sea Park, where there are zero amenities, we’ll give it another go there.  And if we can’t keep in under control, I’ll get an Rx for Chantix when we get back to Nantucket.

So…yeah.  We are a bit relieved to be back at Emerald Bay Marina for a few days, despite the fact there is nothing here, as we’re getting a lot of sh*t done and relaxing at the same time.  And we’re starting to look forward to getting north, and believe it or not, getting back to the States, where we can call our family at any time (and not have to rely on WiFi for FaceTime or Skype), and get any grocery item we need.  I know it sounds spoiled or something, but as beautiful as it is here, it’s still hard sometimes!

Oh!  And our other big news that we’ve not told a lot of people is that we decided that next season, we’re going to come back to the Bahamas again, instead of pushing down into the Caribbean.  We’ve had to skip a bunch of places here because of racing out weather, and we thought, ok, we love living on the boat, we want to hit up what we’ve missed, and we’re not completely out of money (yet).  So, we’re thinking as of now the 2 year threshold for living onboard (as in, we give it at least two years total) will now be 3 years – we’ll come back here from Nantucket next winter, we’ll think about leaving the boat in FL for summer 2015 and working and living on land in Nantucket, then head to the Caribbean for 2015-2016 (or longer, if we can make the $$ stretch).  At least…that’s the plan at the moment!

  1. Yeah, Georgetown freaked me out for just about exactly the same things you mentioned. It has a weird uber social / forced frivolity that I really disliked. I just didn’t feel a lot of soul there…it felt false to me. Generally speaking…not my kind of people, not my tribe. Considerably better is a short (5 hours with good wind/direction) sail away…Thompson Bay, Long Island…The Breeze Resort. A good place to hang for a bit. If you make it that far south next season consider it. We too did the Bahamas for two years before heading to the Caribbean this year. Felt right. And for the record…Caribbean is way better :-)

  2. I know next to nothing about nothing, but have this feeling Margaret is right when she says the Caribbean is way better. Don’t lock yourselves into another season in the Bahamas just yet…..

  3. I think our second year in the Bahamas was incredibly important in our learning curve. It re-confirmed what we knew, and showed us a whole bunch of other things we did not know. There was confidence building in doing something a second time. The first year, EVERY SINGLE THING IS NEW, and this can be overwhelming. The second year things were clearer to us, less of a whirlwind, we learned more. Yeah, I think the Caribbean is way better (kind of crazy gettting here though) but I also think it’s a good idea to repeat a season with similar routes (okay, maybe less ICW) at least once…it brings the details into focus. Does that make sense?

    • Makes sense to us, Margaret, and also exactly why it’s what we’re planning to do. My brother is just worried we won’t make it to the Caribbean…but we will!;-)

    • Margaret remind me to ping you about doing the Salty Dog rally on a catamaran (you are on a cat right?). Did you have extra crew or was it just the two of you?

      • Rebecca, yes, we are on a 44′ Voyage Catamaran and she loves blue water sailing. We brought two crew along…THANK GOD! They were strong sailors and we needed that with a few days of 18′ seas and 40 knot steady winds. Personality conflicts between myself and one of the crew (he was not a fan of strong willed women) aside, I would probably do the same thing again, even with the same mysogynist sailor dude…he was just that good of a sailor. But, I personally would never do it again. It was too rough for me. I won’t put myself, or my doggies, through that again. Ask my husband, or even most of the other ladies who went through the same thing and they would say that they would do it again. I’m a sissy, and I hated it. To be fair, everyone has said that no previous Salty Dawg Rally had ever come even close to the horrible conditions we faced. But I loved being in the BVIs in a matter of 10 days. I never wanted to be that wife who flies down to meet her husband on the other end of a long passage, but yup, that’s what I would do next time if there ever is a next time. Our previous experience had been two different 3 day passages and I’m pretty sure that’s my max from here on out. Don’t let my experience scare you away from the Rally. Sharon says she would do it again, as do most of the other ladies I’ve talked to. Sharon also likes that they didn’t have crew, although most people I’ve talked to were glad they had crew. Jim and Sharon are strong sailors. My husband is a strong sailor, I’m just eye candy :-) so we needed crew.

        • Thanks for the insight! We wouldn’t do it without crew and while that many days at sea is daunting for both of us, being there so fast is tremendously appealing…

          • One more thing. Try to find catamaran sailors for your crew. Our crew were both monohull sailors and one truly believed the boat was breaking apart with the pounding/slamming. It really freaked him out! Granted, this was extraordinary pounding/slamming in the conditions we found ourselves, but we at least knew the boat could take it, even if we really REALLY didn’t like it. 10 days of that pounding/slamming….grrrrrr

          • We have just the guy for it so I agree, important to be a cat guy…but Lordy I hate the slamming, my mantra now is “the boat can take it even if I can’t”;-)

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